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.

tourist

 

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.

bike

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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Things I only wish I could say on Facebook

Half the world are involved daily on social media sites. If I put these comments up on Facebook I think I might be persecuted and seen as small minded. People would think I’m picking on them, when all I’m doing is having a viewpoint. I thought I’d put my points on the blog just to get it out of my system.

So here goes.

  1. Girls – please cover up more!!

It’s not just because I’m a mother and I’m 46. Females don’t have to go around with a paper bag over themselves but seriously the amount of skin could be reduced somewhat.

Remember, once it’s out there on social media – it’s out there for good. Potential employers check out your page. The amount of skin and lack of clothing does nothing for the advancement of women, it actually cheapens our worth.

Modesty seems like a swear word these days. Objectification of women isn’t helped by the very same females that give men the feeling of ‘taste and see’.

Girls, it’s time to embrace your womanhood, but do it with style. We don’t need to see pretty much all of your skin except your nipples and downstairs. Have some respect for yourself.

  1. A like doesn’t actually change anything.

Just because you hit the ‘like’ button doesn’t mean you change anything, it’s just your opinion. What brings change is money to a cause that is already making a difference. It amazed me how Australians get up in arms about taking in more refugees but I wonder how many would personally open their homes to a total stranger?

In 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to Sudan, where he took a photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. Carter said he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.

kevin-carter-vulture

We need to get out of our ‘liking’ to doing something that brings about change.

  1. Those videos with ‘wow, I can’t believe this happened – are the most boring and annoying posts ever.

I know the words are used to get people to actually watch the videos, but how annoying are they? You go onto the video and they’re usually less than spectacular. It’s worse than being ‘poked’ and you know how bad that is! Maybe I’m a bit hard hearted but I probably only enjoy one in ten of those videos.

  1. Stop posting your hate for Muslims – that’s not the way to show your own faith of ‘love’.

People accuse Muslims of being radicals but from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the haters are just as radical. I have lots of Muslim neighbours, there are 5 Muslim girls at our project in Kenya, in the past my boss was a Muslim, albeit a bad one except when his father was around.

I despise it when people put up dumb posts that cheer when something happens to a person of another faith (e.g. the death of a Dubai prince) –  as if their race, religion or gender is superior. Or the super spiros who think that if a crane falls on a mosque killing people that it’s God’s judgment.

I thought there was going to be one Judgment Day, and we wouldn’t be the judge.

Just because we belong to another faith stream does not give us the right to spit out our hate towards another. I remember reading when Jesus said to ‘love your enemies’.

If you want to win people over, you don’t do it by pouring out hate on them.

  1. When people use others photos and claim them as their own

Grrr. I’ve had my own photos used without my permission and it’s infuriating. Today I was reading a post on an expat site here in Nairobi about a trip to the Amboseli National Park. The photos they used weren’t their own – they had the photographers watermark on them. Of course when I queried this they stopped responding to me and then they were cheeky enough to crop the photo and take the watermark off it. At least give credit where it’s due.

  1. Irresponsible Reporting

The job of the media is not to tell the truth but to sell a story. Often the initial ‘facts’ are then changed because it’s about getting out a story before anyone else does.

Here’s a video from the Huffington Post about the wrong information getting out about the tragedy of the Boston Bombing .

It’s also the wording that is used to attract the reader – like this story about suicide.

There is nothing beautiful about suicide at all. It is one of the leading causes of death for Australian men aged below 44, with men being four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and men use more violent means to end their lives.

The news is about sales and that is all.

  1. The stupid facials

In twenty years time imagine when people look at this generation and see all the stupid poses and facials. They’ll probably be thinking – man, what drugs were they on? Seriously, can’t we get photos of people with tongues in their mouths and not bending half way over? It’s like there’s a whole generation of people with injured backs.

  1. When ignorant judgement calls are made

Ebola happened in West Africa, we live in the East. People we knew were freaking out because they thought we might get it. People decide not to come to Kenya because of what they’ve heard or think they heard in the media. There’s an attack at the coast, a 9 hour drive from our place and we get inundated with messages to see if we’re okay.

