Tag Archives: Adventures in Kenya

Fun things that I have done and explored in Kenya during my travels

Mount Longonot

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Mount Longonot (a Maasai word meaning ‘mountain of steep ridges’) is a dormant stratovolcano near Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. Last it erupted was in the 1860’s.

This is where Shem and I chose to have our special adventure day last weekend! We started around 12:30 and, surprisingly, we reached the top rim of the mountain in just one hour. It was steep! There were many times I had to stop, catch my breath, and steady myself from rolling down the steep incline. The view was beautiful and the further we climbed the more mountains, zebra, giraffe, and gazelle we saw.

Once we reached the rim we pulled out our peanut butter and jelly and banana sandwiches and relaxed, overlooking the crater inside.

As we sat and enjoyed the view you could hear thunder in the distance, and turning around, we could see a fast approaching

thunder storm with a lot of rain.

But because we were so content and relaxed the idea of rushing down was not very appealing. So we sat, watched the storm come, got rained on a bit, and let it pass!

This was a wonderful rest from the city for a day and such a good adventure. Because of the rain and storm we weren’t able to hike the

whole rim (takes 3 hours) but next time- we will 🙂


Dad came to Town

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I arrived a few weeks ago, back to Kenya, this time with my dad! For 2 weeks I was able to show my dad around “my world” and witness him experience things for the first time that I have long gotten used to. Within these weeks together he met my boyfriend and many others who are close to me here, for the first time. He visited Kibera and Mathare slums and got to sit in on an art class that I do for my 50 children at the Inspiration Center every week. We took many walks, rode many matatus, ate ugali and chapatti, visited the archives museum, and at the very end we got to go on a 3 day Safari trip together in Masaai Mara! Another thing that he helped me to do is to move into my own apartment with one other friend. Kazi and I are waiting for a slightly larger place to become available, but in the meantime we are renting a 2 room place- one tiny bedroom and one other main room which we use for livingroom/kitchen. This has been a fun change for me- to enjoy cooking for myself and entertaining friends in my own place.

Going to Shem’s Aunt’s House

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We walked for about 3 hours up and over, down and around; passing many mountains until we finally came to a small cluster of mud-wall, thatched-roof huts that were cupped in a valley of shambas, surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains. It was beautiful. This aunt was his mom’s older sister and once again she was thrilled and surprised at our coming all in the same. After meeting the family Shem’s aunt (he calls her mom) packed us a picnic of soda and cookies and Shem and I just kept on walking. This time it was straight up the mountain! Our mission- conquer the peak and see a 360 view of the mountains and homes that were tucked between. 

The views were amazing and it was so peaceful on top that we actually repeated out trip up the mountain again the very next day. We ended up staying 2 nights total at his mom’s place even though we didn’t even intend on staying one night. First night she insisted we stay because she hadn’t seen Shem in so long and then the next evening it started down pouring buckets. Shem was so determined to go that night though that despite the rain he told me to get ready to leave. Because my refusals to walk in the rain for 3 hours did not seem to sway him I let him go say goodbye to his aunt, knowing that she would also completely refuse his idea of leaving, so once again we stayed another night! Back home at Rose’s place apparently both evenings that we were gone people from the surrounding churches and homes had come in a large number to visit and welcome us. I was told they wanted to see a white “Mazungu” and both days people prepared food for us and awaited our coming, only to return home disappointed. When we finally returned home on Friday is when we heard from Shem’s uncle that he had bought fish as a special meal for us to have and then had also prepared special food the second night because he was so sure of our return. This uncle was the one whom especially put pressure on Shem to build his home next to the family there, while at the same time Shem’s mom was making the same request on the other side of the mountains. Both are good offers, but I think time and thought will bring clarity to Shem’s decision on that.

During my entire stay I felt completely relaxed, at home, and at peace right where I was… surrounded by mountains, shambas, fresh air, birds chirping, people caring for me with such thoughtfulness even though we had just met, good food, outdoor bucket baths, and I was able to spend more time with someone who I am enjoying getting to know very much. My phone was off. I woke up with the sun and birds and fell asleep by candlelight. You would have thought time would drag on and days would be slow, but actually in my opinion it went way too fast.

