The Adventure Begins

There is a world of difference between Mariakani and Nairobi. At first, going from the busy city to this small town was a bit of a surprise. After a few days, however, it became clear that Muthaa can do very valuable work here, which cannot be carried out in Nairobi. Due to the location of Mariakani on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, there is a high incidence of commercial sex, which is why the FC2 and sexual reproductive health programs are so important here to minimize the spread of HIV and unplanned pregnancy. Playing into that, Julia and I started our research project for university. We want to investigate whether nudging (Julia’s favorite topic) can influence Mariakani residents to use more condoms. So we made and installed condom dispensers, and will record how many condoms are picked up per day. First, the dispensers will be by themselves, but later, a poster will be put up alongside them to function as a nudge.

Julia and I also participated in the sexual reproductive health trainings which took place at a local college. Interestingly, the students to whom we were presenting were around 18-25 years old, yet we were talking about things which I learned in sexual education classes in middle school. There is clearly a difference in the way Kenyans and Dutch people talk about sex, which was made obvious in the presentations, but also in the way we talk in the office and with community members. Besides that, the manner of presenting of Charles, and Julia and I are completely different. Julia and I are used to concise presentation where facts are the most important, so that is also how we present. Charles took his time, chatted with the audience, and told several stories. While this was less direct, it did keep the audience engaged. The second time around, both of us tried to involve the students more, so maybe they remember more.

Besides work, living in Mariakani has been an adventure. Life is a lot slower than in Nairobi, so Julia and I are starting to entertain ourselves with craft projects. Also, there is no supermarket, only one or two paved roads, and seemingly no systematized way to dump trash. Instead, we buy our food at the local market (where they try to ridiculously overcharge us every time), constantly have dirty feet from the muddy roads, and throw our trash on a large pile just down the road. Especially the trash situation feels strange, as I have been conditioned to carefully separate trash from recyclables and to neatly put it in the municipal dumpster.

So far, the Mariakani residents have been very friendly, and willing to show us around. However, they are also irrationally excited about us being white. Everywhere we go, we hear “wazungu, wazungu” and people waving or staring at us. This will definitely take some getting used to, but hopefully, with time, we will also become less exciting to see. Living in Mariakani for four weeks will be unlike anywhere else I have lived, and I am looking forward to see how it goes. There will definitely be challenges, such as how slowly everything happens here, but overall, I think it will be a nice experience.

By Julia & Annemieke (Kaleidoscope Program)

10-14 August 2015.