Adapting to Kenyan City-Life in Nairobi

6 06 2011

By Nina Woolley

Rising senior; Candidate for B.S. in Biology and Certificate in Global Health

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of SOTENI Kenya or SOTENI International.

There are traffic lights and pedestrian signals in Nairobi, but I’m not sure why. As far as I can tell, they are really only for decoration. In some ways, Nairobi seems familiar, like any big city in the world. There are billboards, skyscrapers, traffic jams, offices, restaurants, people. However, when I attempt to cross the street among unpredictable drivers who do not follow any traffic rules, or when I squeeze into a 14-passenger matatu with 20 people already inside, or even when I happen to see several 3-foot tall storks perching precariously on a large tree, Nairobi seems so different from the cities I’m used to.

I’ve spent the past week working at the SOTENI office in Nairobi, finishing a few projects I was working on in Kuria and Ugenya (banana farm plans, OVC reports) and actively preparing for my upcoming two weeks in Mituntu (in Eastern Province). My fellow intern, Harrison, left Kenya this week to return to the U.S., his three-week internship complete. I was unfortunately suffering from some sort of infection earlier in the week, but now, stomach cured, I have been enjoying getting an insider perspective on the central operations of this NGO. As an NGO that coordinates community-based organizations in three different provinces, there is always something to be done!

I have been getting briefed on SOTENI’s activities in Mituntu and, as expected, I have a to-do list of about 20 items for the 15 days I will be there! To give you a preview, I will do needs assessments of another 15-16 sponsored OVC, will work on a new poultry project and prepare the way for a group of students from the U.K. to come help build the chicken house, will spend time in a dispensary to acquire knowledge of process/procedures that can be applied to SOTENI’s dispensary, will develop a work plan for the new resource center/library that will be opened soon, and will help conduct a survey to determine which women’s groups will be targeted for a women’s health, economic and social empowerment project. One thing I can say with certainty is that I will continue to learn about the multitude of factors beyond healthcare – economic conditions, education, infrastructure, social structure, gender roles – that contribute the health profile of a community and impact the spread of HIV/AIDS. This is something I intend to comment on further, as my internship progresses.

I have been staying with a host family here in Nairobi, and it has been wonderful. Yesterday I was warmly welcomed at a “Christ is the Answer Ministries” church and youth bible study, which I attended with my host “sister” Iryne. I also got the chance to walk around Nairobi with Iryne and her friends, who were excited to tell me about Kenya (favorite foods, good music to listen to, the university system here, drama with friends and boyfriends) and ask me questions about the U.S. (Do we really have cheerleaders? Could Kenyans pass for black Americans if they visited? Will Obama win re-election? Do I eat a lot of burgers and hot dogs?) We certainly had a lot of fun. I love having the chance to live with a Kenyan family each place I go! In other (random) news, I now know the jingles to about 10 different Kenyan products, thanks to watching the evening news and soap operas. I must say, the commercials here have MUCH catchier music than the commercials in the U.S. I would be happy to serenade any interested listeners when I return!

I think that’s all I will write for now, but I am looking forward to learning more and writing more as I continue my work in Mituntu.




2 responses

6 06 2011
Lysa MacKeen

So sorry to hear you’ve been sick. I’m glad you are doing better and getting a chance to look at different aspects of life in Kenya. And, yes – I’m counting on learning a couple of those jingles!

6 06 2011
Eduardo Marenco

I think you did a really good point when you
mentioned the multitude of factors beyond
health care that affect the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In my program, Master of International
Development, we have been discussing
all the factors you mentioned as a key elements
for Economic Development. I will add the role
of governance, social capital, entitlement and trust.
Certainly, the road to development has tremendous
complexities and challenges. Understanding this
complexities is a big step to develop effective
strategies. Thanks for your reflections.

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