Expat Interview With Kara - US Expat In Kenya

Published: 17 Dec at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Kenya
Kara is a U.S. native who currently lives in Kenya, works in Public Health, and blogs about her adventures. (see listing here).

Work and Wanderlust

Here's the interview with Kara...

Where are you originally from?
I'm very lucky to be from the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Wherever I go, that will always be home.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm currently living in Nairobi, Kenya.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived in Kenya (primarily Nairobi) for about 8 months and am planning to stay for about another year.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to Kenya for a job working in Public Health research. I coordinate several research projects at an HIV clinic in Nairobi. It's exactly what I wanted to be doing, and the timing was perfect.

Did you bring family with you?
No family of my own yet (hence, the timing was perfect). But my parents are planning to visit in 2013.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I have lived abroad before and enjoy it very much, so this wasn't too much of a shock. Actually, moving and acclimating to Kenya was much easier than I anticipated, in large part because Nairobi is such a cosmopolitan, international city. There are people from all over the world based in Nairobi, and you can get almost anything you need from the grocery stores.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Nairobi has a very robust expat community. It is one of the reasons moving here was so seamless. It's great that there are always other people interested in going on adventures and willing to share rides. Now that I've been here for a while, I'm trying to integrate a bit more into the local Kenyan society. That part has been more difficult.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In Nairobi: Feeding giraffes at the Giraffe Center, petting baby elephants at the Elephant Orphanage, a day safari at the Nairobi National Park, and bargaining for souvenirs at the Masai Market.
In Kenya: A trip to the coast (Mombassa & Diani, or Lamu), hiking in the Great Rift Valley (Hell's Gate or Mt. Longonot); and safari (Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru).

What do you enjoy most about living here?
In general, living abroad feels freeing. Living in Kenya, specifically, feels like there's always another adventure to be had, just around the corner. Also, on most days I love my job.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Rent is comparable to that in various parts of the U.S. (Seattle). Other cost of living like transportation and food are cheaper, but not by as much as I would have expected.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Good cheese is nearly impossible to find. Also, Nairobi is a very transient city with people moving in and out a lot. While it's nice to have fresh faces who are excited about new adventures, it can be difficult (for me) to invest in lasting relationships.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Just go ahead and do it already! Don't stress about packing- you can find everything here. Also, please bring cheese.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I feel a bit guilty for being so far away from friends and family. California to Kenya is about as far away as you can get on the globe without falling into an ocean.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
For me, returning home is easy and without significant barriers or challenges. The only problem I encounter is a lasting nostalgia for wherever I've left.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
In no particular order:
1. Wear sunscreen.
2. Learn at least enough of the local language to look like you're trying.
3. Identify things that fulfill you in your alone time (reading, writing, painting, exercise); you'll need those to fall back on.
4. Have fun but remember that expat communities can be very close-knit. You don't want to burn bridges or be labeled the fool.
5. Always say yes. It will give you the best adventures and stories.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The URL is self-explanatory! For a while I tried to come up with a theme (like Public Health or art) to make it cohesive, but it's just comprised of the experiences that stand out to me, whether they were frustrating, wonderful, or comic. I do my best to make it something interesting for other people to read, but ultimately I'm writing this so I can look back on my extraordinary youth when I'm 80 and sitting in a rocking chair. And so my parents can keep tabs on my safety.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can leave a comment on my blog, under this interview or contact me at: contactkarahere{at}gmail-dot-com

Kara has her expat blog called Work and Wanderlust http://www.karasinkenya.blogspot.com/ which is very worthy of a visit. Kara's blog has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here which would love a nice review if you can spare a quick moment! If you liked this interview with Kara, please also drop her a quick note below.
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