Welcome to Kisumu International Airport.
I must say, for the 48 exhausting hours it takes to arrive and 9 hour difference in time, this is one spectacular place to land. Flying in over Lake Victoria gives a view of the city that just draws you in. The fishing boats on the lake and lush greenery is very enticing. The bright orange Fly540 jet also clues you in on the idea that nothing is going to fade into the background anymore. Be prepared for everything to be loud, colorful, and full of personality. (visual tour)
Thursday’s 6:30 AM EAT (East Africa Time) flight into Kisumu was very low key and relaxing. This was beyond necessary considering my body had no clue what time it actually was and how it was supposed to function. I was picked up by my new coworkers Kevin and Moses, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and Competitions Officer respectively. I received a bit of a guided tour through the area on the way to my home for the weekend. With my future roomies in Nairobi for the weekend at a huge rugby tournament I was given temporary housing at my manager Rachelle’s house. I got the bottom bunk in her girls’ room. Thursday was used to nap and attempt to adjust myself to the new time zone. That is when I met Seth, Rachelle’s husband, their girls and Karolina, a German volunteer with Kiwanis staying in their guest room. http://sites.kiwanis.org/kiwanis/en/home.aspx Karolina has been helping me brush up on my Deutsch while both of us are working on picking up Kiswahili.
The weekend was spent going on excursions around the city and out. Finding the office, coffee shops in town, getting a local cell one number and internet access were all helpful in making this really feel like my home. Saturday we took a matatu to the Tea Hotel in Kericho. It is a tea plantation that grows 80% of the tea consumed in Kenya. Kenya is a former British colony so you can imagine the amount of tea consumed here. Sunday included sightseeing around town and my first introduction to Lake Victoria and the authentic local cuisine.
Here is some quick information I have gathered over my first week of travel and “assimilation”
1. The mode of transportation can create an adventure in itself.
Walking- People stare, call out to you, try to make friends, and rumors about pickpockets but I haven’t experienced that yet, little kids point and yell “Mazunga! Mazunga!” which means “White person! White person!”, a little boy blew kisses at me.
Matatu- Large van that races around the city and is the main means of transportation. Each one has a different personality and apparently a good name is very important like “More Money, More Problems”, “Exodus”, “#1 Stunner”, “B.I.G.”, and many more just as interesting including the lovely “Fire Mama”. My favorite was the matatu we jumped into Saturday evening the had the black light and rap pumping none other then KCMO’s very own Tech N9ne.
Bodaboda- Bicycle with an extra seat over the back tire for passengers that can get you anywhere in the city, this is a great way to get around when you don’t exactly know where you are going. This is a standard means of transportation and there seems to almost be an expectation that if you can afford it you use it.
Pikipiki (picky-picky)- Motorbike with an extra seat on the back. This is considered the most risky form of transportation but it gets you around town fast. This is the only one I haven’t used yet.
Tuktuk- Three-wheeled covered rickshaw is the most expensive form of transport. It can carry about four people and is good for going off the matatu routes and can get you there quickly.
2. Kids are kids everywhere you go. Between the time I have spent with my nephews and nannying I have spent a lot of time with kids under 10. After spending the weekend with a 7 year old and 3 year old it is evident they are all the same. The 7 year old likes to provoke her little sister and when the little one swings back the 7 year old is quite quick to tattle and get the other in trouble. She also won’t hesitate to wake me up at 6:30-6:45 AM if she is awake and wants company. The 3 year old never stops asking “What’s this?”, “Where are you going?”, or any other question. They are so curious, like to push buttons, and think they know everything. I don’t know anyone who can tell me his kids don’t fall under those areas.
25 year old girl from Kansas/Chicago in her 3rd day in Kenya
28 year old girl from Germany in her 3rd week in Kenya
29 year old boy from Kentucky/Louisiana that is in Kenya for Peace Corps
… this means that every time we were turned around, got a little muddy, sat and waited over an hour in the matatu, or had to walk a ways, one of us would say “its just part of the adventure”. I am really learning how great it is to
4. In the immortal words of Doc Brown, “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… roads.” Yes boys and girls, wise Dr. Emmett Brown wasn’t talking about the future. He was talking about Kenya, where no one is really required to drive down the street. My first experience with the was in the traffic jam going to my hotel from the airport. There was a huge delay due to rains and flooding so the 15 minute drive turned into 60 minutes. I was fairly entertained however, by my driver’s ability to take up any one of the five lanes of traffic. At any given point any one of the five lanes would be going a different direction with bicyles, motorbikes, and people walking in between. It was quite amazing. All week I have been in awe of the people walking between cars going different directions and no wreckage. Tonight’s expedited trip hope included a tuktuk ride instead of matutu because four of us from the office were going the same way and we were pretty late. The tuktuk was rarely on the road, not caring if it was going the same direction as traffic. Oh man. We dodged people, bicycles, cars, trucks. Basically worked our way around anything that could or could not move. Very impressive and a little out of control.
5. What comes to most people as common sense can be slightly difficult when you don’t really have solid footing. My advice: keep your head up as much as possible when walking. Muddy and rocky ground is a very real danger and you want to keep a look out for your footing. If you don’t watch your footing it is very likely you will lose your flipflop and cause a large traffic jam by returning to claim your belonging from the mud. The locals will give you dirty looks when this happens. They are not entertained. But, if you aren’t careful you may look up a little late, like I did, and be run over by a pack of donkeys. I define a pack of donkeys as about six. This can be quite startling and cause you to lose the footing you were working so hard on retaining in the first place.
Well there you have it. My quick introduction to Kenya. More exciting tales to come include my upcoming trip to the rain forest in Kakamega and all about how I am adjusting to life in the new office and new apartment and new language. Kwaheri!