Monday, July 5, 2010

Cultural Differences

From one former British colony to another, Happy Fourth! In honor of the US, I thought I'd compile a short list of things found in the US that I have learned to appreciate since being here.

1. Sidewalks. In the village where we live, there are no sidewalks. Our walk to school is primarily made up of walking along a bigger paved road (they call it a highway, but it gets about as much traffic as Darby Road, maybe less). It can be a little scary when a car is coming, and I miss the lovely sidewalks of Philadelphia and Providence.

2. Clean Water. From brushing our teeth to cooking and washing dishes, having to only use purified water that does not come from a tap can become tedious and dangerous, especially for Americans who can forget. Luckily, Patricia and I heard enough horror stories before we left to make us hyper-conscious of the water, but I definitely have a new appreciation for tap water in the US.

3. Garbage Pickup. In many areas of Kenya, there are no sanitation workers who come around to pick up trash a few times a week. Instead, people burn their trash- adding to the hole in the ozone layer and emitting a terrible smell- when we walk by a pile of burning trash, we both hold our breath and try to move past it as quickly as possible. That is definitely one smell I will not miss!

4. US Mail. As the granddaughter of a letter carrier, of course I have always had an appreciation for the post office. This was multiplied when I arrived in Kenya and was told by friends and family from home to be expecting a package- and waited three weeks to receive it. And when I did receive it, it was not delivered to the compound, but we had to go to town to get it. Mail is not delivered here, so everyone has post boxes that they have to check in order to get their mail.

5. Healthcare. During my visit to a Kenyan hospital, I found myself praying that I would never have to come back as a patient. The staff were incredibly kind, and the hospital was clean, but it offered little to no privacy, and definitely did not meet American up-to-date medical technology. While it was clean, it had a smell that was hard to stomach, and I consider myself so blessed to have such amazing healthcare so close to home in the States if I need it.

6. Salad.
Even if salad was served at the Friars' compound, I wouldn't be allowed to eat it because it probably would be washed in water that I can't drink. I love having a nice salad for lunch or with dinner, and I haven't had one in a month... I can't believe I used to complain about salad when I was little!

7.Mattresses With Springs. Mattresses here are made of foam, and while they're not uncomfortable (trust me, I have slept like a log), I do wake up in the middle of the night and roll over more frequently than I do at home. I have never thought about my mattress until now!

8. Paved Roads.
Riding in a car here deserves its own blog post- it is always quite an adventure, to say the least. You're bouncing all over a car that sounds like it's going to crack open somewhere, constantly climbing over rocks and irrigation ditches in the dirt roads. The roads here that are paved are filled with potholes- you think driving in Providence is bad? Sometimes Lucas, the driver for the Friars, finds it easier to drive along side the road instead of actually on it. It's impossible to fall asleep in any car. While the roads in central Nairobi are better, there is even a pothole problem there. It makes travel time significantly longer!

Do I sound like an obnoxious American? I really don't mean to complain about things here, because overall this experience has been incredible, but I have gained a new appreciation for American things while I've been here. I have also noticed things about our culture that I don't like- how no one looks up when they walk, are afraid to introduce themselves or shake hands with someone they don't know, and move through life so quickly! I have learned to live more deliberately... an idea I got in New Orleans but has been reinforced in Kenya.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

1 comment:

  1. WORD TO ALL 8 OF THESE DIFFERENCES. :) Can't wait for you to get home girl!