Kenya…It’s people…It’s differences…

The recent rain has resulted in the new blooms in our yard.

Living in the US all of our lives and now in Africa for almost three months, we aren’t surprised by the differences in lifestyles. Africa, as we all know is a huge continent with numerous countries, each comparable to the uniqueness of each of the “states” in the US, each possessing their own customs, dialects, traditions, and persona.

From what we’ve learned in this relatively short time in Kenya (spelled Kenia by locals), the country many qualities we find refreshing and appealing. With 18 days remaining until we leave Kenya, we’ve certainly spent more time here than most tourists visiting during a typical two week holiday. (The word vacation is rarely used in many parts of the world, instead referred to as a “holiday”).

Green and lush vegetation surround us.

Life moves at a slower pace, as is typical in most parts of the world, as opposed to the frenzied pace in the US.  One can sit at a table in a restaurant awaiting a cocktail for 10 or 15 minutes. In most cases, the bill (the check) doesn’t magically appear at the end of the meal when our plates are clean and we’ve turned down dessert and after-dinner drinks, coffee, or tea. One must ask for it. Then it may not arrive for another 10 or 15 minutes.

Patience.  It’s a must.  We learned this early on in our travels. Kindness. Also a must. Annoyance and irritation must not be evident. In time, one doesn’t feel it. On occasion, it may be difficult to hide. 

These delicate flowers are as thin as tissue paper.

Locals in Kenya are friendly, much more than we’ve seen in other parts of the world. People walking past us as we walk along the road, always say, “hujambo” or “jambo” as a greeting. We reply in kind. 

There’s an expectation here of a gentle request for assistance. There’s a look of shock on the face of a local if a customer is not satisfied. We’ve learned that it’s not worth squabbling over a small error on a bill. Of course, they’d make the correction but the confrontation is unbearable for them. 

We’ve chosen not to address an error unless it is for a considerable amount which as of yet has never happened. Most often, it’s accurate, more so than we’d seen in our old lives. 

Buds are bursting now after the rain. Hopefully, we’ll see the flowers in full bloom before we leave in 18 days.

They cooperate. They want to please. They are humble. They work hard. Their work ethic is profound. They help one another and outsiders alike. They smile revealing the brightest straightest white teeth, we’ve ever seen. 

Yes, it’s can be dangerous here. It’s evidenced by the tight security which has been beefed up recently after the horrifying attacks at the mall in Nairobi. We have a guard exclusively for these two houses, ours and Hans’ and Jeri’s from sunset to sunrise, seven days a week. Hesborn is here around the clock, a strong, conscientious employee of Hans’ for 14 years. 

There are guards 24-hours a day at the locked entrance gates to this neighborhood for the perhaps 10 private homes, each of which is gated in itself as well. Everywhere we go, there are security guards; at the entrance to the strip mall where we shop, at the ATM machine at Barclay’s Bank, where we get cash, at the entrance to the Safaricom store where we purchase “scratch-offs” to top off our data SIM cards.

Pretty little flowers, many I’ve never seen.

It’s an oxymoron. Safe and not safe, making it easy for one to get careless. But, not us. Carelessness is not for us.

And then, there’s the taxi situation which is unique in itself. We’ve learned not to call Alfred until a half-hour prior to the time we’d like a ride. Otherwise, he’ll always appear way too early in an attempt to please. On only a few occasions another driver appeared in his place when he was too far away to get to us on time.

Most often, after dropping us off the restaurant, he waits in his car while we dine, his choice, not our request.  As soon as we realized this after we first arrived, we decided not to let his waiting us affect our dinner or the time we may choose to spend before or after. 

The variety of colors are appealing to the eye.

We call him when we’re ready to go.  If he gets another call while waiting for us, surely he can go.  If he’s far away when we call to say we’re ready to leave we’ll gladly wait.  Most often the wait is less than 15 minutes.

Once he was late to take us grocery shopping. After waiting for over 30 minutes, we called. He’d fallen asleep in his car. It was OK. We weren’t bothered in the least. If it had been a dinner reservation, we still wouldn’t have been bothered. No one would mind if we were late for our reservation. They’d kindly seat us anyway, making no mention of our tardiness or the possible loss of our table. 

The most unusual aspect of our taxi experience, that surely would annoy most patrons, is the fact if we take a long time having dinner, Alfred calls us (on the local phone Hans loaned us for our time here) asking when we’ll be ready to go.  We always laugh when this happens. If we’ve had our dinner, we ask for the bill and move along to accommodate Alfred. It’s cooperation, a common aspect of life in Kenya.

Alfred grocery shops at Nakumatt also. He has a plastic card that provides him with points in order to get money off future grocery purchases. On our second trip to Nakumatt, he handed us his blue card, asking us to give him the points for our purchases. We did. Now, we ask him for the card each time if he’s distracted by security when he drops us off at the store. He waits for us there also, parking across the street, waiting for our call. 

All of these flowers are in abundance in the area, thriving in the heat, humidity, and soaking rains.

He has a newer car with AC.  He never turns the AC on.  We don’t ask.  We open the windows, although it results in extremely hot air blowing in our faces. Early on, we negotiated with Alfred for KES $1000, US $11.72 round trip wherever we may go in Diani Beach, as much as a 20-minute drive one way and other times only a drive of one or two minutes. We pay the same amount wherever we go.

Taxi drivers in Kenya don’t usually receive tips, as explained to us by Jeri who is from Nairobi. But, we give him tips, varying from KES $100 to $500 depending on how long the drive. He’s appreciative.

These pods have continued to dry out. 

Aside from the many great experiences we’ve had in Kenya, we’ll always remember the simple lifestyle and its people. Although we’re never sad to leave one location to travel to another, we treasure the memories we’ll carry in our hearts and minds forever. Thank you people of Kenya. Asante.

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