Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kissumu

Last weekend, I headed to the western Kenya to see a few of my classmates and to conduct one of my human rights trainings for the LGBTI population over there. It was an awesome experience and I feel so honored to assist in creating a space where people can share parts of themselves that they may have never had the space to really discuss before.  It was an awesome trip, and one that I was really happy to have.
  I headed out on a shuttle Matatu through the notorious Rift Valley to spend some time with my classmates David and Patrick in the small rural community that they live in. The drive was sooo amazing. I’ve never seen a landscape that was so beautiful. The Rift Valley is this huge valley that stretches from Ethiopia all the way down through Malawi. There’s a few miles between each side of the valley, with mountains on either side that reach all the way into the sky. For my Colorado Friends, imagine the front range, but in both directions. From our perspective though, the mountains seemed like they were soooo high…I would look in the distance and think that it was just a cloud line, but in actuality it was the mountains…WOW!!!
  We arrived into town after the four hour drive, where I met my classmate David along with his co-workers and hosts. They picked me up in a Taxi and drove us for about forty five minute more out to where David and Patrick lived.  It was so awesome to be able to get a glimpse into a completely different experience than my own here in Nairobi. We were in a small community,  Ebessa, and stayed in this house on a compound. The compound had chickens and ducks running around everywhere, with cows in the back.  We were served this DELICIOUS meal by the family, but interestingly enough, they left us in the living room to eat alone while they out back in the servants quarters. Yes they had servants….that was weird, but I guess it is life there.
  Patrick, David and I stayed up late talking about life and our experiences. It was so awesome for me to be able to hear their perspectives and to understand how their lives are being changed through what we’ve had to go through. 
  Then we got ready for bed, and OMG the bathrooms were holes in the ground with SPIDERS!!!! Ahhhhh I was so freaked out….but I did it…I shat in a hole…TMI I know…but seriously people, I was soo proud of myself!!!
 Then I got to sleep in my own room WITH A MOSQUITO NET!!!! It was sooo awesome!! I totally felt like a princess while I was there!! A PRINCESS!!! I had this whole philosophical reflection in the morning when I woke up about why young girls love the beds with the mesh around them! You feel so…NICE… I debated on whether I needed to butch it up a bit and say it was like a cave…but the reality it….my inner girl totally came out! Hahaha
In the morning, we had another great meal made for us, David worked with their friend Ben to learn more about email and then we took a long hike through the beautiful country side. 
It was so awesome to see the rural community in action and how they get around. Ben took us all over and even showed us his house. It was made of mud and when you walked in the ground was dirt as well. He had a wasps nest in his home, and he was like, it’s bad luck to kill them.  I was shocked. As we walked further, we ran into some carpenters building a house which was in a newer condition. It was so fascinating to see the different house style.  We walked farther, and it was just beautiful country side.
  We got back and had yet another fabulous meal. Before the meal, we had this incredibly insightful conversation with the two daughters and son of the house, faith, Ann and sam about gender roles, women’s rights etc, etc. It was really incredible…just to hear their perspectives on what’s “normal” for them. Getting married off to some man, no matter who it is, having a dowry go to your family. And if the man cheats, which he probably will, you have to just accept it as a way of life. Many village elders constantly pressure you to marry, and suggest day in and day out who you ought to be with…wow.  The conception of romantic love is somewhat unheard of here.  Which for me, the hopeless romantic…it’s interesting.
  Later in the day, the guys drove me back into the town and on the way we stopped by their project locations. The schools where they worked were really interesting. Instead of the students moving in between classrooms, it was actually the teachers that moved from classroom to classroom. And given that there are not enough teachers, there were often classrooms that had dozens of children just sitting there.  It was so cool to see the different styles and customs that existed there.
  We went back into town, I checked into my hotel, and then met back up with them where we had dinner at a local pub and watched the Netherlands win. It was a great night and I had a WHOLE LOT OF FUN hanging out with my dear friends. Later that night, I met back up with my fellow facilitators who had gotten in that day and we watched the Ghana game in one of their rooms.  I was sooooo incredibly angered at the result of the game. As a seasoned futbol player, I know that Ghana did such a good job and really played well for much of the game. Their overall play was far better than Uruguay, so for Uruguay to get away with winning the game after such a despicable action by a player really disgusts me. I mean, I’ve been in that same position before…as a soccer player…you do NOT have a natural response to use your hands…especially when you’ve played you’re whole life…you know how NOT to use your hands. There is a deliberate action that was taken and it REALLY pissed me off.  And when I thought about how significant that win would have been, not just for Ghana, but for the entire continent of Africa, I just really was angered because Africa in its entirety deserves the world recognition that it has received and deserves to be given that chance to be seen in such a different light then the poor impoverished black part of the world. And I believe that win would have been a part of that opportunity.  In fact, when that happened, I couldn’t help but reflect on how in a way the game represents the historical way that Africa has been cheated in so many ways.  How these amazing people and places are often exploited, used, and treated as a place of subordinates. Ohhh it angered me!!!
But hey, at the hotel, I got to sleep under another mosquito net!!! Princess night part deux!!
The next day, we held our training at the local LGBTI center that they have in the town.  The compound was quite nice and we had over 45 participants in our training. We held the training outside in a tent, which was truly the Kenyan way ehh?
 We had an awesome training, despite our technical difficulties. People really brought their whole selves to the table and helped to enhance the quality of the training. We got people thinking and creating solutions for their own space as to how they address issues that they face on a daily basis. We heard tales of police brutality, rape, murder, harassment and more of the participants life experiences. It was truly haunting, yet at the same time, the power behind their stories and the will with which each one of these people was living was just so awesome. We shared so many laughs and got to engage on a deeper level of ourselves. I was very proud of what we produced and the way things were done. 
At the end of the training, headed on a VERY BUMPY bus home, got into town around midnight and then rode a taxi home.
It was a wonderful weekend . I really got to see a whole different side to Kenyan culture and ways of life. I was so thankful to refresh my Clinton School Spirit with my classmates David and Patrick and thankful for their hospitality along with their host family. 

2 comments:

  1. I love reading your blog! It sounds like you're getting a great chance to see different aspects of the country. I'm totally jealous!

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  2. Kenya has much to offer, dear. Check out the men aka me! LOL!

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