Andover’s Rebecca Rayner, 22, is in Africa for three months as part of an International Citizen’s Service placement. The Poppy Close resident will be working with local entrepreneurs to start and run their own businesses to create sustainable development, and here is her second report about her experiences for Advertiser readers...

KARIBU’, my host mum said, gesturing for me to enter my new home for the first time, “You are very welcome here.”

The bright lilac walls and big comfy sofas brought warmth into the large room. It reminded me of visiting my grandma as a young child, whom over a lifetime collected enough musky teddy bears to fill a large charity shop.

The whole experience felt very surreal. How are you supposed to feel arriving at a complete stranger’s house, knowing this is where you’ll be living for the next few months? What if my host Mum doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like the food? What if she can’t understand what I’m saying?

“This is your bedroom,” Virginia said, with a joyous grin across her face. A room with two double beds, one with a satin pink throw nestled in the corner and one with a flamboyant lime green quilt next to the window. As I unpacked my belongings and lay sprawled on a sea of lime green, my nerves amplified into intense anxiety. My Kenyan counterpart Clem on the other hand wasn’t even fazed by the whole thing and gleefully unpacked her bags into the stiff wooden draws lined up against the wall.

The first few days were a little rocky. Like any situation adjusting takes time. The perfected performance of the day-to-day routine was lost on me. What was done when, what was eaten when and who was in and out the house when? Slowly things once foreign to me started to make sense. It took time to become accustomed to washing dishes with a bar of soap and a cloth, boiling a bucket of water for a shower and mastering the art of navigating the pitch black garden in the middle of the night in the sobering tango to the long drop.

At the end of each day the three of us sit at the large dining table for traditionally Kenyan dinners. A lively exchange of Swahili darts between Clem and our host mum. Some nights I sit in silence, eyes widened trying to take everything in and failing. At times it can feel like you’re floating in a bubble in space, isolated from the strange world unravelling around you like an old tapestry.

My life has become intertwined with moments of sporadic voyeurism. You can feel removed from the situation like an outsider looking at your own life through a window, acutely perceiving all goings on but emotionally detached from accepting it is your own reality unfolding.

Other days I’m firmly in the moment. We laugh together, shovelling extra helpings of stodgy ugali onto our plates. Virgina’s English is limited but she tries to include me as much as she can. One morning she presented me with a huge bunch of bananas after I told her how much I love them. Once she asked me if I knew how to cook spaghetti, something she’s become unexpectedly fond of, which led to me introducing her to Bolognese.

Living in a host home is the perfect way to become immersed in another culture. By staying in a hotel you may receive the unrealised luxury of your own company, but what do you really gain from that? As I stood in the kitchen, surveying the thousands of ants marching around like an exuberant parade at Disneyland, it dawned on me that this house, a place that was once unknown and unfamiliar, feels a little bit like mine, a little bit like home.