We were so excited to move into our apartment and get settled here! I must say the Kenyan men who helped us with our baggage, from the staff at the hotel to the drivers we have gotten to know over the past few days, could not have been more patient with us. My over-packing resulted in several rounds of apologies, but I think the experience and accompanying laughter brought us closer.
It is almost impossible to describe our new apartment. I want to jump up and down just thinking about it. We walked into the complex and it felt straight out of Nairobi Melrose place. Several balconies overlook a courtyard and a pool. I can only imagine what this must look like on a sunny day (we saw sun today for a few minutes the first time since we got here). We unlocked the door and immediately we were speechless. The apartment has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two balconies, and is really beautiful. There is tasteful wood furniture and all of the amenities we could imagine from a dishwasher to a washer and dryer. My Dad has commented several times that I am living better in Africa than I do in the U.S. We played rocks, paper, scissors, and I got the Master bedroom for the first half of the trip. It has a huge walk in closet, which makes me feel less badly about the amount of clothes I brought. There is also a bathroom with a huge shower and a Jacuzzi tub.
After another day spent giggling in our small office (see picture), we asked our kind and patient driver to take us to Nakumatt Superstore, aka the Kenyan Target. We got stuck in the worst traffic we have hit so far and had the opportunity to observe the lush landscape and British architecture. There were plenty of people out and about from well-dressed professionals to the sassy little girl who laughed and winked at us. Most importantly on this long car ride I got to utilize my gender analysis skills!
The radio we listen to in the cab has touched on fascinating topics, from how to discipline children to the question that peaked my interest which was a poll asking, “Which women in Africa are the most respectable?” There seemed to be a general agreement, which the host found hilarious, that Kenyan women should be at the bottom of the list. Coming in first, according to callers were women from Uganda, also ranking high were women from Burundi. I asked Frances (our regular cab driver) what it meant to be a respectable woman. He said it was about how a woman behaves in the home, how they speak to people within the family (I think the subtext was husband), and how they dress. I nodded, but asked Frances about respectable men. He said casually, “Oh same thing,” but I asked “same standards?” And he clarified that there is different standards for being a respectable man, such as providing for your family. Despite reading about these types of issues it provided a different perspective to hear someone explain them so frankly. I also noticed that when we walked into a restaurant as a group of ex-pats only the men had to get a security check. Given the history of other conflicts in Africa where women have played a huge role in the violence, I was surprised to see this perception in Kenya that women could not be carrying something illicit on them. I have yet to discover whether it is only Western women that are not viewed as a threat.
Kenyan Target or Nakumatt Superstore was beyond my expectations. There was a full aisle devoted to different brands of laundry detergents, an electronics department, and a beauty department. It was fun buying things to make our apartment feel like home. We cooked dinner and I was so happy to be in a place I felt so comfortable.
*Photo credits to my amazing co-workers 🙂