my second African adventure. Part 1: Kenya

I knew I will be going back. And here I was – choosing one of hundred or so movies I could watch while flying to Kenya. Flight from London to Nairobi via Doha was about 14 hours long and quite tiring therefore on my arrival at 7am in the morning all I could think of was having a good sleep. However, of course, my excitement about being in Africa again was too great to keep me asleep for too long.

On the day of my arrival Kenyan government issued a flood warning regarding possible flash-floods in some parts of Kenya. When traveling around Nairobi one could notice clearly that rain has been very generous here transforming some of the roads into mud. This inconvenience on the roads though is nothing comparing to challenges the farmers and villages in critical areas of this country are facing due to these rains.

Official reason of this trip was work; I am visiting our country office in Nairobi in order to review/improve  the operational policies and procedures. Last year when I went to Kenya we even did not have an office as we were building the programme and team there from scratch. Now, it was amazing to meet the 15+ team and a pool of 20+ great locally recruited trainers who deliver training to aid workers in Nairobi as well as in less secure areas like Garissa and Dadaab (the biggest refugee camp in the world). During the last year we have trained around 1000 aid workers in Kenya! Imagine! This is why I love my job and the humanitarian/ development sector. If I know that to some people outcome of my work directly or less directly can be a life-changing experience, it becomes the energy I am running on.

Despite the busy schedule, I managed to have some spare time there to explore Nairobi and its surroundings.

I am not usually a ‚museum‘ person when visiting new places, but I was told that Nairobi National Museum is probably one of the best in Africa; I cant compare as I have not been to others, but this one is indeed worth to check out if you are interested in learning about history of Kenyan people, pre and post colonial times, independence movement, life-style, nature and art. I could not avoid also a Snake Park which was just nearby; I was worried about having nightmares the following night, but nothing like that; it’s safe! 🙂

Then, if you have not visited Masai market, you have not visited Nairobi. If and when you do it, though, you have to bear in mind important things: the best is to go with a local who can help you to get a better price – it’s all about bargaining; you certainly should not go there with valuable assets as it is a heaven for pick-pocketers; try to find out before about average prices of things you would be interested to buy – it will help in bargaining; be brave enough to leave the place even if you really want something but the price you are offered is too high – sellers may catch you at a car park and give the item away for the price you offered. I liked a handmade beautiful wooden vase and managed to get it for 10% of the initially offered price. Crazy but overall interesting and at times nerves-tickling experience. I was less successful in bargaining with a taxi driver who i asked to take me to a restaurant the other night not far from my hotel; I paid him twice as much as the normal price, but well.. I don’t enjoy bargaining.

If you don’t have much spare time in Nairobi, but want to get a bit of safari flavor, you should visit Giraffe centre and Elephant orphanage. Our Kenya office recently adopted (staff is giving regular donation to this orphanage) an orphan elephant Barsilinga whose mother was killed when he was only 2 weeks old. This orphanage then looks after elephants like our Basilinga until they are old enough to survive in the wild and live an independent life. This orphanage also had one blind rhino, who normally would have died; unfortunately that rhino will stay in this orphanage until he dies because he would not be able to survive. Quite touching and emotional visit.

And, now, ladies, let me introduce you to Kazuri – a bead factory which makes absoultely fantastic bead jewelry and whose mission is to give employment opportunities to disadvantaged women of Kenyan society. Currently employing more than 400 women (mostly single mothers) this is an excellent example of social enterprise and fair trade. We had a stroll around the factory and then I just could not leave the shop. You will see me wearing some nice bead jewelry and you will know where it comes from.

I don’t know how many of my blog readers know the movie „Out of Africa“, but just not far from Kazuri there is a Karen Blixen museum who was the author of the book on the basis of which the movie was produced and where the movie itself was filmed. Amazing and sad story. But, equally, it resonated to some extent with my own subconscious attraction to this continent.

In terms of food, this week has been less African, unfortunately, and more international (should we again blame globalization?). Yes, I had one day ndengu for my lunch (thanks to Bob who is every day coming to our office and selling home-made food), and another day – spinach and cheese wrap, or irio (mashed potatoes and peas) and sukuma wiki (mixed green veggies) but then I also had Ethiopian food and coffee (!!) at Habesha, excellent folded pizza at Que Pasa, pakistani food when visiting my colleague (try Carrot halwa – it is so delicious!), and chocolate brownies at my hotel at incredible size and price. Because of this food experience (I’m a fruit and veggie person normally) I was glad my room was on the 5th floor so I could have some exercise walking upstairs rather than using a lift.

My next destination is Juba in South Sudan, the newest country in the world. It is not possible anymore to obtain visa on arrival, however the process through the South Sudanese embassy in Nairobi was pretty straight forward and allows you to get visa in 3 working days. Though, this is the only country so far I know which in its visa application form asks what the color of my eyes is. As I did receive visa, I guess, ‚brown‘ was the right answer.:)

P.s. Practical things:

  1. electrical sockets are like in UK, therefore make sure you have adapters if you use European electrical equipment;
  2. bargain, bargain, bargain and take a local with you;
  3. use only bottled water;
  4. for EU citizens visa on arrival costs 50USD;
  5. if you can, try Qatar Airways; so far certainly the best airlines I have experienced in terms of services;
  6. try to find one taxi driver who would take you always around and therefore give a much better price if you use him multiple times;
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