By now I was walking side-by-side with my pal and wasn’t really looking around. This was his third slum tour of the week and he was already tired of the whole thing.
From previous discussions he’d shared how he was opposed to the idea of slum tours but was interested in what people who also thought the same eventually took away from the experience.
Also, that was when he made the guinea pig comment. [Silly cow] But he was right; I had my theories on the thingies, but would my views change after a walk about the place? In any case, after almost losing the troupe, we made our first stop.
We’d picked our way through putrid streams of water; sluggish mud, the occasional squawking chicken and scores of children chorusing the infamous phrase ‘How are you? How are you?’ and made our way to the lip of a vast valley.
It was a view-point of sorts where dozens of shanty houses sat cheek by jowl as far as my eyes could see. And just above the horizon, the fourth floor rooftops of low-rent apartments recently occupied grazed the clouds. I was silent, taking it all in.
Welcome to Kibera bitch.
Our guide, a young man who was a mwenyeji of the place, directed our attention to the biogas plant close to the view-point. The circular, two-storey structure housed bathroom and toilet facilities plus a cooking area on the ground floor and a recreation room at the top.
The biogas plant was built by an NGO and was maintained by a local self-help group. I don’t know the science of it all but basically the gas emitted from the human waste was harnessed and converted into biogas and used to work the two stoves in the cooking area.
It was hard to listen as I thought of the proximity of the bathroom facilities to the cooking area. And how sad it was that families had to sign up a week in advance to have access to at least one of the two stoves.
But it was something.
The community had access to stoves and could boil perhaps a week’s supply of githeri at once. Plus they had a clean and spacious recreation spot where they could hold meetings, parties or whatever.
We then moved on to the next point in the ‘tour’, the Victorious Youth Group [if I’m not mistaken]. As we made our way there, I remember balancing on the railway tracks talking to a girl from Iceland. She was going back home in a few days. Usually I hate asking cliché questions but here I was on a slum tour, why the hell not!
So I asked her the most moronic questions, ‘Are there any trees in Iceland? Is there any land or is it just ice everywhere? Does grass grow there?’ Never mind that I could have Google’d all this information. She laughed and answered that there were mostly shrubs and yes, there was ‘proper’ land in Iceland, a beach even!
See, it’s so easy to have misconceptions about a people and a place! But hey, ignorance is no defense in the era of The Google. Ha!