Monday, February 7, 2011

Hell's Gate, Kitengala, and Updates

Hey all! Sorry I've been so bad with updates in the past two weeks, but I'll try to make up for it here.

I've been pretty busy working on a page research paper we have due in about two and a half weeks. For my topic (models of water provision in Kibera and which are most effective/sustainable/able to be implemented on a large scale), I've been going around doing lots of interviews with Kibera residents, NGOs working to provide water in Kibera, and more official sources - I even had an interview with UN-Habitat today! It was intimidating but a cool experience to be inside Nairobi's UN Compound. I even got a very fancy-looking day pass : )

Last weekend, some friends and I took out a day trip out to Naivasha (the lakeside town where we spent a few days for orientation) to Hell's Gate National Park, known for its crazy rock formations and animals. Most tourists just ride their cars through, but my friends and I decided to tough it out and walk - and it was A LOT of walking! The park is about 15 km long, with a picnic area situated in the middle of the park (it's sort of shaped like a long rectangle). Our plan was to walk to the picnic area, have lunch, and head back so we could catch a matatu into town before it got dark. The walk there was pretty leisurely (albeit dusty!), and we had a great time watching the animals. There was even one giraffe who followed us for a good kilometer or two; he would stop whenever we stopped, turning his head to stare at us, then keep walking when we started up again. It was great. Overall it was a fun day, although lots of walking (about 10 miles total). We were exhausted and dirty but happy when we got home.

This weekend we had a group field trip to Kitengala, a small town about 45 minutes outside of Nairobi known for its recycled glass factory. We drove to Masai Lodge and embarked on a nature walk with a tour guide. 'Walk' is a bit of a euphemism - it was more like a trek over slippery, lichen-coated rocks and rough scrub, but we had a great time. We even crossed an Indiana Jones-esque suspension bridge (see below - it was terrifying!) to get to the factory. Once we were there, they gave us a demonstration of how they blow and shape the glass, then we spent some time shopping and just hanging out. The shop and its little courtyard had a very cute, quiet atmosphere that we all enjoyed after the hike. We headed back to Masai Lodge for lunch and some swimming in their pool. The pool deck was like a resort, and we all had a great day.

So now you're all caught up on my weekends. In other news, as some of you may have seen I was recently placed in my internship, which officially starts the first week of March. I'll be working with the Initiative for Sports and Social Arts (ISSA) a really grassroots-level Kibera community-based organization (CBO - you all are learning so much development-speak!) that focuses on youth mobilization and civic engagement. Luckily for me, 'youth' in Kenya is defined as people between the ages of 18 and 35, so no dealing with screaming school kids for me. I've been to visit ISSA's office a couple times now, and I'm super excited to start doing some hands-on work for them. The organization is pretty small but filled with really energetic, passionate, and dynamic guys with great ideas who are sometimes in need of a little push to get organized - this should work perfectly for me! I'm not entirely sure what kinds of projects I'll be working on yet, but I'm really excited to start, and I'm psyched I get to work right in Kibera rather than in a more formal office setting. The time I've spent with the ISSA guys so far has been great, so it should be a fantastic two months.

Finally, Nairobi is amazing. Now that the initial "oh my gosh I'm in Africa!" shock has worn off, I'm really learning to love the city. I haven't really found the right words to describe it yet, but the city really is an entity unto itself. It has this amazing energy and vibrancy (some might call it chaos) that is quickly becoming addicting. The traffic is a nightmare, people walk everywhere without thought for oncoming cars, and the drivers are the craziest I have ever seen, but there's just something so ... alive about this place that you can't help but fall for. I can already tell that going back to the "tame" streets of DC is going to be a major adjustment - you mean I can't just cross the street whenever I feel like it or drive into oncoming traffic to avoid a traffic jam? No sarcasm intended, it's great. I'm starting to come to terms with things like my two-hour (one way!) commute to USIU every Monday and Wednesday, and now that I've started to sit back and enjoy what's in front of me, I'm really loving the city. Every day I find something new that makes me laugh or smile or gasp in outright astonishment, and I couldn't be happier to be here.

Below are some pictures from my last two weekend trips - enjoy! : )

One of the cool rock formations Hell's Gate is known for.

This is the giraffe who kept following us as we walked - so cute!

Oh, hey, zebras. : )

Starting out on our "nature walk" (read: hike). We had to literally cling to this tree to cross the water.

The terrifying suspension bridge we crossed!

The glass factory's very pretty, quaint courtyard.

Masai Lodge, aka paradise!


  1. I cannot even believe you crossed that bridge! You are far more brave than your mom. Can't wait to see you, pumpkin. Love you!

  2. I can't believe that you ate the fish eyeball (from previous post) OR crossed the suspension bridge. I think I'd rather deal with screaming school kids. :):)
    Aunt Patty
    P.S. I think you should make your mother cross the bridge. (Oh...don't tell her I said that.) :)