Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Long Overdue Post

Today is the last day I am spending with my host family in Riruta Satellite. It is very sad as I have become quite close with all of them, from the two girls, Wendy and Stephanie to my host parents, Judy and Moses, to Moses’ siblings, Peris, Peter, and Aaron. They have been so welcoming since the first day I arrived. As I am the first foreign student that they have ever really interacted with and hosted, they were not quite sure what to expect of me when I arrived. However, in a conversation that I was required to have with my host mother earlier this week for an assignment, I asked Judy what most surprised her about me. She laughed and told me that what most surprised her was the fact that I couldn’t scrub my clothes and hand wash them well. The other thing that surprised her was the fact that I honored their way of life, ate their food, and partook in the things that they did. She told me that she was worried that I wouldn’t eat any of their food since it was ‘different’ and that I wouldn’t partake in the day to day things that they did.

As my study abroad program is keeping me quite busy, I have not had time to really sit and reflect on the past week until today. Even today I don’t have much time but by the way things look, it is the most free time I will have for awhile.

Last Sunday morning, we went to church. After church, we went to the beauty school that Judy attends. The previous weekend, Judy was not able to give me a massage and she was determined to give me a massage before I left. I was surprised to hear that I was only the second person that she had ever given a massage to as she was pretty good. After the massage, we went to the market to pick up some snacks as about a dozen women from church were coming over to the house that afternoon. As the women were socializing in the living room, Peris, Peter, Wendy, Stephy, and I went to Peter’s room to hang out and stay out of the way. We decided that it would be a good time to go to Kiberia, the slum as I was interested in seeing the inside of the slum after our discussions of it in history class. As Moses was at work, we couldn’t use his car. So we asked Aaron, Moses’ brother to take us to Kiberia. He explained to us that he was busy and couldn’t take us. We sat around for awhile trying to figure out what to do instead. A few minutes later, Aaron came in and handed his car keys to Peris, implying that we could take his car and go to Kiberia. We got in the car and drove to Kiberia. The girls were excited to get out of the house although they didn’t really understand where we were going.

Written September 27, 2009:
We drove to Kiberia and drove through some of the slum before getting out of the car. Moses, my host father told me in a conversation about Kiberia that we shouldn’t get out of the car and walk around but I didn’t have any fears and was leaving all of my possessions in the car. We parked the car and walked in to the inside of the slum. It looked an awful lot like many of the other neighborhoods we had walked through/passed so I was quite confused as to why this area in particular was called a ‘slum.’ There were little shops, just as there were on all the other streets and people just sitting around or hanging out outside. Once we had walked into the slum a bit, I noticed that the houses were quite small and didn’t look like very nice places to live although I am sure these houses were better than having to sleep outside.

As I walked into Kiberia with the knowledge that we were entering a slum, I had expectations about the area. As we walked around, I was thinking about what makes an area a slum and what life in those houses or living in this area must really be like.

Three days after visiting the slum, the government allowed the first batch of Kiberia families to move into new apartments. These apartments, furnished and paid for by the government are part of a plan to end the extreme poverty that exists in Kiberia. My family pointed out these apartments to me when we were in Kiberia and from the outside they looked quite nice. However, I couldn’t help but think about the conflict that must have occurred between people as only a select group of people were allowed to move in to these apartments. Although the government is building more apartment complexes, I imagine that there is much jealousy surrounding this issue. The government chose which people could move into the apartments first by where they lived. According to the news, the government’s plan is to move a group of people into the apartments and then take the land that those people were previously living on and build another apartment complex there and then move the next group of people in and so on.

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