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house guests

Arriving Sunday night, mere hours before Kenyans headed to the polls to vote in a new government, our latest visitor had to wait several days to actually see us, as we both left Nairobi to serve as election observers. The last presidential election in 2007 set off a three-months long wave of violence that left more than a thousand Kenyans dead and displaced half a million others. Yet, while international NGOs relocated staff out of Kenya and the State Department put out travel warnings about the potential dangers of coming here, Chris – who is doing a one-month long cardiology rotation in Nairobi to cap off his residency – decided that this was an opportune time for a visit.

Emmie had not yet grown accustomed to strangers when Courtney, one of our first visitors, spent a weekend with us two summers ago.

By most accounts, we’ve had more than our fair share of visitors. A colleague once told us that no friends or family members had come to visit her during the five years she had spent in Africa (two years in Nigeria and three in Kenya). We, on the other hand, have found ourselves with house guests virtually every month. In addition to the fifteen groups of visitors from back home, we’ve also hosted several friends we had made playing ultimate, who’ve stayed for 2-3 weeks with us before securing more permanent housing in Nairobi.

Growing up, S’s family frequently hosted exchange students, some for just a summer and others for a full year. And even when S no longer lived at home, friends of hers from high school and even a friend from Costa Rica would come to stay at her parents’ house for months at a time for graduate internships or just to visit. In college, S got turned on to couchsurfing – a community of travelers who open their homes to other fellow travelers. S enjoyed several excellent homestays while backpacking in Europe and South America and returned the favor by hosting others in Maine and, from time to time, in Chicago.

Since Nairobi is a transit hub, it has become second nature to host people, particularly as we are fortunate to have two guest rooms in our State Department-issued townhouse. A friend from S’s grad school days who now lives in western Kenya spent a night, as did a friend from D’s training class who had come to Nairobi for a few days from Kigali. On several occasions, we’ve hosted various Seattle-ites working for One by One, where S used to work, who travel through Nairobi on their way to western Kenya. Some are close friends and others we met for the first time when they walked through our front door.

We feel fortunate to have had so many visitors in a country that is half a world away for most of our friends and family. We hope this trend continues when we relocate to Eastern Europe.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Just found your blog. I Love that you’re a traveling family. My family grew up all over the middle east and the finally moved over to the western hemisphere – I miss those days. Gluck on your adventures!

    March 6, 2013
    • Glad you’ve enjoyed our travel tales – there’s plenty more of them to come, so happy reading :)

      March 6, 2013
  2. I love having people come visit when we are living overseas. It is one thing to blog about it and chat endlessly on Skype about what it is like living in such a different place, but to have friends/family come experience it first hand thrills me! Plus, I love how having people visit forces me to see our city through their eyes, seeing the exciting things, the quirky things and the daily oddities that have somehow come to blend in to my daily existance!

    March 8, 2013
    • Thanks Michelle, we couldn’t agree more – especially with your last point about rediscovering the out of the ordinary in what quickly becomes a routine once one adapts to life in a foreign country.

      March 8, 2013

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