Jul 13, 2007 KE Kenya

I must apologize since I have been in Nairobi for a week now and have not blogged! But fret not, I will make amends. There is so much to write already, I don’t quite know where to begin, so I guess I will start from the moment I stumbled off the plane from London after a sleepless overnight journey. Landing in Nairobi at the rude hour of 6am it was still dark and looked cold. Hmmmm I thought, I have only brought one jumper with me, oh well I am sure it will warm up during the day! Oh how I was wrong. Turns out this is the coldest month of the year- but keep in mind when I say ‘cold’ it really does not dip below about 60F, so all is well. Although it has been overcast everyday, it hasn’t rained yet, thankfully.

Ok so I managed to get through immigration no worries, grabbed my overstuffed backpack from the baggage claim, bought some Kenyan Shillings, and headed out into arrivals. This is where things went a little pear shaped, basically I ended up waiting in the small and somewhat dingy arrivals area for about 90 minutes, at 8am I braved the crowds and squeezed through to the information booth to make an announcement to see if the Action Now Kenya (ANK) people were here and just couldn’t find me for whatever reason. I was standing at the booth, when this nice ex pat lady approached me to ask if I was alright. To cut a long story short, these fellow Brits took me into town, and I went to their house for the obligatory cup of tea and a biscuit. Then they helped me find a hotel in town so I could rest and contact ANK. It was all pretty funny, but I was so jet lagged I just wanted to crash!

Eventually I got in touch with Irene, the Director of ANK and she agreed to pick me up on Saturday ( July 10th) for a tour of the city. So after a big dinner and a long sleep I was refreshed and excited to meet Irene and see some of the city. She picked me up from my hotel and took me to ANK’s headquarters- which are about 10 minutes from downtown Nairobi. We went upstairs and spent a good time chatting over some sweet Kenyan chai (tea) and some freshly made chapatis (sort of like a thick crepe, but savory) After that, Irene and I went on a mission to find me some lodgings for the week, and after an exhaustive search all around the hostels of Nairobi I settled on the YMCA since it was close to town and to ANK’s offices.

So on Sunday I moved into my new digs, and prepared for my first day at work. Irene ordered a taxi to come pick me up Monday morning since I had no idea where I was really, or how to navigate the Nairobi’s bus ‘system’ – I use that word lightly since in no way do the buses here run on any sort of schedule, and many change their routes and prices everyday-. Monday morning, I promptly arrive at 8am and grab a cup of chai since Irene and the rest of the staff had not arrived yet, and relaxed in the cafe that sits at the bottom of our office building. I spent Monday meeting the other 3 staff members, and going over Kiva files and getting more acquainted with the clients.

Now this brings me up to Tuesday- where after a long day at the office- getting to meet a few of the clients- I braved the bus for my journey back. Costing only Ksh20 (about 31cents) it is very cheap, however, the buses probably aren’t really up to scratch in terms of their safety and they pump out fumes , adding to the already horribly pungent and polluted air that sits on top of Nairobi city center like a huge blanket. But I prefer the buses since the Matatus seem more dangerous to me, always weaving around the traffic, very cheekily, and not very concerned about laws or rules of driving!

So I got back to my room, and was relaxing reading the quintessential ex pat read – ‘Out of Africa’ – when the light bulb in my room died a slow and painful death. Great I thought, of course this would happen to me! So I checked the switch in the bathroom too to see if it was the bulb or the electricity supply. Unfortunately it was the electricity, so I marched up to reception and told them of my theory. One of the hotel staff came to check it out, and he announced that the infamous Kenya Power would have to be called. All of a sudden images flashed in my mind of either; my room combusting into flames, or me having to lug all my gear to another dismal room. So I retired onto the veranda of the hostel that looks out over the swimming pool, and had some chai, and a surprisingly good sausage roll, and awaited my fate. Two hours later I ventured back to my room to see if it was in ashes or not, and luckily there was light! Just another typical day!

This is turning into a real essay, so I think I will write about Wednesday and then give it a breather! Wednesday morning I thought I would grab some tea from the hostel since I had some time to spare before I caught the bus. I discovered, to my delight, that the hostel offered a free hot breakfast. I thought it was awfully cheeky of them not to have told me this when I checked in, so I sought some sweet revenge by trying to eat as much food as I could physically manage. Finally got my first taste of mandazi a lovely Kenyan donut, its less sweet and more crunchy than the usual fare, but delicious nonetheless. Ok thats about it for now, its lunchtime and the chapatis are waiting!

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