Our first day of CSCLeaders in Nairobi threw us, head–over-heels, into the complexity of the city; its culture, its traffic, and its connection with the rest of the world.
We began at “bomb blast”. This is what the locals call the August 7th Memorial; a simple memorial that invites quiet memory of the 218 people killed in a terrorist attack on the American Embassy. It posed questions about the real challenge of security in Kenya and our personal responses to this as we explore Nairobi.
Then came our first encounter with a local leader – former Nairobi Mayor Jo Aketch. We were diving, unwarned, straight into an experience of a “big” politician; straight into the scepticism that locals have about their politicians; straight into the challenge to recognise a genuine desire to help and serve citizens, packaged behind a politician’s facade. The conversation rolled around, touching on devolution, ethnicity and gender, finally coming to rest with the open question from one participant to the rest of the group: ”What is corruption?” We agreed that this is an open question for us all to work with this week.
During the afternoon we split into three groups and set off to visit local Kenyan social projects in various corners of the city. One group visited centres for children. Another group visited the slums of Kibera, where Shining Hope took us walking, with energy and pride, through the rough alleyways to see their clinics. And a third group visited PAWA254, the art centre for activists, who expressed their dissatisfaction with current political leadership in the most graphic forms.
After time spent together reflecting on the leadership learning from the day, we set off once more to explore – this time the Safari Park Hotel, for a taste of Kenya’s famous “Nyama Choma”. How strange, that in the midst of a quintessential Kenyan experience - eating an avalanche of meat sliced onto our plates off huge meat skewers - we found the world going Chinese. Suddenly we were in the midst of a powerfully aggressive stage show of Chinese acrobatics and fighting, seemingly presented for a special Chinese dignitaries’ function. How ironic that our international CSCLeaders guests, having come to be immersed in Kenya, should find themselves immersed in China! Is the world really that obvious in the lessons it teaches us?
And so we made our way home late, to fall into bed, anticipating another full day of Nairobi tomorrow.