Kenya was a real mix of classes – poor and ‘well -off’ – at times it was such a wide gap to take in – that it really kind of made your stomach turn. I can’t simply say that I just experienced this only in Kenya – I experienced it all over Eastern Africa. In the US – many people can go through their whole lives and never get exposed to the very poor/desolate or even the very rich. Heck – I must admit – in the US I went through my whole teenage years and never met a person of Jewish faith. Point being – you can be very sheltered in the US.
View Kenya Photography
However – regardless of who we met along our journey – everyone was always hospitable and seemed genuinely happy and low stress. Granted – I looked around the ‘shanty’ towns and wondered how anyone could be happy there – but they were. It was simply a way of life. We came across many different people as we moved across Kenya. In Nairobi we were welcomed with open arms from all of Mungai’s family (aunts, uncles, grandmother, cousins, godmothers, friends). We were constantly having dinner with someone who wanted to meet Mungai’s ‘posse of women’! We even had the opportunity to go outside of Nairobi to meet Mungai’s grandmother (pictured to the right). She did not speak English – but she wanted to have us over for lunch. It amazed me how her farm and life reminded me of my grandparent’s farms in Nebraska. She provided us with a great lunch and then we went out and looked at her field of coffee beans, farm animals, etc. We were also treated to sugar cane for ‘dessert’ – chopped down right in front of us while we waited.
In Samburu we went to visit a local tribe of of Samburu people – they had an amazing primitive life in which they lived in mud huts, drank cows milk and blood, practiced pologymy, and made extra money for their tribe by having tourists come and see their life on display. The kids were fascinated by us – we went into their school (the only real building in the area) and they proudly sang their A,B,C’s and counted for us.
They were as fascinated by us as we were by them – I’m not really sure who was on display more! Some of the tribe people and kids are pictured here and above.
Everywhere we went we saw Kenyans wearing tshirts that were hilarious to us – some were for American sporting teams, American bands, bars in Idaho, D.A.R.E tshirts (Nancy Reagan would be proud!) – these were all obviously things that other visitors had brought with them and donated. But it was mildly entertaining seeing an adult man wearing a varsity cheerleading tshirt – but they didn’t care – it was clothes.
When we went to Mombassa we met a local couple there. Erin’s father has a global business and he was in the early stages of doing business with a company in Mombassa. So we met up with the couple who ran the company there – Mohammad and Layla (pictured below). They were ship channelers (no – this is not some wierd form of predicting a ship’s future or bringing it back from the dead) – they served as a ‘middle-man’ of sorts to the various ships that were in port in Mombassa. Selling them food, transportation, goods – whatever they needed. It was an amazing experience in hospitality – we were welcomed with open arms. They came out with us every night and had dinner and drinks. They were very excited to show us Mombassa and all it had to offer. In fact they were so eager – my New Yorker attitude woke up and at first wondered “ What do they want from us?” It was eye opening to see that the rest of the world doesn’t operate in this way. Granted – you do need to keep your guard up – but I have to re-tune my radar a bit. They brought along a friend who was a guide that showed us around and taught us the history of Mombassa, they took us to clubs, and the last night they took us out to dinner – all of us – and invited us to come back and visit. They provided Erin gifts for her family. This is all similar to the hospitality we are experienced in the various hotels, from our various guides, and in Lamu.
I had to leave Kenya early in the morning and didn’t really get the chance to thank Mungai’s family properly – so I’ll take this opportunity now – To all of Mungai’s family/friends (and Mungai of course!) – thanks for the hospitality, the food, the drink, the safey, the education, and your smiles! You made Kenya a very positive, fun experience – and a great way to start off my trip!
The whole experience simply gives you faith in the kindness of people – people all over the world!
Our WONDERFUL host! Mungai (on right) and his cousin Moshohi