Departure was slightly complicated by a last minute demand for Vintage Chedder and weatherproof sockets, but despite half an hour at a standstill on the A40 with a Somali cab driver who was trying to persuade me that Mogadishu is the place for the astute property purchaser, we made it on time. The battle through a dozen or so morbidly obese and worryingly excited teenagers was made worthwhile by the discovery that I had been upgraded !!
Unfortunately the bing of female flesh in the seat in front of me reclined her chair so far, given the pressure of her weight, that, even with the generous legroom in Premium Economy (did I mention the upgrade ?) the only way I could watch the turgid film starring Helen Mirren as a Mossad Natzi hunter (with a scar and an accent and everything – the part was obviously meant for Meryl Streep) that was the best of the very bad bunch on offer was by virtually lying on the floor.
The Kenyans were visibly unimpressed with my new passport. To be fair the photo (minus glasses) does have something of the Rose West about it. Got straight into a spot of mild babysitting (Joel is now 4 months and dribbling like Beckham in his heyday) Went out to see the New Wildebeest Eco Camp. Which is quite fabulous. Big tents, perched on wooden platforms on stilts. Posh ensuite bathrooms with showerheads the size of my flat. Thanks to my purchase and smuggling in of fifteen weatherproof sockets, you will be able to compute, steam or do whatever you require electricity for on the balconies. Yes, stream – there is fibre optic broadband !!! (that is VERY exciting in Kenya)
Back at Old Wildebeest I go to my tent to change my shoes at around six pm, fall asleep and wake up at four in the morning. I pause only to notice I have left my flaps wide open – and I am in a big tent at the moment so that is WIDE open – before dropping off again.
Felista arrived full of good news about funding for the DECIP school. Apparently the government are actually going to use some of the UK Aid for Education for what it is meant to be for. They will pay the teachers and supply books to the school. 300ksh (about £2.50) per child, per MONTH. I have also succeeded in getting a large printer/copier/scanner past the Customs Man and we set off to get it to DECIP. We get a lift from Alan in the Land Rover. Alan is a man who drives like he is leading the Charge of the Light Brigade, but with a less light-hearted, happy-go-lucky attitude. Every few hundred yards he sets inter-racial harmony back by about 100 years. Alighting at Lenana Slum we (Felista, me, the enormous printer/copier/scanner, 4 packs of baby milk, 120 sanitary towels , and half a dozen bottles each of Calpol and Kilkof (does what it says on the label)) hop on two piki pikis (motorbike taxis) and bounce off through the slums to DECIP. From behind, Felista on a bike looks like something painted by Beryl Cook.
We leave our cargo at Decip (which I notice, is acquiring extra stories to any single story bit of building) and bounce back. I go and exchange the cash I brought and get the Moneygram from Zetta. The exchange rate is deeply disappointing. From 150 last October it is now down to 125. Ra ra for the Kenyan economy and all that but Mama B has taken a beating in the money markets. Now I know just how these poor bankers must feel …
I head off to get the matatu to NAivasha. There has been another of the irregularly regular fires that plague slum communities (the shacks are all pressed together tighter than lesbians at Wimbledon so fire in one spreads like … ooo … like wildfire, you might say) and 300 homes homes have been destroyed. The slight complication is that they were built (several generations ago) on land that actually belongs to the Kenyan Railway but … I am off to see if Mama B can help with replacing the businesses that were destroyed so that the people at least have an income, if not yet a home.
There is no set timetable for matatus. They sit at the stage till they re full and then they leave. I, fortunately, was last on and we hurtled out of Nairobi to Naivasha in record time. About an hour and a half. A short piki piki ride and I was at the HQ of KCC Slum Project. They seem like great people and very keen to get in on the sanitary pad project (making pads and pampers from sugar cane pulp). They also want me to come and so some sex workshops with their young people (although I think they just got over excited at the mention of vibrators). They are going to identify a slew of businesspeople with ashes for income and I will go back next week and get them back on their business feet.
I nearly caused a fight between two rival matatu operators as to who would drive me back to Nairobi (about a hundred miles for a fare of £1.50). The man who had two good eyes won an we sped off back.
