Monday, November 2, 2015

Holiday Blues Abroad

Halloween came and went in Kenya, I even forgot it was a holiday until my housemate reminded me. For most people, holidays are excuses to be with family or party with friends. I loved to wake up Christmas morning and run down in pajamas to tear wrapping paper off new toys and write little messages on valentines cards for all my friends in school. It was a Halloween tradition to spend hours in the thrift shops devising a unique costume for the various Halloween parties. Watching fireworks on 4th of July, turkey on thanksgiving, midnight kiss on new years eve, all of these are traditions are coveted by many in the states and around the world.

Halloween in Kenya
Many travelers know that these special holiday's are often the toughest days to be away from home. A couple years ago I would never have thought I would spend a Christmas away from home. It was an annual tradition to fly home from wherever I was to spend time with my family and friends. Last year I decided to take a trip to Israel and Jordan over Christmas. On Christmas eve I stood outside of nativity church listening to midnight mass and spent Christmas day riding a bus over the Israel-Jordan border.

Christmas in Bethlehem
These days make being abroad feel a bit more lonely than usual especially if the country you are in does not celebrate that holiday. Browsing through Facebook or Skyping your family can cause you to be even more homesick and nostalgic around the holidays.

So what is the solution for these Traveler Holiday Blues? Not sure if there is a specific solution. It seems that everyone I have met traveling over the holidays have had various reactions and solutions. Here are a few suggestions:

1. It Gets Better: I have found the more holidays you are abroad the easier it is to get over the Traveler Holiday Blues. The first Christmas, Halloween or birthday abroad can be rough, but it gets easier from there.

Visiting my Grandma
2. Everyday is a Holiday: I have also found that when your home from a long trip, any day can be a holiday. Gift giving does not have to be on birthdays or Christmas but can be whenever you are home. Have a big turkey dinner with family on your visit home or hand out postcards to friends as often as you like.

3. Bring the Holiday With You: Teach others around you about the special day, many are interested to learn about your countries traditions and celebrations. You can think about all the memories associated with that holiday in a positive way.

Sole from Argentina baking cake for Christmas in California
4. Stay off Facebook: The last think you need is to see all your friends and family having a good time while you are sitting alone in a long distance bus ride. Scrolling through pictures of happy families sitting around a holiday meal or wearing fantastic costumes can make you think more about what your missing.

25th birthday in Argentina
5. Surround Yourself With New Friends: Hostels are filled with others also suffering from Holiday Blues, bring a little of that holiday with you and celebrate with you new found wanderlust friends. Go out to a special restaurant, hit up the local night club to dance, or sing some traditional songs.

In conclusion holidays are a time to celebrate wherever you are, but why not celebrate all the other days of the year too. Remember not to beat yourself up for missing a holiday with your family and friends but rather celebrate whatever you are doing wherever you are. Who knows it might be the best day of your life.

Christmas Day meal in Jordan

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting Drunk in Kenya - Cheap Beer Goggles

As you know I am in Kenya doing a global health scholar year between my third and fourth year of medical school (I found out recently that people call me a tweener). I am working with HIV infected children. One of my projects is to come up with peer group topic agendas with our amazing pediatric counselors at AMPATH. We are discussing topics like depression, coping skills, hygiene, safe sex, children's rights, and so many more. 

One of the topics one of the counselors came up with was alcohol and drug abuse, which is a very common problem in Kenya. In Eldoret, where I work, a study of college student found that the is a lifetime prevalence of alcohol use was 51.9%.(1) Traffic accidents are a major problem in Kenya, and drinking has been linked to the increasing rates of traffic accidents. A survey in Eldoret hospitals assessed blood alcohol levels of individuals involved in traffic accidents 23.4% had positive blood alcohol concentrations and 12.2% were intoxicated.(2) It has been shown that those who drink and use illicit drugs have been found to have a higher risk of acquiring HIV. (3)

Due to its prevalence the counselors were inspired to educate kids and teens about alcohol and drug abuse. Many institutions in the states use beer goggles that mimic being intoxicated. These googles cost about $100, which is very steep especially in a resource poor place like Kenya. I decided to improvise and make these goggles at almost no cost. Here is what you need:

1. Toilet paper/paper towel cardboard cylinder 
2. Clear plastic bags
3. Scissors/knife
4. staples, or tape, or rubber bands

1. Cut a toilet paper cardboard cylinder in half. 
2. Cut the plastic bags into 3' X 3' squares. 
3. Fasten the plastic bag to one end of the cut cylinder with tape, staples or a rubberband

Hold them over your eyes and enjoy. Have the kids navigate an obstacle course holding the glasses over their eyes. 

