Warum ich mich nicht sonderlich um Reisewarnungen kümmere

is it safe to travel to kenya

und was ich stattdessen für meine Sicherheit auf Reisen tue

Oft werde ich gefragt: Wie gefährlich ist eine Reise nach Kenia? Meiner Meinung nach beginnt Sicherheit bei mir im Kopf. Hier ist meine Ansicht:

Vor der ersten Veröffentlichung dieses Artikels hielt die britische Botschaft in Kenia ihre Landsleute an, einige Orte an der kenianischen Küste und in der Hauptstadt Nairobi zu meiden. Dieser Rat kam nach einigen Angriffen und Drohungen durch terroristische Gruppen. Die Orte, die stark vom Tourismus abhängig sind, bekamen die negativen Auswirkungen dieser Warnung deutlich zu spüren.

Die kenianische Regierung bat die britische Botschaft, diese Warnung wieder zurückzuziehen. Auch die amerikanische Botschaft, die ähnliche Warnungen veröffentlicht hatte, sollte diese entschärfen. Ich muss dazu sagen, dass ich zu dem Zeitpunkt an einigen der als gefährlich bezeichneten Orte war und noch lebe.

Dann wurden die Warnungen plötzlich wieder aufgehoben.

Ein paar Hinweise blieben, aber viele der vorher als gefährlich bezeichneten Orte waren laut den Botschaften nun wieder „zugänglich“. Dies geschah kaum eine Woche nach dem Angriff auf eine militärische Einrichtung in Lamu, bei dem mehrere Angreifer getötet wurden. Unter ihnen war auch ein Brite.

Das zeigt, dass solche Reisewarnungen manchmal politisch motiviert oder einfach willkürlich sind.

Ich hatte mich für den Newsletter der deutschen Botschaft eingetragen, aber ich meldete mich schnell wieder ab. Denn meistens bekam ich Warnmeldungen oder andere Hinweise, die sich nicht mit meinem Alltag in Nairobi vereinbaren ließen. Ein paar Beispiele:

  • Nutzen Sie keine Matatus (öffentliche Minibusse), es ist gefährlich, mit ihnen zu reisen. (Nun, wenn ich nicht ständig zu Hause herumsitzen will, MUSS ich notwendigerweise irgendwann in ein Matatu steigen. Sie sind das einzige mir verfügbare öffentliche Verkehrsmittel.
  • Vermeiden Sie überfüllte Orte. (Nairobi Downtown, die Endhaltestelle meiner Matatu-Route, ist automatisch immer ein überfüllter Ort, den ich durchqueren muss, wenn ich ins City Center will.)
  • Herzliche Einladung zum kenianischen Oktoberfest. (Ich gehe nicht mal auf das deutsche, warum sollte ich dann auf das kenianische gehen? Ich habe gehört, letztes Mal gab es nicht mal deutsches Bier. Und außerdem müsste ich, um dahin zu kommen, gleich mehrere Matatus benutzen und mehrere überfüllte Orte durchqueren…)

Was ich sonst für meine Sicherheit tue:

  • Ich bin in meiner Straße bekannt und unterhalte mich viel mit Leuten. Sie kennen mich und wissen, dass ich keine Touristin mehr bin, sondern eine Anwohnerin.
  • Ich habe einige Freunde, die mich UND die Stadt kennen und die mir gute Ratschläge geben können, wie ich mich verhalten sollte.
  • Wenn mir ein Kenianer sagt, ich solle einen bestimmten Ort nachts meiden, folge ich dem Ratschlag.
  • Wenn es dunkel ist, richte ich es so ein, dass ein kenianischer Freund mich begleitet.
  • Ich lasse es mir nie anmerken, wenn ich mich verlaufen habe und achte darauf, den Weg immer genau zu kennen.
  • Ich trage keinen Geld-Gürtel und versuche auch sonst, so wenig wie möglich wie ein Tourist auszusehen.

