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Exploring Geography: Kenya

Exploring Geography at Mama Smiles
I’m thrilled to announce that Exploring Geography is back, with a fantastic line-up of bloggers sharing places they love all over the world! Today’s post comes from Trisha, who loves meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. She and her husband, Patrick, have been to 4 different continents. If Patrick has his way, they’ll visit all 7. Trisha stays home with her 2 year old son, Aiden. She also writes science curriculum and blogs at Inspiration Laboratories, where encouraging learning through creativity and play is the focus. One of her passions is science education, so you can expect to find lots of science and nature ideas for little ones.

kenyan flag
{Photo courtesy of the CIA.}

This is the flag of Kenya. The center of the flag is a Maasai warrior’s shield covering crossed spears. The Maasai are one of the many tribes of Kenya.

My husband and I spent a week on mission in Kenya. We helped lead VBS for a group of foster children in Busia {western Kenya on the Uganda border}.

{map courtesy of the CIA}

We started our trip in Nairobi. We flew west by plane to Kisumu {on Lake Victoria} and traveled by bus to Busia {about an hour north of Kisumu – it’s not on the map}.

Here is the view from our hotel. The hotel served as a busy gathering place for the town.

view from Bumala hotel

Many rural Kenyans live in huts like this one:

Kenyan hut

Other Kenyans live in apartments, houses, or other small dwellings. It really depends on what they can afford.

Here is a musician we heard at the Kisumu airport. Notice he made his instrument himself.

musician at Kisumu airport

In addition to leading VBS for the children, we went on safari at the Masai Mara National Preserve.

The lion {simba} is the national symbol of Kenya {like the Bald Eagle is in the US.}


We were there in August during migration. Do you see all of the wildebeest on the savannah?

Savanna with wildebeests, impala, and thompson's gazelle

The Mara is home to the Masai people – one of the more than 50 tribes of Kenya.

Many of the Masai are still nomadic. They create temporary homes and move their village when they need to find food.

Masai village

Notice the brush surrounding the village. That provides some protection from lions. The Masai men also guard the village.

The Masai showed us a jumping competition. They are competing for a wife. The one that jumps the highest is declared the winner and gets to take the woman as his wife.

Masai men competing for women

The Masai women demonstrated one of their marriage ceremonies.

Masai women wedding ceremony

I absolutely fell in love with the country and the people. We were sad to leave, but hope to visit again someday.

To experience Kenya with your children, I have the perfect book.

For You Are a Kenyan Child does an amazing job of allowing the reader to experience life as a child in a Kenyan village. Follow a little Kalenjin boy through the village visiting people along the way. Meanwhile, he’s supposed to be watching his grandfather’s cows.

Swahili is incorporated into the book just as it would be if you were there in person.

The author teaches you the meaning of all of the Swahili words in context. There is also a page at the beginning of the book explaining how to pronounce the Swahili words. {It’s really easy. They really sound like they are spelled.}

The national languages of Kenya are English and Kiswahili {a version of Swahili}. Kenyan children first learn to speak their own tribal language. Many also learn to speak the language(s) of neighboring tribe(s). Then, in school, they learn to speak Kiswahili and English.

Want to learn some Swahili?

Jambo means hello. It is a more formal greeting.

For You Are a Kenyan Child introduces the greeting Hodi? which essentially means “Anybody there?” You’ll hear the response, Karibu, which means “Welcome!”

Una taka chepati? {Do you want a pancake?} Ndio. {Yes.} Pronounce the “n” sound first; then, dee-oh with emphasis placed on the di {n – DEE- oh}.

For You Are a Kenyan Child is one of my favorite children’s books. My son has loved to read it since he was around one. It has colorful pictures and a great story. Aiden loves to hear the Swahili words. I think his favorite word is ndudu, which means bug.

Here is the description from the jacket of the book:

Imagine you live in a small Kenyan village, where the sun rises over tall trees filled with doves. You wake to the sound of rooster’s crow, instead of an alarm clock and the school bus. Your afternoon snack is a tasty bug plucked from the sky, instead of an apple. And rather than kicking a soccer ball across a field, you kick a homemade ball of rags down a dusty road. But despite this, things aren’t that different for a Kenyan child than they would be for an American kid, are they? With so much going on around you, it’s just as easy to forget what your mama asked you to do!

I hope you enjoyed learning about Kenya!

Kwaheri! {Goodbye!}

Thank you, Trisha, for this fantastic post! We read “For You Are a Kenyan Child” some time ago, and loved it. Definitely time to read it again! Check out Trisha’s blog for a variety of wonderful ideas for little ones, especially having to do with nature and science! Here’s one of my favorite posts from her blog: What Can You Learn from a Cardboard Tube?

Are you interested in guest posting for this series? Please email mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com, and I will send you more information!

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

19 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Kenya”

  1. As an African it makes me sad that representations of the countries in the continent are so stuck in the rural. Kenya has a vibrant urban life and indeed over half of the continent lives in cities. I wish more emphasis would be put on these spaces as well!!!

    It is almost as if Europeans and Americans refuse to acknowledge the similarities in ways of life in Africa – we have iPads, iPhones, laptops, internet, cable TV, high-rise buildings, stock-exchanges and the latest models of BMW’s etc etc etc. Yet all the focus goes to hut and weird dancing and lions. Lions which are in game reserves not wandering around wild, and small groups of people such as the Masai, who are more of a tourist attraction than anything else, and who are often practicing medical doctors, lawyers and engineers as well.

    1. Hi Lauren,

      I would love to have you write a post representing this side of Africa – that’s part of the purpose of this series. All I ask is that you keep it child-friendly and use photos you took. Let me know if you are interested.


  2. My parents are back packers and as a child we travelled with them one of our trips was to Kenya and it was so magical – to see the people, the animals and the wilderness that you only see in books and in film was something that I just coming back to time and time again.

    My husband has never been to Africa and Kenya is one of the places we have on our to do list to take J and T as a family

  3. I just got a new student from Kenya (I teach in New Jersey, USA) and she is having a hard time adjusting to American life at times. I hope to show parts of your blog to my class AND read the book to them so that they can understand a bit more about her AND so she can see how we are trying to understand her a little bit too. THANKS for sharing!!!!

  4. Very cool guest post, it’s like The Lion King in real life with the wildebeests and lions. It seems like a hard life to move a whole village but then again our lives aren’t the easiest. Thanks for a fascinating look into Kenya.

  5. Elisa | blissfulE

    How cool! The jumping competition looks amazing – I wonder how the bride-to-be feels about it!?

    1. For this particular competition, they chose one of the women from our group to jump for. The village chief won the competition, and he gave her a piece of red cloth and some jewelry. I think she felt a little awkward to say the least. I’m sure the Masai women feel differently though. :)

  6. This is a place I’d love to go someday! We have a book called “Follow the Line Around the World” and one of the places is Kenya. It’s a great book for starting to talk about geography! I’ll have to check out the Kenya one recommended here.

    1. We really enjoyed the book Trisha recommended when we read it a while back – need to borrow it again! I would also love to visit Kenya, someday!

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