Karibu

Filip – Hald Internasjonale Senter – Focus – Kenya

Pictures from Kilifi

I moved to Kilifi in January and I’m currently working and living with this guy, named Dan:

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We work with students in two universities (Kenya Medical Training College and Pwani).

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This is outside our house. The entrance is to the left.

It gets very hot here becuase there is no air flow because of the wall on the other side.

Sometimes the temperature almost hits 40.

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This is our kitchen.

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This is a small living room where we work.

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This is the ferry in Mombasa. It is really old.

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In Norway we use boats for fun and leisure. That is not always the case in Kenya.

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This is a schedule of a typical saturday!

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Its a strange world when…

..I’m sitting on a motorbike with two other Africans on a bumby road in the middle of a coffee plantation

…I’m buying a banana for 35 øre

…I’m waking up to people shouting in tounges

…I’m finding a scorpion in the hallway outside my bedroom

…Walking into the bathroom and there is a pool of water on the floor because it’s raining

… Kids are running after me on the streets shouting: “Chinese, Chinese!!”

…I’m looking at a goat eating grass and hearing the words: “That’s the goat we’re going to eat tomorrow”

Some quick thoughts ensuing my previous blog post

In my previous blog post i wrote about things I have taken for granted in Norway. In that blog post I might not have gotten across clearly enough that I actually want things to be that way. It was not a list of things I wanted to change, but things Missed. In the dictionary to miss is defined as: “To discover the absence or loss of something”. Going to Kenya I have discovered a lot of things about my own country, Norway. Differences in living.

The point is that I want to live the way I live now. I actually enjoy it and I learn a lot from it every day. To miss something, is positive because it means that you have had or experienced something wonderful. It is what you do not miss that is insignificant!

Things that I have taken for granted in Norway

In Norway life is comfortable. We have machines, gadgets and systems to help our daily life run as smoothly as possible. I’m starting to settle down now in Kenya and leaving my little “tourist bubble”. With this I’m also beginning to miss certain things that made my life easy in Norway. Even though the living standard is lower here I’m glad that it is the way it is because I really feel that it adds to the experience of a year in Africa. I’m not living the tourist life with comfortable hotels and nice neighborhoods, I’m living the normal Kenyan life which most Kenyans will live their whole life. Here are some things that I can’t take for granted while I’m in Kenya:

1. A good bed. The bed I’ve been using in Kenya is a spring bed, which is, to be honest, horrible. I often wake up with an aching back in the morning and the fact alone that I’ve never slept longer than nine o’clock the last two months really says more about the bed than that I’m a morning person.

2. A washing machine. The way I’m washing all my clothes here in Kenya is that I’m pouring some washing powder, some cold water and the clothing of choice in a small bucket, letting it lay for a while and then scrubbing as well as I can. My clothes never really feel clean anymore. I’ve applied the rule “If it looks clean and smells OK, then it’s good enough.”

3. Clean water. I drank the tap water, I got sick. Not again. Water here got to be boiled, filtered or bought.

4. A sofa or a good chair. A place to really relax that is not my bed. A place where It is possible to read or watch a good TV-series comfortably.

5. Security. I miss sitting on the bus with my smartphone listening to music or surfing the web. I can’t take my smartphone with me outside the gate of where I live because it might get stolen. I also miss walking the streets of Stavanger downtown in the middle of the night completely unaware of the fact that in other parts of the world this is not possible at all. We have walked through Nairobi downtown one time after dark and that time we got robbed in the open street.

6. Cultural life. I went to music high school in Norway and therefore cultural life has been an important part of my life. Going to concerts watching live bands and artists like Thomas Dybdahl or BigBang. Sitting in cafés with my friends talking and drinking great coffee.

7. Norwegian bread. In Kenya they only have something similar to what we Norwegians call “loff”. Something like “kneip” is impossible to get. Also they really do put on top of their bread, as far as I know, is peanut butter or jam.

8. Oven. All the food we make we have to make in a sufuria of frying pan. There is no electricity at all involved in making food here. Also, from January and onwards I’m going to have to do without a fridge, so things like cold milk must wait until I’m home in Norway.

9. My bedroom floor. I have to use slippers when I’m walking inside my bedroom because the floor is dirty. I’ve tried to clean it so I can walk barefooted, but it’s very hard to achieve that on the concrete floor.