Mit diesen Maßnahmen fühle ich mich sehr sicher und bin entspannt. Das funktioniert viel besser als sich von politisch motivierten oder willkürlichen Reisewarnungen der Botschaften verrückt machen zu lassen.

Wenn du im Ausland krank wirst

sick abroad

Erfahrungen aus Kenia

Auf Reisen krank werden nervt. Eigentlich willst du deine Reise genießen und musst auf der Höhe sein.

Ich war mehrere Male krank in Kenia und habe eine gewisse Einstellung entwickelt, die es einfacher macht, dass ich schnell wieder gesund werde.

Ich folge der Regel: Je früher, desto besser. Wenn ich mich fiebrig fühle, oder schwach, mir schwindelig ist oder ich Bauchschmerzen habe, gehe ich zum Arzt oder zur Apotheke. Es muss nicht immer ein Krankenhaus sein. Gerade in Kenia muss man im öffentlichen Krankenhaus manchmal lange warten. Eine Apotheke oder eine private Klinik tut es auch. Die machen einen Test und verschreiben dir dann das entsprechende Medikament.

Wenn es mir nicht gut geht, liegt das meistens an Malaria oder Bauchbeschwerden.

Malaria

Die Symptome bei mir fangen immer mit Gelenkschmerzen in den Fingern an. Dann verbreiten sie sich über den ganzen Körper. Ich fühle mich schlapp, generell unwohl und mir ist einfach schwummrig. Es passiert häufig, wenn ich gerade vom Land zurückkomme, wo Malaria häufiger vorkommt als in der Hauptstadt Nairobi.

Ich gehe dann zum Arzt. Der piekst mich in den Finger und testet mein Blut. Dann bekomme ich sechs mal vier gelbe Tabletten, die ich in den kommenden drei Tagen nehme – und fertig.

Malaria sollte jedoch ernst genommen werden. Selbst wenn du prophylaktische Mittel nimmst und dich mit Insektenspray einsprühst – geh zum Arzt, wenn dir auch nur ein bisschen übel ist.

Wir haben einmal meine ganze Familie zum Arzt geschleppt, einfach um sicher zu sein. Niemand hatte Malaria, und es war eine Erleichterung, Gewissheit zu haben.

Auf der anderen Seite ist Malaria für uns privilegierte Touristen auch nicht das Ende der Welt und leicht zu behandeln. Auch in ländlichen kenianischen Gegenden gibt es Einrichtungen des Gesundheitswesens. Nimm sie unbedingt in Anspruch!

Bauchschmerzen

Wir Reisende wissen oft nicht, wie man sich richtig die Hände wäscht, bestimmtes Essen säubert oder einen bestimmten hygienischen Standard unter neuen Umständen aufrechterhält. Deshalb bekommen wir oft Probleme mit der Verdauung. Manche lassen sich mit Durchfall-Medikamenten beheben. Ich habe normalerweise immer welche zur Hand. Wenn das Bauchweh aber länger als einen Tag anhält, gehe ich zum Arzt.

Der fragt dann meistens nach einer Stuhlprobe. Nicht jedermanns Sache, aber wichtig für eine ordentliche Diagnose. Bisher hatte ich bakterielle Magen-Infekte oder Amöben. Es gab immer Medikamente dagegen. Ich frage dann auch immer, was ich essen und trinken darf und was nicht.

Medikamente

Manchmal lässt sich über den Preis für die Medikamente verhandeln. Das hängt aber vom Ort und der Art der Medikamente ab. Manche Marken sind günstiger, andere teurer. Wir hatten mal einen Fall einer Infektion im Mund. Das benötigte Mundwasser gab es wesentlich günstiger im Supermarkt als beim Apotheker.

