Why you SHOULD visit Kenya

I just want to come out and say it. The job of the media is not to tell the truth, their job is to sell newspapers. They capture a moment in time and then move on to the next big headline.

lensI’m not against telling what’s going on in the world, I just think there is an oversaturation of events that are available on our phones, laptops, over the radio, on TV and in newspapers. Social network sites are so rife with news that in places like Iraq Facebook is banned because ISIS were using it to spread their horror.

The only time Kenya seems to get into the global news is when there is a terrorist attack or governments put out travel alerts for this part of the world. As soon as something goes wrong, we end up getting messages from the West asking if we’re okay, even though the event happened 9 hours drive away.

So here, I’m going to give you some good reasons to actually come here.

1.Variety

There’s something for everyone. Surf, sand, cities, farms, restaurants from every nation, markets, malls and cultural shows. There’s swimming pools, ice rinks, IMAX and horse racing. Of course, Kenya is known for it’s wildlife with over 65 national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and marine parks to visit. Each has it’s own focus on particular animals. There’s even one animal park you can bike through without being eaten!

beach2. Opportunities

This is the volunteer capital in the world. Whatever skill you’ve got can be used to grow the skills of locals. You might not see playing soccer with kids as a big deal, but to them it is. There is great joy when a child you’ve been teaching actually able to read because you’ve spent a couple of weeks with them. Giving back to communities is the best thing you can do for a week of your life, but so is receiving. While most volunteers come with the intention of bringing about change, they come away feeling like the luckiest people in the world, and see that they are the ones who are changed.

coach3. Cost

If you’re flying from Australia or New Zealand air tickets can be pretty pricey, unless you take a slightly longer route. However, once you’re here it is relatively cheap to get around and as long as you stay in a nice guesthouse, your accommodation costs are low. Food is much cheaper than back at home and there is always a good variety of fruit. To eat out is a good option and there’s no lack of variety from budget to extreme. For example, you can have an all you can eat buffet, including dessert for $26. Or, you can have beef stew and rice for $2.60. Tourist pay a lot more than locals for entry into animal game parks. One national park costs tourists $90 while we as residents pay $10.

fruit4. Something different

Why go somewhere that is just like home? Not many people can say they went white water rafting or bungee jumping in Kenya, or flying in a balloon while thousands of wildebeests are below. How many people can say they went to a Masai village and met the cutest kids in the world? I bet your friends have never kissed a giraffe!

raft5. En-route

I always try to encourage people that if they are coming this far, to travel to other countries in this part of the world. Dubai is only 5 hours away, South Africa 6, London 8, Amsterdam 8, Egypt just under 5. Flying in between African countries is not that expensive either. To fly to Uganda return is $350 (USD). If time allows it why not explore as much as possible.

caseThe world is an amazing place, and Kenya is an exciting place to explore. It’s far more than you will ever see on the Discovery Channel. Why not come and see if for yourself!

 

 

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So, what do you do actually do for a job?

Here we (Shaz and Liz) are in the last week of a month speaking tour in New Zealand (NZ) before we head to Aussie to do the same. We’ve been in schools, unis, Rotary Clubs and had lots and lots of coffee catchups with people.

In this month alone we’ve slept in 12 different beds.

Besides the question of corruption the other question I mainly get asked is “So, what do you actually do for a job?” So here’s what we actually do, although every day is different.

 

Sharon

I try to be in the office by 8.45am but it depends on traffic. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, other days 30. Basically in the mornings I volunteer with an organisation called Afri-Lift which works with children and youth for very poor backgrounds. On Mondays I’m in meetings until 2pm, Tuesdays I write grants for fundraising, Wednesday’s prepare for a 6 hour teaching day, Thursday teach, Friday do marketing.

 

The afternoons/evenings are taken up with work for BeyondWater (the Aussie charity we started in 2007), writing LOTS of emails, blogging, social network updates, looking at projects and every now and then taking Pete out for a coffee. I work till about 9pm most nights with my other spouse – the laptop.

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Some of the great kids we get to work with.

Three out of four weekends we also have programs on. One Saturday we train youth leaders, another we have a tuition program in the Kibera Slum and the third Sunday of the month we assist with the Riziki Childrens Program. That leaves us one extra Sunday to meet up with some young couples we are mentoring.

