American Expat Living in Kenya - Interview with Rachel

Published: 26 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Kenya
Rachel is a (mostly) stay-at-home-mom who's involved in orphan care in Kenya. She loves travel and adventures. Rachel's expat blog is called a Kenyan-Texan family (see listing here)

the Kenyan-Texan family on an island created at low tide, near Malindi
the Kenyan-Texan family on an island created at low tide, near Malindi

Here's the interview with Rachel...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from the USA, born and raised in the state of Texas

In which country and city are you living now?
Kilifi, Kenya

How long have you lived in Kenya and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived in Kenya for 2 years. I spent the first year in Mombasa and have been in Kilifi for a year. We're going to stay here indefinitely.

Rachel and her husband at a Kenyan wedding
Rachel and her husband at a Kenyan wedding
Why did you move to Kenya and what do you do?
My husband and I were sent to Kenya to start a ministry to orphans. We have kids of our own, so he does most of the ministry work, while I stay at home.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my husband and our two small boys.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I've lived overseas before, so I had some idea of what it feels like. It's an adventure!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I'm an introvert, so meeting people and making friends is never easy for me, but I think Kenyans are easy to meet. They are compelled to greet every person they see. My husband is Kenyan, and most of our friends are also Kenyan.

the Kenyan-Texan family at the Great Rift Valley
the Kenyan-Texan family at the Great Rift Valley
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Kilifi is on the coast, so there are a lot of coastal attractions - snorkeling, sailing, sunset dhow tours of the bay, and of course eating fresh seafood. Nearby are the Amboseli-Sokoke Forest, Gedi Ruins, and Mida Creek to the north; and Mombasa, Haller park (where you can feed giraffes), and Ngomongo Villages (where you can learn about local customs) to the south. There are also, of course, game drive safaris. Tsavo East and West are the closest parks in this area.

What do you enjoy most about living in Kenya?
I love the beach and getting to experience my husband's culture first-hand.

How does the cost of living in Kenya compare to home?
Ultimately lower, but there are some things that cost more, such as owning a car.

the Kenyan-Texan family in front of bougainvillea
the Kenyan-Texan family in front of bougainvillea
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Kenya?
While there are some better quality hospitals, medical care in general is not very good. Utilities (water, electricity) are not reliable. Also, as with many other countries in this day and age, terrorist attacks happen.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Kenya, what would it be?
Find or set up a self-sustaining home - borehole or well, lots of rain water storage, solar or generator back up power.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Coping with the utilities companies is the worst. (We still haven't become self-sustaining.) In Mombasa, we might go a week without water, but our water storage tank was big enough for us to survive that easily. However, we lost electricity several days each week, and sometimes for a week at a time. In Kilifi, electricity is a little better (still goes out but not as much) but we went 3 months without running water.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
The last time, I had only been overseas for 1 year. This will be longer. I'm afraid I might be a little out of control taking advantage of the conveniences of life in the US.

Rachel at the beach when the tide was out
Rachel at the beach when the tide was out
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Expect that after the newness of moving to Kenya wears off, you will be very frustrated. Remember that, although it's different from home, it's not all bad.
  2. Cops will stop you in the road, looking for a bribe. They may make up a problem with your car or driving. Sometimes they're happy with just getting a bottle of drinking water from you.
  3. Don't expect consistency in Kenyan-owned restaurants - chef turnover is very high and every chef has their own recipes. Expat-owned restaurants are excellent.
  4. Kenyans call people by their titles - job title, position in the community, or parent of (insert child's name). If you're white, your most important title to them is "white person" (mzungu). It's not an insult or a slur.
  5. Stay away from demonstrations. Kenyans love a protest, and they happen all the time, but with the mob mentality, things can become violent without warning.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I blog mostly about parenting topics, including parenting as an expat. I also blog about our adventures at interesting locations around Kenya, about marriage (sometimes with a focus on cross-cultural aspects), about topics that relate to orphan ministry, and about Christianity.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can comment on my blog or Expats Blog listing or tweet me.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRachel is an American expat living in Kenya. Blog description: 1 American, 1 Kenyan, 2 sons. Here are the adventures of a Kenyan-Texan family.
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