Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kenya Changing

Advertising in Kenya is interesting.  The ad here is for a soap powder used in hand-washing clothes.  Most don't have machines to do the work; they wash by hand.  The very poor can't afford the soap, of course.

Huge billboards line the major thoroughfares of the Mombasa.  A coastal city with a large tourist population, Mombasa has many attractions and services.  The beaches are stunning.

For local folks though, it's a tough world.  Begging is a practiced art.  Presentation is everything.  "Sir if you'll sign this petition for the orphans school ..." along with a coerced donation; annoying, even though the fellow doing the scam lives in poverty and tells such lies in hopes of making enough to feed himself and perhaps a family as well.

Then there are the truthful ones.

This young fellow and his mom can be found beside the road; she's a paraplegic after the accident that killed her husband.  She sells trinkets to tourists as her only source of household income.  She lives with her grandmother and brother in a village nearby.  Since she had invited me, I came to her village and met them all. 
Their need is much too real.

This sweet-spirited fellow survives on the generosity of tourists, if there are any.  During the slow season, life's pretty difficult.  A childhood polio sufferer, his wheelchair-bound life is limited to the distance he can cover hand-peddling.

Just down the road, million-dollar apartments and multimillion dollar houses shelter the wealthy.  Trickle-down hasn't worked well in Kenya and the gap between the poor and rich widens.

With a new constitution just a few months ago, Kenya is in the transition to democracy that others have made.  Decades of difficult work lie ahead.  Bad guys from the former regime are still in agencies and offices where they can corrupt the process.  It's an upheaval among the power players; political combat.  The poor haven't got a unified voice.  Yet.

Talking with the locals is enlightening, even entertaining.  Common conversation is in Swahili, which they're glad to teach you.  They all speak African English as well.  They're enjoying freedom of speech and press.  It's all fairly new to them.

Life outside the western world where I was raised; it's not easily assimilated.  I've had to learn to listen.  A lot.