Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Wildebeest Camp

Having 2 days to spend in Nairobi was a luxury I did not really want. I had read up on the City in a number of guide books and utilised the trusty british travel advice website and decided that it actually was a City i had no interest to see.

Conscious of the description that the grumpy and slightly annoying Paul Theroux gave the City- well all big cities according to him are actually just big slums- i really had no desire to leave the safety of the nicest hotel i have stayed in on my trip to date.

The Wildebeest Camp is a lovely art deco mansion kitted out with antique furniture set in lush tropical gardens. My room is located up the grand staircase and overlooks some hibiscus and birds of paradise trees. With a four poster bed, gorgeous linen and mosquito net it feels like i have stepped onto the Antiques Roadshow.

At the Camp I have met some lovely girls- Sophie an English medic with the Flying Doctors out here for 1 month working all around East Africa. She is an incredible individual. Just yesterday she flew into Somalia to lift out a UN worker who had been shot in Mogadishu. I find her incredibly brave, likable and totally devoid of pretension.

I also met Rachel an English aid worker on her way to the Tanzanian/Democratic Republic of Congo boarder to teach and Mara a German PHD student here to compile information on the perception of HIV in young people. The girls are inspirational, friendly and provided me with a wonderful welcome to Kenya.

Today keen to venture out of the compound for the second time Sophie (the medic) and I went for a drive in her borrowed land cruiser. First we went to a Butterfly Museum recommended by the Lonely Planet. Unfortunatley the museum had closed more than 5 years before. Next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum and House, Karen for those of you not in the know was the author who wrote Out of Africa, a tale/memoir made famous by Meryl Streep and the handsome Robert Redford. Her house is stunning (although really overpriced like lots of things here), a single story bungalow with high ceilings and left as she had it in the 1930s. After taking a quick tour of the house and gardens we headed to a fair trade bead factory. The workshop was established in the 1980's to allow single mothers to obtain an income.

I had never seen how beads were made and the process was interesting and the clay beads so stunning I just had to buy some.

Some people at the camp when on a tour of the Kibera slums this morning but i opted out for 'ethical' reasons... i have thought about this all day and hope i made the right decision. I could not fathom why i would want to visit poor people and watch them like watching a TV show....but this is Africa and I am here and so many people are poor... is just being here like watching the show anyway??? The sticky point for me is that proceeds of the tour go to the community and by not going on principal am I not contributing to the betterment of the society???

I have also thought a lot about NGO's and forgein aid (paul theroux talks a lot about this too) and the more I think about it the more I realise that nothing is just plain black and white here.

I am off on my trip tomorrow morning and not sure when i will post again- hopefully soon.

Lots of love

Your KP


1 comment:

Joannie said...

Hi Kath,

Welll I've started reading and on this one wanted to say, I reckon that seeing that the tour was organised by the people who live in the 'slums', it could have been a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the world from their point of view. After all the innovation of the trip is a good sign and could be interesting to see what elese they are gettin gup to. I used to be amazed when in South America, to see people walk out of shacks in a favella and look just like anyone else that could have been walking the streets in Sydney, nicely dressed, clean, and their clothes pressed. I've heard that they can put their clothes under the mattress to keep them looking okay, like they've been pressed. also, regarding aid and NGOs yes, interesting. a good side product of them is the person to person links that often happen and can't be a bad thing, along with the pumps, schools and what have you, facilities and projects that benefit the community, can't be bad. Aid now that is another question. I believe something like 80% of aid goes back to the donor country, so what's all that about?

best, Joannie