I was on a journey to become a stranger in a foreign land. Gazing out the plane window, seeing the curve of the earth with the moon and faint stars lighting up the sky. When looking down, small clouds on large plains, with small winding rivers having split second shimmering reflections from the moon gave me my first impression of Africa as a huge, foreign, beautiful place. We (my good friend Sara and I) arrived in Nairobi in the early morning. Driving past Nairobi National Park, Kibera (Africa's largest slum), and the overall environment of the roads and homes around us, I knew there was going to be much learn, and many be experiences during our time there.
The first day there, we were volunteering at a girl's shelter. The shelter was made for these girls to learn, and spend time there to have a safe place from their abusers. They were honestly the brightest young girls, who just needed opportunity for them to really blossom into young women.
When it came to lunch time, all the girls hurried into the kitchen, and came back with what looked like white large beans. One girl offered that I tried some, which I did, and I must say I was not a fan of it. It turns out it was maize, which is corn, but not the kind of corn we eat in America. America has sweet corn, yellow with smaller kernels. Maize is a bit bigger, whiter kernels, and its the same corn that farmers feed their cattle. It was clear that things there were eaten to be full, not for nutrition or pleasure.
Our second day, we took a day tour of Kibera. Kibera is the largest, continuous slum in Africa. There's about 2 million people who call Kibera home. It is a flow of unstructured huts, smiling friendly faces, and home to many people, gangs, disease, and the list goes on. The extreme poverty there leaves residents with a budget of around $1 a day. Unemployment is very common, along with HIV and cases of AIDS, rape, and assault. About 80% of women are raped before they turn 18 years old. Prostitution is common, but seen as a way of life to support your family. If you can't feed your family, and your only way to get food is through prostitution, then its a way to support your family. A majority of people there are living without electricity, running water, medical care, and education. The way it was explained to us, was that Kibera is broken down into three different areas, the high class, middle class, and poverty. None of them would be considered an acceptable way of living in US standards. Being there was like nothing I have experienced before, mud everywhere mixed with garbage, feces, but at the same time it was organized chaos. Everyone had their own home, there were shops that sold clothes, food, snacks, etc. People were smiling and friendly regardless of their living conditions. We got to go inside a family's house, which consisted of a small, maybe 8'x8' with a small bed, chairs--just the essentials. There are 7 people who lived in this home, and this is a common thing, if not bigger families.
One of the highlights of this trip was going to the Masai Mara and going on a safari. It was a butt lifting off the seat bumpy drive to get there, but once we did it was unlike anything we've experienced before. There are over 40 different tribes in Kenya, and the Maasai is one of the biggest ones, which is the tribe we visited.
We were greeted in the Maasai village with a welcoming dance and song that consists of rhythms and harmonies sung by the song leader, and others will add to it. The lifestyle the Maasai take on is a complete 180 from anything else I've experienced. Living with no electricity or running water, in a village of 200 people where all the men come from the same grandfather. Where they use chickens as a form of currency, drink cows blood regularly, and men can have up to 5 wives. A place where the male warriors must kill a lion as proof of manhood, and where male and female endure a painful circumcision and a teenager with a ceremony that will lead them to manhood and womanhood. It was eye opening to understand this lifestyle from bring there and sharing stories with them. The way they use the resources around them and live off the land truly feels ancient, especially in comparison to how advance technology is now. Our Maasai friend, Eric, was telling us their means for transportation is walking everywhere. He would visit some of his family in Tanzania every so often, and was casually explaining the walk there is about 24 hours...of straight walking!
The next day was from dawn to dusk safari. The first thing we saw was a kill-- a hienya killed a cow. At first it was a bit surreal, like literally stepping into a scene from a National Geographic documentary. But once that wore off, I stepped back from the scene in front of me an really took a look around at what was happening, and how it was the circle of life. The hienya killed the cow because it was hungry, and the cow was too weak to get away. Once the hienya was full and stepped away, then all the vultures came in, along with all the other random animals who saw there was new food available. When the hienya came back, all the vultures knew to immediately back off. The respect for the other animals is embedded into their instincts. During our game drive, we got lucky and had an epic safari, which means seeing the "super seven", consisting of the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino, cheetah, and wild dogs. When leaving the Masai Mara, a feeling of peacefulness swept across me. Watching the sun go down, seeing zebras and gazelle running along one another; seeing the lions with their young and the wildebeests staying in their pack and migrating for miles and miles; the giraffes eating the top braches of the trees while the African elephants walked with their young across the plains. Witnessing these animals coexisting on the same land, without constantly wanting to hurt one another (only when necessary when hungry), was one of the most beautiful sights and feelings I've had the pleasure of witnessing.
Overall, Kenya was one of the most memorable, interesting learning experiences I've been on throughout the travels in my life. If you have any questions about anything, please reach out to me with any questions at all, there is so much I did not touch on and I would love to talk about as well. 10/10, would recommend going and experiencing what Kenya has to offer!