Today was powerless. And by powerless I don’t mean as in the kind of power you can have over other individuals or over structural issues, but lacking of actual power–the electric currency that animates my life. Without it my entire existence is almost rendered useless. I know that might be seen as a tragic reality of our post-modern and perhaps post-natural society but seriously, how do I go about my day if I can’t use the internet, charge my laptop or my phone? Or even turn the light switch on? (I know, I have a flashlight, but still. And my flashlight wont help the fact that my food slowly spoils in the useless fridge).
Luckily for me I know that the power will be turned back on soon again, so I just wait. And wait. Today I waited for seven hours. Last time I waited for two. It’s strange that the power fails almost on cue when I have something important to do online. And it is strange that I’ve been able to accumulate such an addiction to electricity without even realizing it. But it’s even more strange how quickly I get used to the waiting. Ten or twenty minutes there, an hour one day, five the next. That the lacking of power, even though annoying, reminds me that there are other things, non-electrical, that I can enjoy. So I lay down on the balcony and read a book. And I make pancakes to use up my milk so it doesn’t spoil and I make up the recipe as I go along because I only remember bits and pieces of it. And I become adventurous and explore a new matatu-route and go to the market and buy fruits. It’s like the everyday power-shortages have become small breaks in my electronic and automated life of thesis-writing.
My swahili, or kiswahili is getting better. Especially now that I’ve got to practice all day with a bunch of amazing kids in Kibera. Today was the first day I got to experience another reality here in Kenya. No armed guards or running water. Sophie, the director of 5 C Human Rights Theater group very kindly invited me to her home and let me hang out with her family and friends all day. She met me at a mall close by my house and then we took a matatau, a small minibus, to her house. Now I’m her adopted Swedish daughter and she’s going to teach me some genuine Kenyan cooking and take care of me whilst I’m here. The older kids taught me how to count in Swahili and I taught them how to count in Swedish. And Sophie also told me to stop being a baby about the matataus (apparently they drive like crazy and are quite crowded and a haven for pick-pockets, so I still need to keep my guard up though) and just go ahead and take them. Something that will save me around 570 KSH a day. The taxi to her house is 600 KSH and the matataus are only 30 KSH combined.
Besides hanging out and taking about life, eating really good food and messing around with the three youngest ones Sophie also told me a lot about what she does, what’s she’s passionate about and what some of the struggles women in Kenya face on a day to day basis. We also of course got to talk a lot about Kibera, and since she lives in the highest building in Kibera she showed me the view from the rooftop. We also walked around in the local market where food is like three times cheaper than in the supermarket I’ve been to. It’s so strange to imagine that Kibera, one of Africas largest and most crowded informal settlements is so very close to where I’m sitting now, I’m my very comfortable and spacious living room–we are three people on four bedrooms and a large living-room. It’s only about 15 minutes by car. But in these two worlds the reality of everyday life is so different. Tomorrow I’m heading back to Sophie’s and staying until Sunday. Mama Reina (that’s what the children calls Sophie since her youngest daughter is named Reina) has fixed me my own bed in the same room as Patty and Ryan and since it’s weekend tomorrow I’m hoping on meeting more people who can share an insight into their everyday life. Also. I’m brining my camera tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get some great pictures!
/ Irina Bernebring Journiette
I’m in Nairobi! Sitting on the floor in my new livingroom grasping the fact that I’m for the first time in my life ”south of Sahara.” The journey here felt much shorter than I was expecting–even though it was snowing i Istanbul and I was rerouted via Amsterdam. I arrived this morning and D. and O. the couple I’m living with had sent a driver to come and pick me up. The driving here is almost even more crazy than in Riyadh, but my new ‘rafiki’ (friend in Swahili) and driver David felt safe. However, I don’t think I will be heading out on the roads driving by myself anytime soon. Today I’ve spent getting acquainted with my neighborhood Kilimani, just north of the city center. This will be my base for now. But my goal is to explore as much as possible. Of course I’ve already gotten lost once, but during the day time most places around here feel and are safe, and people are in general very helpful. Looking for a small supermarket a woman guided me in the right direction, offered me some nuts and told me a little bit about her work with a local NGO. For now things are pretty relaxing. Tonight we are having dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant and I’m going to try and get a hold of a Kenyan number so I can start contacting people to talk to about my project. And I need to figure out what I want to do and where I want to go when I’m here–as I feel and fear that these eight weeks will pass much faster than expected.
Tuonane baadaye–See you later!
/ Irina Bernebring Journiette