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January 22, 2007

Scenes from January 22nd, Day two (and my birthday)

Well, my birthday turned out to be the lowest point of the trip for me, so far. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep of the past few days and the hot sun finally hit me. And so the emotional exhaustion hit, too. After hours walking around the place trying to find a workshop about South Africa to find that it had moved to another location and then no one was there, I found another interesting-looking workshop on housing and land, and ended up sitting there for more than an hour while they tried to figure out the translation equipment. It was so frustrating, but quite typical for the WSF. Everyone had stories like this. It was hard to feel like these precious moments of the WSF, which I worked so hard to get to, were passing me by. I wasn’t “being productive” every minute.

So finally I went outside and watched the various groups of people marching and singing, and I just couldn’t get the contrasted image of fancy offices in the U.S. out of my head. Yes, the people building strength by singing was so beautiful and powerful, but I just kept thinking about the people in their cubicles who can cause such destruction at their computer fingertips.

So it all hit, and I cried under a tree for awhile. The rest of the day feels like a blur. Didn’t feel like my b-day in the least.

While in the non-translatable workshop, I met Maureen Mnisi who lives in an informal settlement in Johannesburg and who works with the Landless People’s Movement. She was super sweet and I can’t wait to visit her!

This woman is Dr. Susan Kibue, who was sharing her very academic paper about the social and political situation of the informal settlements. She said there are 200 slums in Nairobi, left over from colonial days which segregated people. She emphasized the need for justice, privacy and basic facilities… and said that the slum dwellers can still organize themselves and build social organizations to fight the liassez faire government. Overall, her report felt removed and academic, without much specific information about what to actually do.

This is Kathyrn, an Australian who had studied Portland’s Diggable Cities project in Sydney!!!

Here's a typical scene: on the left a crowd is gathered watching a group of dancers, and behind them you can see a march (Nairobi Peoples’ Settlement Network) approaching. It was fun to see the two groups fuse and then separate… again, I need to figure out how to show video clips! So much energy!

1 comment:

tavish said...

The Beauty of your giving is so selfless and important that there is no room for your birthday to be celebrated. I am amazed and moved at your work. The world is a much better place because you were born! Happy Birthday