Monday, January 07, 2008

Kenya Still

I hear things are calming down in Kenya in general which is good, but I was so sad to receive this email today from V-Day (the people who bring you the Vagina Monologues!) I guess this is something that is going to take a lot of time and patience, but this so isn't my Kenya - not in the sense that I 'have' a Kenya or the only Kenya that exists is the rosy golden one from the confines of my optimistic's just that I know people there do not live like this and are as horrified by it as we would be were it happening in the United States. Here's the email:
V-Day V-Mail


The Situation in Narok

-This conflict started on the night the election results announced the victory of President Kibaki. Conflict between the Kikuyu, Massai (ugh it's Maasai) and Luo's broke out throughout Kenya. In the last few days the situation has been reported as improving in Nairobi, however it is important to know that in Narok, it is getting far worse.

-Stores are closed, there is no petrol for cars and the cost of food continues to inflate at exorbitant rates. Last week a head of lettuce was 20 shillings. It is now 150 shillings (.30us to $2us)

-On the night of Sunday, December 30th, Massai men burned the Narok food market, a primary source of income for the mostly female member of the Kikuyu tribe. Thus, in the last few days there has been no produce available in Kenya.

-Violence, as well, has become rampant. There have been nightly reports of Kikuyu in Narok burning Massai homes and a confirmed report of Kikuyus castrating a Luo man who later died of his injuries in Narok. Reports of sexual violence too have increased, leading to elevated concern amongst the women and girls of this region.

The Situation at the V-Day Safe House

-As an elected official and director of the V-Day Safe House, Agnes Pareyio is at increased risk.

-Although the center is secured by a locked gate and 24-hour guard, a person on a mission could easily penetrate the security currently in place.

-The girls have been watching the one television station and are aware of the current situation in Kenya, the issues that they are facing and the precautions that need to be taken. Life, on a day-to-day basis is ok. As of January 2, it has been announced that school is scheduled to resume on January 15th.


-One of the biggest concerns is because of the size of the center and the number of people currently residing there, people will assume there is a larger quantity of food stored there, thus heightening the risk of the center and the girls.

We urge you to educate yourself about this situation, to tell your family, your friends, your coworkers. It is imperative that the worldwide community not turn a blind eye, and that the situation in Kenya not escalate. Kenya's stability is intrinsic to the stability of the region. We all must show international support for a peaceful conclusion to this conflict, we must pay attention now and not wait until it is too late.

I am especially saddened to hear of the situation in Narok. Narok is one of my favorite towns. It arises on the African landscape out of absolutely nowhere, and I think we stopped there on our way to the Mara. I love small African towns - Narok is well-developed but not as slummy as some of the places we visited, probably because the tourists go through there, or at least they must on occasion because there were no shortage of men trying to sell us various things. I think sometimes my fellow students would get quite frustrated with the whole situation. They would chastise me "don't buy from them, they're pushy, you're just perpetuating the problem of pushiness and dependence on tourism." Maybe they were right, but most times I couldn't even help myself - I loved talking to people and bargaining too - another thing some students found awkward. I remember walking through the streets of Narok to cash a check (which was not cashed at the bank. Banker: Where is your real passport (I had a copy) Me: In Athi River. Banker: Well it is doing you no good there. No sh*t.) and a young man caught my eye. "You, mzungu! (swahili for white person, usually not derogatory) You buy this!" He thrust a Maasai
wedding necklace in my face. "ummm when I get back" I said. Worst comeback ever because you think that you will just be able to sneak right by sight unseen. UM NO. This never happened I was NEVER ABLE TO SNEAK AWAY! So I get out of the bank and he calls me to his display of wedding necklaces.

They were dominated by the blue beads characteristic of Maasai dress in the Narok region, so different than the colors worn by the Maasai we had known while living in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. I fell in love. "3000 shillingi!" was the price demand. That's $40. "No way!" I said "I could even get money at the bank!" I walked away to pretend as though I didn't want it, but I desperately did. I hoped that the vendor would be in the mood for bargaining. "2700!!" I heard ringing after me. "2000!" I said. "hahahhahah oh no no no" said the
vendor "no I can't my mother makes these." "Oh I understand" I said and began to walk away. "2500! Final PRICE!" cried the vendor. "SOLD!" I said "But only because your poor mama had to make all of these." "You were swindled!" cried the students when I got back in my car. "I don't even care" I said. I didn't. I didn't even care when I packed it in my suitcase and every single string of beads attached to it was ripped off (there are 23!). I fished all the beads out of my oversized duffel and restrung them so my wedding necklace could take its rightful place on my wall.

I look at it now and think of Narok and I am overwhelmingly sad to think that the man who sold it to me or his mother or his family might be living in fear or even worse. I remember Narok as a happy place. I don't even remember there being street boys there. Maybe I'm just remember things through a rose-colored lens, but even so, it sounds like Narok is out of control and that makes me sad.

I haven't heard from Mboya for a few days but the email mentions school has been suspended til the 15th, so he's probably in no rush to go to a bank and cash a money order for tens of thousands of shillings and risk walking around with that kind of money. My friend Rachel has heard from him though, and he wrote to her:
Rachel all we need is prayers in my country otherwise we will be refugees. but pray for peace.

I guess it's all we can do.


Anonymous said...

The V-Day Update part shows up all misaligned. I can get the general idea though. Just to let you know.

Al said...

I know! I just noticed that after I reformatted it the other day. Bitches. I will try and fix it. RRR!@