After living in a developed country (U.S.) for a year, I, who was born in a developing country (China) and had been travelling in developing countries mainly in South and East Asia, still could not stop feeling “fresh” about the tough local environment when I finally landed in the Africa continent after 18 hours’ flight.
I waited in the “relatively” humid, dark and dirty Nairobi airport for about 45 minutes to get my luggage and then I found my friend’s cousin, Maggie, who had been outside of the arrival gate holding a white board written with my name for more than half an hour.
When we walked towards her car, however, I found she was not the only person waiting for me in this remote country –there were another two policemen.
“Come with us”, after arguing with Maggie for a few minutes in front of the car, the policemen said to her and led her towards a dark corner of the parking lot, while trying to avoid my curious staring. Five minutes later, Maggie came back with her “slimmer” wallet. When I asked her how much the fine was, (the issue seemed about parking), she gave me a smile with bitterness, “I just paid the police for their pocket money ha, it was not the fine.”
“Ayayayaya…Don’t worry, hah?” After finding the upsets on my face, she laughed out, “Hakunamatata! Welcome to Kenya.”
That is Maggie, a 35 year-old Kenyan women, who always says “no problem” to me when I, as a 99% stranger, found myself making so many troubles to her busy daily life.
Maggie’s husband died last year, leaving three kids with her. The oldest is 10 year old and the youngest is 5. For securing her children to have good education, in her official profession within the government, she works overtime in order to save the rest working days for her private business of handicraft.
On Thursday evening 8 pm, she picked me up from the airport after getting off from the work around 7 pm and did not eat dinner until 9:30. During the night, she had been packing a huge parcel of handicrafts to prepare her business trip to Burundi on the next evening with her sister. With little sleep, on the daybreak of Friday she drove me to the US embassy to help me renew my US student visa when the traffic in Nairobi already started. On Friday afternoon, she took her youngest daughter who had a cough to the hospital and then left the country.
Maggie, therefore, left me a great first impression about Kenyan women: hardworking, kind, smart and positive. On the contrary, my first feeling about Kenyan men was…well, even except from the two policemen, not as good as their women.
The men on the street yelled to me “munzogo” (white person) even the fact is so obvious that I am not white but yellow. If I replied to them by waving hands or smiling as trying to be polite, Wowhoho -______-, I was therefore making troubles to myself. Those men could run to me and try to speak with me along my way.
Moreover, during the thirty minutes sitting in the gas station waiting for Abby, the director of our host NGO named as Ripe for Harvest, there were about three local men coming to me and my partner from the Advocacy Project, Kate. The first one was about to promote some products to us. The second one seemed in high and begged us for something until some one used a stick to chase him away. The third one asked us whether we could break a bill of 1000 shilling. (The bill looked a bit suspicious though)
I am a foreigner. But still, I can feel in Nairobi, women are empowering themselves, materially and mentally. Maggie said, “It is hard, but we are trying.” Compared with them, men in this city more tends to earn “easy” money. Same situation happened in the rural area of Kenya.
My partner Kate went to the Village Umaja Uaso that is only consisted by women and their children. The women escaped from their husbands to avoid abuse (either sexually, mentally, or physically) and mainly live their life based on selling the handicraft. However, the ex-husbands’ jealousness rose along with Umaja Uaso’s gradual prosperousness and they began to steal women’s cows (as property) and spread out the rumours to foreign visitors that the village did not exist anymore.
(For more information: See Kate Cumming’s blog)
Hmmm, Thinking about empowering women? Educate men.
Below: Chinese version
“Welcome to Kenya.Hakunamatata.”
我的同伴Kate，在我到达之前帮助Umaja Uaso村落进行一个手工艺品记录的项目。这个村落基本上全部由samburu族裔的女人组成，因被丈夫虐待而带着孩子聚集到一起，主要依靠制作手工首饰为生。这样的生活本已经很艰难，而周围村落的男人以及原来舍弃她们的丈夫们，因嫉妒她们村落逐日增加的游客和随之而来的收入，开始用暴力抢夺Umaja Uaso村落的牛群。而承载游客的司机们，则对外国游客声称这个村落已不存在了而拒绝带游客前往。
Posted By Luna Liu
Posted Jul 2nd, 2009