Thursday, February 21, 2013

Through Western Eyes You Won't Find The Answer

It's hot on this hill
The air is stagnant with redundant waves of energized particles dancing through the air in invisible repressive ripples.
I think I drank 4-5 sodas in the course of 24 hours.
I get scared sometimes to write this blog...because I realized how much I'm a part of the "Me" generation, or whatever we call ourselves now.
What's the point of this...when so much of what I write about isn't reflective on the society here.
Writers such as myself, we romanticize Africa...just to break it down in our minds when it doesn't fit our idealization. The truth is...Kenyans have had to live with us their whole lives. Our "free" aid, our culture, and the wealth of every tourist that comes in walking with a Safari hat and money pouch.
I spent an evening in Nairobi when my cousin came here from Bangladesh. I took her to a mall frequented by other Volunteers. The meal we had...I spent more on that meal then a lot of farmers in Sagalla can afford to spend on food for their families in a month. And I could afford you know why. The price tag was 3,000 shillings, a little less than forty dollars. We get paid about 20,000 shillings a month; enough to get us by as Americans. As Kenyans, it's enough to feed a family in the village comfortably.
Even in that mall, I looked at the clientele, it was all foreigners or Indian Kenyans. You wouldn't be able to ever imagine anyone from the village; at least not in Sagalla.
Someone with a qualified degree in Anthropology or Sociology can tell me what it means...that the high class malls, the tours into the African Safari, the five star hotels that cost 13,000 shillings a night (about $175), how they are aimed at benefiting a population that consists of mostly farmers who having simply electricity (forget running water) is a blessing.
Someone told me that what I was doing wasn't a real job...and I think in my part... he was right.
Being in the Peace Corps is like living in a dream for those 27 months are so.
You see what it means to have, and what it means to not have.
Those sodas I drank, cost about 150 shillings, less than two dollars. But guess what, eating a meal here is less than 40 shillings. All those people who saw me drink those sodas, I wonder if it made them just acknowledge the stereotype of a foreigner, having the spare cash to drink something as unnecessary as sugared water.
I'm grateful to those who read this blog; but I want you all to take my words with a grain of salt. I live in the same world as you; read the same things online, crave the same foods, have similar educational aspirations.
I probably dream similar things as well.
But I'm not authentic in this world. All I can do is watch and make the lives of my co-workers easier.
That's not to say being a Volunteer is being useless. Far from the fact; my friends in this short time of 7 months have taught girls to make sanitary pads, educated youth on HIV prevention and sexual health, planted over 400 trees (just one volunteer, can you imagine), and built a dam. But if you wanted to ask me what Kenya was like; I could only be selfish and tell you that I went from being able to do one pull up a week ago to doing 10 in a row just now, all because I watched Fight Club again. Does that sound like what Kenya's like?
Come to Kenya, or whatever country you want and DON'T go on Safari, DON'T stay in a nice hotel, DO be safe about where you go, DO go to a village, DO eat the local food, and DO live without ANY pretense of helping. You can only know by watching, and maybe after a lot of listening, you'll have an answer that nobody else could have given you in five minute dialog.