musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4 - Nairobi

If possible, the drive to the airport the next morning was more harrowing than the night before. Needing to drop off our vehicle at the arrivals terminal, we had arranged for Eastern and Southern to pick us up for our safari at 8am. They, we found out after finally making it, had left before 7am, knowing that traffic after 7:30am in Nairobi is terrible. We left the hotel at 7:27.

Relying on Lauren's Blackberry to provide directions, we immediately got stuck in traffic. However, this traffic was different than the night before because her phone had decided it would be more fun to take us through the center of Nairobi instead of the larger outskirt roads we knew from before. All the usual suspects were there - mini buses, pedestrians, potholes - but somehow the morning produced more of each and my hands soon bore indentations from the streering wheel.

Nairobi is a relatively young city, compared with other areas in what was probably the cradle of cizilization. When the British arrived in Kenya in the late 19th century they began building a railroad from the coast (Mombasa) inland, ostensibly to give them better access to the jungles of Uganda. In any case, the Brits imported thousands of laborers from what was then Punjab (India and parts of Pakistan today) to build the railroad since the natives did not have the skills and familiarities with tools to do the job. Braving man-eating lions, disease and other joys of rural Kenya, the work on the railroad eventually resulted in the settlement of many sub-continentals in a location that would later become Nairobi. Today the Indian culture is still visible although the city - which later became Kenya's capital after Jomo Kenyatta liberated it from British colonial rule - is dominated by native Kenyans who moved to the city and, at some point, converted to Christianity.

Somewhere during this story of Nairobi, someone thought it would be a good idea to place traffic circles every 200m. He or she was wrong. These circles quickly became the bain of my driving experience and more than once a blind guess as to which 'exit' to take miraculously resulted in us still being on the correct road.

Finally though, our luck ran out and, after 10 minutes of hoping we were on the right road, we were a bit lost.

"Oh the airport?" said the nice man in a suit at a gas station. "You are a bit lost."

He was right, but luckily his directions were spot on (especially his note about looking for the elephants... but not real elephants) and we rolled into the airport less than 30 minutes late.