Saturday, January 4, 2014

Good bye Nairobi

The last day in Nairobi finally arrived. It's been a mixed bag of a visit. Some quiet moments,some awkward moments and sometimes I felt as though I were an overstimulated toddler high on sugar. My friend kept on apologising because I came to Nairobi while it was still asleep with everyone back at the shags or the coast or abroad. In spite of her misgivings I enjoyed the rhythm of the visit, it was good introduction to Kenya.I hope there'll be another visit in the near future.

Today I woke up in a village in Kikuyu. I had slept over at a friend's house last night and she stays in the Kikuyu area. Even though it was one night I got another picture of what it means living outside the hub that is Nairobi. The narrative is the same as many rural areas, subsistence farming, large space of land, bad roads. The village has water and electricity unlike many rural areas I've been to in South Africa. The drive to Kikuyu was interesting. There were butcheries all along the road. Carcasses lined up behind glassed stalls that are lined next to each other selling meat. One of the areas we drove through reminded me of the Alexandra/Houghtan barrier where an upmarket area is right next door a poor area. In this case Karen, a leafy suburbs is neighbours with an area that seems rough around the edges.

From Kikuyu we took a matatu to Nairobi and made it to the Masaai market in the middle of town. The Masaai market was overwhelming and hot with bodies everywhere. Like most markets everyone is selling the same thing and after  while the trinkets and African masks lose their novelty and it's just consumption of the African experience.

While in town I got to see a tamed version of Nairobi downtown. I caught a glimpse of Freedom Corner, Parliament, City Hall, the public library which looks exactly like the New York library. Turns out it's been closed down due to management issues or perhaps it's more complicated than that.

The day ended with a visit to the Muthaiga Country Club. A pink building nestled in the lush leafy suburbs in Nairobi. I was told Muthaiga is a step up from Karen. We went for lunch and my friend's mom met up with her friends for a birthday. My friend and I were the youngest people at the table and like true African children we listened to the conversation more than we spoke. We made polite contributions, but at times the conversation was too tantalising not to jump in. Part of the interest was the people having the conversation: educated, confident, middle class women in their 40s. The conversation went from having trouble with maids (or the help as they called them. Warning: if ever in Kenya, Kikuyu maids are gangsters, rather get a Luo/Luya maid) to women treating other women badly in the corporate world to the woes of marriage. While listening to the conversation I wondered to myself if I would resemble any of these women in 20 years time. I like them but there's also something very overwhelming about the prospects that come with being African, female and privileged (perhaps a post for another day)

As another trip comes to an end, I'm glad I splurged and bought a ticket to deepest darkest Africa. Turns out, it's not so deep and dark after all. Many people look like me and most people speak English thanks to the country's language policy. The trip allowed me to realise that there are indeed many narratives of being an African. And yes, I did see the Masaai clad in their traditional garb but I resisted the urge to other them and take pictures as though I were visiting a zoo.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An almost quiet new year

Yesterday and today were very chilled days.Apart from the stint at Brew Bistro (a club akin to Cubana back home) for the count down and a bit of dancing, the days were very quiet,something I've been longing for.

Yesterday we drove to Lake Naivasha which meant driving through the Rift Valley. The lake isn't spectacular but being outside and hearing the sound of birds, seeing animals-as cheesy as it sounds-was very good. We were chased away from Naivasha by the rain. The drive to the lake also meant driving through small towns (though I don't think of them as towns) with locals selling on the side of the road. The image of what we expect to see while driving through a third world. Natural tourist attractions seem to drive the economy and allow many people in third world countries and they allow tourists some respite from the third world realities that crippled development.
The rift valley

Lake Naivasha

Zack, our guide on the boat ride around the lake

Today I found the Karura Forest. It reminded me of Newlands forest in Cape Town. It's also the forest that Nobel Laureate Dr Wangari Maathai worked to preserve. I found the forest with the help of a boda boda driver, Bonny. A boda boda is a motorcycle that is used as public transport. It's not very safe but I was feeling adventurous. I later discovered that Bonny ripped me off badly. He charged me an exorbitant amount. I didn't hackle, I always feel guilty when I do so I let him exploit me.

I'm going back tomorrow to explore a little more as I realised the week is coming to an end and I will soon be back to my life and get ready for school