Saturday, May 22, 2010

Soccer Tournament Kicks Back

Well it has been a very eventful first week in Mombasa. Last Sunday was especially whirlwind-esque. Bobo and I arrived in Mombasa at about 6am on the bus. I’d slept a little but Bobo had been chewing Miraa so he was wide awake. We went to Bobo’s new place which I had yet to see in person. You have to get to it down a flight of steep stairs, along a dirt road lined with kiosks that, on stepping stones across a small dirty river and through a maze of small paths among the buildings which I still haven’t quite figured out. The place is a single room about the size of my bedroom in which Bobo has managed to fit a bed, two couches, an armchair, a TV and VCR unit and our Nuru computer. He doesn’t have a stove or a wardrobe. The washroom is shared with the neighbouring room. Even though it gets a bit messy, I’ve kind of enjoyed living there. The other people in the building are friendly, and there’s a little baby that hangs around there named Jeremy that I like. There are a lot of pirated movies kicking around so I can quite comfortably sit on the couch with the fan on me and watch movies in the evenings. It’s also a short walk to Tudor so its easy to go visit people when we want. I say we because Bobo doesn’t like me to walk there on my own. Sometimes it bugs me, but considering how we met, it’s understandable.

Anyway, on Sunday we got in and tried to sleep for a couple hours, but we had a lot to do to get ready for the finals of the Kick Drugs Out of Tudor Soccer Tournament that afternoon. We had to get a goat for the prize, Get nets and chalk to mark the field, a tent and seats and water for the guests of honour… We had to make sure the guests of honour were coming. We even went to the media to see if they would send someone. They did, but I haven’t heard if we were in the paper yet. We also had to drop the uniform and boots off to the team. They looked so great. You’ll see all their pictures on facebook and on our website. We are planning to do profiles of the team as well.

The game was amazing. The teams were both excellent, in their teens and twenties and in excellent shape. They were evenly matched and the game was quite exciting. There were a ton of fans there, filling up the entire ground. The majority were from Tudor, but a bunch came up from Kaa Chonjo as well. After every goal, the children from Tudor would get up and run behind the team as they did a victory lap. After their second goal, the offense ran over and dove into the ground in unison right in front of where I was sitting. It was awesome. I didn’t see Bobo at all during the game cause he was so busy coaching, but I assured him afterwards that it was quite entertaining.

Unfortunately, we had a little problem at the end. About five minutes before the final whistle, the score was tied and everyone was tense. When Nuru scored, all the fans and the team went crazy. The Kaa Chonjo team and supporters were less than happy, and perhaps would up by the closeness of the game. They contested the goal strongly and when the ref refused to back down from his decision, they started a ruckus. Many of the women and children left, including two women from the International Centre for Reproductive Health who were there to do a workshop with the youth following the game. The game never finished officially, and the Kaa Chonjo team left, jeering and singing. Our team sat down in front of the tent with their supporters still crowding around them. They left a space out of respect for the other team. At this point some stones came flying out from behind the fence hitting the tent and several of the supporters. A stone fight ensued in which much of the fence and the bushes on the edge of Marycliff school property were destroyed. I am pleased to report that our team did not participate. While the fighting was going on, my friend Jacob, a very wise man whom I worked with during my internship in 2008, took the microphone and made a moving speech to the team about the importance of discipline and integrity and how our team clearly had more. He praised them for how they handled the situation and urged them to hold on to their sportsmanlike attitude as it would help them to avoid the many dangers that exist in their lives, such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, etc. I think it really affected them. When things had died down, I stood up and told the team that I was sorry about how things turned out, but that I was really proud of them and proud to support them. I told them to look at all the people who look up to them. Soccer is a big deal here and those youth who excelled at it are real role models, especially to younger kids. Even with the fighting, there were still about a hundred people there celebrating Nuru’s win. I told them that if they continue to make good decisions in their lives (and we would be happy to support them in any way they need), that all these people will be watching, and they will do the same. If they lead by example, they have a real chance at helping to make a better future for their community. I know that many of these slum kids (Kaa Chonjo is also a slum) grow up with violence, drugs, crime, etc, as a way of life. But I think our Nuru members, and now the heroes of the Nuru Tudor Youth FC prove that it doesn’t have to be that way.

