Jonas Lähnemann
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Letter from Kenya
Nairobi, February 15, 2005

Dear friends,

I had planned to write an e-mail for Christmas, but then I was busy traveling. So here comes a short account of my experiences in Kenya during the last four months.
It's almost a year ago by now, that I was accepted for the Berlin-Nairobi-Exchange program. Every year three physics students from Berlin go to study at the University of Nairobi for two semesters. A backward exchange was not possible this year, because of lacking funds, so also I didn't get a scholarship, but my parents offered to pay also for this year abroad. We are in a pretty special position as there are only few other foreign students at Kenyan universities and no others from Germany, as far as we know. Also in the science campus and physics department we are completely among Kenyans. So it is a very intense cultural experience for us.
I live in a six square meter room in the students halls of residence with only a wooden wall to one neighbour - I could not have imagined that I would get used to this so quickly. I even cook in my room on an electric stove. Around us live so many other students that it's not hard to socialize.

Quite many things are not the same and you need to get used to it. There's the slow Internet and even slower bureaucracy which sometimes are real tests of patience. Unfortunately this bureaucracy seems to be quite a bottle-neck in this country and especially at the university. Then there's the business districts in and around the town center, where the skyscrapers and office buildings look pretty much like in Europe or the US, while in many estates on the outskirts the streets are not paved and many areas host slums. Other things are very pleasant, like getting roasted corn or peanuts everywhere on the streets or the fresh mangoes, bananas and vegetables. Everyone is ever ready for talking a while (can however make days unproductive). Anyways I'm pretty much enjoying.

The university is not exactly of the same standard as in Germany. I mentioned the problem of bureaucracy and some lecturers seem to care little about the quality of their lectures, while others are even pretty good. Facilities are however a lot less advanced, hindering research and studies to a certain degree.
I have started to do a project, which is comparable to a research internship, on spectroscopical ozone measurements.

A considerable amount of the last four and a half months I have spent travelling around the region, where I saw too many exiting things to write about them all. The landscape is very beautiful, but differs a lot between different areas. I've been two weeks to Uganda and after christmas two weeks in Tanzania (especially on Zanzibar), to the Kenyan coast and on shorter trips. The absolute climax (literally and geographically) was hiking up to the third highest peak of Mount Kenya at 4985m, where one finds snow just a few kilometers south of the equator. On the coast a spent a few quiet days on Lamu, an island without cars and a beautiful old city, where it was nice to relax and sail on a traditional Dhow.


PS: Pictures from Kenya and my tours to Tansania and Uganda

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