10. A clean washroom. I’m sharing a washroom with the whole center where I live. I keep my own toilet paper in my room and I’m bringing it whenever I need to go to the washroom. I kept a bar of hand soap by the sink, but the Kenyans used to take it in the morning and washing themselves with it in the shower so I also keep that in my room now. From January and onwards my toilet is going to literally be a hole in the ground. That is as most Norwegians would agree with, challenging.

11. Hot water. I took the first hot shower in two weeks today. The hot water in the shower keeps disappearing often. Also, in the sink both in the washroom and the kitchen it is only cold. That means I have to shave in cold water, which is often painful.

12. A mosquito-free environment. I have to sleep every night with a mosquito net and every night from seven and onwards there are a lot of mosquitos and I have to apply a repellant to keep from being all bit up.

While I’m in Kenya I really get to do something that is outside my comfort zone and I get to try living a life that most Norwegians never will get to experience and for that I’m actually glad. It broadens my horizon and also makes me appreciate the things I have in Norway. And also, I’m sure that when I return to Norway I’ll write a list of things I miss in Kenya!

A kenyan wedding.

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This toilet and shower belongs to a Kenyan friend of mine, Mokaya.

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I found a Church.

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Friends visiting from Uganda and Norway.

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Eivind (Kamau) and I in a town called Chuka.

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Oberservations from Kenya

There have been a great number of things I have been observing in Kenya so far. Here are some, not all, both positive and negative, that I have noted:

1. Their education system is surprisingly thorough. I once attended a fifth grade science class and was shocked to experience that some of the kids actually knows more facts than me. Sometime I almost felt that I was a part of The TV show «Are you smarter than a 5th grader?» Another thing about the education system in Kenya is that they also have a lot of Universities and the government supports the students financially. It seems to me that it is expected that most middle class youth should go on to University after high school if their grades are good enough.

2. The people are less open than expected. In Norway we do not greet each other on the streets if we do not know each other, and some times we do not even greet the people we do know. After having spent quite a certain amount of time in the southern parts of the US I have experienced the very opposite of this. I cannot walk down the road from where I stay without people greeting me, even from the opposite side of the road! When I heard that Kenya was a warm culture I immediately expected that the same would be apparent here, but when I walk down my neighborhood in Kasarani nobody greets me. Most people prefer to look down or in another direction – it actually feels like Norway. I think the main difference is that when I greet people on the streets here they don’t get shocked and always have an answer ready. They are less open than expected, but still not closed like in Norway.

3. Always bring a gift. When people visit each other here it is usually unannounced which is very strange for me as a Norwegian. It is custom for people to bring something when they drop by and the things they give are usually useful. Things like flour, milk, bananas etc. They give things the hosts actually needs. If we give gifts when we visit someone in Norway it has to be something that is a little bit of «luxury» like a chocolate bar, flowers, a necklace or something from another country, but usually we don’t give gifts. I think this difference comes down to abundance in the Norwegian society. If you give someone a pack of flour they will think «Why did you give me this? I could have just bought it myself.»

4. Open about their faith. The Kenyan society is less secular than the Norwegian. Atheism is almost unheard of and people usually believe in «something». Because of this it is also more natural for people to be open about their faith. Fortunately for Kenya they have not implemented the paradox that «faith should be a private matter» in their society. The backside of this is that not all the Christianity that is sometimes being proclaimed in public spaces like the streets or on the bus is good and sound Christianity. Prosperity gospel is very visible here. A lot of the preachers are also seemingly very angry; I have always thought that the gospel is something that should be proclaimed with great joy and not shouted with great anger.

5. Strange relationship to language. Since Kenya has a very formal culture the language is also very formal at times. All teaching should be in English. I often find it a little funny when they have teachings here at the Focus center and they speak strictly English until the session is finished and they immediately switch to Kiswahili after class.

6. Formal clothing. They dress very formal here. Even though it is over twenty degrees they never, and I mean never, wear shorts. They always wear trousers. I think it is more important to be formal than to be comfortable here. A Kenyan working at the Focus Centre has told me that if he wears shorts to work he will be told that «you are not on the beach now!»

