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Things I Won't Tell My Mom (shoot, she's probably reading this)

My first boda experience in Kenya occurred on a wet morning, in the pitch-black darkness that is the 5 o'clock hour, on uneven dirt roads winding through the rural farmland of Isibania, Kenya.  I was wearing the broken helmet of a former Kiva Fellow who had been in a motorcycle accident in exactly these conditions.

The beauty of being a person afflicted with many fears is that is doesn’t take much to experience an adrenaline rush.  In this situation, I might as well have been free climbing Mt. Kenya for the amount of dopamine that was rushing through my brain.  My fear of motorcycles started at a young age, after hearing my mom repeatedly use the term “murdercycles” to describe horrible accidents she witnessed as an E.R. nurse. Being a cautious person by nature, and, thus, an easy kid, that’s all I really needed to hear to avoid motorcycle riding all my life…until now. 
After hearing that boda was the only mode of transportation in Isibania, I had been sick with anticipation for the next several days.  Now here I was, facing my fear in the least safe way possible.  And do you know what happened? 

I enjoyed every second of it. 

Not to say I didn’t look ridiculous, awkwardly grasping the seat with all my might, holding my breath with every turn and bump, twisting my face in the unattractive and contorted way that I express anxiety .  Despite my obvious tension, it was an exhilarating experience to drive in the dark of the morning, with no sounds except for the rumble of the boda, and the cuckadoodledoo-ing of the roosters echoing through the land.  I fell in love with Kenya this morning, or at least with the peace and calm of Isibania.  I was riding through the sleepy countryside as it woke up.  I was with Julius, a Kenyan who knows the land like the back of his hand.  He introduced me to farmers plowing the land, showed me crops that were being planted, and took me to the most breathtaking views in the area.  It was the highlight of my experience in Kenya thus far. 

Of course, I have to conclude with a disclaimer:  my phobia exaggerates the actual danger of the situation, and the boda driver had everything perfectly under control.  Someone else in the same situation might not even give it a second thought. See, Mom?  It’s all good!  By the time you read this, I will be back in Nairobi, safely taking cabs and matatus again. 

About the author

Stephanie Skinner

Born in Pittsburgh, Stephanie Skinner received her B.A. from Kenyon College, followed by an M.A. in psychology from San Diego State University. After nearly a decade in community mental health, Stephanie shifted her career path to photography. Guided by a multidisciplinary background in the social sciences and art, Stephanie uses photography as a device for social change. A common theme in both her research and clinical background is the identification of barriers encountered by underrepresented populations, and the process by which individuals may be empowered to overcome these barriers. Her ambition is to convey the struggles and successes of individuals through captured images, both to give voice to underserved people, and to spread awareness of global issues. Stephanie has been involved in small-business initiatives throughout California, which inspired her interest in Kiva’s mission to alleviate poverty through microfinance lending practices. Stephanie is excited to travel to East Africa this summer as a Media Fellow with Kiva.