All right, now to continue our time in Kibera.
After our stop at the school Rick took us for a while through some more of Kibera until we reached his father’s house. This was also the “house” where he first stayed with his brother and father when they moved to Kibera years ago. It is essentially a concrete walled and floored square room. Very cheap concrete but better than most of the Kibera homes that are made out of mud and other filler and it of course has a tin roof to finish it off. In total size I’d say the whole “home” or room, is 7 feet by 7 feet/2.1 m x 2.1 m, extremely small and can house a whole family. Currently, however, only his father lives there. His father is the community spokesperson for his little block of homes and as such they tend to keep the place quite clean and safe. This matters particularly when it comes to the shared squatty potty that the whole neighbourhood uses. That is a lot of people using this outhouse.
To care for it properly money is collected from all neighbours to pay sewage workers to come in and empty the hole every few months. It is done in a much nastier way than the sewage trucks back home, think a lot more hands on.
Rick sat us down in his Dad’s house and we chatted about the place and how everything runs and he let us ask any questions we wanted. One question we had was about electricity as we can see mass amounts of lines running all over the place above and into the homes. It turns out everyone seems to have two electrical boxes, one legal and one illegal. The legal one is apparently very expensive and extremely unreliable so everyone taps into a line and creates an illegal hookup for power.
One reason for the illegal hookups, aside from free power, that Rick told us was that the legal power comes on and off so iregualrly that you can’t plug appliances, like a fridge or hot plate, into them because it might turn back on while you’re away and burn down your home, hence the illegal power. Fires are a real threat here for many reasons, poor power hookups being one prominent one. Apparently when a home does burn down the land lords need to be there on standby as it burns to reclaim the land once the fire is over. Until the land is marked out in a square shape with some semblance of a wall, usually made out of sticks, anyone can claim it. Land lords actually own the homes, not the property which belongs to the government if I remember correct. After visiting his Dad’s house Rick took us on a short walk to where he lives now with is brother. It is another extremely small mud hut with enough room for a bed and a tv and not much else. They have the walls and floors lined in plastic, I can only imagine it is to keep out the bugs that crawl through your mud walls.
Following our time spent questioning Rick in the two houses we started walking up and out of “lower” Kibera into the more officially sanctioned government maintained portion of Kibera. This section has a nicer look to it, but it still is a slum. There are apartment or condo type complexes that hold a lot more people and streets wide enough for vehicles to drive on. In this section of Kibera we were taken to a shop that creates sanitary pads for women. It was quite a smart and well done undertaking. They collect scrap pieces of cloth from textile shops and such and the women inside sew them into pads that even have replaceable inserts.
This one toiletry item taken so for granted in the western world is difficult to get here if you can’t afford to buy the mass produced ones in a store. This women’s collective does good work and it was very interesting to see. While we there Lindsay fell in love with some fabrics they were willing to sell us for a horribly inflated price, but we knew the money was going to buy more supplies for their work so it was allright to spend too much this time.
Once done learning about the work these women, and some men, were doing Rick took us up to the best view of Kibera, the railway tracks. This particular section of the tracks sits high up and overlooks a large portion of Kibera on both sides. It was quite amazing to see all the shanty homes lying out before you in all directions. I took a 360 degree video to get the whole effect. What we did notice from up there as well was that not everywhere in Kibera is jammed right next to something else. There was one church/school we could see that actually had space for a play area/field outside of the school building and inside a some what walled compound. Also made me think why they didn’t put another 100 homes in there, but it was nice to see kids out playing in actual field space. Up on the tracks it’s a bustling business place with vendors sitting beside the tracks, just far enough to not get hit by the train when it comes through, and selling their wares to whomever will by them. It was too bad we didn’t see the train come through as I imagine it would have been interesting to see the exchange between passengers and vendors, not to mention what the actual speed of the train is through Kibera.
After many pictures and video we were very thirsty, and hungry, so we asked Rick to take us somewhere that we could by him a drink. A few minutes later we made it to a little duka/hole in the wall (literally) shop that had some cold drinks. We all got a soda, Lindsay and I drank ours there as it was in a glass bottle, then of course returned it. Rick had got a plastic bottled one that he could take with him, wasn’t sure why but it made sense a few minutes later. A storm was possibly blowing in so Rick decided that we should probably cut the tour short (we’d been there for 4 hours by then) and head back instead of going into a different section of Kibera.
