Favourite tune at the moment:
I've been living in Nairobi for 5 months now, and I am starting to re-define my own definition of home. The classic saying of "home is where the heart is" is resonating well now that I realize home is indeed not just a place, but rather a feeling which is evoked when you arrive somewhere (or to someone) that makes you feel like your true self. I'm interested in knowing, what is your definition of home? I find my sense of home most when I'm in nature. I was very grateful to spend a lovely weekend with my squad in the Aberdare Mountain Range. The Masai Shuka's (blankets) make an excellent colour scheme in the wild.
Making my way back to Kenya after my travels to Rwanda and Uganda over Christmas, I really felt like I was coming home. This was a nice reassuring feeling after being slightly homesick for the comforts of my life back in Calgary. I've even started acting like a local, only visiting the tourist-y spots in Nairobi when a friend from out of town comes to visit, so I was delighted when my friend Ele (who's currently working in Ethiopia) came for a visit one weekend.
Ele unfortunately got a proper Nairobi traffic experience, which put a bit of dent in our Saturday plans. We started a bit later than planned and got stuck in the afternoon traffic jam, meaning we missed the opening times for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and faced a huge line-up at the Giraffe Centre. Living in Nairobi requires a constant flexibility with your plans. You say you'll show up somewhere by 2PM, banking on a typical matatu ride that should only take 45 minutes. Only to find yourself waiting for your third matatu transfer at 3:30PM eating sausage and mayai (hard-boiled egg) with kachumbari (Kenyan salsa with tomato, onions and chillies) on the side of the road questioning how this all happened.
We weren't ready to give up on all our plans just yet, so we asked our Taxify Driver (my preferred mode of transport in Nairobi and is >> than Uber in my opinion) to take us to Ngong Hills for a mini-hike. After 2.5 hours in this vehicle, we were all anxious to get walking. The windmills provided a nice backdrop, but dark clouds were looming overhead and we weren't certain how much time we had to get to the lodge (because after all that driving beers were definitely in order). We actually missed the turn-off to the lodge and kept hiking uphill until one of the park rangers turned us around minutes before a massive hail storm hit. We ran to the lodge, slightly soaked and huddled up under warm Masai blankets, drinking Tusker ciders under a metal sheet roof which sounded like it was going to collapse any moment from the power of the hail. It seriously felt apocalyptic to me at one point, but just like everything else in life, it did pass eventually and we survived. Needles to say the contrasting colours in my photos were well worth the experience.
Ele's my favourite kind of traveller, one who will enjoy the nightlife but still wake up bright and early to see the sights. We had our hearts set on the elephants and giraffes so we woke up (on time) Sunday morning to make it for the baby elephant feeding at 11AM. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. It was founded in 1977 by Dr. Daphne Sheldrick in honour of her late husband David Sheldrick. Daphne spent almost 30 years perfecting the milk formulation for the baby elephants which is based of coconut oil and emulates the milk of a mother well enough to help these baby's grow to their full size and eventually be re-introduced back into the wild. This activity is definitely a highlight and must see for anyone visiting Nairobi. The baby elephants are adobrable and you get to hear all of their stories with the opportunity to adopt one of these beautiful creatures for as little as 50USD per year at the end! You can also adopt them online on behalf of someone, making a perfect birthday or Christmas gift for your loved ones!
The giraffe centre is an obvious next stop after the elephants as it isn't too far away, and who doesn't want to get their face licked by one of these lanky creatures with their rough purple tongues, am I right? The Giraffe Centre definitely has a bit more of a zoo-feel to it since you are so close in contact with them and can feed them. The original mandate of the centre was in effort of conserving the beautiful Rothschild Giraffe. founded in 1979 when it was discovered that there was only 130 Rothschild Giraffe's left in Western Kenya. Now it serves as a Nature Education Centre for Kenyan children, and a place for adults to receive kisses.
After a lovely brunch and the Sunday flea-market at K1 Klubhouse, we made our way over to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) for panoramic skyline views of downtown Nairobi.
The best part about living in Nairobi is the amount of activities to do. The nightlife is epic (some of the best house and techno music I've heard), the social enterprise start-up scene has a networking event on everday of the week, the National Parks are thriving with wildlife and birds, there are stunning landscapes and challenging hikes to undertake and countless cultural experiences to have. There is seriously so much to see and do in Kenya, all of East Africa and beyond that one could spend a lifetime here and not even scratch the surface. I've realized that I am happiest when travelling to an unknown destination, the anticipation and excitement of not knowing what lies ahead gives me this sense of awakening. I find it a bit funny and contradictory however because in my day-to-day life I love planning and having things organized ahead of time. I suppose it's true that nothing is every as it seems, and the universe is full of beautiful oxymorons.
The hardest part about living in Nairobi is the prevailing effects of colonialism that are deeply engrained in the society and knowing what it feels like to be a minority. I've never been so aware of the effects that my skin colour has on the way I am treated by the external world, and even though I am definitely still in a privileged position, it doesn't feel good. Back home I wanted to be seen more, everyone too busy on their phone, chasing their dreams, and being independent that they stop noticing the people passing by. Here, it is the opposite for me. I want to be seen less, blend in, become invisible, but I can't. This experience is definitely re-framing my position on foreign aid, and I'm watching my narrative closely with the smallholder farmers I work with in rural areas, not to perpetuate the idea that the western world has all the answers.
I've been a classic traveller, seeing more of other countries than I do of my own home. To date I've been to Rwanda, Uganda and spent Easter in Ethiopia (stay tuned for that upcoming blog post). In Kenya I've spent most of my time in Nairobi and Kiambu County with LishaBora's smallholder farmer customers. I spent New Year's Eve at Kilifi Music Festival. Swimming in the Indian ocean was definitely a highlight and the Kenyan coast is absolutely stunning! I'm saving most of my travels in Kenya for when my niece comes to visit in August, but stay tuned for an upcoming next blog post about the public transportation sector in Nairobi and what the Flone Initiative is doing to make it a safer space for women to work. For now, here's a couple photos from the coast and some Nairobi weekends. Thank's to my girl Amrita for snapping some of the photos of me.
I hope this blog entices you to come to Nairobi! I'll be here until next October and am happy to host. Sending you lots of love from out of Africa. Xx