Mary Walker: Observations from Kenya
March 13, 2010
Editor's note: Clark resident Mary Walker volunteers at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center was built in 2002 and provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker's updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.
■ 1. I know that it's time to come home from Kenya for a bit when I get all bent out of shape over a $30 difference on an intra-Kenyan airline flight. Its time to spend some time in the United States, where that amount of money barely buys you lunch out anymore.
■ 2. It's pretty nice, I have to say, to be greeted by handsome Kenyan young men as "madam." Yes, I know very colonial, and definitely not feminist, but at my age, it just feels good to be greeted so nicely. For Kenyans, it is considered polite for men to go through doors ahead of women as a sign of protection from whatever might be lurking on the other side. This can actually involve a man pushing his way past a woman in order to do so.
■ 3. Maasai girls from rescue centers don't have a clue about ATM machines.
■ 4. Take-out pizza in Nairobi is lousy.
■ 5. Take-out Indian food in Nairobi is fantastic! The real deal. Indians built the railroad lines in east Africa at the turn of the century and are part of the ethnic mix here in Kenya.
■ 6. Maasai fathers that give their daughters one-way matatu (bus) transport to leave home are lousy human beings.
■ 7. Nothing tastes better than an ice cold Coca-Cola from a glass bottle.
■ 8. I wonder if the ethnic violence in Nigeria right now is getting the same international press that Kenya got two years ago.
■ 9. Zimbabwe these days is considered a functioning democracy.
■ 10. Read "The Shock Doctrine," by Naomi Klein. And "It's Our Turn to Eat," by Michela Wrong.
■ 11. One of the coolest things in the world for someone with an anthropology background (that would be me) is to go to the National Museum in Nairobi and see the real 2-million-year-old fossilized skeletal remains (not casts) of early humans from Lake Turkana that we read about in our textbooks.
■ 12. It costs $5 to get a tooth extracted in Kenya.
■ 13. The debate process in Kenyan parliament over the new constitution — which would define the country's coalition government; quell some of the deep ethnic discontent that threatens to blow this country apart; strengthen the fight against government corruption that strips hardworking Kenyans of food, education money, and livelihoods; and guarantee voting rights, social safety nets, and health care to millions of disenfranchised Kenyans — is threatened by the politics of abortion. Sound familiar?
■ 14. Invest in a girl and she will do the rest. I stole that from Nike Foundation.
■ 15. I really missed watching Olympic curling with my husband, Michael!