Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The (paved) road to Nakuru

(Written Tuesday April 24, 16:13 Kenyan time)

I finally met Carol over breakfast this morning. She's doing much better, having been suffering from a severe headache and not the stomach ache I'd heard the night before. We spent the morning chatting about her other projects around the world and the intense drama that goes with them. More on that later though. For now, let's take a road-trip, shall we?

What a ride. And this was the paved road. The drive from Nairobi to Nakuru was, once out of the Nairobi city limits, insane. Caltrans could keep busy for a decade on this one road and never get it in shape. Lines were rarely seen. Passing on the shoulder (or what passes for one) was often seen. Near misses from oncoming semi's were rarely seen, but only because I found it more soothing to watch the hills, lakes, trees, monkeys, cows, and mountains than to peer through the windshield. On the occasions when I did, I turned white. Well OK that's not saying much considering where I am, but still. And the best part? Carol and everyone else thought it hysterical that I found this road bumpy. Apparently the road from Nakuru to Pokot isn't even paved. So it's worse. A lot worse. And something like a five hour drive (this one was two).


We arrived in Nakuru and had lunch at Subway. NO not that one, but this casual sit-down eatery made no qualms of exploiting the Subway name. Or font. Or colors. It's refreshing to not see McDonalds or Starbucks or Blockbuster everywhere you look, so the obviously appropriated Subway sign stood out that much more. Lunch consisted of fried chicken (quite good), and the same slaw and soggy fries from the night before. I think the Y FedEx'ed my leftovers from last night. Yummy. I did have one of my lemon Fanta's with lunch though, which was very nice. And another cup of milky Kenyan tea. Very delicious, however… there must be more caffeine in one cuppa Kenyan tea than 4 cups of American coffee. About half an hour after one cup I could feel my heartbeat in my throat, a repeat of this mornings experience with the same one cup of said tea. (Pictures: the Subway sign, and a fellow doing his laundry in the Subway bathroom)

What I didn't realize last night was that apparently we are NOT driving all the way to Pokot today. I knew they had a meeting with a lawyer here in Nakuru today, but didn't realized we'd be spending the night. We checked into the Carnation Hotel and stepped into something truly special. It makes the YMCA look posh. The nicest part of the room is the key ring; a cross section of a thick tree branch, branded and lacquered with the room number and hotel emblem. It goes downhill from there.

We also went to visit the land that Carol has purchased here in Nakuru, which Carol hopes to turn into a museum/cultural center and mid-grade hotel for safari goers. And what follows is what I've come to understand about the tribal politics as I bounced around the back of the van like a bobble headed grinning idiot all the way to Nakuru. (Picture: Carol's land)

There is prejudice, fighting, and even warring between tribes. The Pokot are considered pretty lowly by most of the other tribes, and as I discovered even in places like the Y, they will often not be served. To many Kenyans, the Pokot should be the servant people… the only way they should be in any establishment is as a servant. Sounds very much like a not-so-distant American history, where blacks weren't welcome anywhere, except here it's tribal not racial.

One of the reasons the Pokot are frowned upon is because they ("they" being this very particular East Pokot tribe which I'll be visiting and with whom I'm traveling) are refusing nearly all western advances. They still dress their traditional dress and follow their traditional ways – although they do dress the part when they go into town; the three gentlemen I'm traveling with are all dressed modern attire. But they even eschew electricity in their home. Although I'll see tomorrow how much of a fixed home they have, as the tribe is mostly nomadic… although I don't fully understand to what extent yet. What I do understand though is that for this reason they are scorned by other Kenyans. Most Kenyan tribes have adopted a western lifestyle and yet will don the ornaments of their ancestors to perform dinner shows at the Hilton. The Pokot refuse to do this; they basically refuse to sell out.

So back to the land and buildings that Carol has purchased. Her goal, and she has the permission and backing of the government, is to build the first school where tribal children are brought together to learn about each-other and celebrate their differences instead of patronizing them. If I understand correctly all or most of these children are orphans – often orphaned by the very battles between the tribes that I'm talking about here. Yet the children will come together to learn together.

The center will also be a resource for others looking for information on the various tribes. Apparently the U.N. has already contacted Carol and is interested in this project.

Anyway, Carol and the Pokot had to meet with their lawyer today on a lawsuit they are currently involved in; pressing murder charges on the father of a boy who killed his sons pregnant girlfriend. So we are staying in Nakuru tonight, and will be moving on to Pokot in the morning.

Before we leave in the morning though, we will be going shopping. Goat shopping. One of the big things Carol wants me to document is the true cost of purchasing a goat; apparently it costs $12 to buy a goat, yet most aid organizations claim it costs $120. That is, according to Carol, once all the padding is added to pay for the bloated salaries, new homes, fancy cars, and expensive lunches for the aid organizations executive staff. This is something I'll be learning and blogging more about as this continues.

For now, since we're in a town we found an internet cafe and hence the posts. The connection is slow but I will post a few pictures now; if you're reading this as I'm posting give it a minute and refresh… hopefully some pictures will show up.

(pictures: local Nakuru children)

1 comment:

Pratt said...

Wow, in reading, I am learning thinks that just do not make it to the everyday, American news front. I am enjoying. I have noted many bikes in the back of your "Subway" picture - nice to see that bikes have a place in all cultures :) Very cute children!