125 Days As An Intern

My First Week In Kenya

32909999_10213740151637021_8187501937390780416_nThe idea of living abroad is exotic yet terrifying to so many people. More often than not, if you ask someone if they would be willing to pack their bags and leave their comforts behind for the unknown, I think they might say something along the lines of, “…Maybe?” The thing is, moving to an entirely new country is not something that is done with ease. For most of my life I’d always imagined living in faraway places. I’ve always wanted to explore the unfamiliar and foreign. So I’ve decided to do an internship in Nairobi, Kenya. Everything went so fast, from applying, to interviews, to be accepted and then be on a flight to Kenya. I am happy and thankful that I dared to take this chance, to challenge myself. It was not like I imagined. The organization Wale Wale Kenya, the people I would interact with on a daily basis and the country itself. It was so much better!

All my senses are on the verge of perceiving the slightest nuance in what happens, smells and sounds. I do not want to miss anything. I cannot miss anything. I’m as enchanted. As if all other possible permits than here and now would require a huge willful effort. Total presence is currently my natural emotional state. Probably the way of paying attention is a survival strategy that we are imprinted in the genes ever since we were cavemen and had to worry about the saber-toothed tigers. My fellow travelers on the bus, who live in the slum area Kibera, do not feel the same. They are coming home from school, work and the market. What is exotic and remarkable to me is to them everyday life. This sums up my first week in Nairobi, Kenya, so many impressions that makes my head hurt and my body tired. The struggle to get into new rutins, how to get around, how to behave and how not to, etc. However, I am happy, excited and I am looking forward to all the future adventure that I will have.

During My Stay

So all my adventures… How can I sum them all up? Where do I begin? Do I begin with telling about my visit to the Giraffe Centre, where I first fed and met a giraffe? Do I describe my weekend safari trip to Masai Mara with my family who came and visited me? Or do I start with how I climbed Mount Kenya, which was really tough and cold? I think I start with the latter. The final climb to the top of Mount Kenya went on in the early morning and most of the time we walked in the dark with a headlamp. But what a great experience to get to the top! Absolutely magical and incredibly beautiful nature! It is a next to indescribable feeling when you are 4.985 meters above sea level. That feeling when you fought for something really tough and your body wants to give up so many times, it gets harder to breathe, steeper and heavier to just take one step further, but you keep on going— because you are stubborn and ’never give up’ does not exist in your vocabulary.

I’ve been to the kenyan coast, Mombasa, and I went to Zanzibar in Tanzania, I have been on a Wine Tasting Event, a Tea Tour and the Kenya Derby 2018, to mention a few. It has been a life changing experience in itself to live, work and have your everyday life in a new country. To learn how to navigate in Kibera and Nairobi as well as to understand and adjust to a different culture has giving me invaluable experience. As an intern I have tried as much as I can to adjust to the local society and a new way to live. I had the privilege to work and have fun with the youths that run the Wale Wale Kenya Youth Center. To see the opportunities and joy they have, as well as get to know them as individuals has been truly amazing! One of my favorite things to do at Wale Wale Kenya is/was The Mobile Library. We would go to different schools in Kibera to have library sessions with several classes. We would read books to the students and have discussions. I liked interacting with the students and to see the love they have for books and storytelling.

During my stay in Nairobi I lived with a host family. They were involved with the organization Wale Wale Kenya and has been around since its beginning. They also host other interns and volunteers, which has been fun. I have been able to share my thoughts and ideas with them, for example how it is to live in a new country. Though, what I value the most has been the family itself. The way they just opened up their home and made me a part of their family. It has made me feel a lot safer and it has been so valuable to have someone to talk to — about anything.

Perhaps the most important experience through my internship has been that it gave me hope. Hope that NGOs actually make a real difference for young people’s lives. I would say that the internship at Wale Wale Kenya has giving me friends for life and the opportunity to travel and explore a country that was new to me. As well as qualified contact to the working life that can be a great asset in future career choices. All in all, a challenging experience with wonderful memories together
32943998_10213740143156809_6186011331657728000_n (1)with learning to adjust to a different culture than my own — which pushed me out of my comfort zone. A truly insightful experience in patience, understanding as well as to be humble about  my own privileges and all the ways that one can live a life.

 Going Home

As we travel beyond the world we take for granted, we will be automatically present. That’s why travel is so addictive. It is like being in love. Everything shines, vibrates, and smells stronger than usual. As if life is concentrated, densified, deepened and enchanted. Travel is exposing yourself to an intensified form of life on planet Earth. Coming home is as brutal as a broken heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to go home. I miss my friends that I haven’t seen in four and a half months, my family and the little idiosyncrasies about my hometown that nothing can replace. There are so many things to be excited about that I have missed since January, and while it seems like I don’t want this experience to be over, which I don’t, I also can’t wait to go home. I’m excited for the sit down meals with my family, the feeling of laying on my couch and listening to the ocean, having a car again and, most importantly, my dog’s face when I walk through the door.

Though I am feeling a bit nervous, nervous that when I come home after being away for so long, that home won’t feel like home anymore. Like if I am walking down the same streets, eating in the same restaurants, having conversations with the same people but somehow things will feel off. That they will feel different. There’s the comfort you get from the familiarity that comes with knowing a place so well, mixed in with the discomfort of feeling disconnected, out of place and a little bit restless. The excitement of reuniting with friends and family back home, mixed with the sadness of missing those you’ve left behind. I am grateful that I’ve made so many memories that I’m sad to leave behind. It makes me value my time at home, yet makes me happy knowing that I have someplace else I can call home as well. The lessons I’ve learned, friendships I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had will always be priceless to me.

Asante sana Kenya!

Emma Gidlund

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