Friday, June 20, 2008

Kwa heri Kenya

I spent three and a half hectic, emotional days touring around Kenya and (hopefully) getting some closure on my experience there this week. I haven't slept in the same bed twice for 7 nights, and 3 of those nights were spent on planes. I know, I know, you're jealous. Some reflections on the week:

1. Nairobi is the same. Couldn't tell a difference if I tried.

2. Kisumu looks half-normal, half like a battleground. Several prominent buildings downtown were torched (Ukwala Supermarket, Punjabi Electronics), and not much effort has been made to clean them up. It's almost like a bizarre monument to the violence, reminding Kenyans of what they went through and, one would hope, strengthening their determination to move past it. If only that was really why they were still there, rather than just because it's expensive to knock them down.

3. Going to my site was... hard. "Emotional rollercoaster" is an understatement. Shockingly, the kids in the village all remembered me (although it could just be that I taught them to call me Joanne instead of mzungu/odiero/"white man", and consequently got them yelling "Joanne, Joanne!" at every white person they saw). I had a very uneventful reunion with my family members, and a very eventful one with my dog. Apparently the family got in a big dispute over the distribution of the items in my house, which is so sadly typical that I had trouble feeling sad to leave them. Almost no one was around even though they had been informed of my coming, so I spent an hour on the compound and saw each person for about 5 minutes as I was leaving. Ah well.
4. My dog is almost twice the size she was before, and has the longest neck I've ever seen. She looks like this crazy type of antelope we saw on safari called the gerenuk - I swear this is a mirror image. She recognized me and jumped all over me and has the exact same personality as before, which made it even harder to leave her behind (waiting to decide whether it's feasible to bring her to Chennai, and otherwise I may or may not send her home to my parents).
5. A note to south Nyanza PCVs: I was thrilled to discover just outside of Narok that the Narok-Nairobi road, otherwise known as the Road-from-hell-that-always-has-construction-but-never-improves, had finally been repaved! Smooth tarmac, two full lanes - I was thrilled.
Then, 5 minutes later, the paved road ended and we were back to potholes and dust again. The repaving lasted about 3 miles. And I was, again, reminded that I was in Kenya.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Hey, at least they're making some progress on that road. It can only improve from here, right? Watch, though, they will finally get the rest of it paved in the span of like 20 years, and by the time it's done, the beginning (the part that's paved now) will be just as bad as the rest of it is currently. Oh, Kenya.