This blog was created with the main goal to share stories about Kenya that many non-Kenyans and especially non-Africans miss out on because of a Western media sphere that relies heavily on single stories and clichés. The richness of creativity, art, fashion, music and entrepreneurial spirit that can be found in Kenya is not portrayed enough, neither is the limitless variation of things to experience and different lifestyle options. Not in proportion to how significant this eclectic aspect is, not in proportion to how much all other stories are told. More stories about a country as eclectic as Kenya can and should be told. And we deserve to hear them told from all the various perspectives available.
So this week MiKE has talked to a family living in Kenya but originally from Sweden – the Trygg-Andersson family. The intimate resort Kinondo Kwetu, is their creation and also the family’s home. Kinondo Kwetu is situated on the beach of the Indian Ocean on the south coast, 1 ½ hours ride south from Mombasa. The family’s Northern hearts seem to beat to the sound of the Kenyan soul and in this interview they share the lovely story about their life in Kenya and Kinondo Kwetu.
For any non-Kenyan who has fallen for Kenya, I believe there is a lot of resonance when reading their thoughts. Personally I felt goosebumps in my heart for days from some sentences. I am so happy to share this family’s story with you here on MiKE, because it gives a lovely insight into why many people who visit Kenya fall in love with this extraordinary country. Those of you who have experienced it will be able to relate. Those of you readers who have perhaps not been to Kenya yet will get a lovely preview of what awaits. And for Kenyan readers, take this (and this entire website) as a token of genuine great appreciation. Kenya, you amaze kabisa.
It is with great pleasure and mind traveling to sandy feet and the sound of waves that MiKE says: Meet Ida Trygg-Andersson from Kindondo Kwetu!
Ida, thank you for taking the time to talk to MiKE. Let’s start from the start… Tell us a bit about you and Kinondo Kwetu, how did this amazing story start?
IT-A: Filip’s family have had relations to Kenya since long back but never had the opportunity to visit. In 1997 a close family friend, Mrs. Tina Dyrssen, found and bought the beautiful spot that is now Kinondo Kwetu. A couple of years later, in 1999, we visited and fell in love and then we revisited again in 2004. During that second visit, Tina asked if we wanted to buy Kinondo Kwetu from her since she was unfortunately ill and could no longer keep the place. After a little family meeting we all happily accepted. At the time, Filip was freelancing as a music composer & I was in the film industry. We were based in N.Y., USA. Life was hectic and as a couple we felt we did not have enough time for each other. The decision was made to spend a year together in Kenya at newly acquired Kinondo Kwetu.
At first we just thought Kinondo Kwetu would be like a second home, to enjoy during holidays. But after seeing the demand for personal intimate beach places in Kenya, as well as our own eagerness to share the place and the experience, we opened the doors to guests in October 2005. We thought it would be great to have such an experience as a couple – but it quickly turned into an “addiction”. One year became two years which then became nine years! We arrived as boyfriend & girlfriend and now we are married and have two kids!
How would you describe the Kinondo Kwetu vibe? And is there any “typical” guest?
IT-A: No typical guests. We have 1-year olds and 90-year olds, couples, honeymooners, and big families. The one thing they have in common is that they are open-minded people and interested in experiencing culture & nature. It is great for us to be able to share our experiences with them. The vibe of Kinondo Kwetu is that it is “a home away from home”. Your own countryside house but with great service; laid-back barefoot luxury and always someone their to take care of you. Most of our guest have said that they feel the place grows on you day by day. We had a guest that explained the vibe well: “Slow luxury”.
How do your guests find out about you? Are they mainly from outside of Africa or also Kenyans?
IT-A: Most our clients are from Europe or the US. Our product suites those clients well. During off-season we have more Kenyans coming to us. We work with worldwide travel agents all over the world so people find us there, but a lot of our guests are repeaters and from word of mouth, which is always the best.
