The Tourist v The Resident

We often get short term visitors here in Kenya, some for just a night, others for a week. Not many come for a couple of weeks as they’re usually passing through on their way to another country. We always go out of our way for visitors, but I think they assume that’s how it always is. For our last visitor we bought bacon but I don’t think he has a clue that we only buy bacon once or twice a year – it’s way out of our budget.

We’ve been living here for 5 years and before that travelling back and forth for another 5. The longer we are the more interesting observations we’ve made.

 

Clothing

Tourists like to wear khaki coloured shorts or shirts. Naturally, when they go out on safari, this is the chosen colour. They also wear funny looking sandals. Too often, we see people wearing inappropriate clothing – like super short/tight shorts – it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

As a resident, you know to wear covered in shoes because its so dusty and the ground dirty. I’m always jealous of Africa women because they can get away with brightly coloured clothes. Me, I’m just emerging into florals. Khaki is only for safaris that’s for sure. Unfortunately we are seeing more locals wear shorter clothing but nowhere near what we see in the West – thankfully.

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Photos

Yep, you can spot the tourists as they all hang their cameras around their necks. They whip out a camera and take a billion and one shots – without asking the person. They are happy to shove a camera in the face of a stranger and snap away and then wonder why the person asks for money.

As a local you learn pretty fast that you don’t win friends that way. No one likes having their photo taken without permission. It’s also not safe to walk around with a camera. Nothing says ‘steal from me’ than a camera on your body.

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Security

I feel afraid for people when I see them walking around as it gets dark. It starts getting dark at 6.45pm and pitch dark by 7pm, it happens that fast – every day. I also see people on the back of motorbike taxis with no helmet or safety gear. It’s not like you can grow another head or anything!

Our daughter Liz travels lots of places on the back of a bike, but only if she wears a bright protective jacket and she has her own helmet. Once, her driver skidded on mud while he was taking a short cut and she ended up on the ground. It totally shook her up but reinforced the need for safety gear. We try not to drive long distances when its dark, there’s just too many people who walk around and vehicles without any lights to make it worth it. You have to have a plan if you want to last long term here. That includes not walking around when it starts getting dark. There’s been way to many muggings for that.

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Money

Tipping isn’t compulsory here but when you get good service, it’s appreciated. Our biggest note is 1,000 shillings, equivalent to $10USD. At one meal out with some visitors someone dropped in a whole 1,000 shillings, against our protests. For him it was nothing, but for us we could see the ongoing issues with it. The waiter was impressed because he was getting a great amount, but then it reinforces the thought ‘all foreigners are wealthy and we ‘poor Africans’ should be looked after’.

If we are just getting a coffee, we’ll give 50 shillings (65 cents), if it’s a meal, it will be 100 shillings ($1.30). If there’s a large group we’ll add another one hundred shillings. You have to think about the affect of what you do on the communities you work with.

 

So when you come, and we hope you do, please listen to us – we might just know a thing or two about the place, the culture, the people. This is their home, this is our home.

 

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What This Tours’ All About

One thing I’ve discovered in life is that fundraising is flippin’ hard work. You have to fight every other charity for the same dollar and the loudest voice is the one that gets heard. When you have a zero marketing budget and no paid staff it takes a lot longer to get anything done.

Looking at several organisations who have work in East Africa I’ve seen there’s two ways to keep afloat:

  1. Have a team in your home country that are fundraising while you on foreign soil are implementing the project
  2. You spend a third of your time fundraising.

I would love to employ a team in Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and the US who would spread the word about our projects in East Africa. That means we could focus on developing working team here and increase our projects.

However, it’s not about to happen overnight.

nonprofits-fundraising

So, this Sunday, we head for six weeks to the US. It’s definitely not going to be a holiday. To me a holiday is finding a beach, sitting in cafes, going to the movies, staying up late and sleeping in.

For six weeks we will be speaking in schools, universities and churches telling our story. On top of that we have one on one meetings with old friends as well as connecting with people who run projects over here to see how we can partner together.

To be honest, I think we’re all looking forward to the change in scenery.

They say ‘a change is as good as a holiday’. This year has had quite a few challenges and it will be nice to have a different focus for a few weeks.

I’ve done 7 weeks of a speaking tour before and know that after talking about the work for so long all you want to do is get back into it. Lugging suitcases, laptops, camera gear and items for sale is never fun. We often travel by buses and trains, planes only when the budget allows it.

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This trip has been funded by our daughter. We get the privilege of staying at friends houses on their sofas, mattress on the floor or if we’re really lucky, in a bed. A few cities we are going to we will be staying in 2 star hotels. While I always check out the reviews, many times they scare me. I worry we’ll end up in some dive of a place that is absolutely horrific. So far we haven’t had too dodgy a deal. I figure that we are only there to sleep so how bad can it get?

Years ago some people had booked a hotel for me in New York City. Unfortunately it was directly across the road from a 24 hour mechanics bay which mainly dealt in taxis. Getting sleep was not an option.

