We came to a bridge my first day in Kibera, and as we were going across, a group of boys came from behind us. The tallest was waving a piece of rebar like a sword. There were five or six of them, and they surrounded us. The smallest, who was maybe only 12, held a little plastic shiv against my stomach. He looked like he was going to throw up.
Fred stood against the leader of the boys, the one with the rebar, and stared at him. They put their foreheads together, and turned in a circle. Then, the leader of the boys let us go. Below the bridge, on a pile of garbage, there was a dead pig.
Hours later, after I left, Fred hired a motorcycle taxi. He was upset because of what happened. He went straight to where the boys were, and found the whole area covered in blood. The boys claimed it was a mistake, a misunderstanding. They made peace. We learned later that the boys were robbers. Their leader was a murderer. He had killed at least five people.
The pig was killed by electricity.
The boys broke into homes. They called robberies “missions.” Four of them would burst into a home, and the fifth would drive the getaway car. If anyone resisted, bang bang bang. Once, they were robbing a house, and four police burst in the back door with big guns. Bang bang bang. The newspaper had a story the next day saying two thugs were dead. That's how they learned their friends were killed by gunfire.
"Weren’t you scared?" I asked Fred, right after we left the boys on the bridge. It was five on one, six on one, even.
“What you should know is that Kibera is the same as back home,” Fred said. “Kenya is the same as back home. So you should not be in Kenya and be polite. You be hard and be strong, yeah? The challenges you face at home are the very same challenges you face here. The way people are rude back home is the way people are rude back here. You get polite people here, polite people there. So, for you to achieve your goals…” then a strong wind came up.