Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oraganized chaos

“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.” ~Tom Barrett

Recently I had a wonderful opportunity to visit some of my friends before they finish their Peace Corps service. It all started on a beautiful morning, that I thought would be just like any other morning. Unfortunately, the day's journey was anything but ordinary.

On the way out of town there are of course several police check points where the police will check identifications of the travelers to make sure there are no illegal immigrants are coming into Kenya - specifically Somali and Ethiopian immigrants. At any rate, I'm used to having my ID checked on the road, it's a standard thing that always occurs. Though this particular time traveling out there were far more ID check points than before. The feeling of having my ID checked multiple times reminds me very much of the states. Why? Well let's think about the immigration debates going on. If a person looks Mexican (or Latin American in general) they are more likely to be asked for their 'green card' if they are pulled over by a police officer. Now, whether this is right or wrong is not my place to say. I am merely an active participant in the perceived, as some people would say. 'targeting of ethnic groups'. (Please note that I am not trying to pass judgment, either for or against, in writing this - just merely stating a perspective of the phenomenon which I have been witnessing).

At any rate, finally making it past the road blocks I was well on my way to my trip to see some of my fellow volunteers before they finished their service.
First stop was Makindu, where volunteers Paula and Erin lived (or lived near to). In Makindu I had the opportunity to visit the Makindu Children's Centre where Paula worked with the organization that "provides nutritional, medical and emotional support, access to basic education, and opportunities for vocational training for over 400 destitute AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children" (quote taken from the website homepage).

From Makindu, I headed down to the South Coast - South of Mombasa Town to visit Jeff "the Body" in a small town called Msambweni. The town really reminded me of our training site. The town itself was small and all the people there were friendly. The thing that surprised me most was how extremely polite people of the coast are. Every young person would greet any one who is older than you "Shikamoo" (literal translation
‘I kiss your feet’) to which the reply is "Marahaba" (rough translation: good day). In most of Kenya, the Kiswahili is not spoken as true as in Tanzania, and the coast is certainly a lot closer to the proper Kiswahili.

Anywho, on the way to the coast I had a very interesting experience crossing the Ferry. Now, Mombasa has no actual road connecting it to the South Coast and so there are 2 ferries that run simultaneously taking passengers and cargo (vehicles) from the South Coast to Mombasa and from Mombasa to the South Coast. Being this the first time to cross the ferry, I had no idea of how it all worked.
Basically it goes something like this: people crowd up in a small area behind a gate waiting for the go signal to make a mad dash to the ferry. Before people can board a ferry, however, first the cars have to get off the ferry. The ferry line getting off the ferry goes like this: Motorcycles; cars, trucks, etc.; hand carts; people. But even before the cars start getting off the ferry the passengers are lined up and start crowding the cars trying to get off the ferry.

Once the people are finally clear from the ferry the reverse madness starts slowly: first the new series of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and handcarts make it on board. Then the mad rush begins: like the running of the bulls, people who weer kept inside the gated area start running like mad men to get on the ferry. As if their lives depend on getting on this particular ferry instead of waiting a short time for the next ferry (which at this point is having a similar experience on the other end of the port). The people run to get on the ferry and push one another to get a seat or to get closer tot he front of the ferry to be the first one off the ferry.
Upon my first sighting of this chaotic event the only term I could think of to describe it was "organized chaos". It seems chaotic - as the people are running, jogging, pushing making their way to get on the ferry. Yet, there are no serious injuries or other things to indicate the chaos has been damaging to the people involved.

Organized chaos that goes on and on. The chaos ends when the ferry loads. The chaos begins when the ferry unloads only to start again when the ferry loads again to make its next journey. The never ending cycle of organized chaos.