I guess Kenya is one of those countries we might associate with the quintessential Africa - herds of Wildebeest, sweeping savannah, Masai warriors, Mt Kilimanjaro. Although these can all be just as much associated with it's neighbour Tanzania. When it comes to media though, like many countries in Africa, we usually only hear about it when something bad is happening. As a result, we can get a distorted and unbalanced view of what life is like for average Kenyans.
Like probably the majority of Africans I've interviewed so far, Cecilia was brought up on a small farm in a rural part of Kenya. In contrast to Australia, this is a far more common lifestyle in developing countries where the majority of people live off small-scale agriculture. I should add also that I have heard about life in rural villages in Romania, Austria and Portugal, mostly many decades ago, and there were many similarities.
Kenya is also the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, making it the most significant nation economically in Eastern Africa, here are a few facts and figures : Kenya - Statistics & Facts | Statista
In hearing about Cecilia's experience growing up in this kind of environment, as well as those of others, it struck me just how much these kind of environments shape both the community around and us as individuals. For example, Cecilia mentions how the meaning of "family" extends well beyond the nuclear family in Kenya and how you are part of a unit, a community. At the same time, with more people gravitating towards big ciies like Nairobi, she mentions that this culture is gradually changing, as we have seen in our own country. In fact the more of these interviews I do, the more I find myself reflecting on we have lost since my grandparents day. The sense of community and the culture of hospitality are not totally lost here, but they've certainly been eroded as Australia has become an ever more urbanised country based on services and mining rather than agriculture and making things. But that's an issue for another day.
The other theme that really stood out to me in Cecilia's story was the role of education. This is far from the first time this has hit me, and I've mentioned it in this blog before, but I think education is something we take a bit for granted here, and in Tasmania, I hate to say it, but growing up I felt there was almost a disdain for education and being "too clever". With African families in particular, there seems to be a real emphasis on getting the kids educated and seeing how transformative this can be. In Cecilia's story, I think you can really see how this unfolds, from growing up on farm to working as a project manager in the health industry in Launceston is quite a journey.
I continue to find it fascinating and instructive to learn about where people came from and how they got to be where they are now, and in Cecilia's case it will be interesting to see where her journey continues.