We are having to stay in Nairobi longer than we planned, sourcing supplies and information that is so spread out across the city and travelling around is usually slow because of the volume of traffic and the age of vehicles causing them to break down in the best of places. Everyone is patient and there are no honking of horns as in other third world countries, but they just don’t stop for anything if there is a space, it is like you indicate to change lanes and a imaginary wall is erected to protect the vehicle changing lanes, basically they don’t give a shit.
3rdMay: Kerry didn’t travel “shopping” today, processing is more important, so Paige and I went off into the unknown with Charlie again. Camping is our priority today and we soon found stores are few and far between. One fundamental thing I have learned is that Kenyans don’t camp, the majority of Kenyans don’t live that well and have “camped” all their lives, and the rest don’t want too. So the few stores that are about are generally catering for tourists, with prices that reflect that fact. The one store we had some success with and had most of the equipment we required, but only had one of each item, so we are getting used to African time, ay!
Charlie seems to know everyone or knows someone who does, so we request our need and he is on the phone, our living yellow pages. He is a big gentle man (I mean his presence, although he is stocky, he is our personal Mr T), and when on the phone seems aggressive, but he always finishes the conversation with a very soft ok, you can’t help but love him. He took us across town to the CBD and during this time Paige was talking to James, the agent who was dealing with the arrival of the sound system and found that they wanted $1500 import duty, and we couldn’t collect until Monday, more emotions to deal with. While Paige was going through this process she missed what came next.
Charlie diverted to take a short cut through a slum area. My goodness, televisions keep us so remote from reality, ay! Charlie tells me there are 1.4 million people living in this corrugated iron city and what we were seeing from the road was the better area, inside was bad, very, very bad. What I was seeing was deeply humbling, how can one brother see another living so, my tented life is luxury. Both Paige and Kerry missed what I was seeing and I asked Charlie if we could return another day and he said on Sunday as the traffic will be much less.
I am struggling to find words to describe it to you, I will try, but maybe we will film some of our trip on Sunday. Try and imagine your average high street or market, then down size it so each business shop front measures 2mtr x 2mtr then remove the glass and door, remove the façade, replace the structure with old (I mean old) corrugated iron, rip up the floors and pavement until the dirt is visible, drive some trucks over the walkways when it is wet and add a decaying smell. It is worse than that though.
In contrast to the scene I have tried to describe the place is buzzing, a hive of industry and enthusiasm. This would be the place to shop, they are making and selling a whole array of goods, welding beds, repairing anything, clothes everywhere, cleaning of second hand trainers for sale, furniture, food, a hairdresser, drink venders and even a pharmacy you name it and it would be there. I am sure they would supply anything you would ask for, but in my western upbringing fear would prevent me asking at the moment, of course unless Charlie was with me. On our outing today,5thMay, we saw so many market stalls (as I described earlier), it seemed that everyone in the city has a stall.
I have learnt since from a tour guide that many people living in the slums choose too. Renting a property is very expensive, $350 whereas renting in the slums can be as low as $12, so any money they do make they can re-invest in their businesses and have hope of educating their children or getting out.
We reached the CBD and I noticed a haze, much like it was in London where I grew up before pollution controls where introduced and buses so full, hey I would have suffered a claustrophobia attack inside one of them. Charlie parked the car in this old building site that as full, but they kept taking money from drivers and cramming them in, as Paige said, ‘not a place to bring a new car’. We walked a few blocks to a sports store and bingo; we purchased three sleeping bags, but not before Paige tried one on. She didn’t want to lay on the floor to get dirty so she started to slip it over her head, I just had to pull it down, a long way, the faces of everyone around was in disbelieve it looked like I was wrapping her up to take with me and even Charlie started to help me, we were having such fun.
I now understand how the black fella’s feel when they walk through a sea of white fella’s. The projections we felt as we walked through a cleared area heading for another store were very heavy, we might be despised, but I just felt love for them and felt safe.
We reached the next shop, but it was closed and we treated Charlie to lunch, he picked African cuisine. He took us up a couple of flights of stairs; it was like going into a block of flats in a housing estate, you would never guess it was an eating establishment from the street. As we entered Charlie tried to make them understand that we were vegetarian (I thought vegan would be too hard), there was much crossing out on the pre-printed forms and we paid 900kes (about $10) for three meals. We then washed our hands in the sinks that lined one wall of the eating area (no knives and forks here mate), and sat down on the terrace overlooking the undercover areas around the edge. It was similar to an RSL without the façade, and the staff where really attentive. Our meals were brought over, Charlie had fish in a coconut juice/sauce/gravy/soup (not sure) with a side dish of brown millet, ours was a plate of greens, it looked kale and with a heavy looking chapatti we set about eating, checking each other to see who would collapse first.
You know how car parks are orderly and clear entrances and exits, well when we arrived back to collect Charlie’s car you would have been hard pressed to get a motor bike in, but they still was taking money at the gate even though all the internal road ways were full of locked cars. The attendants were walking around with baskets full of keys trying to open car doors that blocked anybody in who wanted to leave. If you can imagine a scene from ‘Laurel and Hardy’ movie (my young era), just hilarious, it must have been an everyday occurrence because everybody was so calm and wow, that food was really heavy.
We arrived back at camp and Paige decided that fingers down the throat was the go and me, well I just felt the discomfort, drank lots of water and farted all afternoon. At dinner that evening we all ate feeling much better in ourselves, Kerry included.
When I started out writing this page I thought a few lines would be enough, but feeling our day brings it all alive.
Love to you all
God is Good