Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008 - Action!

So there has been a lot of action in Kenya in the last week. First, Kristoffer and I have taken action at the gym! Other than the mistake we made of sitting by the pool for 15 minutes without sunblock (can you say Lobster #1 and Lobster #2? - we forgot that we are nearly on the equator!) our experience at the gym is going well. I am enjoying aerobics classes and Kristoffer really likes to swim. We are sort of in training because before this year is over we intend to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (and I, for one, definitely need to be in better shape to do that!). It is nice to have a routine of going to the gym after work.

We also took action to be more social! We are pretty much home-bodies over here, but that is doing nothing for our social life. On Saturday night we went to a really fun party thrown by a Danish guy Kristoffer knows (it was actually a birthday party for his wife, but we didn't know that). There were a lot of Danes there - I think they are taking over Kenya! And when you meet new people in the expatriate community you ask them their story (why they are here, what agency they work for, etc) and then you tell yours, so the time flew by as we exchanged stories a few times and learned about other people's experiences here. And the party was so fun that I spent most of Sunday recovering from it :)

On Sunday, the government finally took action and came to an agreement on a Cabinet of 40 ministers (plus the President, plus the Prime Minister). It is good news that they agreed to something, but it is not good news that the Cabinet is so bloated and that the government seriously increased its own paycheck. People have mixed emotions and I think there is a lot of distrust between the government and the people now. Only time will tell if this arrangement will work.

Yesterday we woke up in the morning to hear of violence in the city; we first thought it was in reaction to the new Cabinet, but in fact it was not. There is a large gang in Kenya called the Mungiki; they are essentially the Kenyan mafia, are known for doing the government's dirty work, and are loyal to the largest tribe in Kenya, the Kikuyu. Their leader is in prison and last week his wife was unexpectedly and brutally murdered. They claim she was killed by the police and so they launched violent protests yesterday in certain areas of Nairobi and elsewhere (although nowhere near the UN so we are safe). They blocked roads, killed a random driver on the road, burned tires, shot at and stoned cars, etc. The police killed 11 of them yesterday and so far two of them today. They are not only protesting the wife's death but are also hoping to force the release of their leader from prison. They are an extremely dangerous group here in Kenya and some people with whom we work were actually unable to get to work yesterday because of the trouble they caused; people are afraid of the Mungiki to the degree that one of my colleagues is not staying at her home anymore because she lives in an area with a lot of Mungiki activity and she doesn't think she is safe. They don't seem to be targeting anyone in particular, they are just angry at everyone in general. Now, I am not writing this to scare anyone - please don't be worried about our safety, we take every precaution we can - but rather to show that life in Kenya is action-packed and changes constantly. Every day there is something new to observe or learn!

My job is going well and, while it is taking longer than hoped (no surprise there), some progress is being made towards processing a consultant's contract for me at UNICEF. Kristoffer's job is also really good these days; it is hard for us to believe that we have been here for over 4 months! We are very happy that we get American Idol on Tuesday and Thursday nights, although we are weeks and weeks behind the live version in the US (and, of course, I love it a bit more than he does), but yesterday was a true highlight when we flipped on ESPN after work to find the last 2 innings of Sunday's Yankees/Red Sox game! It didn't matter that it wasn't live, it just felt so good to watch the Red Sox play, especially because they won - it was almost like being at home!
The rains have started again, now later at night and throughout the early morning, but our afternoons are quite lovely. We hope this blog finds you well and that spring is beginning wherever you are.


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