In 2013 one Australian died in Kenya. In Bali – 48. In fact an Australian dies every 9 days in Bali, yet we in Kenya are accused of it being a dangerous place to visit.

Most people think that Africa is one country and is all about war, poverty and famine. Every single person that comes here says the same thing ‘I never knew how good it would be’.

When people put up photos of a child outside a mud hut, there’s the assumption that it’s like that all over.

I know, because I get comments about it all of the time.

  1. Fuzzy photographs

This is one of the most annoying things I see on social media. In this day and age surely people can be putting up photos that are in focus. As a photographer it’s really annoying. You might as well not bother.

  1. Breakdown of the English language

My top peeve would be how people shorten a whole sentence with a new form of English that to me is just gross. Mainly it’s the Kiwis who are the worst at it.

Examples (from some of my favourite people):

  • you fullas lit up that syd I’m sure lolol was that the t rythms too sis
  • Nek minnit
  • you fellas vamoosed somewhere,it was good see youse
  • Hard owt at what he does best kuzzie
  • Should of sent sam to urz or uz could of come here lol
  • apologies in advanced for being dat guy
  • come and get your cuzzie to the gym to do some work aye
  • Love us all in rotoz
  • every1 breeze forgot to put family pass for 2adults and 4 kids its 60bux 4 debretts
  • churr bro

So there it goes, my top 10 things I’ve really wanted to say on Facebook but can’t. I use social media A LOT so it probably annoys me more than the normal person. I probably annoy you, feel free to share.

5 Reasons why you SHOULD visit Africa

I often see these posts on Facebook of which country ranks as the best to visit and why, even in Kenya. Many of them are fabricated and one-sided, so I thought I’d give a more realistic list of reasons you should give it a go:

No Regrets

The reason we decided to relocate here was because we didn’t want to get to 70 years of age and go “If only”. We all have some regrets throughout our lives so why add more to it.

kids with raq 1

Bigger World View

The world is not all white, middle-class and English speaking. When our girls finished high school we all went off to East Africa for 2 months. We caught public transport, stayed at $2 backpackers, ate what the locals ate and had a blast. It helped them to see that the world is an adventure playground and there’s some really nice people in it.

hann

Crap Happens Everywhere

I often hear people say ‘don’t go to Africa, it’s too dangerous’. Here’s some news ‘bad stuff happens all over the world, every hour, every minute’. You have no guarantees that if you stay in your home country that you’re going to be safe. I often get people asking me if it’s okay when there’s an Ebola outbreak (wrong side of the continent), a bombing (if we’re alive it’s a good) or a fellow Kiwi or Aussie is injured (did we know them). Remember, bombs go off in Indonesia, London, Middle East and the US. A café was held up by a crazy dude in Sydney and the whole country went on alert. Schools in the US are often reported to have gunmen going through them. It wasn’t that long ago that people were up in arms about 2 Aussies executed in Bali – but people still go there.

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There’s Things You’ll Only Experience Here

We live about 30 minutes from the Nairobi National Park where there is pretty much every wild animal except elephants (need a bigger place than that). We drove around for 8 hours last week and saw some exceptional groups of animals. Kenya has 25 national parks, 14 national reserves and 7 marine parks. And that’s just in Kenya alone. Imagine with 53 other countries what your experience could be. There’s also the adventure sports, culture and unique food to this part of the world. Not many can say they went white water rafting on the Nile.

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Travel On The Ground Is Cheap

Getting here would probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Once you’re here though, local travel, food and entertainment is pretty cheap compared to other places in the world. I can catch a bus to Uganda from Kenya for around $25, a private shuttle to Tanzania for around the same. You can get beef stew and rice for $2.50. Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum where you can pay through the nose for services and entertainment, it all depends on your budget.

elephant crossing

Sure, I could go on about the wonderful friendships you’ll make, the unique encounters you’ve had or the different cultural practices you’ve discovered but it’s much more than that. It’s something you can’t explain in proper words to your friends when you return home. There are wonderful memories and experiences that only people who’ve been to this part of the world will understand.