1. Atwoli L, Mungla PA, Ndung’u MN, Kinoti KC, Ogot EM: Prevalence of substances use among college students in Eldoret, western Kenya. BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:34.
2. Odero W. Alcohol-related road traffic injuries in Eldoret Kenya. East Afr Med J. 1998;75(12):708–711.
3. Mugisha F. & Zulu E. M. (2004) The influence of alcohol, drugs and substance abuse on sexual relationships and perception of risk to HIV infection among adolescents in the informal settlements of NairobiJournal of Youth Studies 7, 279–293

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Six Benefits of Immersion Travel

Immersion Travel - immersing yourself in the environment, learning, adapting and experiencing new and different opportunities. Spending travel time with friends and families from  the country you are visiting. Pushing yourself to the edge of your comfort zone by trying new foods, participating in ceremonies, learning new languages, visiting off the beaten path places.
Hanging with my friend in Tel Aviv, Isreal
As you may know, I am currently living for one year in Kenya, I have traveled extensively through South America, India, Nepal, the Middle East and a little through Central America and Europe. I have practiced immersion traveling through most countries I have visited while also traveling like a tourist. 

Having a home away from home is one of the many benefits of immersion traveling. I began traveling the world four years ago.  My experience of immersion traveling began as a way to save money. As a recent graduate from university I was interested in seeing the world but also saving every penny I could. I learned that friends in other countries not only saved you money but gave you an experience like no other. 

Renting bikes with my friend in Montreal, Canada
I have traveled as a tourist in hostels, roaming the cities with a map in my hand, surrounded by other tourists looking just as confused and utterly lost as me. I have loved every moment of discovery with my gap year friends but when I began to make local friends abroad I was given a very different taste of the countries I visited. Here are some of the benefits of cultural immersion:

1. Learning 

One of the most important benefits of cultural immersion is learning. Guides can teach you about the history of the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, but staying with a local family can teach you what its like to live everyday in that world. Most love to talk about their countries, politics, food, rituals, holidays. In India I was able to attend a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony with my friends family. I learned so much about Hindu wedding traditions, food and garb at that week long celebration. 

Immersed in the wedding in India
2. Popular Local Watering Holes
Visiting the local favorites is another benefit for immersion traveling. Have you ever studied Lonely Planet or equivalent travel guide trying to pick out a local restaurant or night club? These tourist joints can often disappoint you. When you are with local friends they will take you to the most popular places among locals. This means that dingy hole in the wall that serves the best shawarmas and falafels and the night clubs free of tourists where you can dance to local beats.

Eating with the family on the beach in Chile

3. Free Cooking Lessons

Immersive traveling come with free cooking lessons. I have learned to cook ugali with local families in Kenya, beef with my friends in Argentina and ceviche with my hosts in Peru. When I return home I am able to re-create these recipes bringing a taste of the countries I have visited to my friends and families at home. 

Making Ugali in Kenya
4. Language
Immersing yourself into the cultural also helps you pick-up a few words. Often I stayed with friends who spoke broken English. What better way to learn than being immersed in the language and being forced to pick up words. Not to mention it helps to have a native speaker when asking directions or haggling in the markets.

Futbol in Peru
5. Saving Money
Staying with friends and families abroad helps you save money. The cost for hotels and hostels can add up the longer you travel. Families are so excited to host you in their homes, they often feed you, drive you around and in many cultures offer gifts. Immersion traveling is especially handy for students and those traveling on a small budget. 

Enjoying home cooked food with my friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina
6. Safety 
The last benefit of immersive travel is having a family away from home. Hosts care about you sometimes as much as your friends and family at home. They want you to be safe and healthy. Getting sick abroad can be scary and sometimes deadly if you don't know how to seek appropriate care. Friends abroad have saved my life on countless occasions. Having someone bring you food in bed or taking you to the clinic when you need medications can make you feel better and recover faster. 

Adopted family in Kenya 
As you can see cultural immersion has its many benefits. Its often a good idea to bring small souvenirs to offer to these families from your home country. I have learned so much about the world through immersion traveling and I hope that you can also experience similar benefits when you reach out and travel with the locals. Safe travels. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

All You Need is Love

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." -Oscar Wilde

A small box TV filled the air with the sound of a dubbed over kung fu. The air smelled of a mix of watered down chai tea and body odor. Across from me sat three young boys eagerly guzzling their chai and chapati. It was a splendid way to end a great day.

