Friday, October 31, 2008

Day by Day

This week brought all sorts of news that makes it incredibly difficult to be so far from home. I found out my mom will be having major back surgery next month (we'd hoped it would hold off until I was home next summer) and I can' t stand the thought of not being able to help her and the rest of my family through it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I'll have skype set up by then so at the very least we can have some good video chats as she prepares!

In better news, I found out last night that my cousin Emily gave birth to a healthy baby girl - and was ecstatic to find that I could dial her direct to congratulate her and Eric briefly before my airtime ran out. It's not the same as being there but it's nice to realize that your loved ones are really just a phone call away.

This week has been very energetic - in large part because the enthusiasm for next week's election is really picking up. As soon as someone finds out you're an American they ask if you've voted, then for who, then tell you their hopes for the election and how proud they are to have Obama in the lead. On the news last night it showed that Obama enjoys a 97% approval rating in Kenya - how jealous are all the politicos in America!? Last night my roommate Angeline and I went across the street to check out our "local" as she calls it and grab a Tusker (beer). We ended up talking to a guy named Oketch who had studied at the Art Institute in Chicago in the 90's and had met with Obama due to his Kenyan heritage (one of Obama's staff came across him and arranged the meeting). He said it was strange to meet someone under the guise of shared heritage, and then to be slotted into the brisk 30-minute meeting standard (and by some accounts generous) for politicians. I joked that in Kenya it would probably take about 30 minutes just to catch up on the well being of the extended family before you really started a visit.

Like so many conversations I have here, I found myself drinking up the cultural and historical insight that Oketch and his friend had to offer (check out his website linked above - you can tell what a fascinating guy he'd be to chat with). From discussing the results of decades of dictatorship under Moi (or M1 according to local slang), to existing economic problems and issues with corruption, it's great to talk to people from different backgrounds and find how they're impacted by the reality of Kenya today. I had some nice chats with classmates this week as well - we're starting to bond a bit more as a group and they enjoy asking me all sorts of questions about my life, what the heck I'm doing in Kenya, what's different here etc. I in turn enjoy hearing how this relatively new city-generation is adapting to the rapid changes underfoot in Kenya. Everyone here has a village their family traces back too - some are still very close to these roots, some only visit once every few years and lament how their "country" relatives seem to only be interested in getting money from them. Here in Nairobi, the majority of my classmates are not considered wealthy by any stretch (some are actually still trying to sort out paying their fees), but to their relatives in rural areas, they have countless resources. I look forward to sharing more about my classmates as I get to know them. Until then... bon weekend!

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