Week 29 Rachel’s Post: An Obama Nation

One of my best friends, Rachel, just finished visiting me and I asked if I could share her thoughts on her visit to Kenya, so here they are…

Jambo from Kenya!

It has been wonderful to experience Robert’s life here. He is volunteering through the Presbyterian Church with a program called the Young Adult Volunteers.  These YAV’s spend one year in a foreign country doing Presbyterian missions.  He has been placed at African Evangelistic Enterprise, overseeing a group called the Foxfires, who recently graduated from high school and were chosen to present to African youth in schools about issues of self-esteem, sex, and growing up.  I have been able to follow him to two schools where he coaches basketball outdoors, and visit ByGrace Orphanage, where he teaches computer classes for kids ages 5-15.  Children in Kenya are placed in orphanages if one parent dies or a family is no longer able to care for the child.  Many orphans still have one living parent. The orphanage experience does not seem to be a traumatic one.  Most Kenyan children are placed in boarding school at an early age, and the orphanage experience is not unlike a child at boarding school.  Each child that lives at the orphanage is fed, cared for, clothed, and has a “foster family” who they stay with during school breaks.  They are very tightly-knit and always look out for each other like a family.  We practiced using the mouse and worked on typing skills for the computer.  There were 3 children per computer, and they were incredibly patient with each other, always helping and waiting for their turn.  I could not help but think about American children with their own personal computers, often not sharing like I witnessed here.

Robert coaching Girl’s Basketball team:

Kenya has always been a very tribal culture.  They place great emphasis on education, and even in poverty-stricken areas, children are sent to school.  Most Kenyans speak at least three languages: Swahili, their mother tongue, and English.  The official Kenyan languages are English and Swahili, making travel here very tourist-friendly.  There are approximately 42 different tribal groups and therefore 42 different mother tongues, mainly comprised of Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu. The country has recently experienced a surge of nationalistic pride from our election of Barack Obama.  Obama’s father was born in Kenya, and his grandmother still lives here.  Kenyans proudly claim Obama as their own and wear shirts, hang posters, and even declared a national holiday in honor of Obama’s Kenyan roots.

Kenya is most well-known for their wildlife and safari expeditions.  Robert and I visited an Animal Orphanage, where illegally transported animals were intercepted and are now cared for. We also visited the Langata Giraffe Center, and were able to feed and “kiss” Daisy the giraffe. The diversity and quantity of animals here is incredible.  On my drive from the airport, I spotted a baboon family sprinting down the side of the highway.

Daisy from a distance:

Rachel and Robert with Daisy:

Rachel kissing Daisy:

Robert kissing Daisy:

Rachel with a cheetah at Animal Orphanage:

Robert with a cheetah at Animal Orphanage:

Kenya has been a delight to visit.  Strangely, I feel more comfortable here than I did in Egypt.  Though my skin tone makes me stand out more as a mzungu (white person), the hospitality extended to me here has been incredible.  The first question I receive is if this is my first trip to Africa.  The second question is why I cannot stay longer.  “We are so glad you have finally come”.  Opinion is relationship-based, so Kenyans opinion of Robert is automatically transferred to me.  Since they think very highly of him, I am automatically in their favor.  The hospitality is amazing.  The only complaints I hear are about why I must return to the states…from people who do not even know me.

I leave Kenya tonight. Asante sana for being on this journey with me.



Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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