Posts tagged “Kenya


Posted on 4 August 2017

I’ve learned I can simultaneously expand with wonder and implode with despair. It’s a hard thing, working in a beautiful place and knowing it’s degraded, its soils are crumbling, rolling into the lake, leaving scars of absence. It’s also a hard thing to be degraded, to be regarded either too hard or too little, so like the soil you run away and scars mark your retreat. Walking back to my tent-room after tracking down documents, I’m greeted by a man who shakes my hand and then refuses to let go, he grips harder and I yank away and shuddering, hurry off. He knows exactly to where and I don’t like that. I have to work, or I don’t have to but I want to,…

The Flood

Posted on 31 May 2015

Under a tree I sat, brow inevitably furrowed. My eyes felt red. I looked around at the greenery. It was not too cold, not too hot. Large flowers, and an avocado tree, were not far. I was in Kenya. But I was miserable, I seethed, I felt trapped in this place, in my skin. I picked at a piece of grass then threw it as far as I could. Sexual harassment had, long ago, gotten very old for me. I would say I was used to it—the waiting to cross the street while men leaned out of a truck and hollered, the walking home from class briskly and hearing whistles despite my headphones, the shielding my face as men laughed, sticking cell phones in…

Volunteering Abroad: How to Make Sure You’re Actually Helping

Posted on 14 October 2014

  Volunteering abroad can be a wonderful experience –you get to travel and do some good for the world at the same time. Win/win, right? Unfortunately, not always. I’ve learned this lesson through experience on three different continents; I have completed volunteer internships in Peru and Kenya and I just returned home from a project near Lake Baikal in Russia. All of these experiences taught me something, but some volunteer projects are more effective than others. As an international volunteer, you may be doing less good than you think – or worse, even causing harm. International development is fraught with complexity that is still debated even among experts on some points. However, there are guidelines that you can follow when choosing a volunteer project…

At Least We Weren’t Lion Food

Posted on 16 June 2014

A tip for those traveling in East Africa: unstructured adventures may be a bit more difficult than they are in, say, Europe. The implications of our hastily cobbled together adventure, hampered by poor internet connections and our work schedules, dawned on Sarah and I as we stood by ourselves on an airplane runway in the middle of the Maasai Mara. Possibly lions and certainly gazelles looked on bemused. Sarah and I were working in Kenya at the same time and we had decided to take advantage of our location and travel a bit. One of us booked flights to the Mara, and from there we’d just see what we’d do next. Shortly before our flight, Sarah called a friend of a friend who worked…

The Pee-Rats and I, or Adventures in Toilets

Posted on 4 June 2014

The first really, truly questionable toilet I encountered was somewhere between Saint Petersburg and Pskov. And toilet is a loose term—I should say a hole. Saving my money had been a theme of studying abroad, so when our group stopped at some train station, I along with a few others opted for the free toilets. I shut the door of the stall, hovered over the hole that was surrounded with—you know—and I failed. I couldn’t figure it out. So I pulled a few rubles from my purse and went to the paid toilet where I could actually pee. I was nineteen and my American self was still innocent and rather squeamish about the span of toilets that can be found in the world. This…

A Reality Beneath Darkening Skies

Posted on 21 May 2014

Lake Nakuru National Park greeted us with a lion. Peering out of the truck, we could hear its heavy breath. Late that evening, the park sent us off with a rainbow pasted against a possibly stormy sky, flamingoes, and storks scattered around, flitting snatches of color against a brilliantly foreboding sky. We succumbed to the urge to fling our arms wide, spin, look at everything. This is real. Not Discovery Channel, not Animal Planet, but really really real, and of course better than television. Majestic places like this do exist! Even the stink of the mud was astounding and perfect. That night, we came to a consensus that this day could indeed be classified as epic.

Finding Food in Kenya

Posted on 18 January 2014

Among my first visions of Kenya: darkness, potholes, and eerie stick structures illuminated by the bouncing headlights. I really wasn’t sure what they could be. The tarp draped over them glared back through the night. I arrived in Muguga, where I was spending the summer as an intern. For the first few days in the guesthouse, I was alone. It got dark around 6pm, so after work I sat in my room and quietly gnawed on protein bars that I had brought along for the long plane rides. I refused to pay the relatively expensive $10 equivalent charged by the guesthouse for dinner, given my tight student budget. I was by myself, in rural Kenya, and the only apparent buildings around belonged to the…

The Irreversible Act of Leaving

Posted on 15 December 2013

If you venture elsewhere, almost inevitably you must leave. You may return, but your actions were irreversible, cannot be undone, for the place you left never will be exactly the same for you again. Time passes, things change, you change. And when you love an experience, a place, or just simply know that it has shaped you, departure feels like doors closing slowly. The world has many, and they won’t all stay open for you. Seinäjoki, Finland, June 2007. I clung to my friend tightly at the train station. It hurt so much to leave. Finland was my place; I had found it. We had enjoyed the long, bright days and twilight nights of Provinssirock, the revelry of Juhannus, and the tranquil comfort of…

Halfway, Forever

Posted on 23 November 2013

That time right before dusk when the strange air swirls around you presents possibilities mysterious, romantic, dark, exhilarating, and final. Yet now, only this small gap of time and space matters. Nothing else because there is only this, this. This moment, it exists and it is dying. You know it and you don’t care. Throw your arms high and wide and laugh! You exist, solidly, in this instant, and that is something to revel in. It is so hard to force only now to matter, and by that, embrace the impending future rather than fight it and fear it. This is the trial of living your limited present, rather than scenes of what probably will not come to pass. The current moment is ever…

The Lives of Others

Posted on 6 October 2013

Travel breeds perspective and perspective breeds empathy. This growth can be spurred in a number of ways, one of which is living as a minority, albeit temporarily. For me at least, this was important. Though I am female, I am also white, heteronormative, and my family is upper-middle class. I am not a member of a minority group in the United States. And though my experience in East Africa is a far cry from an entire life, and though I still held a position of power through wealth during this time, I believe my experience as a racial minority was an important one. I spent three and a half months in East Africa, primarily in Kenya, where my internship took place. This was the…