Some Days in Nairobi

After the maths camp was done, the international part of the camp came to Nairobi; the UK students took off on a few days of safari.  I came along to Hell’s Gate (my first time there), which was fantastic!  We biked past lots of zebra and gazelles (some days there are also giraffes, but we didn’t see any this time), and then hiked into an incredibly beautiful gorge.  I now really want to learn some rope climbing and head back for a longer stay some time.

Rock climbing at Hell's Gate
Heels over Head.

Then we got completely soaked by a sudden rainstorm that hit while we were still in the gorge.  There were some people killed by flash floods there about two weeks ago; since then, they’ve put quick-ascent emergency exit paths in, with ropes one can hold onto for easy climbing.  We were told at the start of the day that typically it takes a couple hours for the flash floods to arrive after you first hear them, but with the heavy rain we moved quickly anyway up one of the escape routes and were just fine. A few of us then drove back to Nairobi (in damp clothes, or whatever could be scrounges) to put Abebe, our Ethiopian friend, on his flight back home.

Since then, I’ve been spending piles of time in Nairobi traffic and eating incredible Nairobi food.  And plotting out the future of the African Maths Initiative NGO with David Stern; we’re thinking about different ways to scale up and high-impact math education projects to start and/or sponsor.  Good times!

Today I took about an hour’s walk through Kibera with Giovanna and her sister Michela.  We had an excellent guide named Peter who’se involved in many community projects.  We saw a community clinic and took a small walk through the interior of the slum, packed tight with tin-roofed shacks and children chanting “HOWAREYOU? HOWAREYOU?”  All of the ‘streets,’ the lanes between the shacks, are wet with what smells of sewage, and chickens wander freely through the corridors.  Quite an experience.  They’re building a new community secondary school, and perhaps we’ll recruit some students for the maths camp once it’s done.

Kibera’s a very well known-place: it’s among the top-three largest slum areas in the world, with widely varying estimates of its population.  The Kenyan census estimates 170,000 (though there may be interest within the Kenyan government to underestimate it’s size), while other estimates from aid organizations may be as high as 800,000 or a million (though the NGO’s may have an interest in overestimating).  There are piles of NGO projects going on there; in fact, an old neighbor, Mr. Brennan Blazer Bird, is working there right now on another of his infamous bootle-brick benches.  I haven’t been able to meet up with him on this trip, but I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Ok, off to work!