Friday, July 30, 2010

Mommy - what's that?

Not long ago Ford and I were reading a book together when he pointed and asked, as he often does, "what's that?". I looked and saw that he was pointing to . . . a traffic light. Yes, my little boy was wondering what that strange thing with multicolored lights in the street with all the cars and trucks might be!

I think back to our life before we left the States and I can count 3 traffic lights between our house and the grocery store, 5 between our house and preschool and probably 15 between our house and church (aaalll the way down 280). We were out and about in our car most days and since we lived in a modern American city we encountered many traffic lights as most Americans do. But now we live in non-urban Kenya where I drive a couple times a week around our small town. The kids sit in my lap, or in the front seat or in the way back totally unrestrained (my friends aren't believing the car seat fanatic would let her children ride around utterly unrestrained but, well, this is Africa). At least I don't let them drive motorcycles or ride on the TOP of my car like other missionary kids around here. So my son has no idea what a traffic light is. I tried to explain it but you really need to see them in action to understand.

So while we were in and around Nairobi last week I made sure to find some traffic lights! There are some in the "City Centre" that I remembered seeing and we were headed down there to visit the immigration office. It is a bit confusing though because most of the traffic lights are at roundabouts (those things we formerly called traffic circles) which, in our mind, totally defeats the purpose of a roundabout which is to keep traffic moving. So you have a roundabout with traffic lights at each entrance which is just a total mess!

Anyway, the first lights we came upon were not working. No surprise there. Ford was just terribly disappointed. The second set of lights was not on either. Now he was starting to thing this whole "red, yellow, green" thing was a sham. We finally find a roundabout where the lights are on but there are policemen directing the traffic and effectively overriding the traffic lights. So as he sits thrilled watching the light and waiting for the turn from red to green so he can shout "GO!" he is once again disappointed as we continue to sit through the "Green is for Go" light so as not to take out a Kenyan police officer and make a suicide leap into traffic in the circle.

He does get the gist of the whole idea of a traffic light now though. It's funny that cultural things like that kind of creep up on you. What kid in America doesn't know about a traffic light? What kid in Kenya does? Ours are kind of in between so I guess it makes sense that he sort of gets the idea but has never seen the beauty of an actual intersection with traffic lights managing traffic!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Road

Some of the most interesting sights in Kenya are on the road. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the developing world I don't notice a lot of things now (donkeys causing traffic jams, women carrying things on their heads, people pulling carts, families on motorcycles etc.) However, there are still lots of crazy and interesting things to be seen. Some of the signs are hysterical! I wish I had my camera for the "No Hooting" sign I saw the other day! Hooting as in "to hoot" or "one that hoots" (who is a hooter, I guess) which can be translated into "honking". I decided to keep my camera in my lap yesterday during our 1 hour drive from Nairobi to Kijabe to show some of the interesting sights . . .

Hawkers. These are people who make a living by "hawking" or selling goods to those stuck in some of the miserable traffic jams around Nairobi. It is amazing what can be had . . .

Do you need a ball or toys? Today is your lucky day!

Perhaps some educational posters for your little one?


My favorite hawker sighting was a man carrying a satellite dish. Not kidding.

I thought this sign was funny :) Make mine a double!

This is something that I just can't wrap my mind around. This is how the people cross the HIGHWAY! If they haven't chipped away at the diving wall as shown here they just hop on over wherever they can carrying huge bunches of bananas, 5 liter bottles of milk and small children. Whatever. It is scary.

Need a lift up the hill?

Which lane do we drive in again?? I still try to get in on the wrong side of the car from time to time. I still turn on the wipers when I mean to turn on my turn signal. Driving on the other side isn't too difficult of a transition - the driver is still in the center of the road. Turning feels strange though.

Need a new cowhide?

Roadside rutabega?

This one might not make it up the hill without toppling over.

At the turnoff to Kijabe roasted maize awaits you.

Karibu Kijabe!

Making the news

I am so glad I decided to take the paper three days a week. I am much more in the loop as far as local news goes (since we don't have a tv)and I feel much more in touch with the culture. The articles can be very enlightening too. It is interesting to read Africans' perspective of events. For instance, how put off they were that VP Biden made a visit to Kenya but Obama has "snubbed" his homeland and how they are horrified at the "poverty/slum tourism" industry that has popped up as wealthy westerners make a stop by the slums of Nairobi between safaris to "help" the poor people or just to gawk. I am continually enlightened by some articles and outraged at others for instance those that suggest to Kenyans that they are somehow being cheated by their government because it does not fulfill the "basic responsibilities of government" which is providing housing for it's citizens as "developed countries do". Some things are amazing (such as the obituary for a 115 year old) and some are just sad. Like this one . . .