Building the house – Day 1

Things have turned out REALLY well for me.

Thomas and I have rented a house in Kilifi just one kilometer away from the beach. We have fixed the motorbike and we have bought enough cement to build a 4 bedrooms house.

I know for sure that the handshake we gave when I offered him some funding for the house was more than a business agreement. I have found a great friend that calls me brother, I’ve been welcomed by his family like the tenth son and I live in a place that is a paradise to me.

I first visited Kilifi Tezo, 7 kilometers in the hinterland forest, on Saturday 20th of July and I decided that if something had to be done there was no time to waste. We paid the neighbours 1.000 Ksh (£8) and when I arrived on Sunday morning people were busy digging the soil to remove all the weeds that accumulated in one year.

When I think of cheap labor I immediately think of exploitation and poverty. Paying such a small amount of money to make four people work eight hours  is a crime. With the Mijikendas is different; “It’s cheap labor because is home” Thomas once told me and what he meant was “Welcome, this is my community where we help each other and there’s no need to rely on money”.

This is what the plot looked like after a day of weed-cutting, the L shaped piece of ground you see on the right will be the guest room one day. We have enough cement to complete the house but we will probably need some more blocks; I’m planning to come back in December to do some research and keep working on the house.

On Monday we arrived early in Tezo and we helped the fundi (experienced builder) to make the cement. After a day of work the walls of two bedrooms were done.

 

The following weeks will be very interesting.

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Moving with the Mijikendas

Before you read this post I want you to take a calculator and think.

I was meant to hire a driver for a week at the price of 30.000Ksh a day (30 Euro roughly). It makes 210Euro. An average hotel with no breakfast included costs from 20.000Ksh to 40.000Ksh per night. In a month it makes 60.000 (600 Euros) if you go for the budget choice. Food is cheap but at least 1.000Ksh per day if you want to eat good stuff. In a month is 30.000Ksh (30 Euro). If you add the cost of petrol and other transports the total in a month would get up to 1.000Euros (800British Pounds).

70 Bags of cement go for 30.000Ksh (300 Euros) and you can get enough stone blocks for 20.000Ksh (200 Euro). To hire a Fundi (experienced builder) for two weeks costs 7.000Ksh (70 Euro). 600 Euro or 500 Pounds is what you need to build a house.

My friend Thomas has a plot in a village on the coast, close to Kilifi. From the town you can get a motorbike and after 40minutes driving in the wild you reach a small paradise where lives a tribe called Mijikendas. People here live a simple life with cattle, harvesting maize and fishing. I’ve just got back from a trip to the village where I have been warmly welcomed. I decided to settle here, I’m going to live with the Mijikendas for the next three weeks (26 days), help my friend build his house and find out more about their culture. I wasn’t expecting to be so lucky and what’s more there is 3G coverage in the Kilifi area (due to the high number of tourists) which means I’ll be able to upload pictures and be more precise on youposition that has been kind of a failure so far.

Some Mijikendas have moved to the city but most of them still live a rural life and have rarely got in touch with a ‘modern’ man.

When I got to Bamburi, Mombasa three days ago I was pretty much shocked. The house where I was hosted was much bigger than the one in Mlolongo but infested with cockroaches and with no electricity due to a temporary failure. Thomas had just told me some creepy stories of Wazungu being given drugs and robbed. It was night and the village looked extremely dodgy. The following day I visited the town and the beach with daylight and looked much more chilled out than Nairobui but I was still feeling a strange pressure on me and I did not know what was going on. I think Thomas did notice that and today insisted for us to go and see his village and his tribe. I can’t find any word to explain the awesomeness of what I’ve seen and I still need to digest the idea that from tomorrow I’ll be living with a tribe and do the old style anthropologist.

I’m also learning some Kiswahili because English is not used much among the Mijikendas I met today.

Kesho Tunakula Mbata – Tomorrow we’ll eat duck.

I’m still speechless, from tomorrow I will start posting pictures hopefully.

Marco

Mlolongo, living the Kenyan life

It’s my fifth day in Kenya and I haven’t had the chance to sit in a cybercafe yet. I arrived in Nairobi late night on Sunday and after a good hour of waiting for my bag I met Thomas, the guy who was meant to be my guide. I had only spoken to him on the phone once and as agreed he brought me to a hotel in the outskirts on Nairobi. After a good chat on what to see, where to go and how we went to eat some goat’s meat with a beer.

Thomas has a wife called Winnie, she lives in village called Mlolongo – 20 minutes away from my hotel. Mlolongo used to be a roadside slum that underwent a great metamorphosis in the past years and saw the corrugated iron structures being replaced with proper stone building. A majority of the people living here today are either workers in the emergent industries all around the town, or people who commute to Nairobi. Nonetheless the perception of this town is always brothel-like among the public and it’s easy to see eyebrows going up when you mention this name.
I don’t know why exactly but I decided to accept Winnie’s offer, bought myself a pillow, a mosquito-net and moved in with Winnie and Thomas in a one bedroom flat with no shared, one gas stove, no ruinning water and only two rooms roughly 3×3 meters.

Anthropologists like to call it participant observation, travelers like to call it budget travel and on the web is getting famous as couch-surfing (in this case more floor-surfing). I have been welcomed like a member of the family and thanks to Thomas and Winnie I had the chance to get some really cool insights on the life in Kenya.

I haven’t got much time left -I’m in an Internet cafe in Bamburi, Mombasa and I’ve only got few shillings on me- but I need you to know a couple of things.

The traffic in Kenyan cities is CRAZY. There are 2 or 3 lanes on the road and everyone goes wherever he wants, there is no fast lane or whatever and the Matatu (local bus) drivers are often reckless. The Matatu is a mini-van that fits 15 people and brings you from one place to another. There is no bus stop so a bunch of people just gather on the side of the road -where you also have merchants, stray dogs and prostitutes- and wait for the mini-van to approach. A man holding notes between his fingers is usually shouting the destination and you need to be quick and jump on the Matatu before it fills up.

A bit random but I had the best chicken of my life on Tuesday night. Me and Winnie went to a local shop and picked a chicken from a cage. We took it home with us -alive- and I had the honor to butcher it! It was a kind of rite of passage to welcome me to the family. As a good media student that I am I took a video of me cutting its throat and plucking the feathers.  I cut my finger with a sharp knife while removing the interiors but Winnie cured me with a ‘special’ mixture on “things”. Is all good now.

If you’re worried about me, please don’t. I’m now getting used to be a Musungu (that’s how they call a white man in Swahili). I was a bit frustrated in the past hours, it’s not easy getting used to a new place especially when you’re alone but I’ve now reached the coast and I’m accomodated at Thomas’ house in Bamburi, Mombasa. The environment looks more chilled out than Nairobi and there are some Wazungu (white men, plural) living in the town.

I have a thousands other things to say and this is probably the most incoherent post ever, sorry about it. Hopefully I will have some more time in the next days.

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