Nanyuki Story

I thought to write about some nicer things in my time here, since I have been feeling pretty negative about this trip.

First, some happy pictures.

Here are some high school finishers at Koija (a big accomplishment there) who helped me improve my survey questionnaire. That’s my car (my baby!) in the background. Did I mention she has beautiful, uber-expensive brand new tires now?

Next, a picture of the Ewaso Ngiro river basin — the Ewaso flows through Koija — taken from near Kirimon in Samburu district.

Finally, my translator N. with her youngest sister on her back.

And a story from a Sunday in mid-November when I went to Nanyuki for a break. Sundays are very quiet here; everything is shut. I was walking to an internet cafe and a little boy came up beside me and said, “I’m hungry.” This happens pretty often in Nanyuki, but the street was deserted (i.e. I wasn’t being haggled) and the boy seemed nice. I told him if he could wait 30 minutes for me to finish with emails, I would buy him lunch.

When I came out of the internet cafe he was waiting, and we talked as we walked towards the market. Since he spoke a little English, I asked if he went to school (at Koija, you only learn English if you go to school). He said no, and when I asked why, he kept repeating a Swahili word I didn’t know. So when we got to the market, I asked the crowd of tchotchke sellers if one of them would translate for me.

It turns out the little boy, named John, was telling me he didn’t go to school for lack of a uniform (not an uncommon reason here; though Kibaki’s first big move when elected President was to make primary school free).

So I said to the man translating, “Ask John if he’d go to school if he had a uniform.” John said yes, I asked if he promised, and he said yes. So we adopted the translator for the next hour, went to buy John some lunch, and then off to the market to bargain for a uniform ($6 because John already owned the sweater he needed).

Then we went to the mzungu supermarket to buy milk, flour, soap, and peanut butter for John to take home because by this time I’d seen where his body was hiding under his baggy clothes and how skinny he was. He told us he had no parents or siblings and was living with his grandfather, which is a pretty uncommon and tough situation to be in.

So I took a risk on the boy and I will probably never know if he went to school. But I figure it was a risk worth taking – a hell of a return on six bucks if John actually does get himself to school. As B. said, shouldn’t there be an NGO that does something like this? Maybe there is.

I have the feeling a lot here, what would I do if I were born into such tough circumstances? I helped John totally arbitrarily, because he found me in a good mood and because he seemed nice. It felt nice to help him because it is luxurious (perversely powerful?) to be able to say to someone, “I will take a chance on you.” But the fact is that it’s a crappy world when you have to find some white girl in a good mood in order to have a chance at school.

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