One thing I am looking forward to is getting out and walking at night. Even after three years of being here in Nairobi I still miss the chance in getting out at night because of security. I know no place is totally safe but the thought of getting the opportunity is just awesome.

However, I’m not looking forward to the temperature drop that we will experience from 10 – 20 degrees celcius below what we are currently getting!

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What I do know is that the future is in the hands of our youth. If we can inform them and then empower them to bring about positive change.

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Here’s the itinerary so you can send us messages, happy thoughts and prayers. We’re leaving our work in Kenya in the hands of our very capable team and look forward to hering from them on some of the very cool things they’ve done while we’re away.

Next time you hear from us, we’ll be wazungu (foreigners) in a slightly different country.

ITINERARY

OCTOBER

18th    Fly out of JKIA at 10.50am

19th    Arrive in NYC at 2.15pm

20th    Day to sort out our resources, phones and catch up on some sleep

21st    Nord Anglia International School

22nd   Academy of St Joseph

23rd   Elizabeth Irwin High School

24th   One on one meetings

25th   Bridge Community Church

26th   Travel by bus from NYC to Toronto, Canada

27th   Meet with Canadian friends

28th   Meet with Canadian friends

29th   Meet with Canadian friends

30th  Travel by bus from Toronto to Columbus, Ohio

31st   Day off

NOVEMBER

1st    Meetings

2nd   Connect with partners

3rd    Connect with future partners

4th    Travel by plane from Columbus to Dallas, Texas

5th    Individual meetings

6th    White North Rock School

7th    Travel by bus from Dallas, to Houston, Texas

8th    Lakewood Church

9th    Individual meetings

10th   Individual meetings

11th   Veterans Day

12th   St. John’s School

13th    Individual meetings

14th   Day off

15th    Individual meetings

16th   Travel by plane from Houston to Washington D.C

17th   Blessed Sacrament School

18th   Individual meetings

19th   Howard University School of Law

20th   Bus from Washington D.C. to NYC

21st   Metro Ministries

22nd   Day off

23rd    Bus from NYC to Philidelphia

24th    Individual meetings

25th    Ride back to NYC

26th    Thanksgiving day

27th    Individual meetings

28th    Depart NYC at 4.30pm

A Week With Terri

Terri (AKA Tee) is one of our many ‘extra’ kids we have in our family. We’ve known her since she was 4 years old, she is now 25. It was only a few weeks ago that she said she was coming here for 3 weeks, so we adjusted our calendar, planned some outings and finally got our guest room ready.

Looking out at Nairobi from the Convention Centre

Looking out at Nairobi from the Convention Centre

Until then the guest room was empty and we had always planned to furnish it, but didn’t have the funds for it. Just after we got the message that Tee was coming some New Zealand and Aussie friends gave us enough for a mattress and bed. When she arrived, another friend gave us the funds for some bedside tables. So now all we need is a BBQ, vacuum cleaner, solar backup and we are pretty much set up!

Visiting the KAG Primary School

Visiting the KAG Primary School

The great things about having visitors is that I get a chance to get out of the office. Not that I mind working with our team (they are the best) but endlessly looking at a computer screen gets just a bit much. So I’ve abandoned our team for the 3 weeks that Tee is here, keeping in touch online and going in only on Monday mornings. It means working at nights or sneaking in time like now when she is getting her hair braided – Kenyan style. We absolutely love having visitors and showing them that Africa is more than war, famine and poverty.

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This is how you kiss a giraffe

I always get amazed by what peoples reactions are to Kenya and everything it holds. Most are intrigued that we pretty much have all the modern amenities, that we drive in crazy traffic and don’t have a heart attack and how good the food is. I feel sorry for Tee because I told her that the weather had been cool, but by the time she got here it was quite warm. She came from 15 degrees in New Zealand to 25 – 27 degree heat. The other day I suggested we walk the 15 minutes to the mall – bad mistake. She has constantly reminded me and anyone we meet about how she nearly melted. Won’t be doing that one again.

Preschoolers in the Kitui District

Preschoolers in the Kitui District

The thing I love about Tee is her laugh it’s infectious. This is especially so when we’ve driven for hours and start quoting movies, Swahili practise and songs to suit the situation. That’s when we know we’re all tired and Tee’s laughs keep us going. She was only here for 2 days and we went to Kalambya in the Kitui District, around 3.5 hours from Nairobi. We left early in the morning and didn’t get back until after 9pm. It was to look at one of our new water projects but it was preceded by a 2 hour tour through a primary and secondary school. It was hot, dusty and I am sure we met everyone in the community. But, we had lots of fun along the way.

A day in the city in 26 degrees. I think they needed a coffee.

A day in the city in 26 degrees. I think they needed a coffee.

While we like to show people the touristy places we also like to show them another side of life in Kenya – where people live in poverty. We took Tee into the Kibera Slum where we were meant to take a food parcel to a needy family but their child ended up vomiting for hours and was rushed to hospital. Instead we visited some young men who are sponsored to attend school. Here we discovered that at one of their boarding schools they have to get up at 3.45am, every day! The boys were inquisitive about Tees tattoos, something happening more and more here. We also visited a school in Kibera where the little kids are so cute you want to take one home.

