In two weeks there have been many so moments of just overwhelming… everything.

Joy. Frusteration. Giddiness. Sadness. Confusion. Anger. Curiosity. Excitement. Life.

For the most part, my adjustment to Kenya life has been smooth sailing.  My roommates, two IJM colleagues, are wonderful and make life here fun and easy.  The food is suitable to a veggie diet and like I said, I have absolutely no complaints about 70 degree weather, especially when DC is currently experiencing snowpocaplyse part 2!

This is an adventure, and I love adventure, but there are also those moments where I can feel with such clarity the reality of the differences between my life in Kenya and my life in America.  Here’s an example:

It’s all coming back, It’s all coming back to me nowwwww.

Celine Dion is blaring from the car stereo.  (She’s pretty popular lady here.)  Where you hear this song, where does it take you?

My flashback:  This was the first CD I owned.  Mine, not my parents, which is a big deal when you are in 6th grade, and I remember listening to it with my sony headphones in my compact disk player (not and iPod – god I feel ancient) on 15 hour family summer road trips in our minivan.  I think it was white with wood siding.  I think we dove it into a ditch once, but that’s another story….

Flash forward:  I am in Kenya.  In a small village outside of Nairobi with my colleagues.  We have just sipped Kenyan tea, which is brewed in boiled milk instead of water and served with lots of sugar, and all the ladies in the rural town restaurant have giggled to each other about the white woman sitting in the corner.  Celine is still singing on about nights of endless pleasure and… I just can’t help but laugh.

I laugh when a George Straight song is playing in one of the shops at Ngara Market, where people are shouting and grabbing for you to buy their goods or to get on their matatu, the same market where they attempt to charge you 2,000 Ksh (about $26) for third hand clothing – I am becoming increasingly convinced that this is Goodwill’s outlet sore.

I laugh when Baby are you down, down, down, down, downnnnnn blares from the cars and matatus that whiz by, zipping in and out of lanes down the road, because, well, lanes are really just a suggestion anyway.

It’s all so familiar and all so foreign.  I think this is what is must feel like to be in two places at once.

Overall, Nairobi has been a wonderful challenge so far.  It’s not easy to live here; I think I underestimated that.  But I love the way people laugh at life and the sunshine is so regular.  I have seen really warmth, generosity and hospitality from people here that makes me rethink the way I relate to people.  Just today I was invited over to a friend’s home and therefore expected to stay all day.  My first reaction was to think about how much of an inconvenience this is to me and to focus on all the things I wouldn’t be able to get done on my Saturday, but to her it was just a day to spend time with friends.  Time to laugh and eat together.  We could all use a little more of that attitude I think.

Of course, there are the hilarious inconveniences of living in a developing country, like the fact that crosswalk do not exist – you literally try to stop traffic yourself (which makes walking to work a major adventure!)  or the power outages that occur on a regular basis or the not so subtle stares and my other muzungu friend and I get as we walk through the markets.

Kenya time and communication have been especially funny (I say this with some sarcasm).  I learned a new phrase the other day and it goes like this:  Americans have the watch, but Kenyans have the time.  I think it’s supposed to mean that things will start when the start, even if it is two to three hours later, but this has proven more difficult to get used to that I might have imagined.  Communication styles are also VERY different, which means I sometimes feel like my conversations with colleagues and friends go round and round and round.  Kenyans are incredibly polite and will talk around an issue, so my blunt, rather direct nature feels a little out of place here.

There are the things that are still confusing to me, for instance, when you call someone the phone does not ring, it beeps.  I continually think people have somehow hung up on me or the phone is broken.  Kenyans also say sorry to everything – when you yawn, when you sneeze, when you trip, when you bump your leg.  When I say it’s not their fault the look at me with the same confused look I have just given them and the whole things just starts over again.  Sorryyyyyyy.

But at the end of the day you have to just let go and say… hakuna matata. TIA.  This is Africa.

*Updates on work coming soon…

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