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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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!