Time to Go Home

Today I’m writing one of my last blog posts ever concerning my journey here in Kenya. I cannot believe I go home today; my 3 months here have gone by so fast. The beginning of my journey feels like a distant memory now, as I’ve seen and done so many new things since then. So in my final week I tried to visit some of my favourite places and see some of the friends I met here before I have to leave for Canada.

 

In my final week, some of my roommates and myself went into Nairobi town for the day to go to the markets and sightsee. I had realized there were still many people I needed to get things for, so I made a list of things I needed to buy in the markets. I will definitely miss shopping in the markets, as Kenya has so many beautiful souvenirs, if I had more space in my suitcase I probably would have bought so much more! We also went up in the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, which is a 28-story building that has a helicopter pad on the roof that offers great views of the city. Another day that week we also went into Nairobi, to go souvenir shopping (again). We went to Spinner’s Web, which was my third visit here, to meet with our friend Reni. After, we all went to Mercado (a Mexican restaurant) in Nairobi to have happy hour drinks and food. They have the best cocktails! That night after drinks we went to our Airbnb near the airport as we flew out the next morning for Mombasa.

The next morning, 4 of the 6 of us received messages from the hotel we had booked in Diani saying that they had overbooked and for us to cancel our bookings (helpful hint: never book with Travelocity). This was about 2 hours before leaving to the airport, so it was a stressful flight into Mombasa. Luckily we had another good trip to Diani beach, as we had perfect weather and good company. The first full day we had there, I third wheeled Elena and her boyfriend Arthur and we went to the beach! The other girls went to the Kisite Marine Park to go on a day trip snorkelling. That night we all met up and went to dinner at Leonardo’s, an Italian restaurant, and had some gelato! Our last day at the beach was stressful as we were still dealing with the company we made our hotel booking through (again never book with Travelocity), but the weather was beautiful so when we were on the beach we still had an amazing time. We went to Nomad’s beach bar again, as they are situated on a really nice area of Diani beach (the sand is so lush here), and we had a metre long pizza for lunch! That evening we left for the airport and flew back to Nairobi at around 10:30pm.

On our second last day, after doing some work on our final report for our internship, Wenna and myself went to Nairobi to see our friend Reni one last time before we leave Kenya. We met up with Reni and her mom at Mercado (maybe my favourite restaurant in Nairobi – if you couldn’t already tell), for drinks and dinner. Reni’s mom came all the way from Vancouver to visit her, and they’re going to spend about two weeks travelling around Kenya and Tanzania before they go back to Canada. It was so nice to see Reni before we left, because even though we weren’t living super close to each other in Kenya, she was such an amazing friend and I’m so glad I met her!

That evening when we got back to Juja, we had some friends over for our last goodbyes! Our roommate Aidan was leaving at 5am on the 15thof August, and we left Juja at 5pm the same day, so it was good to say goodbye to everyone together. It’s really a bittersweet feeling because I’ll miss everyone I’ve met here so much, but I’m also looking forward to coming home to Canada.

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First Goodbyes

I’m back with a second update for this week (I guess it’s obvious that I’m leaving soon as I normally don’t post this often). As I’m writing this now, in exactly one week I will be packing my bags and heading for the airport on my way home to Canada.

 

In my last post I mentioned that some of my roommates would be leaving Kenya, and two happened to be going home on August 1st. August 1st was also an important date for myself and Wenna, as we had a meeting at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi with our supervisor Arnold. We had a meeting with the Manager of Strategic Planning and the Hospitality Manager of Aga Khan, which we used to discuss the matter of introducing the Fiti probiotic yoghurt to hospital patients and staff. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Wenna and I have been working on testing different levels of sugar content in the yoghurt, to provide to the Aga Khan institution. Our meeting’s purpose was mainly to discuss forming the partnership between Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Aga Khan. The meeting went well, and our supervisor is currently in talks with the university council about arranging this partnership. Now we can leave this internship and Kenya knowing that in the near future, Fiti probiotic yoghurt will be expanding to Aga Khan.