We made such good time that I managed to make it to the Market at Junction. The markets in the carparks of big shopping centres are better than the ones on City Council land because they ban brokers and the smaller craftspeople come there. I met Tom – a man who makes UNBELIEVABLY fabulous maasai figures from metal and Ugandan cow horns. I am still trying to work out how to get the big one back with me. By big I mean six feet tall. I was so excited by Tom’s stuff that a little bit of wee almost came out and I remembered I hadn’t straddled a long drop all day. I scuttled into Java House (they have lovely loos) and then filled up again with a Minty Pineade.
Back on another matatu to Ruai to visit the orphan kids Mama B has taken under her wing. The bus leaves from Muthurwa – the country bus station (and rubbish heap) also known locally as Machakos Airport – which is an extraordinary place. You really know you ain’t in Kansas any more in a place like this. However 50p for a thirty five mile journey in the sunshine, with the windows open and Westlife playing (Westlife are HUGE here. I already know the words to almost their entire oevre) on the radio is a bit of a snip.
At Ruai it was onto another piki piki. In a touching show of adherence to Health and Safety, the rider solemnly helmeted up before setting off. Leaving me bobbing about at the back with only my curls fo protection. It is so relaxing on these piki pikis. And so quiet – because every time we go downhill they switch the engine off to save fuel.
Sammi – the kids’ uncle, who has taken them in – has moved jobs from Kabiria (inner city slum) to the Ceders Progressive School out here. It is perched high on a hill all fresh air and forever views. When he left the church school in Kabiria, although his wife still worked as a cook at the school, the church threw his whole family out. So he brought them to Ruai. Mama Biashara’s kids, however, have had to stay behind in Kabiria because Sammi’s family have only one room at present and there are five of them. Mama B’s kids are with their father who is almost never home. The situation is very bad for them. Also Joseph, the oldest, was turned away from school because he did not have the right uniform. He is the eldest of five children who are living in one room (with the father when he turns up) with a dirt floor and one mattress between them. They really are the most wonderful children. And smart.
Mama BIashara has paid for one year’s fees at this wonderful new school. Small classes, good teaching, sports, breakfast and lunch supplied by the school – in a clean, fresh environment. Mama B has also agreed to pay half the rent on a bigger house and Sammi and his wife will look after the kids. The look on Joseph’s face when he was told what was happening was quite possibly the nicest thing I have ever seen in my life. By Monday, all the kids will be there in the clean and the fresh air, with a great school to go to which is 500 yards away. They know that the money will stop if they do not work hard. I told them the motto of Paisley Grammar (“learn boy or get out”).
FYI – when I say ‘one year’s fees’, I mean £100 per child per YEAR (three terms) and that is including all the meals, books, stationary and all the other things that are extras at most schools.
I know we don’t really do education but this will transform the lives of these lovely children. And maybe even start something we can continue. Sorry to come over all gooey, but we could actually give these kids a future. And then get free labour out of them when they are older and can do heavy lifting.
Agreed as part of the deal with the school director that Mama B will try to bring a certain number of volunteers over each year who can teach kids (they have pre-school unit up to 16 year olds) , do sport with them, or other training. More of the MBVs (Mama Biashara Volunteers) anon.
My golden glow of happiness was only mildly dimmed by my crammed, sweaty bus ride home from town during which for the first half I was mildly concussed by being regularly struck (“like a gong” Noel Coward) on the head by a woman’s fake Fendi and for the second my shoulder was wedged warmly and unsettlingly moistly in the deep cleft of a pair of Kenyan boybuttocks.
I head up to Dagoretti Corner for a celebratory beer with John Kibe, the most marvellous man in Kenya.We arrange to restart the Juja Feeding Project and I buy some fabulous little multi-tool kitty things from the old man I met the last time. They are like a Leatherman but like his much butcher big cousin.
By way of celebration, Kibe and I decide to go to The Junction – a big shopping mall. The busses don’t seem to be stopping at Dagoretti Corner so we move down to where the bright lights are. I show Kibe a new posh Italian bar that has opened – wine tasting rooms, wine cellar and a lots of dark wood and leather. We perch on posh barstools at the shiny bar and I buy Kibe a grappa. Quite an expensive grappa. We sip. “Ah”, says Kibe “changa’a” (the local illicit brew, frequently fortified with ethanol and prone to blinding, crippling and, fairly swiftly, killing). And he is not, in fairness, that far wrong.
