Journey to Kenya Cheyenne nielson

My sister, Tiffany, and I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Kenya in June 2016. Together we spent four and a half weeks traveling throughout the country volunteering and experiencing the beautiful Kenyan culture. While in Kenya, we worked with Marafiki Community, a local non-profit organization in Nairobi. Here is our journey:

Getting to Kenya is not an easy or fast process-- it took close to 40 hours to get from Salt Lake City, Utah to Nairobi, Kenya. However, Tiff and I did get to enjoy a long 21 hour layover in Paris and explore the city. We jumped onto a hop on hop off bus tour and made our way throughout Paris. We saw the Eiffel Tower light up, took a nighttime boat tour, got lost on our way back to the airport, and ate our weight in macaroons. It was the perfect way to start our trip!

Weekend 1: Kids and Animals

We arrived in Nairobi during the middle of the night and were greeted by our Marafiki driver, Tony. Tony would soon become our best friend in Kenya! Our first weekend in Nairobi consisted of doing yard work at a local primary school (my first experience with using a machete) and spending time with the children at the Angel Center For Abandoned Children.

We also did a city tour of Nairobi. In this excursion, we went to an elephant orphanage, kissed giraffes at a giraffe balcony, and fed sykes monkeys at Monkey Park.

Week 1: SIDP

Once the weekend was over, we were ready to start our first placement. We drove about an hour outside of Nairobi to the Settled Internally Displaced People (SIDP) community. The people who live here found refuge in the hills of Nairobi after violence from the 2007 election forced them from their homes. Marafiki owns and runs the local primary school, so they sent us to Southern Cross Academy to help teach the children. Like many children around the world, the students at Southern Cross do not receive the quality education they are in need of. Tiff and I worked hard this week to give the students, as well as the teachers, the help and guidance they needed. During the week, we lived across the street with a host family. Susan, Jackson, and their daughter Mary welcomed us into their home and made us a part of their family. We were lucky to have electricity, hot bucket showers, and traditional Kenyan meals. They invited us to their church and laughed at us when we panicked over seeing the biggest spider we have ever seen!

Each day we were greeted with the best smiles!
An example of a typical science lesson for the second grade class.

While at Southern Cross, we worked on creating after school clubs for the students. Tiff and I grew up dancing, so we decided to have fun and teach them a dance!

Week 2: Watamu Beach

For our second week in Kenya, we were so spoiled. We drove about six hours across the country on bumpy, unpaved roads to Watamu Beach. Our house for the week sat right on the Indian Ocean and it was beautiful! We spent the week with two volunteers from Germany, and four Marafiki workers, Tony, OT (Other Tony), JoJo, and David. For the first half of each day, we helped out at an orphanage. While the children were at school, we cleaned, cooked lunch, and did a lot of painting (which of course led to a major paint fight). We did this for a few hours each day and then went back to our house and played on the beach. It was warm, sunny, and we were fed the best food! Once it got dark, we sat outside and played card games for hours. Our favorite was "Shithead" and I can't count how many times we played. We had arguments on the proper way to say English words like "cap" and "Subaru", came across some disgusting bugs, and became the best of friends.

OT, Tiff, JoJo, me, Tony

Our Kenyans were deathly afraid of the ocean!

Week 3: Maasai Land

Our third week in Kenya was my favorite week of the whole trip. For four days, we lived in mud huts with no electricity and no running water. We were out in the middle of no where, exposed to animals, and living with the Maasai Tribe. The project for this week was to help build a primary school for the Maasai children. There was a total of nine volunteers and three Marafiki workers. The school was in the beginning of the construction process, so our main focus was to build the foundation for three classrooms. Because of a lack of tools and equipment, the building process is much different than what it would be in a developed country. The first thing to do was even out the ground. The whole first day we shoveled.. and shoveled.. and shoveled.. until the land was flat and ready to be built on. All day long for the next two and a half days, we would collect stones from a giant pile and lay them where the classrooms would be built. We then used a hammer to smash the stones into smaller pieces. It was tough manual labor to be doing in the hot sun all day long, but we were with such a fun group and were never too far from a laugh. Come nighttime, we would gather fire wood and eat dinner around a bonfire. Local Maasai men would come tell us hunting stories each night, and one of the nights they even heard a lion's roar in the distance.

After building the school during week, we left to safari the Maasai Mara. We spent our first afternoon of the safari with another Maasai Tribe. They showed us how they live, what they wear, how they hunt, what they eat, how they celebrate, and how to become a true Maasai Warrior. We heard incredible stories and met wonderful people. We even drank fresh cow blood, which is part of becoming a Maasai Warrior!

The next two days of our safari were game drives on the Mara. Thanks to our amazing Marafiki tour guide and Kenyan BFF Tony, we saw almost everything you could imagine. Summertime is wildebeest migration, so we saw thousands of wildebeests and zebra (pronounced "zeb-ra" in Kenya and now the only way I say it). We saw several families of lions and elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, buffalo, hippos, warthogs, monkeys, hyenas, vultures, and animals I didn't even know existed. We even drove off path to see a leopard hanging out in a tree-- it was amazing! One of my favorite moments of the safari is when we got to see a crocodile kill two wildebeests as they were crossing the river!

Selfie with sleeping cheetahs!
Tony found us a teenage male lion who had just eaten lunch!
Each night ended with the most beautiful sunsets
Week 4: Last days in Nairobi

Our final week in Kenya was spent doing several different things in Nairobi. Tiff and I decided we wanted one more safari day, so Tony took us to Lake Nakuru National Park. Here, we were lucky enough to see rare black rhinos! We also saw tons of baboons, several other types of monkeys, giraffes, zebras, and flamingos.

We also got to spend the day at Hell's Gate National Park, which is where Disney's The Lion King is based off of. And yes, there were warthogs everywhere! We climbed "Pride Rock", hiked through slot canyons, swam in natural hot springs, and took a boat ride on Lake Naivasha to get up close and personal with hippos.

Our last few days we spent more time at the Angel Center For Abandoned Children. Spending time at this orphanage was my favorite way of volunteering. The young children at this orphanage are so loving and have the warmest smiles.

I tried to not have favorites, but little JoJo stole my heart.

Tiffany and I had the most amazing time in Kenya. Kenya is home to the most beautiful scenery, animals, and people that I have ever come across. We have been missing Kenya so much that we have decided to return to Nairobi this summer. We cannot wait to be back with our Kenyan family!

Created By
Cheyenne Nielson

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