Thursday, July 23, 2009

Glorious Vacation Coming Up!

To celebrate the end of our fieldwork (or at least the biggest phase of it) and to generally keep ourselves from going COMPLETELY crazy in Nairobi, the girls and I are taking a fabulous weekend away. We are flying to Mombasa (tickets were only about $100!) and staying in a cottage for a few days at Tiwi Beach.

To put it all in perspective, these are the conditions that we have been working in for the last month and a half:

And THIS is where we will be the next several days:

I cannot think of a time I have been more excited for a vacation. I mean.... seriously.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last day of interviews in Kibera

We are so excited that today we will complete our household interviews in Kibera.

These are my ladies - our research team. From left to right - Kelly, me, Renee and Katie.

Not that I won't miss our welcoming committee... :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'll trade you that broken mirror for this paper crane.

We see a LOT of terrible things when we are researching in the slums. Like open sewage, everywhere. Flies, goats, pigs and small children eating the same stuff.

Most of the time we just walk through, keep moving toward wherever we are going.

But sometimes, I can't deal.

We see kids playing with all sorts of terrible things - like open sewage lines (like this picture below) or rusty nails, or knives (we saw a 2 year old sucking on the end of a knife the other day)... and so on. There are SO many kids there is no way to intervene with all of them, and even if you do, their parents don't seem to think it is a big deal, so as soon as you leave, they will probably go back to playing with the same things again.

Some of it is cultural. We are definitely paranoid to no end in America, it is true. We over protect, over sanitize, over medicate our kids. Buuuuuuuut - there is an extreme on the other end too, and I'm sorry but a 2 year old running around with a knife in its mouth is simply a disaster waiting to happen.

A few days ago when we were waiting to interview a family, we saw a little kid (probably just over 1 year old) sucking on a shard of broken mirror. I lost it. I just could not stand there. To make it worse, every once in a while he would pull it out of his mouth and wipe his face, running the sharp edge of the mirror only millimeters from his eye. I tried not to look at him, but we kept standing there... and I just could not deal anymore, so I squatted down, smiled and asked him if I could see the mirror. He (thank you Lord) handed it over to me, and I quickly popped it into my purse.

Crisis averted.

But then his lip started to quiver and his eyes got really big.

And my heart broke.

So I frantically started looking for a replacement toy in my purse.... toilet paper? bottle of purel? sunglasses?

Then I saw a scrap of paper and had and idea.

I quickly folded a paper crane (thank you to whoever taught me that trick), and handed it to him.

His eyes lit up and he scampered off to play with his new toy.

Good trade.

Making a doll from sewer scraps... or something to that effect.

So there's been a delay in posting.
I wish I could say that it is because I've been so busy implementing our project that I just haven't had time.

Truth is, I hit a low.

Like a LOW low - as in, looking at plane tickets home low.

I have been frustrated with projects I have worked on before, and I've seen projects really struggle. But this has been a whole new level for me, and truthfully, I am just exhausted and disillusioned by it. If you are one of my amazing friends who is wondering why I have fallen off the face of the earth, this is why (Estelly, I'm talking to you).

I won't go into the details for a couple of reasons - first of all, its too long of a story, and second of all, there is a part of me that really really really hopes that things are going to turn around, change for the better, some miracle is going to happen or... something... and I don't want to say anything to stop that from happening.

But this struggle is part of the story of this kind of career. Its written about in hundreds of books. Any development professional will tell you that its the norm rather than the exception. This work is the opposite of glamorous. People get cynical. 100s of projects fail for every one that succeeds, and even the ones that succeed can be twisted to show that they also fail in a way. Its a pessimist's dream come true.

But I'm not a pessimist.

So its kind of hard on me.

And I want to see the light.

And think that what I am doing is going to make a difference, even if its really really small.

So today, I am going to go to the Masai Market, and bargain with some sellers.
And eat fabulous Ethiopian food in celebration of my friend's first wedding anniversary.
Book tickets to the beach for a weekend away.
And get my optimism back.

Then I'm going to laugh at all of this. And set a new goal, and work towards it.
Because I think that's what you have to do to survive.

The girl in the picture above made her own doll out of scraps from the sewer in the slum. She sat on the ground while all of the other kids were clamoring to have their picture taking and patiently tied her doll together.

If she can make something fabulous out of scraps from the sewer, so can I. ;)

Monday, July 6, 2009

IRIN | In-depth | Running Dry: the humanitarian impact of the global water crisis | KENYA: Kibera, The Forgotten City

IRIN | In-depth | Running Dry: the humanitarian impact of the global water crisis | KENYA: Kibera, The Forgotten City

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Call us Nancy Drew

So, funny story (its actually not funny at all).

We came to Kenya to study the usage of 8 water and sanitation facilities in the Kibera slum, and then plan a hygiene education campaign based on our findings.

All sounds good.

The facilities don't work. At all, really.

As in, there are buildings, but some of the toilets aren't hooked to sewage, the ones that are have construction problems, and there is water rationing in Kenya right now, meaning that water is only available at the facilities once or twice a week.

All of this sounds like something that would be obvious to see, but it has taken us about 3 weeks to get to the bottom of it, because everyone we have talked to has a different story.

Every day we are discovering a little bit more of the picture, and right when we think we have an idea of what is going on... we find out there is a little bit more to it.

We are, once again today, back at the drawing board.

So we're going back to Kibera today, again, to do a little more detective work, talk to a few more people, try to figure out why the facilities aren't open.

We have renamed ourselves Team Nancy Drew.

I'm sure something interesting will come out of all of this.... I'm just not quite sure what that will be yet.

Meanwhile, did I mention that there is a water shortage in Kenya?
Read this article.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Carrying Water home - Mathare

One of the questions that we are examining is whether people contaminate their water in between the time they collect it to the time that they use it to drink or cook with. I think this video is a good illustration of the answer to that question.

FYI - the current community toilet facilities are dumping directly into this river, along with all other garbage/sewage from the community.

Mathare Day 2, continued

We weren't the only ones taking pictures - these guys filmed us for about 15 minutes straight. I can't blame them, we do look a bit strange wandering around there.

Children playing in sewage

A front door

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