Habari za asubuhi – Good morning (news of the morning) from Nairobi! Kiswahili, the other language of the people of Kenya, translates to our good morning. The energy of a city of 9 million people greeted me at 7 a.m. after going to sleep at 4 a.m., certainly the combination of which requires some excellent coffee.
There is no better coffee found than here in the fertile rift valley and birthplace of mankind. I am also greeted with a sharply sweet pungent oder that I have come to know as the smell of cannabis. Yes, one of our neighbors somewhere within whiffing distance has a fairly active taste for the sweet weed. The tops of the trees are almost glazed with a yellow/brown layer of air hovering above the tree line as it were. I will have to post a couple of pictures to Facebook as I am having difficulty here.
I find most interesting the mix of trees found here. One would expect in a warm climate to find palm trees. However, as hopefully the photos show, there is what appears to be a kind of pine tree growing here. It is summer now in January in Kenya, and we are all wearing sandals and light fabrics. The women here dress beautifully, even to go to the grocery store.
They sport vibrantly colored fabrics and lots of matching accessories, something which I gave up long ago! There is hard liquor to be found in gas stations but it is quite suspect as often times, a scrappy local entrepreneur will cook up a very local alcohol and just rebottle it in an expensive Crown or Jack Daniels bottle. Ingenious to say the least. I have a new appreciation for hard work and creative thinking, albeit my skepticism is now also pretty actively engaged!
We have an Italiante apartment with a swimming pool, lounge area, and potted plants all around. The maid service is unparalleled and the fresh fruits and vegetables have a taste that can only be described as “clean.” I am acutely aware of the chemical taste found even in what we think in the US is the most healthy of produce. I will have to try to describe it after more time has passed. Perhaps it has to do with the soil itself here and the lack of chemical additives, weed killers and fertilizers.
Petrol/gas runs about $7 per gallon. Many UN and NGO (non-government organizations) homebase out of Nairobi, so there is this delicate balance of wealth and poverty playing throughout the fabric of everyday life, but this makes for an infinitely rich mix of cultures from all over the world. There are fewer cars on the road than one might expect in a city of 9 million. There are many fewer sidewalks and so people’s feet are dusty. For transportation, 16 or so people will cram in to one of those old 1980 Mitsubishi vans, windows open, side door open, and lots of drama at every stop.
Guled mentioned yesterday that the prevailing view of “Africa” being a dry desert is completely unfounded. The gentle cool wind and the greenery and flowers at every turn pretty much dispel that rumor. I am uncertain why we seem so affected by jet lag but my eyeballs even hurt this morning.