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Kenya Ni Yetu

Kenya ni Yetu ("Kenya is our country"): We saw these bumper stickers everywhere, and I saw it at least once painted on the side of a roadside shop. Kenyans clearly have a great love for their nation and with pride comes the essential drive to improve, something many nations wallowing in misery could clearly stand to gain. We enjoyed Kenya as well. Here's why.

  1. "Jambo! Kiwabu!" (Hello! Welcome!"): We heard it again and again, even in remote villages like Isaiolo, not the most touristy of destinations. Kenyans were welcoming down to the last one. Women selling bananas through bus windows would ask us where we were from, and when we told them, respond, "Welcome to Kenya." One gentleman, when Ericka said she was from Nicaragua, responded with the name of her president: very impressive. Little children waved at us from the roadside and almost never followed through with a request for money; they seemed to just want to say hello to the mazungus.
  2. (Almost) nobody peeing at roadside: It seems like a little thing, but having people urinating by the roadside is a really culturally off-putting, and elsewhere in Africa you don't have to drive two blocks before passing someone watering the gutter (women included). Kenya's relative cleanliness and personal pride were refreshing. Neither did we find village after village of children running around in dirty underpants. It might be Kenya's relative affluence, but I attribute it to cultural pride, and so does Ericka. Even in her country, men at least go behind a tree to take a whiz.
  3. Land in production: Land that had not been reserved for game parks was almost universally in productive use. We saw tea plantations, coffee farms, thick stands of timber, dense fields of corn and broad vegetable plots. We did not see the trademarks of mechanized production, tractors and combines, but rather lots of manual labor. But we saw hundreds of furrows plowed in contour, and that means smart choices. Seeing the land pressed into service was refreshing.
  4. Girls' Education: Everywhere we went signs exhorted families to ensure their girls were being educated; every village had numerous schools and at least two or three schools dedicated exclusively to the education of young women of all ages. This is one of the fastest way to encourage economic development - the statistics prove it - and Kenya's investment in its human capital will not go unrewarded.
  5. Cleanliness and order: Everywhere we saw hedgerows and carefully tended gardens. Markets, even when they were open air, were built in a way that encouraged drainage. People respected the police, and we encountered enough random police vehicle checks (they seem to be looking for drugs, weapons, and illegal Somalis) to understand what the police are doing with their time. Too many countries suffer from chaos that retards economic development, and have police forces that seem to be in the full time bribe-taking business.
  6. Good management: the game parks impose and enforce a curfew on when you can circulate in the park; getting a visa was a simple affair of $50 at the airport (at a quick-moving line and a clerk who told us "Jambo!") Kenyans have good business sense and make it easy to spend your money there, but take care to ensure the rules protect the resources. Smart, and good business.


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