 

After the meeting, the other Western Heads East intern in Kenya, our friend Trevor, Wenna, and myself went out for dinner at a vegetarian Indian restaurant. There our friend Reni met up with us and we had a nice meal and probably our last get together with Trevor before we all return to Canada. That evening at 7pm our roomie and good friend Emiel was getting picked up in Juja to go to the airport, so we had to rush back from Nairobi to say our goodbyes. Luckily we got back just in time and said our goodbyes, but it was very sad to see the first one of our group leave. After Emiel left, Marlene and Elena prepared hot “mulled” wine for our group and a few friends from JKUAT as a leaving party for both of them. That night Marlene was picked up at 2:30am and the few of us who were left said our goodbyes for the second time that day.

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Last group photo

Over these few days we also had another surprise, our water stopped working! It ended up being a university wide problem as there was some issue with the water supply, but for about 2 days or so we had no running water. Luckily our residence manger dropped by some jerry cans and told us the water would potentially be back Thursday evening. So that night Acacia, and myself gathered up what water we could and had make shift showers in buckets that we collected water in. Honestly, it was an experience I was grateful for (maybe not at the time), but to see how millions of people in this country have to live everyday, where they may have to collect water from far resources just to live on. For reference, in Kenya roughly 41% of the population relies on collecting water from sources such as ponds, rivers, and shallow wells (https://water.org/our-impact/kenya/). It definitely put things in perspective, especially as someone who grew up in Canada (with an abundance of fresh water resources), that not everyone has that luxury and right, as access to fresh water should be.

 

The Friday the 3rd , was our other roommate Acacia’s last night in Kenya, so since we are good friends and love going out in Nairobi, we went out for a last dinner together. We decided on a tapas restaurant in Nairobi, that also had a happy hour (which we showed up just in time for). The food was quite good and I had some churros which literally made my week. When we got back that night we packed for our trip back to Amboseli National Park, as we were leaving at 7am the next morning and got to sleep. As Acacia was leaving, we all woke up at 4:30am to say a final goodbye! All these goodbyes are so hard because I’ve come to love every single person I’ve met here and I still have one more week to go!

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, yes I have been to Amboseli National Park already. That was my third weekend trip in Kenya, so you’re probably wondering why I would go back to the same park? Well this time I was determined to see Mount Kilimanjaro fully (not just the tip in between clouds), and it was a success. The first morning was not promising as there were lots of clouds covering the mountain, but by 6pm that day she rose from the clouds and we got to see her in all her glory (yes, Mount Kili is definitely female). I was so happy that it didn’t matter what else I saw on the safari trip. However, we did end up seeing many elephants, giraffes, and lots of flamingo’s and a beautiful view of the night sky, which also made the trip worthwhile.

With only one more weekend left, and one last trip to go on, I will update soon on my final days here in Kenya. It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling, as I really miss my family and friends at home, but I know I’ll really miss Kenya and the people here as well. Until next time!

Emily vs. Kenya

Things are starting to sink in that I will be leaving Kenya in just over one week. Looking back at my time here, I got to work on a really exciting project and I also managed to do and see so many things in such a short time. I’m so happy with my time here, as 3 months feels like the perfect amount of time to get to experience and immerse myself in the culture of Kenya.

 

With that said, I’ll update you all on my last couple of weeks here in Kenya. On the weekend of July 20thmyself, 7 of my roommates, and Reni (our Canadian friend in Nairobi) joined Mitch, a friend of ours from JKUAT, and eight of his friends for a trip to Malindi. Malindi is just north of Mombassa, on the coast of Kenya. This is one trip that we had booked about a month and a half in advance, and Mitch’s friends Yvonne and Dennis arranged everything for us. They had every detail planned, down to which transportation we’d take to and from our villa, and even all of the meals. It was the nicest thing ever because all we had to do was show up. We spent our first day mainly by the pool until the afternoon when the rain started, and then we all moved inside to play some get-to-know eachother/bonding games. The next day was also very rainy, but we were staying about a five-minute walk to the Malindi Marine Park, so we wanted to go check it out. When we arrived it really started to pour but we were determined to go out on the boat to snorkel, so a group of us did just that. Even though we didn’t have the best weather we had a really great time, as the water was still warm and we got to see some fish and a sea turtle! All in all we had a great time that weekend, and I’m so grateful to Mitch and his friends for inviting us to join them on their holiday!

