Living in Kenya and Feeling the Distance from Home
Yesterday I woke up sluggish and heartsick.
I was dreaming of home, of biking through the Garden District on my way to spending a leisurely day in the French Quarter, when my alarm sounded. My bike toppled over and my eyes snapped open. Instead of cobble-stoned pavement I saw white sheets and a beige wall and I remembered: I am in Kenya.
I got up and made breakfast, going through the motions of chopping and eating while I felt a pit widening between my heart and my stomach.
As I made my first turn, I took a deep breath. The scent of dirt and chickens filled my nose and I raised my head, meeting the eyes of a woman passing by with a jerry can on her head.
I was homesick.
Stepping out of the house into the already warm African air, I sighed and started my walk to OLPS, avoiding eye contact with the boda-bodas that sit outside of my gate. The swishing sound of brooms sweeping the evening’s dust out the door filled my ears, but I missed the sound of the street car and the lone saxophonist that wanders up and down St Charles.
As I made my first turn, I took a deep breath. The scent of dirt and chickens filled my nose and I raised my head, meeting the eyes of a woman passing by with a jerry can on her head. I gathered my courage, opened my mouth and greeted her.
“Habari?” How are you?
Her stoic face melted away and a smile lit her face.
“Mzuri!” I am fine!
And I smiled back.
Before I could even get to my desk, I met many people with wide smiles and inquiries about my health and how I slept.
Slowly I started greeting the people staring at me, the odd mzungo walking through their neighborhood. The men sitting in the shade of a Jacaranda tree with their motobikes waved enthusiastically, shouting words I have not yet learned in Swahili and Luo, bringing yet another smile to my face as my homesickness eased.
Twenty minutes later I reached the office. Before I could even get to my desk, I met many people with wide smiles and inquiries about my health and how I slept. Jael, pictured here, is always effusive, kissing my cheeks and giving me a tight hug like we haven’t seen each other in months instead of hours.
I was greeted by a dozen people before I finally sat in my chair and flicked on the fan. I felt the last of my homesickness sift away, replaced by the pure joy in every person’s smile.
Living in Kenya and Feeling the Distance from Home Related Reading
Kenya Travel: 6 Misconceptions I had before I Went
Tips for Women Travelers in Kenya
Following Strangers in Kenya
A Day in Nairobi’s Kibera Slums: Seeing Immense Poverty Up Close
On the Fried Deliciousness that is Kenyan Food
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