As someone with roots in another part of the world, what do you appreciate most about living in Kenya and also doing that as a family? IT-A: People in Kenya are very friendly and open-hearted. We have become a part of their lives and they of ours. There is a lot of happiness and laughter in the culture here. Everyone greets each other several times a day no matter how many times you have met. Also a big factor is that everyday life is just more simple when you live in a warmer climate – summer everyday! To be able be spend so much time outdoors is a privilege. Also, to work and live at the same place makes us close to the staff, the people and most importantly our children. To be able to have horses and dogs and go surfing before breakfast has become very valuable for us. I do love Sweden, and that will always be home, but Kenya is where my heart is.
The Trygg-Andersson family has established a trust fund, Kinondo Kwetu Trust Fund. The main purposes of the trust fund are to provide health care to the Kinondo village community and to support the education of children. The relationship between the Swedish family and the surrounding community is important to them. The fund sponsors and administers sponsoring of school fees in secondary school. The fund is at present establishing a computer-training center with the aim to educate children and adults. Through the trust fund a clinic, Kinondo Kwetu Clinic, has been established and it started its operation in November 2008. The clinic offers basic health care at a very low cost, a cost that is waived for those who cannot afford it.
Last year a new project, Malaika Cotton, was launched by Ida. Malaika creates textile products crafted by local Kenyan suppliers and designed with a Nordic touch. A great combination it seems that creates perfect harmony. The products are sold through a web shop.
Tell us about the projects that are connected to the hotel, there is Malaika Cotton and Kinondo Kwetu Trust Fund. What are the goals of these projects?
IT-A: We never started out with a goal in any of our projects. With the hotel we had a dream and followed it. With our Kinondo Kwetu Trust Fund we saw a need and wanted to help. I guess how it is with most things – you start small and time goes things always become bigger and better than what you had expected. Its been very much about enjoying the journey, and we still do! The only goal that always has been there has been to try to help with what we can, and to create work opportunities we have found to be the best way to help. More projects – more work for everyone!
If you travel in Kenya, which places do you visit? Or dream of visiting.
IT-A: Lamu is amazing, the island on the Northern Kenyan coast. Tsavo west or east – just a 4 hour drive up towards Nairobi from Kinondo Kwetu past the Shimba hills – with great game is always an adventure. Lewa, The Mara… there are so many beautiful places and they are all so different and I like them all. I still haven’t gone for a riding safari in the Chylu hills which is on my list for 2015 when both our girls can ride on their own.
What do you love about doing what you do in Kenya?
IT-A: The people, the freedom, the space. Its always a bit of a chaos wherever you go which makes me feel alive and close to “real” life and calm, however crazy that sounds. When we go back to Europe everything is ‘perfect’ and it makes me more stressed! There is no room for error.
What do you wish more people knew about Kenya?
IT-A: Most people talk about Africa as one country, “Africa is Africa”. “One country, one people and only problems”. People do not grasp the grandness of the continent. I do not blame people for that – I had the same impression before I actually came here. Media has a big responsibility for this impression. Africa is the second largest continent after Asia. If something happens in West Africa – it affects the whole continent even though Kinondo Kwetu is as far away from there as Scandinavia. Lots of people think of Kenya as safari only – but the beaches are magic! The sea life amazing… and its so diverse from one end to the other. The craftsmanship is great. There is entrepreneurship everywhere. People are always willing to help. To engage with the local community gives you a lot back, its a lot of laughter, and that is, what I believe, the most important thing in life.
Do you have some examples of Kenyan things that your guests from other countries fall in love with in particular – flavors or habits or styles or objects or music or something?
IT-A: The thing most people will comment about is the staff they meet at Kinondo, the guides they meet in the bush, the people in general, the openheartness, the willingness to assist. That people are so friendly.
Thank you so much Ida for sharing your family’s and Kinondo Kwetu’s lovely story with MiKE. You inspire me. Can I come work for you? Can I come soon?