Following Strangers in Kenya

August 27, 2015
kenya, kenya stories
Following Strangers in Kenya

Back in June 2010, my boyfriend, Mick and I headed off to Kenya for our second ‘proper’ holiday together. Our parents thought we were mad (but they did helpfully lend us their credit card to secure the booking). We’d seen an offer on Travelzoo and we leapt at it, booking two weeks on the coast near Mombasa. We’d just finished our first year of university, I was 18, he was 20 and we were game for an adventure.

We had a slightly eventful trip to the airport (definitely don’t expect your travelling companion to remain sunny company if you announce an hour into the trip that you’ve left your malaria tablets behind).

As we walked deeper into the shanty-town, we felt more and more uncomfortable.

We arrived safely and settled into our hotel, dodging the local wildlife, with me desperately trying to keep bugs and lizards out of the room. After a couple of days on the beach, ploughing through the books we’d taken (hard copies, in the days before kindles), we decided to leave the hotel and look for the model Masai village we’d heard about.

Turning left out of the hotel and walking past the makeshift shops, we thought we were heading in the right direction. We were approached by two young guys who asked where we were going, and told us they’d take us to the model village.

Somewhat naively, we said yes, and followed them down the road and into a shanty-town. Rather stupidly we didn’t say anything at this point, assuming they knew where they were going, so we happily went with them. As we walked deeper into the shanty-town, we felt more and more uncomfortable.

We were weaving through makeshift houses with children and chickens running around outside. Ducking around the toddlers and over the puddles in the ‘street,’ we were led around a corner where we abruptly stopped.

After giving her our money, we were finally able to leave, and the two guys walked us back to the main road, where the leader of the two very cheekily asked Mick for a tip, one he didn’t receive!

The two guys showed us inside a house and, not knowing what to think, we went inside. Through the door was a dimly lit room full of children. They were lying on the floor, covering every space you could see, with an older, stern lady in the middle of the room.

She told us that we were in her orphanage, and that she would only speak if we were both making eye contact with her. Whenever we looked down and smiled at the children, she would immediately stop speaking until we looked up again, making us both feel very strange and wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into.

Before long, after she’d finished her clearly practiced spiel about the orphanage, the lady got out a visitors book full of photographs and signatures of people who had been there before. She was raising money to build a bigger orphanage, or so she said, and wouldn’t let Mick and me leave until we’d given her money. Fortunately we only had what was the equivalent of £10 on us, as we’d planned to have a look around and return to the village later on in our trip.

After giving her our money, we were finally able to leave, and the two guys walked us back to the main road, where the leader of the two very cheekily asked Mick for a tip, one he didn’t receive!

She told us that we were in her orphanage, and that she would only speak if we were both making eye contact with her.

About 10 minutes later, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief as our hotel came back into view. Unfortunately we never did find the model Masai village, but we did see Masai warriors, some whom were selling scarves and sunglasses by the ocean, and a group often came to a local restaurant. We were at the restaurant one night when they visited, dancing with the women, including me, and challenging the men to jumping competitions. We left the restaurant that night with our very own set of a Masai spear and shield, much to Mick’s delight.

We saw some fantastic sights in Kenya, and definitely had some great experiences. We’d both recommend it, but with the somewhat obvious advice: don’t follow strangers!

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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
A Kenya Safari Fit for a Toddler
On the Fried Deliciousness that is Kenyan Food
Living in Kenya and Feeling the Distance from Home

Have you traveled to Kenya? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com to share your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Charlie Smoothy

Charlie SmoothyCharlie is almost a fully-fledged Londoner, moving to the city three years ago. She studied politics at Leeds University and by day builds on that background working in political communications. In her free time she loves having adventures and taking photographs in the City and anywhere else she can manage, next on her list is Croatia. Charlie is also a lifestyle blogger at www.pencilitin.uk where you can see what book she’s devouring or food she’s cooking.

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