Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Days....I Just Don't Want to Know

This morning George and Joice came by to pick up the truck to go to the western side of Kenya for meetings and for George to finalize the deliveries and supervise the assembly of the remaining bikes for the World Vision order.  That means I'm hoofing it for the next few days since we don't have our second truck yet.  Actually, I don't mind.  I scheduled all my meetings with people and organizations in downtown Nairobi so a 30 minute walk is much better than the 45 minute cab ride.  Plus, I need the exercise since cycling is not an every day occurrence any more.  

I was looking forward to a day on foot...a day to see the city without fighting the traffic.  I saw too much.

When I was leaving my place right before the infamous Cluster F Roundabout there's a bridge over a stream.  Not your bubbling brook type of stream, more like a sewage seeping, communicable disease river flowing right through the city.  As I looked down I saw three young boys washing their clothes.  Making sure their clothes were clean in the stream of sewage.  This is their only way to wash their clothes.  This is in the middle of the city, down the street from my high rise, semi high cost apartment complex filled with expats and Indians and mid level Kenyan government officials.  This simply cannot be.  This cannot be their life.

I stopped on that bridge and took a picture which for some reason did not end up on my camera phone.  Just a few hours earlier I had been reading my Bible and one of the devotions was about Mother Theresa and her selfless work with the poor, the rejects of life.  I couldn't help but think...does it ever make a difference.  It never ends, not in Africa.

As I'm getting into town heading to the accountants this painfully thin but neatly dressed man (in the second hand clothes African way) is walking next to me as I try to "frogger" my way across a large intersection.  He's walking slightly behind me and then I hear "Obama".  Yes, Kenyans adore Obama.  He is their hope.  I stop and laugh and he looks right at me and asks, "Are you American?"  Ok, white, blonde girl with backpack and a coke light in my hand, how did you guess.  He says, "I am a teacher and I tell my kids that because the president of the US is black there is no more racism, no more KKK.  Is that true?"  The visions of American utopia never cease in Africa.  I do not make excuses and do not paint a Pollyanna picture.  I simply tell the truth, that yes, there are people in America who are racist, yes, the KKK still exists and sadly, I did not tell him this....I think it has gotten worse since Obama was elected, not better. 

Most of the time, I tend to not be overly chatty.  Nairobi is a big city, a somewhat sketchy place and being alone, being a woman, I play my cards close to the vest.  But there was something about this man.  We made it across the street and he started talking about his life.  He's Zimbabwean.  Bad luck of the draw.  He then shows me this piece of paper.
My eyes fill with tears as I read this.  The ZANU-PF is the political party of the infamous and deliriously evil Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe.  This is an actual document showing how he had to flee Zimbabwe, travel through Mozambique and Tanzania, just to spend three months trying to find a life in Kenya.  After three months, he's out and must return to Zimbabwe.  He's a teacher.  A simple teacher...

I ask more about his story and what happened to make him fear the ZANU-PF and this is what he shows me... 

Susan is his sister, the baby he's holding his niece.  This is the child from those rapes.

Some days I just don't want to know this much....every day I don't want to know this much....

So he asks if I have some food.  I walk down the street to the grocery store and I ask him what he needs for him and his family.  He takes a 5kg bag of rice.  I ask if it is enough, he takes another bag and then asks if he can get a jug of cooking oil.  

Ten dollars of rice and oil was all he wanted.  He never asked for money.  

There has never been one day in 44 years in America that has been as hard as the life this man lives every day.  Some days...I just don't want to know...there's not enough I can ever do to change much in life in all actuality.  It's just too much...


  1. You do us can make that difference in what you think is a small way, but it's HUGE to others. We all need to realize that it's the small things that count. So often we think we have to do BIG things. In church Sunday we had missionaries speak and show pictures of the 27 years they've spent in Indonesia. They finally had to leave as their lives were in danger. But, it was baby steps that made a difference for them in doing their work.

  2. So sad! That's why I zone out in Rwanda...