Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fursa












These rescued children illuminate Isiolo with their positivity, motivation, and growing open-hearts. Fifteen boys share two cozy rooms
at a new children’s home for street children, called Fursa (Kiswahili for "Opportunity"), located in the heart of Isiolo’s slum, Bulapesa. We’ve become great friends with the directors, Rosanna and Abdurahman, a married couple who have created the center on meager funds, yet provide the boys with love and all things necessary to push them forward with confidence. The boys break-dance, recite poetry, reenact Bruce Lee moves true to form, and arm-wrestle until their elbows are raw. The good news of the week is that following the recent round of primary school exams, all of their scores are up. Now that their bellies are full with ugali, they can instead be hungry for a future.

Oz.











Africa’s red-ribbon mountain looms high above the arid village of Isiolo like a mangle-toothed monster peering down at the little town while it sleeps. Its highest peak reaches a surprising 17,058ft., as it is an extinct volcano that last erupted somewhere between 2.6-3.1 million years ago. Rest assured, I think we’re quite safe from this potential hazard- despite testimony from folks around town that it blew its top a few years ago. On clear days, it is reminiscent of Oz and while overcast, you cannot differentiate the peaks from the clouds. We had high hopes to climb this ominous mountain that guards the edge of Kenya's Northern desert jewel, and beat our chests like gorillas overlooking our conquered territory, but the work has kept us nose down, in town huffing glue second-hand.

Got Tape.

Anyone know any editors? Over the past 4 months, we've amassed about 35 hours of footage that includes a 30th birthday, a canyon grand, neon lights over desert truck stops, moving Heathrow sidewalks, our arrival in Kenya, and all efforts, errors, heroics and antics to present, chronicled in high-definition digital video.
We've staked out the perilous nighttime streets of Isiolo (against all advice), had a poor goat and chicken slaughtered (after excessive encouragement), delved into the Quran with spirit-casting traditional doctors, and made friends with the "commando" glue kids. It's all here.
I recently heard a filmmaker liken his documentary process to taking off alone in a Cessna only to discover, once airborne, that he was flying a 747, unsure if any airports could accommodate a landing.
His analogy is spot on. The process becomes more complex every day and we become equally more invested.
With the clock racing, interview lists swelling and bank accounts dwindling, we are indeed airborne, but I think I see fuel spilling from the fuselage. How- and where- will it end...?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No offense, I just don't like milk.

Dargaar


Clearing the path for our research on the recent explosion of albino killings across Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi (an issue which Tanzania finally declared, late January 2009, as a human rights abuse—witchdoctors sending men to hunt albinos for their genitals, limbs, and hair for use in spells which supposedly bring their clients wealth) we ventured out to a Borana hotspot, an area in the mountains of Isiolo known as Dargaar where the tribe has recognized a significantly and magically spiritual zone.

We were invited by our friend ‘Coach,’ whom we had met in town. (His name coming from his reputation as being the best soccer coach in the area. The teams here play on dirt fields bedazzled by stones the size of softballs and the boys run barefoot, or wearing sandals at best!) Coach is the grandson of one of the most respected medicine men of the Muslim Boran culture. (Most Boranas here are Muslim.) Although granddaddy has passed away, Coach is well respected within the community and is close to the spiritual doctors who protect the area and visit it every Saturday for communication with the spirits and rituals in accordance to the Quran.

Although the Boranas are a pastoralist tribe, for generations Dargaar has been esteemed as a spiritual spot with a nearby semi-static village to protect it. Most doctors within the tribe make long journeys to the little acacia-covered hill alongside an oasis of a stream in effort to communicate more directly with Allah and ask the spirits to help them find the herbs and plants needed for medical practice.

We packed our newly purchased ‘tent’—an African construction of plastic poles and a thin tarp-covering—a couple bananas (ndizi in Kiswahili) and water (maji) and began our hour trek by foot into the hills. There was no convincing necessary about the sacredness of Dargaar. It was the first time in months we’ve inhaled and breathed air and the scent of trees and dirt and flowering shrubs. (Not years of accumulated human and animal feces, boiling milk, and the stench of burning trash!) We were immediately greeted by a group of teenage girls collecting water for a nearby village (see photo) and once the day began to fade, the doctors from all over the region began to trickle in one by one, carrying nothing but a walking stick and strong legs from a day’s journey.

