It’s summer in Kenya! And I know that not because of warm weather and barbecues (actually the newspaper keeps printing articles about how to take care of your skin in the cold season and there was a display of heaters at the grocery store today), but because all of a sudden there seem to be many more mzungus (white people!) wandering around Western Kenya.
These summer visitors stand out not only because of their white skin, but because for some reason they all seem to wear tennis shoes or hiking boots with long skirts (not a great look unless entirely necessary), nodding attentively as they follow a Kenyan guide around town. In fact I remember before we moved to Kenya when we visited the travel doctor to get some vaccinations the nurse warned us, with a serious face, to “always wear tennis shoes, since the sidewalks there can be pretty uneven.” Sidewalks!? Our road is made of dirt.
There are so many misconceptions and so much anxiety when it comes to Africa, and visitors come ready to protect themselves from everything from malaria to a stubbed toe. One of the best things about being in Kenya has been the opportunity to tell other people about our experiences, to help people realize that you don’t need to wear hiking boots to get around a town where many people are barefoot (although you might want to watch out for malaria). We don’t have family or many friends who have experience in Africa or with development work, and it’s really cool to be able to share this place with people who might otherwise never experience it. We really hope not only to show all the amazing things like the animals on safari and the gorgeous beaches on the coast, but to also show that life here is normal life in so many ways.
Recently Tim’s family came to visit, and we loved the opportunity to show them around! They came to Kakamega and saw our home, our office, and the rainforest next door – before exploring the Rift Valley, the Masai Mara, and Nairobi.
It felt good to show them both the every day and extraordinary that we experience here in Kenya. We were lucky enough to see lions hunting (unsuccessfully) in the Mara, black rhinos in Lake Nakuru, and baby elephants at an elephant orphanage in Nairobi.
We also saw monkeys and birds in the Kakamega Rainforest, went by the office to show them a bit about our work, and taught them a little Swahili.
We are looking forward to having more friends come soon! We hope that through visitors and through this blog we can show our friends and family far away a little more about what Kenya is all about.