We arrived at night and flying into the airport and driving to our hotel I noticed that this city felt darker than most places I had been to. As we drove to the airport I stared at the huge billboards for Western products, from Bicardi to Revlon. The air smells like burning and the streets are orange and chalky or at this point, muddy. Despite hearing that it never rains in Nairobi and telling this to everyone, of course it was raining when we arrived. On the way to the hotel I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. One of my favorite parts of travel is the initial cab ride from the airport when you can stare out the window at your new city and daydream.
When we arrived at our hotel they did not have a reservation for us, but gave us each a separate room. I was shocked and nervous to spend my first night in Nairobi in a hotel room alone! When I casually brought the fact up to my co-worker that we were staying in our own rooms she told me this was pretty standard and that we were adults after all. This realization inspired some confidence in me, I was an adult and could handle this!
We headed to the guest house dining room and the dinner selection was not overly appealing. My more daring co-worker sampled the goat and ribs, but I stuck with rice, French fries, and veggies. When I got back to my room I decided to try out the mosquito net above the beds, despite the fact that it did not appear that there were any mosquitoes. It felt like sleeping in a cocoon.
The next day we went immediately to our office and worked the whole day through jet lag. Everything felt pretty hazy and surreal, but somehow we functioned. I did experience the traffic Nairobi is famous for. The lack of traffic lights and paved roads brought on some car sickness. I observed people grilling on the side of the road, repairing cars, and selling handcrafts. There do not appear to be sidewalks, a revelation I did not notice until someone else brought it up. I saw a group of school boys wearing uniform sweaters over button downs and shorts. Nothing like school children in clean cut uniforms to make one smile.
My co-workers have spent a great deal of time in Africa and were talking excitedly about different cuisines, including Ethiopian which they both said how much they loved. I simply kept quiet, as I have absolutely no experience with Ethiopian food. Later that night when they asked where we should go for our first dinner out I suggested an Ethiopian place my friend recommended before I left. Since I had left my Lonely Planet Kenya at home this was the only contribution I could make. On our way there I pulled one of them aside and said earnestly “I have something to tell you,” she looked slightly concerned, but then I followed with, “I have never had Ethiopian food.” She cracked up and I chided myself for not accepting and embracing what I don’t know.
The food was great and we had a special Ethiopian honey wine (I am always thrilled to try out a new type of wine). So far, I feel like I haven’t quite gotten a taste for Nairobi, but I am continuing to embrace the novelty of it all (even staying in a hotel room alone!).
*I apologize for the lack of exciting Africa pictures. I have spent most of my time here in a hotel, cab, restaurant, or office. I plan to go to aplace to see baby elephants this weekend so hopefully I will have some more impressive pictures soon.