The moon was high and the fire was roaring, emanating just enough light to look into the tribesmen’s eyes and see kind smiles rather than ferocity and mal-intentions that would have provoked our subconscious minds into thinking further into the possibility that we were here for some sacred killing of mzungus (whites) or for an FGM ceremony which the culture fervently believes in.

They separated Austin and I, as in Islam, women pray with women, and men with men. I shared a small grass-thatched rug with five 60+ year-old medicine women chanting and singing and sitting so incredibly awkwardly that I awoke the next morning with bruises on each side of my hips. I peeked over into Austin’s man-huddle and he was among ten medicine men and Coach, perched in a circle ranking from right to left most noble and well-respected down to Austin, the welcomed pale-faced newcomer. We were advised to bring a cornucopia of miraa (also known as chat: the direct derivative of epinephrine), coffee, sugar, tobacco, tobacco salt (what looks like, and may be, broken fragments of a cowlick), and kerosene. Initially perplexed by the grocery list, we later discovered we had supplied the group of doctors with a prescription to remain awake for the next 48 hours chewing miraa like rabid cattle and drinking enough coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes to keep our soldiers in Iraq awake long enough for their never-ending war.

We chanted various verses from the Quran as smoke plumes swirled about, hovering low and heavy like fog in a Louisiana marsh, initiating our departure from the earthly Dargaar and into the spirit-world where Allah banishes genies and the spirits whisper hidden truths to the doctors regarding their patient’s diseases. The two gender-separated circles seemed to collide together after two hours of collectively repeating ‘Amen’ over and over while looking up into the starry Kenyan night.

I’m not sure if it was specific to the doctors’ belief or if it is inherent in Islam, but the initial prayers that evening were to gather our independent identities, our individuality and come together as one whole. This ideology was reminiscent to my teachings of Hopi beliefs, where before humanity can join with the spirits and reach ‘god,’ humanity must first come together—accept each other as one—and then, and only then, will we be able to reach a higher consciousness (or in this case the spirits and Allah). I liked this prayer. The others, well, the doctors had great voices.

I’m not Muslim. I don’t eat meat. But this night, through the same romantic appeal that wooed me to sit for eight hours beside a mound of burning incense-stone that suffocated every pore and rendered breathing almost impossible, I found myself swallowing roasted goat meat from the night’s sacrificial killing.

The doctors believe their spirits come and linger in areas of blood and bone, so the sacrifice drew them near to us so we could be secure in knowing our prayers were to be communicated to Allah (and the group was able to mow down on fresh animal flesh).

We watched in curious horror as one of the doctors grabbed the goat by the throat, elongating his skinny neck like a hungry python reaching down from the trees in extended effort to snatch his prey. The doctor then drew his steel knife and sawed into the esophagus with one clean cut. The goat dropped to the ground and by reflex began violently slamming his adorable head into the ever-darkening red-dirt. After a good two-minute fight, the goat extended his limbs like Jesus on the cross and relaxed into death.

I’ve never eaten an animal I watched die. I suppose its better than ingesting hormone-pumped, antibiotic-laden meat that has lived the entirety of its life inside a metal factory stepping over and clobbering others, cannibal—not by choice—and rushing with adrenaline from fear and anxiety of a life within the industry of mass-meat production. Yeah, I suppose eating wild goat is better, although he granted me the misfortune of staring directly into my eyes the moments prior to his death, as though I could explain in one evening (or lifetime) to a pastoralist tribe that they shouldn’t eat meat. I didn’t appreciate that much.

The doctors draped his body over the fire, cleaned his insides and placed them in a pot for frying, and hung his head and testicles over a separate fire in medicinal ceremony. If one is ‘mad’, the doctors believe that he will be cured by placing his head in the smoke that is emitted from the roasting goat head. Had it been any other day, I would have gladly smoked goat-head, but after watching a violent death in sacrifice for a violent god, I wasn’t too sure who exactly was the mad one. The testicles—I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

The night continued in Muslim Boran song and dance and the doctors kindly spoke to Austin and I about their medical practices. Some declared themselves simply as herbalists: they collected indigenous plants and herbs for treatment of disease, believing that the plants possessed the spirit of Allah and cured by spirit rather than through the specific chemical structure of the organism (as most herbalists I’ve met believe). Others were called spiritual doctors, whereby they were hyper-sensitive in perception and could communicate with the spirits through actual conversation. The spiritual doctors could see a genie possessing an ill person and would then tell the spirits to remove the genie from the patient, thus healing them. All were of Muslim faith and all denied practicing ‘witchcraft’—magic that created negative effects—but they did admit that they could, if they wanted to.

