Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is It Safe?

What is safe, really? . . .Under normal circumstances, there are always risks to living in Nairobi. Normally, my biggest concern is trying to avoid the unseen microbes that don’t get along with my body. The next one is making sure that my wallet doesn’t “fall out of my pocket” when riding on a matatu - so far it’s never happened! Those are serious concerns though. There have always been security risks to living in Nairobi, and I’ve never felt completely ‘safe’ here. There is always a bit of tension and unease. . .

The neighborhood I live in is considered by most Kenyans to be “extremely safe.” The areas Amber, Anne, and I work in are generally considered by Kenyans to be “mostly safe” during daylight hours, or in some cases up until 9 p.m. The current crisis has changed things a bit, but as far as a sense of security, not much has changed. I try to monitor the situation daily before traveling into the slums or other potential “hot spots”, but am usually assured that there is very little to worry about. On scheduled demonstration days, I don’t venture out much. Schools and businesses are operating as normal throughout most parts of Nairobi and various international organizations continue their work. At certain times it does seem better to “shelter at home,” and I regularly hear stories from friends who’ve tasted tear gas in the city centre or who stay in more turbulent areas and have encountered gangs, seen neighbors’ homes burned or have been shot at by police. The U.S. embassy offers recommendations about travel in certain parts of the country and gives advice for dealing with the general security issues that Westerners may face in Kenya, but I haven’t heard of any resident missionaries or Westerners who are considering leaving.

So for now, a few extra precautions are just the “new normal” of what life is like in Kenya. . .Somebody put it this way (I don’t know who it was, but it was probably somebody pretty famous) - “to love is the greatest risk anyone ever takes.”

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