Hi. I’m taking advantage of excellent wi-fi at my current location, the beautiful Hemingway Hotel, to once again jump in ahead of schedule.
Where you stay in a city determines your impression of that city. I’ve been in Nairobi before but I didn’t stay in Karen. This time around, in this very affluent area, I’m seeing a slightly different side of Nairobi. At a local eatery yesterday I saw many mixed race couples, families and friends. In the past the city felt segregated and behind the times. Now I see a modern, liberal city. However, even here in Karen, the roads are rough, the sidewalks only dirt, the traffic horrific, the sides of the road overcrowded by shops cobbled together from discarded materials and identified by hand lettered signs. The sight I saw most often was people, mostly women, carrying large, yellow plastic water jugs that I am guessing held 10 gallons. The women sometimes struggled beneath the weight of two jugs. But the restaurant where I sat and observed the comings and goings of people, was first rate, as were the adjacent stores.
On route to the restaurant we passed a huge highway project underway in this area. Miles and miles of road is being cleared and huge over passes being built. Dozens of clawed tractors were scooping up the rich red earth so it could be hauled away. On the edges I could see the forrest that had once grown there. It was sad but it is progress.
But to the title of this piece. Despite being half a world away from home, my habits haven’t changed. I still listen to my radio shows. On PRI’s “The World” yesterday I heard a story about Ireland in relation to some privacy issues related to Facebook. I was drifting off to sleep until I heard the Irish security spokesperson say that in Ireland, they have a history and culture of communication and words and that “our police don’t carry any weapons, so they have to use words.” You’d never see a police officer in my city or anywhere in the US who, upon encountering a criminal, would, before they pulled out their gun, engage that criminal in dialog. It’s just not imaginable. Are the Irish police ridiculous or enlightened? Whatever you think, I, as one who loves words and sees the power of words, love that the Irish have put their trust in words. I don’t know the statistics of murders or crimes in Ireland – I’m not about to debate the efficacy of a disarmed police force – I simply want you to take a moment and consider the idea of words not weapons.