Posted by: hilarycole | November 11, 2007

Techno beats, drum beats and talking politics at Upper Hill

Finally, some sleep. Eleven hours the other night – Dad you’d be proud. But I’m back in deprivation again. I’m staying at a campsite / hostel that’s well protected and private in the Upper Hill area, but it just so happens that last night, Upper Hill Capsite was the proud host of a techno party.

There were some serious speakers, a couple of funky DJ’s, and a mostly local Nairobi crowd of 20 and 30 somethings. Through my connections – Sandy from Rescue Dada and the afore-mentioned Bart from Vancouver – I met some really cool and interesting people. Everyone here is willing to talk politics at any place or time. Did I mention it’s an election year? Kenyans vote for a new president December 27. Some say voting by tribal background is still common, others say those days are gone (not so different from Canada, no?). Kibaki, the current president, is running about five points behind. They say he’s done a good job in terms of social services (free primary education, better roads, etc.) and he’s certainly put the construction push on in the city just in time for the polls, but people love change and say the front-runner will chip away at corruption more. Don’t all politicians say that?

It’s still early on Sunday morning, and my plan is to plug away trying to upload photos here with my very-cool Spanish safari guide for a while, and then go on a mini adventure in search of a woman Avchen and Lindsey stayed with when they were here seven years ago. She was apparently attempting to set up a similar program to Rescue Dada’s in her area. I’ll do my best Jeff and Lindsey. I’ve got some Kiswahili-speaking help coming with me.

I can hardly wait to see the girls at Rescue Dada tomorrow. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to them for a month or more. As a young guy I met at the party last night, who spends a lot of time at Rescue Dada, said, they all have talents, and have no way of realizing them. He is quite right. It doesn’t take long to learn their individual personalities, insecurities and unique gifts. Consolatta could be a teacher – it comes naturally to her – although she gets frustrated with my persistent inability to count to 10 (“moja, mbili, uhhhhh…”) . Mercy could be a physician – she’s smart and diligent. Janet could very well become a yoga instructor (c’mon photos, please load!).

The girls at the beauty school attached to Rescue Dada seem hell-bent on giving me a head-to-toe makeover. They need clients to practice on, so I oblige. When the bell rang Friday for the young girls to go back to class, I went for my pedicure, having already had a facial complete with eyebrow tweezing. My personal esthetician, Margaret, told me her story while she did my nails. It’s not a good one. She’s 19, and both her parents have passed away. Every day, she goes home from the Rescue Dada school to clean another woman’s clothes for a few shillings to buy food for her three younger siblings. “Life is a struggle,” she says. I helped her for today, and offered my compassion from the remarkably odd position of feet up with toe spacers in, but I simply cannot relate. Her future is only slightly less bleak thanks to Rescue Dada. I wish the world for her.

On a lighter note, they do a great job there. The eyebrow treatment is particularly hilarious as I’ve been meaning to get a professional job done for about a year. I don’t know that Yaletown Esthetics would do it for a buck though. Yes, I look hot.

But the most beautiful thing at Rescue Dada doesn’t come out of the beauty salon; it comes out of the mouths of 40 girls all singing and dancing together in a beautiful call-and-response form with their teacher, drums beating in the most infectious rhythm imaginable. Truly a wonderful sound, like God is speaking through the mouths of little girls.



  1. Great stories already!

    I can’t wait for the picture slide show at Christmas. I feel your frustrations with slow blogging and flickring (but what we can see is a great sample, regardless)!

  2. Hey girl, I am so proud of you. It is a beautiful thing you are doing and it is a hard thing,especially when the day comes and you have to return home.
    I have been to the Middle East and worked in a hospital; Thailand with an orphanage; and Pakistan. What you witness will change your life forever.
    You are a doing a great job of keeping up with your travels. Thanks for letting me see a bit of Africa through your eyes.

  3. Hey Hilary! You are a wonderful writer. Your thoughtful prose on what you are seeing and doing is worth sharing with the world! I am going to pass your blog link onto some friends if you don’t mind – and put a link on mine.

    Inspiration is all around – thank you for sharing your experiences with us!!!

    Mel (or Philip writing as Mel?)

  4. wonderful photos and blog….great job….xo……mud

  5. Hill, Yer awesome! Very proud of, and inspired by you. Definitely making me rethink some of the approaches I’ll have on my next travels.

    Take care!

  6. Hil,
    I can hardly write with all the tears streaming down my face!! What an experience. And the photos are AWESOME!! Bring a baby home for me!!

    Wish I saw you before you left…can’t wait to see your next blog and the photos!!

    Much love, San

  7. Hi this message is delightful.
    I like your site..

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