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Nairobi Living

November 14, 2011

I have most likely officially slowed down on the expected blog posts of exciting adventures while traveling in Kenya because on November 2nd we began our Independent Study Project (ISP) period! ISP is one of the reasons I chose to study abroad on this program in Kenya and we basically have one full month of no classes to pick a topic that interests us and write a kind of mini-thesis after conducting our own research in-country. I chose to stay in the city of Nairobi and do my research on the social attitudes, educational opportunities, and governmental provisions for individuals with autism in Kenya. As I started contacting autism professionals in Kenya, I’ve realized that my study could really be renamed “Autism in Kenya” because looking at those three areas is basically the entirety of the disability in the country (what have I gotten myself into??).

 

The cultural barriers to finding accurate information have definitely been challenging but after my internship this summer with the Global Autism Project, it is helpful to already have a connection with a school in Kenya working with children with autism. I think I have probably tracked down everyone who knows what autism is and is attempting to treat it in the city of Nairobi and have a full schedule of meetings for the next two weeks to find out everything I can. This Saturday I went to a meeting of Autism Awareness Kenya, an organization created by teachers and parents to increase awareness, tolerance, and programs for children with autism. Not only do the parents and teachers want to meet with me to talk about their experiences but when the director of the group sent around my contact info, I woke up this morning to multiple phone calls and messages asking when I was available to talk to them about my research.

I do worry that the scope of my project is a bit too big to complete in the next three weeks but I am definitely going to give it my best shot. I could really use a few more months here to have everything organized and ready but 2 more weeks of interviews and 1 week to write up my work will have to work.

I am really enjoying living on my own in Nairobi! I am in an apartment with 5 other girls and we didn’t move very far from where our school and home stays were located before ISP began. I am getting to know Nairobi really well and am finally able to navigate the city using matatus, the main form of public transportation here, without getting too lost. Cooking for ourselves and watching movies after long days of research are also really awesome and “Nairobi Nightlife” has taken on a whole new meeting for us at Marakwet Garden apartments (we aren’t advised to go out in the city because of Al-Shabaab threats and Kenya’s current situation with Somalia).

Our first apartment dinner!

I am LOVING it here and can definitely say I’ve adjusted to life in Nairobi. It goes without saying that I’m already used to having reliable internet, running water, and a flushing toilet by now. That being said, there are definitely things I am missing like autumn leaves and planning for an American Thanksgiving with my family. This has been one of the best and most rewarding decisions I’ve made about my studies but I can safely say that on December 10th I will be excited to board the plane and head back home to New York. I have seen so many things and met such great people that I know all of it will stick with me for a very long time and I can’t wait to share it all with everyone back home. My next post will probably be about our Thanksgiving in Kenya adventure so wish me luck on that one!

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