We slept for a few hours in the early morning and were visited by some form of a living creature which we never saw, but defended from within the tent as it jumped upon it and aggressively poked it’s nose into the zipper. The doctors thought it was a dik-dik, an African antelope, but I’m placing bets that it was a genie.
xo

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Meru Crew


Over the past month, we have thrown ourselves headlong into making a film about Kenya's street children and their addiction to glue. It is a unwieldy beast of a problem that emotionally crushes and intellectually boggles anyone who stops to look at it. We're following the kids around, capturing their stories, seeing where they sleep, what they eat, and how they survive. We're ferreting out common root causes- abuse or no food at home, parents lost to AIDS, always poverty. We're examining the miserably incomplete patchwork of solutions- orphanages with limited capacity, brutal police round-ups, and mishandled foreign relief money. Meanwhile, the children drift around town all day and night, glue bottles literally stuck to their lips, calling out to a community that looks the other way, hushed by apathy, and a government so aloof that one might suspect a dark plan to just let these kids die off.
Clockwise from top left:
Musyoka: our best friend in Kenya, sidekick, translator, comic relief.
Austin: at this moment feeling generally exhausted.
Anneliese: just took the kids shopping for a lunch of bread and yogurt.
Veronica: 12, an incredibly tough and emotionally battered child who has survived the Meru streets for the past 5 years.
Tony: 10, brother of Veronica, baby-faced, usually quiet, holds my hand everywhere we go.
Gatao: 11, lies and says 14. Has the demeanor of a war veteran. Pictured here a few days before his involuntary haircut by razor.
video
Happy St. Patrick's Day friends and family! This is Julius- a Turkana we met while living in Isiolo. His aim is to set up an orphanage in the rural village of Attir that will help care for the Turkana children living alone and estranged on the streets of nearby Isiolo. He too lived on the street when he was young, having been forced out of his pastoralist village and into the bustling town simply by the need to eat. A pastor now, at the ripe old age of 31, this prodigal son has returned home to help his own.
Here, Julius is driving us home from our first visit to Attir, singing to us the first song we learned in Kenya. Earlier that day, we set out happily as 2 pair on 2 rented motorcyles. Here, we are 3 on the remaining motorcycle- after the tire on our moto went taco.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side


I can't seem to go anywhere without children petting me and ripping my hair out in adoration. It's 'so smart!' and feels like 'cow.' Umm, thanks! I'm encouraging afros, but everyone thinks I'm nuts.

Ahhh...Institutionalized religion.















A break from Kenya's fog of Christianity... Islam has flooded Isiolo. The mosque photographed here from our hotel window, serenades the tiny town five times a day, setting a mysterious yet comforting mood--even when its at 5:30 in the morning. I've been quite a sight, showing my neck, arms, and mouth in public!

Kulamawe: "Eating Stone"














"Move in day" at our Isiolo pad. If you find yourself daydreaming about us and what we're up to, picture us here, on our balcony, perched above the Bulapesa hamlet/slum, eating rice and veggies, hashing out the details of a new Kenyan constitution.
And for a laugh, you can also try and hear the amplified growls and miserably bad singing that blast directly at us every night from 6-8pm, courtesy of the local Pentacostal church.

Joytown

A school in Thika for Kenya's mentally and physically challenged children. Many of the disabilities were due either to abuse or neglect, for instance locking a child in a closet for 4 years. This photo was taken in the midst of playroom chaos. This kid picked up our camera and demonstrated for us the school slogan: "Disability Is Not Inability."
Despite their adherence to traditional lifestyle, 9 out of 10 of these women had Protestant names such as Regina, Josephine and Lucy. We were nowhere near a Denny's.

The Drop-Off


This was the scene at the Turkana village of Daaba, about 30 nearly-impassible kilometers north of Isiolo, as we divvied up the maize. 1 ton went scoop by scoop to ~40 families in less than 2 hrs.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Food! Glorious food!

As Kenya’s premiere newspaper, Daily Nation, reminded us in what seems like eight out of ten cover stories—that Africa’s new covergirl nation has declared a national disaster of famine, counting an estimate of roughly 10 million citizens starving—we couldn’t help but become obsessed with the issue, knowing that the family who presently hosted us ate every American family I know off the table.

Our month-long commitment volunteering at Thika District Hospital was soon up for re-negotiation and we were keeping our eyes and ears open for a new vein to prick and shoot our energy deeper into the Kenyan national body.

