I have never worked in an emergency country. I've been lucky that every place I've lived in in Africa has been stable and relatively prosperous. I know I'm spoiled.
My year in Kenya was one of the best years of my life. I learned to be a professional; I became a member of the global church; I made good friends with whom I still keep in touch.
The Kenya I saw in the current post-election violence is not the Kenya I know. I'm sure there were undercurrents and hidden tensions while I lived there that I was too naive and ignorant to notice. My colleagues in the Kenya office came from every ethnic and religious group. Everyone spoke KiSwahili and/or English. The only way I could tell between the different ethnic groups that people belonged to was the surname; there were many mixed marriages so even the family name wasn't a guaranteed indicator.
I visited western Kenya several times. It's a beautiful region. I even learned to speak a little Luo. When I hear place names like Naivasha, I don't think of mass killings. I think of the flamingos on the lake. I've been to those places. I can't believe that they no longer exist as I remember them.
I pray every night for people I knew from work and church. I wonder how they are. I hope they are OK. That's the most I can do.
On January 28th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
History repeats. Yugoslavia came apart in the same sort of way, right? Rwanda too? Neighbors & co-workers of different stripes that used to get along quite well in societies that seemed to be quite well-developed & civilized, suddenly reporting on each other, attacking & imprisoning each other, brutally killing each other. To the extent that A PASSAGE TO INDIA is based on reality, I imagine that it's in part the post-colonial chickens coming home to roost, the consequence of borders of convenience and the consolidation of exploitable resources in one leading "tribe" against another.
Bonny's been to Kenya two times and has fond memories. She's really upset by current events too.
So what should we call the sub-genre of Academy Award-nominated movies about Africa that are based on the true stories of inspiring courage against impossible odds? I'm sure there are Hollywood writers & producers anxiously awaiting the end of the strike so they can put a script about this into production in time for a December release and the 2009 awards season.
I hope you hear soon that your friends there are ok.
On January 29th, 2008 01:01 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I'm with you. I've never lived in Kenya, but studied there short-term and was in and out while working in other parts of East/Central Africa. It was always something of a haven of good coffee and actual movie theaters. It's hard to see friends and colleagues going through so much.
On January 29th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
When the election results were not released and then were, but so poorly, my family asked me what I thought would happen (since most Kenyans believed/would admit that the vote was most likely rigged). I shrugged and said they would live with it for another five years.
I was so wrong.
I was so hopeful when Annan arrived, but look what has happened.
This could get very bad.
Just when I thought I might be able to get my kids back there to meet their other grandparents this year, now I hope they are not in a civil war.
Emily Sorensen Odhiambo