DAA Daily

A Week in the Life, Kenya Version

Yasma Baalbaki, School News Editor, The Pawprint 

On May 10th 2022, a group of grade 9 students, including myself, made our way to Kenya for HSC week. HSC week is when the grade 11 students in IB focus on their higher level subjects while grade 9 and 10 students participate in cultivating experiences outside of the classroom like: internships, courses, and trips. This year, the school partnered with Camps International as a means of organizing trips outside of Dubai. The international trip options we had were: Iceland, Thailand, and Kenya. I chose to travel to Kenya simply because I wanted to take part in heavy community service activities and make an impact on the world. In this article, I will be walking through my day to day experiences in Kenya. My group and I stayed in Muhaka for 5 nights, then we made our way to Tsavo for the last two nights. 

May 9, 2022 (Monday)

I got to the airport at 9:45 pm because our flight was at 1:45 am on May 10th. When I got to the airport, I felt the awkwardness and the tension in the air. You see, the people that were with me on the trip weren’t necessarily friends of mine. In the airport, we met John, our British expedition leader. 

May 10, 2022 (Tuesday)

We arrived at Nairobi airport early in the morning and made our way to the domestic terminal to catch our second flight to Mombasa. The weather in Nairobi was surprisingly cold and windy, I loved it. After 45 minutes on the plane, we landed in Mombasa. When we walked out of the airport we took a bus, or a safari bus if you will, to go to the camp Muhaka. The bus ride was amazing, especially with the wind flowing through our hair, the music, the sunshine, and the people who were waving at us with joy. As we made our way through Mombasa, I couldn’t help but notice the level of poverty people had to live with. In fact, there was a man who kept on asking us for food, money and water. At this very moment, I knew that I made the right choice coming to Kenya because I realized that people in Kenya are in dire need of our help. What was really surprising about the ride was that we had to cross the water on a ferry, the whole bus on a ferry! It was very cool. 

After about 2-3 hours, we arrived at Camp Muhaka. The camp was located in the middle of Muhaka village. The people in the village don’t have electricity, make fire with rocks to cook their food, and don’t have cell phones. 

As the kids in the village saw us, they ran towards the bus and waved with huge smiles on their faces.

When we got to the camp, we were in awe of its breathtaking beauty. The nature surrounding the camp is very unique, with monkeys, birds, and a large variety of trees. 

After lunch, the group and I made our way to a nearby forest for a walk. After that, we saw the school, hospital, and tailor of the village. 

The first night was a bit scary for me because I wasn’t used to the heat and the insects. The beds were surrounded by nets to shield us from mosquitos. Amid all the difficulties, I slept like a baby near my best friend, Jasmijn, because I was exhausted.

May 11, 2022 (Wednesday)

In the morning, we started our first community project which was to build a house for a widow in the community. The pathway we took to reach the house was phenomenal! When we got to the house, we collected soil and water to make a mud mixture. Then, we used the mud mixture to fill the exterior of the house. The work was very tiring and physically demanding. While I was getting water from the nearby tap, I realized that the whole village relied on a few water taps. The women transported the water in buckets that they held on their heads. It is no surprise that women in the village are extremely strong mentally and physically. According to Mamma Mercy, founder of a women’s group in Kenya, women had to support their families with minimal resources while having to resist discriminative and violent behaviors from their husbands. Lots of women in Kenya, especially in rural areas, are widows because they were forced to get married at a very young age to much older men. After lunch, we continued our work in the house and met a lot of young children from the village. They were all very cute and they even wanted to help us with the mud making! What made the work even more fun was the music that we played in the background. 

At the end of the day, we roamed around the village, purchased some souvenirs, and danced with the children. 

May 12, 2022 (Thursday) 

On that day, we continued our house building project both in the morning and the afternoon. We also played with the children, and walked them back home. At the end of the day, we had finished our house and the woman was very happy because she was in dire need of shelter since May is a rainy month in Kenya. At 6:55 pm, my friend Jamijn and I made our way to the showers. At 7:00 pm, one of our trip mates, Prarthana, went into the showering area and notified us that they were starting a swahili lesson (Kenya national language). Jasmijn and I just ignored what she said given that we were in the shower; we thought it wouldn’t matter. At 7:25, Jasmijn and I joined the group and apologized for being late to the Swahili lesson. Later that evening, John, the camp leader, got us all together and publicly announced that Jasmijn and I had to wash the dishes for everyone the next morning because we were late. I was very mad because I had never been punished in my whole life! Jasmijn was also mad because I made her wait till 7:25 although she had finished before that. 

