In the spirit of inter-cultural education, I'm posting her comments on some recent blog posts.
This is Juliana Omale, one of my bosses at AWC.
I have thoroughly enjoyed your observations from October 4th and back to September 12th (which tells you the last time I read!!) The matatu piece is rib-tickling but also thought provoking. Actually the logos and designs are responsible for a whole informal sector industry in graphics and auto body-work (keeps a lot of people busy and they earn some money for their labours).
In Nairobi and a lot of other places, getting your matatu to fill up especially in the off-peak time depends on the age of the vehicle, its livery and the attitude of the crew. There are a lot of angry parents of teenage girls who run off with matatu touts and drivers (many to a sad end once the romance peels off and its time for reality checks) and the matatu sub-culture among young people cannot be ignored. I like to think of it as Expression on wheels.
Your observation about food is very deep. When I was little, my parents never stopped reminding us about people going hungry in our rural villages (those were remote far flung regions in those days). My mother used to recount to us a time in her life after her father died when all they got was a boiled potato, sometimes cut into half dipped in salt and a big measure of water to wash it down.
These days I tell my own kids that the hungry live not too far away from us. Perhaps next door or amongst their classmates. I had friend (now deceased) who would shed tears when her daughter and twin sons pushed back their half eaten meals.
She would stop what she was doing to sit herself in their faces and shovel the food into their mouths until their plates were wiped clean or if they began to gag from being to full and crying, she would let them off with a reprimand and proceed to finish off every last morsel on the three plates.
I used to joke with her that mothers were the ultimate scavengers, eating cold food off their kids’ plates all the time. My kids couldn’t understand Wacuka but they learned quickly that when we visited Auntie Wacuka , it was best to ask to be served a measure that could be finished. NO WASTING FOOD.
In your blog about the little boy at the Coptic, it is true that Coptic is relatively cheaper than most private hospitals. Actually it can be classified as a mission hospital (affiliated to religious organizations – in this case the Egyptian Coptic Church, I believe) – which tend to offer quality service at a highly subsidized rate. Kenyatta National Hospital is a public facility – the largest teaching and referral hospital in East and Central Africa.
Health care is cheap and the benefit to patients is that they are attended to by Kenya’s finest doctors and health care personnel. The only trouble is that the public health system is understaffed, health workers overworked and the queues are at best impossible.
Yet many Kenyans cannot access quality healthcare even in the public health infrastructure. On paper it is free, but they are required to pay Ksh 20/- for registration, laboratory charges, X-rays and other diagnostic services It is not uncommon to receive a prescription for which one must pay. Its no wonder that the poor will continue to die from preventable illnesses, and the burden of disease continues to rise.