That morning I sat with my two principle investigators (PI's) and a handful of colleagues discussing the next steps for my child sexual abuse prevention project. I nervously presented the material on the slides I had carefully created the weeks preceding this meeting.

It all started when a research assistant from one of our clinics reached out for help on how to deal with four girls who had disclosed being sexually violated, one of which became pregnant after the incident. Eager to help but not very knowledgeable about Kenyan laws or regulations I set off on a frenzy of research. Turns out 32% of girls and 18% of boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 18 in Kenya based on a 2010 Violence Against Children Study.

My study first began with the goal of how can I help everyone and change the world ... as it always starts . It soon shrunk down to a project I hope to complete in the next 9 months while I am here in Kenya. My study will aim to create a Kiswahili culturally-sensitive child-friendly body safety book teaching children the difference between good and bad touches and what to do if they ever experience a bad touch.

At my co-workers neighborhood
Today my meeting went very well, I am on my way to kick-starting my first personal project in Kenya. After a successful day at work I headed to a gym to sign up with my friend. After so much ugali, chips (fries), rice and chapati, I can use some exercise. I really wanted a gym with classes, since I am a social butterfly, but Eldoret does not have any.

As my friend and I happened on the gym on the 3rd floor of a large building we began hearing dance music, and to my surprise a room full of mainly women, dancing or jazzercising to the music. Hooray! Not only do they have aerobics they also have taekwondo. I paid 2000 KSH ($20) for a month long membership.  I start tomorrow.

As I was waiting for my friend to pick me up from the gym I ran into two street boys asking for food. I usually try to ignore them but these two were relentless. I walked into a small paper good store and bought two pens and a note book for the boys. They took it and began writing. I asked them to teach me some Kiswahili and they began writing words for me and drawing pictures. One said he wanted to be a teacher the other a pilot.

At my co workers house
I decided to take them to dinner. On the way to a place they said was around the corner we picked up another young boy. They lead us through a narrow dirty alleyway, past bustling barbershops to a small shack filled with people eating at long tables and watching the loud faded television set perched up on the corner. I perused the menu written on a small board hanging on the wall. What do you want I asked. "Chai and chapati" they exclaimed excitedly. Chapati was 10 KSH (10 cents) and chai was the same. My friend and I sat down at on the small benches and ordered the food. Three more boys joined in.

This brings me back to where I began this story. I sat across from the boys as they played tic-tac-toe in the notebook. I munched on my plain chapati and sipped my piping hot chai. They played a driving game on my friends phone and we laughed at the silly kung fu moving blasting on the small television set.

One of the little boys told my friend how he ended up on the street, my friend translated into Kiswahili so that I could share it with the world. He was about 11 years old. His mother died several years ago so he lived alone with his father. Five days previous he went to play football with his friends and his father chased him away and since then he had been staying on the street. In Kenya school might be free but uniforms and materials needed to attend class are expensive.

At Tumaini Center for Street Children
The shack was a meager 10 ft long and just as narrow. Four long tables filled the room, makeshift benches were squeezed on each side of the table. The room was filled with perhaps 20 people all chowing down on chapati and chai laughing at the movie. The room was warm and alive, I felt safe here, although most might not, and most of all I felt full of love.

As we walked back out to meet our friends the six boys followed us out thanking us for the food and the notebook. They even guarded us from other drunk and intoxicated street children making sure we arrived safe to my friends car. I even learned a new word in Kiswahili: Paka (cat).

They all gave us high fives as we parted ways. I spent 160 KSH ($1.60) on dinner for all the kids and myself. I think that was a dollar sixty well spent. Lets start paying it forward.

At the Tumani Center for Street Kids

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

JAWS 9 1/2: Baringo Lake Expereince

"I am going to measure how deep the water is!" Daniel said as he jumped in after the long stick he had just thrown into the murky Baringo Lake water. Almost as soon as he hit the water panic began to set in. He began to scream, swimming as fast he could back to the rocks he had just jumped from. Amy and Claudia who were still in the small inflatable dingy also began to yell. Daniel crawled out of the water at my feet.


Of course I had not seen what went down. As soon as Daniel climbed out of the water the story began to unfold. A few meters away Daniel and those on the boat had spotted a "mama crocodile". Meaning a large proper crocodile. As soon as Daniel hit the water the crocodile began to swim his way. That's when Daniel made a bee-line for the shore. This story was just one of the many experiences that made the Lake Baringo trip a high adrenaline weekend adventure.

