Amazing kids here. Imagine living in camp with next to nothing. There no real government help and not enough international assistance to make much of a difference. School, when in session, happens under a tree. Toys are made from anything they can find. I see boys playing with an old steel hoop pushed by a stick and another with a Y-shaped piece of wood with a strip of rubber for a slingshot. Again and again I see young kids gathering water. This is not just an errand but a life-sustaining responsibility. Each drop of water must be fetched from a well. The jerry cans weigh 45lbs and the water is contaminated with bacteria regularly making people sick (a problem which may be addressed by Neverest’s Hydro-Life as soon as it’s available). And while the kids pictured here have grown up in this camp others we visited ran for their lives less than two weeks ago! This place makes Haiti look like Switzerland.
Archive for June, 2010
In Somalia, acute watery diarrhea (AWD), which includes diseases such as cholera, regularly hospitalizes and kills people. According to the UN, a whopping 72% of children are affected by AWD. This is a direct result of the decades of fighting and lack of clean water. Half of the entire population is in need of life-saving assistance.
When I travel in places like this, prevention is key. Washing hands and drinking water from known sources is the easiest and best thing to do. True, food can also make you sick but that’s usually less of a concern than most people worry about (for example, any meat is fine as long as it’s cooked through). That’s why Neveret’s Essential Journey’s Kit includes things to keep clean (especially your hands) rather than tablets that will block you up after the fact.
Sitting on the tarmac, the pilots go through their checks. This involves testing the computerized voice warnings: “Terrain! Terrain!” I hear from the cockpit and then, “Pull-up! Pull-up!” I really hoped I wouldn’t hear that again during flight.
Hours later we land on a strip carved into the desert outside the town Garoowe, the capital of the Puntland region of Somalia. This time of year there is a blasting wind most of the time taming the heat. After a while outside, my skin feels dusty, wind- and sun-beaten like I’ve been to the beach. For sightseeing, we drove around a bit and went to two internally displaced people camps (more on this in another post). They are terrible shape and while people were nice but a little bit jittery…perhaps because of trauma or because they do not seeing foreigners very often. In one camp, they had to buy water but had a school. In another camp, they had free water but no school. The kids were cute and curious….I would shake all their hands and spun a few around by the arms for fun.
Somalis are hospitable and I discover that they are generally quick to laugh. They are ready with tea and in love of a good story. They are also very cognizant of their country’s situation. This may be why so many have left and a fair of people amount have returned. The lack of government (actually there is some) has produced a contradictory situation where security is needed everywhere but cell phone reception is excellent and, unlike many other parts of this part of the world, there is constant electricity.
Bottom line is that Somalia is an exhilarating razor’s edge place.
Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport is a regular airport by most standards. It’s not ORD, LHR or DXB but it certainly meets the need. It’s possible to grab a beer or tiny wooden giraffe at any time of day.
The final passenger screening and metal detector is right at the boarding gate. With a 6:30 am flight, I knew I would have a long day where the possibility of getting even water to drink might be slim.
Now you might be wondering, “Isn’t that security lapse dangerous?” Well, actually, I now see what the guards probably figured out a long time ago….what muzungu would smuggle a bomb into Somalia!?!
Nairobi is the gateway to countless adventures including many types of safari (the Swahili word for “long journey”) and the region’s wars and humanitarian crises. The city definitely has a buzz. It is also dusty, from the red earth in that part of Kenya, and, at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet/1,800 meters, chilly-cold especially at night and early morning. I’ve been here several times including a month long stint about four years ago. For now, this is the best way to where I’m headed on the next leg of my trip, Somalia.
There are some great hotels and some great restaurants here. On the high end is the Norfolk Hotel, a former haunt of British colonials and Big Game hunters like Ernest Hemmingway. It is worth stopping by for a drink or meal on the veranda. Also towards the high end is the Fairview Hotel which is a good bet. My room here has all the normal facilities and is on the second floor with half a view over the gardens. At the low end, there are plenty of places that charge by the hour and some good backpacker hostels.
Nairobi National Park, practically in town, is also seeable in less than a day. Most of the big animals are seen here and sometimes with the city skyline in the background. There are also a lot of smaller animals like those in the tree in this photo.
The city is itself half a slum (Kibera is the second largest in Africa after Soweto in South Africa) and home to considerable unrest. On the night I arrived, a public rally in Uruhu (Freedom) Park ended when someone threw a grenade killing six people. It’s still a great place to visit and pass through on the way to other adventures but always follow big city rules with plenty of caution.