7. Lack of system in basic things like waste and recycling. The way they collect waste from the apartments in our neighborhood is that everyone dump their garbage in the same place directly on the ground. They do not have dumpsters most places. This is the middleclass neighborhood I am talking about. In the slums they have «waste-rivers» going along the road. I also have to turn down a lot of plastic bags when I am in the supermarket. I do not need three plastic bags when I can fit all my content in one.

8. «Get by-mentality». A thing that about many Kenyans is that they are happy and content with what is enough. As long as they get by they are satisfied. An illustration that I believe explains this well is the difference between our relationships to tea. If you walk into a teashop in Norway you will be exposed to maybe 50-100 different tastes and/or types of tea that you can buy. Here in Kenya they only drink one type of tea prepared in one way. Ketepa with milk and sugar. There is no need for more tastes and flavors because one is enough. I have found this to be the same in many other things, not just tea.

9. Tea time, no coffee. Before I went to Kenya I drank a lot of exported Kenyan coffee in Norwegian coffee houses. Kenya is known to have some of the best coffee in the world, at least in Norway. When I came to Kenya and was given breakfast for the first time I was surprised that the coffee they served us was basic and boring Nestle instant coffee. I later found out that most Kenyans do not drink coffee. They drink tea. Coffee, as they say, is for export. The people here at the Focus Centre is also very surprised when I drink my coffee black without sugar and milk, which is very unusual here. The cafés are filled with foreigners.

10. Open, but not inviting. What I love about Kenya is that I can drop in by someone’s house and not feel like a burden. People are very open and glad to have visitors and they always want you to stay. But for me as a Norwegian it is hard to just drop in and visit someone. Another thing that I do not yet understand about Kenya is why they are not inviting when they seemingly do not mind having visitors. After having spent over a month in Kenya I have only been invited to peoples place maybe two or three times. In Norway we are closed, but inviting, here they are open, but not very inviting. When I come to Norway I want to try to take the best of both cultures and try to be open AND inviting.

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Inequality

I knew that when I started this year at Hald I would learn a lot about cross cultural communication, about myself and about Kenya. What I didn’t realize were that I would also learn a lot about my own country, Norway. After having spent almost three weeks here in Kenya I’ve seen alot. I’ve seen one of Africas biggest slums and I’ve seen huge mansions. I’ve actually come from the richest country in the world and seen the biggest house I’ve ever seen right here in Nairobi. I’ve seen inequality. Both extreme poverty and extreme wealth, and by this I’ve learnt a lot about Norway. In Norway we’re very equal. The prime minister makes about the same as an dentist. In Kenya, the prime minister is one of the richest persons in the whole country.

Before I came to Nairobi I was told that “Nairobi is very western, you’ll not experience Africa properly by staying in Nairobi!” But I soon found out that this was only a half-truth. My first thought when I walked around Nairobi town was that “This is Africa with tall buildings” not the western city I had prepared to see. The thing about Nairobi is that it is divided into different parts. The town is divided into downtown and uptown. Downtown is like nothing I have ever seen. It is a lot of small shops, people everywhere and no white people. Uptown, on the other hand, is very similar to London with nice streets, parks and high buildings; you can spend a vacation in Nairobi and never realize that you have actually been to Africa. If you only spend time in Westlands (where westgate is) and in uptown you’ll never actually realize that this is a country with a lot of criminality, corruption, poverty and injustice. The differences in this country are huge. The inequalities are vast. I’ve never thought about how equal we are in Norway before now. We are truly blessed.

Some pictures

A new Country

The first two weeks here in Kenya has gone by so fast. The Kenyans where we live had made a program for the two first week for us with little time for leisure, and therefore no blogging until now. The Kenya team consist of six people; Bente, Birte, Vera, Laila, Eivind and I. Laila and Eivind has started their student ministry while the rest of us are working in Mathare until the end of December. In Mathare I’m currently teaching English to fifth and sixth grade. The kids are very different here. They’re happier and more excited about learning than the Norwegian kids. The first time I attended a class they sang a “welcome song” for me.

It has been an eye opener to see how happy people, kids and adults, can be even though they live in extreme poverty. It is not your possesions that makes you happy. If you connect your possesions to your happiness you’ll always miss the mark. We have to connect our happiness to who we are as human beings, created in Gods image. All we have is from him and we’re only stewards of the things we’ve been given.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21