A Weekend in Nairobi!

6 Aug

I’ve experienced my first weekend in Nairobi and my first trip to the heart of the city!

On Friday, I rode in a Matatu – they are privately-owned minibuses that are known for aggressive driving and blaring loud music. Let me tell you, that is exactly what I experienced! While asking for directions to a bus station at my guest house (and getting nowhere), a woman my age offered to escort me into the city as long as I paid her Matatu fare (which is less than 40 cents). What kindness! In the end, the trip took at least 2 hrs out of her day. Most of the trip, I was laughing, wondering how on earth we had not crashed into another car.

A drive that would have taken 5 minutes took 45 minutes, due to dreadful traffic. Nairobi has a big traffic problem, and while Chinese corporations are building roads 24/7, there are too many cars, trucks, buses, and Matatus to avoid gridlock traffic. Oftentimes, roads are closed without warning and directional signs are nonexistent.

This scene is not abnormal – notice the drivers are outside of their vehicles, not expecting movement anytime soon!

There are also very few traffic rules that carry weight on the road. Police officers do not pull you over for speeding, there are no traffic lights, and drivers basically do what they want. Sounds appealing – If the whole microfinance thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to become a Matatu driver!

I hung out in downtown Nairobi both Fri & Sat with these 3 dudes (from left to right, Robert, Charles, Me, John) –

They have been a strong welcoming force for me and have taught me much already – including tips to stay safe on the streets of Nairobi and historical/cultural things. They showed me all the main sights of the city – the Parliament and Judiciary buildings, the burial site of Jomo Kenyatta (1st President of Kenya), the Times Tower (tallest building in Nairobi), two parks, and the City Square.

Here is a picture of me in Uhuru Park with the Nairobi skyline behind me –

Both nights, we relaxed at a bar called “Jazz Restaurant,” which ironically enough plays no jazz – only rap and r&b hits from the 90s and early 2000s. The more I learn about Robert, Charles, and John, the more I like about them. They all have distinct personalities tied to the tribal relations of their families!

John is attending Nairobi University in the fall – here is a lawn in the center of the campus grounds –

We crossed a footbridge over an old railyard that separates downtown Nairobi from the Industrial Area. The city of Nairobi started as a supply depot created by European builders of the East african railway, located at mile 327 from the coast, at high enough altitude to avoid malaria from mosquitos!  Scott’s assistants warned me that crossing to the other side is not safe – they guarded around me as I took this picture of the abandoned railyard –

Found an ATM and now I have big money! (sadly, this is not worth $10,000 – it is roughly $107) The watermark verifying real 1000 Kenyan Schilling bills is a drawing of an elephant and a lion! FYI – Chase overcharges on international ATM withdrawls ($6-7) – my local credit union is a lot cheaper (less than $2) to withdraw funds!

It’s been a joy getting to know more and more Kenyans over the weekend – they are full of life. Tomorrow I visit a village with some of my Maono co-workers.

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3 Responses to “A Weekend in Nairobi!”

  1. Charles Onyango August 17, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Thanks a lot dude,this is a wonderful work keep it up

    • Ben August 17, 2011 at 12:24 am #

      Thanks for making me feel welcome in Nairobi!

  2. pablo June 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    sounds kinda cool!

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