It was 2005. We were young and curious. We wanted to know how does the World look like. How the people on other continents live, what are they dreaming, what are their customs and family traditions. We wanted to learn, to taste, and to experience.
Jumbo is a well-known expression in Kenya that you will hear from the moment you land in this beautiful country. Make sure to reply – Jambo and maybe learn a few more Swahili words and phrases that can come in handy. Words and phrases like:
Habari gani? – How are you?
Mzuri Sana – I am very fine.
Kwa heri – Goodby!
Asante Sana! – Thank you very much!
And the most important of all. Hakuna Matata! – Don’t worry!
This problem-free philosophy you may have heard in the cartoon Lion king when Timon and Pumba are explaining life philosophy to Simba. Fun fact! Simba in Swahili means lion. So if you travel with kid/s or maybe teenager/s, make sure to watch it again and discover more Swahili words in it.
The Republic of Kenya
The Republic of Kenya or Jamhuri ya Kenya is a country in eastern Africa. Kenya’s capital is Nairobi but its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. So without lots of thinking, we chose Mombasa because the political and safety situation in Nairobi wasn’t looking good for white Europeans at that time. Kenya became an independent country on 12 December 1964 of the United Kingdom.
Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their communities. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling, and government. That is why you will be able to speak with almost anyone you meet on the street. Rural Kenyans are less multilingual but you will always find younger people to help you in need.
People of Kenya
Tourism in Kenya is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. Yes, people in Kenya still produce their food and it is delicious. Import and export is a different topic which I won’t be messing with but the food is excellent.
People in this country are nice and you will always get the most heartwarming welcome. Kenyans are nice and always smiling people with simple life philosophy – Hakuna Matata! We’ve met lots of kids, young adults and a few older people and they all were smiling. All-the-time! At the time we were visiting, tourism had just started to bloom and people were poor. Poor by European standards. They were living in huts or shacks made of natural materials that harsh nature would offer to them. Their food was simple and frugal. But they were smiling and invitingly happy. Is that even a good expression? They intended to make you happy and that you smile with them. All-the-time!
During our stay we were lucky and the hotel receptionist called a taxi with a phenomenal taxi driver that we booked privately for all the days of our stay. As we learnt a few Swahili words and expressions he was pleased that we have greeted him every morning in his language. We were trying to understand and learn a few new words every day. Remember, back then in 2005 there weren’t so many translating apps that could help us and mobile Internet reception was unknown in Kenya. Our taxi driver was amazed that we are giving the effort to learn about the history of his country. And that is what made us friends.
And a small tip for getting better fruit on a buffet table where a fruit master cuts it for you. Not a real master but when he used his machete to cut mango or pineapple I thought of him as a fruit master. Again, learn a few words of Swahili and use it whenever possible. Use them when you approach the buffet table. You might get a whole mango for dessert when all other hotel guests think there wasn’t morning delivery so that’s why there is no mango at all. But if you know the guy and the guy knows that you know a few Swahili words there will be mango for you.
Most of Kenya has a tropical climate. The “long rains” season or tropical rain season occurs from March to June and “short rains” season occurs from October to November or even December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. That’s why we chose late June and beginning of July to experience this rain. We were lucky because the rain was always around lunch and we could adjust our watches by it. Usually, we would be around the swimming pool with our cocktails and we would run so fast at the very last minute to the big dining area. The rain would be over in an hour just enough time to enjoy delicious food and divine fruits freshly picked that morning and chilled to the right temperature to be enjoyable. We strongly suggest experiencing the feeling of tropical rain. Just be careful and find a safe and sturdy roof to hide because it is really heavy rain. But it is fun and unforgettable! Luckily Kenyan sun is bright and scorching so it will dry up all the rain within a minute.
We learnt in Kenya that there are a few different types of bananas. The variety that you can eat as a sweet or that you can eat as a salty meal (called Matoke or banana stew). Make sure to eat all kinds of fruits when they are in season and in this warm tropical country there is always a lot of it in season.
Mangoes, pineapples, oranges, bananas and pears and the king of vitamin C – the passion fruit. Don’t ask me how I learnt about the huge amount of vitamin C in passion fruit or maybe you know it by the name of maracuja. That morning I had fruit breakfast, skipped my lunch to be able to eat more fresh fruits and I had too many passion fruits. It was energetic and sleepless, and fun day and night for me until I burnt all the vitamin C that I have ravenously eaten that morning. You may ask what the problem with vitamin C is. Well, it affects me as cocaine affects normal people. I’ve tried to achieve the same effect with store-bought vitamin C, but only the real one from freshly picked passion fruit affects me that much. Let’s just say it was fun for me and the people around me.
Kenyan everyday food is simple. Tomatoes, onions, beans, corn, potatoes, peas and rice cooked with or mostly without meat in different stews. So make sure to try it. When soil doesn’t offer you much you must be the inventive cook. That’s why Kenyan food is so delicious!
Oh, the cocktails! Sweet and drinkable! Made with fruit juice from real fruits that were picked just the morning you woke up and wished for a cocktail. Make sure to try them all because hydration in a tropical climate is very important. 🙂
We might talk for hours about Kenya but you have to experience it for yourself. You need to smell and taste and enjoy it! Kenya smells different from any other country. Kenya tastes different from any other country. But you will enjoy it for sure.
Kwa heri or Goodby! And make sure to put Kenya on your travel bucket list because it is breathtaking and you will feel like you are travelling to a well-known and old friend.