Photo Credit: Some guy with Amy's Camera
Daniel, Benjamin, Claudia, Amy, Kelsey and I arrived at the Robert's Campsite at the edge of Lake Baringo well after we planned to get in. If anything could have foreshadowed our weekend of adventure it was our truck breaking down only an hour into the 3 hour long drive to Baringo. Determined to get to Baringo we drove slow and stopped often to pour more water into the overheated engine. Finally after thousands of stops we finally made it to the lake.

We immediately set up the tents and blew up the small inflatable boat to head off into the murky waters of the expansive lake. To set off into the lake you must first traverse through dead trees sticking out from the lake making sure to avoid the hippos that sleep in those waters. Form my other blog posts you probably already know that hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa,

Photo Credit: Amy
We sped out into the lake towards an island which Daniel said had perfect rocks to jump from. On the way we bought fresh fish from a fisherman we found floating in the middle of the lake. Of course as soon as we reached this small island we encountered the crocodile. Shaken-up we decided not to jump from the rocks but rather use Daniels influential potatoes buy our way into the island campsite pool.

Photo credit: Daniel
We enjoyed drinks and darts by the beautiful pool perched up on the top of the island camp and swam in the clear pool free of crocodiles. We discovered a small floating dock close to the island which we decided was free of crocodiles due to its distance from the shore. Of course crocodiles swim near the shore not in the open lake. We took the opportunity to practice our diving and flipping skills off the small wooden platform.

We headed back to Roberts Campsite to cook the fresh fish (now sitting in a cooler for hours in the sun) and the potatoes that Daniel brought on an open fire. As we ate we began to hear the sounds of the hippos climbing up onto shore for their nighttime feast. (they eat grass of course not humans) They were so close, we could see them as we pointed our flashlights towards the shore.

After a filling meal we were ready to sleep. As I slept on the small mat in the tent I listened to the noises outside my tent. I was almost sure that if I opened the tent door that I would see a hippo staring back at me... so I did not open the door. In the morning stranger noises woke us up from our slumber. As we opened the tent door many small monkeys were fighting over small scraps of food on the ground.

We ate breakfast of eggs and toast and jumped back on the raft to head out again into the water. We headed for the small wooden dock floating in the lake since it seemed like a safe place to swim. One of our friends Benjamin headed back to shore to pick up a friend, Alexander, and bring him to the floating platform. When he got back he told us a story about how on the way he carefully navigated the dead trees looking out for hippos as he went. All of a sudden only meters from the shore he felt a thud on the bottom of his raft. He sped hastily away, not sure what he hit but fearing that it could be a notorious hippo. As he fled the scene he looked back to see the head of a hippo emerge only two meters from the boat. Of course he was lucky and sped from the scene unscathed.

Photo Credit; Claudia
We headed back to shore after a long afternoon on the floating platform. As we traversed the open water of the lake we saw something bobbing on the water. We inspected longer we recognized it as a crocodiles head. It was swimming right in the middle of the lake. We all looked at each other shocked that our theory of crocodiles not liking open water was disproved.

We had a quick lunch and piled back into the broken truck to head home. Alex who had come Sunday brought his truck to help tow the other overheating vehicle back to Daniels house. Of course on the way back home a police officer flagged us down. He asked us if we were a "break-down", we said yes we broke down then he asked "Where is our break-down" we were not sure what he meant. Where did we break down? What part of the car is broken? We were so confused. He noticed that we were confused with our questions. He went to talk to Daniel in the "broken car" who explained the situation. The police officer let us go without a bribe and we continued driving.

Photo credit: Claudia
We later found out that "break-down" is the name of a vehicle which tows cars and you need a special "break-down" licence to tow a car. After our eventful weekend at Baringo we were happy to be home safe and sound. I am definitely excited to visit Baringo again soon.

Make sure to visit Claudia's blog to see more of her amazing photo's:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pads for a Purpose

My co-worker Judith and I were moved by the following video about Menstruation. As the video shows many women and girls in Kenya don't have resources to buy female hygiene products. At the same tome they are also being shamed about such a common and natural biological process that happens to all cis-women.

Girls in many parts of Kenya and around the world do not have proper sanitary supplies and often miss school due to being on their periods. A study showed that adolescent girls in Kenya lose an average of 3.5 million learning days a month due to their periods. Girls who miss school are more likely to drop out of school. UNESCO estimates that girls make up 70% of all children not in school around the world. It seems silly that your period can hold you back from obtaining an education and it's sad that girls are so ashamed about menstruating. 