Back at Wildebeeste there is bad news. Not for Mama B, but bad nevertheless. Three Danish guys who had come to Kenya had gone to climb Kilimanjaro. On the way back their vehicle has been involved in a head on collision and two of them are injured. Word from the ground says they are no badly injured, but Lynita swings into action to get them brought back to Nairobi asap. Head on collisions are a fairly regular occurrence in countries where the ‘Highway Code’ is treated with about as much regard as an exhortation to exfoliate, tone and moisturise daily.
The news in the morning is worse. From ‘not badly injured’ we learn that one of the guests (19 years old) is dead and another (60 – here to celebrate his birthday) has 9 fractured ribs, whole body burns (from being covered in a mix of petrol and boiling water from the burst radiator) and a smashed eye socket. It took more than 15 hours to get them from Arusha to Nairobi. 19. Just goes to show that all these things you are thinking about doing ‘one day’ … that day would be today. You never know.
Saturday becomes a day of hurtling around and buying and bargaining. The shop is going to look FABULOUS. I finally work out how the labyrinthine lanes of Westlands Triangle work. In the evening I head back to Dagoretti Corner for dinner with Janet (who has to report on her juicing business), John and family and Felista. As I ooze out of the matatu I can smell matumbo grilling. Matumbo is like Kenyan haggis in long, long sausage form. But with no oats and more ‘bits’. KIbe and I devour about a foot of it for 8 pence. Janet just drops out of phone contact so we go to Peers Pub again, eat chicken and I peruse the list Felista has brought of debts still owed by DECIP. Around £900 all in – including food, electricity, hospital bills, teachers’ salaries and some building costs. She has managed to pay off an impressive amount. I go through the list and agree to pay some of all of the amounts. We are close to the time when DECIP will get other big funders – She already has a promise of government funds for teachers’ salaries and textbooks, another bif organisation has paid for building two extra school rooms, a Canadian bloke is stumping up a regular amount (hopefully) starting in April … and we have come so far with DECIP. Apart from which, the one thing I know is that none of the money has ever been diverted to Felista herself. NONE.
FOOTNOTE : Excuses in Kenya are always amazing. Janet, apparently, had spent the evening at the mortuary with her neighbour whose daughter had been electrocuted in her house (not as unusual an occurrence as you might think). The mortuary had called the neighbour and the neighbour had called Janet. Hence her no show for fish and ugali. Like I say, excuses do tend to be impressive
More buying and hurtling and bargaining. It is unbelievably hot here and I notice, horrified, that a mere two hours at one of the workshops has resulted in a bad case of Farmers’ Arms. I roll up my Tshirt sleeves in an attempt to even up the pinkness.
The evening is spent helping in the kitchen – poor Veronica is overwhelmed by orders from people who seem to think they are at the Hilton. The place is stacked high with washing up from the buffet dinner and she is knee deep in requests for burgers, toasties and chips. I wade in. Sadly, reaching over the toasted sandwich maker to get a large stack of dinner plates, I neglect to notice that the bloody thing is on. That is until there is a short sizzling sound. That would be my arm. It doesn’t look too bad but is bloody stingy. I do a lot of dish rinsing in V cold water.
I have a very impressive blister over the burn. It seems to grow over the course of the day and is like a small Eden Project on the side of my arm. The general consensus of opinion is not to burst.
I organise my Kucha Cool (manicure and nail varnish) Kits, bags of condoms and a big box of small vibrators, together with some BEAUTIFUL children’s clothes donated through CWAC (a mitumba business) and two head shavers (barbers’ businesses), and head to town to meet Rahab (my main sex worker contact) and “some” girls who are desperate to get off the streets and into other businesses.
