Friday, November 10, 2006

Day 3 in Nairobi

Today we ventured into Nairobi and wandered around taking it all in. We wandered through a big beautiful park with a dirt path, lots of green grass, a big pond and blooming trees. I found out that the purple trees I was admiring only bloom once a year. We came just at the tail end of “Jacaranda Season” and their blossoms are falling out of the trees and making a beautiful carpet around their trunks. They are a lavender color and look really startling against the rusty colored ground.

There were vendors selling cokes in recycled glass bottles, little piles of candies wrapped in red cellophane and tea biscuits in little bundles. I saw one man crouched with a little assortment of shoes piled on a rock. I’m not sure if he polished shoes, or was selling those. Probably both. Everyone seemed very dressed up and busy. All the men were wearing suits and ties, maybe a tad dated here or rumpled there, but very cosmopolitan. The women had less of a clear uniform, but still looked very business-like in long skirts and blazers and pretty dresses. Even though it is sixty or seventy degrees out, everyone is relatively bundled up in sweaters and coats. (It is winter here, after all.) We definitely stood out in our khaki pants, t-shirts and sandals.

I saw a man with no shoes at all eating chicken meat that he had just pulled out of the litter bin. His cracked feet were filthy and his eyes were vacant save for the one goal of fuel. My mind wandered back to the bum in Chicago who turned down my leftover dinner when I told him it was gnocchi.

We watched a tiny little girl walking along the road with dusty flip flops that had a squeaky toy in the heel and they honked with her every step. The public signs are prefaced with “A Polite Notice” as in “A Polite Notice: Credit cards require identification to be processed.” Or “A Polite Notice: Do not litter in the park. Violators will be aggressively prosecuted.” Or “A Polite Notice: This is a corruption free zone”.

We found our way to the Health Store offices with some difficulty. (We had to be rescued by an employee when we overshot it by several blocks.) Had a lovely lunch at a fancy hotel with Liza and caught up on her vision of the malaria problem in Kenya. Her good news was that the tide seems to be about to turn on this disease in Kenya thanks to the Global Fund money that is coming in and also due to increased use of the long life bed nets and the Arteminisan combination therapy and education. Went back to the office and met with Chris and Arthemsus who are involved in community outreach and parisitology, respectively. They had lots to say and are sure to be a great help to us as we navigate this complex topic. They echoed Liza’s thoughts that Malaria seems to be on the decline in Kenya and that the important thing now is to make sure that the community health workers are looking carefully at their diagnoses and encouraging patients to have blood test confirmation before beginning a course of ACT in order to protect that weapon. We worked out a very very busy schedule of travel, visits and filming. We have lots of decisions to make about how this month will go. I am convinced that this six months or so will fly fly fly by.

Back at home we tried hard to rally and went out to do a practice interview with the man who guards our gate during the days; George. (All the apartments here have both a gate and a tall wall, sometimes with razor wire and always with a twenty four hour guard to tend the gate.)He was very excited to talk to us and has been asking Chris if we could arrange a visit to see the slum where he lives. (That was the word he used to described his home, in the same way that you and I would say “Oh yes, I live in the suburbs.”) When we got talking I discovered that he couldn’t understand me very well but we went on awkwardly and his enthusiasm was very encouraging. I asked him what he dreamed about. He said he wanted to travel to foreign countries so that he could find work that paid better. He makes 3,000 Kenyan shillings a month ($50 or so) and so he can’t afford to leave yet. He works six days a week and I know that he is there when we wake up at 7am and does not leave until 6pm. He hopes to become a driving instructor one day. As of right now, he himself does not know how to drive. We also interviewed the bubbly little boy who lives on the first floor; Mohammed. He is in a wheelchair and his tiny size belied the fact that he is twelve years old and in the fifth grade. He told us about school and what a great swimmer he is and how the cars here in Nairobi go too fast and that he has a girlfriend in America from a vacation visit.

All in all, it was a wild day, and I feel exhausted. The boys went out for dinner, but I just couldn’t take any more. Sensory overload, I suppose. So I’m sitting here eating Ferraro Rocher chocolates for dinner and drinking “Tusker”; Kenya’s finest quality lager. I’m listening to Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springstein and Patty Griffin. I feel like we are going to rise to this challenge. Now that we are here, all the issues continue to spread out like a bottle of oil spilling across the kitchen tiles. We’ve just got to slide around in it and do our best to absorb absorb absorb because Lord knows that it won’t be tidied up until we soak it all in.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Oh Dahling! You sound like an accomplished interviewer already! You paint a beautiful picture of a land only imagined to most. Your interview with George was my favorite, he sounds most charming. I want to give him a hug and tell him that he will be the best driving instructor ever. To continued luck in health and company my love. Cheers

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