Whenever I am going to a new place, venturing into the unknown, I tend to focus obsessively on packing because it is the one thing I have control over. I have never been to Africa, let alone Kenya. I had an idea in my head of what it could be like, knowing full well it was inaccurate. The unknown is scary, so is letting go of comfort and routine. I had been feeling good about my trip to Kenya, like I had done all I could to prepare. Then fourteen hours before my plane would take off, my flight was cancelled. I spent my last evening in the States on hold with American Airlines, on hold with British Airways, and on hold with Orbitz. It was a good, not so subtle reminder that I am indeed not in control at all. Eventually, I was able to rebook a flight and get a few hours of sleep before my long trek to Kenya, ready for whatever the adventure had in store.
The KGSA Foundation decided for several reasons that it would be best for me to stay outside of the slum of Kibera at night. I am staying with a family in a middle-class Nairobi neighborhood just a fifteen minute walk to the slum. The neighborhood is gated, but not like we know gated communities in the United States. Many communities here are gated simply for extra protection and security. Over the last few days I have been acclimating to my new lifestyle. I sleep under a mosquito net and drink chai for breakfast. The first two mornings the shower consisted of a cold trickle of water, and this morning the water had been shut off completely. I brush my teeth and wash my hands with bottled water and blow dirt out of my nose into kleenex each night. Food is basic and bland: beans, rice and kale. I carry toilet paper around with me at all times, my throat and lungs burn a bit from the burning trash and exhaust. I am not uncomfortable, just adjusting, trying to enjoy being mindful of the small changes in my routine.
I had heard of flying toilets before, but I noticed them today for the first time on my walk to the school. The slum of Kibera is not recognized by the government, so there is very little in terms of sanitation. It is a huge privacy issue, for women more then men, and it affects the health and dignity of the community. Many people in Kibera will defecate into small plastic bags and just throw them on the ground. Flying toilets. I stepped around a few bags today, some broken open with feces smeared out. Every person deserves access to an education. That is the reason I came here to KGSA. I meditated today on how every person deserves a private and sanitary place to poop as well.
(speaking of poop, for those who have read How Coffee Saved My Life, I have successfully pooped without coffee. yay!)