Friday, 26 March 2010

Uko Iko Yako Taco

Today is the first day in a while that I have had to be by myself. Its only for three hours but I will enjoy it alot. This morning I went to a seminar hosted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It hosted all the youth groups in Nairobi doing waste management. I wasn't invited but since all the youth groups I'm working with were, I decided JICA didn't have a choice and were going have to let me attend. It was a very typical seminar but the best part was at the end they gave me money (when organizations hold seminars for people in slums they have to pay them to come, to provide for the day 's food and transportation). I didn't want to take the money but they insisted! This adds to the theory that white people can waltz into anything here. I've crashed many seminars and conferences for free lunch or dinner.

I've been working long hours everyday in the centres. Shredding plastic is a heavy duty job. My wrists are all jagged from picking up sharp broken plastic and my back hurts from hours and hours of taking a machete to big heavy plastic pieces before they go into the shredder. Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining, I live for this. I feel that it's important to show the guys that I'm as commited to this project as they are, and if I'm gonna work my ass off so are they. My hope is that that energy rubs off on them so that they can keep the speed going when I stop showing up as much. I can definitely see an improvement since I started showing up every morning trying to get as much done in a day as possible. I know this thing would have gone down the drain a long time ago if we were the type of organization that points fingers and dictates what is supposed to be happening.

Working everyday all day in these places is crazy. The guys I'm working with aren't just co workers any more, we have developed great friendships and even hang out outside the recycling centres. After working so long on this stuff I can't imagine doing anything else. That poses another huge question that I ask myself everyday. What's next for Up With Hope?

I wish I could post some photos, but I'm sitting in a hole in the wall cyber right now and that procedure seems impossible.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Life In The Slums

Rob and Up With Hope spend some time in Kibera and Mathare, the informal settlements, a.k.a. slums, of Nairobi.
Don’t be scared. The setting may be shocking but the people are welcoming. True survivors.
Check the video out:

Whatta do with 10 bob*

My favourite money here is the 10 shilling coin. I love it so much I have it on a necklace around my neck. 10 Kenyan shillings is the equivalent of about 12-14 cents CND but can get you so many things. This is why I love the 10 bob. Here is a list of things you can buy with the nice looking coin.

1 mango
2 mandazi (fried bread A.K.A Banik)
1 chapati
1 cup of chai
2 cigarettes
2 avocados
1 Juicy fruit gum
1 bus ride into town (only some hours of the day in some places)
1 big slice of pineapple
4 tomatoes
2 peppers
1 joint (Bob Marley)
10 tasty little candies
1 egg

*Prices are subject to where you are and who you know.

I want to add that the person who wrote the post below this is my homeboy Patrick Ominde who deserves his own profile article himself. He has taught me the ins and outs of this city. The most recent knowledge he passed on to me was that; when you're in town, and you have to pee, instead of paying 5 shillings to visit one of the many piss soaked public toilets that dont have soap or running water, go and use the exquisite toilet in the Hilton, situated in the heart of the city. It has instant hot water taps and is ultra clean. You have to go through a security check but it's well worth it.

Monday, 8 March 2010

its 6 degrees of separation....

I have never contributed to a blog, nor written.This is my first attempt. I have to start however by denying bragging rights to one Nathaniel, a workaholic married to environmental work who has piled tons and tons of pressure on me to contribute on this blog. I have done this out of my volition. I cannot allow him to score 100% here..99% is good enough already! Who would have imagined that some dude from the west would come over here and strike such a tight working relationship with local youth? Is there reason to continue believing that good work ethics is not transferable amongst people with different provenance? Even when they share sense of purpose? Justin,Nathaniel and Sean came by and worked with young people here for almost a year. The result is, people like KAKA, with renewed sense of purpose and confidence are taking the reigns of community service to a whole new level! What this guy has achieved in his few years as a youth and community worker puts to shame many politicians and public figures from a round the city! If kenya has to rebuild itself from the ashes of 2007 post elections violence, then young people like kaka need to be supported and encouraged to aim higher in public service sector. I can hear the murmurs from a distance encouraging him to get into politics....He moved a huge mound of garbage from his neighborhood....he could be the broom to sweep the dirt from the political field......we have a swahili saying; Mgema a kisifiwa, tembo hulitia maji! It roughly translate to.. if you praise the brewer for a nice brew, he will be tempted to add water! enough of Kaka.

Let me end this by saying that it has not been easy, it is not easy and it wont be easy. To move things this far needs a certain kind of spirit, a spirit that i have seen from the Up with hope dudes and folks at Environmental youth a alliance. I guess its your turn!

Kenyan scarp yards are my favorite place in the rain

Here is the business we deal with buying plastics. I'll give you a quick step by step.

1. Go and visit the many scrap yards of Nairobi and see what they have for sale. If they are selling plastics at a good price your in business.
2. Get as many people who are part of the centre mobilized and tell them to meet early morning at the yard. Start filling up bags with the plastic, try to sing songs to make it more fun. The pile you're looking at is about 5 tonnes. This day we were buying 1 ton. I'd like to add how grueling this work is, you get covered in garbage water and all kinds of shit flying at your face.

3. Take a break usually around 1 pm and have some lunch at one of the millions of restaurants that look like this. Usually meat stew with ugali.

4. After you weigh each bag, start to fill the truck you have rented for the day.
5. Putting the plastic in the truck is not easy. Each bag weighs about 70 kgs (150 pounds)
6. Get on the truck and get the plastic to the centre. This is always my favourite part of the day.

It seems like I'm spending a lot of time in these scrap yards. So much that I am becoming desensitized and actually picking through the garbage for valuables like everyone else I work with. My favourite things to find are coat hangers and I just found a nice potato peeler.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

2010 Indestructible

It took me 2 years of being waste deep in garbage, coming home followed by flies covered in black grime, until I bought a pair of overalls. Today I went to Gikomba Market (the largest open air market in all of East Africa, thats the satellite image off google maps above) and bought some second hand overalls for 600 KSH (8 dollars CND). I think anyone who likes second hand clothes would love Gikomba. Nairobi is the capital of "pre-loved" clothes in all of Africa, it's where all the merchants come from all over the continent to buy in bulk and bring back home to sell. I generally hate shopping anywhere else but in Nairobi, there is such amazing stuff here. Does your city have a market for second hand Italian leather shoes? The large majority of it is donated, so when you first come here you see someone wearing a Canucks hat or jersey or even the Grizzlies and you say "holy guacamole" but then after a while you see so much weird clothes on guys the novelty wears off. All I have to say is guys here have some of the best styles I've ever seen in my life.

Gikomba would be a lot more fun if it wasn't such a hassle to bargain with everyone. Being a white man in a poor shanty African market doesn't exactly mean you'll get the best price and obviously price tags aren't anywhere in sight. Fortunately my bargaining skills are ultra pro and I know what stuff costs before I go to buy it. I heard of a white woman getting hustled into paying 10,000 KSH (144 dollars CND) to buy a "special" samosa with "magical" herbs inside.

I went to one of our centres and tried out my new overalls by spending a few hours sorting plastics getting them ready for shredding. Quick little fact about recycling is that when you sort plastics by colour you can sell them for more money.
Anyways I refuse to buy gloves. There is a reason why soap and nail cutters were invented.