Monday, January 29

Karibu

Karibu. Welcome. I've now been in Nairobi a little over a week, so I suppose it's time to say something about it. Unfortunately, it seems I forgot to pack my cord to upload photos, so those will have to wait. There aren't any giraffes or elephants or zebras yet, so don't worry. There is a monkey.

I won't lie, it's not easy adjusting to life out here. The wireless signal in my apartment is only at 11.0 mbps right now and the connection is low. I have to share the laundry machine with the other folks in the building. The gym downstairs only has four stationary bikes. And the pool is kind of small. Thankfully, I don't pay to live here.

My apartment is in the expat-heavy Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, a few minutes' drive north of downtown. I'm staying in a colleague's apartment while she's in Sudan. A couple other folks I work with live in the same complex when they're in the country. I've got a big shopping center a block away, complete with grocery store, food court, movie theater and a Men's Secret underwear store. For an idea of the movie selection, Blood Diamond just came out here, and given the rest of the selection I regret having seen it already. There's a bunch of restaurants in the neighborhood, from Indian to Ethiopian to Thai to Wimpy Burger. There's probably even some local Kenyan food. Apparently it's also a big place for Westerners to drink beer, though I've yet to sample this bit of local flavor. I have sampled the beer. It's decent, better after a hot day.

If you're wondering why I'm here, I'm working for a few months with the Sudan program at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the same outfit I worked for this summer in DC. Their main programs are doing focus groups to gauge what Sudanese in different parts of the country think about the peace process, the new constitution, etc; educating the population about the new constitution; and distributing lots of radios. I won't bore you with the details, you can find out more about the stuff I'm working on here.

The office is in a nice house in the Lavington neighborhood. I get to practice my nonexistent Kiswahili with the driver on the way there. And with the 1-3 Kenyan women I share my office with. I mostly spend my day waiting for web pages to load, drinking mediocre tea and Nescafe, and listening to Kenyan radio on one of the hand-crank radios we'll be distributing. There's good reggae on, and not much else good. I did hear some country the other day. And that song that goes "to the left, to the left...everything you own in a box to the left". I hear that one a lot.

In fact, I went to the arboretum, a nice park here, for its 100th anniversary on Sunday, and amid the acrobats jumping through flaming hoops (seen it already), and traditional music, this Kenyan girl about 5 or 6 (i have no idea actually, I'm terrible at estimating the age of young kids, but she was tiny), started singing that song..."you must not know bout me...". She was way off key, I bet her parents were pretty ashamed.

The weather is just about perfect. It's steadily blue skies in the high 70s, which is about as hot as it gets here, though the air doesn't smell nearly as good as it looks. I'm sticking to my main priorities of getting marginally tan and not getting malaria (not hard here). Though I may add a new goal of not getting pulled over and shot by thugs with AK-47s. I actually drove past the spot where it happened the day before. Despite the almost daily reports of bank robberies and the fact that one doesn't walk outside after dark, it doesn't feel terribly dangerous.

Well, those are the basics. I'll do some more postings soon, discussing my disappointment with the franticness of downtown and the merits of Kenya's seemingly identical beers among other impressions and hopefully include some pictures.

9 comments:

Chris said...

Derek-- it's good to hear from you. Do you want me to send you some anchor steam?

Orion said...

Life in the bush is rough...when I was in South Africa I had dial up for like a month.

Korie said...

the song you speak of is none other than beyonce knowles' latest hit. Dont ask how I know, just take the information and let us never speak of this again

Lance Kramer said...

DK...great to hear from you man. Sounds exciting. Have an old fashioned mailing address over there?

aaron said...

keep listening to that radio--kenny rogers and dolly parton's 'islands in the stream' will come on one of these days. i guarantee it. third worlders love that shit. and, in time, you will learn to as well.

Nicolas said...

Good to hear from you Derek, and that you're experiencing life in a new place. Be safe, yeah? Look forward to hearing more tales from afar...

robin said...

Love the photo. Whose avant-garde artwork is that?

Tim said...

Please don't catch malaria.

Number 1 Billy Joel Fan said...

Derek - I look forward to the pearls of knowledge you will drop in my flute of champagne.