The question is – what is really stopping you from visiting?

smiles

Dispelling the Myths

There are lots of things that people ‘know’ about Africa but it’s actually what think they know. Stuff we’ve read online or more likely, what we’ve heard from others, their opinions or third hand knowledge.

Today I’m going to tell it like it really is so you can see a different side to what life here. Just remember, Africa has 54 countries, that’s a quarter of the number of countries in the entire world. Here’s 6 myths people hold about Africa.

Africa is huge.

Africa is huge.

 1. Mud Huts

Not everyone lives in a mud hut. In Kenya, 32% of people live in cities, Uganda 15%, Algeria 72%. Most of those people live in apartment blocks. In Nairobi where we live there are guards and sometimes guard dogs at the gated entrance of the property. While there are some houses, these tend to be in certain suburbs. Many homes tend to have house help. On the day we moved into our apartment, the caretaker offered his daughter as our househelp, all for $120 per month. We said no thanks.

hut  apartment

 2. Security

We have people staying in our home all of the time. They might be students coming to do research for their studies or perhaps taking a break from working in remote places around Africa. I love having people over. If I had a bigger house I would probably have a whole bunch of teenagers living with us who really need a place they can call ‘home’.

The number one question I get asked is ‘Is it safe there?’ Safety is all-relative. It’s not safe for me as a white person to walk around the streets at night, but it is during the day. We work with young people who live in the Kibera Slum. They are amazing and give me hope for our country. However, I am unwise to walk through Kibera by myself. Therefore, I go with people who live there.

Unfortunately, you can never take security for granted. We live in a relatively safe area but I still lock the car doors when I get in. We are always aware of things like our bags, phones and wallets. When we go to a slum, I take off my jewellery and leave anything I value, at home. If you wear it, you have to be prepared to lose it.

Kenya has been rocked by a number of security issues. In the last two years we’ve been involved in a rock throwing/riot situation while working, bus blow-ups (we don’t catch them if at all possible), attacks at the Coast and of course, the Westgate attack a year ago. It sounds bad but it doesn’t affect you too much unless you are involved. Even when we were running the kids program and we all had to huddle inside because the hall was being pelted with rocks, we didn’t feel afraid. We were just concerned how the little kids were going to get home safely.

The thing about acts of terrorism though is that you don’t know when and where it’s going to happen. You have to be alert and use the brain you’ve been given.

We are thankful that over the past two years we haven’t been carjacked or anything on our persons stolen. We’ve heard of it happening to lots of others but not us. May it so continue.

riot3. Money

There is money to be made in Africa. Get it out of your mind that the streets are lined with people begging with a bowl saying ‘please sir can I have some more’. Yes, there are beggars and homeless people (just like the rest of the world) and yes, a lot of people live in poverty. But – there are also people with money.

The top African countries with millionaires include South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Tanzania and even Algeria. Throughout the continent there are more than 130,100 millionaires. There are 27 billionaires.

I’ve been travelling to East Africa for 7 years. In that time there’s been an obvious sign that there is a developing bigger middle class – the number of locals at the coffee shop at the shopping mall and those shopping there. There’s also been a huge increase of cars on the roads. I am forever seeing Mercedes on the road!

Ashish Thakkar - Africa's youngest billionaire

Ashish Thakkar – Africa’s youngest billionaire

4. Modern Facilities

There is a huge difference between life in the city and that in the village. We have running water, electricity (most of the time), more footpaths and lots of shopping malls. In the village there might be one small shop to buy something from or, you jump on a bus to go to the nearest town. It’s basically opposite to a city. You have to buy water in a jerry can, you probably don’t have electricity.

In Nairobi, we have a number of slums that don’t have running water or sanitation facilities. We also have a large portion of locals who have never even stepped into a slum. On the other end of the spectrum, you have young people from well off families that don’t even speak Swahili (official language) because they go to private international schools.