After two weeks of incessant research and calling every Prime Minister’s office that had any connection to food, agriculture, public health, and cultural affairs, we dropped our bloodied doctor’s costumes off at the door and hopped into a 2-ton lorry with 1-ton of maize flour and screamed our way (assisted by a hired driver named George) up the northern highway like a pack of rabid hyenas.

Isiolo. A lovely town of dehydrated dirt, midnight windstorms, and mountains that hover from all sides like monsters in a childhood dream. Isiolo. The town we chose after great debate to be the receivers of our independent, bloodless aid. We had decided the hungry warranted ample help as they are a conglomeration of pastoral tribes with new limitations to feeding grounds as the government has become more industrialized and developed, they can no longer defend diversity or sustainability. Those who want to earn money and have access to food, must move to the cities. Those who persist on a nomadic path, are well, left to roam, that is, on one path: to the city.

We connected with an enthusiastic coordinator for the Kenyan Red Cross, Isiolo and Eastern Province Branch, Jimiya. A young woman of the Nubians who had recently finished her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Social Structures from The University of Nairobi. (Of course we got along!) We met her at the branch office, waiting excitedly for our arrival, accompanied by an army of volunteers. We loaded our maize into the Red Cross Landcruiser and set sail for a journey of a lifetime—hoping it wouldn’t end our lives.

The driver climbed up volcanic cinders the size of port-o-potties and wove the way through combative cactus and sand traps like a fish in a reef.
30 kilometers outside of Isiolo town, we arrived at our drop-off zone, a fairytale of a Turkana village—acacia trees with fantastically elongated branches, like arms of a principal ballerina, and awe-inspiring views of the mesas and steep rock faces waving from the northern-lying Shaba National Reserve. This was the community of Daaba, the community who was now, with our help, able to feed their children and families once a day, securing life on this earth for one more month.

We distributed thirty kilograms to each family representative (all women—the Turkana are a fascinating tribe where the women do all of the work, domestic and market, and the men sit and chat all day, waiting for their multiple wives to come home from an 11 kilometer trek home with the goats and cook dinner. Fascinating?)

Smiles were plentiful and intrigue rang all bells as they studied us muzungus (whitefolk). I couldn’t quite understand their acknowledgement for our help—even the translator was in broken English—but we did converse like sisters using the simple Turkana phrase, ‘Ajok,’ for ‘Hi. How are you?’ interweaved with gazing into each other’s eyes in attempt to communicate more.

After the maize flour was distributed, each woman embarked on her journey home, to her 6ft x 6ft dung-construct of a house covered with USAID bags and donated mosquito nets to pose as a roof, like a little kiss from the U.S. government.

Our mission had been accomplished. Although our meager relief is no nostrum to the national famine, we did what we could. And we did it through our hearts. And our hearts were counseled by our intelligence gathered through hours of research and speculation and talks with the UN World Food Programme and USAID, and local authorities, and the starving.

I’ve always found sensible the little adage: One for me, one for you. Maybe Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki could make use of this mantra as he sits in his un-taxed Nairobi penthouse wondering why 10 million of his citizens are literally starving and reliant on food relief. “The Kenya We Want,” and his “Vision 2030,” just may actually retreat from the clouds and take a wander upon this desperate, convoluted nation.
xo

Kenya. Strike One.

There are many hungry people in the U.S.. Some die of starvation, usually in association with a mental disorder or drug addiction, but most get help when necessary—go to soup kitchens, community shelters, or churches. Others post up on busy streets like carbon monoxide-covered stone statues donning real woolen fabric draped over shoulders to keep warm, while striving to keep their hands out. Poor David. I imagine he was cold.

There are also many hungry people in Kenya. The government currently estimates nearly 10 million people have fallen onto the ‘starving’ list. And unlike their adored Western neighbors, (thanks to Barack Obama, I travel quite safely here in the East African country) the starving consist of entire communities, not just those who were socially unfortunate or disabled, or buried in debt from their medical bills. The question seems trite when asked while you rest your feet on the leather ottoman, saluting the sun’s ambitious journey into the tree-lined horizon as you reflect back on your accomplishments of today’s work and how you may want to channel your investments within a different network, maybe stocks to real estate—the market is low—or maybe into a savings option for your children’s children to go to school. Regardless, how are so many people starving in Kenya? And large communities? Complete cities?

Painfully, after a shocking two months playing Kenyan in blistering heat and noisome streets enveloped in thick, white smoke from burning trash, Kenya’s national disaster of famine becomes all too clear and, ironically, in much juxtaposition to that which we Americans are told, or believe, or are told to believe back at home.

