Getting Out in the City

So as you all know, I am quite the city boy: having grown up in LA, gone to school in the Bay Area, and currently residing in Washington, I’m used to the hustle and bustle of crowds and streets. Unfortunately the first few days of my experience in Nairobi were within the confines of the teaching center which, although quite nice, made me yearn for a chance to escape even more.

Thursday brought my first adventure past the DOOR gates into our neighborhood of Hurlingham. (As it was my first time out, I didn’t bring my camera along, but will do so as the excursions become more comfortable.) Yaya Centre is just down the street, a posh towers and mall complex that reminds me of London in price (yuck – see entry below), with the local Nakumatt just past that, a chain of stores that compares to a Super K-Mart. As I didn’t bring any money along, we just looked at what was available, with the knowledge that the fast-approaching weekend would bring some good shopping.

Saturday brought my first exploration trip to Nairobi’s CBD with a visit to the craft markets frequented by the Wazungu (white folks) and an exercise in haggling. As I had a Burundian along to help me settle on some fair prices, I managed to leave with some good snags for under $10.

On Sunday, I hailed a cab and zoomed down to ICC for church. Unfortunately the American pastor with whom NCC has a connection had to be at home packing for a plane trip that day and we didn’t get to meet up, but I had a great time nonetheless. Their church is going multi-site just after I leave, and they’re preparing for that with marketing and fundraising campaigns at the moment. I met with the Executive Pastor afterwards and a fashionable Kenyan named Vicki who invited me to join the young professionals group while I’m in town. I look forward to doing as the Kenyans…

Back at DOOR, I ran into some more Burundians and headed out for some more shopping, back towards Yaya and the Nakumatt. Food was first on the list, as there is no lunch service on Sundays around the teaching center. The produce here is fresh and cheap – good enough for me. I also managed to snag a Ritter Marzipan in the sweets section as a reward for getting into the city. The same market we saw just the day before had relocated to Yaya and upped its prices to match the middle class clientèle. However, as I now had six Africans to support my haggling practices, I managed to walk out relatively unscathed with some awesome Kenyan souvenirs. They guys were absolutely great – hiding me until it came time to pay, when the merchant knew that he had been had and tried to up the price at the last minute. They knew they’d get the next whitey, though, and didn’t give me too much trouble.

Paul, the center’s director, came back from Thailand today and gave me a warm welcome to the center. I’ve already got a list of questions for him a mile long, and hope he doesn’t get sick of this white kid before I leave.

Speaking of sick, I’m wondering if I don’t have a little something coming on – there’s been a tingle in my throat and I hope I don’t get bedridden with something long-term. Also, my dreams have been extra vivid recently thanks to the wonderful drug Mefloquine, the anti-malarial that I’ve been popping once a week. Let’s hope they don’t get worse.

In parting, I would like to note that coffee is my friend. Many of you are intimately aware of this fact, but I feel it should be stated for the record, as I had neglected to enjoy a cup for my first week here and finally picked some up while shopping on Sunday. Certainly instant isn’t my bag, but I’m grateful for the pick-me-up of a good jolt of caffeine in the mornings that it brings and will press on until I return to Europe, the land of people who steal coffee from Africa but make it taste oh so good.

Until next time, Peace.

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