Wow, how is it our last week in Kenya? I feel as though it was just yesterday that we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport ready to start our Kenyan adventure. Now, it’s almost time to leave! The week started out great with a weekend of relaxation enjoying the pristine beaches of Zanzibar Island in Tanzania. In Zanzibar, we sailed across the Indian Ocean, saw coral reefs and tropical fish while snorkeling, enjoyed a lunchtime barbecue on Kwale Island in the Indian Ocean, climbed a giant baobab tree and enjoyed fresh local fruit on the white sandy beach. After the relaxing weekend, we headed back to Nairobi Sunday evening refreshed and energized for our final week in Kenya.
Residing close to the U.N. African Headquarters has created a unique cultural experience for the team. All of the restaurants nearby are reminiscent of places we would eat back home with Italian, Thai and Indian just a few of the many restaurant options readily available; there’s even a Domino’s and Coldstone Ice Cream right down the street (I think they’re starting to know us by name at Coldstone.) While the restaurants may have similar menus to places back home, there are definitely some differences. Whereas many U.S. restaurants are all about speed- getting people in and out of the restaurant as quickly as possible- service in Nairobi tends to be slower, which highlights the overall experience of eating out and allows you to enjoy the process and unwind after the day. Initially, this leisurely approach took some getting used to, but now that we’ve become accustomed to the longer dinner experience, it’s something I am going to miss about Kenya after I return to the US.
This week, we also had the opportunity to go to the Maasai Market to buy some souvenirs made by local Kenyan artisans. Upon arriving, we were instantly perceived as tourists, so each member of the group had one or two “personal shoppers” who took us from stand to stand picking out items and suggesting additional items to buy. It took some serious practice getting used to haggling on the cost of every item we bought. Initially, prices were sometimes a 600% markup over the final negotiated price! But eventually, we each developed some techniques to bring the price down, including grouping purchases together, walking away before making a final offer and negotiating as a team. It was impressive to see the variety of goods offered at the Maasai Market, as well as the craftsmanship that went into each piece. There were so many options of things to buy from handmade beaded jewelry to carved ebony animal statues, beautifully woven Maasai blankets to delicately carved soapstone chess sets. The sheer splendor of everything made it very overwhelming to pick just one or two things.
Thursday, we went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for baby elephants whose parents were oftentimes the victims of poachers. These baby elephants have endured traumatic experiences at the hands of poachers and remember everything that happened to them- it’s true that elephants don’t forget. Once the elephants are brought to the orphanage, they receive their own individual caretaker who takes charge of being their “adoptive mother”. This caregiver takes care of them around the clock, making sure that they are well fed, warm or cool enough, and giving them lots of love. It’s truly an amazing place, and we feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it. The center is open to the public from 11-12pm, when they let the baby elephants out to play and feed. It was probably one of the top highlights of the trip for me. Seeing the baby elephants right next to us and getting to pet them as they walked by was amazing. Each of the elephants had their own distinctive personalities that were quickly distinguishable as they played outside.
As we pack our bags and prepare for the 18+ hours of travelling to get back to the States, we’ve each been reflecting on the past three weeks in Kenya. It has been an incredible and humbling experience. The people of Kenya have been so warm and friendly throughout our travels, especially the Partners for Care staff whom we’ve worked with so closely the past three weeks. Thank you Greif, Partners for Care, Impact Economics and Fisher College of Business for this opportunity; we’ve learned and experienced more than we could ever put into words and can’t wait to use it wherever life takes us.