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Ubuntu · Melissa Shang

JKUAT Team Arrives in Kenya!

May 3, 2019

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After a long plane ride and several mishaps along the journey, our team finally all arrived in Kenya! Although our final destination was the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) campus in Nakuru, we decided to stay in a hotel in Nairobi for a couple days as we waited for our accommodations to be finalized. Immediately, we noticed a couple of differences between Kenya and Canada. For one, the data is much more affordable! We all got new sim cards at the airport and only paid $20 for 12 GB.  

While we waited at our hotel, we made the most of our time by visiting some of the local attractions. One of the more noteworthy locations we visited was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that currently supports 22 baby elephants. We were able to pet the elephants (super prickly!) and hear about everything they do at the orphanage. Some interesting facts that we learned was that poachers hunt elephants for their tusks in order to make ivory, which is significantly damaging the elephant population so please don’t support this industry by buying ivory products. In addition, it costs 900 USD per year to raise a baby elephant, very costly for the foundation, so any donation would be appreciated: Heartwarming as well, elephants have long memories and those that are released back into the wild sometimes come back with their new families to visit their previous caretakers. 

The next day, we headed out for Nakuru and met our contact, Steven, a lecturer at the university. The encounter could not have been more lovely; Steven showed us to our living accommodations and helped us find all the products we needed for the month that we would be there. 

Once everything was settled, we visited the school and met some of the students for the first time. Steven had gathered everyone by texting the group on WhatsApp and we were all incredibly impressed by the driven nature of the students to have come into school on their day off.

After our initial presentation on what the course was, we lingered in the classroom to mingle and chat. Although the students were initially quiet while the lecturers were present, they came alive whilst we chatted about Canada and everyday life. We learned a lot about the students during this time and the cultural differences were very evident. For example, we discovered that Kenya has 42 different tribes and that every single tribe was known for something different. The fame ranged from being known for running really fast to cooking chicken really well. We also learned that university in Kenya ran all year (not just the winter months like it is in Canada) and most people expected to start their own business after they graduate, even though the most desirable jobs were to work for “parastatals”, or what we know in Canada as "crown corporations". Politics was also a huge point of discussion, as the students were really surprised that we didn’t know that much about Canadian politics while they were incredibly involved in who was running for office. Candidates were constantly reaching out, no matter that there was 5 years between elections.

But despite all the small differences we noticed, there were also similarities that caught us off guard. The Kenyans also listen to the same music that we do (shout out to Drake!) and like to go out in their free time.

Overall, the group that we met was incredibly friendly and we’re all super excited to start teaching on Monday. We created a group chat on WhatsApp that started off with the 25 people that came to the session and as I’m writing this post, the number has already increased to over 70 people!