Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome to Kenya

Nicole: We arrived in Kenya early yesterday morning. As we were very tired yesterday and slept most of the day, we have not yet seen much of the city. However, on the drive from the airport to Nyambura’s house, where we are staying, Nyambura pointed out a slum. She told us that although it is not something to be proud of, this slum is the largest slum in the world. The people living in this slum are not ignored, rather they are being helped as new apartment buildings are being built for them and they are being encouraged to get out and work. As we passed by around 7am, we witnessed a massive group of people from the slum walking to work.

We drove for about 20 minutes or so before arriving at Nyambura’s house. We were taken inside and Nyambura explained to us that as she had just returned to Kenya from a five year stay in America, things were not fully unpacked yet. For those of you who are wondering who Nyambura is and how we know her, here is the story…

As I am participating in a study abroad trip in Kenya and Tanzania through my school, my mother called the Kenya Embassy Office which is located in Los Angeles earlier this year to ask some questions about my visa. The call was answered by the Consulate General, Nyambura. Her and my mother got to talking and stayed on the phone chatting about Kenya for quite some time. Nyambura told my mother that she would be returning to Kenya in a few months as her stay in America was almost up and that she would love to take me on a tea and coffee safari. Nyambura gave my mother her personal email address so that I could communicate with her and ask her any questions I had about Kenya. Over the next few weeks, we communicated with Nyambura via email and phone. We set up a time over spring break to meet her and her two children, Joyce and Ian, who are close in age to Melissa and I.

The three of them came to our house and ate lunch with us. We listened to stories about Nyambura’s huge family and their life in Kenya. We talked about my upcoming visit to Africa and decided upon a date that I should come to Kenya so I could visit them before meeting up with my study abroad group. As Melissa had plans to come and visit me in Ghana, Nyambura and her children asked her if she would like to come to Kenya with me and also stay with them for a few days. Of course she accepted this invitation. We made plans for the two of us to leave Ghana on August 19, 2009 and spend a little less than two weeks with Nyambura and her family. After making these plans, we left the house and took Nyambura, Ian, and Joyce to a play at my old high school, New Community Jewish High School. They loved the play and were so excited about having us come to visit them in Kenya. They told us of all the people we had to meet and all the places they would take us.

So now, a few months later, we are here with Nyambura and her family, staying at their house in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. As she had quite a bit of stuff to finish up before she left America, her and her children just arrived back in Kenya last week. It has been quite interesting so far as she is still getting used to things here in Kenya, which allows Melissa and I to see a different side of things in Kenya.

Melissa: Today, the 21st, I woke up, got ready and headed down stairs where I heard the TV on. Nyambura’s son, Ian, was on the couch watching music videos. I joined him. He started asking me what my plans were for the day. I told him that I knew absolutely nothing about Kenya so I had no clue what to do. He said that he would be going into town a bit later and asked if Nicole and I wanted to join him. I told him of course and just to let us know when to be ready. He informed me that we should not bring any bags with us because the police are very corrupt in Kenya. He said that they had the power to stop anyone and take whatever they wanted from people’s bags. He also said that pick pocketers were everywhere.

He ended up never going into town but Nyambura was going to go so she took us with her. She told us to get ready about 5 times but we would never leave. Apparently they have Kenya time here, so nothing ever happens on time. We eventually left the house around 1 pm with one of Nyambura’s friends, John. John was a coffee business man in Virginia. He was very nice and told us that we had to start exploring Kenya and get out of the house. He took us to a nice restaurant at a member’s only club where we met his Uncle. We had a nice lunch with them and then headed into town. The traffic and driving here is crazy. Nyambura and John said they thought it was worse then LA traffic. I was seriously scared when we were in the car. The cars drive where ever they want and there are no lanes so cars are so close to each other trying to fit down the streets. It was insane.

We eventually got dropped off at the bank where we were able to take out some money. The currency here is called Shillings. It is very difficult to figure out how much something here is in dollars so when I look at prices I have no clue how much it actually is. We said goodbye to John and walked to the bank Nyambura had to go to. There were so many people walking around that I had to dodge people. The town is very business like and almost everybody was an adult and in business clothes. Nyambura showed us around to some of the government buildings and took us to meet one of her friends, Ben who worked at a phone company called Safaricom. Ben was a pretty famous racecar driver in Kenya. He had survived stomach cancer and against all odds still raced.

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