Schmerzmittel

Normalerweise gibt mir der Arzt oder Apotheker immer Schmerztabletten mit. (Denke daran, dass du vor allem bei Magen-Darm-Problemen nicht alle Schmerzmittel vertragen wirst.) Wir hatten oft noch einen Vorrat von letztem Mal und ich habe dem Arzt gesagt, dass ich keine brauchte.

Natürliche Linderung

Meine Schwiegermutter hatte früher einen Topf mit hausgemachter Medizin, die einfach alles heilte. Sie half mir, meinen Durchfall loszuwerden, mit zwei Tassen eines sehr bitteren Kräutertees. Wenn du solchen Sachen offen gegenüberstehst, so wie ich, können sie durchaus helfen. Es handelt sich um altes Wissen, das seit Generationen wirkt.

Dosierung

Frage nach, wie viele Tabletten du zu welcher Tageszeit nehmen musst. Ich verwechsle die Zahlen und Mengen ständig, die die Apotheker auf die kleinen Tütchen schreiben, um die Dosierung anzuzeigen.

Kurzum: Versuche, nicht auszuflippen.

Ich hinterfrage meinen deutschen Arzt nicht besonders oft, warum sollte ich es dann in Kenia tun? Er weiß, was er tut. Er hat diese Dinge studiert und ich bin nicht seine erste Patientin.

Wenn ich beim Arzt bin, rede ich viel, um sicherzugehen, dass er alle Infos und ich alle Handlungsanweisungen bekomme.

Geh frühzeitig zum Arzt oder Apotheker. Kommuniziere viel und höflich. Und gute Besserung!

Why a Kenyan village went crazy about Obama’s visit to Kenya

Luo culture Obama

or: The story of my several husbands and co-wives

Obama’s father is from Kenya, from a place in the West of the country called Kogelo. The area is dominated by Luo culture.

But Obama himself was born in the US, obviously.

Otherwise he couldn’t have become their president. Therefore many people didn’t understand why the country made such a fuss about Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015. And particularly people from Kogelo and the surrounding county were not being understood or even ridiculed for welcoming “their returning son”.

After all, he is not their son.

He is American, and apart from a few visits has nothing to do with Kogelo, right?

Wrong!

At least for Kenyans, especially Luos.

There is a complex cultural structure underlying this issue.

The role of men in Luo culture

In Luo culture, men often remain in the homes while women leave when married. Men mean strength and security for the whole extended family. Everyone has a role in this tight relationship network of family and clan members.

This sounds strange to us. In the global North, the individual and their success is more important while in Kenya, values are derived from the community. None of the systems can be judged “better” or “worse”. Both of them function, with advantages and disadvantages.

Changing cultural rules

Nowadays, people are not entirely staying on the countryside and in the value system of the community anymore. Many live in Nairobi, where the rural rules don’t apply so much. But it is very common that they go home regularly and try to balance things. Some rules can be bent with the consent of everyone, or they can be changed into some equivalent procedures.

This also applies for people who are abroad and who don’t have the chance to take the next bus going to their rural home. What is important is the deep identification with the land itself.

The identification with land

In Luo culture, especially boys belong to the father. If something happens, they have the right and the duty to appear and demand help and support, including a piece of land. If a boy is left to grow up with his mum or maternal grandparents, he won’t be able to attain land from them, which is the resource for his future life and even the place where he will be buried.

People will therefore accept homecoming sons in cases like funerals. Nobody will be utterly surprised if a son that nobody knew of suddenly appears.

You come from where your father comes from. Otherwise you can even be seen as an orphan who doesn’t know his home and doesn’t have direction.

Being raised in a Luo community

That is a deeply rooted cultural knowledge. It is given through society and while growing up, children learn where they come from, and fatherless children or those away from their father’s place can even be mocked.

Going back to the roots therefore implies respect. As a Luo, and as a Kenyan in general, you are not successful for yourself. You will be the pride of an entire location. The results of the final exams of high school are announced and celebrated publicly by an entire village. And it is this village that comes together to raise funds in order to send “their son” or “their daughter” to university.

