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First Impressions...

KENYA | Saturday, 21 March 2009 | Views [1062] | Comments [1]

Preparing for this "trip", I began to think of certain luxuries, and everyday decisions we are faced with, and began to wonder if they exist where I was going. Not because I hoped they existed, but more so a curiosity of the unknown. Simple things, really. Subway or sushi? Walk or taxi? Family Guy or 2 and a half men?

The curiosity lingered, however, before i would find out, before i would experience Africa, i had a 3 day stop over in Amsterdam. Quite ironic really. 3 days in a city of extreme indulgence, before settling in a country lacking even the most basic of needs - food. I almost resented the thought of the mischief that took place in Amsterdam, the taking for granted of food, drink, drugs. But upon arriving to Schipol Airport (and almost being toppled over by Brookes run and jump hug) i thought, "When in Rome...".

Amsterdam was... well... everything i thought it would be. Drugs. Prostitution. Anne Franks. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex Shows. Drugs. Museums. Art. Music. Drugs. All neatly tucked away into cute little European Architecture. It was the cleanest dirty place I have ever been to.

So Brooke and I ran a muck, enjoyed and experienced all we wanted to Day 1: Walk, admire, catch up on 2 years, cafes, vodka, and a night viewing of... well lets just say a night viewing. Day 2: Anne Franks, Sex Museum, more walking and admiring the beautiful city, bagels, more cafes, dodging bicycles, avoiding vending machine burgers, vodka. Day 3: Relax, a little walking and a train ride before going our own ways. Her to England. Me to Kenya.

Arrival: 35 Celsius. That is 35 degrees warmer than Amsterdam. That is 50 degrees warmer than Calgary. That is torture. Why did i not plan ahead and decide on shorts, tshirt and a hoody? Oh no, it was jeans, t shirt and jacket for me. And the air conditioning in Nairobi's airport was not cutting it.

After 2 hours waiting through customs (Kenyans are never in a rush), and being hassled by 20 "taxi" drivers saying they are all friends with the owners of the hotel i am staying, I finally gave in to one lady and headed to Wildebeest Camp. The drive was an eye opener to say the least. What would be a 3 lane road to Canadian standards, was a cluster of cars 5 wide, swerving in, out, off the road, squeezing tightly between trucks. No rules. And here is Margot, my driver, calm as can be, singing away to a gospel song on the radio. Relax Case, just be thankful its not peak hour.

Wildebeest Camp is a slice of heaven only a stones throw from Africa's largest slum - Kibera. It was pure bliss. A large colonial style main building, a lush yard, towering trees, pet turtles, amazing food and a great place to drink in the evening. I spent 3 nights here. I could have spent 300.

My first few days in Nairobi were spent adjusting and climatising and getting over culture shock. Do they not have garbage bins here? Is there any road rules? Do matatu drivers actually have licences? Why do i pay more than locals? I'm sorry, Mango's are how much?? 10 cents?? I'll take 10 thank you.

It definately took me a couple days to adjust. I soon realised just how un travelled and un cultured I really am. I associate poor and crime. Most of us do. But some, likem yself, are guilty of never associating poor with happiness. Kenya is a poor country. There is a big gap between the rich and the poor. A very small middle class, so small I did not see it. I just hoped it was there. But despite the desperation of so many people, they seemed remarkably un desperate. And before long, you begin to realise that Kenyan's are amazingly happy. Everyone wants to meet yo and shake your hand and ask "How are you?" (to which you have to reply "Fine" or risk a blank look). I was oevrwhelmed. From day 3, i loved Kenya.

Day 4 was meeting day. The local NGO that International Volunteer HQ has partnered with wants us to meet and do a quick orientation before heading to our placements. Despite the lack of organisation (which is Kenya wide and not specific to the NGO), i was picked up and taken to the orientation on time and met the 11 other volunteers all looking as confused/excited/nervous/unknowing as me. All we knew was 1. we were volunteers. 2. we were in Kenya. 3. it was hot. The slow release of information from the NGO staff gradually eased everyone's minds, and answered all our questions. We each recieved a little package describing what to expect, where you will be, important rules to remember and a few Swahili & Maasai sayings to help us get by. Once done, the air felt lighter, but the anxiety was present. Everyone was very anxious to get cracking. But unfortunately, we would have to spend another night in Nairobi.

The rest of the day was taken up with driving all over Nairobi visiting other people's placements. We saw 4 slums. My heart sank 4 times. We had "How are you?" and "Mzungu" (white person) yelled at us 100 times from 1000 children. We drove through a slum rife with prostitution which has people who have been found to be immune to HIV. We stopped and waited for goats to cross the road countless times. We stared like rich tourists at the endless line of people, sitting in the dirt, begging for food. We sat shocked/amazed, disgusted at our own wealth, yet filled with a desire to help. Help anyway possible.

Tags: amsterdam, kenya, maasai, nairobi

Comments

1

Hey casey_hamilton,

We really like your story and have decided to use it in this month's feature destination on the WorldNomads homepage so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!
World Nomads

  true-claims-stories Feb 3, 2010 10:04 AM

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