Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1st Week in Kenya for Get Together Girls The Documentary!

I can't believe it is a week since I arrived in Kenya!
View from the plane over Libia

What can I say? Mama Africa has definitely welcomed me in the best way possible!

I am so happy to be back to Africa since my last trip in October 2009 for Alessandro Rocca's documentary The Consul's List shot in Rwanda.
This time, still under the Equator... in Kenya!

Kenya is definitely very different from Rwanda and it shows right away many contradictions. I think this can provoke some culture shock at the beginning. Lots of English, American and Italians. Right at the airportI pretend not to hear some comments from the usual Italian tourists going to Malindi and complaining about everything being slow at the Visa counter. Don't they know that in Africa there is a saying that everybody should keep in mind: There is no hurry in Africa!
Nairobi is definitely one of a kind capital cities. Skyscrapers and slums, all together. From the top to the bottom. From small markets where you can find the freshest vegetables to supermarkets where you can find from Nutella to Pasta De Cecco, Bata shoes shops, coffee places that can be compared to Coffee Bean...

Definitely my trip is revealing new interesting things every day.
I saw some of the centers where Koinonia Community operates with Amani Onlus: Kivuli Center, Shalom House (where there is a GtoG shop) and of course Anita's Home.

Me in front of the sign of Anita's Home before a long up hill road

I was so excited to finally see it after having heard about it for so long. Anita's Home is in Ngong, 2000 meters high (Nairobi is 1700), in the middle of the green, where traffic and smog are far far away. In Anita's Home there are currently 23 girls that leave in two houses with two families. I had the chance to see them dancing and it was a precious moment, especially when they were trying to teach me some moves but I could not really follow them. They have the music and the rhythm in their blood! C., a beautiful Masaai 10-year-old girl, took my hand and she started looking at my skin. She wanted to be held the entire time. Girls here need a lot of affection and this is definitely a consequence of what they have gone through during their childhood.

The girls of Anita's Home training Kenyan dances

Group pic

The best moment I had been waiting for so long finally took place on Wednesday when Grace finally showed me the rooms where Get Together Girls takes place every day: the Knitting class and the Tailoring class. Here the 6 girls (Ester, Theresia, Mary, Monicah, Irene and Hellen), create clothes everyday. Jack, the only man in the group, is a local tailor that helps out. The girls were excited to finally meet me. I don't know what they were expecting but they were surprised to see I am just a few years older than them.

Monicah, Mary and Irene
Theresia and Jack

Some of the GtoG creations

I instantly fell in love with Shiko' and Irongo (Monicah's daughter and Mary's son). They are always running around and they are simply super cute! I always tell them “Patato” or “Patata” (Potato) and they repeat what I say! Super cute!

Shiko' pretending to drive

Vane and Irongo

It is not easy to “jump in” and try to understand an environment where the relationships are very well established but I think I did my best to have the girls becoming friendlier day by day. And when I took my “Baby K” (a.k.a. My wonderful Sony Nex GV10) out they were very comfortable with it. Good sign. There are many things that happened every day and getting used to African time, African culture, African way of doing things is something that needs to be understood “pole pole” (little by little or slowly). That is why the first days of observation made me realize many things also about the story of Get Together Girls. GtoG doc is taking its shape “pole pole”.

Ngong Road

I have seen things this week that shocked me a bit like a child that recently arrived in Kivuli Center with his legs completely burned. In front of him, I was speechless because I felt like I was not able to understand his pain. There are situation in which you feel kind of hopeless but sometimes a smile, a caress and simple gesture of affection can do a lot. I played soccer with some boys at Kivuli Center and it was fun. I danced with the Anita's Girls. When we are in Grace's car and from the outside you meet someone's else look, smiling helps a lot. Kenyan people are aggressive by nature. Very different from what I have seen in Rwanda.

Ngong Road

This week I also tasted some local food: the girls of GtoG cooked for me and Grace some ugali and sukuma. Ugali is like a “polenta”, white flour and sukuma a sort of spinach. Everything is eaten with your hands. Next day Chapati (a sort of tortilla or piadina) with lentils and rice. I loved everything!

I also tasted Kenyan beer, Tusker, that on the bottle was revealing a special message that put a huge smile on my face: “When you know where you have come from, you will know where you are going.”

Tusker Beer

Funny experiences of the first week: being in a pub/bar and seeing that with Grace, we were the only white people there, dancing African music and enjoying the African way of spending a Saturday night. Beer, music, laughing and being loud! Lewis, our driver and Kevin, a guy from the Invisible Cities crew who is going to help me out for the exterior shooting of Nairobi and the slums, taught us some moves but it is really difficult to follow them correctly!

Week was over with a soccer match: the simplicity of sport far from from European soccer where money and big sponsors are involved! Genuine people, fair play. Lots of dancing in the stadium and above all 400 Ksh (4 €/ $5) to go see a match of the Premier League of Kenya. Niiiice!!!

Sunday at one of the Nairobi Stadiums

Last but not least, my nice encounters with mosquitos are still a war that will not see an end till I leave Kenya and my encounter with a big spider was not fun at all but this is the spirit of the adventure ad experience I am getting!

Spider which is still currently somewhere close to my bed...

More to come next week, not forgetting I will celebrate my birthday on Friday with a party “African Style”! Can't wait!



  1. Thank you for that Vanessa! I realize now how much I miss you but would could not think of a better place for you to be now! Keep me posted I'll look for you!

  2. Wow! I'm really excited for you - keep up the good work and good luck with everything!

  3. honey! The most intense thank you for sharing this wonderful experience...I'm proud of you and very touched...
    ti voglio bene

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