The following week we stayed in Juja, did work on infographics for our Fiti kitchens in Kenya, and went to see Eve at her yoghurt kitchen in Juja market. Tuesday, the 24th, we had our last girls outing to Garden City Mall (my main love) and had dinner at Artcaffé and then watched the new Mamma Mia movie. Then Thursday of that week, our house hosted a socializing/networking event for students at JKUAT and us international students. Some of the local students brought over a barbeque and made nyama choma (barbequed goat meat), ugali, and vegetables for everyone to eat. Sadly, this night I took a turn for the worse and started to get quite sick. I ended up spending the night in bed with a frozen milk bag on my forehead to cut my fever, and a bottle of water/activated charcoal beside me. At the time I thought it was a fleeting illness, but the next morning I woke up feeling worse and things started to go downhill from there.

My friends have a running gag that my time here has mostly been Emily vs. Kenya, and at this point in time I definitely agreed. The next two days I spent mostly in bed/on the toilet/in the house. The only time I got up was to join my roommates in the football field on campus to watch the lunar eclipse/blood moon. I got there just in time to see it turn very red, and then I walked my sick butt back home.

I still wasn’t feeling better by Saturday, so I had to opt out of my roommates last visit to Nairobi together and went to visit the hospital at JKUAT to see a doctor. After no real diagnosis other than take these antibiotics and come back in two days, I left feeling worse and quite upset, as the following day my roommates and I were supposed to be leaving for our 3 day trip to the Maasai Mara that we had booked for almost two months. That night I was contemplating if it was still worth going if I felt this terrible, but I pushed through and lasted the six-hour car ride to the Maasai Mara with few casualties.

Unfortunately that was not the case for everyone as some of my roommates ended up getting a little sick, mostly vomiting, while in the Maasai Mara. Other than being sick, the trip was everything you want out of a safari and more. Our driver was spectacular and knew where all the animals were to get the best photos and he always made sure our car got up close. We got to see a bunch of lionesses eating a wildebeest, a male lion and two females on a large rock sunbathing, there we also saw about six cubs and the mom reunite with the male lion and then later in the day we saw another male lion lying down in a shady bush. We also saw a black rhino, many ostriches, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and even three cheetahs. We unfortunately didn’t see the wildebeest crossing the river from Tanzania to Kenya, but we did get to see thousands of the wildebeest migrating on the Kenyan side (a part of the Great Migration). It was by far my favourite trip in Kenya (despite feeling like trash), and it was also the very last trip with all of my roommates together.

Even though we had such an amazing time, coming back to Juja was quite sad as we knew the next day two of our good friends would be leaving, and that in just two short weeks we would also be on our way back to Canada.

Bike Rides and Good Times

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here in Kenya, and as my time is winding down I’m left with less than a month of my internship. I finished off my last blog post with my trip to Nakuru at the beginning of July. Since then I’ve been on a few more weekend trips and have mainly just been exploring more of Kenya.

 

The second weekend of July, my roommates and I hosted roughly 12 local JKUAT students at our place. We had some drinks and after that we all went out (minus Elena) on a matatu to the club. It was such a fun night and it was my first experience of an authentic Kenyan club (I’ve only been to a mostly expat bar before this). One thing I will say of the night is that I’m so thankful that in Canada squatting toilets are not a thing, because they are terrible always but especially horrific at a club. We ended up getting home around 5am and had a late start the next day. Miraculously, we discovered that Burger King exists in Nairobi, so we went to the largest mall in East Africa, Two Rivers, to get our fix.

On the 8thof July, my roommates and I (minus Wenna), all went to Hell’s Gate National Park. This is a different park from what we’ve been to before, because unlike the other safaris this one you do riding a bicycle. Since I personally haven’t rode a bike that wasn’t stationary in about 10 years, this was a particularly difficult task. I managed the 8km ride to the gorge that runs through the park, which we then hiked through. As we stopped for lunch, there were lots of monkeys hanging out around the eating area and many signs saying don’t feed the monkeys. Emiel, being Emiel, had put his yogurt container down for 1 second and then a monkey ran over and snatched it up. This was definitely a highlight of the trip, as it became man vs. monkey. After, we went through the gorge and it was so beautiful. I wish we had more time in the gorge, as there are natural hot springs I wish we had time to go into. Lucky for me (and my muscles) about halfway through the 8km ride back, Kevin our driver stopped a car passing by and weaselled me a ride back to the front of the park. I’m pretty sure he didn’t think I’d make it back before dark, but I was fine with it. I’d say no matter what, it was a successful day and I had so much fun.

