Sarah Bonthuis

Kenya [part 1]

Happy Monday! 

Getting back into the swing of things with school and life took much longer than I anticipated, so my sincere apologies for being MIA for so long! Hopefully I'll nail down a routine sometime soon...for my own sanity and peace of mind if nothing else.

I can't believe I just started my LAST semester of undergrad! These years of college fly by, and I'm a bundle of emotions right now: sad, nervous, excited, tired, happy. It's a weird chapter in life, this time right before closing the chapter of college and before beginning the next chapter of work and reality and adulthood. I'm doing my best to treasure these last few months, without letting my anxieties get the best of me. 

While it is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a bit with y'all about my time in Kenya! Like I mentioned, it was an AMAZING, once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience that I will treasure forever. It is difficult to put into words just how incredible it was, but I will do my best to give you a sense of what we spent our time doing over there. 

Kenya, January 3-6, 2013

We left bright and early on January 3, gathering at Calvin to pray and weigh bags before starting our journey...I don't know about everyone else, but I for one was pretty nervous at this point. I barely knew anyone on the trip and I was about to spend a day and a half traveling! 


After a short flight from Grand Rapids to Detroit, we had a four hour layover before boarding the plane for an EIGHT HOUR FLIGHT to Amsterdam. This was the longest flight I had ever been on, and boy was I in for a treat! (Sarcasm.) Swollen ankles, stiff neck, uncomfortable stomach were just some of the pleasantries that I learned to anticipate from these long flights.

Amsterdam was such a treat! I am 100% Dutch, but I've never been to the Netherlands and walking off the plane, I literally felt like I was in a super-sized version of my grandparents' house! Blue Delft, tulips, and wooden shoes GALORE! I think I grinned from ear to ear during our entire four hour layover. 

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Honestly, the next eight hour flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi is a bit of a blur--sleep deprivation and jet lag at its finest, I suppose. So let's fast forward to our first full day in Nairobi, January 5! We had some "orientation" during which we learned some safety tips and basic Swahili. I hadn't thought much about language, or a language barrier, but it turns out that nearly everyone in Kenya speaks English in addition to Swahili, so communication was rarely an issue. After orientation we split up into small groups and were assigned a Kenyan leader and given 300 shillings with our only directions being: Meet up with everyone at the US Embassy downtown Nairobi at 2pm. 

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Thanks to our fearless leader, Jesse, we navigated our way from our hotel (Gracia Gardens) to downtown Nairboi with nary a problem (minus some blisters). After a day and a half of traveling, walking around in the bright, fresh outdoors was a welcome change! We walked several miles, and during this time I was able to talk with Jesse about life in Kenya. I was already pretty hooked on Kenya, and without trying to, Jesse sold me on it even more! 

The next day we attended two church services which lasted a grand total of four hours. That's probably how much time I spend in one month at church! I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that my eyes grew a bit heavy during the second service and my head might have nodded once or twice. I tried to fight the temptation to sleep, but jet lag got the better of me. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who had trouble staying focused. After the second service, we had the opportunity to eat lunch with some of the young people at the church. That was the first time I tried CHIPATI and boy, did I fall in love! Chipati is a bit like a tortilla but fluffier and thicker and super delicious. We had a lot of chipati while in Kenya, and I even brought some chipati flour home with me, so hopefully I can master the art of chipati making!

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Phew, I had more to write than I thought I did! Next post I'll tell you about our time in Kibera slums, the second largest slum in the world, and the rest of our time in Nairobi.