David Olson wrote 3 blog posts that we weren't able to put up because we weren't in very many places that had internet. These updates provide good insights into our trip!
David Olson - Blog Update from 1/7/14
A lot has happened here since my last blog entry and I honestly don’t even know where to start. We spent all of yesterday volunteering at Chiptigit Primary School, playing around with the kids. It was awesome to see how different the school systems are here in Kenya compared to that in the U.S. We were there on their first day back from summer break, so the kids started off the day cleaning out all the classrooms. Before they started this though, they had a Kenyan flag-raising ceremony, which was awesome. It was very similar to how American students start off the day by saying the pledge of allegiance. They would raise the flag while it was still folded up and they would shake the rope it was tied to to unfold the flag. It was really cool to see and I’m pretty sure we got a video of it.
From there Chris, Ryan, and I taught third graders English (when to use a, an, or the) and math. The children probably didn’t understand most of what we were saying but they were all very respectful and attentive. They are definitely eager to learn, even on the first day of school. After that we went outside and had recess for literally two hours. We played a lot of Kenyan children’s games and when we were asked to come up with a game of our own, we decided on sharks and minnows. The kids loved it. The second half of recess was a little weird to be honest. Each of us mizungus were standing within a crowd of little Kenyan children, so at first the children started feeling the hair on my legs. Most of them probably haven’t seen leg hair before so I was amused at their curiosity. But from there, one child found that if you reach for my armpits or neck, it tickles. Once the other children saw this, they all started doing it. Hundreds of them, all tickling me. It was terrible. Everywhere I went there were more little Kenyan children, so it took me a while to break free of them. They thought it was hilarious…
One of my favorite parts about spending the day at Cheptigit was seeing how different the Kenyan schools are from the schools I went to growing up. American students would never start the first day of school cleaning out classrooms. At Cheptigit, they don’t have any lawn mowers or anything, so the grass was really long. To trim down the grass, and this is not a joke, they give the kids machetes and let them wack away at it. So there were like five kids cutting the grass in front of the school with machetes. Very interesting to see something like that, especially when you went to schools were bringing a Supersoaker water gun to school would get you expelled.
David Olson - Blog Update from 1/12/14
As I am typing this right now, we are in Nairobi, waiting until our flight back to the United States later tonight. We are planning on going to a church service in an hour and then from there to a coffee farm where Synergy Coffee imports their coffee from. Today shouldn’t be anything too hectic but there are a couple things that have happened during our stay in Nairobi that are noteworthy.
Last night, after checking in to our hotel at the University of Nairobi, we decided to go to the market. This was a very interesting experience but I can honestly say that I have no desire to go back. From the moment we got there, we just had targets on our backs. The merchants here see us mizungus and, because we are white, assume we are filthy rich. Everything they tried to sell us was way overpriced and it was clear that they didn’t feel bad trying to take advantage of us. A little Kenyan flag I bought for 300 schillings at a shop along the highway into Nairobi, at the market in town they wanted for 2,000. I ended up buying an awesome Kenyan national football jersey and can honestly say that they got the better end of the deal. They just talk so fast, and there is so much going on, it’s like a sensory overload, so you end up giving in to the numbers they throw out at you, just to kind of get them away from you.
And another thing I’ve noticed since we’ve been here in Nairobi is the how different the kids are here compared to those in Kaptagat. The kids here in Nairobi just come up and beg for money from us, like every single one of them. Everywhere we go, there are people asking for money. It gets annoying quick, especially since these kids are probably better off financially than those in Kaptagat. The children in Kaptagat and Eldoret never begged from us. Whenever they saw us the reaction was always something along the lines of “MIZUNGU! HOW ARE YOU?!!!” It was cute because they were always so excited to see us. Here the kids see us and just see the chance to get some of our money. And it isn’t necessarily their fault either. I’m sure the parents teach them that they should beg from white people. We even had a couple mothers with children ask for money from us. It’s hard not to feel bad for these people, but at the same time, you have to realize that you can’t fix everything. If we gave money to everyone that needed it in Kenya, we would go broke pretty quick.
