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A Child of Yesterday: My Childhood in Kenya

Rhona Lewis

You’ve already read about the Nairobi Elephant Nursery. Did you wonder if children growing up in Kenya cuddle elephants all day long? Well, I grew up in Kenya and I can assure you that this was not the case. Like children all over the world, I spent most of my days at school. Outside of school, I loved swimming, hiking, and camping. And get ready for this … I never worried about buying the prettiest stationary or the cutest earrings because there were no fancy shops in Kenya!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Unlike most of my friends, who lived in large homes, we lived in a small semi-detached house with a tiny garden — my parents always said that we would move into a bigger home when we got to Israel! Everyone had servants: houseboys to clean the house, cooks, gardeners, drivers, security guards and nannies called ayas.

Today there are plenty of shopping malls in Nairobi, but when I was a child, there were no fancy stores. My grandmother used to buy most of our clothes and shoes in England and bring them to us on her annual visit. Luckily, she had great taste and a lot of siyata d’Shmaya: I always loved the things she brought me and they usually fit. Sometimes, I went shopping with my mother, but there wasn’t much to buy. My greatest “find” was a children’s clothing store. There, I bought a boy’s bow tie on an elastic cord and I used it to tie up my hair.

There wasn’t much nosh available, so one of our favorite treats was sugar cane. We’d first play with the piece of cane, which could be as long as three meters, and then we’d chop it up, peel it, and chew on the woody pulp till it got dry and tasteless.

One thing that Kenya always had plenty of was wildlife! Although we were never worried about meeting a lion in the garden, we did see elephants, giraffes, zebras, and lots of antelopes along the road to the airport that was just half an hour away.


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