1.14.2009


And now I live in Nairobi.

Actually I'm still at a hotel, where every night I get to play my favorite new game, "Let's Not Get Malaria." You get points for however many mosquitoes you can kill, bonus points for finding the holes they're getting through and blocking them, and negative points for every bump you wake up with - one on my forearm and one on an ear this morning. I can't wait to get an apartment, hopefully one with actual screens on the windows, if I can hold out such hope.

I really hate sleeping under mosquito nets, but I suppose I need to get used to it again.

Nairobi's smaller than you originally think. Even for its size, its a bit intimidating - after all it does have 3-4 million people and is the 4th biggest city on the continent. Its a huge hub not just for NGO work but also governmental, business, and culture, although I'm not sure where to find the best of the latter yet. The climate's pretty moderate as its just below the equator, and a strong British presence remains here from days of old (which my palate of course appreciates deeply). But city-wise, it just doesn't feel that big - I'm not sure how else to explain that, but once you work through the uncertainties, it almost feels manageable.

Its called "Nairobbery" by many, given the rising crime rates in the last couple decades, attributed probably in equal parts to the massive urbanization / growth, combined with your sadly typical police / government corruption that does little to punish criminals anyway. I won't be posting the US State Department travel warning for the city like I did for SA and Zim way back when (I'll be fine, mom) - suffice to say this is where the embassy attacks occurred and Kenya's no further from the middle east and the general spread of Islam now then it was a few years back. WVI requires I undergo security briefing, and they require security analysis of the compound where I pick an apartment, and I'm trying to find a German-Shepherd friendly one at that.

84% of Kenya's population is native Kenyan - one ethnic tribe or another, leaving 15% of other African, and a whopping 1% of non-Africans, the majority of which I can pretty safely guess are Indian, probably followed by Europeans. I'm in a minority of a minority here, but at least most of that minority is here in the city.

The people are generally pretty friendly, but everything - EVERYTHING - is slower here. You have to talk slower, move slower, wait longer, and not get impatient. People get frustrated when you move too fast for them. Its like I've written about before - the one thing that the African has no paucity of is time. Its a completely different paradigm. My fast-growing grasp on Swahili has been helping me considerably this time around.

45% of Kenyans regard themselves Protestant, another 33% regard Catholic. Those are just estimates, though, and estimates on Islam range from 10% to as high as 45%. And 100% drive like they want you to die. Fortunately traffic is so incredibly bad in Nairobi - again, the rapid urbanization, combined with the almost complete lack of infrastructure development in that same time period - that its many times difficult for anyone to work up enough speed to kill you. Unless its a mutatu (minibus taxi), which only have 2 speeds: stop, and death.

5 comments:

Annie said...

Thanks for the update. It calls for more prayer for you!! So interesting. What a way to practice patience! The picture was beautiful. MM

bethanylynne said...

Thanks for the update. Humorous yet concerning...pretty much how you roll. I went to a wedding last weekend and instead of favors the couple made donations to World Vision. They had information cards of WV on each table. Thought of you. Keep us posted...

special-k said...

God speed Dave. Malaria is a nasty thing to catch so I hope you move to that new place with screen doors pretty soon.

Joey said...

Haha, "Watch out for the yellow ones. Those don't stop."

That's interesting about how everything's slower there.

Do you think that cultural norm contributes at all towards their current technological and economical standings? (If that makes any sense...)

Allyson said...

Yes, I too would like to say thanks for the update!
Looking forward to hearing how the apartment hunt turns out. Good luck in the mosquito game...