David Olson - Blog Update from 1/13/14
As I am typing this right now, we are in the middle of a ridiculously long layover in Detroit. We spend like five hours here in Detroit before we fly to Chicago. At this point we’ve gotten the bulk of the trip done and we’ve been going for about 20 hours straight. The flights from Nairobi to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Detroit were both about eight hours.
My highlight for coming back to the United States was eating a real, juicy, delicious American bacon cheeseburger at Chili’s here in Detroit. The couple times I ordered American food in Kenya, the food was very…interesting. It kind of resembled American food, but the taste wasn’t even close. When it took half an hour for Luke Dakin and I to get our pizza in Nakuru, we agreed that, while we were in Kenya, we were sticking to strictly Kenyan food.
There have been a couple low points of travelling back home so far, especially for me. I’m just struggling I guess. The first was getting both my armrests taken up on the flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam. I ended up sitting in between two hefty Kenyan guys, both of whom never had their arms leave the armrests. So I was crammed in my seat with my arms tucked into my sides for like eight straight hours. Very tough to fall asleep in that position. The second low point was dealing with security in Amsterdam. The guy that checked me in must have been having a rough day or something because he was just a jerk. He asked me whether all the bags I had checked in were mine and, because I checked in one of Luke Dakin’s bags, this turned into a very serious matter for them.
Guy: Are all these bags yours?
Me: No. The bag I checked in belongs to one of my friends.
Guy: Why would you check in a bag that isn’t yours?
Me: Because it belongs to a friend, the guy that organized my groups trip.
Guy: Well, do you know what’s in the bag?
Me: No idea bud.
Guy: If there is something that goes wrong with that bag it’s on you since you checked it in.
Me: I highly doubt the bag will cause a security problem.
Guy: Well who does the bag belong to?
Me: Luke Dakin….or I guess Brian Dakin if you want to be specific.
Guy: Well…which one is it?
Total confusion. It was clear this guy had never gotten an answer like that before so he made me go to the back of the line and check in with Dakin next to me. It was very tough for me to hold my tongue in a situation like this but I figured it would be better to just let it go rather than say something and get detained, strip searched, etc. Moral of the story: security in Amsterdam is tight. Like ridiculously tight.
To talk about yesterday for a bit, we were planning on going to the coffee farm where Synergy Coffee imports their coffee from, but David Cheromi, Ryan, and I decided to stay in Nairobi. So Dakin, Chris, Maddie, and Morgan went to the farm. And I gotta say, hanging out in Nairobi for the day turned out to be awesome. My favorite part was going to the top of the Samsung tower, one of the tallest buildings in the country. The viewpoint was incredible and Ryan and I even got to take a couple pictures with a Kenyan model on the helicopter pad. We also got to see Memorial Park, the site of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in 1998. It was good that we got to see something like that and we learned a lot at the museum that was there. Even though it happened a long time ago, it was still tough to see pictures of the explosion and aftermath. There was just no sense to the attack and many innocent lives were lost because of it. So I personally was a little angry as we were walking out of there back into the city.
My last meal in Kenya was dinner that night with David Cheromei and Ryan (the rest of the group was still coming back from the coffee farm).When I ordered two rounds of chipati and a side of ugali, our waiter was confused. He just kept asking “What else do you want?” But all I wanted was chipati and ugali. The waiter and David talked for a bit in Swahili and when they were done David told me in English that I should order something else. I stood firm and said I just wanted chipati and ugali. Just to clarify a bit, chipati and ugali are like sides, the equivalent of bread and french-fries. So me ordering this was about the same as going into Olive Garden and just getting the breadsticks. Or going into Red Robin and just getting fries. When David replied to the waiter that I didn’t want an entrée, they both smiled and laughed at me. I’m pretty sure David even buries his face in his hands. That’s ok though, because I got my filling of chipati and ugali before we took off back home.