We have officially been in Kenya for two weeks!
Here are a few miscellaneous stories from our adventures so far.
On Wednesday last week we were invited by two U-tena members to do some yoga in the Community Center. At 10am we were greeted by our teacher Kevin who led us through an hour and a half of quick paced power flows with a big smile. Afterwards we sat on the floor stretching and talking to him about his yoga practice. He told us that he had applied and received a scholarship to study yoga with the Africa Yoga Project. This organization teaches yoga as a mental health practice to youth and prisoners in Kenya. Kevin’s focus however was specifically on children who were growing up in the slums. He detailed that many children living in the slum do not have much room for physical activity and the parents are often too busy or tired to engage with them. We are looking forward to hearing more about his project and doing more yoga in the coming weeks!
Shopping in Kenya
Everywhere you go in Kenya there are items for sale – from Nike air maxes on a tarp to Kitenge fabrics stacked upon a woman’s head. Kenya has a massive market for used clothes (see Gikomba Market blog) which we have had the pleasure of experiencing. Ariel snagged a scarf waiting for a matatu for 50Ksh, Sierra purchased a dress for a mere 100 Ksh, and I (Carly) have obtained two treasures for 300Ksh. The first was a hat that caught my eye on a dusty round about – It said “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”. I immediately tossed the woman 50Khs and ran to catch up with everyone crossing the street. Interestingly enough I think it is my only belonging that says Colorado on it. (Late last week I saw a man in a Colorado State University hoodie and thoroughly confused him trying to explain that it was from my hometown.) My other treasure is an “adidas” hoodie that caught Ariel’s eye from across a busy street (I had mentioned wanting one). Upon closer inspection I noticed that the garment was in fact and American Eagle sweatshirt with the Adidas logo painted (unevenly) on the front. When I heard the vendor say 250 I knew I had to have this bizarre piece of true Kenyan clothing. While we have thoroughly enjoyed the cheap shopping we have also indulged ourselves in some higher end shopping. After our overwhelming experience in Gikomba we stumbled upon a store in the CBD called Mr. Price. It and its products have a great resemblance to that of an American H&M and we fell into some comfortable retail therapy.
We have ridden on two boda bodas (motorcycle taxis). Much to my mothers dismay I love them. We rode one home from work and weaved in and out of cars and matatus. The other was on our way to the rural school on a bouncy dirt road. While boda bodas can be enjoyable they aren’t the cheapest or safest mode of transportation and will be saved for special occasions.
Safari Walk and Market
Our first weekend we set out in the morning towards the outskirts of Nairobi to the National Park. We spent the morning in a natural zoo and were fortunate to see many animals up close and active (namely some cheetahs). We will be going on a real safari later in our trip but enjoyed the animals and the quiet immensely. After a few hours of ooh-ing and ahh-ing we headed back into the CBD (central business district) to see the Maasai Market – much to our dismay it was closed due to a UN meeting. However Mokaya (one of our hosts) suggested that he knew an even better place to get crafts and led us to the Market. We found ourselves surrounded by beautifully beaded Maasai sandals and after some haggling, each left with a pair.
Right next to the U-tena Community Center is a small government hospital that serves much of the population of Viwandani. (Mareba is a factory area located just outside of the slum. The factories produce wigs and employ many of the residents of Viwandani – at very low wages about $3 a day. Yet there is still a high unemployment rate in the area.) The U-tena members have a close relationship with the hospital and volunteer there when they have free time. Cha Cha gave us a tour of the hospital and we got to speak with quite a few employees about the work they do there. A woman working in the family planning office showed us a huge variety of contraceptives that they offer for free (including pills, injections, and even IUD’s). We were interested to see that most women elect the short-term options such as an injection (lasts for 3 months). While IUD’s are becoming a more popular option for young adult women in the United States, women in Kenya rarely use them until after they have given birth. We are planning on volunteering here when we have some extra time.
St. Phillips Primary
Another one of U-tena’s projects involves teaching physical education and dance to students at a rural school. This past Saturday we joined Vicky (U-tena Member) on a trek to the rural school. We had a long matatu trip that prompted us to buy snacks (peanuts, bananas, and sugar cane) by yelling out the window. The second part of our travels occurred on boda bodas. We rode about five miles on a bumpy dirt road that made for a bouncy fun trip. It was nice to see some wide-open space and breathe fresh air. We arrived at the school and had a lunch of githeri (beans and corn). Then we watched as Vicky set up his drums and about 50 students started filing into the main hall. He began the lesson with a bunch of jumping on two feet – literally 300 times- to the beat of the drums. We then did some planks and squats, which garnered a lot of laughs and tumbling children. We then learned four or five African dance steps and combined them into a dance. The students practiced choreographed dances in small groups and Vicky provided corrections and helped keep the room lively but focused. As the session continued other kids slipped into the hall and danced along the walls while others peaked in through windows. The cook was caught dancing along in the kitchen and gave everyone a good laugh. Vicky explained to us that he learned to dance when he was of primary school age and wanted to share his passion with other children.
This weekend we decided to head to the elephant orphanage again and made it an hour early this time. The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is home to 24 baby elephants (and some rhinos) all under the age of two years. They were all rescued from the wild for a variety of reasons – getting separated from their herd, falling into wells, and many had lost their mothers to ivory poaching. The elephants are kept in the orphanage for about three years and then monitored for five as they are reintegrated into a herd in the wild. We brought along Cha Cha’s son and nephew who were both extremely excited. At 11 they opened the gate and we along with a bunch of muzungus rushed in to get a good spot. We were giddy when we saw baby elephants – about hip height, 6months old – running down a path towards the roped off area we surrounded. They were each fed two liters of milk (baby formula) and received a mud bath. They then proceeded to play in the mud with each other, eat leaves and walk around the perimeter where we could touch them. Im not sure who loved it the most Ariel or Cha Cha’s six year old son Mayan.
Finally we made it to the Maasai Market after three tries. The market takes up a full city block in the CBD and has a wealth of beautiful crafts, art and gifts. We spent about three hours enjoying the works and haggling for our favorites. We made friends with some of the dealers by speaking to them in Swahili – Habari:greeting, pesangapi:how much – and explaining where in Nairobi we live. The variety of crafts includes – rolled paper bead necklaces, woven bead jewelry, maasai sandals, oil paintings, batiks, kitenge fabrics on bags, clothes, and scarves, carvings, stuffed animals and dolls in beautiful fabrics, statues, drums, and much more. The majority of gifts are within a 25 cent – $5 range – if you can charm and or bargain well. We each left with a full bags of gifts, a small dent in our wallet and big smiles.
More updates soon! Thanks for following along!
There are pictures to match many of these experiences on the photo blog aswell!
– Carly Paul