That Obama didn’t “come home” to his father’s place, that is Kogelo, was almost  seen like he disowned the people there. It looked like he didn’t value and respect them. When he identified with the people in Kogelo in his inauguration speech, he made them proud. They don’t just call them their son, to them, he is.

A little story about relatives

There is a photo of a family meeting that shows me with my husband Osero and Mrs Osero who is therefore my co-wife. Furthermore my husband Odhiambo, my co-wives Nyaudo and Mary, and my brothers-in-law Lawi and Paul.

Wait. What?

When I was walking with Antony through his village for the first time, I met about six men who introduced themselves as his father and even more women who said he was their son. I got confused, but by now I myself am incorporated in a wide net of uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and even co-wives! They are not literally my co-wives or fathers, as they are from Antony’s side of the family. But they see me in close relation to them since I have entered their family ties. My decisions and actions not only affect myself anymore. They will always mean something and be interpreted by Antony’s relatives.

Obama was in a similar situation. And he was not the only one. Divock Origi, Belgium born footballer, proudly refers to his Luo roots. And Ali Mazrui, Kenyan lecturer in the US, insisted on his body being buried in Kenya.

What do you think? Was the fuss about Obama’s visit exaggerated? Let me know in the comments below.

How to take photos in Africa

travel photos africa

A guide to responsible travel photography

Preparation

Type the name of your destination in a search engine and look at the pictures. Question those travel photos! Can you find others beyond exotic wildlife and romanticised poverty? How do photographers from your country of destination portray their country?
Use this free worksheet to go deeper.

responsible travel photography
I searched for Kenya in Google pictures and this is what I got:

travel photos kenya

 

Yet some Kenyan photographers give a very different perspective (click on the photos to get to their awesome websites!):

responsible travel photography kenya
(c) Cedi Mungai

 

responsible ravel photography kenya
(c) Mutua Matheka

 

responsible ravel photography kenya
(c) Mwangi Kirubi
responsible ravel photography kenya
(c) Victor Peace

The reason for taking pictures

If there are millions of photos of giraffes in sunsets already – why do you take them again? What do you want to proof with your photos? Why do you hunt “perfect moments” like trophies? We often unknowingly reproduce the photos – and the stereotypes coming with them – which we have already seen many times before.

Landscape

There is more to Africa than the savannah. There are urban areas and skyscrapers, lush green suburbs, highways, semi-urban centres and malls. Do you only take pictures of rural areas, because they are so exotic, so different from what you know? If you leave out the urban areas and all the zones in between, you will portray an unbalanced picture.

People

Always ask for permission. Always. And don’t take that permission for granted. Some people will agree because you took them by surprise and they don’t want to appear impolite. That is not a free ticket to publication.

Take respectful photos of people. Avoid a higher angle forcing them to look up because that makes them look small. When taking photos together with them, how are you positioned? In the middle of decorative black children? Standing, while other people are sitting down? Don’t make objects out of the others.

Editing

When digitally editing your photos, consider what you exclude for aesthetic reasons and why. Why do you chose this frame, and what are you leaving out? A slight change in contrast can make a flat landscape look hostile or sharp, and other adjustments can lighten or darken peoples’ skin colours. The border between ethical enhancement and manipulation is extremely blurred, so be careful.

Sharing and Publication

Again, you need permission from the people in your photos for publication. It is not easy, but here on this website we ask the parents of the children before we publish the photos. Social media is a form of publication, too. What would you think if you one day found a photo of you online portraying you as poor or exotic?

If you take photos with or of people, they also have a right to have a copy of them. Make sure to develop them and give them out before you leave, or share them online.

Captions

Name everyone in the photo or nobody. “Me and some kids” is a caption that makes the white person the hero, the main subject, and the children become mere props. What about “First-graders of Garden School on their last day before the holidays”?

