Saturday, 21 July 2012

I wanted to blog yesterday but realised that I just wasn't feeling up to it- I am actually still recovering from the past 3 weeks. But anyway, my flight to Kenya took 18 to 19 hours in total, journeying from Melbourne to KL, then to Dubai, then Nairobi. Yes, I stopped at KL- just for an hour though. Just enough time to freshen up and to give a certain few people surprise phone calls.

Almost a day later, I landed in Nairobi! I was quite excited and a little anxious as this was the first time I was in a foreign country completely on my own with just a contact who I've never met before who was picking me up. And what's more, I was in Africa- my first time stepping foot on African soil. When I stepped out of the plane into the terminal, it hit me- I'm in Kenya, a developing country in Africa. While the airport wasn't very modern, it was quite okay. I cleared immigration, went to the baggage claim area, changed my money (1 USD is approximately 80 Kenyan Shillings), and then walked out to meet my hosts!

I spent the next 4 days or so understanding Kenya's culture, food and people. Don't take this as an accurate portrayal of the country since I was only there for 11 days, but I'll put my thoughts down anyway- maybe you'll find yourself reading this when you head there one day?

Driving past...

1) The people

Kenyans are really friendly. This I cannot stress enough. Yes, crime happens, sometimes on a larger scale than what we're normally accustomed to (2 bombings outside of Nairobi and a kidnapping in Dadaab, for example), but overall, everyone I've met were extremely friendly. The family who hosted me the first few days offered me food and accommodation, and treated me just like they would treat a relative- I was given free rein of the house, free to do anything I wanted.

Once a stranger even talked to me while I was waiting for a bus- though this could be attributed to me being a foreigner. We seem to have that everywhere, don't we? Locals just enjoy having foreigners and are generally friendlier to aliens than their own people.


2) The city

Like many other capital cities in developing countries, Nairobi struggles with traffic and pollution- the roads are always crowded and full of cars, the air dusty, and of course, the traffic jams are quite notorious. I would say that if you bring what we have in KL down a notch in terms of the pollution, and hike up the traffic up a few notches and the way the people drive (more on this later) then it is quite similar to Nairobi. You'll have to see it for yourself to understand it.

Despite tales of how scary being in Africa is, I find it quite exaggerated- I felt relatively safe, and could get a good night's sleep every day (minus the jet lag which reduced my sleeping hours).


3) The food

The food in Kenya can be put in categories just like in every other country- you have the street food that is either a trainwreck or the best in the world (I didn't take the leap of faith to try it out so I will never know), food that is served in decent but cheap restaurants which is probably not bad, food that is served in more expensive and exclusive restaurants (for the richer people), and food for expats. Throughout my time I've probably tried a mix of all but the street food- though I did get to try home-cooked food!

I think one of the biggest concerns people have is the cleanliness of food- just to put it out there, while I wasn't overly concerned about this I did avoid eating fresh food such as salads and fruit (the only time I had this was fresh tomatoes with bread) and dairy (though I did drink tea with milk).

Roadside pottery business

Overall

I guess before going to Kenya, and having never been to anywhere in Africa, I had this preconceived notion that it would be really underdeveloped, but I've found this to be quite inaccurate, at least in Nairobi, and I do mean Nairobi- I understand that in remote areas or even in places outside of the main cities it is less developed and the people are a lot poorer, but in Nairobi I've found this to be quite untrue. I definitely learned to not be too judgemental while I was there, and I think it is quite a valuable lesson. Yes, you have to exercise caution, but there is no need to be paranoid. You'll be fine!
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