The first 3 weeks in Kenya

March 13, 2016

It is now three weeks since I arrived in Flax and life seems to be taking on some kind of routine. The first two weeks here were quite tough, really. My 24 or so hours in Limuru weren't too bad, because I had met Prof. Esther Mombo a few times before, so there was at least one familiar face there. Also, I stayed in the guesthouse at St Paul's University, which meant that I had my own space there. And I had the comforts that I was used to: fridge, flush toilet, shower. How different everything was in Flax. Rev. Edna and Julius Kibor (the treasurer) had come to Limuru to pick me up. By the time we got to Flax, after a very long drive, their faces had become familiar to me, but when we arrived at the Vicarage, there was a crowd of people waiting for us, all wanting to welcome me. This was incredibly kind of them, of course, but also rather overwhelming. Especially because most people here find speaking English a challenge and they tend to communicate with each other in either Kalenjin or Kiswahili --neither of which I speak. So, there I was, tired after very little sleep on the plane and a long car journey, surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar faces, hearing people talk in languages I couldn't understand and hugging and shaking hands in a way that was unfamiliar, too.

 

Later that day, I was introduced to my first pit latrine and taught how to use it. It felt as if absolutely everything was different and unfamiliar, even something as basic as using the toilet!

 

The first week was mostly a battle with tiredness and trying to get used to a very different way of life and learning at least a few words of Kalenjin and Kiswahili. The very first thing I learnt to say in both languages was 'thank you very much'. Kongoi mising in Kalenjin and asante sana in Kiswahili. I suppose these are important expressions to learn in any language.

 

The second week was the toughest week. I had a bad cold and so wasn't feeling very well. Edna was away a lot, because she had lots of meetings in Eldoret with the bishop (Eldoret is nearly an hour away by public transport) and it suddenly hit me that I was going to be here for 8 weeks, which all of a sudden seemed an impossibly long period of time to be away from my family and all that is familiar to me.

 

However, nothing stays unfamiliar forever. By now I am beginning to get to know some of the people, I am beginning to get to know the area. I still don't speak much Kiswahili or Kalenjin, but am more able to get the jist of conversations and I am getting used to the way people greet each other. I am less anxious about making a huge faux pas. I still make them, I am just less nervous about them.

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