Sunday, September 26, 2010

The truth about my life in Kenya...

An American friend called me this week crying, "I'm having an I-hate-Kenya-day and I just need someone to vent to!" All foreigners have these kinds of days in Kenya, and for some of us they are becoming more frequent. We get frustrated at the stupid drivers, the inefficiency of everything, the beggars who come to our car windows, the thieves who car-jack or kidnap or steel your side mirror as you're sitting in traffic. We don't talk about these things to people back home because people back home will worry or don't understand or will ask us why we just don't go back to America. The truth is, we like the adventure of living overseas. All the good things outweigh the frustrating moments.

I look at Americans I know in Kenya who have been living here for 20 years and love working in Kenyan. Going back to America is something they'll have to do one day, but it's not an exciting thing. I feel like living in America, for me, is not very exciting either, but I don't think I'm one of those people who will want to live in Kenya forever. I'm one of those people whose "I-hate-Kenya-days" are becoming more frequent, and I don't know if the rose-colored glasses of my first year here will ever return. I definitely have a lot of wonderful moments where Kenya is the only place I want to be... the beach, being at the children's center, hanging out with my British co-workers, chillin' with friends, hopping a plane down to Tanzania or over to Uganda. But I also feel like Kenya is turning me into a cynical person.

A couple weeks ago I struck up a conversation with a recent college graduate from America who had a grant to travel the world studying democratic governments. He was a very smart guy from a prestigious school, and he proceeded to tell me how things SHOULD be working in Kenya and Africa, if only they would do this or that. I added that "Kenya will never work well because the government is corrupt and only think of their pocketbooks, a secondary education only gets Kenyans a working-class job as a gardner or houseworker so what is the point, and you can only help one or two people really, you'll never fix the big picture here. It's impossible." His idealism went against everything I said and he thought I was very wrong to say all of this, but after living here over two years, this is the reality I see. Kenya makes even the most optimistic person, cynical. I could go on and on why Kenya will never be "fixed" according to Western standards, and I hate how the reality of life here has taken my optimism and buried it deep within me where I don't see it for many days, sometimes weeks. This is the reality of life in Kenya. This is why my days are numbered in this country. Because some day soon I would like to be an optimistic person again.


  1. Hmmm, I like your honesty, Kim. I feel like we just had a conversation instead of me reading your blog a continent away. Miss you!

  2. Yes, sometimes the best work abroad shouldn't last a year so that we still feel hopeful for the country we have come to love...or soon it will turn to a big disappointment not for our own sake but theirs.Be positive again...come home soon so that you leave with some love left for Kenya.
    Good luck and God bless!