“Some” turns out to be 52 . So I spend five hours and around £1600 on prostitutes. Makes for a great Facebook update ! Most of the girls (and two boys) are great. They mainly have good workable business plans – some even great. Waldah – an absolute charmer – is not fazed when I balk at the cost of a hot sausage selling machine. She has identified one and the owner has told her his price. Which is too high for Mama B. “Eh” says Waldah, twinkling “I am a sex worker … I can persuade him to lower his price !” There is one older woman, a widow, from out near Mombasa who has come specially to see me. She is in her late forties. She has four children and now they are all in secondary school or college. When her hotel (cafe) business was simply not making enough money to pay school fees she did the only thing she could to give her children the education she believes they deserve – she went on the game. I felt like giving her a medal, never mind a business grant. She got 5000ksh (about £45 ) which will enable to set up a much bigger and smarter cafe. We are staying in touch to see how things go. She is the loveliest woman, a real quiet, gentle person. I hope her kids appreciate her. One boy was a victim of the post-election violence in the Rift Valley. His family were killed and he lived on the streets for two years. Now – by becoming a rent boy, he has accommodation. But he has researched a business selling hot sausages (yes, yes, as opposed to selling his own ‘hot sausage’). He has the location, the costs, everything. He has even trialled the business with a borrowed hotpot and could not keep up with demand.
Martin is quite a high-end (if you will pardon the expression) rent boy and he has an amazing proposal. His parents recently died and left him their house. Not exactly in the most salubriuous setting, but it could be worse. There are two bedrooms. Sadly all the furniture was sold for funeral expenses. Martin wants to furnish the second bedroom (he is sleeping on a mattress in the first) and rent it out to gay people (workers, researchers, writers … people from activist groups or just travellers) as a place where they will be welcomed and safe when they visit Nairobi. Homosexuality is not at ALL safe in Kenya. I think this is a great idea. A Brighton-style B&B in the heart of Homophobialand.
I also meet Sarah, a gorgeous lesbian and head of a lesbian group. So Mama B is at last getting down with ‘The Family’. And about time too !
Everyone, as well as their start up grants, gets a dozen condoms and a small vibrator. Martin hets a Durex special vibrating cockring. He beams with delight as he lopes off to his next client. Charge extra, I advise.
We don’t finally break up till gone six, by which time I am KNACKERED, and nurse my blister back on the bus to Wildebeest.
I head to Kawangware first thing. The safe in my room has developed a mind of its own and is refusing to allow me access to the rest of Mama B’s money. Also I have to transfer the money I have agreed with Felista to her bank account (well, DECIP’s)
I enjoy a hot chocolate with Lilian (our bank manager ) while she transfers 69,000ksh (about £500) and withdraws 100,000 in cash for me.
Now seriously readies rich I head to the Posho Mill and buy food for Awendo (it being half the price here that it is there) and some unga (maize flour) for Julius who is, this month, mainly setting up a kiosk. It comes with dire warnings about his being the last support he will get from Mama B.
I now head to Pioneer Chemicals – a sort of shack on Naivasha Road – and buy enough chemicals to mix and make 60 litres of liquid soap. Not very pretty, not very organic, but very profitable and nicely lemon scented (my choice). Unfortunately, as I reach through the iron grille to grab the bags of gel and salts and powders, I bang my arm on the metal and, in a tiny gush, followed by a trickle and some seepage, my lovely blister is no more. I have to admit, it did sting a bit.
As the slum air is full of dust and one hates to think what else, I thought it best to head to a chemist and get a burn dressing. Or should I say six chemists. Who all variously tutted, nodded, advised a special dressing and then revealed they didn’t have any. It was like being caught in a medical version of the Monty Python cheese sketch. “But it’s the single most popular dressing …” “Not around here it isn’t”. I ended up at Nairobi Hospital where I lucked out and bought two for about 50p. Sadly Nairobi Hospital had neither gauze bandage nor micropore, so it was three more chemists later that I finally got all bandaged up and felt safe to brave the grot laden atmosphere of Kijabe Street Market.
At Kijabe Street Market the sun is beating down. I am looking for Auntie – a maker of soapstone delights. I owe her 1000ksh from my last order. I don’t think she can believe it. I am blest countless times before we part. I do hope God is LISTENING TO ALL THIS. According to at least a dozen people here he will bless me with everything from money to great luck and wreaking his wrath on my enemies. Just saying, your Godness …
I set off early to get the bus to Narok. I have decided that I simply cannot go all the way to Awendo (day’s travel) and spens a couple of days there when I can meet the group leader, Jayne, at Narok (about halfway), give her all the medication, business equipment, food and the rest that I have bought to take there. I just can’t disappear for a week when I am only here for three.
