Traffic beyond measure and local open hearts

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
Gracia gardens

Flag of Kenya  ,
Saturday, June 22, 2013

It's 11pm and I have been traveling for over 30 hours. My body is a bit stiff and my eyes tired from starring at the screen in front of me. Movie after move, snacks and packed dinners, San Diego, DC, Brussels, Bujumbura- it's all a blur. But I have finally landed in Nairobi, Kenya. The small airport is near to empty and the clerk issuing my visa smiles and welcomes me with a friendly "Jambo madam". I try my best to look somewhat presentable and stare into the camera. The air smells of disinfectant and soap.This is it- I made it to Africa.

Three lovely AYP (Africa Yoga Project) volunteers greets me as I get out of the airport doors and we head to my hotel for the next 17 days: Gracia Gardens. The volume is a few octaves higher than in the west and I can't but smile while chatting with these fun and spunky crowd. Bob Marley is grooving on the radio as we swoosh trough the city. Once at the hotel I meet my roommate Lani, a sweet woman from NYC about my height, brown curly hair all the way down her back that she never shampoos- only conditions. She has a son named Zephyr that she misses a lot, and I admire her courage of leaving her 19 month behind while heading on this adventure with Next Generation Yoga Project. I like her right away. Only the crickets are singing as I fall asleep exhausted and excited for what's to come.

Our busy schedule starts early the next morning. I'm here to document 15 Yoga Teachers that have all raised a minimum of $6000 for Africa Yoga Project while they do outreach missions in schools and prisons as well as teaching Kenyan yoga teachers how to teach yoga to kids. Everyone has worked very hard for the past year to make this happen and many have left their children at home. I am in awe of the whole crew. We all head to the Shine Center (AYP's headquarter) and on my way there I admire the incredibly clean roads as well as the beauty of the Kenyans as they swiftly walk alongside the road. There are no crosswalks or lights (well there is one light but it's not working) and I have no idea how a pedestrian can cross the road safely. Here cars always have right of way and it seems like they step on the gas if they see a brave soul trying to cross. No bicycles in sight as most roads aren't paved and turn into a sloppy mush every time it rains (and it does almost every day this time of the year). LA traffic's got nothing on Nairobi, I'll tell you that. With most roads only having one lane each direction throughout the city one can easily sit and drive 1km (about 2miles) for an hour. I almost gag from the black fumes from all the pollution and buy a loofah from a street vendor that braves the traffic, in hope to be able to scrub off the fumes off my body.

The Shine Center is located in an Indian strip mall. No frills here. I return a few familiar head rolls and get a whiff of some delicious curry as I pass by endless rows of saris and I note that this place has a large Indian presence. Four flights up and trough a door made for vertically challenged folks (yes, even I have to duck), we arrive at the Shine Center. An old Indian night club turned into a yoga center. Several locals are moving around to some African beats and build the most impressive acrobatic formations up to four people tall. I gasp. The rest of the day I spend capturing meetings between NGY (Next Generation Yoga) teachers and AYP teachers. There is a lot of smiles and a few tears. This trip is one year in the making after all and to finally be here, is pretty fantastic!

The next couple of days we head out to Kibera, an informal settlement that houses roughly one million inhabitants (one of the largest slums in Africa). Here the unemployment is about 50%, so teaching and training are a very important for a better future for the Kibera area. Africa Yoga Project yoga teachers are reaching over 5000 people a week in the 250 free community classes and one of those lucky schools are Mercy Care. At mercy care we are greeted with hundreds of beautiful smiles and open hearts. Our group worked together with a few AYP volunteers with building school desks and paining walls. NGY's founder; Jodi Komitor, jumped in and taught a yoga class right then and there on the school yard. It was pure magic to see all these fabulous and very well behaved little kids doing sun salutations and tree poses and not an eye was dry as we rolled out trough the narrow alley ways of the settlement. It was two very powerful days on so many levels and I got to document it all trough my lens.

I hope my images and video footage will open your eyes and heart to go and do whatever makes you fulfilled. To be of service of something larger than oneself, to make a difference in someones else's life locally or globally. Because together we are ONE. And so it is...

Peace, Love & Oneness
Yours truly~theSwedishVagabond~

PS, you can follow my work partner Todd LeVeck and mine work on Epic PhotoJournalism's FaceBook

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