First Day in Kenya

Baggage claim in Nairobi was an experience in itself. Apparently the belt that was supposed to carry our suitcases to us wasn’t able to handle all of the weight so it broke down. The suitcases then proceeded to be dispersed around the suprisingly small airport, given that Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and Africa’s 4th largest city. The dispersal of suitcases resulted in an effective treasure hunt as around 100 people attempted to find their luggage. I made friends with one older American guy who kept joking “if you see a black one, let me know” (almost all of the suitcases were black). We started talking and I found out that he works for an NGO based in Washington D.C. I told him that I would be living there in the coming fall and would be doing an internship, somewhere. He gave me his card and told me to email him next year. So perhaps baggage claim wasn’t so bad, I might have gotten a job out of the deal!

Finally I found my overly large green suitcase. I realized it was overly large once I found Peter, a native Kenyan who is the Kakamega Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) program coordinator and met the other four boy interns. I thought I hadn’t packed much, especially in light of the fact that half of the clothes on the packing list I didn’t own (FSD requires that women wear long skirts and collared shirts as it is disrespectful to show much skin in rural Kenya). I blamed it on the fact that they were boys until Tess, the other girl intern, arrived with just a hiker’s backpack. Ooops…

We hopped into a matutu, sort of a miniature like bus which I’ll explain more in a second, and headed for the Parkside Hotel. Some of us hadn’t eaten on the plane so we stashed our luggage and headed out to a restaurant open 24 hours where we played some icebreakers (most of which were suggested by yours truly) and ate some yummy Kenyan food.

There are 6 interns altogether, and quite a diverse group we are. Matt is an ex-party boy recently turned hardcore Christian from Southern California who decided to come on the trip because of his love of missionary work. He will be working for a Catholic orphanage in the town of Kakamega. At one point he told us that he had seriously debated bring his Nintendo 64 for the kids to play with, a comment that left the rest of us without words. Joel is a quieter guy originally from Kansas and Iowa who is now completing his masters in public policy and will be working on environmental education in the heart of the Kakamega rainforest. James, an intern that has actually been here for 6 months, has been doing the same internship but will be leaving in August. He’s a neat guy that decided to take an extended break from architecture school and hang out in Kakamega for a while. Walker is a college junior from North Carolina who will be working on microfinance at an NGO also inside the town. Tess is a college senior from New York who has spent a lot of time in South America and will be working for a hospital. I of course will be working for CARD which is located in town but I will probably be doing lots of field work in the villages .

Everyone was pretty thrilled to be in Kenya but also exhausted. After dinner we quickly fell asleep.