Kenya, Nairobi the adventure starts

The  first48 hours in Kenya

It’s a bit strange really to travel somewhere without a potential narrative in my mind. Usually I know enough about a place to form some expectations. Although I probably know more about Kenyan society than most tourists, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how it must feel, so I tried not to. Most of the time it feels like someone attached a high-pressure hose to my brain, pumping in colours, sounds and smells which for now go in without really being processed.

All those letters, don’t you have a video, so I don’t have to read them all? Sure we have:

So for the time being I’ll restrict myself to a more or less prosaic approach and just tell you what happens.
Airport immigration on Wednesday night was uncomplicated, the adventure started with our cabbie. Of course we ended up with an unlicenced driver, who could only close the trunk after a dozen tries. Maybe not such a good idea to leave the gear bag in the back. Just outside the airport we come across a police checkpoint. Lots of big boys with big guns, carrying their AK47s with a demonstrative laidbackness that’s very suggestive of their willingness to use them. Driving a Mzungu (suaheli for white guy) and an apparent Jamaican (one of my companions has dreadlocks) is enough to stop us. At some point the driver disappears with the policeman behind the car, obviously to transact some business, even though he insists he didn’t pay anything. There is one moment of doubt – a little fear even  when the car wouldn’t start again and I start to imagine what could go wrong on this empty dark highway on the outskirts of Nairobi. But overall I’m enjoying this immensely, probably because I’m to naive and coddled to know the dangers we’re possibly facing. I finally start to freak out when the hotel is not there. There’s a sign there all right, but no lights, no guard, nothing. Luckily the neighbour’s guardsman knows the new name and location right across from the vice-presidents’ compound. Long story short,in the end they’ll reimburse us for the extra-amount we had to pay our cabbie, but gave us no further compensation, and they were quite rude explaining their point – so, the Karen Inn or Bush House and Camp or whatever name they appear under next is not really recommendable.

elnino

And then there is that….

The next day we mainly spend setting up some local simcards and mobile-payment-accounts. Kenya’s Safaricom was the first company to introduce that technology on a wide scale, which is probaby why Vodafone bought  Today almost all Kenyans have an m-pesa (pesa is the suaheli-word for money) account, enabling them direct transfers to other individuals and payment in shops. We take one of the everpresent and very colourful busses into Nairobi proper. I keep craning my neck this way and that, a 1.000 things demanding my attention – tombstones shops displaying their wares on the roadside, furniture stores in selfmade two-floor shacks, a different breed of church on every corner. The shopsigns are of course all hand-painted and everyone chooses a big name for their enterprise, religious or otherwise. Traffic is relentless and it becomes clear that this is most definitely not a city to ride a bike. Not only is everyone riding on the wrong side of the road, but traffic lights seem to be a mere suggestion and if want to have your right-of-way you have to take it. Already choking on exhaust fumes it seems to be a good idea to have a smoke, only no one is smoking on the street or anywhere. They have a serious anti-smoking law in Nairobi and you could theoretically go to jail for smoking in a non-smoking area. A friendly guardsman of a copy-shop offers to take us to the back of the house where we could smoke, not for free of course, so we decide to look for a smoking centre. These are tiny busstop-like structures we smoking is allowed. Good thing we did, because he’s what; there we meet a guy George knows from Berlins Mauerpark. The occasion isn’t an entirely happy one, since the once stylish Berliner has been deported back to Kenya and obviously fallen on hard times.

nairobi-roadside-tombstone

Katrin who will travel with us part of the time arrives late at night and we prepare for the next stint of our journey to Thika and Donyo where we will evaluate a project for leapfrog, Her and her boyfriend’s NGO, in which they financed and conceptualised basic computer training in a rural community.

scaffolding

 

Next up: Part 2, Where I am visiting the leapfrog NGO in Donyo and take a look at the most beautiful dumpster in the world

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