Summer 2009 – a wonderful time I won’t ever forget. At that time, I had a chance to apply for a paid internship overseas. Unlike some people I knew, who applied to Australia or the US or Canada to enhance their scientific CV, I decided to go to Kenya. Yes, Africa! Coming from a renowned research institute, I did not expect to learn the newest technology during the internship, but rather to understand their culture and lifestyle. Africa…. one can always go, however most of the times we decided to visit France, Morocco, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand etc. rather than Kenya. It was so far away for me yet to tempting to explore!
And there I was, sitting in the plane crossing the mediterranean ocean to a mysterious new world.
The accommodation was inside the University Campus and had every thing we needed. I have to note: we were 4 girls sharing the flat and it was quite pleasant, despite little conflicts about food once in a while :). It was rather a privilege for us ladies to stay in a house, since the other 3 guys had to stay inside the student dorm sharing one 10qm room.
The streets in Juja/Nairobi was known to be a bit dangerous after sunset, but I have never had that feeling during my stay. The people were so nice and friendly, I basically was never alone. It was rather confusing at the beginning to sit around trying to connect to the internet when suddenly someone pop up out of nowhere and convince you to join their salsa session. We made friends quickly and thus adapted to life pretty fast too.
It’s true they didn’t have much. There was no modern hip bar to go out for a drink; the lunch option were pretty much the same everyday and milk was delivered fresh from farmers in the morning. The university had a food technology department, where yoghurt and brioche were produced rather than research conducted. They didn’t have much, everything from vegetable to meat to dairy products or entertainment possibilities were rare, but they were happy; so was I.
Seeing the kids playing with each other, lying, laughing and running around, even playing with dirt and just a ball made my heart flutter. It had been such a long time I am seeing kids being kids! Maybe I was so happy because I saw my youth in them, where playing with nothing requires creativity, where technology was out of reach and mobile phone was a foreign word.
Greeting strangers with a smile, singing while working, smiling away the tough life they had… their mindset impressed me and made me wonder: “why are we not smiling much here – in this first world country I’m living in? Why greeting and smiling at someone on the street is considered weird?”. All the experiences and love I received and learnt during my time in Kenya definitely changed my way of appreciating life!
I truly believe we all from a developed country should visit a developing country once in a while to recognise how lucky we are, appreciating our life more and stop complaining about unnecessary things, such as slow internet connection 😉