Thursday, 20th 2009
Today I had an interesting experience. Bonafas (21 years) was sent by his mother Edith (house keeper and family friend) to get water. He had already made two trips for water earlier in the morning. The water only works from the tap on Fridays only. I asked Bonafas if he needed help getting water. He quickly answered, “Yes!” I assumed he fetched water up the street. I soon found out how wrong I was about him fetching the water nearby. He loaded up the rusty wheel barrel with 5 large plastic canisters. I volunteered to push it to the watering hole which was more than a mile away! The town folk thought it was quite funny watching me push the wheel barrel while Bonafas and Peter (18 years, brother of Bonafas) walked along side. People were staring, laughing and making comments in their mother African tongue. I asked Peter what a lady was saying. Peter told me she said that the boss is pushing the water. The lady was laughing as she made the comment. After leaving the inner area of Kibera we made it out to the main road which we followed until it reached the outskirts of town near the Ngong Forest. We pushed the cart up to the water whole where the owner of the water facet quickly bumped up the cost because a Muzungu (white person) was with them. We had to cross the street and go to another place because of the sudden rise in price. The boys payed 3 schillings per canister of water. A cost of less than 25 cents. We waited for a half hour while other customers filled up their water canisters. One young and very worn man came up to me and showed me how flexible he was. He did the splits then raised his leg over his head while standing. He told me he was an acrobat and then asked for some money.
Eventually the cans were filled and it was time to push it all the way back. Now I am a competitive man and I like leaving good impressions. I wanted to show Bonafas and Peter that I could handle pushing a wheel barrel loaded with water. So I eagerly jumped behind the wheel barrel. I know most of you know how strong and humble I am. I am in top office worker condition. Sorry Oz Maz, I have lost my construction worker strength. I was able to push the cart a short distance up the hill before the teetering of the cart and wobbling of my legs began. It was obvious that my super human strength is not as strong in Kenya. My strength must not work because we are closer to the equator. Eventually I had to submit. My goal was to push it all the way home, but it was not going to happen. Bonafas jumped in and we took turns pushing the cart home as people poked fun at us and made comments in Kiswahili. Peter walked beside holding the cart with one arm to keep it from tipping to the side. Peter’s right arm does not work well because he was hit by a car 10 or so years ago. He lost functioning in the arm. He cannot open and close his hand. He usually places his hand in his pocket and only uses his left. He had to learn to write with his left arm after the accident. Both boys are of noble character. Their mother has done a great job raising them on her own. Their father died of throat cancer about 18 years ago. Edith is a hard working woman who takes care of her two boys and many of the household and child raising duties of the family we are staying with. She does all this with an overflowing joy and deep gratitude to God. Her driving goal is to provide enough money to give her sons an opportunity to go to school and get a good education. She is filled with the joy of the Lord.
Mariella and the students continued with their painting today. It is amazing to see how frequently the hall is used. Student’s hang out there frequently and others people rent out the small location for meetings. While we were painting students were singing and practicing their dances. People from the street constantly stop at the windows to watch the kids sing and dance. They are amazingly gifted performing artists.
Our stay in Kibera is enlightening. When we first visited the slum three years ago I assumed that it was only an impoverished place where people struggle to survive. The assumption is somewhat true, but there is so much more to the place than extreme poverty. We’ve met people who own shops, run churches, coach football teams, etc. This is a city within a city. I noticed trees which I was not aware of days ago. I caught a lizard that made its home in the neighborhood. There are people who have dreams and aspirations for bettering their lives. It is true that the living conditions are absolutely unacceptable for people to do life in. I have noticed that there is a clear economic hierarchy even in the slum. Today a student told me how he used to live in the slum. Meaning, he used to live in that area over there where the living conditions are atrocious. The recognition of the trees and catching the lizard shows me that there is hope even in the seemingly most hopeless of places where death is more real than life. The people that we are around are amazingly strong people who are persevering. It is clear that the people of the “Ghetto Light Youth Group” are truly a light in the community. I suspect that God will continue to grow up the Ghetto Light community so he can show his hope to Kibera through the lives of these young people.