Here's what my day has been like so far (it's almost 4 in the afternoon). When I got up I did 45 minutest of yoga, then I showered and ate bananas and drank apricot tea. Then I got ready and walked about a mile to Langata Link. It's a place that has a travel agency, a chiropractor, a salon, some offices, an outdoor restaurant, a clothing shop - it's built in a square with the restaurant in the middle surrounded by flowers, cacti, trees. The trees have all different kinds of birds making noise and flying around. Really idyllic. So, I sat down for breakfast (2 pancakes with pineapple conserves - very good - and tea . . .and then, because I was there so long, a cold Coke - no ice, mind you, but still cold) and turned on my IPOD and journaled for a bit. There were only about 4 people there so it was really quiet and a great way to spend the morning. A couple hours later, I walked back to the apartment, stopping along the way to buy tomatoes and sukumawiki from a woman who was just setting up her fruits and vegetables to sell by the road. Sukumawiki? Not sure what to compare it to - it's green and leafy and kind of like a lettuce but not really . . . it's a staple here. 3 tomatoes and a bunch of sukumawiki cost me 20 shillings. 50 shillings is about $3.00, so I'll let you math whizzes figure out how much my lunch cost. To go on this morning trip, I was pretty casual - the important thing here is that I wore flip-flops. My $5 Target flip-flops - not Manolo's or even Enzo's - just inexpensive flip-flops that we all have back home. I passed a man who wasn't wearing any shoes. (Now, I realize this is sounding like a commercial intended to make you cry - but stay with me here.) He was fully clothed with no shoes. And the thing is, as we passed each other, he looked down at my feet. I wanted to take off my cheap flip flops and give them to him. I didn't. The path we were walking on is full of stones and sharp points, there are thorns that fall off the trees . . . I can't imagine what it would be like to walk on this path with bare feet.
So, I kept going. Back to the apartment which was empty except for Lois - the woman who comes to clean once a week. Now this is a small apartment, and she came at 9 this morning . . . she's still here. I should be so lucky to have a house this clean. She works so hard - cleaning each room, mopping the floors, doing the laundry, the kitchen is spotless, she's ironing now - she even washes the garbage cans that are placed outside. This place is beautiful! While she and I have been here together, I've done some computer work, done some writing (yes, I'm finally writing), taken a little nap, made my lunch of tomatoes and sukumawiki with onion and pasta and olive oil with some ricotta cheese on top (quite good, if i do say so myself), back to the computer to do more writing . . . and watching this woman who hasn't taken a break. If she's stopped to eat, I haven't seen it. And she was in the hospital recently for a couple weeks - she fell carrying water jugs (she doesn't have running water in her home) and hurt her back.
You know what? Life can be hard here. Obviously not for me . . . I've not had to use the "bush" bathroom yet on this trip, I've only had a couple weeks of having to stand over a hole in the ground for a toilet. Granted, I've had to drink my Coke without ice, and there are no fast food restaurants here to satisfy my cravings for junk food, the potato chips here are horrendous. But, all in all, I've managed to survive quite well. But I've been made uncomfortable (again) with the differences between me and the Kenyans I've crossed paths with today. Here I sit writing my blog entry, and when I'm done I'll go back to writing my Fulbright application explaining why they should give me money to return to Kenya for a year so I can do research on hurting people. And what of the hurting people I'm proposing to do research on/with/for? I go home in 10 days and although I'm a poor graduate student, I'm relatively comfortable compared to many people here.
Now, not every Kenyan is poor. Not everyone is without running water and electricity. And I don't want to infer that there is not hope (tumaini in Swahili - "too-my-eenee" - it's my favorite Swahili word, actually my favorite English word, too), or that people don't have joy and good things in their lives.
I wrote earlier in this blog that I wasn't sure if I'd ever resolve the tension that comes from being an American in an African country. I'm now quite sure I'll never resolve it. I'm happy to say that, after almost 3 months here, the differences still bother me. I'm still not sure what to do with myself - how to think about this, how to feel about it - I know feeling guilty isn't a good solution . . . besides, my guilt doesn't offer any dignity to Lois or the man I passed on the road without shoes.
I'm not sure what I want to say, or that I'm even saying this very well. Again, I'll do the therapist thing and notice it all going in and around me, and leave it at that for now. What would you say? What would you do? Would you have given the man your flip flops?
Somehow, and I hope it's not stupid or insensitive of me to say this, my experiences today contribute to this beauty here. I don't know if that makes sense, or if it is part of the luxury of being me, but there is this sense I have that even the discomfort is somehow part of the beauty of Kenya. I'm probably getting a little too philosophical . . . I'll stop or you won't want to read anymore entries!! Hang in there . . . 10 days left of this trip. I hope you'll be back for Africa 09 - because I certainly am planning to be!