Living as Kenyans – our immersion in Kenyan culture and traditions

This is our story living as a Kenyans. Our unexpected and deeply authentic immersion in Kenyan culture and traditions. It starts in a coastline village in the house of a lovely Kenyan family. For starters, we didn’t know how authentic it is going to be. Stepping for the very first time in the village of Mwechema, nearby Tiwi beach and Mombasa we realized our expectations were far lower than the reality. Actually, the expectations are an irrelevant particle in this kind of experiences. We are creating the following storylines with the idea to describe the life of the happy people, which we also were during our stay there. It is quite the opposite in regards to the common opinion about happiness. The opinion of the people never smelt or tasted Africa.

Read further and find out why we got inspired for our Hakuna Matata chapter in “The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals” book.

Day 1 – arriving in the “middle of nowhere”

Coming back from the Tsavo East reserve we got to the gas station X, where our host was waiting for us. This arrangement was facilitated by driver Tony as he had a local phone and he speaks Swahili. So we say goodbye to each other letting our ways to be separated with a friendly smile on our faces. He was heading to meet his family for the New Year’s Eve and us to meet our new Kenyan family. Family is a pillar in the Kenyan culture and traditions.

How can you know that there in the woods right after the gas station is where the village begins. Our luggage was slowly moving between small houses and trees, approaching the beautiful garden living room. In villages like this, there are no locks, no buildings, no roads. The whole open space makes you feel you are just walking in a garden. Everyone can enter your banda (a typical house), everyone can go to your animals and pets, nobody steals anything. Paths are made of sand, no dirt. We have just tossed our luggage to stay under the shadow – and we receive our welcome drink – young coconut juice, right from the tree. We are greeted by Rama’s brother and one of his sons, we start long conversations to get to know each other. Their whole tourist “business” runs for the sake of the education of the children. The family has four sons and all of them attended school (some children in Kenya don’t have that luxury since they are little they are distributed to ‘no school’ group). We get to know the other brothers, the mother, the auntie, the neighbors, the cousins. Huge family. A very important part of it is Nelson and Mandela. They happen to be a dog and a monkey, but also brothers to each other. Carried away in everything around us, we almost forget we are very thirsty. A walk to the gas station will get us water. We may know the family for an hour or so but we know they are crazy for soft drinks which they can afford once a year. This is how the first surprise from our side is born. Not a very healthy surprise, but they seem to be very indulged and pleased by it!

Monkey Nelson, Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Our banda in Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Inside our banda
Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
The living room
Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Nelson and Mandela – best friends

Salim offers to take us to the beach. We are walking for around 30 minutes through labyrinthine trails, as soon we are with him we are not lost. Wow – we reached the beach, a huge strip of glowing white sand with turquoise waters. We are going underwater! Water is so warm, like tea. For Salim, it is freezing. It is still wintertime over here. 🙂 For what we’re used to, it’s the perfect weather for the beach. For Kenyan culture and traditions, it’s hardly acceptable.

We wallow ourselves in the sand and head home. Too tired of walking – no problem – the main road is where we stop to wait for a Tuc-Tuc. This is the most extreme ride ever – every tree is a potential target for our knees bent to the maximum. Every hole on the road makes us hit our heads on the roof. We are just too big for this part of the globe.

It’s dinner time and our family has grown bigger – 6 guys from Sweden, 2 Canadians, 1 Italian(she spent a lot of time in the village). Mama Alice and auntie Isha cooked some specialties that make us empty the dishes. Everyone shares their experience from Africa, impressions leave no blank spaces in our minds. The same is done by the food to our stomachs. Cooking is almost a ritual in Kenyan culture and traditions.

Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Part of the company having breakfast

Storytelling under the blinking kerosene lamps leads us to our first night in the village. Nobody has noticed the lack of electricity so far…

Day 2 – making new friends

Wake up – guess who slept like babies? A group of children is rope-jumping. How can we not join? We have forgotten how hard this is. At least the kids were amused. In the meantime our new friend – the monkey Nelson is constantly playing with us so we have dropped our guard – it is just a cute little monkey after all! This is how you get peed by a cute little monkey 🙂

By now we’ve noticed people from the village don’t have enough clothes. They were still happy enough but we decided to give away some of ours – we have so many, much more than we need. What we need most is to see the smiling eyes of a child that can’t even believe you are giving them something yours. We were melting joy!

A babi in Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
A self-organized child

Our plan for the day consisted of doing nothing on the beach. This time we sailed along the river to get there. This is the Cocona river, where a special boatman transfers people and goods across the river. We were targeting the very mouth of the river so we had to wait for the special bigger boats to carry us (big fat white people). You can’t be in a hurry in Kenya – it’s just not a part of the (guess what?) Kenyan culture and traditions. Everything has its own tempo and no stress can change that. While waiting we join a soccer game by the river. Children are so happy. The funniest moment comes when someone has to splash into the water to get the ball. Usually naked, usually ashamed. We lent our ball to the kids. Their ball was few old clothes wrapped in an old fishing net. Not even a round ball…

Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Salim is the best!
Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Race along the river

As long as we have boarded, the race was on. The ride was fun for us, rowing for our boatmen was not so much fun. Tiwi turned out to be a long beach but walking in the sun was worth it. We settle under the palm trees and continued our day with laziness, swimming, games, and lunch. This amazing beach also offered us incredible sunset if you dared to walk barefoot in the cone trail that leads to the rocks with the shape of Africa. Our gentle feet had forgotten to walk on mother Earth. Salim showed his empathy and took his flipflops off. We might be great at a lot of things but we are certainly not at walking barefoot. Point taken.

Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Seaweed jewels
This is Africa

On our way back we took a moto-taxi. Poor scooter and its driver who was trying to be a good driver with two heavy Europeans in the back. To make things worse, the dinner was even better tonight. The specialty – small octopuses.

Kenya, "The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals" book photos
Isha is preparing an octopus

Day 3 – immersing in the local culture

Mwechema village, Tiwi, Kenya
Nelson sleeps in the oven

We had reached our limits of relaxing and doing nothing for three days. We spent the morning in sweet talks and fruit-eating. Had to say goodbye to our friends from Sweden, they didn’t want to leave though. we had so many friends from the village so it was impossible for us to stay lonely or bored. We started a long photo session with our hosts. We realized our cash was over and we needed to get ready for moving to our next destination. In Mwechema you don’t need any money and therefore you don’t find ATMs. We started a road trip to the neighboring town of Ukunda. Juma took us to a safe place to change dollars for shillings. The improvised change bureau was in a darker corner of the small market streets but totally secure and safe – we have a local with us to remind us of the slogan of the Kenyan culture and traditions: Hakuna Matata! Don’t worry, be happy! After the successful deal, we headed to Bar 40 Thieves to have lunch with a beer. Diani Beach is far more famous and crowded but still stunning. Sixty square meters per person, that is loose!

Getting to Ukunda was more than fun! Finally, we used local transportation called matatu. Those small vans always have space for another passenger. We were honored to have seats of our own. Other passengers were half in the matatu while their other half was outside during movement. Heat, crazy speed, lack of space and loud music  – matatu! On our way back we did something meaningful – went to a store and bought some balls, toys, candies, other stuff to make children laugh more.

A new ball got every child in the village together in less than three minutes. The children got so creative and invented a dozen new games to use their new fancy ball. No fights, no need of parents. They did self-organize themselves – where have you seen such discipline lately? Candies helped us meet many new friends – even those who were too shy to come and say hello. We were mesmerized by this social experience in that distant hidden village.

Self-organized team

Something we put together when the evening came along with its muse:
Rama’s family will do their best to make you feel at home. Our last evening is accompanied by the crickets’ song and kerosene aroma. It is 7 p.m. but it’s dark and everyone is home by now. Our living room is an exception – plenty of our new friends are passing by, children are playing around. There is a fresh octopus coming for dinner.
Even if you wash your feet it takes 20 meters to get them sandy again. True blessing this is – sand but not dirt. Most of the beaches would be jealous. The beaches here are shiny-white, the ocean is shiny-blue-and-green. Still, people dream of another shiny thing – snow. How can we bring snow in here? Some are longing for white sands, some for snow. We are excited to consume exotic fruits like pineapples, mango, bananas, they are longing for apples because they are hard to find and very expensive! A person wants whatever they can’t have.
Electricity and hot water turn out to be unnecessary for a normal life. A well-burning fire, kerosene lamps, and mosquito nets ensure we have complete evenings and calm nights. The nice company of warmhearted people is at the center of everything.

If you want to stay with those wonderful people in Mwechema, you can get in touch with them (and also us) on their Facebook page.

Living as a Kenya might look shocking only when you realize things about yourself, things you might not like. Nevertheless, this is one of the best complete experiences we’ve had. For those who seek to relax or adventure or for those who seek themselves – come and try!

To finish this long post, we want to share some memories with you! We hope the video will help you decide to visit this wonderful country!

You can support us by checking out our travel books. Thank you so much! 🙏

10 Responses

  1. what a remarkable experience. I love that you guys gave away extra clothes to the locals and that the whole operation helps the locals with their education! Mandela…what a funny looking monkey!

    • Nelson and Mandela are the best duo! Giving away some of the clothes is the least we could have done – and there is an option to do that in other places in Kenya, in the reserves, too. 🙂

  2. What a great experience and great way to learn about a culture! Would love to stay with locals sometime on my future travels.

    • Thank you, it is unforgettable! If you decide to head to this part of Kenya – we can help you arrange your stay with Rama’s family 🙂

  3. traveldejavu0
    | Reply

    This is certainly one of those things which I would love to do in my life! It helps to know the culture more and experience people’s emotions and how they are actually living their lives! Very Inspiring post guys! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you! 🙂
      This is one of the main reasons why we travel, so wanted to spread the word about those amazing people!

  4. Amazing post, I wouldn’t mind to spend a few days this way 🙂 And it’s so nice of you to give away your clothes to the people in the village – there is nothing like making a child happy.

  5. Luxury Travel Diva (@roquebrunoise1)
    | Reply

    Why a wonderful way to experience the country and its people. Memories to last a lifetime!

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