Today marks my third day here in Kenya. Africa is incredible, even though I have yet to see our University campus (that will happen tomorrow). But let’s start from the beginning…
I said goodbye to my parents at the SeaTac airport and boarded a plane from Seattle to Paris. From there, after a short layover, I hopped back on the plane to reach my first destination, Nairobi. Walking off the plane and through customs, I could see our program coordinator Kerry with her hand-written sign amongst the sea of Africans waiting to offer a taxi or tuk tuk ride (more on tuk tuksin a bit) to any passerby. We hopped into a very British car (complete with steering wheel on the wrong side) and drove rather haphazardly to our hotel just outside of Nairobi. I met two of the faculty, Sean Flannery and Dr. Thomas Burke, and after a short meeting with the entire group, made our way back to the Nairobi airport. From there a short 45-minute flight landed us in Kisumu.
The group, about twenty students plus two program coordinators, split up into a caravan of the African tuk tuk vehicles (see pictures). Tuk tuks (pronounced “touk touk” with the “o” sound as in “soup”) are a strange hybrid of covered wagon and three-wheeled motorcycle. They fit one driver in the front and three passengers “comfortably” in the back. The canopy is made out of a kind of canvas, and many must be started by a pull-start engine similar to the old lawnmowers back in the US. We arrived at the Great Lakes University’s guesthouse and it is absolutely gorgeous. Setting our stuff down, we once again boarded into a line of tuk tuksand set off for the local mall. After purchasing phones, wireless internet minutes and a few groceries, we had dinner at a local Indian restaurant.
At the restaurant, Kerry recognized the representative to the Kenyan parliament from the Kisumu district and he addressed us, welcoming our group to Kenya. He explained how happy he was that we had come to learn and to help, and gave us a bit of history on Kisumu’s recent political connections (including a visit by the then-senator Obama and his wife Michelle).
Finally, we trekked back to the guesthouse, climbed into our mosquito-proof bed nets and fell asleep to the sound of wild birds and African dogs.
A couple of things about Africa that I have learned so far:
- There are no rules to driving on the Kenyan road that I can discern except that you generally drive on the English side of the road. People also drive extremely close to one another and cut each other off like they were paid to do it.
- White people are called Mzungus, and Kenyan kids on the side of the road will shout “Mzungu! Mzungu!” and wave as our group passes by.
- Kenyan weddings (we saw one at the hotel in Nairobi) are quite colorful and involve a lot of call-and-response singing.
- Kenyans (especially those in Kisumu) are quite friendly, and love to shake hands and high-five.
- Giraffes are huge (I saw my first one somewhat close up yesterday)
Well, that’s all for now! Pictures to come once I find a more reliable internet source. Check back again soon for more updates!