ON ARRIVAL CAMP

February 27, 2013 - Mombasa, Kenya

 

That’s how AFS Kenya calls the first (preparation) week. We stayed in the “Royal Palace Hotel”. The name tricks you. It’s not a hotel. But it was all fine. On our way from the airport to town we saw a lot of chaos. The traffic is unbelievable. There are no rules. Just drive as fast as you can. There is no car or Matatu (Minibus) without scratches. We passed by small hills out of waste were people live on top. The streets are full of rubbish. Everything is loud, full and dusty. That’s why I had many doubts. Will I be able to survive this year? Staying in this city?? The locals say Mombasa is small. But for me it seems big. On one hand I can walk every distance. But on the other hand  there are thousands of small roads; it’s easy to get lost.

One of the volunteers and me got lost on our third day in Kenya. And because it gets dark at around 7pm, we were scared. Thinking about it now is funny, but when you are lost and don’t know how to explain where you want to go, it makes you feel desperate.

Every morning we woke up at 4am because the Muslims are being called for their prayers. And there is a mosque at every corner. It is loud. Big and tasty breakfast with fresh Mango-Juice and then we had lessons at the AFS Office.

For example: Rules. “no getting pregnant”, “better no motorcycle” and “no travelling to Somalia”. They always made an effort and cooked original Swahili-dishes for us. The food is nice. Except “Ugali”. Something made out of maize-flour. But always eat slowly! They force you into eating more and more. If you don’t refill, it means you don’t like it and that’s impolite. And of course, we had to learn how to eat with our right (the clean) hand.

We enjoyed good Swahili-lessons and learnt about the currencies. The value of the Kenyan Shilling is so different to our Euro. I always had to calculate. And they told us the main things. How much a Matatu-ride costs and so on.

The AFS-Staff scared us a little, when they told us about the problems concerning Visa and Workpermit. But because of corruption, we can always get an (il)legal Visa after 6 months. And also, they warned us concerning the upcoming general election.

Walking through the streets is no fun as a white person. They call us “mzungu”. It means “white person”. And they say “Jambo” (hello) and “Karibu Kenya” (welcome to Kenya) all the time. Or “hey baby”, “how are you?” “I love you”, the Somalis say “dollar dollar” (they want to change money) and everyone looks at the mzungu. I know that they mean well, but I don’t like it to hear all this 50 times a day. I don’t feel like a tourist. And just because I’m white doesn’t mean I always want to buy everything.

We learned things like always watch your bottle. Never show off your money. Don’t seem too interested. Don’t scream “thief!” even if you are robbed. People can easily get in rage and kill that person. We talked to one of the watchmen you see everywhere. He earns 1.500 Ksh in one night, working 12 hours. That’s like 14,50 Euro. And he’s proud to have a job. Most of the people don’t work.

Our orientation got better every day. And I got used to the “African Time” very fast. When they say 8, it means half past 8 or even 9. So, don’t bother being on time. No one cares. I like it that way.

 


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