Leaving for Kenya
I don’t know just how many times I asked myself why I´m doing this. Hesitating is a part of leaving your comfort zone, unless you´re a completely rootless person. My time before departure was filled with fixed feelings. Some days I was so excited to hit the road and find new adventures. Some days all I wanted was my normal, comfortable life in eternity. Especially packing up my apartment and saying goodbye to family and friends left me with a feeling of restless excitement. I tried to get ready for the trip by asking a friend who´s been to Kenya all questions I could possibly think of. What clothes should I bring? How many books will I have time to read? Is there a swimming pool in the neighborhood? To be honest, I think this was mostly a way to convince myself I was well prepared. Finally I got on the flight to start this new adventure and I actually felt quite confident. I remember smiling while gazing at the clouds through the window, already daydreaming about all fun stuff I would do.
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” Suzy Kassem
Living in Kenya
Wherever you are in the world, most of your days are just daily life with almost the same routines and thoughts spinning around in your head. For me the first few weeks at a new place is mostly about getting to know people and places to make me feel at home. Arriving in Kenya this meant getting a gym card, buy my favorite kind of tea and make friends. Making yourself comfortable is our own responsibility and the better you can take care of yourself, the more pleasant your stay will be.
About getting to know people, how people love small talk here. I´ve had a lot of nice conversations with people by the fruit stand or on the matatu (minibus used for local transportation). Sometimes I love it, sometimes I can barely stand it. Let´s be honest, being a foreigner in Kibera attracts a lot of attention. It might be something you haven’t had to face before and it´s important that you find your own way of coping with it. I´ve had similar experiences living in China and Indonesia. When all this attention start getting to my nerves I have to stop for a moment and remind myself why I get annoyed. A lot of times “people being rude” is just people trying to talk to me in a way I am not used to or find difficult to comprehend. Try to stay patient and be curious about the new culture you´ve ended up in, rather than disaffiliate yourself from it. But of course, give yourself a break if you need one.
Nairobi might be a boring city at first sight. No beautiful rivers or harbors, no ancient stone down and no beach. But still, what a city to explore! There are a lot of good restaurants, bars and cafés to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, Italian pasta or live jazz music. My tip to learn something about Kenya and Africa is to really get yourself into the cultural stuff. Looking around for events on Facebook is actually a very fun and easy way to find out what´s up in the area. Just to mention some of the things I´ve attended: the annual Kenya Derby (horserace), wine tasting, reggae festival, tea tour, documentary showcase and free yoga session. Take your change to explore yourself and this fabulous place you’re in.
Working at Wale really brought me closer to Kenya and Kibera. Meeting the kids has showed me a way of living which is far away from what I´m used to. Struggles and dreams are in some ways very different from my daily life, but also sometime almost the same. I never have to worry about if and what I´ll eat today or be afraid of a drunken parent beating me up. But just like these youths, I wonder what will be of me in the future and why friend of mine never calls me back. I´ve realized how small things can mean so much to someone. Every hour spend reading or dancing with the youth is an opportunity for them to learn something new or just enjoy life. It took me some time to embrace this, maybe I will never really understand how privileged I am.
After getting comfortable in Kibera I felt the urge to go traveling. Africa is such a huge continent with so many different places and cultural to explore. My first trip was to Mt Kenya for a 4 days´ hike with a friend. Spending time in the forest is like a heavenly retreat for my soul, I felt so much at home. It was a tough hike but if you´re in to challenges and beautiful sceneries, you´d probably love this.
In April my family came by and we went on safari. Do I have to say that´s a must while in Kenya? The wild life is just amazing, don´t know if I´ll ever again get a good change to be so close to lions and elephants.
The last trip I spend a week by the beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It was raining most of the time by still stunningly beautiful. Just the perfect way to end my time in Africa.
I really recommend having family or friends over. Having someone to share your experience with after returning home is more important than you might first think. Knowing that I´ll be able to tell stories to my parents about Kibera and they´ll know exactly what smell, taste or sound I am talking about makes my memories feel more authentic and important.
You´ll miss home and you´ll miss Kenya. Because you always want everything though you can´t get it all at once. Try to be present and open-minded. Make sure you enjoy your time in Kenya.