Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Neighbors Are Not Your Neighbors (First Impressions of Kenya)

New bandas, roommates, teachers, weather, and new neighbors.  It was inevitable that leaving Tanzania’s Moyo Hill Camp for my new home in Kenya would provide all new elements of my stay in East Africa, but I was unaware of just how dramatic the differences would be. 
   Crossing the border into Kenya was easy, and took little effort on our part.  After having our passports stamped when leaving Tanzania, we literally walked across the border into Kenya to have our visas stamped for our new country of residence.  I do my best to keep exaggerations to a minimum – and there have been none recorded in these posts – but I feel I am also not exaggerating when I say that I could feel the heat increase the farther into Kenya we walked.  We were led a short distance to a lodge for midday-lunch (complete with signs saying “do not feed the monkeys”) and I felt I had lost weight in just the short half-hour I had been here!  The elevation is much lower than in Tanzania, and we are right along the equator… and we’re feeling every bit of this equatorial heat. 
   Our trip from Moyo Hill to Kilimanjaro Bush Camp took about 10 hours.  And here is where the differences between camps begins:
   Location: KBC is very remote, and the nearest town is an hour’s walk away, whereas Moyo Hill was right next to a town.  However, here in Kenya we are situated at the base of the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I can literally see the snowy caps from the showers… which brings me to my next note of distinctions.
   Amenities: While we have internet and electricity, it is all turned off at 11pm.  It’s pitch-black here at night, and the stars are brilliant in their shining splendor.  I could sit out all night and stare at them if it weren’t for the excess of black mambas (a deadly snake).  Fresh water is sparse and reserved, but it is a drier country.  Electricity is limited to the chumba (dining-hall/classroom), library, and a gazebo that is far away and somewhat isolated from our home.
   Living Quarters (banda): My two new roommates are lovely (I am very lucky), and we share a banda fitted for four residents.  No bunked beds, and all are equipped with mosquito nets.  We have to be much more vigilant here in Kenya.  For example, we must always have our mosquito nets tucked in to avoid having snakes/rats/creepy-crawlies make their way into our sleeping-bags.  Also, shoes need to be shaken out periodically to check for scorpions.  Baboons and elephants are always wandering through our camp.  In fact, my first morning in KBC involved waking up to a family of baboons sitting on our banda porch and roof. 
   KBC: The site is 24 acres large, whereas Moyo Hill is only 3 acres.  We have a river in which hippos and other water-animals reside, and sometimes hippos like to wander close to camp as well.
   In short, KBC is remote, more dangerous, but ultimately more a part of the East African wild than Moyo Hill was. While I love Tanzania, I am very excited to be living in a remote setting, because it is what I initially chose this program for.  I’m getting to live with the animals 24-7 for the next 7 weeks, an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  This trip is already shaping my future, and I’ve begun developing new plans for my lifestyle and career/travel plans.  But, for now, I’m going to enjoy the baboons perched on my porch, grit my teeth in the cold showers, and see Kilimanjaro every day for as long as I can.

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