Once Upon a Time in Upcountry

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Shem and I took a trip to his family’s home upcountry a few days after my mom left Kenya. It seems like if you go anywhere nirth of Nairobi people refer to it as “upcountry”. Upcountry describes the homeland of a person, the place where their tribe and family is; it is rural and represents a significant part of a person’s identity. Upcountry is visited on holidays and when a guy becomes “of age” and starts a family he is expected to travel upcountry and build a house there to represent his presence to the community.

So now that you have a background of what I’m talking about when I say “upcountry” let me give you specifics…

Chooch feeds the chickens outside of her home

Shem and I traveled to Nyanza by taking an overnight bus to Homa Bay which overlooks Lake Victoria. After arrival at 5 am last monday morning we took a matatu for over an hour on a rural muddy road until we finally alighted by a road leading to Ruma National Park. Shem and I stood for a few minutes looking at the next leg of our adventure… a 10-12 kilometer walk with our luggage in a game park until we would arrive at his mother’s family’s homes. Their tribe in Jaluo.

Rose and I

As we walked along this dirt road we passed giraffe, antelope, and gazelle very close by. There are also cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas in the area but I was very glad not to see any of them since Shem was not carrying his rungu (a wooden maasai club). Finally when we arrived to his family’s shambas of corn, beans, spinach, and sunflowers we were warmly welcomed even though we surprised them since Shem likes showing up without much notice. Immediately we were taken around to all the of the homes that were spaced out between shambas (gardens) and I was introduced to uncles, aunts, cousins, second- cousins, and others. Lastly we landed at Rose’s home who is wife to Shem’s great aunt’s son (I think). This was one of my “home-bases” during my stay here and I loved getting to know this mother and her 2 1/2 year old daughter Mercy (or fondly called Chooch!).

Mombasa

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Following the art camp my mom and I took a mini holiday to the east coast of Kenya to a  place called Mombasa which meets the Indian Ocean with clear blue-green waters and miles of beach and shells. We stayed at a resort on th southern end, called Sentido, which really gave us an excuse not to think about anything besides relaxing. The beach was in our backyard; pools, food, shell-finding, drinks, windsurfing, biking, massages, games, reading, talking…this was our agenda!

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Mugged

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Tuesday morning I got myself ready like any other tuesday… it’s my meeting day! Meeting starts at 9 am and Im always the secretary, so I grabbed my computer, phone, raincoat, and a few other items to get me through the day before heading out the door at 8:45 am and taking my normal route through an area called “Fort Jesus” towards Karanja road, which will take me to where I work on the outskirts of the Kibera slums. On my way I noticed two men walking next to me, then one walking on one side and the other on the other side. I said hi to the one on my left and tried to make out some of the swahili that the guy was saying on my right but couldnt understand much as we continued to walk passed produce stands, small dukas, and bars.

Suddenly there was a jacket in the shape of a gun pointed at my face and my bag was gently slipped off my shoulder. Looking down, the other man was pulling my phone and change out of my pockets. I pushed them back in and he pulled them back out. I was shocked, speechless, confused why the many people around me were just watching or not even paying attention to this scene. The guys walked away quickly and i stood there for a few seconds before looking around for help and telling people that my bag had just walked off with those two men. Commotion came and a group of men rallied quickly saying that they were going to go after the guys but as they ran off I doubted their promise and instead think they may have been going to see what the other men had found in my bag, but who knows for sure. Only one from the group returned, reporting that they did not catch them.

