Kenya Dig It?
My second blog called “Eating watermelon seeds” came to life when I closed down an epic dive bar and moved to Kenya with the Peace Corps. I was there for almost 2 years helping the locals develop small businesses. I had the pleasure of working with 9 different local projects ranging from bee keeping, to mountaineering, to soccer. I lived on Mt Kenya without running water, without electricity, and on a very simple diet. I gained an amazing appreciation for how much we have back in the States- I still giggle when I take hot showers.
The culture in Kenya is also something that I wish the whole world could experience. Its super community focused. People are overly friendly, something that would cause an American to be suspicious or cautious. Strangers will invite you in for tea time and genuinely be interested in learning everything about you. At a restaurant, it is normal to sit with strangers and share a meal- you are only alone if you choose to be.
When I first came back in the States I accidently joined a stranger at restaurant- an older man who was sitting by himself. I just started talking per what I was used to in Kenya. He replied “are you lost son,” which snapped me back into reality. I finished my lunch alone, thinking about how different our culture is compared to Kenyan culture. Then later that day I went to another restaurant and watched whole expressionless families not utter a word while they sat typing on their cell phones. I kinda wondered if they were typing to each other trying to see who would break and smile first and lose some bizarre family bet. Apparently there was a lot riding on the bet because no one even made eye contact. I wanted to shake them awake and tell them how that their lives were awesome but much like Batman I was waiting for the right opportunity.
Reverse culture shock is what they call it when you have lived in a different culture than your own and you have to return to your own culture and everything is familiar but confusing. It took a while until I was comfortable and functional here. Forgetting to turn off lights or even use them, indoor plumbing was a thing of the future in Kenya, and we have a zillion distractions here. From streaming TV to all the social media outlets, to commercials and advertising for many things that we don’t need, to even fast food options. I had not experienced almost any of that while living on a mountain in the dark in Kenya. I did not watch TV series or post to Instagram but I did learn the ukulele, created wonderful art, trained for marathons, and read some amazing books. I was unplugged from most distractions but I was fully plugged into my own life. I am not bashing TV or Facebook or any of these things- they all have their place. But it is something that I think should be engaged in moderation. All life is a balance.