Friday, June 26, 2009

The City

We're getting close to the end of our first stint in Nairobi on this trip. After some safari and ocean time, we'll be back here for a couple of days to wrap things up.

Before the trip I was prepared to be the new guy while Hayden seamlessly rejoined Kenyan life in a familiar place. But aside from the people she knew when she was here before, nothing is the same. Not even her beloved Norfolk Hotel downtown, which is still beautiful and colonial and somewhat exclusive, but has been corporatized by Fairfield Hotels. So in a way, Hayden has been experiencing Nairobi for the first time as well. At least the massively built-up, congested, sprawling Nairobi that we have come across.

Nairobi is a bit of a mess. It's wonderful in a chaotic third world city sort of way, but there are a lot of issues to solve, not the least of which is the traffic. Most of the people we know here never go to the city at all. They live and work in the outskirt communities like Westlands, and they never have cause to go downtown. And why would they? A 10km drive can take an hour or more. So the communities around Nairobi are poised to become their own stand alone cities. It makes me wonder what will happen to the downtown core as the suburban flight continues.

Other uplifting topics of conversation: tribal violence, a rampant Somali financial grab of Kenyan properties (driving up real estate prices). drought, climate change (bringing, among other things, malarial mosquitoes to an area previously untouched by the epidemic), pollution...the list is long.

And yet, it is absolutey beautiful here. Nairobi National Park is right at the edge of town, and villages and communities along the red dirt roads are wonderful.

As I write this we are getting ready to head to Cura for a day with the kids. Tomorrow we fly to the Mara for some serious tourist safari action and then off to some other places that Hayden knew but that are probably unrecognizable: Lamu and Malindi.

I know Hayden is hoping that whatever is causing my narcoleptic behavior in the evenings will go away, but not nearly as much as I am. About midweek I just started getting tired in the early evenings and couldn't fight it. Here's hoping it's just a little jetlag hangover.

While Hayden has happily sampled the cooked flesh on this trip, I have avoided it so far. Last time I ate meat it made me pretty ill, so I'm not keen on trying it here. But I have to say the Chicken and Chips sound pretty damn good...


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