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COMING TO KENYA

Kenya is East Africa's largest economy. It is also the most relatively stable country in the region. Kenya got independence from Britain in 1963 and It is divided into seven provinces. For more information on Kenya visit www.bbc.co.uk. You can also check out the latest news on the rest of Africa at www.allafrica.com.

Leaving one's home to move to another country is a huge step that requires lots of planning. Below are some vital information that may be of help as you get ready to come to Kenya.

Weather

Despite the fact that Shade School of Language and Culture is only about 80 miles south of the equator, it is often quite cool for much of the year because of the high altitude. During June, July, and August it isn't unusual for the temperature to drop to approximately 40 F (8 C). During January, February, and March the highs are rarely higher than 83 F (28 C). Nairobi is usually 10-15 degrees warmer than Limuru. Mombasa is hot and humid (90-100 F or 32-38 C) during December-April and warm (70-85 F or 21-29 C) during June to August.

Although the amount of rain will vary, the entire nation has two rainy seasons. The long rains are from the end of March until the end of May or the first of June; the short rains last from mid-October until mid- to late-December. As you plan for your time in language study, remember these seasons. No matter what time of year you will be at SSLC for language study, you will want to bring at least a jacket or sweater. If you will be here during the period of June to November, autumn clothes will be suitable. Even if you won't be at SSLC for language study during the cooler months, put warmer clothes in your crate. Don't assume that because you are going to Africa it can't be cold; you will be cold at SSLC from June through August!

Bring raincoats, umbrellas (umbrellas can be purchased here at reasonable prices), rubber boots, etc. Good, reasonably priced boots for children can be purchased here. For adults, gumboots, designed primarily for outside work, are also available.

Despite the cool air at SSLC, the sun is very intense. Someone once described the highlands of East Africa as a cool land with a hot sun. Because of the altitude, there is less atmospheric protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Bring sunglasses, sun screen (at least SPF 15), and a brimmed hat to protect your nose, ears, neck, and (if you have this problem) your baldhead.

Time Difference

Kenya is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or 8 hours ahead of Eastern, 9 hours ahead of Central, 10 hours ahead of Mountain, and 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. During Daylight Savings Time, we are 7, 8, 9, and 10 hours ahead, respectively.

Power

The electrical current in Kenya is 240 volts, 50 hertz (or cycles per second). At times the voltage can vary from 200 to 265 volts. Voltage regulators/stabilizers are available in Kenya, but they are imported from Japan and, therefore, expensive. Several people use them for computers. Electrical outages and brownouts are common in certain parts of the country.

Health Issues

Medical care is generally very good in Kenya. There are highly qualified pediatricians, general practitioners, internists, dentists, dental surgeons, optometrists, and ophthalmologists in Nairobi. Most drugs and medicines will be available in Nairobi -- sometimes they are cheaper, as well.

However, before heading out, you will want to seriously consider getting immunizations for yellow fever, tetanus, rabies (especially for children and adults who jog or walk), hepatitis-B, measles, polio, and meningococcal meningitis.

For information on malaria visit http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/. You can also check the Center for Disease Control regarding medical matter for travelers to East Africa on their website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Money

The Kenya unit of currency is the Kenya Shilling (KSh). The shilling is divided into cents -- 100 cents per shilling. Notes with values of KSh 50, KSh 100, KSh 200, KSh 500, and KSh 1,000 are currently in use. Coins are in values of KSh 20, KSh 10, KSh 5, KSh 1, and KSh .50 (fifty cents). Check for the most up to date exchange rate of the shilling at http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter

When bringing cash, note that the newer, larger-faced US$50 and $100 bills dated later than 1999 are preferred in Kenya as old ones can be rejected. In theory, all of the smaller denomination notes are accepted, but the exchange rate will be lower. Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not exchange foreign currency at the airport -- you will get a much better rate at some foreign exchange bureaus (We recommend The ABC Forex Bureau) or even a bank in Nairobi or Limuru. If you do have to exchange money at the airport, use the Barclays' Bank office (to the left as you face the exit from customs) -- their exchange rate has been consistently better than other banks.

Driving

Driving in Kenya is on the left side of the road and the driver sits on the right side of the car. Almost all cars have manual transmissions that you shift with your left hand. If you are not used to driving a manual transmission vehicle, get some instruction and practice before leaving home. That will help your transition to East Africa go more smoothly.

If you intend to drive in Kenya, bring your country's driver's license and an international driver's license or you will be required to take the driving test to be issued a Kenyan driver's license.

Alternately, you can travel around Nairobi and the country using public transport. However, it can be dangerous and more expensive in terms of actual cost and sometimes time consuming compared to owing a car.