Thugs?

The City Council of Nairobi decided that many of the informal shops we call the kiosks (ask Dan Z. what kiosk means), needed to be torn down.  At 3 AM they came in, some witnesses said with 2 tractors, and dozed a bunch of areas.  Much of the damage was clearly done with something mechanized.  The first 3 pictures above show the damage.  It was a bad Friday for many of these people, on Good Friday.

Cammy saw it first as she drove by on the way back from the store.  I was going to head to the butcher to get some sausages for the workers I hired to work on the wall for the lot across from the house (more on that later).  Cammy said the situation looked hot so maybe it was a bad idea. I went anyway, just to get a feel for things.  Fortunately I have a lot of friends down there, and I am not part of the City Council.  They saw me as an insider and many people were more than willing to talk about what happened.

Most of them realize they are in a gray area regarding the law.  They have no permission to be occupying the land where they are.  However, the City Council walks around every day and takes 25 shillings from each of them.  The situation is complicated by the vendors inside the market.  They are paying rent and are in direct competition with many of the vendors outside.  So some people were convinced that the vendors inside convinced (with “kitu kidogo,” something little) the City Council to destroy the illegal stalls.

I had a friend, John Nakhumwa, coming over that day.  He saw the destruction on his way over and asked if it was thugs that had done the damage.  I said, “It was the City Council… um… yes?”

It was a long weekend, both Good Friday and Easter Monday were public holidays.  That means it was potentially one of the highest possible revenue weekends for many of the vendors.  They spent it salvaging any inventory they had left and supplies to rebuild their stalls.  If you recall what I wrote about damaged property, they had to do something quick or it would all disappear.

Compare the two pictures above on the left.  From Friday to Monday things were almost back to the way they were.  That is another thing that is a bit frustrating.  There is no follow up.  They come in, doze the place, then leave, and they are back collecting fees on Tuesday like nothing happened.

One of the guys I talked to said, “And this is the government we elected!”

Java House

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Java House is one of the closest things to an American meal around here.  I had suspected for a long time that the guy who started it is from California.  They have quite a few Mexican food items on the menu.  Since we got back I noticed they had something new, a double cheese, double meat burger.  It is called… you guessed it.  Man I miss In-n-Out.  So does my waist line.  I had to tighten my motorcycle riding pants twice since we returned.

Weekend at Morningstar

As I posted before from my phone, we spent the weekend at Morningstar.

I barbequed a lot of fillet (pronounced: fill-it) steaks.  They kids seemed to really enjoy it and could not get enough. I remember being asked by some of the kinyozi guys a while back if I ate meat every week.  I replied, “Every day if I can.” I still do not think I can comprehend how big of a deal it is to have so much meat.

Even one had a great time enjoying the meat with ugali (boiled maize flour) and a bit of stew they cooked.  I sent some guys to get sodas and we all enjoyed that as well.  I think there was only one broken bottle, not bad with 37 kids, many of them very young.

 

After eating we were all in for some entertainment.  Pastor Isaac selected John Ng’ang’a to be the MC which did OK for a while, but after some difficulty Pastor Isaac asked him to translate.  So the pastor spoke in Swahili and Ng’ang’a translated.  That created quite a bit of humor in and of itself.  They called people one by one to the front to lead a song or do a dance or something.  I was so impressed at how little self consciousness they have.  That is fairly consistent across the culture.  I thought about what would happen if you asked kids in America to do that, but before I could finish the thought they called Petr and Andrej in front.  Petr could not handle it.  Cammy and I both got our turns as well, of course.

 

After the entertainment we all went outside the walls to the back field.  I organized a clean up crew to remove trash and building materials.  Then we dug some holes and put in some posts.  It is almost a proper football pitch now.  They do need some kind of backstops though.  The older boys just told one of the younger ones to sit on the other side of the barbed wire fence the whole time to collect the ball when it inevitably went over there.

During that time, Cammy had sat down and some of the girls took notice of her long straight hair.  They asked if it was real.  Then they started braiding.  She said she knew right away that it was not going to stop until they had finished.  She kept it that way until just before church on Sunday.  But her hair is a lot smoother than the artificial hair they are used to using and it does not hold braiding as well.  So she got some help removing them before church.  However, having slept with it in tight braids it looked as if she had crimped her hair.  I said, “Welcome to the ’90s.”  To which she replied, “It goes with my ’90s thrift store dress.”  It did!

We had a really nice place to stay, one of the “family units,” just for our family.  Cammy and I had a twin bed, and the boys were in another room with singles.  I was able to have a hot shower after the football playing.  They even had a fridge and drinking water for us to use (The borehole pH is about 9).

