by Ana Cecilia, Work-Study, IHF Nakuru
Nakuru is the 4th biggest city of Kenya, but compared to where I come from (Mexico City) it seems like a rather small town, nonetheless in terms of industrial development and urbanization, I must say it’s a growing city with many things compared to the rest of the places in Kenya.
The town is structured in a way that most of the important things are concentrated in one long street called Kenyatta Avenue which you can walk from beginning to end in less than one hour. There are a few big supermarkets as well as formal hotels for the tourists that come visit Nakuru National Park. The fanciest place in town is called “Westside Mall” and there you can find a sort of Walmart (called Nakumatt) with absolutely everything you could wish to buy; there is also a very nice cafe called “Java Coffee House” where you can get all sorts of pastries and western food; an Indian Restaurant with very nice food; and some other expensive shops. Together with the hotels, these is the meeting point for mzungus and rich Kenyans.
Our home is in one of the slums of Nakuru called Kaptembwa, it is located in the Industrial part of town so we are surrounded by factories and small restaurants built with wooden sticks where the workers can take a rest at lunch time. Kaptembwa is a very active and busy area, there is a big market (soko) where you can find almost everything for very cheap prices, there are many houses and a crazy amount of kids running around all the time. The safest way to go to town from where we live is to take a matatu, a sort of van that stops around picking up people, it costs 20 shillings ($0.22 USD). It takes around 15 minutes if it stops a lot and if the driver is not driving like crazy.
Anyway, this brief introduction about where we live is just to contextualize that yesterday I decided to spoil our small boys and girls and take them to town. Some of them had never been in town, others have been lucky enough to go often with other volunteers, and others, like Kiptoo don’t remember the last time they went. I decided to take 4 small girls and 5 small boys with me, and I asked 2 of the big girls to help me take care of them and make sure they were safe.
Our Day in Town
Everything started by sitting down with all of them at the table of the study room and telling them that I really needed their cooperation, that Kachi and Chepanga were going to be my assistants and they needed to respect and listen to them the same way they do to me. The rules were clear: you can’t be alone; always stay in pairs; don’t you even dare crossing the roads by yourselves; and if you want to see something you must let me know and we will all go together. We left home and started walking towards the place where matatus stop, we were extremely lucky to get an empty matatu to pick us up.
When we reached the Westside Mall, we went together to Java Coffe House so they could greet the people that work there because they are really good friends of mine and I wanted them to meet “my” kids. After that I gave each of them 60 shillings and told them that they could go inside the supermarket and discover things for themselves. They were all excited and nervous; the small girls wouldn’t let go of my hand while the small boys wanted to be more independent and figure things out for themselves.
We walked many of the aisles in the supermarket, I explained to them how to read prices of things, how to find something specific and where to go if you wanted fresh vegetables, cold drinks or bread. All the kids were trying to find the best way to spend their 60 ksh; some of them decided to get one soda while others decided to get a cheaper juice so they could also get some biscuits. It was interesting to see them counting the money, comparing prices and trying to find the best deal possible, I am sure they learned something.
After about one hour of hanging at Nakumatt, using the electrical stairs for the first time in their lives, and running around the aisles trying to figure out the price of things, we went to the cashiers so they could pay. All the staff at the supermarket was very kind and gentle with the kids. They tried giving them the whole costumer’s experience asking them if they found everything they needed, at the end we all took pictures with a sculpture of the supermarket’s symbol, a vey next stop after shopping was a park in the middle of town where you can just sit and relax for a while, we couldn’t stay long because it started raining so we decided to keep wondering around town and go for chips (french fries) at a nearby restaurant.
We shared 5 plates between all of us and we had a really good time chatting about our experiences in Nakumatt, many of them realized how expensive things can be and that we must take care of money even if we have kidogo (a little). They were also very curiously looking from the windows of the cafeteria from where you get an interesting view to the insides of another supermarket.
After our snack we had a safe journey back home and the kids were very happy and grateful for the rest of the day. They really enjoyed changing environment and getting to learn and see different things.