Hence at 8am I am lugging my body-bag-on-wheels laden with maize, unga, beans and uji (porridge), soap-making chemicals, cooking pots, codliver oil, sanitary towels and lord knows what else onto a bus downtown. I text Jayne in Awendo to co-ordinate our travel. Three and a half hours later I am at the EasyCoach stage in Narok. Jayne, she assures me is “karibu” (close). Four hours later, and still no Jayne, I board the bus back to Nairobi, leaving the body-bag-on-wheels and its contents with the nice lady at the EAsyCoach desk.
Halfway back, I get a call from Jayne to say she has now arrived. As always, the excuse/explanation is a whopper. The matatu she was travelling in had knocked down and badly injured a schoolboy. The entire bus then spent three hours at a police station. And her phone lost power. She wants to follow me to Nairobi on the next bus.
8.00am I meet with Jayne and we really get to grips with the sanitary pads project. She agrees (marvellous woman) that it can be built on her land (with careful documentation regarding powers of ownership). We also agree to look at building a small home for the areas orphans. Who currently have nowhere. Jayne also wants this built on her land. It will be small – maybe 20 kids – and she herself is very keen to run it. As she already allows anything up to ten orphan kids at a time to sleep in her house, I have no qualms about her motivation.
The running costs of such a home could be met by the addition of a small Posho Mill. There are none in the area and it would be ‘a nice little earner’. It would be a paradigm project – a self-sustaining children’s home.
Back at the pads and pampers project – we are VERY excited. All we need is a manager. The marvellous Hilden Charity Trust have expressed an interest in funding the building and purchase of what I refer to as the ‘sugar cane squishing machine’. But I don’t want to take their money till I know the project will be run properly. And then – we will be able to offer affordable pads and pampers to the poorest women in Kenya.
Later I meet Julius – who reports on the shamba (small field) Mama B rented for his Discordant Couples group. All going reasonably well. Mama B funds the stock for a small shop to be run at the side of the shamba – veggies will come straight from the field, to which we add the staples of unga (maize flour), sugar and kerosene. Killer combo, huh ?
I am heading out to Naivasha again for the big Mama BIashara Funding day for he people who lost everything in the KCC Slum fire.
From the beginning, things unravel. The matatu (Naivasha Direct) takes a detour down through Maai Mahiu which adds half an hour onto the journey and takes ten years off my life with the sheer stress of driving in a matatu down the nine km of the escarpment with a sheer drop on the left hand side and no safety rail. However, we get there. I meet Mwangi – the friendly piki piki driver and we set off. I soon realise we are not going back to the house where I met with the project before. Far from it. I am mildly worried when we turn onto the main dual carriageway and hurtle down it at 100kpm. I am clutching my bag of paperwork for the day and a binliner full of sanitary towels and condoms, my curls flying in the breeze. We zoom past an enormous sign that advises “Slow Down – You’ll Get There Anyway”. The words red rag and bull spring to mind. We finally turn offroad and continue at a fairly hectic pace scattering goats, donkeys and children as we go.
The meeting seems to be being held in the open air. Never a good idea as you have no control over who attends. We have a list of around forty businesses and a group of around the same. I start with the vegetable sellers. I do the usual spiel about checking that the money is being used for business and business only etc etc.
By the time I look up, there are around a hundred people around me. We try to move on to the next lot of businesses. Of course, as we call for the people who lost soup-making businesses, around fifteen people shuffle forward (four are on the list). I start to discuss equipment and they advise me that a sufuria (cooking pot) will cost 2500ksh. I laugh loudly and, I hope, in a slightly threatening manner. I do my spiel about being white, not stupid. We discuss further and I say I’ll bring pans from Nairobi. There is muttering. By this time there are around two hundred people crowding round. I get to my feet. I let rip, I am afraid. Loud and long. I am not, I shout, an ATM. I am not, I growl, stupid. Don’t, I advise them in my best Swahili (which half of them don’t understand as they speak only Kikuyu), fuck with me. I am, I say, going. I will return, I say, when they are truthful and honest. “KAMA” (“IF”) they can be truthful. Small scuffles break out in the crowd. They all start blaming each other for ‘double dealing’. I march off, trailing disconsolate Kenyans behind me.
