This weekend my flatmate planned a most excellent BBQ at the MCK Clubhouse. When we arrived we first thought how nice the pool was, how great it was to have the space to play soccer while downing pombe from the bar. But when you looked at the background, in stark contrast, you saw the beginning edge of one Nairobi’s slums.
The image was one of many reminders that even though I have come to Nairobi to aid in the development of, and advocacy for, human rights and rule of law, I come here privileged and in many ways disconnected from the wananchi (common man) I am “fighting” for. While many times we Westerners feel the challenges of beginning a career in international development – non-paid or underpaid internships despite years of costly education – our privileged backgrounds are constantly exposed, be it our clothes, the cars we drive, or our nights on the dance floor. We live in clean apartment buildings, not in the slums. We eat lunches of sandwiches and fries, not sumawiki (which translates to “push the week”, a form of steamed kale that provides sufficient nutrients when there is no money for food). As it is too early in the morning, and since I should be headed to the office, I won’t take the time now to discuss the many conflicted aspects of ex-pat life, but I hope these shots of what was going on “in the backyard” as we fooled by the pool might provide just a touch of that visual juxtaposition.