It is also found that girls are often not taught about their periods. It's such a taboo to talk about menstruating in Kenya, which creates a tremendous amount of stigma, confusion and fear about menstruating even among women and girls.

Many organizations such as Lunapads, AFRIpads, Thinx and Days for Girls have supported the distribution of reusable pads to girls around the world. Well it's time for an new company to increase the amount of re-usable pad giving: Pads for A Purpose (aka P4P). Yesterday Judith and I, after work, went to the market to buy fabric and visited our favorite tailor who has promised to help us with our project. Today we made our first prototype, it's not perfect but it's a start. It's costs about $1 to produce one reusable pad including fabric and labor.

Judith and Evaline our tailor modeling the pad 
That's not all...In addition to two reusable pads a small bar of soap to clean them, girls will also get an pamphlet which my friend Amy and I are putting together. This pamphlet will give them some information about menstruating, puberty, how to take care of their body and how to clean the new pads. We hope to distribute them through AMPATH to girls and women in need of female hygiene supplies. 
Amy and I modeling the reusable pad

In addition, I hope our project brings awareness to the natural an non-shameful process that is menstruation and combat some of the false beliefs about periods. I hope it will decrease the number of girls dropping out of school and lessen the stigma about talking about periods. I am hoping to start a go-fund me project to raise some initiation costs for the materials and possibly in a larger scale a buy-one get-one for a girl in Kenya type non-profit. 

Also if you have not used reusable pads yet, get ready to be surprised. They are comfortable and decrease the impact women have on the environment. Did you know women use about 10,000 sanitary products in her lifetime, imagine that sitting in a dump. Sit tight for updates. Tomorrow I am going to make a second prototype. 

Let me know if you want to help. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We Are All Animals - Naivasha and Hell's Gate National Park

Over the weekend a group of us hired a taxi to take us to Naivasha National Park. The park is a 3-4 hour drive from Edloret. I was joined on the tour by Amy, Mi, Tiffany(another Berkeley grad. Go Bears!), Issac and a couple other Pharmacy students. We all piled into a taxi Matatu and headed off to Lake Naivasha with a short coffee and lunch stop in Nakuru and a stop at the Equator. At the equator a nice man showed us how the water spins in opposite directions on either side and straight down on the equator.

We arrived at lake Naivasha at 2pm after the long ride. As soon as we off-loaded from the matatu we were handed bright orange one-size-fits-all life jackets. We jumped on to a wooden power boat and headed off into the lake. The boat tour was 1000 KSH ($10) for one and a half hours per person.

It was a eere feel as we headed into the lake. The gray rain clouds loomed over us and dead trees stuck out of the like arms grabbing up to the sky. The dead branches were covered by various large birds. They looked down at us as we passed under them.

Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha is home to over 400 species of birds, fish, hippos and giraffes relocated to Lake Naivasha for the Out of Africa Movie. We drove the boat over to a small family of hippos. We got pretty close to the hippos, most of them were asleep, which I was glad about since hippo is one of the most dangerous animals (after mosquitoes and humans). We headed around the lake to find the giraffes who wandered through the eerie scenery, their bright orange color contrasting with the grey of the dead trees and sky.


As we drove the boat around the lake we came across two fishing eagles. The boat drivers had fish which they used to bring the eagles closer. They threw the fish into the water and the large eagles took to flight finding the fish instantly. The guide says that they could see up to 4km away, I wish I could see 4km. I think I was an eagle in a past life.

After the boat ride we piled back into the matatu and headed to the camp site. We were introduced to our tent, a beautiful huge white military stile tent with thick mattresses situated only 100 meters from the lake. Perfect for hippo sightings at night when then wander on land to graze and get it on with other hippos. It was 1200 KSH ($12 USD) per person for the camping, although if you brought your own tent it would only be 600 ($6).

Our Tent at Camp Carnelley's

We had dinner at Camp Carnelley's restaurant. The food although over priced (200 KSH for a chai vs the hospital at 20 KHS, 1000 times markup for muzungus) was amazing. We had the cheesy nachos, spicy crayfish, fish fillet, and grilled veggie salad.

