Nairobi life was incredibly intense. We finally managed to finish to paint the skatepark (800 m2 ). It took 3 months and a lot of drive and determination to complete it . We had to fix the park with cement before we could even think to paint it. The children’s home where the skatepark is located was relatively supportive of my idea. However I don’t think they really understood what was my vision until they actually started to see it taking shape. I went through a lot of misunderstanding and disappointments. However I always made sure that I was surrounded by supportive and loving people who believed in my project and understood my struggles in getting the work done. I could never finish the project without my friend J. The time he was there drying my tears for all the trouble we were going through are countless. I had times where I just wanted to give up and walk away. And there he was taking my hand and walking me through my struggles. We connected since the very first moment we met. He really believed in the project and thought that I was totally crazy too. “How exactly do you want to paint 800m2 skatepark with no money?” he asked me. “I will find a way to gain trust from big paint company”. So I did. Thanks J. for all the support and the fundamental help with the skatepark. You are a great artist and looking forward to see your next creations. I want to take advantage of this platform to say thank you to all these people who didn’t give up on me and kept on believing in this project until we complete it. This project started with budget 0 and yet we managed to complete it at its best, (check out the section ‘street art’ for further info regarding this project).
The word Nairobi (Ewaso Nai’beri) comes from the Masaai expression meaning ‘cold water’, referring to the cold water stream around the area. Infact, Nairobi is literally built on a swamp. (I love Africa 🙂 ). The city was built by Sir George Whitehouse in order to offer a home to the the Uganda railway laborers. This name was chosen due to the temperate climate, to its high elevation and because located at the ascent of Limuru Escarpments. However his choice was criticised as the soil was relatively infertile, poorly drained and too flat. In 1898 the first 2 streets, Victoria and Station street were designed by Arthur Church. In addition to it also ten avenues, an Indian bazar and a staff quarter was built. With the arrival of the Uganda Railway on May 1899, Nairobi soon replaced Machakos as the headquarters of the provincial administration of Ukamba province. However Nairobi was overwhelmed with problems related with malaria and hygiene for which in 1900s Bazar Street was completely rebuilt after an epidemic plague over the area. In 1907 Nairobi replaced Mombasa as the capital of the East African Proctetorate. In 1908 a further epidemic plague in the Indian Bazar brought the European to segregate lower class Indian and native African in different quarters of residency setting a prior racial segregation in the commercial environment. After the II World War Nairobi was established as an European settler colony through immigration. In 1919 Nairobi was declared to be a municipality.
The continuous expansion of the city started to bother the Masaai for the continuous expansions of their land towards the south. It also start to bother the Kikuyu people who wanted their land back. After the end of the II World War, this division developed into the Mau Mau rebellion. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyan’s future president, was imprisoned for his entanglement even though still now there are no evidence of his involvement with the rebellion. This pressure revolved onto the British leaded to the Kenyan Independence in 1963 with Nairobi as the capital of the new republic.
With a population of about 4 million people is the second largest city around the biggest lake (Lake Victoria) in Africa after Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).
Nairobi it’s a work fast place, it’s a cosmopolitan city after all. The air in the city centre is unbearable. The dust was stuck on my cloths so that was almost impossible for me to wash it away. However the ‘Africans’ are able to get rid of any stains with their hands. I am trying to learn their techniques.
In the city centre you can’t really breath as the roads are overloaded with any type of vehicles who carries any kind of weird goods. The women carries the big bucket of vegetables or water or whatever else they need. However most of these women are coming from the near by villages as Nairobians don’t have these skills.This is because in rural villages most of the time water and other goods are not available. So women and kids have to walk miles before they can get these resources to survive.
The city is an exploding kindergarten. There are kids absolutely everywhere. At least 5 per family. The street kids are everywhere and if you are a Mzungo ‘it is the end’. One time I had a kid following me for about half km asking repeatedly for money. It was a nightmare seeing this kid hustling me. In the night you see kids sleeping in the street, and believe me they are many. I never seen so many kids sleeping in the street, it is a hurtful eye opener. It’s the crude reality of the African society.
One day as I was walking for a meeting to get a sponsorship I noticed from the distance this pretty building of which I was surprised to see. In Nairobi there are hardly any pretty buildings so as I was going towards the building I had the stupid idea to take a picture. It was the parliament building. In Kenya and in general in Africa governmental building are not made for the public as it should be, they are not there to serve the civilian but to control them. So they have the power to do everything they want on you. Overall the police is highly corrupted. “You know you are not allowed to take picture of the building. There are posters there that advice you to don’t attempt do to so. Why are you taking the picture. Give me your phone”. The poster the police officer was mentioning was really small and I was in the other side of the road, so I really couldn’t see it. On the top of it I didn’t want to give away my passport nor my phone so I declined naively. “you better give me you passport and phone”. I accepted to do so. “Your Visa is expired, follow me” . “Sorry what? my Visa should be valid for 3 months and so should expire in 3 weeks”. “Here is written that they gave you one month”. It really wasn’t. On the stamp they gave me in the airport the writing was absolutely unreadable, plus they didn’t let me know that they decided to reduce my Visa to just one month. I had an e-visa and usually is valid for 3 months unless they decide to reduce your staying at the border. However if for whatever stupid reason this is the case they should let you know or make at least the writing on the passport readable. I was kept in the office for at least 2 hours until I reminded myself that I had the e-visa saved on the email and so was able to show to the officer my documents. He agreed with me that was a huge misunderstanding and advice to go to the immigration office first thing in the morning next day. He also suggested to take a taxi home “because you don’t want to be stopped by another officer as you were very lucky with me”. I definitely was, as he could ask me for money or put me in a cell. After chatting with him and explain my reasons of staying in Kenya he shaked my hands and said: “thank you for helping and supporting our children”. I was surprised and blessed at the same time. He called me even a taxi to make sure I was safe. I was speechless.
During my stay in the Children’s home in Nairobi I had the honor to meet wonderful people from who I learnt a lot. I shared many stories and experience which created a strong bond. I shared my experience with other three volunteers: O., N. and T. Each of them taught me precious things of which I will always keep close to my heart. Never forget that you can always learn something from people if you are willing to keep your mind and heart open.
Every human being is able to teach us something in the goods and in the bads. Every experience is valuable as long as we take the best bits from it and use it in order to grow and become a more conscious and respectful human being.
I went to say goodbye to the children just one hour before leaving. I didn’t want celebrations, I just wanted to step out quietly. Without gaining too much attention from them. Masai hugged me so strong and then said: “thank you Alex”. He is 12 and he is Somalian. He flew alone from Somalia when he was 8 after all his family was killed. Christine didn’t believe me. She kept asking me if I was seriously leaving them. “Alex you joking right?”, “I will never forget you”. Vivian was about to cry and Sarah draw me a quick note saying “have a safe journey wherever you go, Sarah, Shangilia.” I was almost crying. They hugged me strong and I left them slowly. I will never forget this powerful experience with them and all the things I had the privilege to learn. They supported me and helped me during my stay. They never give up on me.They always welcomed me. They believed in me.