My African Way?

Begging for work to K-MET staff while practising my puppy eyes makes me repetitively imagine bashing my head against one of the stained office walls in utter frustration. In order to refrain myself from such self-destructive thoughts, I have decided to switch the roles and instead of letting K-MET staff allow me to do something I just tell them what I am up to that day, pretty much demand rather than ask the resources I need, and occasionally ask if I can join for a field trip if I deem it a good learning experience. The effectiveness level of my day has surged. My eyes don’t really wonder to the ceiling anymore several times a day, as a call for help from a God I wish I believed in to save the day when the meeting from 9am is announced at 10am and takes place in the afternoon. Or when ‘the Day of the African Child’ – just like pretty much every other field trip – appears to be on a different date and hence the entirely field trip is first postponed and eventually gets cancelled. I have dedicated most of my productive energy in working on sexual health and access to medical facilities for the LGBTI groups I have been working with and I finally feel like I am actually doing something that does not make me feel like I am a decorative plant somewhere strategically placed in the room from the rare plant species called ‘Mzungu’ (white person).
Culturally I also think I have gotten to the point where I have developed somewhat of a personality in Africa. I overall like Kenyan food (except for ‘Omena’ small little fish that are in fact just fish-skin and eyes that stare at you while you eat them with the necessary crunch), I have learned to talk about the disappearance of polygamy as directly related to the poor economic times. Meanwhile I have set my own dowry at thirty cows, while the common opinion is that I ought to be worth about twenty, which is still fifteen cows more than the average dowry. I have made it to Kenyan television when Emily and I were the only white supporters at a Kenyan soccer game. The comment on television was: ‘what branch of Gor Mahia fans would these be?’. Also have I significantly improved my technique on the cold-blooded killing of cockroaches in my house. I pretty much feel like a tribal queen when I bug-spray, flipflopsmash and chase cockroaches the size of my pinky around the house (though I am aware that actual tribal people probably have a different way of interacting with rather large insects).
Though as an internship I have my share of moments of in which I burry my head in my hands and sigh, as an experience I have been having the time of my life. My days tend to contain a large portion of inspiring and mind-challenging conversations and I feel like almost above any glass, at any venue, street-corner or matutu seat I meet extremely inspiring, interesting, brave and/or strong individuals. Probably my favourite is the ever-smiling, funny and bible-verse quoting Community Health Worker of K-MET Sophie Abuso. Sophie is a nurse and at the front of her house in the slum Obunga she maintains a small community pharmacy in which she asks 5 KES (about five eurocents) of profit on every medicine she sells. Once you open the wooden door next to the pharmacy, you feel like you are Alice in Wonderland entering a new world…but then in a Kenyan slum. In two small tin-walled classrooms in her compound, Sophie hosts about two hundred pre-school students (five or six on one bench) that come from vulnerable families which she follows up in home-based care and whose families can’t afford full school fees. Within the same compound the African reincarnation of Mother Theresa (=Sophie) has her three room house where all of her own five children live, in addition to six orphaned or abandoned children that she took under her loving wings and into her big golden heart. (On one of the pictures you see Esther (now five) holding her own picture from when she was three and severely malnourished). The money to pay the teachers and if there is money feed the children porridge at noon comes from the community pharmacy, the sale of firewood, and water from a ditch in the compound. As if that all just doesn’t want to make you hug her in compassion, she is also HIV positive since an operation in 2002 and has to somehow pay the loan for her son’s education which is 100,000 KES per year while the last time K-MET paid her was in December when she earned 3,200 KES (32 euros). But instead of sobbing in a dirty corner or envisioning herself bashing her head against the wall like I sometimes do in K-MET, she loves life, says she is happy and that Jesus loves her and therefore he will provide. The lady is the definition of beauty. (If you want to help her in any way, find funds, sponsor, send toothbrushes and toothpaste, sweaters or mosquito-nets, intern,…: her Community Based Organization (CBO) is called CHEDEM (Canal Health Development & Education Management) and her E-mail address is chedemcbo@yahoo.com , phone +254726871453). Gettysburg offers us a grant of 200 USD we can put to use for some sustainable purpose, I feel like if I invest it in economical empowerment of Sophie and her CBO, she could expand her pharmacy and offer so many children a chance to be fed, stay healthy and contribute to Obunga’s future in a coming generation.

Ps: Remember the boy Charles Odhiambo who played Frisbee with us and who we brought to a shelter for street children? We have become fans of Agape’s programs and still go get Charles every Thursday to play Frisbee with us. He found his youngest brother back in Agape, just graduated transition class and is probably still at the school level of his age. He is extremely participative in class, loves to sing and is soon probably reintegrated in his Aunt’s family who he says he likes.

So far what’s up in Kenya,

-Ludi (now 21 years old and can have a legally approved beer in any country I have set foot in).

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