Observations about Kenya

Some of our observations about Kenya:

  • The temperature and humidity varies greatly based on elevation and proximity to the ocean.
  • Very few people smoke. Far fewer than in Canada.
  • The ‘matatu’, a shared mini-bus holding 16 people, is the most common form of transport. Accidents are common despite safety improvements.
  • The divide between rich and poor is vast. The rich protect what they have with walls (topped with spikes, broken bottles, razor wire, or electric fence) and with guards.
  • Life expectancy is only 45 years.
  • There are a quite a few tourists and expatriates, but few of them are British, the previous colonial overlords in Kenya.
  • Roads vary widely from acceptable to atrocious. The dust on the road can be a foot thick, making it impossible to see anything while driving. It runs in cascades down the car windows like water.
  • Men are legally allowed to have multiple wives, but not the other way around.
  • HIV/AIDS is widespread. There are a lot of orphans.
  • Men hold the positions of power in politics and big business. In most other areas, women run the economy, which revolves around very small agricultural businesses.
  • Speed bumps are used to control speeds on major roads that pass through towns, but they are not painted, resulting in the occasional “General Lee” flyover.
  • Most homes along roadways are also tiny shops. Sometimes they only have 10 bananas in inventory, but there is someone there selling them.
  • Most people speak 3 to 5 languages. In addition to the two national languages, Kiswahili and English, they also speak their tribal language, and perhaps one or two of the languages of their neighbouring tribes.
  • English is spoken with an African accent, which varies somewhat, and can make even English difficult to understand. People seem quite willing to clarify if we ask.
  • Almost everyone has a cell phone, even those living in slums. Most houses aren’t wired to the phone system anyhow, making a cell phone far more practical. All cell phones are ‘pay as you go’, and there are shops everywhere to buy more air time, and also to charge your phone. Why? Because many homes don’t have power.
  • There are more than 70 tribes in Kenya and 3 major religious groups (Christianity, Islam, traditional beliefs). Tribal allegiances are stronger than religious ones. When forced to choose, people will side first with members of their tribe over members of their religion. In many cases this is a matter of self-preservation. When violence erupts, as it does from time to time, it is usually along tribal lines.
  • Like in Asia, bicycles can carry just about anything. In some places, they are used as taxis (called ‘boda-bodas’), with the passenger sitting on the back.
  • The people are beautiful. They have smooth hairless skin and white smiles.
  • Hair extensions are the norm for women. Other than those with closely shaved heads and the occasional afro, almost all other hair-dos are constructed with extensions.
  • The people are friendly, and quite willing to assist us. They usually smile and wave, they like to shake hands, and often say ‘You’re welcome’ (‘Karibu’ in Swahili).
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3 Responses to Observations about Kenya

  1. Annette says:

    Hey Diane and PatI am enjoying your blogs immensely. Keep them coming.

  2. DMRC says:

    Diane and Pat,I really feel as though I am learning more about the places you have been than I have ever before. You are both such great writers and your descriptions capture your experience almost transporting me there with you.Continue to be safe and it is so great to see your pictures. You both look as though are thoroughly enjoying your experience.All the best,Meredith

  3. tibbs says:

    Great Blog,keep it coming.Stay SafeMike T

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