Falling in Love Fast with East Africa

Team at Hells Gate National Park

Falling in Love Fast with East Africa

Written by Kevin De France, 2014 East Africa Youth in Action Team.

Karibu Kenya! Welcome to Kenya!

This past week the OG East Africa Youth in Action team gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to begin a backpacking and volunteer adventure spanning two countries, 6 weeks, and countless of hippos. Coming into Kenya, the team had many presumptions about the area, and upon landing in the crowded airport, did not know what to expect. From the get go, our program leaders Meg and Mike started things off on the right foot, greeting us with a big sign and even bigger smiles.

There are a few things we learned right away getting into Nairobi. Most importantly: the driving is nothing like what we experience in North America. Here, size matters. If your truck is bigger, you have the right of way. End of story. Also, street signs and streets lights are pretty much decorations adorning the skyline along with noisy ibis birds and storks. Yet, the city functions. We somehow got to our hostel, Manyatta Backpackers, unscathed and ready for adventure.

The city itself has much to offer and is very different from my expectations. Last Tuesday, I walked into a bustling hub of men and women in business attire walking through the city with purpose. There were large advertisements and marketing media, all in English, luring those within sight to spend. And most importantly, I walked passed some of the friendliest people I’ve met! Here, a stop to say hello and inquire about your day is regular.

Program Leaders Meg and Mike chowing down on some beans and chapatti.

Program Leaders Meg and Mike chowing down on some beans and chapatti.

The cuisine in East Africa is very simple, yet delicious. So far, some of my favourites include sakumo weeki (a fried spinach dish), mododo (beans), chapatti (essentially fried dough), and Rolexes (a portable breakfast wrap of fried egg inside chapatti). I still have to try ugali, a simple corn meal dish which is a local favourite.

Roaming around in the bush.

Roaming around in the bush.

The scenery in Kenya is extraordinarily diverse. The country takes you to the hustle and bustle of dusty Nairobi streets, to the zebra-filled savannah of Hells Gate National Park, to the hundred shades of green stemming from the hillside tea farms on the road.

Orientation in East Africa has been an eye opening experience. Perspectives and predispositions we shared about the area before arrival were quickly washed away. After walking around local markets, waking up at 3:30 am to the sounds of hippo calls, sharing crowded matatus into town, and hiking some of the most gorgeous landscapes on the planet, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all quickly fallen in love with East Africa.

Asante sana! Thank you very much!

Kevin De France
2014 East Africa Youth in Action