That night, Bobo, Jacob and I went to see the Kaa Chonjo Team. I have to admit I was quite nervous to go down there. When we found them, though, they were quite calm and when we told them we were sorry about how things turned out and we hoped we could reconcile, it seemed that they were sorry too. Interestingly, even when emotions run high, and even if there is violence, the guys here very rarely hold a grudge against each other. I don’t really know why, but maybe it comes as a necessity of living in poverty. Of course, on the way out, Bobo got into a shouting match with one of the Kaa Chonjo supporters and I had to drag him away, so things are not perfect. We bought a second goat and invited the other team to join us at our celebration which is to take place tonight. Hopefully this will be a good peace offering. The last thing we want is to create enemies. We are also going to try to redo our workshop on drugs that did not work out last Sunday because of the extenuating circumstances. I hope things go well. If they do, maybe tomorrow we can work together to repair some of the damage to the school ground at Marycliff.
I’ll let you all know how it goes.


PS. Photos of the match are at, for those not currently on facebook.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


How cool is this? The woman sitting next to me is wearing a full burka; only her eyes and her hands are showing. And she's laughing as she types something on... guess what: Facebook! I'm being nosy, but I want to see what her profile picture is. Its just a symbol. I don't know what it means. Some of her friends have pictures of themselves, and others seem to be symbols as well. How interesting.
Its strange to see someone who we in the West might stereotypically think of as oppressed participating in social media like Facebook. It makes me smile and reminds me that I'm not as knowledgeable as I think I am.
Nairobi is really a neat city for cultural variety. There are a lot of people dressed formally for office work, and there are women wearing the latest Western fashions as well as fashionable African prints and styles. There are also burkas, turbans, tunics, robes and those big knitted hats that Jamaicans stuff their dreadlocks into. Among other things. Skins range from the darkest black to albino white. Bobo and I represent that range fairly well as we walk around the city together. Other Westerners often stare at us if we walk by hand in hand. On my side, I hope to get a little darker over the next couple of months. I had a guy tell me today that he could tell by the colour of my skin that I had not been in Africa long. He said the weather here will change me. I hope so, cause I'm missing summer in Canada.
With all these people in Nairobi, and little in the way of city planning, the place can get absolutely crazy. Everyone seems to be in a hurry all the time. The cars don't stop for you, people don't watch where their going...if you want to get on the matatu (minibus) you have to fight your way on, and then wait in a two hour traffic jam in the hot and humid stickiness to get wherever you're going. I guess that's why so many people walk. It's nice when you can sit down and just think about things and just observe what's going on around you. For example, noticing the burka-wearing Facebook-goer sitting at the next computer. But that doesn't seem to happen often. Especially when you have a whole bunch of people to visit, uniforms to get printed, soccer boots to buy, phones to unlock, and whatever other errands need doing. Even without those things, though, the city itself makes me feel like I'm in a rush. Like I'm out of time and money and 'm not done. Like Chirstmas shopping on Christmas Eve. I will definitely be happy to go back to Mombasa.
We're heading out tonight with all the things we'll need for the finals of our "Kick Drugs Out of Tudor" Soccer Tournament, which is taking place tomorrow. The newly created Nuru Tudor Youth FC will be playing Kaa Chonjo for the trophy. We have a ton of people coming - spectators, performers, healthcare professionals to talk to the youth about drugs, and possibly politicians. Last year, we had the Tudor Area Councilor and the Deputy Major. This year, however, Councilor Kiparaa seems to be somewhat out of favor. Bobo explained to me that he has been trying to use his connections to start his own business so that he won't finish his term and be broke. He is just one of the Tudor gang after all and had nothing before he became councilor. He also apparently has failed to fulfill some of his campaign promises, but that can be said of every politician as far as I know. In any case, our Chairman suggested that we not invite him if we want to stay in public favour. I don't think Chairman and Kiparaa get along that well, though, so I'll have to wait and see what the truth of the matter is. As an aside, people have been telling Bobo to run. I think he should, but I know its a lot of responsibility and he doesn't think he's up to it at this point. I think that if Kiparaa can do it, Bobo can. But I think he's worried that people will hate him too if he doesn't do a good job. But he's not corrupt and he's not jaded, and he certainly cares about his people. Anyway, we'll see about that.
In any case, if Kiparaa doesn't come, then the mayor (or deputy mayor) won't be there either. In which case they want me to be the guest of honour. Like I'm a good substitute for any of those people. And I certainly can't public speak like Kiparaa, or any other politician. I'm flattered though. I'll just have to make sure I have something good to say. I guess I have the bus ride tonight to think about it. I'll let you all know how it goes. Mombasa, here I come!