The following week of July 9th, Wenna and I had the opportunity to visit Eve’s own yoghurt kitchen that she opened in Juja, which she is very excited and passionate about. We made more yoghurt and experimented with pineapple flavouring to use in Eve’s shop.  At this time we also were in the process of setting up a meeting with the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi to do a sensory testing of our Fiti yoghurt.

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Towards the end of the week, Aidan, Elena, and Acacia, and myself finished watching season 1 of Westworld before Aidan left for his hike of Mount Kenya. We had a quiet weekend as we decided to stay in Nairobi and Juja. This weekend we went to The Goat Social Club, which is a small café in Nairobi that features local Kenyan artwork. After that we went back to our new favourite mall, Two Rivers, and met up with Reni to watch the world cup. That evening we welcomed one more roommate, making us a group of 6 girls in one house.

As things are winding down here, there are still many more trips planned and goals to accomplish with my internship that I look forward to sharing with you all over the coming weeks. Until next time!

It’s Getting Cold in Here…

The locals in Kenya have been telling us July is the coldest month here, and for a while I didn’t believe them. It is now July and Kenya is cold. The temperature here reflects fall weather in Canada, getting to as low as 10°C and highs in the low 20s. Some days, when the sun is out, it’s very warm and I’m reminded that yes – I’m in Kenya. Other days, it’s so chilly that I had to go out and buy a jacket! Luckily in Juja, the town I’m living in, there are many markets just a few minutes walk outside the main campus gates. These markets sell mostly gently used clothes at very reasonable prices. My roommates and I love going into the markets because we can shop and support the local businesses here. We also go here to buy all of our fruits and most of our groceries. There is also a small grocery store (Juja Ecomatt) that has the best bakery section, selling slices of cakes, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and Kenyan favourites like mandazi and chapati, all for less than $2 USD. I try my hardest not to go here very often.

Since returning from the beach, we have had one new roommate join us in Juja. Aidan arrived while we were in Diani, and has since been on 2 weekend trips with us. Our first was to Nairobi National Park one June 24th, a park just outside of the city centre that hosts a large variety of animals. The park is unique in the fact that it’s so close to the city centre, where you can have views of the animals with the city skyline in the background. At the park we saw zebras, giraffes, crocodile, buffalo, many impalas, and even some male lions! The male lions were the most exciting spot for me, since I wasn’t sure if I would get the chance to see these magnificent animals while here in Kenya. It was a really good day, and we even could fit all 9 of us in the safari van.

The following week was dedicated to packaging the yoghurt we made previously, that was comprised of the 5 different samples of the varying levels of sugar. We had experimented with 100, 75, 50, 25, and 0% of the sugar in the original recipe to make for the Aga Khan University Hospital. Oh the 21stof June, we prepared the samples in the lab, because earlier in the week our samples turned out bad (either from spoiled milk or incubation time). This time we were determined to do it right. Since we are living on campus and Eve was going to be away for the weekend, we volunteered to remove the yoghurt from the incubator 12 hours after preparation, which ended up being at 2:30am. So we went to the lab, convincing one of our roommates to join us, and removed the yoghurt and put it into the refrigerator. This time the yoghurt turned out perfectly and the following week we packaged and labelled our samples to send to AKUH.

 

Canada Day weekend we spent in Lake Nakuru National Park, where we got an AirBnb for the 9 of us, as well as the same driver that took us to Nairobi National Park. We spent the Saturday driving through the park spotting animals like exotic birds, buffalo, zebras, giraffes, and impalas. That night we had a nice dinner and went to sleep for our next morning wake up call of 5:30am. Since the park opened at 6:30am we wanted to be there for the sunrise and early feedings of the animals. That morning we saw many animals by the lake feeding before the sun got too hot, there were rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, and even a few hyenas.

