FEB '11 - First time in Kenya

Three hurry-up trips to Kenya this year.  Chance of a lifetime, of course. 

Off to Kenya for the first time on just a day's notice. Difficult to put things together that quickly, but we managed.  Landed in Nairobi in the middle of the night,
and even later in Mombasa; got to see Kenya for the first time at sunrise.  Beautiful place sometimes, as the photo shows. 

 Tourism is a major segment in the economy.  Seasonal and fluctuating, vulnerable to rumors of pirates, the business is difficult for all but the largest organizations. 

It's now the off-season for tourists here in Kenya, though; several hotels are closed and their employees laid off until after the rainy season.  With a monthly income while working of maybe $50 - $75, supporting one person is difficult, a family nearly impossible, and devastating when laid off.  It's a difficult world.

Unskilled labor tasks pay little and demand much.  Here (above, right) a team of young fellows struggle with a heavy cart-load of produce, I think.  We saw hundreds like it making their way through traffic in Mombasa carrying potatoes, jugs of water, building materials, you name it.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of shops like the one here (below, left) hope for business but find little.  A young beautician wannabe tries the second-hand clothing business, too.  The only one making money is probably the landlord.

On the street, you're frequently offered goods or services, (haircut, manicure, taxi, safari, etc.).  They're all out there hustling because they can go for several days without selling anything.  "Make me small business, Mister.  Just hundred shillings?"  A hundred shillings, about a buck and a quarter, may be their total income for a day's work.  With living costs being similar to the western world, it won't go far.

(Right) His name is Anderson; he's 3 and a sweet kid.  Momma's name is Salma .  She sells things that she makes or buys to feed the family.  A young widow and paraplegic, life is pretty hard.  They live with her mom and grandmother.  They invited me to visit their village.  Nice folks.

I went back to their village to visit on the weekend.  Joseph is here (below) with his sister, Salma.  They live quite simply in a little village a short distance back from the
ocean.  The family is gracious, articulate, and well mannered.  They were thankful to have a chance to sit and talk to someone a bit.  So was I.  Joseph explained the intricacies of house construction and maintenance.  We laughed as we shared leaky roof stories.  His roof will be made of palm fronds and be refreshed each year just before the rainy season.

...  work, work, work, blah, blah, blah.
You're not interested in my work.

Friday before departure - I went out in town to say good-bye to my friends this afternoon.  Walter is a sweet fellow, early polio victim and severely limited, lives in a wheel chair.  He remembers my name when we meet.  He asked me to take his picture so I'd remember him and tell my friends about him and his country. 

Florence was malnourished as a child and suffers from some structural deformation; her ankles aren't built quite right and she's painfully thin; narrow at hips and shoulders.  Unfailingly polite.

Jonathan is the oldest in his household of 6, I think.  In this off season, he has no work and no real options but begging.  We've funded his charcoal business and roof repair for the rainy season.  He brought a necklace gift for my wife. 

Salma (with Anderson) whom I met early on was on the street in her wheel chair, selling her hand made items.  Her brother Joseph came and got me and told me she had a gift for me; she'd had my name carved in a piece of ebony as a thank you gift for our friendship. 

Lillian tracked me down to show me that her burn was healing; she'd burned herself on a motor scooter taxi and the wound had swelled and reddened.  I bought some antiseptic spray for her which seems to have helped matters. 

Others called me by name and asked for one last gift before I left.  Pretty intense.  Oh, and Joseph hinted that if I had any laundry I didn't want to take home... I gave him the shirt I was wearing; we both laughed and I walked back to the hotel in my undershirt. 

UPDATE:  Arriving home on Sunday, unpack everything into the washing machine, then at work on Monday, got a call mid-day asking if I'd be willing to go back to Kenya.  Of course.  :)  My heart is willing; my backside is tired of airplanes, though.  Second Time in Kenya: after 4 days at home.  Good grief!

Back in Kenya for less than 12 hours; I went across the street to have a coke at the restaurant; "Mr. Brian, Mr. Brian, I heard you had returned!"  Greeted by perhaps half a dozen of the local beggars whom I had befriended my first time here, I gave away my day's per diem before lunch.   :)    Walter, the polio/wheelchair fellow I was so taken with last week, heard I was back and hand-peddled his way down the street to greet me.  Sweet fellow.

Work, work, work, blah, blah, blah.

P.S.  I gave contact info to a few, nice folks.  They've called me on the phone from Kenya (it's super cheap) just for the fun of talking to a friend half way around the world.  Maybe 8 or 10 calls now, since I left last month.

Want to know why I was willing to go back?  

05/11 - On my way back to Kenya next week for the third time this year.  Gladly. 
Then home again and back at work.  It's almost normal until ...