Friday, July 15, 2011

East Africa Day 60 (Tues July 12): First Full Day in Nairobi

Woke up this AM, and asked the hostel staff to point to our location on a map of Nairobi. Ah, we are in the northwest quadrant, kind of on the outskirts of town. I get instructions for how to get to the nearest likely Safaricom store, so that I can buy a new cell phone. The Yaya Center (a Western-style three-story mall) is within walking distance of the hostel.

When I get there I find out that it does not have a Safaricom store, but I get directions for how to get to the closest one in the city center, via the city bus. (Which I had not taken, but heard was a good way to get around.) I checked the Announcements Board for apartment rental notices, and found a few posted by realtors that might work, though I really don’t know which neighborhoods are better than others. I copied down a few numbers , at least feeling like I was off to a good start!

Turns out that taking the bus in Nairobi is pretty much as simple as taking the bus in San Francisco, and just about as comfortable. A nice woman sitting next to me helped me figure out when I should exit the bus, and I found my way to a Safaricom store, and purchased a new cell phone. Believe it or not, when I looked around I actually knew where I was – back in the neighborhood that I stayed in, on my very first night in Nairobi, before taking the bus to Uganda! So I walked around checking on the nearby wireless internet cafes that I’d identified when I was staying in the nearby hotel, back in May. Unfortunately the one I wanted to use was undergoing maintenance (again), but I found a cyber café in the shopping center. I opened my email account, and found an email from Lucy who I’d met through Kiva Fellow Michele in Kampala, introducing me to her friend Ashley who lives in Nairobi, and the very awesome website that she’d used to find the apartment that she shares with Michele in Kampala. I already had an email in my inbox from Ashley, who said that her roommate was looking for a new roommate, that she loved living in the apartment, and that I could contact her roommate, and here was his email address. Amazingly, her roommate Max was online at the time that I emailed him, and within two hours I’d gone to see his apartment – which happened to be in the neighborhood – and met his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s friend, Honey, who are amazing women!

After looking at the apartment, Honey sat with me while I got a California-style burrito at a café that I’d heard good things about, and told me her story. Her parents are Arab and Somalian. She and the other twelve members of her immediate family have been granted American citizenship because they are refugees, and are moving to the USA this fall, where she hopes to attend university in Massachusetts. It was hard to keep track of all of her accomplishments, but she’s interned for UNHCR in refugee camps showing documentary films about health issues, and seems to have a friend from every country on the planet:) I am so excited to be here, surrounded by so many interesting, inspiring people! I thanked Honey for “adopting me” and then headed back to the hostel via the same bus route.

Back at the hostel I met a Polish traveler who’d just graduated from Columbia University Business School, who is returning to his Park Slope apartment soon to start his new job. He’s using his signing bonus for approximately six months of Africa adventures, before starting work in January – sounds like a good plan to me! He had just been in the DRC – didn’t necessarily encourage me to visit there, this summer. I then met a Canadian volunteer who’d been doing some water purification volunteering through the organization “Innovative Canadians for Change.” I haven’t looked it up yet, but I like the name:) Had a great conversation with the wazungu couple who own the hostel, and learned that their dogs came from the Kenya Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And yes, the KSPCA takes volunteers! And yes – I talked with Max after he got home from work – he works at the World Bank – and he said that I can move in tomorrow!

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