The largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, borders Kenya on one side. In Nairobi, we don’t hear much about the lake because it’s far away and it’s not a big tourist destination. But when my husband and I were in Western Kenya for his work, we saw how important the lake was regionally.
We visited a fishing village, where everyone’s work revolved around the lake. We saw men setting traps and nets to catch the fish. We saw them repairing boats and nets. Women washed the freshly caught fish, dried the fish in the sun, and carried them into the village to be traded and sold. Even children, free on a Sunday morning, helped their parents with these tasks.
In the U.S., my dad has a house on a lake, but we use the lake for recreation– kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing for fun, not for our livelihood. I think this illustrates one of the major contrasts between life in the U.S. and life in Kenya. In the U.S., many Americans are not deeply connected to the natural world. Many of us appreciate nature, we enjoy swimming in the ocean, or fishing in a lake, or hiking up a mountain, but most Americans do not directly depend on these resources for our day-to-day survival. In Kenya, many people do.
In spite of the major differences between a lake in Kenya and a lake in Maine, being on Lake Victoria made me miss the peaceful pond by my dad’s house. It’s one of the tough things about living so far from home: I can never predict when homesickness will strike. (Who would have guessed that visiting a small fishing village on the equator would make me homesick?)