JB Buys a Car

That’s right. I did it.  I bought me a car.  Now I just need to figure out how to get a license to drive here. I bought an old beat up Land Rover from a guy from South Carolina.  I actually knew the guy because I saw him in pictures from a friend I met here.  Small world.  I got a pretty good deal on a car that definitely has some age, but should be great for some weekend safaris and getting around town to actually see this city.  I’ll be sure and post the pics as soon as I get the car in my possession. 

Mukuru

I am currently on holiday and decided to join a fellow volunteer on a trip to the Mukuru slums in south eastern Nairobi.  The organization is Hope Worldwide and is actually an organization based in Philadelphia.  The day was designed to do a clean up of the neighborhood as well as providing some food for a couple of the families in the area.  It was a nice change of pace from my stuffy office life that I have even here in Kenya…can’t seem to escape it. Mukuru1

Mukuru2
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Visiting the homes of the people was quite amazing.  The homes are no bigger than a 10 x 10 foot square and is only one room which is separated by a sheet.  Often there are 4 or 5 people living in this home.  One woman we met with told of us how she is currently HIV-positive and is happy to know her status.  Before she was getting sick and wasn’t sure of the cause.  She has since been able to get medication to help her feel better and is really happy to know that her latest child did not have the virus passed onto him with the help of medications and information.  This slum houses roughly 700,000 people, so I was told, and is the third largest in Nairobi.   I then spent the afternoon playing run away from the local kids who love to climb on JB.  They found my arms fascinating as though they couldn’t get enough.  I’d have 2 at a time hanging from my arms and I’d pick them up off the ground.  They also loved stealing my hat…good times.  I did finally escape the children for long enough to play a game of football (soccer).  Wasn’t the best because of my hiking boots, but I think I showed them that a mzungu can play at the game as well…I also now have a group I can play with more regularly at Nairobi university…awesome.   Football in Mukuru

New Videos

Just wanted to alert you of some new videos that I have uploaded to my website. http://www.jbwoodruff.com/videos.php

Name that Matatu

An interesting phenomena that I have come across is the ritual of naming one’s matatu (mini-bus).  The owners have christened their vehicles with such fine names such as Casanova, Cold as Ice, Crunk Juice, Ludicrous, Nucleur and Gangsta…just to name a few.  As you can see in the picture it has moved beyond a simple name.

Juice Matatu   

Matatus are being outfitted with plush pleather seats (yes, I wrote pleather), video screens and ear busting sounds systems. It’s the 21st century.

UN International Volunteer Day

Ah…the UN International Volunteer Day. Sun shining, grass growing, wind blowing, dead rats and piles of poop. The day has a great idea in place. Clean up an area of Nairobi river and plant some trees. Execution and planning and purpose not so great.

No. 1 – Things get started an hour later than originally expected

No. 2 – Use of surgical gloves to pick up trash with sharp objects…not enough gloves

No. 3 – Poop everywhere

No. 4 – Other side of river is an actual garbage dump that goes into Nairobi river

No. 5 – Our side of the river is people’s backyard and is their own personal dump

No. 6 – Plenty of trees already here…why plant more here?

No. 7 – 1 hour of actual trash pick-up followed by a presentation (I skipped) and photo op

No.8 – ‘Snacks provided’ includes water…

I apologize for my cynical view; however, this has been a common outcome of most events. The thought is there, but there is rarely a plan in place to make it worthwhile.

Trash Pile
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We salvaged the day by spending the morning playing with some of the local kids. Played some football (soccer) and monkey in the middle…I show them my sweet moves. As a result, the kids got numerous cuts on their feet…the game changed to playing some doctor, cleaning up their cuts and fixing them up. Gloves now actually become useful. The kids helped collect some trash and we give them our t-shirts…I don’t need another t-shirt I’ll never wear.

Kids Playing
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Meetings

Meetings are often painful and pointless when an agenda is not clear and followed.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Tala

Me
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We set off on Friday (Nov 30) to go visit a volunteer couple (Alan and Sara) who are located at a school in Tala. It’s about 1 1/2 hours outside of Nairobi. It was great to see the eastern side of Nairobi…definitely a poorer area of town, highly populated and was really amazing to see the ‘real’ Kenya. The matatu ride was pretty painless…for a matatu ride. Roads weren’t too bad.

Tala is a small town of about 4000 people and there are definitely no white people around as determined by the number of stares received. It has one small supermarket and a couple other small shops and restaurants. The hotel looked like it was going to fall down. On the walk from the matatu stop we experienced the children who were amazed to see us with frequent calls of ‘mzungu’ and ‘british…hey british.’ Pretty funny stuff.

Tala School
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Students at the school made dinner for us that night. It rained a lot. We saw a hedgehog. I played some ping pong and showed off my skills on the table. No matter where I am in the world playing ping pong there’s always one certainty…Mike, you know what I’m talking about. Ate way too much ugali and promptly had a stomach ache. It was great being out in a quiet place and in a place that was basically free of people. Lots of bugs…. the largest moth known to man and some hedgehogs munching on some bugs.

Moth
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The next day we made our way back toward Nairobi on an invitation to have lunch at one of the student’s homes in Eastlands, Nairobi. Eastlands is known as an area that is not very safe, highly populated and generally what life is like for most people in Nairobi…I found it to be pretty nice. The streets were mud streets with tons of puddles. Most of the homes were half completed…2-3 stories with a top story that was never finished. The dinner was great…tons of food that i have at every ‘traditional’ meal. Boiled chicken, beef stew with potatoes and carrots, cabbage, kale/spinach, ugali, potatoes, chapati and rice…really…every meal I have is this….every meal.

JB Cooks Kuku
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We walked around Eastlands and saw what it had to offer…plenty of funny looks and mzungu statements. Many were very eager to say hello, sell us items and just touch us…mainly the kids. I hit my head on a gate.

Getting back to Tala was where things got interesting. It was dark when we left…not ideal. We were in a bad part of town…another strike against us. There were 9 of us traveling together…virtually impossible to travel together. We split up and agreed to meet at the matatu stop. We got there first. We looked for a ride, but the girls were being picky and wanted a matatu with music for our 45 min ride….that was frustrating as we just wanted to get home. Then after convincing them that it didn’t matter we piled into one with broken lights…get back out. Wait some more. I was then offered beer, quat (mira), and other various illegal substances. Beer sounded good, but he mentioned they drug the beer…no beer. A matatu arrived with a bargain rate of 500ksh…it’s normally 100. Our friends argued it down to 150ksh. We pile in and enjoy a fast ride through the darkness…head lights are nominal. We arrive safely and Alan relates that there is a guard who has a bow and arrow with poison darts…good times. Enjoy another evening at Alan and Sara’s messing around, drinking some Tusker beers, and get to bed.

Next morning I have to leave early to get back to Nairobi for my trip to Kitui. Wake up toa mosquito outside of my net waiting to bite me…he fails. On the road back we pass a body on the side of the road which is surrounded by many people…clearly the gentleman in question is not alive. Kind of spooky. Traffic was miserable…it’s always miserable. We had to get out of the matatu and walk through downtown just to get back…extremely crowded…hawkers are making life difficult. Get back to my place alive and leave within 30 minutes for another safari (journey).