I witnessed an almost fight today. The way people drive here it’s inevitable. So I was riding to the grocery store in a Matatu (basically a beat-up van crammed with as may people as possible). Matatus are known for crazy drivers but this time a guy pulled in front of us. As the guy was going by my driver threw a piece of trash at him. The guy stopped of course, got out of the car and started yelling at my driver. My driver then exits the vehicle and gets up in this other guy’s face. Before you know it, there are spectators forming a ring, yelling at these guys and egging them on. Keep in mind this is in the middle of the road completely stalling traffic during rush hour. Eventually the other guy returned to his car, but before he got away my driver spit in his face. The other guy returned the favor and we were back on our way!
Slightly related, was my recent run-in with the Kenyan police. Fun fun. I was actually walking to the same grocery store (hmm…) when two cops pulled me aside and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was going to the grocery store. They then asked for my name, where I lived and what I was doing in Kenya. I reluctantly told them but not before asking why they were questioning me. They gave me some bogus answer about protecting travelers and communicating safety information (they wanted a bribe). They then told me police in the US question people all the time. I told them police couldn’t without a reason… Finally they realized I wasn’t budging so they gave up and let me go. First time being asked for a bribe though, I’m sure I’ll have many similar experiences in my African travels.
Today was a day for cultural experiences. To start, I went to a much more Kenyan church than usual. There was dancing, modern music and skits; all in English which was great. I even got invited back 🙂
Afterwards, I got lunch with a friend from APU and headed off to my first African soccer match with my Kenyan friend Collins! Gor Mahi, an ethnic Luo team was playing Mathare United, a team from the slums. The first thing that hits you in the stadium is the incredible level of noise, courtesy of the ever-present vuvuzulas. It’s deafening, especially when they blow one right in your ear. Then there’s a cheer-squad that chants, cheers, shouts at police, harasses girls and does pretty much anything everything else during the game. They went the entire 90 minutes without losing their noise level or enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the game ended 0-0 and was kind of boring. You’re packed into bench seating with the sun shining straight in your face so I can’t say it was the most comfortable experience either. The best part of the game though was afterwards when the crowds descend on the street. All traffic is stopped in this sea of people walking home. There’s dancing in the streets, fighting, beating on the cars stuck in traffic, and a lot of general commotion. Unfortunately as the only muzungu there I became an interesting attraction as well. They would ask me something in Swahili and laugh and laugh when I didn’t understand. It felt a little like being in Japan except there I can defend myself. Anyway, it was loud and crazy and really hot, but definitely a good cultural experience.
I had the craziest lunch the other day. We were up at Limuru North of Nairobi working at our ceramics manufacturer on the installation of a new dryer. First of all, I consider it my first truly African meal. I had the famous Kenyan Ugali with some friend pork and vegetables. When we walked into the roadside stand, there was this huge pile of raw pork sitting on the counter (Only a few flies). We ordered a kilo for around $3. The guy slapped a bunch of meat onto the scale and put it straight in the frying pan. It tasted great but I definitely felt it later.
Anyway, that wasn’t really the crazy part. When we were waiting for our food, my driver started playing with this “kid”. When we sat down and started talking to him, we realized he was definitely not a kid but a midget (Little person?) Either way, through the course of the meal he told us about his story. One day when he was growing up in Norther Kenya, he was out gathering grass for cows to eat when his entire family was attacked and killed by raiders. He had nowhere to go so he was placed in a church orphanage. Several years later, he made it to college on a scholarship from that same church. He was almost through, when his pastor stole the $20,000 scholarship money and disappeared. Can you imagine your pastor stealing from you? Somehow he made it back to university and is studying divinity to become a pastor himself one day. He told me his absolute dream is the get out of Kenya and travel to the United States. All this he told me with a completely straight face, like nothing out of place had happened. Who knows if every detail is true, but I do know he’s had a difficult life.
Hearing a story like that is extremely humbling. I have no right to complain compared to an orphaned, robbed, midget in Kenya. It’s amazing how the odds are stacked against so many people here. Some manage to succeed through persistence and probably good luck but others are not so fortunate. It definitely makes me realize the opportunities I have had and want to take full advantage of them.