Kenya, My Land This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 21, 2013
Kenya is a country filled with rugged mountains, grassy valleys, and fertile soil. Living there for 11 years gave me the opportunity to soak in its unique culture and experiences firsthand. If you were to visit this distinctive country, you would fall in love with its contagiously happy, carefree people. They aren't shy, and will boldly confront you with their broad smiles. Even though the people are fantastic, what you'll fall most in love with is the beautiful land.
When I was young, I had the privilege of visiting Kenya's famous national park: Masai Mara, a vast open land containing many wild animals that roam freely. The Masai Mara is named after the local tribe, native to the land.
Your typical downtown zoo is nothing compared to Masai Mara. At most zoos, the animals are confined to cages. In Masai Mara, you are the one in the cage, traveling in a van in search of animals in their natural habitat, including lions defending their kill against the bold hyenas, cheetahs sprinting after Thomson's gazelles, or immense herds of wildebeests migrating from Tanzania's Serengeti.
Of course, you don't go Masai Mara just to see the wild animals that Africa is known for. I remember driving to Kenya's capitol, Nairobi, on a road filled with potholes, stopping to take pictures of crossing giraffes, then a bit later zebras and hyenas. Or even camping by Lake Baringo, where hippos grazed at night just feet from our tents.
Kenya indeed is a land filled with adventure, though not all pleasant. For two years my family lived in Kisumu, a city by Lake Victoria. Every night at 7 p.m., bats would fly above our rooftops, flapping and screeching, scaring little girls and boys, and threatening any possibility of sleep. Living by the lake also meant thousands of mosquito bites. Every month, my dad, brother, and I would be sick with malaria, which eventually led us to move to Eldoret. However, food from the lake was superb. Coming from the Philippines, my family loved the wide variety of fish that was caught and served daily.
We also fell in love with local foods including sukuma wiki, a favorite vegetable dish of locals; mandazi, a sweet baked dessert; and other delicacies that my brother and I to this day still beg my mom to make, including Kenyan tea. Once colonized by the British, Kenyans have a great love of tea. A famous Kenyan saying, Kila wakati ni wakati wa chai, means “Every time is tea time.” If you were to drive around Kenya, you would probably not be able to count the number of tea plantations.
Looking back, I question my parents' decision to raise me and my baby brother in Africa, which isn't the most ideal place when it comes to safety and health, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm proud to have survived many adventures, and I'm pleased that I have unique stories to tell. All these tales come from the Kenya that I remember as a girl. I would love to visit again one day to see what has changed and what remains the same.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Luke.I.Am said...
Apr. 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm
VERY VERY well written, amazing imagrery and a beautiful country! WELL DONE! 6 out of 5 stars
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