My Family

My Family
Summer 2015

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kenya vs. USA--differences in "culture"

In summary, I thought I'd post a few fun facts and things we noticed while on our trip.

Cultural differences
1. Food:
Overall the locals do not prefer cold drinks--whether it’s milk or soda or juices.  They think we are crazy for wanting to drink cold stuff.
One of our favorite sodas was Stoney--a ginger soda.
Normally when I go to a different country I like to play around with trying the local food.  I did.  And it was not very tasty for the most part.  There really isn’t much spice or flavor to it.  Even though it had little flavor, I kind of liked Ugali.  Kind of rubbery corn mush thing that you can use for grabbing other food on your plate.   They do like fried whole fish and to peel all the head skin and bones off with their hands at the table. (Christine actually fed us a nice fish with tomato sauce and rice the first night we were there--that was the best Kenyan food I ate).  

Ok I do give them the "White Coffee" and "milk tea" that they serve.  Those are A Ma Zing!!!  They use fresh milk often right from a cow and it does something to those beverages that is Beyond Words.  SOO good!

Hot milk and hot water in a thermos on the table for drinking and for cereal, etc. (as in boiling) We drink everything cold.  They don't.

Nobody drinks tap water. All water is boiled for drinking.  (except the kids at the first orphanage where conditions were even worse --they drank out of the hose tap even near the cows. yikes!!) or you drink bottled or filtered water.

2. Pace:
Everyone moves at a SLOW pace.  (unless they are driving) Affectionately called “Kenyan” Time.  I’m ok with that for the most part, but the most irritating part is at restaurants.  Let’s just say speed is not essential.  And being on time -- well, that’s optional too in general. Not all people of course, but it's a general pace that is MUCH slower and less demanding than ours.

3. Driving:
Nairobi.  Well, it’s chaos.  They drive on the left side of the road.  Most of the time.  Unless it isn’t convenient because of several factors like too much traffic, or pot holes or whatever.  Then, it’s anything goes.  There really wasn’t much logic to it at all.  And pushing your way into a space is key.  On the last Friday we were here, I was alone with Lucas and our driver Martin going to pick up Isaac in Mathare.  There were busses packed with people worming their way through, and at one point driving half on the sidewalk and creating lanes that didn’t exist.  People crossing over onto whatever side of the road was convenient and squeezing through whever it worked.
Main roads from Nairobi to Meru were well paved, etc.  So that was good. And inside the city many were also paved. (but not all)

Road conditions.  In many cases “road” was really not a word for what we were driving on.  Particularly with the rainy season, potholes and dips in the road became mud holes.  Our drivers made it through, but it was crazy.  And I’m kind of done being jostled around like a ping pong ball in the car everywhere we go.  lol
All roads have speed bumps.  That is suppose to slow the traffic down I guess.  And it does for the most part but it also gives a good headache after a while.  Driving at a decent speed, hitting the brakes, shifting into different gears, jerking around, hitting the gas and moving again, just in time to hit more speed bumps.  Craziness. 

Police/Military stops.  We came across several police blocks in the road where we had to stop and the driver had to talk to them.  Sometimes a little disconcerting with machine guns wrapped around them.  One time we had to go into our suitcases and dig out our passports.

4. Shopping.  
Nakumartt was like a WalMart with food and household items and clothes.  So that was kind of nice.  

Other shopping for locals in particular is in little booths on the street in open air chaos kind of markets.  From clothing items, to shoes, to watches, to food (tomatoes, cabbages, leafy vegies they cook, rice, beans; fruits like mangoes and apples, oranges and bananas).  In Mathare we saw cages filled with live chickens just piled on top of each other.  If you need a chicken they just take it out and butcher it right there and you take it home.  We also saw butcher shops with meat hanging in windows.

Massai Market--This is a craft type market of local jewelry, purses, household items, clothing--kind of the fun market where you bargain for everything.  I stink at bargaining.  But, Linda was great at it.

5. Tribal People
We only really saw evidence of 2 particular tribes.  Maybe more that I didn’t recognize.
The Massai and the Turkana.  We actually went and visited the Turkana people.  Really it’s amazing how they still hold onto those traditions and life.  Unfortunately they are lacking in essentials many times like water and have to walk several miles to get it.  Some of their sanitation--well, let’s just say, doesn’t exist.  I know there are very specific family groups and even if they live next to another group it’s not always possible to cross that line.  Each one has a different dress.  And in the Turkana there are beads that they wear signifying different things about their marital status or clan that they belong to.

6. Slums
I have to say, I haven’t spent much time in American slums so I don’t have much to compare to.  But, the roads themselves and the sewage in ditches, and smells and harsh conditions even for the kids to be living in, were shocking and eye opening. 

7. Orphanages/Children's Homes
Since we don’t really have them here, again I cannot fully compare.  But, each one had it’s variations.  The New Start Center and IPI were both realatively clean and well managed and things looked in order.  But, Mathare...yikes!  Mud/cement floors with babies sitting in the mud playing with their shoes and dirt.  Nobody really stops them.  Yet, they are doing the best with what they have.  And everyone is getting an education because that is what is Most important.

8. Language
One of the great things about Kenya (not sure about other countries in Africa) is most people speak some form of English.  This is really nice for being able to communicate.  There are many languages spoken, but it was nice to be able to communcate with most people.
Even the kids that didn't know much English or just general public would say these things:
"How are you?"

9. Utilities (water, electricity, etc)
In the city of Nairobi these things seem available to much of the population.  But, I'm not sure how available in the slums.
Sometimes they are just optional.  
Sometimes they go in and out on a whim. (even at Mercy's house in Meru-which was a very nice house by the way)
Sometimes they are just not available to segments of the population.(ie the Tribal people)
Sometimes people walk miles to get water--and I'm not sure if that is a well, or river or what.

10.  Church
Lasted 4 hours.  Amazing service included dancing and lots of singing, but different than our church in length of time, etc.

no such thing as "children's church" during the service.  The kids just wander around outside unattended while mom and dad sit in church.  =)

11. Education
For most people this is a TOP priority.  They will do ANYTHING to find ways to educatate their children.  And they value it even in the slums.  They see it as a ticket out of the conditions they are in and TOTALLY a privelege.  All kids wear uniforms to school even in the poorest schools.  Do you think we value it as much?  Do our kids?  I'm not so sure sometimes.

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