Mzungu in Mtongwe
This blog documents my work as an intern with the ...
So this is Kenya...
Hey family, friends and whoever else stumbles upon this,
So I’ve decided to start a blog. I’m feeling a little self conscious about it. I’ll try to refrain from obnoxious sentimentality but it might be unavoidable at times. I’m sure most of you will just look at the pictures and that’s fine. I won’t be posting a ton of photos because I pay for internet by the bandwidth so you’ll have to wait until I get home and can put all the photos on Facebook for free. For now, enjoy the baby elephants.
I suppose I should explain the title of my blog. Mzungu is the Swahili word for European. Don’t worry, just because I spent 4 months in France does not mean I’ve renounced my citizenship or consider myself above identifying with you American lowlifes, but I do have people calling me “mzungu” about 87 times a day. On more than one occasion I’ve had groups of 15+ children following me yelling “Mzungu, how are you? Mzungu, how are you?” over and over again. Even when I respond “Mzuri wafrikans, na nyini?”(good Africans, and you?) they just keep asking. More frequently though I hear people calling me mzungu in a context I can’t understand. It’s usually something like “gibberish gibberish mzungu gibberish” followed promptly by hysterical laughter. Apparently my humor transcends linguistic boundaries.
Mtongwe is the name of the district where I live. It’s comprised of 9 villages to the south of Mombasa which is the second largest city in Kenya. I met the chief today. Her name is Fatumah and she gave me her number. Yeah, we’re buds.
I’ll give a brief account of the last 10 days for those who care. I arrived in Nairobi at 4 in the morning on the 18th after taking 4 flights and traveling for over 30 hours. My luggage did not arrive with me. My guide, Salaman picked me up at the airport and after jumping his van in the airport parking lot, took me to a hotel to sleep for a few hours. That day I went to an elephant orphanage and a giraffe sanctuary. Needless to say it was awesome.
I flew to Mombasa the next morning and I could see Kilimanjaro outside my window.
The next 6 days were filled with language trainings and development workshops. I won’t bore you with the details. I moved in with my host family last Friday though I barely put my stuff down before my host mom and I rushed off to her cousin’s wedding in Kilifi, a town about 3 hours from here. The wedding was not all together that different from an American wedding except for the fact that I never even saw the groom. The bride walked down the aisle, sat down on a lavish bench for a few minutes and then was whisked off to the reception. It was definitely her day.
On Monday I started working at my host organization, the Mtongwe Community Initiative(MCI). It doesn’t feel much like work yet because I spend most of my time just talking to people and asking them about their lives. I’ve heard some tragic stories but what has surprised me most is that I haven’t heard any one complain. The other day I met a woman who is HIV+, volunteers during the day as a community health worker, sells nuts and cigarettes in the evening to make money, has six children who were orphaned by HIV/AIDS living with her and 11 more whom she supports who live in a rescue center nearby. When I asked her what she wished she could do to make her life better right now she told me she wished she was trained in HIV testing so she could help the people in her community who are too scared to go to the clinic. I was completely awed by her response.
So yeah. That’s been my life thus far. I’ll try to make this thing look prettier at some point but my computer skills are pretty pathetic so I’m not making any promises. In the meantime you can laugh at this photo of me feeding a giraffe with my mouth.