Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Western impact, Eastern society

Another journal entry...I've time to spare so I figured I would put it up.

I have never seen the implementation of such an extreme mix of cultures in my life. I'm at a church service right now just outside of Maralol, Kenya. There is a sound system projecting the sound waves of a keyboardist who is playing traditional African music to the pounding of, not a real drum, but of a preexisting rhythm programmed in his half-sized Casio keyboard--the choir is up now shouting, dancing, and singing in a native Kenyan style and language while most of them are dressed uniformly in matching gray business suits all poised around a singular microphone. There are probably 50 children here, several of whom might not eat tonight, sitting under a tree sporting bright yellow, screen-printed Sunday school t-shirts.
Now that I think about it, where is the electricity coming from?
How are there over 100 people here and only 3 cars in the parking lot?
Is that a lamb I hear baa-ing ever few minutes?
I've not seen a computer since Nairobi was in my hindsight, but pardon my neighbor to my left--he has an important text to attend to...or 6.

I know this sounds bitter but it isn't. Not intentionally anyway. My opinion on the matter is of no concern to me at the moment and, in fact, even if I did attempt to thwart an opinion on these kisses of Capitalism that have nuzzled themselves right down the neck of this section of society I wouldn't know where to begin. No, this is simply an observation.

Vessels of Westernism have gone beyond the doorstep of this community. Whether on purpose or not the people here have welcomed and embraced the benefits and, incoherently, the potential evils of Western thought from riding on the coat tails of the West's ever quickening advancement as a civilization. The marriage of the 2, of traditional Kenyan social devices and communal interactions derived from the East and the contemporary "communicative" mechanisms of the West, has coupled the 2 at this social function where a culture clashed child has come into existence right in front of me.

Many would say this is wrong and that we have tainted the ornate fabrics of Kenyan culture, and to them I say who am I, or you, to dictate the "direction" of their cultural advancement, to refrain them from attempting to bettering themselves advance themselves via technology in the same way all of humanity has done throughout the course of history? Much of my purpose in coming to Kenya has been to work alongside a native Kenyan man and to document the fruits of his labor in the development of water wells, which are only discovered, analyzed, and drilled via the benefits of Western technologies. I have had several discussions with him about the dangers of introducing modern technologies to an in indigenous community and he is convinced that without being given access to clean water, for one reason or another, there would be no culture to degrade because the people, and therefore their culture, would simply cease to exist.

Others would say "This is great! Our technologies are becoming so accessible even the far reaching portions of the planet are using it!" And to them I ask, would you give a child a gun and send him into battle? Hush your voice and be intentional with your actions; young ears are listening and without proper instruction you could be handing the child a grenade and calling it candy.

For me, today, there isn't much I can do but learn. Learn and listen to the quiet buzz of the PA system that in a strange way reminds me of my comforts of home so for a moment I can pretend I don't miss it. It's the same buzz and feedback that happens in the sound system of my tiny, country church that is currently over 8,000 miles away from me, that buzz and the pang that shrieks through everyone's ears caused from a quirk in the wires of an electronic system that is just the right tone and pitch to transcend time and space and sets me back at the feet of a global marketing giant where communication with my friends is a text away, my shopping needs are a few keystrokes away, and my school and work is a short drive away. As for tomorrow, well we'll see. It has yet to arrive.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A journal entry

I'll (hopefully) be writing several essays over my experience here in Kenya over the next little while, but I figure I'd share with the blogsphere something I wrote in my journal today.

Stuck in miles of traffic cars in Nairobi swerve recklessly from lane to lane to make even the smallest bits of progress. Well, I say "lane" but that word is relative--the once clear paint marks on the road make no difference as there has been made 5 lanes out of a supposed to be 3 lane road. Somewhat frustrated about it all my friend asks Michael, the Kenyan native and our guide for a majority of the trip, "Michael, is there not something the government can do to regulate this mess?"

He responds after just a short moment of silence. "You see this traffic? This 'mess'? This is a good model of how our government is functioning."

Never before had it been so clear to see the government's lack of performance when it comes to its essential duties, responsibilities. The conversation proceeded on and turned into a discussion about Western concepts and political ideologies being thrust upon Kenya's Eastern mindset and the discrepancies that are formulated from that happening. Kenya's tattered democratic governmental infrastructure who's primary purpose is to serve the people of Kenya has abandoned its responsibilities of offering basic needs to its citizens. In the grungy gears of its political mechanism, the lack of productivity has stabbed apathy into its own heart.

Recognition is step one into solving any problem--unfortunately we have got lots of step one people who never make their way to step two, offering a solution. What then can be done? The good fortune here is that people have gone ahead of us here and relief efforts are being put into place despite the governments own shortcomings.

Whenever we asked our leader of the trip how long it would take to get to our destination, a community of indigenous Maasai Sumburu people of Northern Kenya, from the airport his response was simple. "Forever," he said. 18 hours later split between two days of driving, over half of which had been on the worst dirt road I had ever ridden on, we understood what he meant, but none-the-less we finally arrived. Our journey had begun in the city of Nairobi with a population of over 8 million and along the drive poverty became more and more evident--houses constructed with less Western materials, communities grew smaller and and the space between them grew larger, jeans and t-shirts were becoming less common being replaced with symbolic fabric and beaded jewelry of a wide variety, and gauged ears, bracelets, and necklaces adorned the people's bodies. The drive ended near Maralol, a tiny city miles and miles from any Western development. By that time it was dark--we unloaded our luggage and just before walking into the house that was made of mud and straw I looked up at the star-lit sky, and it was beautiful.

A large portion of my time I have spent in Africa has been dedicated to visiting wells that have been placed in order to document the work that has been taking place. Little did I know that two days after I arrived we would travel to a place that put the aforementioned "forever" road that we had deemed "the road to Hell" to shame. It led to a small town chiseled out the side of a mountain where an epidemic of waterborne diseases had broken out because there was no clean water to be had, only a dried up mud hole where stagnant water had formed. The water wreaked of bacteria and parasites. We arrived at the well that was placed there. Women happened to be fetching water from it with 5 gallon jugs and we told them that we were representatives of the people who raised money to have it installed and they were instantly grateful. Love that transcends boundaries and color erupted from withing everyone there. The children were dancing and playing and gratitude welled up from withing the adults with the exception of one lady was only suppressing her joy because she was scared of the cameras, something she had never seen before. Efforts are being made. And solutions put into action.

To see images go here--I've only uploaded a few. These images were taken at the Bonaire well which is the one that was being described in the journal entry above: