Loading Map...

Nairobi, Kenya (via one final stop in Dubai)

Written on: Friday March 6th, 2009

It wasn't easy leaving Oman.  However, in an attempt to turn the gray skies to blue, I focused on the fact that I was going back to Dubai for one more night before heading off to Africa, and that I would be able to see my friends Maria and Khadija.  As a thank you for their hospitality, I had promised to cook dinner for girls tonight.  So when D and I headed for the grocery, I assmebled as best I could the ingredients necessary for pasta with sauteed prawns.  I had to admit that it wasn't my best work, but it filled the void before we went out.  For little did I know that tonight was bowling night!!  Yes, Maria of WI and occasionally MN, I thought of you. :)

We met up with a wonderfully diverse collection of folks from various corners of the world, who for one reason or another happened to currently be living in Dubai.  We rolled a couple games, laughing and joking around the entire time.  It was quite fun to ignore my instinctive competitiveness and focus solely on having fun with the group.  Afterward we went for coffee and dessert before heading back to the flat for one last night. 

The next morning Maria was kind enough to drive me to the airport. I entered the terminal chuckling to myself as I easily made my way through the now familiar obsticles of Sharjah...I think I've been in this airport more than any other in the world except for MSP!  Polite 'hellos' were offered to the employees of Air Arabia that I had come to recognize over the last few weeks as I patiently made my way through security and boarded the plane.  Only then was I able to switch my attention to the next stage of this journey: Africa.

Arrival into NBO went off without a hitch.  Passing through customs was another story.  I chose poorly when I selected a line at the customs blockade; not only did my girl know and chat with everybody that walked by, she apparnetly wasn't overly fond of efficient work habits.  It baffles me still that, somehow, after being in a que only six deep and with over a hundred people behind me, I ended up being the absolute last person to get a visa entered into my passport. TIA, baby...TIA!

Not having in my posession the African bible (ie: Lonely Planet guidebook), I wandered around the airport checking prices with the multitude of folks trying to sell me safaris, hotel spaces and transportation.  Fortunately, I only needed transportation at this point, as tonight marked the fourteenth consecutive evening that I was lucky enough to be hosted by a friend from couch surfing!  Steve the dentist accepted my offer to crash at his place, welcoming me into his Kayole Estates home that was shared with his wife, children, brother, sister and mother.

Steve was a cool, grounded, intelligent, interesting guy.  After dropping off my bags and briefly meeting his family, he wanted to take me for a walking tour of his neighborhood.  We strolled the challenging streets of southeastern Nairobi and made our way to a small pub where we both enjoyed a couple Tusker beers.  OMG...how I missed the 'tembo tembo'!!   

OK, quick lil' sidenote:  when I was in Africa in '03, three weeks of that trip was spent in Tanzania where I met three German travellers who had the same itinerary as me and Angie.  We climbed the mountain, experienced the safaris and explored Zanzibar together, and the entire time, one of those gentlemen and I shared a common interest in East African beer; specifically, Tusker.  At that time, he had come up with the clever nickname of 'tembo tembo' for this beer.  Now, as all of you who were fluent in Swahili know, 'tembo' was the word for 'elephant', which was with what the label of Tusker beer was adorned.  However, what many people did not know was that 'tembo' also referred to the process of home brewing in east Africa, way back in the day before macro brewing existed.  Thus, 'tembo tembo' was a brilliant name for this beverage, one that was even lost on most of the Tanzanians serving it to us.

So, with 'tembo tembo' in hand, we talked and got to know each other.  We even played a couple games of pool on the undersized and ridiculously warped table.  It was a good start to our time together.  

On the journey home we were confronted by hoards of curious kids.  It wasn't too often that a white man roamed these streets, and the innocent, outgoing minds of Nairobi's youth were interested.  Their smiling faces approached and they said hellos and asked where I was from.  It was cute to see the boys showing off, doing handstands and cartwheels for my benefit, much like a younger brother trying to impress his older sibling.  As soon as a few photographs were taken, the collection of children doubled, as everybody wanted to see themselves on digital media.  My favorite experience was when, after taking and showing a half dozen photos of and to the kids, one boy looked really sad.  I asked what was wrong and he said that he wasn't in any of the photos.  OMG!  So I handed the camera to Steve, picked the kid up and held him above the crowd to ensure that he would not avoid being the center of focus in the next photograph.  It was a truly pleasant walk.

Dinner was offered by Steve and his family, which allowed me to try banana stew.  The bananas were essentially cooked like potatos would be for us, providing the base of the meal.  It was tasty and I was appreciative.  Soon it was time to crash, and I was able to share a room with Steve's younger brother and son.

The next day Steve had to work.  I was able to travel with him to this yet unexplored corner of town and contented myself with interenet and wandering around while he treated those with an overabundant weakness for sweets.  But soon he was finished and we shared an unbelievably scrumptious Ethiopian lunch of nyama choma.  After over-filling our bellies, Steve asked if I'd be interested in seeing the slums.  Are you kidding me?!?  When else could I do this safely??  So we caught a matatu and stepped off into a world I truly did not know. It was sureal to see the challenge that these people struggled with every single day simply to survive.  I received an education and a very appropriate reminder to appreciate what I have in my life.

That evening I decided that it was time to set up a safari.  In order to do so I had to move closer to the city center.  I found a wonderful hotel/hostel/camp that was perfectly located and reasonable priced.  I reluctantly said goodbye to Steve and his family, thanking them all for their wonderful hospitality, and grabbed a cab to the Wildebeest Camp. This place was sweet!  The Aussie-owned resort just open in '06, but was quickly becoming the abode of choice amongst budget travellers.  There were standard hotel rooms, a dorm, individual tents set up on the wonderfully landscaped grounds, and even luxury tents set off in a more private location.  The place was packed as I plopped my bags in the $10/night dorm room, but the appearance of fellow explorers was welcomed. 

That evening was the last for several people who had been staying at the camp, including a cool guy and wonderful girl from NYC.  So we decided to let our hair down a bit, cheerfully raising our whiskey-filled glasses with a dozen other like-minded guests.  It was a good night, even if the price that had to be paid was a difficult morning.  No worries, my safari was already set up for the following day, and all I had to do today was explore and pack, two things that have now become second nature for me.