“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
Sarah took me to Kibera on Tuesday. She has two friends that live their that we took out to lunch and they showed us around their area.
Kibera is the slums of Nairobi. The area just outside the slums, they refer to as New York City. I am not quite sure why. I think it is a way to poke fun at tourists that come to see Kibera.
As we walked through “New York City” I was thinking to myself, this is not as bad as I imagined. It was by no means nice, but it was comparable to Nairobi itself, just smaller. The children were just getting out of school and running around in their uniforms. They are all so friendly. I think the first English words children here are taught are “How are you?” Because that is the greeting we get from every child we see everywhere.
George, the friend that lives in Kibera, then took us down a hill and across some railroad tracks. Below us was the real Kibera. It was not what I expected, again, it was worse. Even though Sarah had prepped me and described it to me, you just don’t get it until you see it.
The houses were merely huts made out of tin sheets, or cloth, or whatever they could find to cover their heads. There were probably thousands of these huts crowded in the area of a football field. There were little trails between each quad of huts to get through the town. It was very difficult to walk through these trails, physically and mentally. There was trash and human waste everywhere. After a while you just give in to the fact that you are going to get your shoes and pants dirty as all hell with you do not even want to know what.
This is where our friends live. After about 45 min of walking around and taking in everything, including the smells, we came to George’s place. We turned the corner into the hut quad, where George lived, it was like we were in a whole other place. George and Simon (another friend who lives in one of the huts in the quad) had planted flowers, plants, grass was even starting to grow. There was no waste of any kind anywhere.
It was a cool breeze in Hell.
His place was the size of a dorm room, smaller than the one I had in College. That was his house. He fit in a bed, a couch, and a little night stand. Nothing else could fit. And there was very little room to stand.
I was not as emotional or affected at the time as I am now, describing it. I had the luxury of hiding behind a camera and looking at everything through a lens, which filters out a lot in places like this. Behind the big lens, you don’t feel scared, or sad. You are not concentrating on anything besides the picture you are taking and it’s composition.
It is not until later, now, that I took time to stop, think, and feel what I saw. For me to see what was really there.