The Bare Necessities 

The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.

Living in a new place comes with its own quirks and characteristics that take adjusting to. Before coming to Juja, there’s so many things I didn’t think I could survive without for three months. 
Things I’ve Learnt I Can Actually Live Without 

  1. A fridge (luckily milk & eggs aren’t refrigerated here)
  2. A microwave
  3. More than one burner
  4. (Any burners actually – candles work)
  5. A light in the bathroom
  6. A toilet seat (do you even squat?)
  7. More than one outlet
  8. Drinkable tap water 
  9. A washing machine/dryer (#buckets)
  10. Seatbelts/traffic lights/any form of orderly fashion on the roads
  11. WiFi

Things I’ve Learnt I Can’t Live Without

  1. Chapatis 
  2. Avocados for $0.15
  3. 3 cups of tea a day
  4. Headphones to drown out the mosquitos while you sleep
  5. Good food 
  6. Good company
  7. Oh and chapatis

Hello, My Name is Irene

Scratch what I said about the lack of culture shock. Juja, which is located 36km northeast of the capital, is 36km too far. This tiny city of barely paved roads, enough dust to clog your lungs, and only calf deep water when it rains, is where Jomo Kenyatta University (or JKUAT) happens to be situated. 
Growing up in the GTA, never in my life have I felt like a minority. But here, I get called Shakira, offers to purchase my hair, and stared at more than any introvert can feel comfortable with. Aside from that, I’ve realized my parents were very wrong when they thought Erin was a simple, easy name. So from now on, I’ll be responding to Irene. 

In this strange land of triangular milk, businesses located inside shipping containers, and eggs that aren’t refrigerated, I’ve gotten to meet some of the best people. Rayyaan aka “the Swahili speaker” who I knew from before, is the other WHE intern here, and also happens to be from Kenya. In a brand new place it’s been comforting having someone familiar with the way of life here. There are also three other students from Ivey; Ange “the grandma” (cool grandma, of course), Cici who I admire her unfiltered nature, and Armin who’s a little like Shrek (ogres have layers). If it wasn’t for them I honestly don’t think I’d be functioning here. 

The internship component is moving slowly and I still feel like I have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing. On the plus side, all this free time has allowed us to bond over the quirks of Juja (and plan our weekend escapes).


One thing that really drew me towards this particular internship is that it’s based near Nairobi – the birthplace of my grandmother, and also the NYC/Toronto/Mumbai of East Africa. 
Africa had never really been on my bucket list so I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. I was lucky enough to get to travel with Christine, who’s also interning with WHE. With a little bit of confusion before my flight, I hadn’t confirmed a place to stay upon arrival. Thankfully my uncle had a good friend in Nairobi who welcomed a complete stranger into their family, and for that I’m forever grateful.

Their daughter Maya is 17, spunky, and happens to attending university in Alberta this upcoming September. After staying up till 5am chatting, we quickly became friends and she told me everything I needed to know about life in Nairobi.

What surprised me was my lack of culture shock. With a bit of free time before heading the Juja for the internship, 12GB of data for $30, a few more familiar faces arriving, and a nightlife scene that puts Western to shame. Nairobi is quickly beginning to feel like home. 

Predeparture jitters

So I’m new to the whole blogging thing. I mean, I’ve only spent the last four hours trying to figure out my nifty new WordPress account. (Someone please tell me if these posts are actually, well, posting..)

I fell off the creative writing bandwagon somewhere between The Great Gatsby and a 12th grade essay on King Lear. So this venture off from scientific research papers and APA format is unchartered territory. As a self-proclaimed introvert, the mandatory blog post component of this internship makes me a little uneasy, but we’ll give it a shot.

But first, let’s backtrack a little and see how I ended up here to begin with.

Some impulse decisions get you a new purse, mine, I end up en route to Africa. I came across the Western Heads East internship application a couple days before it was due with no real intention of applying. But of course when it’s midterm season you look for anything else to do so I screenshotted it and sent it off to my parents. And with that, I submitted my application at the prompt hour of 11:53PM before the deadline.

After receiving my acceptance email I thought I’d be more excited but instead the fact that I’ve never actually lived anywhere other than Ontario, let alone another continent quickly set in. I’d just signed myself up to be halfway around the world for the majority of summer, wouldn’t be able to see my family and friends, and had no idea who the other interns even were. I contemplated declining the offer several times until I finally realized, whether I end up loving or hating my time away, at the end of the day it’ll just be a learning experience and help me appreciate all we take for granted in Canada.

One swahili lesson, a couple bumps along the way, four very painful vaccines later; and I can’t believe it’s a week away from departure. There’s still a lot left to do, but the nerves have subsided and myself (and Pinterest board) are ready to tackle Africa.