Yes, Kenya is in a drought (they seem to always be in a drought). Yes, Kenya is faced with the bitter reality which many developed nations have undergone or are currently experiencing—a transitioning period perplexed with the issues of readjustment, whereby the urban cities become the heart and pulse to the nation, changing the structure of the previous economic and social systems to reorganize no longer on the local community’s needs, but on the quest for foreign markets, convenience, opportunity, riches.

The carpenter no longer makes doors for homes, but makes them to earn money—regardless if they’re installed or sit for years at Pottery Barn. Industries giving birth to plastic products or hormone-laden meats gasp at the prospect of initiatives and groups forming to eradicate such useless, odious commodities. They cry to Congress for help when their efforts become clearly unsustainable or unproductive—as they have always been—except in cunning, human welfare-abusing money-making circles.

This urbanization brings havoc for the landlocked, concrete-ceilinged, average anyone who begins to see their work recreated—and much faster and reliant!—by machines or cheaper labor abroad, or when they see their communal—okay, we’re in Kenya—tribal farmlands sold from under their feet, through the government’s pipedream that the quick sale is worth more than a self-sustaining nation and an environmentally-friendly future. Suddenly Tom from Texas and Mr. Chau from China are skipping along fertile Kenyan soil, measuring their picture-perfect, frequently pesticide-sprayed GM wheat while Kala the Kenyan awaits his monthly delivery of maize flour from the Kenyan Red Cross, as he and his community sit atop their rocky, cropless land.

So, again, how are so many people starving in Kenya? And how are so many people eating well, very well, just ten kilometers from a Kenyan Red Cross food drop-off zone? And what about the foreign-occupied land giving birth to abundant crops for export to foreign countries?

Once again President Kibaki and his motley crew win the blue ribbon, as they have failed to integrate almost 40% of the nation—composed of arid lands and still pastoral tribal communities—into the national repetoire. These people are neglect in the popular talks surrounding parliament about “The Kenya We Want” and “Vision 2030.” While the government has it’s sights set high on ensuring cell phone network access across the nation, or spending a whopping $2billion Kenyan Schillings (roughly $US dollars) on a funeral service for the 130 idiots who swarmed an upside-down oil tanker that had toppled while speeding on a notoriously deadly road, they have erroneously used their nation’s limited time and money to put gold plating on what is actually an unraveling rope. Perhaps this is a common dilemma for a nation entering the industrialized, developing world: needing to impress foreign politics and markets to secure aid and investment options, therefore having to forego imperative investment and attention domestically, drowning the weaker half of the population in it’s dirty bath water.

There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the most fertile and stable farmland is occupied by foreign hands. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the post-election violence of early 2008 demolished bountiful crops, turning maize stocks into smoke signals to attempt communication with the deaf government. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the government has illegally sold the nation’s maize reserves under secrecy, an issue that is still in court and is quickly proving to turn into yet another ‘unknown’ and ‘unsolvable’ issue of government corruption and scandal. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the ‘united’ nation is actually a deeply divided, politically-bordered region of tribal factions where the government and national leaders are simply poster children for the tribe holding office (presently Kikuyu)—either legally or illegally.

There are no working national efforts to alleviate ‘Kenyans.’ There are, no doubt, struggles to aid the ‘Kenya’ that is in Nairobi, or the Kikuyu or their affiliated tribes, otherwise, the red carpet rolls out for aid organizations to cover such simple, necessary duties. (Food relief, healthcare, HIV/AIDS treatment, water and sanitation programs, tribal mediation.)

Remind me again, Mr. President. What does the government do?
xo

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"That is a bird..."