That was the 3rdsafari I’ve been on since I’ve come to Kenya, and I have almost seen all of the big 5 (the lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard). Hopefully, when I go to the Masai Mara at the end of July for the Great Wildebeest Migration, I will finally get to tick off the leopard from my list.

 

A Trip to the Beach

The time seems to be flying by so fast; it’s hard to keep up with my posts and what’s actually going on in real time. Since my last post, I’ve gone on 3 weekend trips with my roommates, have worked on the yoghurt project, and had the opportunity to visit the Canadian High Commission here in Kenya. I’ve been keeping very busy while here, so it makes sense that I’d start feeling like time is slipping away from me.

 

To update you from where I finished off in my last post, Wenna and myself had an amazing opportunity through our scholarship, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship, to attend a roundtable breakfast at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi. There are around 14 of us from various universities in Canada who were awarded the scholarship and are in the Nairobi area. It was so nice to meet the other scholars and hear about their own projects that they’re working on in Kenya. We also had the pleasure of meeting the High Commission of Canada, who acts as a representative for Canada for 4 other countries including Kenya.

After the high commission event Wenna, Reni and myself all had to rush back to Reni’s, grab our bags, and head to the train station for our train to Mombassa. We were meeting up with the rest of our roommates and 2 other friends for a weekend at Diani beach, just south of Mombassa on the coast of Kenya. We took the SGR, a newly built railway going directly from Nairobi to Mombassa, which took roughly 5 and a half hours. The journey was long, but definitely worth it.

Before coming to Kenya, I hadn’t really done research on the coastal regions (as I was under the impression they were unsafe for foreign travellers), but I am so glad that I went. The south coast of Kenya, where Diani beach is located, is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to (and I’ve been to some beautiful beaches). The sand in Diani is so white it adds a beautiful contrast to the bright blue water, and the sand is so soft it was like walking on a cloud. It’s safe to say Diani is my favourite spot in Kenya so far.

We spent the weekend mostly on the beach, going for walks, looking at shops and going out for group meals. If it wasn’t already obvious, I highly recommend a visit to Diani beach whenever you’re in Kenya (or you can make it a trip in itself *cough HI mom and dad *). It was so worth it, even though I got very sun burnt, that I plan on returning at the end of my stay here in Kenya!

New Roommates and Project Updates

In the past couple weeks since I’ve posted, a lot has gone on here in Juja. Once we got back from our trip to Amboseli National Park, we had a new roommate at our place back in Juja. Her name is Elena, and she is from Germany. It’s exciting for us because our group is expanding again and we’ll have more people around to do things with. This week we also spent time making yoghurt! This was our first time making the probiotic yoghurt here in Juja, so we were very excited to learn the process.

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As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, one of our projects here is to form a partnership with Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. In order to get the Fiti yoghurt in the hospital, we need to develop a yoghurt product that has reduced sugar content. So in the lab we tested 3 different amounts of sugar in the yoghurt recipe to see how the sugar changes the flavour. This process takes about a day and a half, as the yoghurt has to incubate, so the next day the yoghurt would be ready to try.

 

By June 8th, we ended up getting another 2 new roommates. A girl named Marlene from Austria and another girl named Acacia from England. This made the group of us 5 girls and Emiel. Poor guy. On the weekend we took our new roommates to Nairobi to do some tourist activities and we all went to the Maasai Market to buy traditional Kenyan goods. We also met up with our friend Reni and all went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Mercado. The next day we went back to Nairobi and went to the train station to buy tickets for our next weekend trip (Diani Beach), and after for a hike through Karura forest. The forest was a nice change from the busy city atmosphere of Nairobi and we got to spend a couple hours in nature that was just a 15-minute ride from the city centre.

The week of June 11thwe packaged our yoghurt into 250ml bottles, and labelled them by the sugar content they contained. We then went into the lab with Jennifer and made samples of the yoghurt to test the probiotic bacterial content. Over the next few weeks we will repeat this process likely, testing more levels of sugar and then testing the probiotic bacteria survival rate in the final products. We also had the pleasure to host 2 of our Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship representatives. They came to visit us in Juja, and we talked about our project here in Kenya and what our experience has been like so far. I will update again soon with details on my trip to the Canadian High Commission of Kenya and Diani beach!

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