Guest post by Ben
In one of our recent blog updates, I posted a map of Africa showing the sheer size of this continent. Many people forget that there are more than 50 countries here with relatively arbitrary borders that were drawn up during the colonial period. On a recent trip to Kenya, I saw first-hand just how different all of these countries are.
Hilary spent time in Kenya in the mid 2000’s where she received her Master’s degree. She talks often of the friends and memories that she made there. During my trip, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. I travelled to Nairobi where I found familiarity with my life in Congo in the pace of an African city with crazy traffic, people hawking things you don’t want to buy, and piles of trash being burned. I also found wonderful shopping, restaurants, and tourism opportunities which couldn’t be farther from the things I see in Congo.
I found Kenya to be “open for business” in a way that Congo is not. People cared about the level of service they provided, the quality of the products they sold, and the overall experience that someone has at the business in question. As an example, I needed to purchase contact lenses – that are not even sold in Congo – and the store owner sold me one pair and ordered the second pair from her supplier. Within two days, I had the lenses and there was no haggling over the price, the product, or problems with the service. You got what you paid for in a manner you would expect in the USA or Europe. It seems silly perhaps, but in Congo, that would have been a drawn out affair that would not have been nearly as simple. In another example, I visited a South African clothing store where I had people ask me if I needed assistance and give me a nice discount when they realized that I didn’t have my discount card on hand.
Turning to tourism, I had the opportunity to travel to one of Kenya’s fantastic game parks for a short safari. The safari was lovely and I saw lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, antelopes, hippos, and much more. Again, in contrast to Congo, this couldn’t have been easier. I booked the safari in advance from Congo which took a bit of time to figure out the best itinerary and prices but it was fun doing the research on the various websites. The logistics were simple: arrive at airport, get on plane, arrive at airstrip, get picked up in a land rover, get dropped off at safari lodge. No issues, no funny business, no nothing, nada. Easy. I can’t compare this to Congo since Kenya is just a world apart. Back to Congo…i’m going on a “guys trip” to see gorillas in a few weeks and I’ll write a follow on blog about that adventure soon.
Enjoy the photos!