One old lady catches my hand. This woman makes the average raisin look like Justin Bieber. She is stooped, bowed and gnarled of paw. She lost a hawking business selling sweets, biscuits and cigarettes. “You know I am speaking the truth” she nods. “I know you will help me to my business again”. “Why?” I ask the crone. “Because you are old, like me” she replies .
My matatu back to Nairobi was configured so that Douglas BAdar would have complained about legroom. I am stuck in a middle seat. Which means I have no control over the windows. Which means the Kenyans sitting there, in the searing heat, in jumpers and coats, close them in case they get a chill. I melt. And end up with a small child on my lap as there is no room on the mother’s.
At Limuru half the passengers change over and I nearly lose my seat altogether in the scrimmage. A new woman sits beside me. I am eating a plum (local plums from Limuru are lovely). “You can give me one” she states. “Why?” I ask. “Because you are my friend” By this time, on a day like this, I am nobody’s friend. And I tell her so. Arriving in Nairobi, I discover she has nicked the 100 bob note I had in my pocket.
Remind me … why do I bother ???????????????????????????????
Saturday 25th Feb
I have got over my moodiness of the previous day and am heading to Ruai again to check on the lovely family Mama Biashara (with the hugely generous help of Rachel and Anna) has sort of adopted. I am also carrying a big bag of chemicals for making soap (for an HIV+ lady who has a daughter at the school and is struggling financially) and a Kucha Kool Kit (ditto). I also have vitamins, codliver oil, some big glossy posters and charts for classroom walls, pencils, excercise books and a load of other useful stuff. It is unbelievably hot. And Muthurwa – where the matatus leave for Ruai – is a seething mass of humanity, second hand clothes, fruit and veg, dilapidated vehicles, exhaust fumes and piles of rubbish. Climbing around and over all of them requires great concentration.
At Ruai I clamber aboard a pikipiki – no mean feat with all my baggage – and the driver does a short lap of honour to show his mates he has bagged a mzungu before setting off for the school.
The family have moved into the bigger house next door and the place is pretty much spotless. School uniforms are drying on a line outside. The kids are already looking so much better – they are happy, relaxed, clean, and glowing. Miriam’s skin has cleared up – just with being clean. All of them are bright of eye and wide of smile. Dinah – the Director of the school – arrives. She has somewhat taken them under her wing and gives the family milk and eggs. She takes the soap business and the KK kit and announces that we should all come to her house for a bit of an adventure. We all (six kids, Dinah and I) get into her car and bounce off across the hill to her house. She has half a dozen fat milking cows and a barn full of pretty happy looking chickens. We play a bit of football, explore the yard, drink tea and eat chappati and Michael charms Dinah utterly. “I think he should come to school too” says Dinah. I can’t afford it, I say. We’ll work something out, she murmers, gazing fondly at Michael, who is now exploring her fireplace and looks likely to clamber up the chimney.
The kids go to play with the flush toilet and Dinah and I discuss the possibility of Mama B starting some sort of volunteer programme. Perhaps with students from the University at which Rachel teaches. We get very very excited. Rachel and Anna – you should know that the kids are already working on a ‘Welcome to Ruai’ banner for you ! I leave with a massive list of ‘things to buy’ – including clothes (all of their’s are unsaveably filthy, having been used to sleep on in their previous house), shoes (they have none), schoolbooks (something called “High Flyer” for Jane and Joseph) and food. I arrange to come back on the Monday. The day is only slightly marred by the matatu home suddenly stopping and turfing us all out somewhere on the Outer Ring Road. Some of us get on another mat … which gets us about a mile further up the road before stopping and, again, turfing us all out. I howl my irritation at the matatu men who snigger and roar off. I stomp off up the road, eventually finding a bus that was going to town.
Shopping in the morning and then a meeting with Martin, the lovely rent boy in the afternoon. While waiting for him on the balcony of Tacos (one of a very few gay bar areas in the city … well, the country) I meet a lovely chap called Giacomo. He is Swiss, it transpires. We chat. I tell him about Mama B. Turns out he knows Martin. Gay Kenya is a VERY small world. By the time he leaves, I have discovered he works for the Swiss Embassy and is in charge of handing out grants !!! So I have to put down on paper what we have been discussing and Mama B could be in line for an $11,000 grant !! Martin and I discuss his idea for a gay friendly B&B in the house he has been left by his mother. It seems like a great idea to me – especially as all Mama B guests will get a special rate (around £4 a night). Then Sarah arrives – a young, rather sweet lesbian prozzie. By the time we part (MUCH later than planned) we have sketched out a project for a ‘safe’ private club for lesbians, fronted by (and financed by) a hairdressing saloon staffed by gay guys and women. Being gay is grounds for dismissal in any job here, so employment in a gay friendly atmosphere would be a HUGE thing here. And take some more boys and girls off the street. Another Mama Biashara Project lines up on the launchpad !
