- The Journey
Hello, ich heiße Faith. Ich komme aus Kenia und wohne in Kilifi. Ich studiere an Pwani Universität und ich……there goes my German!….
I learned of the exchange programme as I shared two classes with the German exchange students who had come for Sept semester in 2019. And as we did our group-work we would ask some of them questions on study and life in Germany. I was particularly impressed when I got to know that they also work closely with the Weike project that is geared towards alleviating women´s lives in Killifi so I was exhilarated when I got the opportunity to be part of this program.
“Hauchi hauchi hucha”….this is a swahili saying meaning the day we were awaiting for finally arrived. Although we were initially to travel on the 9th Mar 2020, we had to travel on the 12th March as I had some hitches regarding my passport and visa application process. I packed my suitcase that morning and really had to ensure that it weighed 20 kgs the weight allowed by the flight. I was excited to embark on this journey of new experiences and culture.
After having dinner with my family they saw me off to Moi International Airport and we bid our goodbyes. After check-in I met up with Jennifer my school mate whom I was travelling with. A long journey is much bearable with a familiar face. The waiting area was full of people so we tried being cautious with corona ringing at the back of my mind.
The flight was pleasant with friendly passengers.The food served gave me a glimpse of the kind of food to expect in Germany. Since I love scenery and landscapes so enjoyed the aerial view of the world below from the windows seat. Bye bye Kenya my motherland. I will miss you.
We arrived arrived at Frankfurt at 6:30 Am after a 9hr flight. As we stepped out of the plane it was quite chilly and it was drizzling. We got to a bus that took us to the check-out point. This is quite a big airport in comparison to the ones in Kenya, had it not been for Belinda who came to pick us we would have found it difficult to manoeuvre our way around.
Belinda works with Prof. Sissi Closs who heads the exchange programme in Karlsruhe and had been in contact with us and was very helpful. She had earier drafted a short guide “Karibu Ujerumani” of the basic things/information we should know prior coming to Germany.
We boarded a high speed train to Karlsruhe and as I was enjoying the scenery of green fields and houses that had a distinct structure of high roofs, I was perplexed to see small rugged and unkempt structures spread from to place that resembled slums. I was to learn the they were actually gardens that people who live in the cities own or rent that they may do gardening or let the children play.
Upon arrival to Karlsruhe Belinda drove us to Hadiko student hostels where they had booked for our accommodation. At the hostels we had to wait a while as the hausmeisters were no where to be found. One of them finally turned up, registered us and gave us the keys, showed us the rooms and gave us basic information of the place. We put in our suitcases and headed to Hochschule Karlsruhe as we had to do registration with the school. We couldn´t finish with the process as we did´nt have all the required documents so we decided to proceed with it on Monday.
We then went for lunch and had Yufka with soda. I liked the yufka which resembles “shawarma” coastal delicacy in Kenya I.e slices of meat wrapped in nan bread. The soda fanta really different
There after we went to an Aldi supermarket to buy food stuff that would sustain us till Monday and also had to buy sim card. The registration process of the sim cards was cumbersome and took 24hrs to get activated.
It was already evening when we were done with everything and we were too tired. Belinda left and we took a rest.
From the outside Hadiko looks like a standard student hostel just like in Kenya but what strikes me first was the number of bikes that I saw parked outside each block. Never had I seen so many bicycles parked together.
Growing up a bicycle was an essential commodity in every household and was used as a means of transport, and a source of income in the rural settings characterized by long distances without “matatus” where the youth could ferry people for cash. All this changed with the introduction of cheaper motorbikes “boda boda” and tuktuks from china which flooded the market. Well they are faster and easily accessible. Most Kenyans have two or three contacts of trusted boda boda guys whom we call when we need their services or just get anyone available on the streets……I digress back to hadiko…
My room L411 at K5 was nice furnished with the essentials, a big window, table, chair, small bed, a closet with sensor bulbs and a loved that it had a sink inside. Did I mention a tiny bed, at a width of 3 ft it was the smallest I had ever seen with an equally small duvet (die Bettdecke) that doesn't cover full body length. How people sleep with out toppling over is a mystery, I bet the tall people always sleep with their legs hanging out..haha. I later learned that this was the standard size for kleines Einzelbett.
I met Teddy (lady from Serbia) my floor representative who showed me around the floor. Each floor consists of 15 people with whom we shared the bathroom, a well furnished Kitchen, balcony and other equipment and storage. Everything was well labeled, the common things and personal marked with names and room numbers.
The students would put in a deposit of money that the can use to buy common commodities including food items, repairs and any other thing that was required. Also one could take drinks from the common fridge, use the washing machine, use the copier and pay at the end of the month. All that one had to do was fill out a sheet with your name and the number of times used. I found this very intriguing that people actually paid dutifully without having someone over it. I liked that Germans are generally faithful people who live by the rule and value responsibility, no wonder they don’t tolerate corruption. I wish I could say the same for my Kenya.
The rest of my flatmates were also friendly.We chatted about our experiences, different cultures, corona and how it had canceled most events at the hostels. They were also very ready to help in case one needed assistance .
- The Dilemma - Corona Virus
On the day we arrived in Karlsruhe we recieved an email stating that in view of the Coronavirus crisis the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts decided that the start of the summer semester at all universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg should be postponed to start on Monday, April 20 and that the school will devise other ways such as online learning to curb the lost time.
I really didn’t think much of it in fact I thought ooh more time for me to sight see Germany before the start of school! Little did I know that that was the start of the long journey of lockdown, closed facilities, travel bans and all.
On this regard on 14/3/2020 we received communication from Prof. Sissi that they had opted to send us back to Kenya for safety reasons. My heart literally sank, here we are just arrived into a new space and now we have to go back home! Corona really had chosen the worst time!
Anyway after long deliberations and exploring different options we settled on staying with relatives here in Germany at our own risks.
We spend the rest of the weekend mainly indoors and taking walks to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings and the cold of course.