In the summer of 1995, a family of five from Albany, Oregon set out on the adventure of a lifetime. They had volunteered to manage the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi East Africa for three months. Together they left the comforts of home behind and traded it all in for jet lag, culture shock, third world country challenges and the chance to meet new people and make lifelong friends and memories. In his book 2700 Hours in Africa: Managing The Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi, author Ellis J. Stutzman, a self-proclaimed “constant student of Africa,” presents his family’s experience in such a way that one might be tempted to book a flight to Africa after finishing the last page.
[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Pacific States Management
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]
Who will love this book? Memoir fans, anyone who has been or is planning to go to Kenya and people who enjoy reading about unique travel adventures will find themselves immersed in Stutzman’s writing. He mixes in travel facts and figures (i.e. specific animal species travelers can see in the Tsavo National Park and brief histories of various African cities) with plenty of interesting and amusing personal anecdotes using a friendly, conversational tone. The first part of the book details the sight-seeing opportunities the family had in Kenya before taking over the management of the Mennonite Guest House. Next, readers learn what the family did to keep the house running and how they immersed themselves in the culture of Africa. Topics include guest management, shopping for supplies, employing a staff, dealing with cultural surprises and more.
Stutzman splits the book up into chronological chapters based on loose themes (i.e. dealing with sickness, activities pursued by the family on their day off, life at the Guest House). One definite highlight are the 25 color photos and 11 black and white photos that show images of the Stutzman family, the Guest House and its employees and some of the memorable adventures they all had together during their 2700 hours in Africa. There are a few noticeable punctuation, grammar and formatting errors that interrupt the flow of the story, but these can easily be fixed with the help of a good editor. Three extra short stories at the end of the book written by Stutzman’s brother and sister-in-law provide more insight into Africa and its unique culture.
Ellis Stutzman and his family personally sacrificed much to be able to give back to many during their time in Nairobi. They arrived knowing just a few contacts and returned home different people because of the positive impact the African people and places had on them. Interwoven into each chapter’s stories are broader themes of living in the now, making the best of every situation and finding humor in difficult times.
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