Kenya is THAT Place in Africa
This past weekend I was feeling very meh. I didn't feel like doing much or being around most people. It felt like I had just come from running an emotional marathon and I just needed to sit and chill. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that made me feel particularly meh until I was on youtube and clicked on a vlog of someone traveling to Kenya. Turns out I had already watched it.
So I clicked on a different video by SPICETVAFRICA on the sights in Nairobi. It wasn't the best video in the world but it made me realize that I've never been to KICC, how much I needed to be sitting in Nairobi traffic doing nothing but doing something at the same time, and just how much I miss home.
That got me thinking about this post that I've been working on since October but couldn't get right, and how this could serve as some form of therapy and way to get rid of my homesickness. So today I'm going to tell you how my beautiful country Kenya gives Africa a bad name.
You know those posts on Facebook or Twitter that show you the beauty of African cities and how they are just like Western countries. The ones that say here is the real Africa or the Africa they never show you.
Example A: This article by the Guardian
Example B: Just type in 'the Africa they never show you' on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google.
Those are lies.
I can hear the gasps from the Africans now.
How dare I tell you that this is not true, that this is not your reality?
While African countries do have those landmarks that's not the full truth either. The reason those pictures are so popular is that Africans are trying to show the world that they are not a bunch of uneducated, village inhabiting savages that don't know or have no use for technology. Africans are trying to show the world that the stereotypes of lions roaming the streets and elephants being the first thing you see, when you walk out of your house are wrong.
While their efforts are valiant, they are also a tad bit dishonest. In our attempts to move far from the stereotypes that are perpetuated in certain movies, we have forgotten that some of these things are actually real.
How many of you saw a monkey while you were in school?
*Thank you, sir, you can put your hand down, these are rhetorical*
Not in a cage but outside of your classroom?
How many of you have seen a giraffe super close and not just at the giraffe center or at a zoo?
I can say yes to two of the questions. That is because Kenya is THAT country in Africa.
We are the ones that give the other countries on the continent a bad name.
I know what you're thinking, it can't be that bad. But if it's not lions taking a stroll on the roads, it's a countrywide power outage due to a monkey falling on a transformer.
If you go to Naivasha (less than three hours from Nairobi), some hotels tell you to call a security guard at night to walk you to your room because of hippos. In the daytime you can find zebras, giraffes, and waterbucks grazing outside your room... and don't get me started on the monkeys!
Exhibit A, B & C:
If you go to my village on Rusinga Island you are advised not to go to the lake at certain hours because that is when the hippos are out.
When you are driving from the airport to the CBD in Nairobi, you can see animals in the distance. There is a national park in the middle of the city!!
I REPEAT. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN CITY!
Don't get me started on Masai Mara because at this point it will never end!
Actually, I'm just going to say where else in the world can you sleep in tented camps feet away from the big five? (Please don't @ me Tanzania, South Africa etc.)
If your country has a driving test question asking what you should do if you hit a giraffe, there are chances that you might be the reason people think Africa is a jungle.
I remember preparing myself for college, getting ready to defend the country and how it was not like the movies and how people did not have pet cheetahs. Before, I would gladly explain that you only saw animals if you went into national parks. Which is ridiculous because my first four years in high school we had a farm at the back of the school. My last two years my school was directly across from a park. On top of that we had geese, ducks, guinea fowls and peacocks just walking around. In my last year, they got an ostrich who would sometimes roam freely and chase students. Also rumor had it that there was a cheetah or leopard that would walk around the school compound after hours, as well as the fact that the boarders could hear the lions roar at night.
I had gotten so used to the animals that when I came to school in America, I was a little shocked that they didn't have animals just chilling and doing their thing on campus.
These days, I embrace those questions and churn out stories of my bravery riding zebra's, and ever since I took those pictures I whip them out to show you how crazy Africa is.... not Kenya but Africa.
Why do we feel so ashamed about having such beauty in our country?
Do you know how cool you look when you are standing next to a giraffe as it is eating?
Sometimes living abroad opens your eyes to the ways in which your country falls short or is blessed, in this situation we are both blessed and cursed. The blessing is that this is our home, we can see most of this stuff for free. We don't have to go to the zoo. The curse is that our rush to be westernized has blinded us to the unique natural beauty our country has to offer.
Our blindness is going to rob us of innovators such as Richard Turere. It signals to certain countries (*cough* cough* China) that our elephants are worth nothing more than the ivory on their tusks. Already a major road in Kenya is planned to pass through one of the national parks.
What does that mean for the animals?
There is a Tanzanian proverb that says "usisafirie na nyota ya mwenzio". Meaning don't set sail using somebody else's star. We've set sail using other people's stars for so long, we no longer know where we are going.
I know some people will still take this to mean that we must see animals everyday but that is not the reality for all Africans. Not all Kenyans have experienced the same moments I have and some have probably never been to a park or seen a third of the animals that are in the country. I don't see animals everyday, mainly because I'm studying abroad, but even when i'm in Kenya, I still get hyped when I see a monkey. Kenya is wild but not as wild as the movies, Nat Geo and even I make it seem.
This grassland Savannah is also paved.