Monday, November 8, 2010
Moses heading into Mathare
While running today I decided there was one more thing that I had to blog…overkill for two days or not!
On Sat we went to a huge slum (pop. est. 500,000). We were looking at a project for youth, run by Moses, a young man who lives in the slum, goes to seminary, and submitted a proposal to the Fluid Foundation for a kerosene business idea that he wants to use as a financial project to support the youth program. He is a busy man! And his business has started well. They have as many as 300 customers each day and it has only been a few months since they started!
As we walked through the slum the children were literally following and surrounding us saying “How are you?”, the only English they know. It is the way it was being said that made it quite memorable…I think I thought of it while running today because it would be like if you were counting 1-2-3 while running, or marching in a pre-election parade and chanting, “Yes, we can!” over and over and over…Emphasis on the first and last word.
Finally, I decided to respond with more than a smile and hello…So I said, “Nzuri. Je, na wewe?” (Good, and how are you?) To which I got a shocked look and sentences of response…no longer in English!
Oh dear…now what? I can ask if they like boiled or bbq meat better. Doubt they get either often, if ever. I could ask where they would like to visit…!? Surely a bad question to ask a child without shoes…
My language, but even more…the difference in our experience…really caused me to hesitate about where to go with conversation. Granted, those early phrases in language learning are quite funny. How often do you ask someone what foods they like to eat in the second sentence of your first conversation, or whether they like goat or turkey, or where they would like to go in the world? But these were surely the wrong questions here.
Then we visited Kalyie, an intern from Maryland, working in the slum as an artist. At the start of this particular class she had asked the kids to make lists of things they would like in their dream home. They were in the stage of painting these dream places when we arrived. Their painted houses looked so much like the one I know as my home in Seattle. Trees, space, flowers, windows, doors, sky, grass…
They know. They have an idea of what the good life is. In the context of a place (Moses’ Inspiration Center) where they strive to encourage and support these kids to stay in school, get out of the slum, pursue a better life…It is important to ask… What do you like, what do you want, where will you go? It gave me the tiniest bit of hope that it is possible…perhaps they can.