So I have arrived in Kenya, and met my lovely host family. I’m living in Kitengela, a small, rapidly growing town about 30km (19 miles) south of Nairobi.
Today was my first day at school. It was overwhelming meeting the kids as they all attached themselves to me and took me off to classrooms 1-4 and across the yard. The teachers are friendly and the school seems nice and really relaxed. The view outside is amazingly beautiful, you can see out across the golden plains in all directions, and mountains in the distance. There is a perfect, brilliant blue sky, and it’s so warm here, but with a breeze that makes the weather just perfect. I went to class with Sylvia, another volunteer, from Australia, and taught Social Studies to her class 5. I used a long-drop toilet for the first time – it was an experience! A long-drop toilet is a hole in the ground with a cubicle around it. The hole is 20 ft deep and is used continually until it fills up. We left school and got the matatu back to Kitengela (a matatu is a type of minibus, it’s a van with as many people crammed in as possible and is driven as fast as possible to get to the next destination, so more passengers can be picked up and more fares taken).
The past days have been amazing. On Sunday I travelled from Kitengela to Nakuru by matatu with Jessica, another volunteer from Australia, who’s my roommate. We got lost in Nairobi which was a little bit scary but eventually found a matatu and after being stopped and searched by the police, made it to Nakuru perfectly fine. At Nakuru Jessica and I were taken to the slums, and to visit a church school in the slum and some of the houses. It was very harrowing and emotional. We bought sweet bread and bananas and gave them out to the children.
Overnight we stayed at a big old colonial house in a richer part of Nakuru. I met a few other volunteers there, and more Kenyans. On Monday I went on a road trip with my host family – Priscilla, David and their two year old son Peter – to Narok, which is two hours west of Nakuru. We had already come one hour from Kitengela to Nairobi, and three hours from Nairobi to Nakuru, so by the time we drove another two hours to Narok we were properly in western Kenya. The drive there was so incredibly beautiful. I saw baboons, zebra, gazelle and warthogs by the roadside, and David pointed out two eagles in the sky. For over half the journey the road was a dirt track, and extremely bumpy and rutted. At Narok we drove into the town, which seems mostly rubble and litter, and visited Priscilla’s cousin Joseph and his family. They live in a very small house, in a slum in Narok. However the experience was completely unlike visiting the slum the day before and was not depressing at all; I had the most wonderful afternoon with them, one of the very best days of my life. All the people I met were so friendly and welcoming, happy, funny, educated, intelligent and kind. All the Kenyan people I have met so far have been incredibly kind, and welcoming. It is just still hard to get used to being ‘mzungu’ (white person) and having people come up to you wanting to touch you and take your hand and speak to you whenever they see you in the street. I don’t know that I will ever get used to it.
I ate a meal with Joseph and his family, and after a brilliant afternoon we drove back to Nairobi then Kitengela. We gave some of Priscilla’s other relatives a lift back to Nairobi so there were nine of us in the car – six in the back seat and me and David in the front, and Peter on my lap, who fell asleep. The scenery was even more amazing than before, as the sun was setting over the plains. A rainbow came out and it was completely whole, reaching right across the plain over the road, and we drove straight through the centre of the arc. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life than Kenya was that evening.
Right now I have come back from school with Sylvia and walked to the internet cafe with Sophie and Jessica. The computers all just had to be shut down so the generator could be re-started. We have to leave soon before it gets dark as it’s not safe for us – or indeed anybody – to walk around after sunset.