Kenyatta University (KU) is a campus under construction. Originally a military barracks, sprawling over 1,000 acres, the campus has major buildings being built by hand rising from the ground. In the far back corner of the campus where I live is the KU Conference Center, and they too are under construction. This is a small project, adding a second story to a lobby and restaurant, and I walk past the project daily. A crew of 20 or so men are hard at work every day.
Trees nailed together make the scaffolding. There are no power tools. Trenches are dug by hand. The addition to the restaurant, like all buildings, is being built with hammer and nails and rough concrete made in wheelbarrows. No one wears a hard hat. I walk underneath men working above when I need help at the reception desk, like I did this morning, to ask if I needed to do anything to get water back in my home. I turned on the sink last night after dinner to wash the dishes and the faucets ran dry. Hapana maji. No water.
The sound as I pass the project is ancient. I hear the rhythm of many hammers, the effort of hand sawing, laughter and the foreign tastiness of Kiswahili.
I would like to join them. I would like to help. I would enjoy working with them. The men smile.