 

In addition we host lots of international visitors, sometimes go to the Kibera Slum with food packages or randomly do things like have the odd day off.

 

Pete

My days are certainly never dull and boring. Like Sharon, on Mondays we have a staff meeting for a couple of hours but every day/week is different. Sometimes you’ll find me tiling a kitchen, fixing a tractor, buying a truckload full of seeds to transporting tomatoes. You will also see me working with teenage boys training them on the ‘how tos’ of farming. This might mean pulling apart something that doesn’t work and showing them how to fix it. A lot tends to break down and it’s giving the locals the skills so next time they can fix it themselves. When I say things are varied, it’s a slight understatement. One morning I might be trying to find a market for the produce that the trainees grow and then that afternoon helping to install a water tank.

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Pete showing one of the boys how to use machinery.

I try and spend 2 – 3 days out at the farm which is about an hours drive. But I also need to be in town to work out all the other stuff. I’m not confined to an office or computer but every couple of days you can’t get away from paperwork. I work with a small team of people who have different roles but one thing I’ve learnt is that you can never over communicate.

Here in Kenya things are complicated and take much longer than say in Australia. You can’t go to one hardware store and get everything you want. Just because they say something is definitely in stock doesn’t mean it’s actually there.

This year I’m trying to take a couple of afternoons off a week. So far I’ve failed miserably.

Every couple of months we get personally involved with our water projects. That might mean driving a few hours to meet up with the community to make sure they’re on track.

That in a nutshell is our life, but it’s much more interesting in reality than in print. We meet amazing people, every day is a challenge and there is lots of work yet to be done.

 

Why not join us by:

  1. Giving (ask me how)
  2. Joining us (long or short tem)
  3. Find out more (shoot me an email – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com)

Life as a Teacher

I really enjoy teaching. Whether it’s one on one or in a classroom.

I actually wanted to become a teacher but became a youth worker instead. Where we lived the nearest university was at least an hour away. I was married and there was no way I was leaving my husband just to do what I wanted. Then the kids came along and it never happened.

I home schooled our girls and there were a few extra bodies along the way. Now looking back I would do things differently but at the time you do the best that you can. When we moved to Australia in 2002, I gave up the schooling and the youth work as we needed the money and Sydney was way more expensive than Christchurch to live in.

As I’m writing this I’m overseeing 15 students who have completed a 6 week business skills class that I’ve taught. These are young men who only a short while ago where living on the streets of Nairobi. They didn’t finish primary school, but they could be great businessmen if they believe in themselves.

It’s kind of weird how everything from the past 25 years happens just for that moment. I mean, we moved to Aussie, I ended up working in a high school and then went on to working for a university. I got my MBA (Masters of Business Administration) and we started our work in Africa. I’m tutoring kids here and teaching classes. In the next 5 years we’re looking at building a boarding school.

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I didn’t even finish high school.

I dropped out at just before my final year. In those days you just walked into a job, not like now.

But I’ve also become the student again.

Each Monday I have Kiswahili lessons with Judy, she’s a whizz at languages, I’m not. I’ve taught English as a second language and decided I’d much rather be a teacher than a student. I’m envious of these Kenyan kids, they have to learn at least 2 languages throughout their school life.

I’m 44 and yet feel like a 4 year old trying to learn Kiswahili.

I’ve heard people say that you can never stop learning. Heck, move to a country like Kenya and then you have the right to say that. I was wanting to get my Masters in Development some time in the future, but every day here in Kenya is a classroom.

Society here is our teacher and she’s not always nice or patient.

Sometimes I don’t want to hear what she is saying and some times I just don’t care. Sometimes I just want to go to a movie and forget that I’m in Africa.

The fact is though that we are here and we do have to learn. As someone told us ‘Coming to Africa shows you what’s really inside of you, how big a capacity you have’. I thought I was a big person inside but discovered that I’m not. I’m too judgemental, opinionated, narrow-minded and set in my own ways – thank you very much!!

While life is a schoolroom, we have to be willing to learn.

I’m always telling my students that attitude determines altitude, now I have to take my own medicine. While the medicine might not taste great, it is good for us.