Weekend in Nairobi

Trip Start Jul 19, 2008
Trip End Oct 10, 2008

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Monday, August 18, 2008

At long last I have been able to spend a weekend in Nairobi.  I started the weekend off on the right foot by going to dinner with some of my other IETA fellows.  When Thomas first asked me if I wanted to join the rest of the group for dinner, I immediately asked "what's on the menu"?  He told me the first time he went to TAMAMBO he had an Ostrich fajitas.. OH, THAT"S JUST GREAT! I AM SURE I WILL FIND SOMETHING TO EAT AT THIS PLACE.  But I did not let the possibility of not having anything on the menu that I would eat deter me. I am determined to enjoy this time in Nairobi even if it means I don't eat. Besides, if all else fails I can eat peanut butter crackers when I get back to the apartment.  I am truly glad I decided to go.  How many of you out there think I tried the Ostrich? Let me see a show of hands?  To those of you who may have thought I have somehow changed my eating habits since being out of the country, I am sorry to report that nothing has changed.  LOL  Thankfully this was a restaurant that had a variety of dishes and I was able to come up with a nice grilled fished and baked potato. PHOTO_ID_L=dinner_plate.jpg It was delicious, the fish was grilled perfectly and I got to eat something other than french fries/chips. Still no green veggies yet, but I have eaten corn. At first I was sort of surprised by the number of Ex-pats in the restaurant. Looking at the clientele one would not have guessed I was in Kenya, but I was reminded that a typical Kenyan cannot afford to pay 2400 shillings ( or about 35.00 USD ) for a meal.  Just to give an example, while in Kisumu, Marcus (another IETA fellow) went to a restaurant with six of of his local colleagues and everyone ordered a full sized meal and the total bill was $450.00 shillings (6.50 USD).

After dinner we went to a local bar Gipsy's. Again typically bar scene. Lots of big screen TVs, plenty of music and very crowded. Mostly ex-pats.

Saturday we did not have any specific plans but I was taken to the local mall. This mall looked very similar to what we see in the US. It was anchored on one end by a Natkumat and the other end by a very common coffee house - JAVA House. Inside there were a variety of retail shops, camera store, shoe stores, food court, movie theater, book store that is similar to borders, electronics store similar to circuit city, leather goods store, jewelry shop, picture framing store.  Since we were there we decided to see the latest The Mummy movie. The theater was very nice. Along with the typical, popcorn, candy and sodas, they even had HOT DOGs. Not sure where they come from but I am told not many places sell them.  I did not try that but I did have the popcorn. The theater was stadium seating (all seats are assigned) with surround sound. The quality of the movie was much better than I had anticipated. I had been told, that sometimes the movies are "boot leg" versions so it would not be unusual to hear additional talking in the movie other than the actors on the screen or even to see peoples heads show up.  But our viewing was no different that what is seen at a theater in the US.

Sunday plans were made for a hiking trip to Mount Longonot. I was told that the site was about 1hr outside of Nairobi, the hike was about a 1hr hike to the top, 3 hours to walk the loop at the top and then a walk down.   So far, Thomas had done pretty good in planning activities for us. After all dinner and the bar went off without a hitch so I had no reason to doubt this trip would be any different.  PHOTO_ID_R=thomas.jpg I was a little hesitant because 1) my back. I wasn't sure how it would hold up on a 1hour hike 2) I have a cold and I wasn't sure how that might impact the trip 3) just wasn't sure about the transportation Thomas would arrange--sometimes he goes for the cheaper route which isn't always the most reliable But again, I am in Nairobi, I didn't have anything else to do, there were going to be 5 of us.  So how bad could it be? 

We set out on our journey just before 9am. The drive up was absolutely beautiful. Even though it was overcast, the view of the plains was breathtaking. We even saw an adult, make, gray baboon! He was huge, just sitting beside the road watching the cars go by. We were all pretty impressed by this scene but no one had their camera handy and missed a great photo opportunity!

I should have taken a look at this website before we left -  http://www.kilimanjaro.cc/eam/longonot.htm
then I would have known that its not a 1hr hike up to the top, and its a strenuous hike.  I knew I was in trouble when after just about 15-20minutes into the hike, I was gasping for air like I had run 5 miles. But I did not give up, I thought surely its going to get better so I pressed on. On the way up, we say gazelles, zebras and giraffes.We started the hike at around 10am, by 1130 we were still not at the top and I was extremely short of breath (no inhaler with me), felt dizzy, nausea and vomiting. Do you think my body was trying to tell me something? At first, I was going to still try to make it, but then Thomas told me we still had not reached the "most difficult" part yet.  I said, OK I have had enough I am going back. Nick, who was our driver agreed to go back with me to the van and I would wait for the group there. Boy was I happy he offered to go back with me, because I did not think about those steep areas where I had climbed up that now I had to climb down those vary areas! Nick was great and keep me from tumbling down the mountain. It took us an hour to get down.  But as soon as I started to descending all the symptoms whet away.  Perhaps it was altitude sickness. Not sure.

The others keep going and we waited for them at the bottom. But the look on their faces when they returned, Nick and I both agreed that I had done the right thing. We departed the park at about 4pm. Coming back traffic was pretty heavy. One thing I have noticed is that traffic picks up around 5-530pm. This is because most people are getting off of work and are heading home. I also believe this is because not all areas have access to electricity and the highways surely don't have lights. So you can imagine when the sun goes down it gets pretty dark out there. Making out way back to Nairobi was taking a little longer than we thought. Then Nick tells me that he needs to pull over the van for water. I thinking OK he's thirsty.  Well then the hood comes up and he in checking the radiator, which is steaming hot.  This is when I think to myself, this is why we don't leave transportation duties to Thomas. We pull over on the side of the road, near some of the curio shops. Of course with a van of foreigners we get bombarded with people attempting to have us be their "patron". I have to admit, while some of the "artisan" was attempting to sell us their products, there were others who came to help out the driver. They even came with a jug filled with water. This was all done, without a condition that we purchased something. It does take getting used to though, having people in your face, telling you their sad stories in an effort to sell their products. It takes a thick skin as one could easily fall prey to their escalated prices. After more than 30 minutes, and the radiator filled with water we are on our way. Without even purchasing one item. 

We made it about to Nairobi without further incident and even with that delay I must say the trip wasn't bad at all.
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