Kenya: Welcome Home

The 6 hour flight from Istanbul to Nairobi was painless. I opted for the chicken this time instead of the pasta. I know it has only been about 27 hours since I left then Nairobi Airport but it feels like much longer. Getting off a plane at 2:45 AM in a foreign country is delightful when someone cares about you enough to be waiting at the terminal with transportation. I could see this being a terrible experience for many. As a first time visitor to a Kenyan city of 4.4 million, I can see the penchant for discomfort or disaster at nearly every hour of the day.

The first 6-8 hours flew by. There was a ride to the hostel (at a Catholic Nunnery), a brief discussion of the next day’s potential, an hour or so of restless excitement, about 2 hours of sleep, a modest breakfast, and the most necessary shower I’ve ever had. That’s when the fun started.

We decided to go to an area named Karen, after the woman who is possibly the world’s first Philanthropist, Karen Blixen. The next part is probably where every visitor to Nairobi learns that planning and schedules are somewhat meaningless.  Getting around here has the familiar but comfortable chaos that I experienced in the larger Chinese cities except with less two wheeled vehicles and more potholes. In my opinion, the system is extremely effective, but lacking efficiency. Your first option is a “bus”, which vaguely resembles an American bus in shape at half the size and comfort. Next is the “matatu”. These are much less glamorous than a ride on a bus. There are about the size of a minivan and they commonly have 20 passengers (don’t try and do the math its complicated). Taxis are your last option, generally due to the price. Those I haven’t quite figured out as it seems any car with four doors has an equal chance of offering you a ride. Some have indicative markings, but others are potentially just opportunistic car owners with an urban geographical edge.

In about an hour, after a couple vehicle transfers and a bit of walking we arrived at our destination, The Karen Blixen Museum. The property is very nice and we are given an overview of her life and contributions to the country by a delightfully soft spoken gentleman named Alex. I finally get a chance to use my photography skills but most of the shots are admittedly rushed since we have a few more stops and a flight to catch at 6 PM. Next we visit the Kazuri bead factory. This place is pretty amazing. The company was founded for the purpose of employment for single mothers. It took some time, but the factory has grown from under 10 employees to nearly 350 and exports half of its product all across the planet. We make it back to the airport with just enough time to grab some kuku (chicken) and chips and get to our gate as they start boarding. This should be the last plane ride for while and its only 35 min. Our landing in Kisumu is smooth and our driver Henry navigates us safety back to the hospital complex where I will live for the next two weeks. After all that travel, this feels like home. Our dinner that night was purposefully un-Kenyan, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and I’m able to stuff myself and fall asleep without much trouble.

I woke up a little bit before sunrise so I started writing this. It seems like an appropriate time to write I just hope I can figure out a way to post these pretty soon.


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My room in the Rotary House

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