Saturday night got interesting at about 1AM.  Some thugs tried to break into the Blue Hills Academy, which is one plot away from Morningstar.  The school’s security guards set of an alarm which also lit up a yellow light high up on a pole.  With the siren blasting and the light flashing we awoke and started looking around.  We saw a police land cruiser running down the road and up another.  We were told in the morning that the thugs had been run off, but they had pangas (machetes).  They were probably the same thugs that had just the week before broken into a house across the road and take the TV a laptop and had their way with the house girl.  The security situation out there is no joke.  Thankfully they were able to finish the perimeter wall around the Morningstar compound.

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  Psalm 127:1

Sunday morning I was privileged to speak at church again.  I spoke about choices.  Maybe I will post the notes here one day.  It seemed well received.  I noticed my Swahili is improving because I was able to correct the translator.  When you are speaking with a translator you find yourself waiting for them to finish, so you begin listening for certain words, and when you do not hear them you get concerned.

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

 

Mango Surprise!

I have been suffering from a crazy stomach problem since Saturday.  Pretty sure I had an ameba.  We call them our “friends” since they tend to live very close to us.   Paul suffered from one about a year ago so I guess it was my turn.  Thankfully, the boys have been well and show no signs of any similar ailment.  Well, in the middle of my week of illness, I was busy cutting up a beautiful mango when I noticed a black seed – what I thought was a seed….hoping was a seed.  I know my mangos well enough to know that they don’t have black seeds but the mind is a powerful thing and I just couldn’t think about the alternative.  Using my knife, I removed the seed, put it aside – allowing it to stay on the cutting board, and continued cutting.  Yet, the discovery of such a seed in a mango started give me one haunting thought – Could it be a bug?  It was pretty big for a bug and there were no holes in the fruit.  I was a little perplexed….but only because I didn’t want to believe my rational thoughts.  I proceeded to investigate the “seed” while cutting, stopping to touch it with my knife and then returning to the fruit.  Finally, I turned it over and saw legs – or were they?  Oh, how I did not want to believe this was a bug!  Strong denial was enabling me to continue to cut the mango and even eat a couple of bites until the “seed”  began to grow.  I watched in horror as what appeared to be legs stretched out and turned the object over.  In much disappointment, and a bit of disgust, the mystery “seed” began to crawl around my cut up mango.  It turned out to be some sort of beetle – my expert bug man told me (that is my husband for those of you who did not know that he used to work at a place called Insect World) .

Twenty three pounds

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Know you know what twenty three pounds of Kenyan beef looks like. I picked it up because we are spending the weekend at Morningstar. We had a great beef and ugali lunch. Then we cleared the field behind and played football until we were all tired. Cammy got her hair braided. I will be preaching tomorrow. We will post more pictures later.

Shirts and Friends

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I have mentioned before how we get to see lots of strange shirts here. One of the ditch diggers working on my wall project (for the lot across from the house) is wearing an EMC shirt.  I saw a woman working at a church with a Tide looking shirt that said 100% Concentrated B*tch.

Yesterday I saw my friend Peter Mwenda. He is a good friend who used to wash cars. Of all the car washers he seemed to have it together the most. So he is the guy would take my car to be washed. The other car washes got jealous so I started inviting Peter to the house. He would wash the car and my motorcycle.

During this time I found out he wanted to start a business. He wanted to go buy shoes in Kikomba and sell them near Kenyatta Market.  Kikomba is the place where all the shipping containers full of thrift store cast offs end up.  When you take stuff to a thrift store, they only keep it on the shelves for a few weeks.  When it does not sell, they pack it up and send it overseas.  A lot of it ends up in Mombasa then on to Nairobi.  They unpack the Nairobi stuff in Kikomba.  Almost every second hand item you find in Nairobi comes through there.

Knowing that was Peter’s desire, I decided I wanted to help him move out of the car washing business.  Car washers are only a small step up from street boys.  Most of them are drunk or high on glue a good portion of the day.  Many are very visibly scared from fights and the difficulty of their lives.  I started giving Peter a little extra washing the motorcycle.  He cleans the chain with a toothbrush after all.  Then at his request I gave him a “small business loan,” of 3000 shillings, about $40 at the time (We all know I do not have any of my own money, so you supporters gave him the money).

His business has been doing fairly well.  I have watched as his inventory grow, improve in quality and specialize in the kinds of shoes he knows he can move quickly.  He is even investigating being able to take shoes from Nairobi to sell in his home village near Meru on Mount Kenya.

I have always been very clear with him why I have been helping him, because the love of God compels me. I think this has been having an impact on Peter.  He started going to church, and was proud to show me a cross necklace he purchased.

I say all of that to try to communicate how no one really cares what their clothing says.  I bet Peter has no idea what McDonald’s is.