First Day!

We had an action-packed first day in Kenya!

Last night we arrived at around 8, and had to deal with some luggage that didn’t make the connection in Amsterdam because of the snow. We went to Dave’s mom’s friend’s place, where we received a warm Kenyan welcome with delicious food (which we ate even though we had what seemed like seven meals on the flights). We then slept comfortably (3 to a small queen size mattress on the floor) and I got bit by a bunch of mosquitoes.

I went for a run in the morning with Daniel, a quiet Kenyan who is the adopted brother of our host. I really enjoyed running in a developing country where people don’t think you’re crazy for running. I did get some great shouts though, including “hey muzungu” (foreigner), “Chinese!” and “hai-yo-hai-yo.”

We then met with David Kuria, an entrepreneur operating pay-per-use public toilets. It seems like he’s got quite a good business model (especially judging by the fancy Benz in his parking lot). He’s received a lot of awards for the work he’s done to bring sanitation to Kenya, and it seems like he’s only just getting started.

Our driver Edwin took us to a great restaurant downtown, where I we had some delicious western Kenyan food. We then rushed over to Kibera, where things started looking a bit more like Cambodia: houses/huts with basic building materials like sticks and corrugated tin, trash in big mounds, and small shops selling a variety of colorful items.

We met with Josiah and his team, which is attempting to solve key sanitation issues through a grassroots, slum-dweller led effort. Six of eight (Josiah included) were born and raised in the slums, and gave us an inspiring view of what’s possible when people put their minds to something. They’ve built 36 sanitation centers in the sprawling Kibera slum (which is better thought of as a rust-hued city of tin, sticks, and mud), with most having built-in biogas digesters that channel the gas into a separate cooking room where slum-dwellers pay a small fee to cook their food. The units were impressive concrete cylindrical structures, usually about 30ft in diameter and 40ft tall, and cost around $25k each to build. It’s hard to explain how impressive both the organization and the genuineness of the people were.

The guys at the biocenter.

As we trekked through the red mud, plastic bags, filthy streams, and shoddy houses, kids popped out to say hello to the muzungus. They love to say “how are you” and try to shake your hand. So cute. Some started shouting “Chinese” at me, and one decided that I was Bruce Lee, and then called a group of 10 of his closest buddies over and started shouting “Brrrrruce Lee!” The guys from Josiah’s organization decided that would be my new name.

walking the "settlements"
walking the “settlements”

We then left and met up with a couple of Kiva fellows living in Nairobi (Avani and Hanna) for some amazing Ethiopian food. No doubt the best I ever had. We then headed over and met Dave’s friend from the Acumen Fund, and chatted until about 10.

As we went to drop off Hanna, we got stopped at a police checkpoint in the dark by two cops holding AK-47s. They shined the light in the car and saw that Ani didn’t have a seatbelt on, and started very seriously telling him to get out of the car. Our driver Edwin stayed cool though and started talking in Swahili with the cop. He casually got out of the car as the cop continued to tell Ani to get out, and continued to talk to him. They chatted some more, and the tension visibly eased. Edwin then got back in the car, and the cop welcomed us to Kenya and wished us a good trip. We had no idea what happened, but as we drove off, Edwin told us that the cop was his tribesman, and that they came from the same home town. Tribalism, usually scorned as one of the major causes of corruption, definitely came in handy!

All in all, it was an amazing day, with tons learned and many friends made. Looking forward to tomorrow!

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