Also, try to avoid stressing stereotypes in the captions or downgrade people or situations.

Safety

Big cameras and equipment as well as expensive phones may present attractive opportunities to thieves. If you neither want to lose your expensive equipment, nor feel like being constantly on the run from possible pick-pocketers, just leave your equipment in the hotel or the house and enjoy the walk through the city. It will be much more stress-free.

Ask your friend or guide whether it is okay to take the camera along and also whether you may take photos in certain areas or situations.

Law

In Nairobi, like in other places, it is forbidden to take photos of some government buildings. If you want to avoid trouble with the authorities, respect these rules.

Not taking photos is also an option!

In the beginning you might be uncomfortable and over-aware or over-sensitive about many things, including taking photos. That is a good thing! You don’t have to get rid of this sensitivity. Your intuitive shyness about taking photos is a sign that you are aware of the complex process behind taking photos. Not taking photos is just as well an expression of a responsible attitude.

What are your best tips for taking photos responsibly? Share them in the comments below!

 

How to bargain at the market

I am horrible at bargaining! It’s usually making me uncomfortable. I often pay more than people who are better at bargaining. That’s why I do the little shopping that includes bargaining with my husband. He is great at bargaining and often gets good deals. There are certain rules how to bargain.

Bargaining is an art, and it needs to be approached carefully.

Here are some hints how to do it respectfully. All my bargaining experience stems from Kenya but I imagine that the basics apply to more countries.

What to bargain about

  • Clothes and shoes in markets or stalls
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Furniture or anything handmade on the street or in a shop
  • Services like tailoring, repairs, fixing of shoes, although some of them have commonly known fixed prices
  • Household items being sold by street vendors

Asking for a discount

If you buy a big amount of things from one person, you can ask for a discount, that will “make you come back again”. I often get one extra tomato or an extra sweet potato from the vegetable sellers who know me. One chili pepper, for instance, costs one shilling, and if I buy bananas and Sukuma for fourty, Mama Mboga (our vegetable lady) gives me the chili for free. Even the chemist sometimes rounds down the price for tests and medication, if I ask kindly.

What not to bargain about

  • anything with indicated price tags
  • when vendors shout the price
  • food and water
  • public transport (Ask a local friend for the price or other passengers, and before bordering ask the conductor and insist on the amount you know.)
  • goods in the supermarket

How to bargain

  • Be kind and friendly.
  • Make jokes.
  • Bargaining is about finding a price that suits both the vendor and you and not about ripping anybody off.
  • Try it in the local language. You will leave a better impression.
  • Say clearly if you are just looking, and don’t hold or take something you are not absolutely interested in buying.
  • Walk away if you are uncomfortable. Sometimes walking away can also trigger a cheaper offer.
  • Say thank you.

Funny methods

There are some strange insider measures that people use especially for souvenir shopping. You could, for example, get a greater discount by offering a simple pen. A friend told me how she danced and sang a French song with her travel mate somewhere in South East Asia for a better bargain.

Commissions

Guides sometimes have deals with the vendors. If you are brought to a certain market or stall by your guide, he or she may earn a little commission from the vendors for bringing them customers. This commission is included in the price you pay.

Being “ripped off” or a victim of situational discrimination

There is a difference between structural and situational discrimination. Due to structural discrimination, and the fact that the global North still exploits the global South, people from Europe have enough money to fly to Africa and spend some vacation there, whereby many Africans don’t have equal chances.

That is why vendors situationally discriminate possible customers, especially if they are white. For them, white means rich and they can hike the prices for sometimes 1000%. Situational discrimination is not to be confused with racism, because the power structures are very clear:

While you may feel angry or sad about “being ripped off”, in a global perspective you are still privileged.

