When Victor "V'key" Ochieng Jumah was nine years old and living on the streets – a "garbage eater," as they are dubbed in local slang – he learned to mug and rob white foreigners, often scaring them first by smearing oil on his face and feces on his hands.
"Just seeing me like that, the women would scream and hand over whatever money they had," he said. He also developed an easy intimacy with bare ground for a bed, plastic bags for a toilet, discarded food scraps for meals, and a culture of aggression that included drugs, knives and, eventually, guns.
I didn't go to Kenya to interview street kids. I traveled there to finish researching an upcoming novel. But in the capital, I couldn't avoid seeing the homeless kids who roam Nairobi streets like watchful phantoms, feared as much as they are pitied and avoided more than they are helped.