The Motherland

Posted by: ZeBekgarbage, Nicolas Chevaillier, and Damien Chevaillier

This is Nicolas Chevaillier in Pondicherry India.

This is Damien Chevaillier in Naivasha.

Nicolas is Damien’s older brother and my old roommate. Nicolas and Damien were born to travel the world, they’ve been doing so since they were born. They also have big hearts and love learning and teaching.

I received an email one day from Nicolas and here’s what it said,

“This is Damien… He’s in Kibera (the slum of Nairobi) and he wrote this essay. Thought you might think it is interesting. ppl check your zine, and I felt it was a succinct essay, so I thought I should offer it to you, if you are interested. if not, I can throw it on BRAZAblog.”

Date: February 2, 2010 3:42:12 PM GMT+05:30
To: Mom and Dad

Subject: Something I wrote.

Here is something I wrote for class. It’s sort of a journal entry. I don’t know how good it is, but it says a lot about me. You should read it.

On a late Saturday afternoon, I was strolling around Kibera with a few friends of mine. I had just drunk two beers and ate a fantastic dinner. Mesmerized by my surroundings, I was in a fantastic mood. Life could not have been better. In an alleyway approaching the Nairobi dam, I saw a man walk into a bathroom stall. A few moments later, I witnessed a piece of poop falling into the brown sludge beneath the wooden bathroom floor. The sludge was slowly rolling into the sewage trenches that snaked around the walkways of the slum. I knew that the sewage drains in Kibera had feces in them – I had already smelled it, but I had not yet seen it. I was pretty disgusted upon realizing that the sludge in the sewage drains was not just mud, but feces – human feces.
As this scene was unfolding in front of me, intrigued by my presence, a local man exited his home wanting to talk to me. He asked me how I liked Kibera. I told him that I loved it; it was my favorite part of Nairobi. He was shocked to hear this and thought I was kidding. He expressed his feelings saying Kibera was a terrible place and told me to just look at my surroundings. He pointed to the latrine. My reaction to this was certainly not the appropriate one – I chuckled a little, something I usually do in awkward situations. The man was taken aback, quickly saying that there was nothing cool or funny about the living situation Kibera. He went on a rant describing how people should not have to live in such poor conditions. Pointing to the high rises off in the distance he spoke of inequality.
My first thought of Kibera was that it was not as bad I expected it to be. The people seemed happy and well fed. In fact, I loved it so much I even felt I could live there. My critical incident is that even if I spent a long time in Kibera – a month, a year, even for two years, my experience would be much different than that of a Kiberan. The reality is that it would be much easier knowing that someday I would leave it all behind.
As an outsider I love Kibera and may enjoy the raw experience of open sewage lines, but it is different when that place is your home. I will be going back to the United States in a few months. The local residents will be stuck there, many of them for the rest of their lives. I have made friends with the locals and I feel a connection with many of them, but one day, in the near future, I will leave them all there for a life of incomparable affluence. Most likely, I will never come back.
Having the reassuring feeling that my experience in Kibera is only temporary makes me love the slum rather than hate it. Residents of Kibera may be happy, but they certainly do not love their situation. It is home to many of them, but given any other choice most would not choose to live there. If I lived in Kibera, I would live in the same cramped quarters and would use the same toilet facilities, but I would always have the certain essential amenities of a rich white man. If I got sick I could go see a good doctor. If I contracted tuberculosis, I would know I was not going to die. No matter how much time I spend in Kibera and no matter how similar my lifestyle is to theirs, I will never genuinely know what it is like to be a Kiberan.
In conclusion, I ask myself why do I love spending time in Kibera so much? Why am I happiest roaming the poorest corners of the world? Do I like seeing other people suffer? Does it make me feel better about my situation seeing others in a state much worse than mine? Am I helping by studying and experiencing places like this, or am I only doing it for my own curiosity and enjoyment? These are very important questions that I must look deep inside me to find the answer. I want to pursue a career of aid and development, but I fear my quest for raw adventure will distract me from actually seeing the issue and working to solve it. For example, after my undergraduate studies I want to volunteer with the Peace Corps; but what are my intentions? Will I be volunteering to help, or is it really just a two-year vacation? I want to believe the answer is no, but my interaction with the Kiberan man in front the latrine has sparked my worries. My insensitive chuckle has got me thinking if I truly understand the gravity of the despicable living conditions of much of the world population. I already have sympathy for these people; I hope this incident guides me in finding empathy for them.

“he doesn’t have any pictures of Kibera (the slum) because it is dangerous taking pictures there.”- Nicolas.

So I found these photos of Kibera online. (ZeBek)

Thank you Nicolas and Damien for letting me share this on the zine.

Cut clits HURT,
Trust me you dont wanna see me go bananas on your ass.

One Response to “The Motherland”

  1. C H E V Says:

    Thanks for posting, Zebek. Will show this to Damien shortly. He is here in Bombay with me now. We will be visiting Dharavi slum in a short while. It’s the largest in Asia, and quite fascinating.

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