A packed day – up to the bank to transfer funds to Martin, a visit to the posho mill for food for the family, chemist for bits and bobs and then Kibera market (set, picturesquely ON the railway line) for clothes and shoes. It has been raining heavily and the ground in the market is some hideous mix of rubbish, mud, decayed vegetable and unmentionable all rendered slippy by … well by something. The smell is pretty bad, but the clothes and shoes are great and we buy shoes, flip flops (for the loo), HIGH Flyer schoolbooks, we set off for Ruai. Oh yes, and dolls. And a football. And mandazi. And some lollies.
The afternoon is just lovely. The kids are thrilled. I am thrilled that they are thrilled. You lot should all be thrilled too … especially Rachel and Anna. The kids REALLY want to meet you !
I hurtle round (as much as I can in 30 degrees) buying things that are on my list but not yet in my bag. Most importantly I get all the nail polishes for the Kucha Kool kits for the prozzies and half a dozen cooking pots for the businesses out at Naivasha. We buy them out at Jua Kali where dozens of metalwork workshops line the roadside. These pots are amazing. They could probably withstand a bomb blast. By the end of the day I am KNACKERED. And mildly worried at the mountain of stuff that is piling up in my tent. I can see my Excess Baggage charges mounting …
Am heading out to DECIP for a Mama B workshop and funding morning. There are around forty people – local to DECIP and mostly with children at the school – looking for help to set up a small business. It is a great joy to be on the back of a motorbike, bouncing along the dirt roads to DECIP. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it all makes for a very relaxing few minutes. Felista has organised the morning VERY well – I have forms with names, IDs, descriptions of proposed businesses etc and we get stuck in right away. Felista is not here – she has to appear in court as one of the guard dogs at the home has bitten a bloke who was lurking at 3am and he has demanded recompense. So there is just me and the applicants. My Swahili is stretched to its limits. But I seem to be doing alright. We are conversing. And I have a small dictionary for emergencies. It is going great guns, the businesses are well thought out and the budgets not too piss-taking. As I am about to see the last but one applicant, one of the older boys who help out in the office rushes in. I have to go, he says. Felista is in jail, he says. In Kibera. Well, I have spent around £650 on starting around forty small businesses so although my work here is not exactly done, I don’t feel too bad about cutting and running. Well, zooming. Back on the piki piki we roar off to Kibera. Felista is indeed in the cells. However it is merely until someone can stand bail. Someone does (not me) and I hurtle off to town to meet Doris (one of the prozzie group leaders). We talk through Kucha Kool and other businesses and I tell her about the gay-friendly saloon and private club. Doris approves. She looks after a massive group of HIV+ mums and kids on the other side of Nairobi. I agree to come over and do some Mama B workshops and funding when I get back. In the meantime I agree to buy 50kg of uji (highly nutritious porridge) to help them. When they are taking ARVs on an empty stomach HIV+ peeps can get terrible problems. One of the MANY things that are not through when free ARVs are handed out to the third world … Anyway, 50kg won’t go that far but it is something. And Doris’s peeps will be top of the list when I get back
I rush round collecting all the things that have been on order. There is a LOT of stuff. A LOT. Luckily (actually, luck has nothing to do with it) Virgin Atlantic’s wonderful Charity Team have gifted Mama B two extra bags on the flight back. Which means I only have to pay for two more. Oh yes. SIX massive bags. And carry on. One of the pieces is 5’ 3” long. This is the bit of the visit I loathe.
The enormous package is strapped onto the top of David’s car and the rest forced inside. Virgin Atlantic’s ground staff are wonderfully longsuffering as always and the checking in goes more smoothly than I have any right to expect.
I don’t remember the flight … I slept