Another interesting weekend…

Hello there!

Here another message from Nairobi. I again have had a very interesting weekend. On Sunday I went once more to Mathare. As people already told me, it does get heavier the more you walk there. One cannot really sense the poverty in the way people act and how they look, because most of them often look very cheerful. Children always smile whenever you walk there, and also adults greet you mostly very politely. They do not ask you for any money or food, and they generally do not look very starved. A lot of them actually look very well clothed. And, whenever I go there I get offered plenty of food which I cannot even finish! However, the more you walk in Mathare, the more you see the different layers that are there. There is waste everywhere and the sewage system is running openly trough the streets and goes directly into the river. There are children (mainly from single parents) who collect pieces of steel in the river and sewage to earn some shillings. The air is not what it is supposed to be, and in the trees and plants that live in Mathare are extremely few. The population in this slum is about 600.000. There are different sections, and the one section is richer than the other. Some sections exist of high flats of concrete, where people live in a room of about 20 m2. Some streets look like one big waste belt with some huts on them, some streets look more like shopping streets.

In Mathare I met Erick, a young man who lives in Mathare. I visited his house, had some chai with cake, and then we went to church. It was located in a school. It was amazing to see how many churches there were. Only in the school there were two misses going on! We got inside the class room. There were about 4 people standing in front of the class, one of whom was the preacher. He was speaking very loudly and very passively about God. All the people were sitting on the benches and had there heads on the tables in front of them. It was as if they were in heavy pain. It was very interesting to see. I have been told that in some misses the people start shouting, and that they get in a kind of trance. I’d love to experience this one day… When the preacher was done with his talk, I had to present myself. I was seen as the special guest (because of my white skin).

After the miss we had some lunch (rice with beans) and then went to Erick’s brother. It was in the other part of Mathare, so I have the feeling that I have seen half of Mathare now. It is somehow interesting to see how people live there, but it is also a very hard way of living. I think there is so much more to these people’s lives than one can see when you just walk there. There are many many community based organizations, self help groups and ‘merry go rounds’ (a kind of gathering of people to collect money). However, I also heard that people can be very harsh on each other. Of course, poverty and lack of food can make people act in weird ways.

This Saturday I was in a totally different environment. Nairobi has so many different sides! The area of the UN is very wealthy, and there are so many white people here. There is a forest nearby my house. I went running together with my housemate, and we went trough the forest and the fields for 2 and a half hours! I can still feel my muscles. But it was so beautiful! It was really like a tropical rainforest. The air was so fresh, and parts of the forest smelt like eucalyptus trees. We saw huge trees, plants living in and around the trees, we saw monkeys and even a bush bock. We ran trough little villages, which was amazing to see. The people living there were farmers, they had small plots in the forest, near the river.

I am now very much involved in YEP. I have been appointed secretary, and this includes the challenge of developing a good structure for the organization. I really like to be involved in this, since YEP has some difficulties finding its strategy and thus maintaining a decent amount of members.
This Friday I am going to Mathare again, together with the new members of YEP. Last Tuesday there were many new interns who were interested in YEP. YEP is such a nice way to get to know people: interns as well as local residents!

I’ll keep you updated!

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