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First Stops In Kenya: Mlolongo, Kiambu and Wangige

I was so excited to finally be in Africa, to be in Kenya and to meet Nduku’s parents that I couldn’t sleep. Well, maybe if I put my head down, but I was afraid I’d wake up when the city was shutting down. Not wanting to miss a moment, I rolled out as soon as we got in with Nduku’s dad.

Our first stop was in town. Now, my vision of town is a bit different from what town means in Kenya. We went to the business center of Mlolongo just outside of Nairobi and I was shocked to see how un-modern the area is compared to what I’m used to. Dirt and extremely bumpy roads, piles and piles of trash, buildings that look half-built or half-falling-apart, just a level of un-development I wasn’t expecting to see.

But, amid all the crumble, there’s a spirit that I was even less expecting to see. Entrepreneurship. There were market stalls and storefronts and street hawkers and just people everywhere minding their business, literally. There’s a spirit in Kenya that inspires you. People don’t sit around waiting for the government to support them [in Kenya that support might not find you]; instead, they find ways to make it happen. There are so many small businesses selling everything from produce, airtime for mobile phones, barbers and hairstylists, small [and I mean small!] kiosks with everything you need on a daily basis from food and drinks, household supplies and everything else.

It’s really impossible to explain the level of small business owners and how they just make it happen in such an environment. To them, everything is normal. For me, coming from America, it was a shock. I was overwhelmed with how poor the area is, how much commercial and retail activity there was despite the conditions, and how everything seemed so normal to everyone — except me.