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Animals, Mobile Phones and Schooling in Kenya

Monday, December 26th, 2005

In Nairobi, I was able to have a few great conversations with Kenyans who gave me a crash course on life in the East African country. I picked up some cool tid-bits of info on lots of different topics.

Animals: One man who grew up on the shores of Lake Victoria told me he was most frightened of leopards growing up. Although they poached on livestock, there was a harmony between the people and the animals. His elders said, if he ever saw one walking along side him that he should continue his path. Realizing that he was neither a predator nor prey, the leopard would leave him alone and eventually continue on his way.

Also, if you even run into a hyena, you should make as much noise as possible. They are nasty animals, but ones who are also very easily intimidated. If you run, they will chase you down and start attacking you. They also eat their prey while they are still alive, so really, it’s in your best interest to scare them off.

Mobile Phones: Like elsewhere in the world, cell phones in Kenya are on a pre-paid basis. There are two companies in Kenya, although another is trying to enter. Text messages cost less, and only the person making the call pays. Inter-network calls are also cheaper, as well as off-peak times.

Schooling: School is mandatory in Kenya for grades 1-8. Many also go to pre-school – the United States equivalent of kindergarten. Public classes have around 100 students per teacher, so anyone who has any money pays for private school. There are different ‘classes’ of private schools, with the lowest level still having around 40 students per teacher. All lessons are taught in English.

At the end of grade 8, students take a national examination. If they pass, they are allowed to continue onto secondary school. After another 4 years, they take another exam and can go onto university if their scores are sufficient and they have the required funds.

Customs and Border Crossings in Tanzania and Kenya

Monday, December 26th, 2005

Entering foreign countries can be a fickle, time consuming process. I didn’t have many issues, but it’s also best to be prepared for difficult situations before you go.

Air Arrival into Kenya: I arrived in Nairobi’s international airport via Amsterdam on KLM, at 8:30 p.m. I wanted to have a 7-day transit visa, which costs $20 US. The guy would not give it to me however, and insisted I pay $50 US for a 3 month, single entry visa. I gave up arguing, and paid the money. I had read that you are allowed to have one trip to Uganda or Tanzania on that visa, so I should not have to pay again at the border. I’ll let you know if Lonely Planet is correct. Sean was able to get the man to issue a 7-day visa, and will pay another $20 US at the border when we return in a few weeks.

I was waved through customs in Kenya and did not have anything to declare. I did not see them stop anyone.

Land Arrival in Tanzania: I went with Impala Shuttles from Nairobi to Moshi and booked and paid in advance. On-bus payments are 1,500 shillings to Moshi (around $20 US) and 1,000 to Arusha (around $13 US). They pick up from most nice hotels in Nairobi.

The mini-bus shuttles get packed to the gills and do not have AC, although windows open. Expect your luggage to go on top, so pull out anything valuable before you go. We stopped at a curio/tourist shop shortly before reaching the border and were able to use the bathrooms.

At the border, we disembarked from the shuttle and went into a small building, separate from East Africans, to get our passport stamped. There are a number of Masai women selling jewelry and souvenirs here, as well as some stands with a little bit of fruit, water and nuts. They women are very aggressive and will attempt to put items on you ‘for free’ or ‘as a gift’. If they won’t take the items back, place them on the ground and walk away. They will pick them up.

Re-boarding the bus, we drove a few hundred meters to Kenya. There are very few salesmen here, and it looks like a bus station with all the buses being inspected. We were ushered into boarder control, where our driver took all the non-East African passports and $50 USD for our visa. He brought them to an agent who may or may not have expedited the process. It took about an hour in total to get through the border. I do not think they searched the bags individually.

Tips: Know the most up-to-date visa information if you plan to get it at the border, so you can insist on what you want.
Have exact amounts in dollars or pounds to pay for your visa.
Arrange for airports/shuttle pickups in advance for less hassle.
Do not take any pictures inside the airport, or around government buildings.

Future of Tourism in Nairobi, Kenya

Monday, December 26th, 2005
In 1998 and 2002, embassy bombings occurred in Nairobi. Although al-Qaeda targeted embassies of western countries, the bombings killed mostly Kenyan citizens. According to people I spoke with from Brogibro Tours, tourism is still suffering. They claimed that the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Confidence Schemes and Scams in NaConfidence Schemes and Scams in Nairobi, Kenya

Monday, December 26th, 2005
The people at the tour company based at Nairobi International Youth Hostel provided me with a wealth of advice and information about travel in Nairobi. Among other things, they warned me about confidence schemes. Confidence schemes or scams can be ... [Continue reading this entry]

I’m Beginning to Smell Like Africa

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
Yes, it's true. I'm begining to stink. It's a mixture of poor showers, random foods and living in a dorm with 18 other people. I'm hoping to 'air out' before Sean arrives...then again, I'm guessing after flying ... [Continue reading this entry]

Arriving in Nairobi

Monday, December 19th, 2005
I have already noticed a frightening trend with my blogging....I see myself saying 'will update later' a lot. Eeek. Anyway, this post is just to give some inital impressions, will flush out when I am feeling the urge. Landing ... [Continue reading this entry]

T minus 5 days: Africa, here I come!

Monday, December 12th, 2005
Like all travel plans, mine have changed since my original post. Abs is no longer coming with me, and it looks like the safari is out (although I'll hopefully grab one in South Africa). Updated itinerary, in too much ... [Continue reading this entry]

On the Road Again

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005
After two years of domestic trips, I am finally leaving the country again in December to travel in Africa. If you had told me when I started at BootsnAll that my next overseas destination would be Africa, I wouldn've ... [Continue reading this entry]