The woman's husband just came to get her, accompanied by a young woman wearing a blue shawl over her head and a blue scarf accross her white dress reading "Somalia" as if she had just won the Miss Somalia pageant. The husband tried to log on as well, but his computer didn't work, so he paid for his wife's time and the three of them left, disappearing into the crowd that is Nairobi. I wonder who they were.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trip Three Officially Underway

Ten months later and here I am again! I'm sitting in the same internet cafe where I wrote first blog of the trip last year. And also where I copied all my pictures onto CD in 2008. It's still the same! A lot is the same in fact, like the food, and some things are subtly different, like the slang words my friends use. Some things I forgot as well, like how heavy the air feels and how tiring it an be to walk around Nairobi. I've been walking around all day, dodging traffic and weaving through the masses of people. Where are all those people going?
The C on this computer is really sticky, so if there are any Cs missing, bear with me. :)
My flight was good. Long though. I always enjoy flying cause I know I'm on my way somewhere new and exiting. Traveling has always been a good experience for me. I got a chance to see some of my family in Holland which was really nice. My Omie and Opa are proud of my exploits in Africa. I had some coffee and a chat with them about how things are with the family in Canada. My aunt Ellen was having a joint birthday party with her husband, so I got a chance to spend some time with them and some of Ellen's old friends that I knew. Unfortunately, I don't speak Dutch, so I couldn't get the full effect of the conversations. I'll learn it one day... I went to bed that night and slept until four thirty the next afternoon. Like 16 hours. But I guess I was tired from exams and all the craziness of packing and getting everything I needed for the trip (thanks again to my mom for helping me get everything in such a short time). Also, there's the jet lag...
I arrived in Nairobi on Monday evening and Bobo and friends came to pick me up. They were late because of the crazy Nairobi traffic, but I had a nice chat with the guy at the information desk before they got there. I had to avoid a lot of looks and refuse offers of taxis and places to stay while I was waiting, which was a good reintroduction to Kenya, and Mzungu-hood more importantly. When they got there we had to get some drinks at a local bar cause the guys were not ready to drive back into town through the crazy traffic. The local beers are still the same. ;)
Bobo and I are now staying at Richie and Michelle's place. Richie is a friend of Bobo's, and Michelle is his girlfriend. She's been showing me around and hanging out with me a it. she's a student here, so she speaks perfect English and we have a lot to talk about. I like her. Tonight, she's taking me dancing. When I'm not helping Michelle cook or hanging out with her, Bobo and I have been running errands around Nairobi. We had to get some cell phones that I brought unlocked so that they are usable here. We also have been working on registering Nuru with the Registrar of Companies here in Nairobi, which will give us national recognition and make us eligible for funding from the Kenyan government. Finally, we are working on getting some uniforms for our soccer team. The semi-finals of the Kick Drugs out Tudor Soccer Tournament happened today, and the finals will be next week when Bobo and I return to Mombasa. It will be nice for our team not to have to wear rented or borrowed uniforms for the finals. There are a few pictures of the tournament at, and there are some posted on facebook as well, though I'm not sure exactly where they are. I'll get some more posted on the website soon. And my own pictures on facebook once I have some.
In any case, one we've finished our business in Nairobi, we'll go back to Mombasa. I imagine it will be this weekend or Monday at the latest. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone there again. I'm also hoping to have some more adventures. Getting back into being in Africa has been an adjustment, but it's not really new or scary the way it was originally, and in a way, that makes it a little less exiting. I'm sure I can find something fun. I've got my professor who does researh on Malaria in Tanzania, and if things work out with that (he didn't get his grant this year unfortunately, so things are a little up in the air right now) I'm sure that would be an excellent adventure. And if things go well with Nuru, that is of course very rewarding as well. So I'm looking forward to a really good few months. I promise to keep you all updated. Now I gotta run cause it looks like rain!