Yesterday was just my first day in Africa ever. I told my lovely host Wairimu that I will be tired after that flight and not ready to do something on the first day. But as soon as I stand on African ground the energy from the sun cam down to me and brought me up. So a lot happened in the first day and night and morning times…
I just start from the beginning, to get the memories in order. At the airport, which is way different and smaller, I filled out a form for my VISA which I get for 50 Dollar. I had a lot of Kenya Schilling with me, but the only like to have Dollar for the VISA registration. So take care about that if you ever go to Kenya. Gladly I had some Dollars for my VISA in Iran. I new that they don’t use their local money there at the Airport.
I got a nice welcome from the AIESEC people of Nairobi. Not all was only there for me, because a little bit later was a guy from China coming. By the way, the Nairobi AIESECer seem to do a good job in incoming exchange, a lot of people from all around the world a now in Nairobi – but more of that later. Even a German intern was at the Airport to welcome me in Nairobi. I have to say, I was not polite. The first line, come to my mind when she told me she’s from Germany too, was “oh, how boring. I travel so far just to meet a German. I never thought I would.” Yeah, I speak out my mind. I felt a bit tired, when Sera started a shout from our AIESEC group back home in Hamburg. To not confuse you to much, I will explain that Sera and Wairimu are the same girl. Wairimu is just a Kikuyu Clan name – a female first name, I also was a bit puzzled about this. So Kikuyu is the biggest ethnicity in Kenya.
Out there in the sun, I got back to life. It was hot! Bright sunshine, smooth warm wind that cools your hot skin a bit down, blue sky, white wonderful clouds, just like painted on glass with a extreme strong light behind it. I felt so unreal. It is really different to stay there. Even the air tasted different. The earth is red and rich of minerals to grow everything. Great! Before I sound to much like my father the farmer, I just will tell you that I had my first beer in a very chilly airport bar for 160 Kenya Schilling, which is about less then 1,50€. Maybe I start a little corner with Beers from all around the world 🙂 so this country is the Land of Tusker beer. And as a German beer sommelier I have to say, a good one. This is beer by the way was kind of expensive. A cheep one is about 110 Schilling.
We left the airport in a big Mercedes, which is the spare care of my hosts family, so Wairimu and her sister took me with this big car home to there place. I shot some videos from driving on the Kenya roads. It’s pretty unusual for me. Like in Britain they drive on the left side, so my first failure was to go to the wrong side of the car to enter. Most countries are used to the left-drive-system, but in Germany you never think of this, even if you know it, like me. The roads are even close around the capital just a stripe of concrete with sand holes and stones around and lots of holes and bumpers in it. To drive can sometimes a bit ruff, but funny. Not much, not far as much signs on the streets like in Germany. No lines on the “three-line-highway” and everybody moving in what ever speed, shifting from left to write and drive their own lines. Even in this single day, I felt like seeing a dozen nearly-accidents.
So first stop was her house. The area was kind of posh or upper middle class, but this means something different than in Europe. The “house” was a hugh, roomy, spacey, big, wast palace. The parents were away for a few days, so just me three kids and a cousin living in this palace. Then a gardener in building outside and a watchmen for the gates at night. Since a while, my little Kenya princess told me, they have no longer a maiden, so the kids running the household by themselves. Except from cleaning lady helping them with this brand new big palace, where they moved in not long ago. Awesome much space. I don’t regret ever to come to Africa at all.
