Monday, June 4, 2012

The first two days.

McCauley Formation House

For the next couple days, I am staying with the Holy Cross community in Nairobi at the McCauley Formation House. The house is usually used as a home for several Holy Cross seminarians during the process to take their final vows to become priests. Most of the seminarians have left for the summer and right now, the place is fairly empty.

Father Tom and Father Pasquel are both living here right now, along with two brothers (Ben and Agga). The four have been wonderful hosts so far and Agga has what is possibly the world's best laugh.

This is definitely a place that my maternal grandparents would appreciate. It is a very simple house, which makes it even more beautiful. There are several peaceful courtyards that are filled with trees and plants. Crosses and religious pictures fill some spaces throughout the rooms.


Here in Nairobi, there is a Holy Cross Parish in the Dandora neighborhood, which is considered to be one of Nairobi's slums. Yesterday, Kathya (another UP intern) and I had the chance to tag along with Father Tom to go to the parish and go to the first mass, which was spoken entirely in Swahili.

Dandora was originally started as a project by the Nairobi City Council with funding from World Bank in 1977 to provide permanent housing. Plots were divided up and each plot has central sanitation. At first, families were given counseling to help with loans for the plots to initially build a room. Many often took out a second loan to build a second room on the plot to rent out, which provided a bit of income. However, as time went on, more and more absentee landlords appeared and conditions in Dandora began to slowly decline. Now, the population of Dandora is at about 250,000 and violence and crime are a daily occurrence.

It was amazing and a completely mind blowing experience to be there. Most of the roads are lined with stalls for street vendors, which are made of wood and metal sheets. A lot of vendors sell things like clothes (very American/European clothes to be honest), shoes, radios, food, etc.

Despite the poverty, there were so many people dressed really nicely and were extremely clean within Dandora.

The mass was amazing. We had the chance to go to the first mass, which was entirely in Swahili. But you could just feel the amazing energy and the choir was amazing. They had the harmonies of every song down and for the most part, were unaccompanied. There are four different choirs if I remember correctly and practices are such a big social event for those involved.

The Dump

One of the things that Dandora is most known for is the dump. The dump is the municipal dump for the entire city and a lot of trash is brought there every day. Often times, it will spill out into the street and roads will be shut down because of it.
Credit to BBC for this photo.

There a huge catch 22 involving this dump. There are the obvious health problems affecting those living in Dandora but the dump also provides a income for those who scavenge it. For some, this is the only means of income that they have so moving it would be horrible for them. At the same time, because so many scavenge it, there is a lot of violence and crime around it. Gangs have also apparently started to take over the dump.


Muzungu means white person here and was something I heard a little bit while in Dandora yesterday. There are a couple theories behind where it came from, but my all time favourite is "person walking in circles" or "confused person wandering around". 

Bush babies - These animals might be the most terrifying looking creatures next to possums. I haven't had the chance to see one in  person but the images on Google aren't the most pleasant. The reason they are called bush babies is because their cry sounds exactly like a human baby cry. It's a very weird thing to hear to be honest.

Goats - Goats are every where in Dandora (and other parts in Nairobi) and are often kept for the meat, which was a new concept for me.  People do own the goats but for the most part, they just wander around and eat everything. I love goats so discovering that goats just roamed the streets on Sunday was probably the best thing ever for me. There was this pair of goats that laid down in the middle of the road and just chilled there for a while. Father Tom, Kathya, and Karen laughed at me for being so excited about the goats.

Chickens - Chickens are another animal that I saw quite a lot of while in Dandora. Like goats, there were plenty of chickens just chilling in the streets and wandering around.

Dogs and cats - Animals are rarely kept as pets in Kenya and cats and dogs are most often strays. It was a weird thing for me to get used to, as in the States, dogs and cats are treated very very well (especially in my family...).

The Food

The food here is amazing. Breakfast is usually small and usually consists of bread, peanut butter, and tea/milk. 

Ugali is one of the main dishes eaten in East Africa and is made from cornmeal. It has a very dough like consistency. So far, chipati has been my favourite part of Kenyan food. It is much like naan (as Kenya has had a very large Indian influence because both were a British colony) and is really deliciousRice and stew are both essentials so far too. 


Like in Britain, people in Kenya drive on the left side of the road, which continues to throw me off. A lot of the roads do have potholes and there are always people and animals to avoid at the same time. From the little experience that I've gathered, it seems like there are two very important rules while driving in Nairobi. 1. Don't hit someone or something and don't be hit. 2. Be careful of potholes. 

A lot of people move in and out of traffic to avoid being behind a big truck, a bus, a slow car, etc. Stop lights are often obeyed when there is a cop directing traffic but there isn't always a cop at every light. Round abouts are common and seem to be quite busy at times.

But despite all of this, I still feel safe within a car. It is just very very different from the States.

There is a resturant in Nairobi, not far from the formation house, that is called Carnivore. If you guessed that they serve large amounts of different types of meat, you guessed correctly. (They serve vegetarian meals, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover.) But at this place, you can get pork, beef, chicken, gizzard, ostrich, and crocodile. So, for the first time in ten years, I tried meat. I only tried the ostrich and crocodile (which was really chewy actually...).

There isn't much of a set schedule for the next couple days but if it is anything like my time so far, it will be amazing.



  1. Andrea... I read this book called Garbology just before visiting the municiple dump in Managua, Nicaragua. It was mind-blowing. If I trusted it would get to you, I'd sent it! Thinking of you often.