Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Last Night

I dreamt of Kenya. Usually there's no rhyme or reason to my Kenya dreams. They arrive out of the blue without prompting, thought it's not something about which I'm going to complain. My greatest fear when leaving Kenya the first time was that I'd never be back there in person and wouldn't even be able to visit in my dreams. The dreams don't come to me often, but when they do, I savor them - Kenya is so very far away, and though I have every intention of returning there more than once, have every intention of one day bringing my little tan babies there (when they're big) I know I'll never be able to visit as often as I'd like, so dreams are a welcome escape.

Last night I dreamt that I was living in Kenya as a student. The two friends I brought back with me in 2006 were there as well. We were living in a village called Keti, which is actually the village in a book I just read called "Measuring Time" by Helon Habila - the book took place in Nigeria, but I'm not even sure if a village of "Keti" exists. Nonetheless, that's where we were living. It was a bit jungle-y, but we had to walk down a long and dusty road to get the bus to Machakos, which is where we took Swahili. This at least makes a bit of sense, since I've been to Machakos 3 or 4 times and it's a big enough city that one could expect to find Swahili lessons there. So each morning we would have to be at the end of the road that led to Keti at 6:30AM to get the bus to Machakos, otherwise, we would be stuck without transportation. One morning, though it was only 6, we passed a roadside shop that was open. It was full of Kazuri beads. I have a necklace made of Kazuri beads, and it may be the most treasured thing I purchased in Kenya. I bought it on my birthday at the Giraffe Centre in Karen, and last night, I laid it out on my bureau because I planned to wear it today (and am wearing it right now). Now if I did come upon a shop of Kazuri beads in real life, I would probably go right in without regard for the bus I was supposed to catch. Of course in the dream I went into the shop and found a bracelet of giant square turquoise beads painted with small specks of bright color. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be unrivaled by anything in the store. It was pricey I remember, but I pulled the purple post-it with the word "no" written on it from my visa (which exists in real life, lol) and charged the bracelet. I put it on, showed it to Melu and Rachel and we went on our merry way.

It was a bit strange to have this dream last night because it is actually associated with something for once. Of course there's the book I just read and the fact that I laid my kazuri beads out last night, but I believe I had the dream because I finally heard from Mboya yesterday. A while ago I bought him a quadraband phone on ebay. I sent him an old phone of mine, not truly understanding how cell phones work in other countries and though I had it unlocked by a cell phone service, I think it must've been a triband phone or something, because it never worked properly. Fed up with the running around I was having to do and that Mboya was having to do on his end, I withdrew $40 from his fund (I have a savings account for him) and bought an unlocked quadband motorola phone on ebay, complete with a charger. I then printed out the instruction manual and paid $14 to mail it to Kenya. The thing is that over a month had passed and I hadn't heard from him. His mail is delivered to his former place of employment, a courtesy I hope they are showing him for his 16 years of service and their sudden termination of his job on the sole grounds that American schools aren't sending enough students to the study abroad program and his salary could no longer be paid. I wondered if maybe he only checked the mail when he knew something would be there for him, so I emailed him. I received this yesterday:

Thank GOD its very nice to receive your email this morning, and guess what? i just got the phone yesterday, its really receiving network very clear which is my exiting to me. i really appreciate so much and its now time to get to calls and find job s without spending so much bus-fare, i cant imagine how chip (cheap) is going to cost me without travel ling around searching for a job!! You cant imagine how things will be easy for me!! thank you, thank you, thank you, so much RAFIKI YANGU."

I was so happy to receive this and happy to hear that this phone would make life easier for my dear friend Mboya. I didn't dwell on it much til later that day when I was driving home after a day of work and an indulgent pedicure. I was steering my way down a hideously crowded Route 3 South when it struck me that for the most part, my complaints are no more than petty in the grand scheme of life. While all noble causes, I am surrounded by people crowing about health care, politics, civil liberties, politicians speaking about these things, about gas prices, traffic, public transportation. The people I work with bitch about each other. The people I volunteer with bitch about all of the above as well as non-vegetarians and people who hunt animals. I bitch about God only knows what......but I do it from my beautiful home or my beautiful back yard or the homes and yards of family and friends. Everyday without giving it a second thought I robotically hold my transit pass up to a sensor and the gates open and admit me because I paid for my pass from my paycheck and everything is taken care of for me behind the scenes. I can take as many trains and buses as I want every day and I don't even have to think about it. When the day is over, I get in my car which I fill with gas which I can afford because I have a salaried job, and drive southward, away from the hustle and bustle of Boston to the peaceful, once rural but now becoming scarily overdeveloped suburbs and relax - sew on a sewing machine, sit at my laptop, knit, swim in my pool. Meanwhile 7,200 miles away, a good man who wants to work is trying to figure out how to make the $60 I send him last 3 or 4 months, because he doesn't have a job (I send him $225 every 4 months, but $165 is needed for school fees). This means he needs to budget for the few bills he will have, as well as things for his family, who farms for a living. He also needs to figure out every single bus ride he'll be taking in search of work. I've seen men fight over a space in a truck that will bring them to a job site for a day. In Athi River, there are cement mines, mined mostly by the unemployed looking for a day's work. If you don't fight your way into a mine truck, it means no work, no food on the table. Does Mboya do this? Does he pick up odd jobs in and around Nairobi. He's efficient and dependable, that I know, but do others see this in him, or do they just see a warm body? Is he turned away from jobs because he lacks a formal education? Do people know that he's been working hard for 16 years in a stable job and the carpet was pulled from under his feet?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but they make me ask myself "why the hell are you complaining?" In comparison to Mboya, I have everything. In comparison to Mboya, most Americans, even some (some, not ALL) of the most impoverished ones will have more or access to more resources than Mboya will ever have during his lifetime, though hopefully with my help I will make this no longer be the case. Of the 50% of the Kenyan population living below the poverty line however, he will be an exception. So why are we complaining? Why aren't we living life grateful for every small moment, for every small thing, grateful for the fact that when I get on a bus every morning it's not to go find work, it's to go TO work. Why aren't we grateful for every cell phone call we can afford, each dunkin' donuts iced coffee we pay for? I don't know the answer to that either, but what I do know is that I'm going to start being grateful for a lot more things in this life, that's for sure. Life is too short to sit and bitch - go out and do.

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