Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Brief Visit, A Run, Gypsy, and Bomb Drills at the UN.

Yesterday was our first of many trips out to Cura from our base here in Gigiri. After my directions got Gilbert lost a few times, we eventually got ourselves onto the right dirt road outside of Wangige and bounced our way up to the compound that houses the Cura Rotary Home. 
We had the obligatory meeting with Moses, the home manager, over tea and cakes and made plans for the rest of the week. We met the new vicar (the previous one having been sacked for several reasons, the most compelling being that he was "sometimes not drunk") who seems a good fit and has some energy that the community can definitely use. These meetings, often about an hour too long to be comfortable, are always interesting because we learn what the community leaders think are their most pressing needs, and we get a glimpse into how they view their work. 
What became very clear to me in the meeting is that the most pressing need Cura has at the moment is water. They HAVE water. Sometimes they have a lot of it. And there is water in the ground that they could access and use to irrigate their fields, feed the community, and generally improve the quality of life. But because of politics and financial woes that are far too tedious to explain here, they can’t access water that by all logic should be flowing to the fields and homes in the area. As Moses, Edwin (the vicar) and Stephen (a community leader) talked, I took note that included many doodles of rain drops and dollar signs.
This is as good a place as any to note that Kenya is being hit hard by the slow global economy and high food prices. There is a critical shortage of maize after two consecutive dry seasons, and imported maize from neighboring countries has yet to have any effect on local prices. Add to that a severely depressed shilling (when we were here last the Kenyan shilling was at 68-70 to the US dollar. Yesterday it was 90 shillings to the dollar. While this is “good” for us as tourists, it is making life for most Kenyans very expensive.
After our meeting and a surprise lunch with Moses (rice, beans, potato, and cabbage) we said hello to the few kids who had come home from school for lunch, checked out the sleeping quarters we will be in next week (not quite 5 star, but not as bad as the Wagon Wheel Inn in Baker City, Oregon), and made our way back to the city and the NYT office.
When we arrived, Jeffrey was in his office working on yet another story on Sudan, but he took a break long enough to give me a possible running route from the office. So like a moron, I laced up the shoes and took off into the neighborhoods around Gigiri.
“Like a moron” refers to the fact that I forgot we are over 5,000 feet above sea level here. And I’m a little jet lagged. So of course I took off at my normal pace. When my heart rate monitor reached “Hummingbird” I backed it off and settled in for a leisurely 5 mile cruise.
Gigiri is the part of Nairobi that houses the UN, the US Embassy, and most of the diplomatic residences. And the neighborhoods around here show the wealth and power of the people who live in diplomatic circles. If it weren’t for the razor wire topping the walled-in compounds, you could be convinced you were in a wealthy US suburb.
Last night we made our first foray over to Westlands and Gypsy Bar to meet Paul and Gerald (surprise, surprise!). I had forgotten that last year we took our 15 year old here for her first bar experience. Such quality parenting! More on Westlands and Gypsy in another post...
And now? The askari outside our window woke us at 6 am (as reliable as can be) and we are gearing up for a day of meetings here in Nairobi. We have to get rolling early because the UN compound across the street is having bomb drills today, and we don’t want to get swept up in that action.
Yep. Bomb drills. Good times.
Coming soon: pictures. As soon as I find my camera.

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