Just the other day I was sitting in class with my students, explaining I had to go to town that afternoon to pick up my motorcycle I had left at a friends. This little gem came out of the mouths of one of my four years olds; ‘No, you just ask dad for a new one. A smart one.’
This got me thinking, about the perspective children in developing nations, in this case Kenya, have on ‘muzungus’/white people/people from the Western world.
It was perfectly logical to the young boy in my class that my life would just be easier if I didn’t bother going into town, and ‘dad’ (the children’s name for the orphanage director) just bought a new one. It was only when I pointed out that in order to purchase a new one we would also have to go to town, that the young boy saw reason in me just retrieving my ‘old’ one (its 6 months old…)
Our kids see a lot of muzungus. We have tour trucks that come in and visit, volunteers that come and work, and Mum and Dad who gave up all they had at home in Australia to build a home here in Kenya for 200+ children. Most people that come through are in their mid twenties, not fully immersed in their career yet, and are spending every dime they have to adventure Africa. All these muzungus (including myself) come fully equipped with laptops, cellphones, e-readers, ipods and cameras.
To the young Kenyan eye, and the older Kenya eye even, we’re rich. And you know what? We may as well be. I am an early childhood teacher (lets face it, that’s not going to make me my millions is it?) and am currently working completely for free, and have been for the past 9 months, as a volunteer early years teacher at an orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya. I’m not exactly rolling in it. And yet, if I look at myself the way my little ones do, I may as well be a multi millionaire.
It’s not that I am rich, or ever will be. It’s that I have constant access to cash, and always will. I have a university degree, which makes me employable, and if I ever royally mess things up for myself, I have financially stable parents I could bunk with until I sorted myself out. I will never be at a point in my life where I cannot find a way to support myself, and my family, should I choose to have one.
This is the major difference between life at home and life here in Kenya.
The majority of Kenyans I meet work ten times harder than we do, in their jobs, home lives, everywhere. They are constantly on the go, and constantly doing something to provide. And things aren’t easy. The country faces 40% unemployment rates. Can you even picture that at home? 40% of the population who cant find work. And when they do, it’s likely to be housecleaning, motorcycle taxi riding, building or something along these lines, as only 4% of the Kenyan population has access to tertiary education.
I suppose what it comes down to, is we should be grateful for what we have, and grateful for what we have access to. I love Kenya and adore the people, but I am constantly reminded of just how easy I have it in life, and that is all because, by chance, I was born into a first world country.
I guess it’s just food for thought really, for that moment at home when we all think the world has come to an end because our last paycheck has run out in our bank accounts and we’re just too ‘poor’ for life!