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Anna G. Larson, Published July 19 2012

A glimpse at daily life in Kenya

FARGO – The Erhardts took their three young children with them halfway around the world – no easy task. Immersed in a new language, culture and thousands of miles from home, the family learned to live in a whole new way.

“It was our first time moving away from our Fargo home,” Lindsay said. “It was a big adjustment for us.”

Ben, 8, was eager to learn the language (Swahili) and people’s names. He collected baseball gloves prior to leaving the U.S. to give to children in Kenya.

“He was just a rock star,” Lindsay said. “He really enjoyed introducing Kenyan kids to baseball, his favorite sport.”

Describing him as an introvert who likes personal space and boundaries, Lindsay said Collin, 6, struggled during their time in Kenya.

“Kenyans, culturally, like to be extremely close to you,” she said. “It was overwhelming to him, but he started opening up more during last three months.”

The youngest Erhardt, Alayna, 1, speaks Swahili and enjoys African food.

“It’s been an adjustment for her to come back here and eat new foods again, but all of our children are doing really, really well,” Lindsay said.

The whole family speaks Swahili daily, and they often reminisce about their time in Kenya.

“It’s been a joy seeing our kids make friends from all over the world and learn about other religions, countries and cultures,” Lindsay said.

The family was quick to adjust to its new home in Kenya. In fact, their Kenyan home wasn’t much different than a typical Fargo home.

Stucco-sided and located in a wealthy area of Kitali, the western-style home has locking doors, multiple bedrooms, glass windows, concrete floors, an indoor fireplace, furniture, a bath tub, shower and flushing toilet. Although not turned on all day, electricity and running water are available.

While settling into the home was easy, adjusting to the culture and living conditions outside their home was a challenge.

“We spent the majority of our time learning how to live in Kenya,” Lindsay said. “It takes a long, long time to do that.”

The Erhardts’ home drastically differs from a typical home in the slum, Lindsay said. The Erhardts pay $400 a month for rent. Composed of cow dung, mud and sticks, homes in the slum usually cost $2 to $3 a month to rent. Floors are made of dirt, and roofs consist of a tin sheet. Mattresses are rare since they cost $50, and homes often don’t have windows. If they do, the window is a square cut out of the wall with a few sticks to provide support.

“You don’t see a range of incomes,” Lindsay said. “You see extreme wealth and extremely low income.”

Visiting the slums, Lindsay learned that men dominate the properties. If a woman is married, she typically moves onto her husband’s property.

“If her husband dies, his family has the right to take over his property, and the husband’s family sometimes takes the children, too,” she said. “But, children are generally seen as a burden to support.”

Birth control in Kenya costs 50 cents to $1.20 a month, and families often can’t afford it.

School fees are typically $4 a month per child. Families usually can’t send any or all of their children to school due to the cost, so they send them to beg in the street.

“The kids either get money or food to bring home,” Lindsay said. “Sometimes they take rotten fruit and vegetables to sell for 1 shilling each, which is less than 1 cent.”

Exposing her family to Kenya is something of which Lindsay is proud.

“It’s much, much different than I ever thought it would be,” she said. “We have so much to be thankful for.”