I have come to learn two very important things on my second day in America. They are things we almost always take for granted, or we do not even think about. Better still I think most of the times we guess or stereotype about them. Some I noticed as soon as we arrived in Cincinnati, others I learned about today. And they have really made me sink in thought.
The first is the similarities we have. We happen to have similar challenges albeit of different magnitudes, but challenges all the same. The way we face them may be different but the idea that we all take them on and wait to see the results is just amazing. We laugh about the same things(I actually saw genuine laughter) and it makes me smile just to think of it. What exactly was I afraid of? In one room we were all lovers of art. They may have been different ways of creation, but the idea of creation appealed to us. Another is recalling names! YES…when Richard Hess was in Kenya I remember I used to think…how hard can it be to remember another person’s name…woe unto me! I hope everyone will be kind enough to tell me who they are if I ask again. And I will ask many times. It is not that I wasn’t listening, I was just and still is overwhelmed. Our feelings and emotions and what moved us almost always rode on the same waves. It wasn’t just about telling oneself: “oh…it’s time to laugh, or get serious or cry”…the emotions were drawn from each others words. Then there is the accents. We had a debate in the car whether Kenyans have an accent, and I was answered when a nice American lady stopped and asked where we were from…it couldn’t have been my height, or weight, or hair…because she was ahead of us and turned when we spoke. It seems everyone does actually have an accent.
The second thing are our differences. Some stand out; like the model of vehicles driven in America, some of which we only see in movies or read in books. The fact that more people drive than walk along the streets: in Kenya we are a walking nation! Stopping at traffic lights even when there is actually no traffic! Then vehicles are driven on the wrong side of the road…at least I think that’s what Americans would say when they come to Kenya…it could be a similarity but I put it here because the members of my team who drive kept reminding the rest of us who don’t how weird it was for them (mind you they aren’t driving in America)!
Off campus patrol…what is off campus patrol? I should know this tomorrow. I know there is security in Kenyatta University, but off campus? You are on your own!
Then there is the time. I called home today and got a little impatient when my mum did not pick up the phone as fast as I would have loved her to. When she finally did, it struck me…she could most likely have been asleep at the time. How insensitive of me! Even the way Americans transport their cows is so humane. Oh yes, they still have to stand at the back of the truck (no seats for them…yet) but at least there was no overloading. In Kenya? Wow…it is a site to behold!
Either way these are what makes us interesting. And these things may or may not define who we are but they surely do bring perspective to our lives. I can’t wait for what I will see tomorrow. It is so unpredictable; and that is the beauty of it all. I will surely have great memories.
– Guest contributor: JEAN AKINYI, Kenyatta University, Class of 2016