Although it has been nearly a month since our defection from Thika, I can write about its splendor like it was yesterday. I remember sweating in our moldy volunteer shelter- to a point of laughing about it - laying side by side atop our single bunk bed like two corpses accidentally buried in one box, wondering, “How the f@%k did we get into this situation?”
This situation was hammering. Incessant hammering. All of Kenya seems to be under construction. People are actually getting busy with the “development” used to describe this part of the world. Will it be responsible? (Why should it?) Will it last? (How could it?)
Either way, as volunteers fresh-of-the-boat, our role soon became clear as sponsors of development. The impetus behind all of the hammering is that Mama Lucy- our volunteer host, a devout Christian, entrepreneur and single mother of three- recognized a precious survival niche in an unforgiving and harsh environment. It works like this:
A steady stream of well-wishing foreigners arrives in Kenya every day (us), looking for volunteer work that will make a difference (fulfill some fantasy concocted thousands of miles away in university classrooms). For the willing, there is no shortage in Kenya of opportunities to work for free- unlike the US, where young people with advanced degrees virtually need to do something unspeakable to get an unpaid, resume-boosting internship. Here in Kenya, the twin concepts of free work and philanthropy are greeted like messiahs and are more likely to have emerged from an alien spacecraft than to have evolved endemically. The homegrown organizations you do see are either 1) utterly un-funded or 2) funded and reeking of embezzlement. Either way, they are left clientless, toting empty briefcases, while farmers continue to starve and orphans with AIDS continue to sniff glue. It’s not that people here are blind or pathologically insensitive to the strife in their communities. It’s that their own problems are just too pressing to be concerned with the problems of others.
Enter the volunteer. Sun block (2). Mosquito repellent (1). Lariam (1/week for 2 wks + 3 wks upon return). Bandanas (3: red, blue, green). Crocs (1 pair). Lonely Planet: Kenya (1). The Alchemist (1). Idealism…(supply duration: TBD).

From the US, UK, Canada and Australia, we march on to the scene in possession of something we feel is noble, pure and priceless, demanding to be exploited and to have it mean something. It turns that our intentions do have a price and that we are traded about, from town to town, from brokers to shareholders, not as green, but as pasty-white, well-fed commodities.
Return now to Mama Lucy’s niche and the hammering:
For an entire month, beginning at 6:30 every morning, until 6:30 in the evening, two “fundis” (Swahili for “experts”) bashed and sculpted scrap materials together to form an 8’x12’ annex to house 4 more volunteers (new capacity: 9 volunteers).
Based on these figures, Mama Lucy’s new income stream could total KSh 120,000 ($1,600) per month from volunteers alone. Ironically, that’s roughly monthly salary of a professor at the University of Nairobi– employment I have been considering.
My fellow Americans, I hereby report from my perch abroad, that I can see the smoke that enshrouds you as Wall Street burns and pandemonium fills the streets. “Fear not!” I say. The beating heart of speculative investment is not dead. It has merely relocated to Kenya, like a Corleone to Vegas, and is now, to be precise, making a hell of a lot of noise from the dirt swath just outside our door.

To investors: the answer to the economic crisis is Mama Lucy Inc (NASDAQ: MLX). The volunteer market is soaring. Supply lines pump our crude across entire oceans, propelled by a guilty conscience or other more nebulous beliefs. The many faces of poverty are multiplying and becoming more appalling every second.

To prospective volunteers: the more you allow yourself to be “facilitated”, “placed” or “handled”, the bigger the pie, the better the feast etc.

All cynicism aside now…we have discovered the antidote, a natural defense to this predation that feeds on good will. The defense, as Emerson puts it, is self-reliance.

A month removed from our first assignment in Thika and happily dwelling in our own rented apartment in Isiolo, we can be ourselves. We can plan our mornings and our nights and then, miraculously, do the things we plan. We make appointments with interesting people and learn every day. We have become both the architects and laborers of our volunteer experience. Over the last 24 hours for instance, we did some yoga at home after working in town. After enjoying a wonderfully simple dinner we prepared- consisting of fresh vegetables and rice purchased from the nice lady across the street named Mama Dennis for about $1- we drank tea and revisited a conversation we had earlier in the day with a Muslim traditional doctor, hashing out some old philosophical issues of free will versus determinism on our 2nd floor balcony, overlooking the quiet streets of the Bulapesa slum. We slept comfortably and securely just under the breeze of two windows and awoke to make coffee and small-talk with our friendly neighbors and venture into town a little earlier than usual to capture some footage of the street kids waking up.
All of this without hammering, blaring televisions, awkward religious petitions or midnight sprints into the yard/ work-zone to relieve diarrhea pangs induced by the copious amounts of salt and oils that Mama Lucy’s daughter felt compelled to use in preparing kale.

Things are looking up. We’re feeling empowered. This morning we had slightly too much to look forward to and were feeling a bit neurotic. Then we hear that a police investigation of cattle-thieving Samburu tribesmen triggered a series of murderous raids in the plains outside of town –where we delivered our relief food a few weeks ago and had planned to go camp next week. Those plans have been scrapped. We now get to focus on creating a short film to advocate for government attention to the problem of street children becoming addicted to glue and dying before they reach 20.