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14 Lessons From Traveling in Kenya

by Lara Parker on February 12, 2014

My best friend Noel just returned from a 10 day excursion in Kenya. She traveled to Kenya to help teach small school children and help build the curriculum of schools there. She immersed herself in the culture and learned what Kenya has to offer. I was so inspired I asked her to help me create a post about it. Here we go.

Kenya through the eyes, experiences, and camera lens of a small town girl from Iowa:

Lesson #1: Always Make Time For Tea.

In Africa, there are two tea breaks during the day. There is absolutely nothing that can take priority of having tea with the people around you. I loved this time to talk to other Kenyans, I was able to really get to know everyone I had tea with. This was a great reminder that taking time for yourself results in happiness. Don’t ever be too busy that you don’t take a tea break.

Lesson #2: A Smile and a Handshake is all you need to fit in. Kenyan people are probably the most friendly and welcoming group of people I have ever met. Each and every person I would meet would be genuinely excited to meet me. They would always shake your hand, and even hug you. A smile would also be plastered all over their face throughout the whole conversation. This was contagious so I don’t think I frowned once during my stay.

Lesson #3: There a many “sleeping policeman” in Kenya. Now, I don’t mean actual policemen because they are fully awake on their shifts. Sleeping policeman is a Kenya slang term that means speed bumps. They are literally everywhere. These speed bumps make driving difficult along with the masses of people, the roundabouts, and people not following common driving laws. I was watching the news and they have a segment called, “Shame On You.” This segment shames bad drivers by showing their license plate number on the show. I asked my cab driver, Ruben, if he had ever been on that segment….he just laughed and smiled. The moral of the story is that if you plan on driving in Kenya don’t…and if you are riding be prepared to close your eyes most of the time.

Lesson #4: There aren’t wild animals just running wild like in the Lion King. This was a depressing fact that I couldn’t deny. You can visit a safari and a giraffe sanctuary. They even let you kiss the giraffes. (See Photo)

Lesson #5: Mosquito netting is a necessary evil. I am so thankful these wonderful nets were set up every place I said to protect me from the awful bugs found in Kenya. Trying to maneuver while in a mosquito net is like having a cover glued to you all night. Remember: If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Lesson #6: In order to have HOT water, you must turn on a switch outside of the bathroom. Again, I was extremely lucky to be able to shower everyday, but it took a while to get used to it. It was about day three before I realized that I could indeed have a hot shower.

Lesson #7: Kenyans eat everything with their hands. I have to admit, I never got used to this. I was a total American and use a fork the whole time. It is completely okay to use your hands for eating. If I go back again, I will embrace this fully and not worry about anyone telling me not to play with my food.

Lesson #8: Almost all Kenyans know a minimum of two languages. In my education classes, we are taught that pupils who know more than one language retain information better than those who only know one. It was a truly amazing experience to watch adults and child switch languages at a drop of a hat. Like, I am calling Rosetta Stone now.

Lesson #9: There’s an actual village that you can see where President Obama grew up. I DROVE BY THE VILLAGE WHERE OBAMA GREW UP. NO BIG DEAL.

Lesson #10: African teachers are much like the American ones except they face different challenges. Some of these challenges include class size, funding, and government funding. The normal class size in Kenyan school is 40-100 students per teacher. This really hit home for me and realized how lucky I am to be able to teach in the United States.

Lesson #11: Coke is the only pop available in Kenya. Nothing else seems to exist.

Lesson #12: When an airport burns down, Kenyans make the best of it. Prior to arriving in Africa, the Nairobi airport caught on fire and burnt down. I wasn’t sure that I was going to even be able to go. They did, however, provide us with tents that acted as a good substitute.

Lesson #13: Almost all stereotypes I had about Kenya turned out to be wrong. I had many stereotypes before going on this trip. Turns about that even though Kenya is a 3rd world country, almost all the people I ran into had cell phones. A person might have a cell phone but live in a mud hut. It really depends on the person. I saw very nice homes and I saw people who were homeless. It all just depended on the situation.

Lesson #14: Always bring Kleenex with you. Depending on where you are, when nature calls you have to go. Going to the bathroom in Africa can be complicated. I was lucky enough to have running water almost all the places I stayed. While doing a workshop at a school, I asked where the bathroom was, and I was directed outside. This “bathroom” was actually a hole in the ground. That is it. Always have kleenex and hand sanitizer ready otherwise you are going to have a bad time.

This experience will forever stay with me. I won’t ever forget about the people I met and the things I learned. It is safe to say that the mosquito net protected me from bugs, it didn’t stop me from being affected by the travel bug. I can’t wait for my next adventure. Stay Tuned.

When you leave Africa, as the plane lifts, you feel that more than leaving a continent you’re leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of a different order of existence.” ~ Fransesca Marciano, Rules of the Wild

 

Have you ever been to Africa? How did it affect you?

 

Until next time,

Lara

photo by: =m&m=

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