After almost 5 months in Kenya I am now back in Canada. Overall my time in Kenya was an incredible experience and although, there were times at which I was frustrated, can’t recall a happier period of my life. Throughout my 5 months I made many amazing friends and memories that will stay with me the rest of my life. I also learned so much about myself and the way the world works. Some of the key things I learned can be narrowed down to 6 main points:
- It is okay to have confidence: Individuals I met in Kenya seemed to have a lot more confidence and greater willingness to share their abilities than individuals in Canada. For example, in Canada most people are hesitant to sing or dance in front of a crowd if they are not formally trained. In Kenya most people do not have formal training, yet are willing to share their abilities when presented with an opportunity. Furthermore, people in Kenya are considerably more willing to try me ventures like starting their own business. In Canada I think we need to exhibit more confidence in our abilities and be more willing to try new ventures.
Take home message for Canadians: Be confident in your abilities and take risks.
- Good governance is essential: As mentioned in earlier posts, corruption is steeped in so many aspects of Kenyan society, including government. This corruption makes it difficult for Kenyans to unite and address the problems they are facing, such poverty and terrorism. While I believe Kenyans must solve their own governmental issues themselves, we are Canadians must not take our government for granted, and can show our appreciation by actively participating in government. It is important that we inform ourselves on new legislations and support policies that allow developing nations to excel in their own way.
Take home message for Canadians: Participate in politics by being informed on new legislation and vote in elections.
- Importance of healthy eating: Throughout my childhood my mom always stressed the importance of healthy eating habits, which included eating healthy foods, sitting down while eating, not picking at foods, eating slowly, and making home cooked meals. While in Kenya I noticed that no matter how busy people were, they always made time to eat a sit down, home-cooked meal. Kenyans were also very aware of where there food came from and how it was made. In Canada we have an obsession with food, as it evident on magazine covers and morning talk shows, however, most of us don’t take the time to make and eat proper meals, nor do we know where our foods come from or how they are made. In my opinion, this disconnect contributes to many of the prominent health issues we face in Canada today, and we must go back to the basics in order to solve these issues.
Take home message for Canadians: Make time for eating, enjoy food andknow where your food comes from.
- Boredom can beneficial: What do you do when you have no movies? No TV? Few books? No internet? And electricity and water is limited? Nothing. You do nothing. One of the items that most people don’t mention when discussing travel abroad is the amount of time one spends bored. The last time I can recall being so bored for such a long period of time was during summer break of primary school. Since that time I tried to ensure that I fill every moment of every day to escape that dreadful feeling of restfulness that comes with having nothing to do. While being in Kenya I faced a considerable amount of boredom and I came to realize that it is not completely bad. During this trip I found that boredom allowed me the time to be creative and explore my interests. Furthermore, boredom gave me the opportunity to rest my body and brain so I was recharged for my next activity.
Take home message for Canadians: Schedule for periods of down time and don’t feel guilty by doing so.
- Poverty is complicated: Before coming to Kenya I was well aware of the poverty statistics in Kenya (according to UNICEF 42% of Kenyans live below the poverty line) and I was quite familiar with a number of aid organizations operational in Kenya. While I was in Kenya I researched the many causes of poverty and the solutions aid organizations present in response. From my research I came to the conclusion that the cycle of poverty is extremely complex and there is no easy solution. As foreigners I think we can best support developing nations by listening to their concerns and assisting when asked.
Take home message for Canadians: Listen to the needs identified by the people on the ground and be informed on where your money goes when donating to charity.
- People are the same everywhere: So often in the West we are presented with an impoverished, war-torn image of Africa. Although conflict and poverty do exist in Kenya, this singular image on Kenya places a divide between us and Kenyans that I think this limits our ability to collaborate. My most important lesson from my internship was that despite culture, location and circumstance, people are the same everywhere. Kids in both Canada and Kenya like to play games and candy, and don’t particularly like homework. Students in both Canada and Kenya study hard and have high aspirations. People in Canada and Kenya seek love, acceptance, hope and happiness. Although the ways these commonalities are presented may differ, it is important we recognize the similarities to better understand and learn from one another.
Take home message for Canadians: Learn about other cultures through a variety of methods (not just newspapers and movies) and take every opportunity to interact with people from other cultures, and look for the similarities you share.