I thought of getting a corner to roll out my sleeping bag and snort a while, but this is really something: I have a whole guest area for myself. It includes one of the seven bathrooms for myself a own entrance area and double bed sleeping room. all together this guest room is about the size of my flat in Hamburg! My next hosts have work hard to catch up. Just kidding. I don’t expect that and just want to see how people live in this country. So I don’t live here like the majority, but I will find out. This is part of my mission on this trip. Not to judge or tell people how to do, just listen and see and learn. But it’s a comfortable start. Space is an extremely luxury thing in most countries, but here it is affordable and available. So this house is big, has its own chapel and they have some people serving their household, but kind of typical are the small things. They have lot of bathrooms, which are rarely in use, and on the details you can see they are not so well installed, then I am used to it in Germany. So the material itself is there, but the craftsmen in Kenya don’t seem to do the best work. In the kitchen and other places of the house, they have problems with the light, which sometime flicker or turn down. You might think, this has to do with power problems ins Africa, and yes there are some, because the use in Kenya nearly just energy from natural sources like water streams, which not produce so constantly in the dry season, but in this case it is just the bad electric in the house. So they got used to it and don’t care to much while the light go out in the middle of the dinner. Also they have just spare rooms, which they have no proper use for. The house is just spacey. So they moved in not long ago, so maybe there is some more furniture coming, but for some rooms I just can’t think of a use.
Around the house is a nice garden, and they watering the plants there with bottles in the ground. But for some reason this household are very kind to their plants, as you can see on the picture.
One of the bottles is a wine from my father, which was a gift to Wairimu, when I hosted her in my place. By the way, behind the house a nice place to sit down, which I use for updating my Blog while I am here. For some reason this place outside, has a much better internet connection with WLAN, then the landlines in the house. Some companies in Kenya run their advertisement with that problem like “Your internet is down again? Just buy….”. So a problem with a stable connection. I think I will publish my updates therefore just once in a while all of them. So maybe you just get a update all four days or with a few new entries then. Wairimu and her sister fix the problem with using mobile phones with internet connection. So I think mobile devices with easy and proper internet is a great thing for Africa. Maybe a good expanding area for iPhones, even if I heard they spread out in some Africa countries.
The interesting thing about this middle class society is, that they have to live in cages. They have a nice place to live, but big walls around and electric fences around each house and even unused fields, to protect them from people simply building slums on it, while you own it. You don’t see much street work going on, but a lot fences where build all over. Each house has a watchmen, at least for the night, often also someone in the day times. Also not so nice wire at the top of the walls. From the inside the cover the walls with high hedges, but still it feels a little bit like a jail, where you have to look constantly doors behind your with several keys, close windows, have nearly hole day all windows sight blocked, that nobody can see if someone is in there. At night you have to put on safety lights and instead of a doorbell you have gate bell and wait for the watchmen to open it, when you like to drive in. At least the water is transported in fresh water trucks to the houses and around the palace like buildings are tiny wooden huts where poor people live who have jobs in the big houses. With a look over the wall of the Palace from a balcony, I could see someone taking care of his chickens next to a wood and metal construction which looked like the house for the chicken, but was his home. All that so close together. Strange feelings. That’s Africa.
Our way to the university was interesting that evening. I saw first time Nairobi policemen. Just a hat and casual cloth under a kind of police jacket, with no printings on it. So nearly no uniform, but a big machine pistol. Not possible in Germany. Rarely you see a policemen protecting an embassy with a machine pistol, but usually just a pistol and a proper uniform. Also you never would see a policemen leaning on his car like a lazy gangster rapper, nearly sleeping on it in the sun. The check ups on the streets are pretty tuff for German ones. Nearly no warning signs in the dark roads at night, and then suddenly a blockade with nails and a policemen with a machine pistol. Usually they just check busses with a lot of people and cheep cars. So our Mercedes never was checked. So there seems to be a kind of rule on the street, that a more expansive car can go first. Even at the university the gatekeeper didn’t checked after he saw a white guy in a big car going to the private parking area of the professors of the university.
