Kibera is an attack of your senses.
Today I saw a dog dying in Kibera. It was a pretty horrible sight. It was lying in sewage, half drowing. Nose under disgusting, murky, rubbish filled sewage. Mouth half out, make gasping, gurgling noises. It just lay there. It’s sides heaved, struggling to get oxygen. I said to Peter that ‘dog looks like it’s dying’. And Peter, he said ‘Yes. It has eaten poison. You know many of these dogs they just eat anything that is there and maybe that thing is bad and it gives poison. But it can’t be helped. It can’t be helped. They just eat. It won’t be there tomorrow.’ And he’s right, you know. It won’t be there tomorrow. Someone will have got rid of it somehow. I don’t know how. But for now it was just left. I saw it and I heard it and I smelt it. The sounds of it gasping, the smell of the sewage around it, and the sight of it’s flanks heaving. It attacks your senses.
And then walk just round the corner, and there are grubby, snotty kids smiling, running, shouting ‘mzungu’. Laughing, joking, jumping. And you smile, confused at having seen the death, followed by such life and smiles and laughter.
Another turn, and you’re accosted by a drunk guy. Stumbling, muttering, wanting to touch, to grab. You dodge out the way, as Peter steps in to intervene, but not quick enough to avoid the strong smell of stale alcohol clinging to him.
And you walk round another corner, and there’s mud and you squelch and you slip and you slap through it. The sounds of mud oozing between your feet (your glad you have your closed-shoes on) and the smell tells you it’s not just mud.
And you keep walking. Another few steps and the smell of shit mingles with the glorious smell of chapatti being cooked, of chips frying, of madazi bubbling deep in oil. And your nose sends mixed messages to your brain as it desperately tries to reconcile such a contrast.
And the sun, it shines. Too bright to look upwards as it reflects of the tin roofs. So you concentrate on looking downwards, concentrating on stumbling your way along the uneven ground. I’ve often walked straight passed people, friends because looking upwards stings my eyes and I’m too busy trying to process the mix of smells, sounds, sights, textures.
The attack on my senses.