I had 24 hours of feeling lonely and unsure of myself in Nairobi and questioning my trip and dissertation. All of the sudden today the fog lifted and I am finding my gratitude again.
I woke up very late (12:30) and rushed off to do a private barre class with my roommate in the outdoor space of someone’s apartment building. As I was lying in the sun pulsing my leg lifted in the air I felt immensely grateful. It felt good to be exercising outside under the warm sun listening to the birds and wind, with a Kenyan instructor, and with a few other girls who are from here or other countries in the region. The Kenyan instructor was great and laughed at us when we complained about the exercises. He told me next time he thinks he could challenge me more and we talked about crossfit after class (I still won’t stop talking about crossfit even in Kenya). They have a crossfit gym here that I might have to try out just for the experience!
On my previous trip to Nairobi I spent most of my social time with groups of ex-pats, but this trip I am really appreciate spending more time with Kenyans or people from other countries in the region who have settled here. Some individuals have lived here their whole lives whereas others lived in the U.S. for a bit and returned here as adults. One man was telling me about his own experience returning to his home country for a few years then having to try to get out quickly because they started forcibly recruiting young men from schools. Most of these individuals are educated and middle class so I know in many ways I am lacking diversity in who I am talking to, but it is interesting to find both the differences and similarities in our life experiences.
After Barre, just like I would with friends in the U.S., we decided to go to a café for brunch. The café was at a mall and it was crowded so I felt hyperaware, but I did my best to relax and just observe the surroundings. When I saw people continuing with their normal lives and enjoying their eggs I decided to trust the women I was with to judge the situation. One of the women works for the UN and told me they are trained to immediately find a place to hide when they arrive somewhere (I jokingly tried to get the bill quickly after this discussion). It felt better to openly talk about security concerns and get a sense of how other people think of the risks. To me it still feels like the city is so fresh after the attack at Westgate, but people are resilient and don’t live their lives in fear. You hear about memorials being made years after attacks or tragedies, but I have never thought about what happens in the in between time. The period when it is not too soon after a tragedy and people are still stunned, but not long enough after a tragedy where it feels removed. We are struggling with the same conversations in Boston with the release of the movie about the Boston Marathon bombing that feels too soon for many people.
On our way home from the café, just as I was really getting into the modern Nairobi life style I look out my window to see a herd of cows being escorted down the road. Not in the middle of the road, but certainly not on a sidewalk. I screamed out in delight while the girl driving and my roommate laughed and said, “Oh yeah that happens. The other day we saw sheep.”
And there it is, the reason I can complain about this city but still feel charmed. As modern as it is the modernness coexists with a man escorting at least ten cows on the side of a trafficy road. I finally woke up from my complaining and remembered my sense of wonder. The rest of the car ride home I looked out my window with a smile on my face wondering what I would see next.