Thursday, January 25, 2007

the rains down in africa

it hasn't rained in about a week and i am thankful for the clothes i have washed that have been allowed to dry in the scorching sun. i am also thankful for the deficit in puddles of standing water- i haven't been bitten by a mosquito in over a week! and i am super tan.

we leave tonight (friday) by train to mombasa. the irish couple we have been with since day 3, the 15 french-canadian students and the two spanish guys who shared their rosemary cheese with us will all be heading there with us. i can't wait.

the bulldozers came again on wednesday night. this time, they took down EVERYTHING in the settlement across the fence and even re-bulldozed the first batch of homes in order to break up the metal and wood to prevent people from rebuilding. they arrived with a truck of about 16 people with guns and sticks, who beat residents down from the entrance to get in. they then stood on buildings with their giant guns and people had no choice but to leave. the most consistent estimate of the span of inhabiting this plot of land is 20 years. twenty years of building a community and 1000 people are displaced. unbelievable. the woman i spoke to the night of the infamous teargassing was there in the morning yesterday when i walked over with reporters from the bbc. i, along with several independent journalists and a housing advocate from the national lawyers guild in seattle interviewed her and a handful of others and this is the story we got:
the people living there were PAYING RENT. yes, they were living there LEGALLY. apparently, the owner is some elderly woman whose children have been managing the property for her. when the property sold to the new owner, he gave them 30 days to vacate... and sent the police in with bulldozers the next day. some women were threatened with arrest when they returned to gather belongings for their children, who can no longer go to school because they have been displaced, dispersed, seperated from their community. several people are still staying in the rubble because they have nowhere else to go.

i visited again last night and was invited into one of the few remaining and more permanent homes. i met a young girl's sick aunt (i later found out the woman was the original owner of the property)who was bed-ridden and could not be moved because of her illness. they are all worried that the bulldozers will be back and thet they will not have time to get friends to help move the old woman out of the home before the bulldozers get to her. heartbreaking, sickening and outrageous.

there is so much more going on here than i even have time to process or write about. most of it good but some of it obviously horrible. the people in kenya are amazingly wonderful to us (except for one of the cooks at the hostel who hates all of the vegetarians that the forum brought to town). matatu rides are the most frightening and fabulous thing in the world. the pineapple here is the best thing i have eaten in my entire life. candy is cheap. about 80% of kenyan women want to keep ava. exhaust fumes from deisel buses hurt your feet. giant tortoises can eat through nylon tents. the power goes out a lot. police carry huge guns. everything can be bargained down- even taxis.

i need to get out and start my day (it is about 6:30am here). i heard more bulldozers last night and want to go check on my friend flozy before i leave town. we are also visiting kibera today- the biggest slum in kenya which houses over 1 million people. it was made 'famous' by "The Constant Gardener" and we are going to check out some projects they have going there.
sorry this is so disjointed. i am sleeeepy and anxious to be on the beach.


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