So we headed back down into the more packed section of Kibera and started retracing our steps, enough so that I even knew which way to go a few times. We stopped to look at some jewelery some girls were selling and found out about them and haggled a price only to discover we didn’t have enough money unless we used massive bills. Not wanting to offend them by offerreing way too little and not expecting them to have change for the big bills we had to leave, but we felt bad about getting their hopes up. Rick told us later they probably would have had change when I mentioned it, oh well, next time.
As we were walking Rick offered to carry my backpack since I think I had mentioned it was heavy at some point and it seemed he wanted to pay us back for the drinks for some reason. I let him and he was quite shocked at how heavy my camera stuff is. Quite a nice guy Rick is. I managed to get a few shots of him carrying my bright red Canada patched backpack, it’s now one of my favourite pictures. As we passed the bridge going over trash river again Rick tossed the pop bottle he had been holding while walking, into the brush beside the “creek”. I looked at Rick and asked him why, after all our discussions about recycling and taking care of your space, would he then threw the bottle away like everyone else littering everywhere. I was of course put in my place when he told me that he left it there because he knew that someone who needed it would collect it from there and return in for some much needed money.
The rest of our walk out of Kibera and back to Wildebeest Camp was spent talking about a variety of topics from marriage, problems with sex in Kenya, jobs, tourism, and many other things. Rick was very interested in learning our perspective and us on his. We were quite surprised at some of the topics he brought up but it made for great conversation. A long dusty red walk later we made it back to the wildebeest gate. We thanked Rick profusely for his great tour and for befriending us. We got his email and mailing address in hopes of sending some pictures and books his way for the school. We wished him good luck with finding more work and said goodbye to another new friend. We turned inside and Rick headed back home to Kibera.
Well exhausted, legs tired and completely covered in red dust from the knees down we headed back to our tent to shower and clean up. Grabbed some clean clothes and we headed straight for the showers. This is of course where Wildebeest dropped the ball and for the rest of our time here we were rather unimpressed by the place. During our shower the extremely unorganized and unhelpful desk clerk came over and told us, while we were showering, that we needed to get out of our room because the next people were there for the tent. WTF??? What next people? We made it explicitly clear that we wanted to stay another night and the desk staff, two different people, made it clear back to us that we were booked in for the next night as well. We finished our shower then went back to the tent to change. Lindsay then spent the next half hour arguing with the idiot running the desk while I packed up. Eventually we told him to put us up in the really expensive and fancy tent that we were told was free the night before. He goes to get that in order and comes back to tell us that it has been booked. WTF. This place knew we were staying two nights, knew what we wanted to stay in, and even after triple checking that everything was taken care of they still screwed it up. The best part is they take no blame and think it is all our fault. We’ve been in Africa for a month and just wanted a nice last place to relax at without any headaches, instead the biggest headache of the trip. Red Chilli in Kampala manage to figure out a similar issue and they’re just a hostel, this 4 star safari camp has serious management issues.
Eventually we were ushered into the only rooms left, the so called budget rooms. They aren’t budget, let me tell you, very expensive and are essentially cinderblock dungeons just big enough to sleep in. The bathrooms and showers over there, I’d rather not talk about. We used the ones at the tents instead as these new budget ones were a sad sad dissapointment to have in the same camp. Essentially the “budget” rooms are an old garden shed turned into some sleeping rooms and a sad attempt at it. I imagine this budget option is supposed to be for people looking for a cheap place to stay at an interesting place, but it isn’t cheap and not worth the trouble of coming way out to the camp to stay there. If you decide to come here reserve a head of time, online (since they seem to only rely on the online system and have no in person skills) and stay in a garden or luxury tent. Nothing else on the property is worth the money (infact all the lodging is over priced).
We spent the rest of the night up at dinner chatting with our new friends from Australia and hearing about their whirlwind day out checking out the baby elephants (on our docket tomorrow), shopping, and seeing the giraffes. Dinner was good food and the company was hilarious and worked well to take our minds off of the mishaps of room kicking and the circular conversation with staff on trying to deal with it. We closed out the evening sitting on the porch drinking drinks and chatting with our Aussie friends and some guy from Norway who was the saddest most suicidal person to have a conversation with. The Aussies even leaned over and thought this guy was terrible. It was a funny encounter. The Aussies are off on their overland adventure tomorrow and we’re off to see the baby elephants at the orphanage and hopefully do a little shopping. Off to the dungeon to get some rest. It has spiders too.