We are quite spoilt in Nairobi, we can pretty much buy any food that we want. It’s not always available but when it is, it’s great. There are lots and lots of places to eat out and plenty to do. Nairobi is not a place you can get bored in. We’ve friends in Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia who, when they visit are ecstatic at what food and items we regularly buy. My husband Pete went to Ethiopia last week and half of his bag was full of sugar, meat and chocolate for an associate, because they couldn’t even get things like sausages.

On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda

On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda

5. Technology

East Africa has ridiculously cheap Internet. In Australia I was spending $100 just on my phone plan and then about that much more on a telephone/TV/internet package. $45 gives us unlimited wireless internet, TV package and a landline phone (which we never use). I use $5 for phone/SMS and another $5 for internet on my phone. And that’s on a busy month.

What I really like is that you can buy a scratchie card and put credit on your phone for as little as 50 cents. MPesa is a very cool monetary system established by Safaricom. Let’s say I need $5, anyone can send me that through the phone and I get it in an instant. I can then go and withdraw it or use it to buy goods or pay a bill. I often send Pete airtime on his phone via mine. I remember when Pete broke his leg when we were in Tanzania, on Mt Kilimanjaro and I called back to our friends in Nairobi to tell them and also, could they send me some credit on my phone – and they did. Got to love this system.

mpesa

In 9 days we fly out to Australia and New Zealand for our daughters’ wedding and we all know that we will have a heart attack on how expensive our phones will cost us. One phone package in New Zealand will cost me 4 months of what we would spend here.

6. It’s Hot

As I write this blog I’m sitting in jeans, wearing a jumper and have my ugg boots on. Okay, it’s not that cold but wearing uggies is comfortable around the house. Google tells me it’s 19 degrees and will hit 24 later. Very rarely does Nairobi get to 30 degrees.

Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert

You don’t have to travel far and there’s a huge temperature difference. In Garissa (4 hours away) it’s often 35 degrees. The Lake Turkana area often gets to 50 degrees. So yes, it does get hot here but not like what people think. During the middle of the year the temperature drops to around 13 in the morning, rainy seasons are in June/July and November/December. Things have been much drier this year and the rains in June just didn’t come. I’m seeing signs of the coming rains so it actually makes me happy. Outside of the city it’s dry and brown, here’s hoping it greens up fast.

tempDon’t believe everything you hear on the news about Africa. It’s a place of adventure, challenges and amazing people. You should come on over!

boy

Nairobi Safari Walk Adventure

Yesterday was a public holiday here in Kenya so the number one thing was to have a sleep in and then go out to do something. Liz took the whole sleep in idea a little bit far and didn’t wake up till after 10am (lucky her!).

Pete and I have never been to the Nairobi Safari Walk, so decided to give it a go. Here, because we are residence it only cost $3 each. We figured if it was a dud we hadn’t lost much. If we were tourists it would’ve cost a whopping $20.

elephant sign

There were no elephants at the park

Unfortunately we went in the middle of the day so finding animals was a real challenge. In fact we saw more signposts than animals.

What they did have that was cool were the boardwalks. However there wasn’t much to look at except trees.

walkwayWe’ve visited a few other places that have more action than this place, yet there were lots of people there. I’m not sure if it was because it was a holiday or that the kids could run free. In the wildlife department I think we have been totally spoilt.

We did manage to see a couple of different animals that we hadn’t spotted before.

pygmy hippo

A pygmy hippo – snoozing of course

brown zebra

A brown zebra

We even managed to get close up to a cheetah. I always get cheetahs and leopards mixed up.

cheetah face 2

giraffe nice

You can never see enough of giraffes

While the number of animals wasn’t great at least we could see them, and they us.

ostrich

Nosey ostrich

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy in the bush!

rhino headOverall it wasn’t too bad a way to spend an hour, but wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back again. If you ever come to Nairobi there are plenty of other places that are more exciting.