Friday, July 06, 2007

Men in Suits and other tidbits about Nairobi's city center

The first part of the city center that we came to must have been more of the business district because my first impression was that there were so many men in suits. They were walking quickly through the city, crossing streets in between moving cars. It was 2:20 in the afternoon, and I remarked to Meredith, "What are all these people doing? Shouldn't they be at work?" So many men in suits. Not many women at all.

We walked around the city for probably four hours, and the entire time it was go, go, go. Sooooo many people, and everyone pretty much had a place to go. Except us, we were wanderers.

And we wandered through what seemed like different shopping districts. At first, there were tons of photocopy shops. There was also a section for childrens' clothing shops. Appliances--one of those was called "Housewife's Paradise". We never saw a market with vegetables or fruits. No fresh meat or fish. Maybe we were in the wrong section of town, but it seems like we walked all over. (I found out later that we were just a couple of blocks from the city market...)

Crossing the street was an adventure in itself. First of all, they drive on the opposite side of the street than we Americans, so the first step is to look the correct way. There are crosswalks, sometimes, but mostly people cross whereever and whenever-kind of like New Orleans. It can be quite frightening. You think it is okay to cross but then here comes a "city hoppa" bus hurtling around the corner, scaring you back and leaving you in a cloud of its exhaust. But, despite all the crazy driving, we learned a quick lesson: When in Kenya, do as the Kenyans do--when they crossed, we crossed. And we didn't get hit, nor did we see anyone else get hit.

Before leaving for town, we had been warned by the lady at the hostel not to talk to anybody b/c they would try to con us. But I was amazed by how few people tried to talk to us. Only one man got to the point of asking our names, and we got asked once to go on safari, but that was about it. Actually, we had to ask a couple of people for directions, and one taxi driver offered help when he saw us glazed over our map (and didn't even try to get us to get to ride with him).

So yeah, we got a little turned around and lost. Meredith remarked that the city must have been put up in a hurry, without much city planning. Maybe that was true, who knows. But a positive thing was that there were street signs, and those proved helpful, but it was figuring out which way to walk on the streets that was the hard part.

We popped into a few stores to buy some essentials: laundry soap, shampoo, Cadbury's chocolate. A woman tried to sell me a bottle of Neutrogena shampoo for 900 Kenyan shillings which is over $10, maybe close to $15. I said, "no, no, no," and settled for the cheaper but still expensive Revlon Flex. We later found a wal-mart-esque store where they have everything and thought we should have bought the shampoo there. Oh well.

On our way home, it was rush hour. Bumper to bumper traffic. Hopefully I will be able to upload some pictures to show this. We were really tired by this point and every bus that passed and shot its exhaust in our faces made it worse. Finally back at the hostel, we both went to sleep until dinner.

All in all, it was an interesting day. Nairobi does not seem to be a tourists' city, as we only saw a handful of foreigners. There doesn't seem to be that much to do in the city itself. The one thing we were looking forward to most, the National Museum, is closed for renovation. It houses many archeological artifacts, like early human remains. What a bummer that it's closed!

So this weekend we will try to get out of the city a bit, but once our course starts we'll be busy and seeing anything but city. I think we're both looking forward to it.

So I was inspired by Nairobi to write a poem. I forgot what these types of poems are called but we usually wrote them in grade school for Mother's and Father's Days.

"Exhaust"-ion: A poem about Nairobi

N-Noisy and noxious with nice people
A-Ants on an anthill
I-Inundated with identical shops
R-Racing across roadways to avoid being run-over
O-Overwhelming and overcrowded
B-Bustling with black people and bright busses
I-Interesting, intriguing, but slightly short of incredible.

Maka ne'e deit...that's it for now. Hopefully some pictures will follow.

Love to all, especially my hubby,

Bek Abroad


Blogger T said...

Wikipedia is great. It's called an acrostic. (Actually, Uma, here in the office, knew it, I just looked up the spelling on wikipedia)

2:07 PM  

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