This night was Obama’s election party all over Kenya! I missed that totally, because the US president is not that big news in Germany and I was busy with the preparation of my travel in the last weeks. So I guess every black guy in hole Africa celebrated it. There was a live act on the university of Nairobi, which was a famous Rapper from Africa, that I fore sure not knew. Several beamer gave live News from the USA to the walls of the Buildings around the campus and everybody was dancing. I went with my to girls to a area with tents in the colours of the US flag. I just thought this was the bar area, with not so much people in there for some reason. Coming closer, I noticed the fence around and the policemen with the machine pistols, but again for a white guy and two girls no check. Inside I found out this was the VIP area with two own projectors and drinks for free. Cheers Obama! But we came a bit late and all beer was already gone, so just Fanta and Sprite for us. We also meet some friends from Wairimu and her sister, but we had just over the fence talks, because they couldn’t enter. So a bit boring for us and sniffed around for a beer. Wanja, Wairimu’s sister, was busy giving a random interview to a young journalist and then we finally moved to find a beer.
The shortest way to get one was right over the street to the biggest police station of Nairobi. A quite interesting short walk. Unfortunately I had no camera with me, because I was just on a party at night. There is a sign at the entrance of the university read out “this is a corruption free zone”. You might think about how the rest of the city including the police station over there is like. Next thing is, that this police station looked not far as big or shiny and nice like you would imagine a central police station. There was not even a proper stone ground around the station, but just a lot of holes in the sand and nearly no light to see where you put your feet. Moving around the building to the officers canteen, where you can go for some reason like in a bar, I smelled the jail block. Yeah, you read right. In a distance of a bout 20 meters you could smell something like behind the cow stable on our farm back home. I guess it came from buckets with shit and wet hey. A place you would not like to see from the inside, just while smell it from the outside.
The police station canteen was quite a place, boy! It was small, smelly, stuffed with loud talking people, that you would not miss any music. Bright colours all over and dirty. Yeah, men! That it wasn’t a bar, you could tell from the very improvised serving way. A guy in casual cloth walked around the place and took orders taking the money. He had a wall with locked up cupboards with warm Tusker beer. There was only one tiny locked fridge with just a few bottles inside, which he saved for some reason while he sold a cheap warm beer. While walking around to found out, how to get a beer I moved in the first policemen with a really proper and shine uniform. I can’t tell you who he was, but the uniform looked just so way different that he for sure had some important job in the police. I just had a short chat with him, while he kindly explained me the ordering system here.
We found a table with a bunch of AIESECers entertaining their interns from all around the world. Great! Such a international table in the middle of a noisy police station, while having a beer! I met a girl from Hungary, a guy from Poland, a girl from Brazil, a girl from another country I forgot and finally a Nihonjin san :-), さとし is his real name. In the middle of Africa at the first night of my trip in a other country I could have my first Japanese chat (his nickname, I gave him, means just Mr. Japanese). Great! He also was completely puzzled to hear some Japanese from a German guy in Kenya. Quit something, but not to unusual if you are three years in AIESEC.
This become quite a long entry, but there is more to tell. What a day!
On our way back we just had a stop at a gas station with a restaurant, while the girls went for a pee. Next to us stopped a bus with a bunch of people in party mood. It turned out, that it was friends of Wairimu and her sister that got a little bit drunken (yes, old british english. I love to speak british, even if my american dictionary on my laptop alway wants to correct words like colour to color). Kevin celebrated his birthday and I got to know another George, with a proper “e” at the end of his name :-). So we started a very loud and bad choir on this gas stop, singing “Happy birthday Kevin” and got therefor all a nice Whiskey-Coke mix. After we end up finishing to bottles of Whiskey in the bus having silly chats – it kind of a alcohol Blog, isn’t it – we decided that the early morning has just began and there must be something to do with is. Sera, the only one not drunken, skipped her plans going early to bed to be ready for a lecture in the university by eight a.m., and just went through this night without sleep and directly going to the lecture hall in a few hours.
So finally we end up in two upstairs bars/clubs in Nairobi changing club and beer when ever the DJ decided to play a lame tune. I quit was in the mood to dance a bit and the people loved it. A wonderful first day. I never had thought I even would have the stamina to have such a long first day after the trip or expect all this weird stuff, like drinking with random people at the early morning outside a gas stop and rocking club in the early hours. WOW!
And there is still more to come!
Read you later!