After the food we headed to the bar to mingle with the other muzungus. Most of them were in the British Army stationed in Nairobi, but frequented Carnelley's on weekends. Others came from the States and New Zealand. Amy and I received a couple free drinks and we had fun talking and reminiscing about our gap yah (year). We were torn about whether to go out dancing with these nice young chaps but instead we ended up walking around the campsite in the dark and admiring the stars. Luckily we did not encounter any hippos, although I would have liked to see one up close. We slept well in our luxury tent on our two inch thick mats. We woke up refreshed and ready to head to Hell's Gate National Park and enjoy our bike safari.

We again piled in the matatu and headed to Naivasha for a safari on bike. We paid 700 KSH for park entrance with our pupil passes and our resident cards and 500 KSH for our bikes. Renting them outside the park is better because the bikes are better quality and have mostly working breaks, its 50 KSH more to rent those bikes.
Kissing zebra butt

We jumped on the bikes and headed off on the mostly flat dirt road. As we road we passed a huge pointy rock called Fischer's Tower, which you can rock climb around midday for 500 KSH. We passed the rock and headed towards Hell's Gate Canyon. Along the way we passed zebras, warthogs, water bucks, antelopes and giraffes. Amy tried to make friends with the zebras but they were all scared of her, mainly because they heard she wanted to ride them. We reached the end of the road and parked our bikes to head off into the canyon.

Our guide took us down into the canyon, parks of which we had to scramble up and down rocks. Many parts required us to use ropes to climb up and down rock faces, get on our butts to slide down steep rock crevasses. We descended lower and lower into the canyon. We spotted "Emergency Exits" which we laughed about, but if there was a flash flood in the canyon we would not be laughing at them anymore. We came upon the devils bedroom and then visited his bathroom, which was marked by incredibly hot hot-springs. Our guide dared us to hold our hand under the hot water for at least 10 seconds, no one could. It was too hot.

We climbed out of the canyon and back to our bikes. Nice and tired we mounted our bikes again and headed back the 8km we had biked before to the entrance of the park. It was much hotter and the "flat" road seemed a little more uphill than previously thought. After a couple water breaks, sunscreen re-applications and rock hyrax sighting we arrived at the main gate.

We piled back into the matatu and headed back to Eldoret. I definitely fell asleep in the van, and the next day my shoulders were so sore from using a bike that was much to big for me.

 Fischer's Tower
Overall the weekend was amazing and I had such a good time in Naivasha and with all my new friends, including the zebras who were a bit anti-social. I would definitely do it again.

Check out Amy's blog here:  A Walker's Adventures

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kenyan Hospitality

If you are coming to Kenya then its important to know the basics of greeting and eating in Kenya. Greeting and introductions are very important in Kenya. Anytime you enter someones home its important to understand how introductions are done.

Chai Break
In general someone else introduces you to the group. You will then shake everyone hands. This goes for if you are meeting one person or a room full of people. People will even jump over furniture and relocate to shake your hand and you should make the same efforts to do the same. Even when seeing friends any meeting is begun with a hand shake or even a hand shake turned into hug with a double sided kiss.


There are two types of hand shakes, one formal and one less formal. If you respect someone (doctors, older individuals, bosses) then you shake their hand but at the same time you place your opposite hand on your bicep. You can make it even more formal by bending your knee slightly. Less formal is similar to a regular hand shakes, but they can last for a long time. Older women often will shake your hand for almost a minute using both their hands to grasp yours. They will even have a conversation with you while shaking your hand or holding your hand.

Ugali, sukumawiki and fried fish
Shaking hands is very important in Kenya culture but so is food. If you enter someones home expect to eat, they might even hold you until you have a "snack" which can often be a whole meal. Traditional foods include ugali, chapati, sukumawiki, chicken, goat, fried fish, fried potatoes, mukimo,chai and fruit. Before eating its mandatory that you wash your hands. There is either a sink in the dining room or a bucket with water that someone pours over your hands.

Washing your hands is very important because most meals require you to use your hands to eat. Ugali is usually balled up between your fingers and eaten along side the meat and sukumewiki. Meat is usually eaten straight from the bone, its important to eat everything on your plate and clean all the meat off the bone. Some families even insist you eat cartilage and marrow. After eating you then wash your hands again.

Hand washing
Chai is another important part of hosting guests. Guests will often be served chai upon arrival to hold them over for dinner. Chai is again served after dinner, probably to keep everyone awake and alert for the drive home.
Can I help cook? If you are a woman then its traditional to ask if the hosts need help in the kitchen. Here you can learn how to prepare many traditional foods. Sorry men are not allowed to prepare food, but maybe things will change soon for Kenya.

Learning how to cook Ugali