Women came around me telling me I should not be walking alone and always take a taxi- both of which I refuse to do. One man who I recognized came up and offered to as around and look into the incident to get information about the men and if they could return the items. My friend George, who works at the car wash on the same road, came out of concern and walked me the rest of the way to the CTM office, where the meeting was going on. The guys who took my bag had left me with the umbrella and cup of chai that were in either of my hands, but besides that I had nothing. At CTM I told the story to Gideon, who listened carefully and then advized me to fill out a report to the police and then go clear my head by walking around town rather than cooping myself up, which might just cause me to dwell more on what had just happened. As I walked out the door I explained to my friend, Rodgers, about how I might be late for our meeting in the late afternoon with some of the artists and he just smiled, put 100 shillings in my hand (since I had no money at that point) and said “Kaylie, just go, you don’t need to come back today. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Shem took me to go fill out the police form and then offered to go to a park in town which I fondly like to call “Preacher’s Park” since there are always pastors walking alone talking to themselves in order to practice their sunday sermons. This helped me to sit and process things, but really, since the incident in the morning, I was amazed by the first feelings I felt of gratitude for safety, peace, joy, even laughing over the whole thing. I felt a way of refreshment- watching my possessions leave and still being ok with it. I was thankful that I was alive, to happy that I wasnt hurt, and even happy for the unexpected change in my day since i got to go to a park rather than sitting in on a full day of meetings.

Since Tuesday I have found out a bit more from my friends in Kibera who have been asking around. Apparently these two men have been watching me for some time. So they knew that Tuesday I always carry my bag and head to CTM by 9 am. The one tall man with a deep scare on his face is known i the community to be dangerous and carry a gun- so it was a real gun. Both men are from another area of town all together but still they have a presence here in Kibera. I have asked my friends to spread word that if I could have some of my things returned I would really appreciate it, many are silly things that wouldnt be worth much to others anyways… my bible (i miss this the most), biblestudy book, swahili dictionary, notebook, swahili notebook, hairclip, wristwatch, in a pickle card game, and my bright green whale raincoat. I have also found the serial number to my computer in hopes that if the men sell the computer it will be easier to locate, identify, and return it. All of these things I am holding very loosely though, and if nothing is returned, that is totally ok. God gave me that computer as a gift 7 months ago and He knew that it would get taken away so I know that whatever work I need to get done I can still accomplish what He has planned for me to do.

My reaction to the mugging has been delayed a bit. Initially I could only laugh and thank God. The next day I was determined to walk the very same route, same time of day, all by myself… just to prove to the people around me that I was not scared and certainly will not change what I am doing. However even on that walk there were two guys walking my same pace and one reached into his pocket which translated “gun” in my head. So I think I have developed a phobia. Then today, I am rode a matatu to town for a meeting and on the way the men in the matatu called out “police check, buckle your seatbelts”, which I know really means “let us pick your pockets”. So at first I ignored but then because many were saying this and I know that in the past sometimes police have checked seatbelts and have thrown people in prison for not having the seatbelt on I decided to buckle my belt without taking my eyes off my handbag. However, after this is where I started to panic because then the man next to me put a folder in front of my seat, which blocked my view completely from what the passengers in front were doing. I asked him what was going on and what he was doing. He repeated my panicking questions back to me and returned the folder to block my vision as I tried to push it away. I felt trapped and although it was just these men pick pocketting the lady in front of me, all I could think of was guns and hijackings. I struggled to get my seatbelt off and asked the tout to let me get off even though we were in the middle of the road. I got off that matatu and walked the rest of the way feeling very shaken.

I’m still trying to get over what happened last Tuesday, but I have a feeling it may take a week or even two before I am able to really feel comfortable and at ease walking around again, without jumping to extreme conclusions.

A Kenyan Wedding

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Actually the title should be “Kenyan Reception” because I never actually made it to the wedding… honestly tried to but unfortunately we were late! But the reception was so fun and I especially had a good time because Moses brought 25 of the kids from Mathare to the wedding! Since it was his good friend who was getting married Moses arranged for some of our kids to preform, singing and dancing, at the wedding during the entertainment portion. But I also just about cracked up that Moses was cheering the kids on to eat as much food as they could stomach!

 It was great… to take the kids, some whom wore their only nice dress, and get to bring them to a fancy celebration where they could eat lots of good food and dance and celebrate. These kids were treated as part of the guests and given all the benefits of that title. When they did a dancing train Molly and Janet came running over to me and actually forcefully pulled me out of my chair to come and join them! I will try to load a video up of the guy’s dance preformance too because they’re amazingly talented that if they were in the US I think they would be a big hit.