Last night in Kenya

I spent my last day here in Nairobi lazing around the Okemwa home, reflecting on my journey and feeling rather under the weather. I floated in and out of sleep, and in between naps took a few walks around the neighborhood with the sisters. I can’t believe that on Wednesday I’ll step out onto snowy ground and be reunited with my car, cell phone, credit cards, job and responsibilities. I’ll be confronted with the excess in my life and the lives of those around me and to contrast that reality with what I’ve seen here will be troubling. It’s hard to find a way to channel that emotional energy into something constructive and intelligent. I’ve certainly felt a pull to this place, and whether that’s my own romanticizing of this culture and the idea of something so different from what I know or the fact that this place actually makes sense to me, I’m not sure. Logically, everyone points to NGO work for opportunity, but I find it too ironic and imperialistic in most cases.
The most compelling idea I’ve had yet is to work with the rural women here who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In fact, when we visited Grandma in Kisii, Benja’s auntie was gone because she left her abusive husband, temporarily. It sounds like this happens frequently – she goes to stay at a friend’s house and leaves him with the children, who can’t really care for themselves well, then eventually comes back until she decides to leave again. The both drink whatever moonshine is popular there, and I’m not sure how anything could ever really change between them, as they’re locked in by poverty and social pressures and lack of resources. She could never leave and survive without the land and the food they grow there and he may never stop his abusive behavior; the children will probably also grow up to perpetuate such behavior. I’m not sure what the answer is or if there is one, but it seems possible that someone who understands the cycle of control and abuse as well as cultural implications and factors could have a strong effect on a situation like this.
Until tomorrow night, I will continue to marvel at the small-time entrepreneurs who line the sidewalks of every street in this dirty city with their own micro-businesses and creativity. I will enjoy washing my own clothes by hand in buckets outside, waking up to the sounds of birds, using toilets without seats, and eating a simple diet, because soon enough I’ll be back to a steady supply of coffee and whiskey and cigarettes, and I’ll miss it.

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One response to “Last night in Kenya

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