Nairobi, Kenya - Polarsteps
It's Sunday, the last day of my first weekend in Nairobi. Even though I am still enjoying and experiencing interactions and the tropical surroundings with palm trees and singing birds, the romanticized image and state of excitement and joy when arriving to a new place gradually makes room for a realistic view on how daily life comes around here. And damn Nairobi streets are dirty. Filled with trash and a nagging sewage smell that suddenly enters your nose when breathing in it is a constant reminder that trash cans have not been introduced in all outskirts of the city yet. I am wondering whether initiatives like ‘Vuilnisoproer Nieuw-West’ are active here (a civil initiative my stepfather is engaged in Amsterdam to keep a park in his neighborhood clean: https://www.vuilnisoproer.nl/vuilnisoproer).
I get ready for the day and order an Uber to the neigborhood Westlands where I will meet my friend for a coffee at 10 am. And that is the second realization about living in Kenya: Kenyan time. For unofficial meetings one should be taken into account that people arrive late. Traffic is one of the reasons for this. As Dutch as I am I arrive at the Westlands Mall 09:55. My friend is still in the matatu (a local and small decorated bus usually playing loud music). As soon as I will be adjusted better here that will be my mode of transportation during daytime hours as it is way cheaper than a taxi service. I will take a picture of a matutu to give you an image of what it is. After almost an hour (with a certain level of irritation on my end) my friend finally arrives and I am thinking to myself to let go of my punctuality norm and just accept that time is perceived differently over here. We walk to a an Ethiopian restaurant surrounded by a beautiful garden (see picture 1). Ethiopian coffee is famous globally for its intense yet soft flavour but this is the first time I tried the traditional way of serving and yeah this was definitely worth it to wait an hour (see picture 2). Since lunch time approaches we decide to order some typical Ethiopian dish as well and the rich flavours create yet another happy moment (see picture 3). However, eating with my hands is still something I rather not do because I as a kid I learned that this was rude, besides if you are not a super experienced ugali-eater, hands can become very sticky. As long as there is soap and water to wash my hands properly I just have to go with the flow because this is how it goes here.
After lunch we reach the hectic Nairobi traffic again as I drive to my Kenyan family for a visit. Last year I stayed in a village with Angela and Jethro. Angela’s sister Mumji lives in Nairobi and hosted me during my last week in Kenya exactly a year a ago. I just heard that the Angela’s and Jethro’s daughters are also at Mumji’s place because there is a school holiday for 2 weeks, so I am really excited to see them again. The travel to Mumji is an experience in itself. She lives in Lucky Summer, a crowded area and to get there the car has to drive over uneven roads in small streets and the driver needs to drive slow and very careful in order not to knock over people or even a herd of goats (see picture 4&5 and the video).
The smell and trash on the streets is even worse here so I hold my breath until I reach the front door. We had a lovely time together, laughed, talked like yesterday was the last time we saw each other. IN the Kenyan culture one is considered to be family quite easily but with these people I have to say that they feel like family because we lived together and started to call each other sister and auntie (see picture 6). Kenya would not be Kenya without a delicious meal when a visitor comes to ones house. We ate rice, local vegetables and chicken although for now I am still staying a vegetarian (oh boy was I wrong to assume Kenya would make me lose weight). Mumji already taught me how to make some typical Kenyan dishes last year and I hope I will learn some more to bring these skills back to the Netherlands. They live very close to where I am currently staying so I will see them more often in the coming months to enjoy, learn and experience.
I might still be on a pink cloud with overall feelings of Euphoria to be back in Kenya, but this life is the reality for the coming months, and slowly I will be able to share and experience the downsides and challenges of daily life here. For now, nime furahi (I am happy).
Annes Internship at 2SCALE, Kenya