For the purpose of my thesis project, I travelled to rural Kenya for a month, in May 2014. I had very little knowledge of the country (and the whole of East Africa) before that, and I suspect most you reading this are in the same situation.
This is a small photoblog of my journey there.
My first moments in Nairobi were spent … looking for the driver that was supposed to pick me up from the airport to my hotel. He never showed up. I had to get a cab (and pay the quite high “white-clueless-tourist” fee, although I avoided paying far more, and got thr price down by half).
Once at the hotel, the first clues about the loss of comfort I would have to adapt myself to already started to show : there is no hot or drinking water in the rooms (although they had an electric shower that warmed the water… a bit), and even in Nairobi, the internet connexion was at best, intermittent. But the hotel was nice enough, and the staff very friendly, they even went grocery shopping for me after dark (Nairobi isn’t a very safe city for a white person to wander alone after dark).
While in Nairobi it is easy to get a (more or less) reliable internet connection, it is very different in the rural areas of Kenya, such as the Naro Moru area where I was. I could only get enough bandwith to check my emails (and even for that, I had to go out of my room, sometimes go up on the roof if I wanted enough stability to download an attached file).
So… I learned to live without internet. Which was not an easy thing for me, being kind of a tech addict.
The major tourist attraction in Nairobi is the National Park, where you can go on a safari less than 20 minutes from the city center. It has been remarkably well conserved given its proximity to the city.
Communication can be (and often is) difficult with locals, especially in the rural areas where english is not always spoken by everyone. Being a Mzungu (white person) in a rural area (where tourists aren’t as common as in cities) easily attracts attention, and more often than not, results of people asking for money. The man on the picture is one example of that. He asked me to get a picture of him taken, then … wanted to charge me for it ! Thankfully I was with locals at the time who told him that I didn’t have any money on me.
It can be annoying at times, but it is one of the things you get used to over time. And while communication often is frustrating, it allows for some nice experiences, such as a woman on a bus who, albeit speaking a poor english, went into lots of efforts to show me that she went back to school and was getting straight As, and even showing me her grade reports. I could unfortunately not get a picture of her as I didn’t have my camera ready and I was in a crowded matatu, but it is one of the most marking memories of communicating with locals that I have.
These “Improved” cookstoves consume less fuelwood than the traditional way of cooking (3 stone fire), and produce far less smoke (the 3 stone fire can easily fill up the entire room with smoke !). This allows women to be less at risk while cooking, and spend less time and money for fuelwood collection.
My thesis project consists of modeling the impact of such stoves on the local energy demand and ecosystem. Women transporting bundles of Firewood. In rural Kenya, people often have to travel several km to get the wood they need for cooking their daily meals.
I came across these three kids on their way back from school, in their uniform (mandatory for all schools in Kenya). As soon as they saw me their reaction was :
With time I noticed that pattern with many other kids, especially in the rural areas where the visit of westerners isn’t common.
Around the equator, the days are always 12 hours long, same as nights. Coming from Sweden (where days are now more than 18 hours long), that was one of the most obvious changes when i came here.
Cooking lunch in the Kenyan rural area means mostly relying on yourself to get all the ingredients :
After Nairobi National Park in the beginning of my stay, I decided to visit another National Park on my last week.