I went to church on Sunday for the first time ever. We attended the Jubilee Christian Center. There was music at the beginning which was nice and the sermon was very inspiring and pragmatic rather than spiritual. It was about habits to be learned from eagles. The preacher took five or seven points from the characteristics of eagles and made instructional metaphors of them. The message in suma was that life is good and that one has to work hard to succeed. Sounds good.

The week progressed smoothly after that. I have been working on the website, which now exists albeit in a temporary form. This is important because Ingrid has been away on a trip to England, the U.S. and Canada and naturally the people she talks to want to get to know more through a website.

I went on a visit to the roundabout where some of the street mothers who started Jamii Bora used to beg. The people who are begging there live out by the side of a dirty stream. And they have no shelter of any kind. Most of them were under the influence of glue they were sniffing when we walked up with Janet, the social worker who was distributing membership cards. Janet was once herself out in this condition, homeless and begging. It is very sad to see people in this state, mothers with children and young people who could be productive members of society if given the opportunity. I hope that Jamii Bora turns out be the opportunity they need, and that they take it. They have at least begun to cling to the bottom rung of the ladder. Now if they would only climb…

It is very difficult for people who have been forced to live like this to leave the street life. One of the original beggars who joined Jamii Bora was Berice. She was with us on this visit. She pointed out street corners where she used to sleep. She also pointed out her coveted begging spot near the Intercontinental Hotel. She was a difficult case to get to leave the street. Her spot was so lucrative, and that lifestyle so ingrained in her, that she kept on returning to the street life. Finally, they gave her one final option; either she renounce the street life or they would fire her daughter who was by that time working for JB. Well, children are the Achilles’ heel of any mother. So, she had to turn the corner.

Later that day I had the chance to visit her home in the Huruma slum. Supposedly this is one of the “most developed” slums around. And, there are actually roads that go through it and a bustling economy. Berice lives in a very nice house with its own little garden. I’m afraid I was a bit rude to her because I did not accept some juice that she had made with tap water. I tried to dissuade her before she made the juice, but she was done with it lickety-split. I still do not drink untreated water here because I’m pretty sure it will make me sick. So, I had to decline, but this is very bad form since I was a guest in her house. I felt bad. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it up to her.

Between visiting the roundabout where the beggars live and the Huruma slum, I had the chance to visit the Huruma branch of Jamii Bora. The place was guarded by two guards armed with rifles. Inside we were greeted by the branch manager, Regina. She is not only very friendly but also extremely good at her job. She has been moving on an upward trajectory since she came to Jamii Bora. She was once a beggar herself and now she is one of the best branch managers in the organization.

There were members there who were either repaying or receiving loans. Regina answered my questions on some of the finer points of the process.

Regina accompanied us on our visit to the members who live in the slum across the road. Actually the slum is a little ways away from the branch office. There is a light industrial area in between that, while rough, is not really a slum.

We passed by the offices of Kickstart on our way. I’m wondering if I can find the time to go talk to them and see their operations. We used to have their magnets on the refrigerator at the office in DC. They seem to be doing some pretty cool things supplying “appropriate technology.” (A lot of people don’t like that term, “appropriate” because it sounds like there are certain technologies that are reserved for the first world. Just think of it as readily available technology that is particularly well suited to the constraints of the environment in which it is deployed.)

We spoke to the members of Jamii Bora that we could find at their homes or places of business. One was a bicycle repairman with a shop, another sold fruit, one we didn’t get a chance to talk to was a shopkeeper, and so on.

As we went to look at some cows that one member is raising. I was approached by a young man who was both high on glue and mentally disabled. One of the two security guys we were with kicked him twice to drive him back away from me.

I have to say that I didn’t really appreciate this despite the fact that it negated what probably would have been an unpleasant situation. Anyway, it was over before I could say anything.

After that visit, I was mostly in the office for the rest of the week. By the weekend, I was ready to go out again. Susan’s son, Alan, and foster son, George, were both back from their boarding schools on their midterm breaks. I was supposed to go out to meet someone on Saturday, but I thought I should wait for Susan to accompany me.

Due to security issues and the danger of simply getting ripped off, I haven’t really been out by myself much. So, I erred on the side of caution and stayed at home with George as he cooked lunch and played me hip-hop and raggae videos very loudly. In the end, I really should have gone by myself. (I think it’s okay to go out during the day and I know my way around a little.) Enough to get where I was going, at least.

But I did finally get out of the house and that was cool. A breath of “fresh” air.  I enjoyed some Ethiopian food.  There are many Ethiopia restaurants around Nairobi.  I think the Kenyans resent the influx of these restaurants.  The njera was not too good at this particular place and their “mixed” veggie/meat dish was mostly meat.  I’m still on the lookout for some quality Ethiopian food.

The next Sunday, I went to church (again!) with George and Alan. We took a matatu down there.  Somehow during the ride my phone either fell out of my pocket or was stolen. I had my mp3 player in the same pocket and I didn’t lose that.  I can’t figure out if that lends more credence to the falling out scenario (the reduced plastic-on-plastic friction) or the pickpocketing scenario (the phone stuck out more because of the other things in my pocket).

Anyway, I found out it was gone after getting into the church service.  We were sitting in the back, however, so it wasn’t too disruptive to go and “look” for the phone.  There was no where to look really, the matatu was long gone and I knew I had it in there.  The realization just sank in then.

I tried to go to the nearby shopping center and just buy another phone. They had cheap ones that I would have gotten, but then I realized that I should replace the handset I lost with the same model which was a little pricier. George convinced me that I should buy one in town. This turned out to be a big fiasco. I had no cash on me and so I needed to use my credit card. The little stores don’t accept them. The big store in town is exactly the same as the one we had first gone to. I ended up shelling out the higher price for the phone. At least it’s a safer bet for electronics. I have seen all sorts of fake electronics here and Kenyans have told me that it is the worst market for being swindled by knock-offs. Obviously it is a class of object that it is difficult to have perfect knowledge of; one can’t look at a CD and see if it will play.

Anyway, later that day I went out to the ridiculously expensive and well-manicured International School of Kenya for a game of ultimate frisbee. I was very excited to get out and run around after being cooped up for a couple of weeks. And it was great.

The only problem was that I was out of shape, again from being cooped up. I did walk across Spain not too long ago, but afterwards I have gotten very little physical exercise.  Plus, running and walking are not the same.

There were a bunch of mzungus there, including many Americans. That was sort of nice because it’s been a while since I was in the company of my countrymen, something like three or four months. Plus, they are ultimate people, so you know they’re quality. There were also a few Kenyans there, which was really cool. I think ultimate has not penetrated too much. But if the cliché of the soccer player cum ultimate player has any worth, then Kenya’s got a ready supply of ultimate players in the making.

George went with me but he declined to play. He went swimming instead and then came back to watch from the sidelines.

There were over 20 people there and we divided into two games of five-on-five. At first the two games consisted of a very good team and a mediocre one. Then we switched and the two mediocre teams ended up together and the better players faced off. This made for some very fun disc. We had people who were complete beginners on our team, but everyone was going all out and the atmosphere was very fun.

George and I were among the first people there and when we showed up there was a couple also making their way towards the field. It turns out that they had been living in Silver Spring, MD, before coming out to Kenya. It’s a small world. I also met another American who is interested in having me do some web/print design for his new business. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his contact details then and we left early with the couple from Silver Spring who gave us a lift.

That night I felt physically tired in a pleasant sort of way. I packed away dinner and went to bed early.

I’m sorry that this is so late, I am trying to catch up.  Life is going terribly fast over here.  (in a good way)

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