I find myself unable to catch up on my sleep here. I am so tired during the day that I come home to take a nap and then can’t fall asleep when I am supposed to.
I was woken up this morning by a rooster right outside my window. That combined with Rose blasting her Kenyan music in the room made it impossible to sleep past 630.
After breakfast (which consisted of tea and bread with butter), I got dressed and walked the half mile to school where I am spending most of my time. Today I was assigned to the baby class where all of the children are around 5 & 6 years old.
They are graduating in 2 weeks, so we didnt do much with them today. They were assigned 20 math problems which I had to correct after they finished. They all crowded around my chair making fun of each other if they got an answer wrong. It’s funny, no matter what country you are in kids always act the same way.
While I waited for them to finish I sat on a small plastic chair (I’m surprised it didn’t break) and I looked around the room. 15 children were squeezed into a tiny room, it is so sad.
A girl sat next to me wearing glasses that were crooked and cracked in one lense.
The school is very unorganized, I was there for 7 hours and all the class did was those 20 math problems.
During the day they have a break at 10 a.m. to “take tea” and at noon we feed the children lunch. I was appalled by the state of the area where we serve food. It is a square courtyard that smells strongly of garbage and there are flies everywhere. They land on the food and the plates but no one seems to care. After lunch it is naptime for the baby class, and a few worn mattresses that strongly resemble the mats we used to use in gym class are laid down next to each other, fitting five or six little bodies on one mat.
I went to the small kitchen with Lydia and Virginia to help clean after lunch. On the right side were dirty dishes piled so high I was sure we would be there all afternoon. In the sink was a large bowl filled with soapy water. Lydia began washing the plates with a bar of soap and a sponge that is so old it is falling apart. On the counter next to it was another large bowl filled with water to wash off the soap. We washed countless plates, bowls, mugs, silverware and two frisbees that were being used as plates, yet we never changed the water. We have to be frugal with our resources and cannot waste, even after the water has turned brown.
At 2 p.m. a 25-year-old boy Leonardan came to bring me to Kibera slums.
Most of the children at Havilla live there and it was important for me to see where they are coming from. As we entered the slums there could be no mistaking where I was as the stench of garbage, filth and body odor filled my nose.
I looked around and there were piles of trash, small mountains of it, everywhere. The side of the road had deep trenches dug as their sewage system and panels of wood and cement was places over the trenches so people had access to their homes.
A stream runs through the slums but it is not the picture of tranquility. It is polluted, filled with trash and the rotting corpses of animals.
It is hard to believe why anyone would choose to stay there, but I suppose they don’t have a choice.
A family is sitting outside their home as I stop to take a picture of a
stream and the man calls out to me. He wants me to take his picture.
Leonardan and I continue down a side alley where the stench is intensified. We walk into a workhouse where men are grinding away at what looks like bones.
They allowed me to take a picture and after I told them I am a journalist from America they told me what they are doing. They are making jewelry,
they tell me, from bones. They make necklaces and bracelets and earrings. They offered to show me the final product and so I followed them into a side room where on a table they have gorgeous jewelry. They ask me to buy something because I am “a rich American and I can help [them].”
I tell them I am so sorry but I left my bag at the school and after assuring them I would be back to visit we continue on our way. Leonardan takes me to the top of Kibera so I can look at the whole slum and it is heartbreaking. It stretches so far and wide it appears to have no end.
Leonardan points across the street to housing that looks no different from what I’ve just seen in the slums and says that is Government housing.
We continue walking and are standing on the train tracks when I hear a soft meowing. I look around for a minute before I see a tiny starving kitten poking its head out of a plastic bag. It is crying and all I want to do is save it.
When we get back to the school Virginia and Lydia asked what I thought of the slums. I told them how sad it was to see but how amazed I was at their ability to be so cheerful in those living conditions. Kids played in the trash and large piles of dirt as if it were a playground.
If I learn anything from the people here, I want to look at life the way they do. No matter how bad your situation, it could always be much worse. And even though the people here have minimal means for surviving, they always find a reason to smile. Like having a young American take their picture.