From sunsets and safari to gunshots in the ghetto

My excuse for my quietness the last couple of weeks is my parents. If in doubt, blame the parents. They arrived in Kenya on 30th June and we had one week together here in Pumwani before spending a couple of days on safari and a few days on Lamu Island, off the coast of Kenya. It was a lovely time together. I loved introducing them to the place and people that are so special to me here in Pumwani.

And our holiday was great. It was so nice to get away from Nairobi hustle and bustle for a few days. To see God’s amazing creation – elephants, zebra, hippos, giraffe etc against the backdrop of an albeit slightly clouded over Mount Kilimanjaro. The lodges we stayed in were beautiful. One had a watering hole right next to the restaurant/bar where we could watch the animals coming while sipping our morning coffee. Amazing.

The coast was great too. Although I couldn’t believe I was still in Kenya! Lamu has a much more North African/almost Mediterranean look to it with narrow streets and secret alleyways. There are no cars on Lamu Island – the main form of transport is boat or donkey. The people were definite Jamaican wanna-be’s, the main motto of life appearing to be ‘hakuna matata’ and ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly).

The waiters and people working at the hotel we were staying at were very keen to ensure we were ok – almost excessively so. One of the main guys serving us – Cosmos – would appear out of nowhere with the main theme of conversation going somewhat like this: Cosmos: Hallo. How are you?

Us: We are just fine, thank you Cosmos. And you?

Cosmos: Me, I’m fine. Any problems?

Mum: No, no problems

Cosmos: Oh, no problems?

Mum: None, thank you!

Cosmos: hakuna matata?

Mum: hakuna matata

Cosmos: and Philippa? Any problems?

Me: No, I’m very well!

Cosmos: all is ok?

Me: yes, thank you!

Cosmos: oh, that’s good. So you have no problems

No, Cosmos, we have no problems! We had a wonderful holiday, with no problems! And now I’m back in Nairobi, and my parents are safely back in England – with no problems, or so I believe!

But the contrast between Lamu and Nairobi could not be greater. Recently there have been quite a few gunshots at night, just outside the compound gates in Majengo slums. You hear the sound, and it sends a shiver through your spine. You wonder what has happened this time. The shots are usually fired by police at suspected thieves, which I suppose should make me feel more secure – the police presence. Except it doesn’t.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the office at St John’s and we heard gunshots, followed by the children screaming and running. Staff ran to see what was happening. A thief was running from the police and thought he could escape while running through St John’s compound. The police were firing shots. Right within the school gates. The thief escaped, this time.

A few nights later, two suspected thieves weren’t so lucky. One was shot dead, another injured. The police aim and shoot, and hopefully they’re aiming at the right person – it’s not for certain. And when there are shots in the slums people are stuck. I had some friends over for the evening when we heard some gunshots. They had to stay late until the police had gone and it was safe to walk the 30 seconds from the compound gate to their house. For me, this sort of thing is still shocking. For them, it’s everyday life.

So what a contrast! Watching the sunset over the sea from the rooftop restaurant in a peaceful Lamu to shootings, death and corruption in Pumwani slums, a place that has captured my heart.


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