Approximately 67 hours after leaving my house in Indianapolis, I have finally arrived at my new “home” in Kenya. Four plane rides, 3 security checks, 2 hotels, and a truck ride later, I made it to the village of Kager.  You can expect many stories in the weeks to come about my time here, but first, I’d like to make some observations about traveling internationally, especially to a remote location.

There are lots of ways to experience a trip.  Unusual sights and people to see, sounds and languages to take in, and a range of emotions to feel, but on this trip one sensation came to the forefront.  I discovered that using my taste buds was, in fact, the perfect way to judge where I am and where I am headed.

Granola bars and trail mix – never leave home without them!

Let me illustrate with some anecdotes.  Linn, my fearless traveling companion, and I barely got started on our journey when we found ourselves in Detroit’s airport with a three hour layover to waste.  What better way to pass the time than make a last-ditch stop for lunch at the in-house Chili’s restaurant.  Nothing says “America” better than a burger and fries!

Sometimes Kenyan products have the same food with a different look...and there is always an adequate supply of toothpicks!

Eventually, we were speeding over the Atlantic, and by the time dinner rolled around, I was ready to eat, more to break up the monotony of the flight than due to hunger.  Plus, I was happy that on international flights, food of any kind is still served.  But when I looked at the limp salad and marginal meat and mashed potato meal in front of me, I was again reminded where I was…30,000 feet up in the air and not in a sit-down restaurant.

Our next flight was with the Dutch airline, KLM, and I could taste the difference.  Europeans just know how to do food right…the bread was fresh, the warm cloth they handed me to wash my hands was a nice touch, and the meal just looked all around more appetizing.  Granted, I was 12 hours into the journey at this point and I was hungry.

Christy busy preparing supper for my host family.

Finally, we touched down in Nairobi and made our way to the guesthouse for the night.  By breakfast, it was clear I had arrived in Africa.  Fresh mangos, papaya and pineapple, Kenyan sausages (best in the world!) and an assortment of coffee and tea to choose from.

Still, we were in the cosmopolitan hub of Nairobi, and there were lots of “western” treats, too, like cereal and peanut butter for my toast.  To find authentic village cuisine, I had another day of travel ahead of me.

By nightfall we had almost completed the saga.  I was checked in at the guesthouse in Kisumu, the largest town in western Kenya perched on the edge of Lake Victoria.  When I looked at my dinner menu and I felt a smile spread across my face.  Ugali, Chapati, sweet potatoes, fish, and cabbage.  I was finally here!  And of course it tasted even better with a nice Krest soda (I recommend the lemonade flavor) straight from the refrigerator.

Lake Victoria is great for fishing and transporting things like sugarcane... Or people!

On our fourth and final day, Linn and I eased ourselves out of the truck, a bit grimy and tired from the bumpy road, and of course, hungry, too.  Soon our generous hosts presented us with a delicious meal of chicken and rice prepared Kenyan-style, the customary food given to guests in the western part of the country.

So now that I have all natural, all home-made meals to look forward to, I wonder if I’ll ever be ready to come home.  But don’t worry, I’m sure the lure of some familiar favorites like deep dish pizza and brownies will get the better of me eventually!

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About the Author: Jessica Shewan is a journalist with World Next Door. She graduated in 2009 from The University of Evansville with a bachelor's degree in History. She loves making new international friends and is passionate about seeing the global church pursue justice and peace!

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  1. Jim.M said... 


    May 2nd, 2010 at 9:36 am  

    “Nothing says “America” better than a burger and fries!”

    “When I looked at my dinner menu and I felt a smile spread across my face. Ugali, Chapati, sweet potatoes, fish, and cabbage. I was finally here!”

    “So now that I have all natural, all home-made meals to look forward to, I wonder if I’ll ever be ready to come home. ”

    When I read your excitement in “I’m finally here…”,”a smile spread across my face…” and “I wonder if I’ll ever be ready to come home…”. It’s easy to see this work is “pure spiritual milk” for cherish it. You have tasted that the Lord is good. You love the people you are about to spend time with.

    Yes, you can tell where you are by your taste buds!

    1 Peter 2: 1-3.

    Jess, what an awesome way to start this series of articles. We look forward to experiencing Kenya through your eyes, and heart, (and yes, taste buds) the coming weeks. Thanks for bringing us along with you.

  2. Michelle and Sarah said... 


    May 2nd, 2010 at 9:55 am  

    You’re making us hungry!!! What a creative way to describe the beginning of your journey and that you are already feeling at home. I am envious of the chapatis, but the Chicago-style deep dish “World-Famous Lou Maltati’s Buttercrust Pizza” that we had last night is pretty hard to beat! Thanks for taking us along on your trip :)

  3. Virginia Baldwin said... 


    May 2nd, 2010 at 1:41 pm  

    What a unique way to introduce your visit to Kenya. I will pray Joshua 1:9 for you. I am looking forward to future reports.
    God’s blessings on you.


  4. Megan C said... 


    May 2nd, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

    Jess thanks for sharing with us the beginning or your incredible journey! I can’t wait to live vicariously through you these next few weeks :) You are however required to come back to us! (I will even make brownies as a bribe). I am also requesting you learn how to cook some of these wonderful meals and share them with your favorite small group. Praying for you daily dear can’t wait to see and hear how God works through you and in you!!
    Love ya

  5. Sean said... 


    May 4th, 2010 at 12:40 am  

    Jess! A post after my heart. Anything that lifts high the virtues of granola, trail mix and adventure has my attention. Your trip’s so much more than that, but nevertheless you struck a cord.

    It’s great that you’ve arrived safely and ready to go from the sound of it, I’m glad things went smoothly enough (even battling a volcano and coming out victorious). I’ll continue praying for you, we’ll be thinking of you, and definitely looking forward to hearing you share your experiences.

  6. Jessica Shewan said... 


    May 4th, 2010 at 2:18 pm  

    Thanks for your encouragement! It feels like you are all “here” with me…And I’ll definitely trade some chapatis for brownies when I’m home.

  7. Mummy Linn said... 


    May 9th, 2010 at 10:46 am  

    Hey, Jess….great article! I’m missing you. Can’t remember when I had such a young and fun roommie…..Opake Yesu. ML

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