Tribalism is a touchy subject in Kenya — I don’t even think it’s politically correct to use the word “tribe” anymore. Besides the fact that it’s a bit condescending from an American English connotation, I think we’re supposed to use other words like “ethnic groups” or “communities” instead. In Kenya it ranges from petty nepotism to violent xenophobia. Before you start thinking, “Those Africans are a bit stupid/savage,” go look up the words nepotism and xenophobia and you’ll see it’s nothing unique to Africa. Maybe it’s human nature, because I am feeling a little guilty lately.
I spent nearly the last two years living in a town called Tala in the Kangundo district of Kenya. That district belongs to a region which was/is historically known as “Ukambani”—named so after the tribe who has historically lived there, the Kamba. There are forty-something tribes in Kenya, so you can imagine there are regions all over this country where tribes have lived for generations (basically small countries). There exceptions, but each tribe generally speaks their own language, listens to their own music, prays to their own god, has their own ceremonial foods, traditions, etc. Well, that was true until the white people sliced up Africa for themselves and forced their culture on the continent, but now everyone wears dresses, jeans, high heels, and listens to Lil Wayne. The only things left are names and languages, and that brings me to my point!
My two years as a VSO volunteer are coming to an end: I’ve accepted a position as a Linux system administrator with a Kenyan-based non-governmental organization, ILRI. I’ll be working with ILRI from August–December, and then we’ll see after that. I’m done with VSO. That means I’m done with teaching. I’m done with snakes and scorpions. I’m done with Tala. I’m moving to Nairobi. I will miss this place but maisha iendelea (life goes on)!
I arrived in Kenya in October, 2007 and was supposed to stay until October, 2009, but I’ve changed my mind. I began looking around for jobs in April or so I think, and I had just about given up hope when ILRI contacted me in June. Before then I hadn’t heard anything from any of the seven positions I had applied for. Nothing! Not even an automated “Thanks for your application” response. I guess the sheer number of applications makes those sort of courtesies impractical? Who knows.
For the past year and a half I’ve been working as a teacher at Holy Rosary College in Tala, Kenya. It has been a great experience but it was a bit nerve racking at first because I wasn’t prepared to be teaching classes. Over my time as a volunteer at the college I’ve taught five different units, for each of which I prepared my own course material. In the community-oriented spirit of open source I’ve decided to post my course notes online.
Unless otherwise noted, these fall under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. In a nutshell, you’re free to use them but…
- don’t forget to tell people you borrowed from me!
- no profiteering!
- you can share your additions as long as you use the same license!