While you can go to some great places here, it is the people you meet who leave a lasting impression. There’s Mariam who gave us a Kenyan cooking lesson (Tee still doesn’t like ugali), Ayub and his family who came for dinner and Lucy who we took to dinner on our way back into Nairobi. Sure you can kiss a giraffe like Tee did (and who doesn’t!), feed a baby elephant or tour through a bead making factory. But it’s the incredible stories of joy and endurance that stay with you forever.

Tomorrow we take Tee to Nakuru with us to visit a school where we put down a deep bore well.  It’s only a few hours drive from here but we are staying overnight at someones house so the next day we get up at 6am to go to the national park. That afternoon we’re also out on a boat to see the animals from a water perspective.

Hair braiding takes hours.

Hair braiding takes hours.

Both Tee and Pete are big coffee drinkers. They are about half the price of what Tee would pay in New Zealand so she’s happy to stop several times at the local coffee shop. This morning I had to steer her away from Dormans, which she has come to know really well.

However, I may have to take her there later for her caffeine fix!

 

 

 

 

7 Myths About Kenya

1. It’s Hot

Sure, there are some places that are pretty warm, but overall, Australia is hotter. For the 6 months we’ve been living here there was probably only one week of really hot. Today I am wearing jeans, jumper and ugg boots. Why the boots I hear you ask – floors are tiled here and they get pretty cold on an overcast day.

Living on the Equator is handy, the length of days doesn’t change. You know it will be light by about 6.30am and dark by 7pm. While my arms are tanned, the legs have a lot to be desired.

 

2. It’s Cheap

You must be kidding me. Sure, fruit is cheaper than in the West but everything else is equal to or more expensive than back home. I think it makes a difference for us because we aren’t allowed to earn money so we’re super careful with what we get in. Import tax is anywhere in between 75% and 110%. A couple of weeks ago we were in Uganda and things were half the price of here, to the point that I bought an iron.

 

3. We Live In A Mud Hut

While we work with the poor, we don’t have to live like that. Sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who do live in mud huts but not us. Right now we’re on the search for a 3 bedroom apartment, which we can get for 90,000Kshs (about $1,050 dollars). That’s great compared to what were paying in Australia but it’s a challenge for us. At least when we have friends and family come to stay there’s somewhere nice. We also plan to get some leadership training sessions going with the young people and hiring buildings is pretty expensive so we can host them at our place.

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4. There Are Only Black People Here

You’re either a Kenyan or Mzungu. Anyone white is a Mzungu, it doesn’t matter if you’re from New Zealand, the US, Europe or Australia. Sure, the whites are in a minority but you’re never sure where they are from and why they are hear. There are even white Kenyans, these are children of people who came in the colonial days. They don’t belong here but England is not their home either. They’re in between 2 worlds. I’ve bumped into so many Dutch people I never need to go to Holland. You can pick out the Aussie and Kiwi accents from a long distance. Last month we went to the ANZAC dawn service and there would’ve been around 200 people there. So, there’s a few from the Pacific over this way.

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5. It’s All About War, Poverty & Famine

Yep, there’s lots of poverty around here, but there’s also some serious money to be made. If you can go through all the legal loops and corruption, Kenya is a good place for investing in. Especially so if it’s roads, IT or building.

There’s also lots of money to be made in war and famine. While people in the West get shocked about the crisis up north, they don’t realise that the refugee camps have been there for 20 years. In our travels around East Africa, there are some very nice vehicles, and hotels kept busy because of civil unrest and disasters. Unfortunately, as soon as it’s all peaceful these NGO’s pull out and the businesses close up because of a lack of customers.

You only have to spend 10 minutes at one of the local malls to see that the middle class here is getting bigger.

 

6. It’s A Really Hard Place To Live In

Depends what you mean by hard. Sure, only knowing a small amount of Swahili is a pain, so you’ll get charged more outside of the malls, but it’s not tragic here. You have to be willing to adapt. You make sure you lock your care, when you’re in it. You put your mobile phone in your front pocket. The food isn’t great but you won’t starve. The traffic sucks and you get over paying bribes to the police every time you get pulled up – otherwise you go to jail.

It’s not so much hard as complicated.

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7. People Only Come Here For Safaris

True, most people come here for a safari. They come for a look at an allusive lion, zebra, elephant or giraffe. No, we don’t have tigers, they are in India. It’s surprising though how many people come for other things though. I ran into a lady from Sydney who came over just to catch up with friends. Some people come to build classrooms, visit their sponsored child or volunteer. Sometimes students who are at university need to intern somewhere and that’s one of the areas we work with. We give them opportunity to teach, see the different projects and assist the staff. Right now we need lots of volunteers as the work continues to grow.

Don’t think that what is on the 6pm news is all there is about Kenya or Africa itself. There’s a whole world of amazing things happening here. Sure it’s not Hawaii, but it’s not hell either.

Want to help bring positive change to the lives of young people in East Africa through our work? Why not donate today – click HERE