Madhare Slum and African Soccer
Saturday September 10, 2011
What an incredible day! It seems so cliché to say, but each day I feel I am learning something completely new, and am having a brand new experience that I just can’t wait to tell everyone back home about.
We all met up this morning to take a bus to our morning destination, the Mathare slum. The ride was quite an adventure, because aside from the crazy driving here, there is ALWAYS bumper-to-bumper traffic. The roads are also horrendous. Being here has given me an interesting perspective on government involvement in development – we often talk about the importance of grass-roots efforts, as opposed to top-down government intervention…but for things like infrastructure, the government needs to intervene. In the US we have recently been dealing with a loss of faith in the ability of our government to work effectively – but compared to here where it is so blatantly evident that the government has not taken care of basic human needs such as trash, health, water sanitation, or basic infrastructure, suddenly our government does not seem so bad.
We spent the morning visiting the Mathare slum, and an organization called MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association). The Mathare slum is in another part of Nairobi, and is home to around 650,000 inhabitants, as compared with the 1 million inhabitants of Kibera. We walked all the way through the slum – and I don’t know if it was the rain from the night before or because we didn’t stay on the main path of the slum, but it smelled even more awful than Kibera. The trash was worse, the smell awful, you could see human excrement everywhere – it is just unimaginable that people live there. As we walked through the slum we heard resounding sounds of wazungu! (white people!) as well as small children singing in unison, over and over, “How are you? How are you? How are you?” I have taken to smiling and waving at the kids, because the one time I decided to respond with “Fine thank you, how are you?” they just stared at me in utter confusion. Most of the kids don’t know what “How are you” means, they just know that when white people are around that is the thing to say. You have to be very careful walking through the slum though, because the kids try and hold onto your hands, and follow you, and if you’re not careful before you know it you have multiple children holding onto the back of your pants, hoping to come along for the ride.
The organization we visited, MYSA, is essentially a youth organization that provides a safe environment, as well as incentives, for kids to do homework, and connects with children through sports as well. What I found most interesting is that MYSA also has an acting group, which uses theater to teach the community. While we were there, the acting group launched into dancing and drumming, which attracted a huge crowd from the area. Once the crowd had gathered, they performed a skit about family planning……a much more effective way to convey this important information to people than through pamphlets or presentations.
Our next stop of the day was to see a football (American soccer) match at City Stadium in Nairobi. What. An. Experience. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. From the beginning everything at the stadium was utter mayhem – we entered on one side, and had to walk around the pitch to the seating on the other side. As we approached the seating area (basically just cement bleachers), we saw a sea of green – the color of the home team Gor Mahia. We were all walking in a line, all 26 of us – two boys, and 24 girls. Slowly, as we neared the seating area, heads began to turn, and the men began to notice that not only were 26 white people heading their way, but that 24 white girls were heading their way. I don’t think I can do justice in words what happened next – I wish I had it on camera. As we moved along the rows of seats, a few hundred men all rose, started cheering, screaming, running down from the bleachers hoping to get us to sit with them, hooting, hollering, cheering, chanting – all because 24 white girls had just walked in. It is important to mention that at this point there were not even any African women at the game.
We finally sat down, all in one long row. Then a few of the men came down from the stands and started snapping pictures of us with their cell phones to send to their friends. Eventually the hype quieted down a bit – though as more and more men started arriving, most of them tried to squeeze between us, to which the men already sitting behind us told them “Do not disturb our visitors.” We were also told by the kind gentlemen behind us, “If they pinch your bottom, you tell me and I will kill him.” One or two girls even got marriage proposals– the one guy in our group sitting with us was offered two goats as the dowry for another one of the girls in our group. As we left, the same thing happened. This time, however, all of the men sitting in front of us wanted to take our seats, so not only did the hooting and hollering and screaming in disbelief that we were leaving ensue, but the men in front of us rushed up almost knocking half of our group to the ground. Imagine if in America we gave every African or African-American this same reception – crazy! Just another day in Africa.
- Carolina For Kibera :: Young Women and Soccer in Kibera (theoriginalwinger.com)
- “Incredible Shrinking Kibera” – a lesson that should inspire humility in Western capitals (africommons.wordpress.com)
- Wilde films documentary in Kenyan slums (hollywood.com)
- Poverty and Promise in Kibera (blogher.com)