Kenya week 1We have arrived!
After two long flights from Canada, these six ladies finally landed in Nairobi, Kenya. Let the adventures and the expansion of our minds begin!
Upon disembarking the plane, we quickly proceeded to get our visas so we could enter Kenya. The process was slow (we quickly learned that slow or “poli poli” in Swahili is the Kenyan way). We arrived around at 11 p.m. It was too late to be driving to Maai Mahiu, the town where we were going to be staying. We stayed at the Westwood Hotel in Nairobi for the night. The Westwood gave us our first taste of the Kenyan hospitality. We didn’t get there until well past midnight and the staff there welcomed us with warm smiles, appetizers and drinks, never making us feel like our late arrival was an inconvenience.
The following day we began our journey to Maai Mahiu. Since we had arrived when it was dark we didn’t have a chance to see what Kenya looked like. As we travelled from Nairobi to Maai Mahiu, it is safe to say that our first impressions of Kenya were of surprise. One of the first things we noticed was the abundance of garbage that litters the side of the roads. Coming from a place that has decent recycling programs it was clear that we weren’t in a westernized country. As we continued on, we noticed A LOT of people walking in places that to us seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t a stretch of road between towns and villages that didn’t have people walking somewhere. Throughout the trip we would often wonder “where were these people going?”
As we left Nairobi and began passing through different towns and villages, we began noticing the significant differences from the way we lived in Canada. The quality of the roads were surprising - for the amount of traffic that travels on these infrastructures we thought that they would be in better shape. Most main roads were single lanes going each way and quite bumpy. If you were heading onto side roads, they were made of rocks, gravel and dirt and were extremely bumpy and dusty. The trucks drive quite slowly, as do the motorcycles, but most passenger vehicles make daring passes just to get around the slower drivers. It was surprising that we didn’t see any accidents.
As we drove along, we saw the kiosks and stores that many people had set up, most were no bigger than a small bedroom. Many people had rickety little wooden fruit and vegetable stands - most of the time there were several in a row. There weren’t any clean big box stores that we are used to seeing. It’s pretty easy to determine that during our drive to Maai Mahiu our eyes and minds were being opened up to an entirely different way of living than we were used to.
As we got closer to Maai Mahiu with the beautiful blue sky above us, we couldn’t help but take in the amazing landscape. There was a large variety of beautiful trees and plants, and in the background we saw rolling hills and mountains. We saw farm lands thriving with fresh vegetables that were getting close to harvest. It wasclear to us that farming was a huge part of the Kenyan livelihood.
We entered Maai Mahiu and, truth be told, for those of us who hadn’t been here before we were shocked. We knew that this little town was quite impoverished and was known for the large amount of truckers that came through as well as the rampant sex trade. However, driving through was an experience on an entirely different level. The visible poverty was heartbreaking and we hoped that being here would make even the slightest impact.
The Transit Hotel, it’s fair to say, got mixed reviews at first sight. The outside was actually nice, you can tell it’s an older building but it’s inviting; nonetheless it was still a shock to those of us who hadn’t stayed there before. The rooms weren’t what we were used to but they were clean, with a bathroom, a bed and table. Most of us were a bit apprehensive about staying there but that apprehension quickly shifted after we got a walk through the town.
Ruby Ruth, our amazing Ubuntu go-to lady, took us on a tour of Maai Mahiu. It was definitely a humbling experience. It was one thing to be in a vehicle and drive by the poverty but it much deeper and real to be walking through the streets and seeing the buildings and interacting with the people. It is fair to say that we no longer griped about our accommodations and felt quite grateful for what we had. As the first week at the Transit Hotel came to a close, we got to know some of the staff and they were incredibly warm and friendly and more than happy to ensure our stay was as comfortable as possible. The Transit Hotel was beginning to feel like home away from home.
The first Wednesday we were in Maai Mahiu, we got to meet the amazing people who work at the Ubuntu. They welcomed us with open arms and made us feel as though we were long time friends. They told us about all the different type of services that are provided to the community. We also gave the kids our donations and got to spend sometime playing soccer and showing them the toys that we brought.
On Thursday and Friday, we began work on the playground project. The work on those two days consisted of us hoeing and then putting the grass clumps into large sacks and carrying them about 500 meters to the compost pile.
Saturday morning, we went on a boat ride on Lake Navasha and saw several hippos sleeping in the water. Later Saturday and Sunday morning we went to on a Safari at Lake Nakuru National Park. The experience was amazing. We saw a black rhino, a lioness and her cubs and many giraffes, zebras and water buffaloes.
Sunday afternoon we went to visit an IDP camp, we brought some groceries for a family that was struck by tragedy. The experience was incredibly humbling for us
Maai Mahiu, Kenya