Ramblings from flat 7

It’s 1am, Wednesday night, and I’m sitting on the couch in flat 7 at the St. Mark’s Guest House at the Coptic Mission in Nairobi on Ngong Road, the couch that I spent hours writing my thoughts on this blog from February to April, earlier this year. It’s amazing how some things have not changed at all, while other things are completely different. I still don’t have hot water, and my stove still doesn’t work. My room is still cold at night and the maintenance guy here still ignores my requests no matter how much I beg.

When I arrived on Sunday night, it was about 5 minutes of complete culture shock before I felt at home, almost, and what that almost is I will describe a bit more later. ;)

I get out of baggage claim and I see a bunch of dorks standing there with signs:

Yes the Chicken Sucks, but only at one restaurant, if any of you guys remember reading from my trip to the coast in February. But these guys were holding the signs at the airport, and people, new visitors to Kenya walk by, and see this sign, and realize they’re getting advice about the food quality in the country. According to them, people thanked them for the frank advice and would indeed, stay away from the chicken.

Yea, things haven’t changed much around here. Kachumbari, Nadia’s red Volkswagon is still broken and still runs on fumes. Mena’s car still has that alarm that wakes up people in neighboring cities. And it rains, and rains, washing it all away. But if it were that easy life would be sweet.

But it was sweet, and it still is.

Monday night, I didn’t expect to see the boys so soon. We went to Kibera to meet them, almost like a pre-game show before the Tuesday night meeting. And they were all there, still committed, still part of this group that we had started when we bonded over Peter Jackson’s Ring trilogy. But it was much stronger. Seven months, they have been together since I left. I saw Carlos and Rocky running up to the car, and I was overwhelmed with love and feelings of camaraderie, I can’t believe such a long time had gone by, and I can’t believe how much I’d actually missed them. And as we gathered in the ragged broken down hotel where we met the first time, right by Olympic station. I just had no words to say. Seeing these guys there. These guys whose experience with them changed my life. I was honored, and humbled.

Here’s a recent pic of them on a trip they took a few months back:

We sang, we prayed, and we spoke with one another. All we could say to each other was I missed you. People gave stories of their life, people gave their hearts, really and truly. I think it was a little too much to handle; I knew already how much these guys meant to me, but i guess I saw visibly how much i meant to them. They didn’t wanna leave my side, nor did I want to leave theirs, but I was afraid of getting attached again, because I knew in just 10 days, I would be leaving them again. So I kept a wall up, not really by my own doing it just happened.

Later that night, there was a conflict between two of the guys, and they were about to knife each other over a loaf of bread. Yes, this is the world we live in. Yes, this kind of situation exists. 50% of the world would be in the same situation. Why isn’t anything changing? It shocked me, trying to talk sense, trying to help them see, and ask themselves if it’s worth it. But who am I? When have I ever needed a half-loaf of bread just to survive? When have I ever needed to fight for my survival to that extent?

The next day was my day of just lounging around, practicing my photography around the compound, and of course, annoying my sister at work :)

One of the artist guys I met last time, is now living nearby, and is getting ready to go to school. Finally things are happening.  have been spending a lot of time with him, he’s a kid, with a lot of questions, and just needs some support and encouragement, and i’ve been honored to actually be able to give that to him during this time. He taught me some Swahili vocabulary today. I’m just so impressed by this kid’s strength, given all that he has been through, he’s strong. So strong.

Tuesday night, was Maboyz Meeting night. Apparently they had a surprise for me. It was Kenyan drama in the Kenyan drama school of Kenyan drama, and it was pretty awesome. I didn’t quite understand the dialogue cuz there was no translation, but to know that they worked so hard to surprise me, I was so touched.

We stood around a circle and started singing Swahili praises, and the walls, oh the walls came-a-tumbling down. I was back in the moment. I was back with my family. The power and strength in that room, from the voices of these guys was shaking the earth. I still can’t understand how so much talent and passion is so overlooked by the people in their own society. And it leaves me torn, between this desire to take more of an active role again and between my responsibilities back home. It’s not an easy feeling to live with.

There was a young dude there from Canada who was sitting in the meeting with us, and he said something that really blew me away. He was talking about how he sees the bond between these guys here, and how he wished he had such a community of his own back home. It was the first time I’ve ever seen someone tell these guys that “I wish I have what you have.” They’re so used to being the opposite position saying how they wish they lived in the west, they wished they had this and that, and fancy sneakers and cars, and, and, and, and…

The more I thought about this man’s statement, the more amazed I became.

On this note, I’m gonna have to conclude and write more later, it’s almost 2am. I spent most of the day sleeping. I’m not even on NY time. I’m more on Tokyo time or something. Vacation time maybe?

3 thoughts on “Ramblings from flat 7

  1. I miss you too, pauly… but it is good for you to be there – to reimmerse yourself in these things that cleanse your soul. I see how these boys purify you and give you hope. Yes, your time with them is too short – but perhaps for you and for them – it is long enough that you can take part in that continual rebirth – and be awakened more to the hope of deeper depths and truer loves.

    love you

  2. Ah-ha-ha! The guys who greeted you at the airport must have had a blast making those signs and waiting for your arrival. Dude, you make the best friends wherever you go. I’m all smiles thinking about your time there in Kenya. :-) Props to Peter Jackson for writing you back. Any chance we might get to see that letter, too?

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