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August 21, 2012

Our last day in Kenya, we woke up in Sweetwaters, traveled by matatu to Nairobi, and eventually, to the airport. We traveled a lot that day. From tourist luxury to gritty Nairobi, and then plumb out of the country. PJ was NOT feeling well, poor kid, so we took all our luggage to the good old Sarit Centre and wiled away the day. We ate lunch, saw a movie, ate dinner, bought some snacks, and, when we just couldn’t stand it anymore, found a taxi to take us to the airport. Our plane did not leave until 11:45 pm. It was a looooooooooooooong day.

And the kids were excited to get home. I guess I was excited to BE home, although I was not excited in the least about the trip home.

While it wasn’t a PERFECT trip, it was a pretty good trip. There are some things I plan to do differently next time (like even less stuff!) and I’ll have a more realistic idea of the current cost of services in Kenya, I hope. There are many colleagues I didn’t get to visit this time, and I never even visited my old schools, so that is certainly on the list for next time! But lots of things I was happy enough with that I might repeat.

I was interested to note that the kids really took the drastic differences between their life and life in Kenya in stride; many adults kind of freeze up, but the kids just accepted…everything. “Kenyans don’t need shoes,” they would tell me, matter-of-factly, rather than the judgmental “How can they stand being barefoot everywhere?!” They were a great example to me.

As has been said over and over, Kenya has changed! I should not be surprised when a developing nation, you know, develops, and yet I was. Must be all my Kiva loans. Oh, and an educated populace and relative peace. While I don’t particularly love to see cities getting cityer, growth is good for Kenyans! There are so many more cars, and lots of new daycares, nursery schools and preschools–while I don’t remember EVER seeing these establishments before, they are in EVERY town and market center, now. Go ahead with your new early childhood education!

Also, they showed me a different side of Kenya. I used to think that Kenyans didn’t really value their children: all too often, they are left on their own, or to care for each other in the absence of adult care, it seemed. When I lived there, primary education was payed-for and many families assessed that their kids, or some of their kids, just weren’t worth the price. But people were really so careful and protective of my kids, it was sweet to see. I can’t tell you how many times strangers would grab a little hand to guide my child to a safer spot, or lift Amos right off the ground to sit him someplace higher. My boys didn’t even escape strangers reaching out and running their fingers through their curls! People always referred to my kids as “our children” and that really makes me wonder how wrong I was. Maybe I had made generalizations based on limited interactions, or maybe I simply misinterpreted what I saw. Anyway, this was a sweet revelation.

Navigating the difference between “my” Kenya and the Kenya most tourists see is always kind of troubling. I get kind of dismissive of people who come only to see animals. And downright envious of their vehicles and drivers and resources! While enjoy tasting that world, I would never, in a million years, trade that for the knowledge, experiences, and relationships I have there. I would NOT turn down a good ride, though.

One major stresser I had during this trip, was controlling the luggage. Carrying it, knowing where it was, verifying that it was packed and carried, making sure nothing was lost or stolen…oh, it was always on my mind. So checking that luggage in at the airport was awesome. Reuniting with it and carrying it through customs to re-check in Chicago was less awesome. And 2 hours later, finally back in Rochester, when it became evident that our luggage was lost so close to home was…ridiculous.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Abbey permalink
    September 3, 2012 9:25 pm

    Holy smokes, I hate dealing with luggage when I travel by myself domestically. International with children must be…I’m going to go with hellish.

  2. Leslie permalink
    September 4, 2012 9:13 am

    Thanks for sharing Ly, it’s fun to read about. I haven’t been back to Kenya since I left in 2001 and I think of it as unchanging, which is so not right. It’s interesting to read about your perceptions since we lived in the same area, about the same time and you’ve been back. Where do your kids’ family live?

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