Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Paul Norton: Arriving in Kenya

Paul NortonBrandeis student Paul Norton traveled to Kenya this past summer to intern with the KIMbia Foundation.  Below, we share the first of his journal entries, which, on Monday, will continue running daily.


It didn’t take me long to figure out that things are a little different here.  I have never stuck out so much in my life, and although my long journey to Silgich has gone very smoothly, it has also had some interesting twists and turns.  Driving has been frankly terrifying (I even got the authentic experience taking a matatu (bus) from Nairobi to Eldoret) and time is, well, all relative.  I’ll use today’s journey as an example.

The expected schedule was that I would leave the hotel I stayed in at 8:30, drive half an hour to the bus station in Nairobi, leave Nairobi at 9, and get to Eldoret by about 1:30 or 2. Well, getting picked up at 8:30 turned into 9:30, and I was the first person on my matatu, which didn’t leave until all the seats had been filled at 10:30, and then a pit stop for lunch in Nakuru and a few bumpy roads resulted in me not arriving in Eldoret until 3:30.  Paul’s poor wife Zipporah had been waiting for me at the bus station for nearly two hours before she finally left to look around. Luckily, it didn’t take Zipporah too long to find me after I arrived, as I was literally the only white person in Eldoret.  I met her neighbor Rebecca, as well as the carpenter at Silgich and the driver who was going to take us back.  In case I haven’t put to rest any doubts about how African time works, it is about a 45-minute or hour drive from Eldoret to Silgich.  Although I had met Zipporah at around 4 o’clock, I didn’t arrive at Silgich until about 8:00 that night.  Some stops along the way included an hour and a half spent at the repair shop working on the VCR, and the unintended wild goose chase of trying to find a raincoat in Eldoret with Zipporah’s neighbor Rebecca.

Another thing I have noticed already is not only how gracious and welcoming people are but also how loyal they are to each other regardless of how well they do or do not know you. Frederick, the guy who sat next to me on the ride up to Eldoret, said he’d stay with me while I waited for her, hoping she’d turn up, and we went to a restaurant next door.   We got talking at the restaurant and he told me he had a dream of starting his own travel agency in Nairobi.  We exchanged phone numbers and he told me if his dream came through I’d have to come on Safari. Later that night, he even called to make sure I had found Zipporah.

Zipporah came down to Eldoret with her neighbor Rebecca, the carpenter from Silgich, and a friend from nearby.  I didn’t catch the friend’s name when she introduced herself, so after we had dropped her off at home I asked Rebecca what her name was.  “Oh,” Rebecca said “She’s just a friend from down the street. I don’t really know her name.” This was despite the fact that Rebecca had offered her a ride all the way to Eldoret and that they had spent almost the entire day shopping together.  This woman even watched my bags when Rebecca and I charged around Eldoret searching for a raincoat (I have also learned not to try to get between a Kenyan woman and the task at hand, especially “Mama Kanga” as Rebecca is nicknamed).  Although I’ve been in Kenya but a day, I already feel like I can count on the people around me for just about anything.

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One response to “Paul Norton: Arriving in Kenya”

  1. Michelle says:

    Good luck and I look forward to reading you every day!!!!! Do you mind if I ask questions every once and a while? I love learning about this culture and their running techs! Best Regards, Michelle from the Keys