A while back I posted about some things regarding life here in Nairobi. I have continued to think about such things. Beware, I am in full ramble mode, if you do not have a lot of time, skip this post and come back later.
I was talking to a Kenyan coworker the other day and I said, “People are like fuel prices.” He had no idea what I meant. You probably do not either. People can adjust to a different level. As oil prices go up, we quickly see fuel prices at the pump go up. When oil prices go down, eventually we see fuel prices also drop. I think we are the same way when it comes to what is normal.
If you take someone from Kenya and put them in Richmond, VA for instance. They will quickly adjust what they think is normal. They will expect certain things to be a certain way.
Much in the same way, putting us here we are adjusting, albeit more slowly, to what is normal here.
Yesterday we were driving along Ngong Road (a main artery in western Nairobi, although not wide enough to be considered an artery, maybe more like a main, very important capillary, but I digress…). They have been working on it since before we arrived (yes, back in June). (For what it is worth, yes, I do realize I am over using parenthesis.) They first brought huge piles of dirt and dumped them on the “sidewalks.” This made it very difficult for people to walk around them with all the traffic whizzing just centimeters away. Eventually we saw them blading the dirt smooth. This seemed like a great idea, a nice walkway for people along the road (maybe now is a good time to mention that the huge majority, at least 90%, of the people in Nairobi do not own a car, so they tend to walk or take matatus.) Speaking of matatus (you have to read the parenthesis to keep up), another missionary told me a while back, “Any (near) horizontal place is a good place to drive.” So guess what happens when they put in a nice sidewalk, you got it, Matatu Madness™. In order to control this, you commonly see sidewalks strewn with huge rocks, with well worn foot paths meandering through them (and you though meandering walks were a more recent American city planning aesthetic technique). Even this, I thought, was progress. You had to pay attention, but a nice sidewalk for pedestrians. However, you cannot stop progress (at least that is what I have been told, but I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to counter that). Just recently we saw them jackhammering out every other 2 foot section of curb. Odd, indeed, but it gave them more chunks of concrete to place on the sidewalk to keep the matatus off. And just yesterday we saw what they were trying to accomplish. They had put in these large blocks of concrete to fill in those gaps. They are at least 10″ high, too high for matatus to cross, and too uneven for them to try to ride half on half off (do not think they would not try!). Then they have paved the sidewalk! Pavement… what a blessing. (You know, it rains here, and since I grew up almost all my life in a desert, I was not that familiar with what happens to dirt when it gets wet. You would not believe the mud around here…) So where was I? (This is one long paragraph…) So Cammy said to me, “This is so nice.” And I replied, “It really is changing around here, things are getting better.” (That reminded me of the joke about the first Marine recruited back on the morning of November 10, 1775. In the afternoon, another recruit signed up. Being greeted in the barracks by the first man who said, “You know, back in the old corps, we had to parade in 2 feet of snow…”) A little later were driving down the road the other direction (I did mention it was a main road). It occurred to me, “I guess we are still a long way from handicapped ramps…”
Wow, are you still reading? I guess you are hoping for some kind of payoff for staying with me this long. But basically, if you were paying attention, you already know it. We are adjusting as to what is normal. We are adjusting down, slowly but surely. And I think that is a good thing. I have a post about expectations that is waiting… maybe I will get to it. I also have one on things you do not need, but think you do. Be patient, I am busy… Thank you for your time. Oh, if you make it this far, send me an email.