Interning in Kenya

So I’ve been in Nairobi for a bit over three weeks. I think I’ve started to settle in, which is good, although I don’t think I will ever get used to the whole cars-on-the-lefft-side-of-the-street kind of thing.

Nairobi is an interesting city: if Mexico City and Port Au Prince had a kid, it would be very much like Nairobi. Traffic is insane, poverty is widespread (with the occassional pockets of exhuberant wealth), and people are friendly but firm. It’s a city where people spend hundreds of dollars in two-days safaris, while a family in the slums can be fed with as little as a dollar; where international news concerning Al-Qaeda and ISIS* are followed by everyone due to the constant threat of attacks by Al-Shabab; where anyone can pay with their phones via M-Pesa (think Venmo for the developing world), but thiefs can kill you to steal your phone; where you are searched and scanned when entering a mall (because of Al-Shabab), but not when leaving a store… Anyway, it’s definitely an experience.

I’ve never felt so white in my life. Even in Mexico, my dark hair and brown eyes made me less of a güerito than some of my friends. Here, I’m just another mzungu (white person). I mean, yes, two people have asked me if I’m from South America (because I’m not blonde), but every time I walk in the slum (which is where I work) I hear the kids calling me “Mzungu! Mzungu! How are you?” followed by a laugh and a “I’m fine, thank you!” after I ask how they are.

One thing that has struck me is how much tea people drink here. It occurs to me that is one of the only ways to drink liquids without risking serious disease. Water is, by and large, unhealthy and dangerous, and juice and carbonated drinks are too expensive. Milk, on the other hand, is apparently cheaper and, since you boil it, BOOM safe to drink. I guess. Anyway, the advice of drinking two liters of water per day doesn’t really make sense in a context where water can give you cholera. This is such a privilegd reflection, by the way… But so is having a blog, I guess.

Anyway, the tea is delicious.

* I’ve decided I’m using ISIS instead of ISIL because if you say “Iraq”, you should say “Syria”, not “the Levant.” If you’re going to say “the Levant,” then also say “Mesopotamia” instead of “Iraq.” It’s a minor thing, but I think it makes more sense.


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