Thursday, September 25, 2008

So apparently my last entries have been kind of extremely negative, which implies that I’m hating it here, which I would like to correct. I am not hating it here, I’m not even disliking it here. I just feel that liking and disliking things at this point isn’t even really the issue, and so I can’t say that I’m loving it here either. I’m loving this experience, overall, I think, but do I love Nairobi, do I think it’s the greatest place on earth? No, of course not. That is not to say that there aren’t some crazy awesome things that happen here, but on the whole this city is basically nuts. But I didn’t expect to fall in love with Nairobi, at least not within the first month of being here. I think you can come to love a place like this, despite all of its faults, but the fact that it is the faults that stand out first to you makes it hard to have a romantic vision. I love that people are so kind here, no matter how stupid you look. I love that a nice Indian mad bought some stuff at the store for me, saying only that some day I would meet him again and do something nice for him. I love that everyone from the rich elite to the poorest of the poor have an intense pride in where they live, and where they are going. I love that this city exists for Kenyans, not for tourists, and that everyone is here to live their life and just get on with it. I love that American chains are virtually non existent here, and that I won’t see a starbucks cup for the next three and a half months.

I don’t love Nairobi per se. The fact that I can’t walk outside at night, and can’t get away from the smell of burning trash, and have to throw away aluminum cans for the first time in probably my life, and get hit in the legs by beggars just because I’m white and won’t give them money makes love at first sight hard. But I didn’t expect it to be easy, and I didn’t expect this to be Europe. All things considered, I’m still in fucking Africa, and despite the fact that I’m not eating bread at a street café, or dressing up for the horse races or going to wine tastings at the vineyards, I’m in the birthplace of man. I’m a true minority for the first and probably last time in my life, and I’m seeing humanity in a way that no one who hasn’t been to Africa can really understand. And really, that’s what being abroad is about, not loving every moment of it. Hating some moments of it is ok too, especially when you’re observing and participating in (somewhat) a life that is hard in pretty much every way conceivable. So if this journal is sometimes negative, it’s just what is on my mind while I write. I don’t hate my life, so don’t worry.

In other news, I did get to be in the same room as Rialo Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya, as part of my internship the other day. Not that I had anything to do with it, but we went to this housing site that the government is building to try to upgrade Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, and he was there to make a goofy speech and look at the site. He just made a politician speech and smiled and left, but it was still pretty cool. Very different than American politics. First of all, he just came with a couple security guards and they stayed on the side, not really doing much, while this horde of people, mostly residents of Kibera, surged around him cheering and yelling. No one like that would ever be allowed within 500 yards of the President of the United States. It was kind of nuts. But cool.

We’re going to Masai Mara this weekend, which is the famous game preserve in Kenya. We’re only going for three days, but really how much animaling can you do before you get tired of it. It’s during the migration period of the wildabeasts, which is apparently something amazing to see, as hundreds of thousands of them migrate across Kenya at this time of year. So hopefully we can see some cool things. Either way, it will be an excuse to get out of Nairobi, which will be really nice. I’m getting a little claustrophobic, being in the city 24/7. I’m seriously glad that we have a quiet, secluded kind of apartment building that we can retreat into, when the bustle and loudness of the city starts to get to you. After spending hours just trying to get from once place to another, it’s nice to just be able to walk into a gated, relatively quiet environment and just relax on the couch. I’m pretty admiring of people who do homestays in places like this. While it would add a lot to your experience, and in some ways I think it would be a lot cooler in the end, I think this month would have been exceedingly harder had I been required to come home to another unfamiliar, kind of stressful environment. Because no matter how nice a family is, interacting with adults that are very culturally different and you really want to impress and not offend in any way is just tiring, especially when you’re already completely overwhelmed by your environment as it is. It must be really hard.

3 comments:

Kate said...

watch out for any baby lions among the migrating wildebeest...

Jenelle said...

I really appreciate your loving it/hating it explanation. It's so Anjali :)
Say hi to the lions for me? OH and if there is an elephant there bring him home for me. K thanks.

aaa8380 said...

Umm...Anjali, I just read your post, and it was inspiring.

No, really.I hope that your experience will continue to be as real and gritty as it is.

I hope you had fun with Mufasa this weekend.
~amanda