May 13, 2022 (Friday) 

On Friday morning, the group and I made our way to a nearby mangrove forest as a means of working with a local conservation group. “Mangrove forests, also called mangrove swamps, mangrove thickets or mangals, are productive wetlands that occur in coastal intertidal zones. Mangrove forests grow mainly at tropical and subtropical latitudes because mangrove trees cannot withstand freezing temperatures” (Wikipedia). We shoveled mud and carried it in bags to refine the land that separated the ponds in the forest. We also planted a bunch of mangrove trees near the ponds.

In the afternoon, we did some cultural activities with the locals like: climbing coconut trees and cooking Chapati (a traditional Kenyan pasty). After that, Jasmijn and I wanted to buy shoes for a little girl named Aisha, and a dress for a little girl named Fatima.  But, when we arrived at the little market, all the kids (about 30-35) surrounded us and started begging for shoes, money, bracelets, and snacks. Even though it was very fulfilling to help Fatima and Aisha, I had to pick and choose the children that I wanted to help from the large crowd, which was horrible. My heart shattered in pieces as I watched the vendor push the children away and take the ones I chose up on the pedestal. After feelings of sadness and guilt, I was able to enjoy a nice evening with my friends. 

May 14, 2022 (Saturday) 

In the morning of that day, we went to Dinnawi Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Africa, to do a beach cleanup. After the beach cleanup, we learned about Kenya’s marine ecosystem and swam in the Indian ocean. In the late afternoon, we went to the supermarket to buy a couple of gifts for our friend Zeina as it was her birthday the next day. On our way back to the camp, we had a really nice bus ride with lots of music and enjoyed watching the sunset from the windows. 

May 15, 2022 (Sunday)

On Sunday morning, we hopped on the bus to head to Tsavo, another village. The bus ride took 5 hours and was quite rough. When we got to Tsavo, we were amazed by the wonderful view. Tsavo is very different from Muhaka. Muhaka has humid weather, is very green, and is situated near the Indian ocean. Muhaka is beautiful as it has a rich nature containing lots of greenery, trees, and plants… Tsavo, on the other hand, fulfilled my pre-perception of Africa. It is a dry and hot region full of plains, rocks, and sand. 

In the afternoon, we met a local women’s group and learned about discrimination against women in Kenya. After that, we made some bracelets and created paper out of elephant dung. The women’s group has a little store near the camp so we also bought some souvenirs in support of the local community. In the evening, we bought a cake for our friend, Zeina, as it was her birthday. The staff at the camp sang for her and lit some candles. 

All of the girls stayed up as Ms.Jones, the teacher that came with us from school, was snoring very loudly. 

May 16, 2022 (Monday) 

At 5:56 am, Jasmijn and I woke up to Ms.Jones screaming. We missed breakfast at 5:30am and departure time for safari was at 6:00am. So, Jasmijn and I rushed to make it on time. That’s so typical of me! The safari was magical; we saw giraffes, elephants, antelopes, zebras, buffaloes, and after lots of searching, we saw a lion and a lioness laying next to each other. After the safari, we visited the Maasai Tribe, a nomad ethnic group between Kenya and Tanzania. They live like ancient tribe groups in huts, with no electricity, social media, cars… We learned about their interesting culture that is extremely different from ours. They live in huts made out of cow poop and they drink cow blood mixed with milk. Maasai people love jumping; it is no surprise that they jump very high. In the evening, we sat around a campfire and put on some nice music. 

May 17, 2022 (Tuesday) 

In the morning, we headed to Mombasa airport to catch our flight to Nairobi. In the Nairobi airport, we ate Hardees which wasn’t good at all. The ketchup had a very light color and tasted like water, it was horrible. The plane to Dubai was very sad, none of us wanted to leave and go back to our normal lives.

Going to Kenya opened our minds and our hearts to the reality of humanity. It made us think about and question different aspects of our lives. Yes, it was heartbreaking to see the level of poverty people have to live with. However, I somewhat envied the simplicity of their lives. People in Kenya are happy and content with what they have because they don’t know what they don’t have. Through this trip, the group and I realized that we should be very grateful for all the necessities we have access to, and all the luxuries we enjoy. We are proud to say that we all developed great empathy, passion, and compassion for humanity. Finally, the grade 9 students and I were able to work on our independence skills by doing basic chores and practices including: washing the dishes, washing clothes, having to share showers, having to sleep with insects… We all became so close and formed a special bond that we will never forget. 

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