This infographic should help you to better understand the concept of structural and situational power and discrimination.

infographic structural power and discrimination, situational power and discrimination

Alternatives for bad bargainers

If you are as uncomfortable as me when it comes to bargaining, there are several alternatives:

  • Buy things in supermarkets or shops.
  • Ask for help in bargaining from a local friend.
  • Before you go, try to find out the approximate prices for the goods you want to buy and take those as points of orientation.
  • If you stay somewhere for longer, frequent the same vendors and build relationships. You will get to know each other and be able to estimate each other’s expectations.
  • Ask for discount (see above) in a friendly way. And if you promise to come back and buy again – do it!

What are your best tips about getting good deals on the markets in a responsible way? Let me know in the comments below!

How I travel on a low budget in Kenya

travel on a low budget in Kenya

and why a change in perspective is the key to all richness

Just to warn you: This is much more a blog post on your own attitude and how it can help you deal with the money issue while travelling. It’s not a guide to travel on a low budget in Kenya. BUT: With the right perspective, money issues become much easier to handle.

I went to Kenya as a volunteer because I didn’t have money. Or at least, that was one of the many reasons. The African continent fascinated me and I wanted to get in touch with people instead of visiting the place as a tourist.

In fact, travelling as a volunteer may not be as money-saving as you think.

I paid for my flight tickets, the German organisation that connected me to the Kenyan one, and for them I paid again, for hosting and food. Regardless for me, after finishing school, volunteering was a cheaper option to travel.

It is always good to have a bit of a buffer on your account when going abroad. Many people work extra and save money for their big trip. Tara wrote a non BS guide on how she earns money for travelling.

It’s hard earned money. And it’s precious, so you don’t want to waste it.

I lived very modest in Kenya, never bought sweets or anything that appeared luxury to me. I hadn’t done that in Germany either, in order to keep my bucks together and make this trip happen.

It took me many years to realise two things:

  1. The fact that I am in a position to work extra, earn and save money for a flight ticket, is a privilege that not many people have.
  2. And: Some people in Kenya would have preferred me to send them the money instead of coming.

Some people see me as a walking wallet. Because I do own more money than them.

The most important thing to keep in mind when travelling to the global South is that you as a traveller from the global North will always have more money, better ways to get money and higher financial security than many people you will encounter. Think health insurance, visa card, student loans, help from your family, etc.

Many of my Kenyan friends don’t have a bank account. It’s not necessary for them.

Keeping my privilege in mind makes it a bit easier to decide on what to spend on and it helps to understand certain situations.

Volunteers invited my husband to a fancy restaurant once. To get there, he spent half of the money he had that day on transport and remained with another 80 Kenya Shillings, just enough to get back home. After the meal, where he only took tea which was already expensive enough, the inviting volunteer left a tip of 400 Kenya Shillings on the table. Tipping is generally not very common in Kenya, and there was my husband, spending his last bucks on transport, leaving 400 Shillings on the table of a noble restaurant.

I still don’t spend a lot of money when travelling, mostly because I don’t have it anyway.

  • I don’t need much anymore, as my life has become more minimalistic.
  • I personally don’t give money to people begging in the streets, whether it is in Kenya or in Germany. Even though I could. I may write about my reasons for that another time.
  • I developed a feeling for when something is expensive. I buy local food on the market. I use public transport and don’t join all-inclusive safari packages. Goods and services are cheaper compared to what I would have to pay in Germany. But that is not reason enough for me to abandon my modest lifestyle in Kenya.
  • I don’t invite everyone all the time and pay for everything, just because I feel guilty about having more money than many of my Kenyan friends. But I sometimes cook for them, I help them when they have funerals or hospital bills. Not because I have money, but because it is very common to do that in Kenya.

To me it is important to add value to people’s lives and make them know that they are adding value to mine. Money discussions are still uncomfortable, but I know my privilege and that makes me more open towards the Kenyan culture of dealing with money. I have learned to develop my standing point when it comes to what to pay for and what not.

How do you deal with “the money issue” while travelling? Do you have any good tips or tools you use? Let us know in the comments below!