Day 3 – Nairobi City Center

Today marked our first trip into the center of Nairobi, a day I’ve anxiously been looking forward to. The instructors made our excursion interesting by handing us a list of goals to accomplish on our trip. My group was assigned with the task of interacting with people of different backgrounds and learning about their life in Kenya. It sounded a lot more challenging than it actually was. It was about a ¾ mile hike to the bus station from the compound. The wither was beautiful! High 70’s, partly cloudy sky. The sun here is so unbelievably warm, you can get a tan in a matter of minutes. We had to be cautious on our trek to the bus. Traffic laws are very lax here. Drunk driving is not enforced but taking on a mobile is, imagine that. We have to be very careful when we walk anywhere because of the maniac drivers but all the roads are bordered by a clay foot path from heavy pedestrian traffic, so we just stick to those. We must also watch out for termite vents, large holes in the clay that the termites dig to cool their underground lairs. Sometimes the holes are as big as 6 inches across and you can easily step into one if you aren’t paying attention. The bus took us 20 minutes east to Nakumatt Junction where there is a very westernized shopping center. We had a cup of coffee, African coffee is fantastic and very strong, and we had a quick lunch. The shopping center was far too civilized for us so we decided to continue our journey onward to the center of the city. Nairobi is a city of about 2 million. From a distance it appears very modern with its glass high-rises and brand name buildings, but closer inspection reveals a city that is still developing. For every few nice glass and steel towers, there are two ramshackle markets or business. Many of the roads are broken or in severe disrepair. Construction projects are not marked off and a person can easily wander into a hole in the sidewalk. I can’t imagine being blind in this country. The people we encountered were very friendly, as all Kenyans have been. On the bus we talked to several people who happily pointed us in the right direction. Two gentlemen asked us to pay their fair while simultaneously making fun of us in Kiswahili. We didn’t find that out till they got of the bus, but we weren’t offended. I can’t stress enough how friendly the people are. They are very fond of their country and are interested to know what brings us to Kenya. I only wish people in the States were so welcoming. In the city center we found two very nice shops that sold artwork and jewelry. The owners are very good at persuading a sale, whether it be through sweet talking or sob stories, they don’t let up. It was so much fun to haggle with the shop owners and I felt very accomplished having talked a man from 6100 shillings (95$) to 1100 (18$) for a shirt and banana paper painting. After spending a few hours on foot and becoming more comfortable with exploring the city on our own, we headed over to the United Kenya Club where we listened to a lecture from Professor Muriuki on the history of Kenya. He got a few good shots in at the archaeology team and Dr. Barthelme, calling us grave robbers and not history seekers, but it was all in good fun. His lecture was incredibly informative and I took pages of notes. We headed back to the compound for dinner and then a few of the guys and I relaxed with some Risk and Tusker beer. Tomorrow we will be traveling to Nairobi National Park, I’ll have more then. Hope everyone is well!

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