As we approached Nairobi by air, our pilot said we would be landing within minutes,
but our altimeter read 5,600 feet and we were still in the clouds. A couple minutes
later we touched down in a complete fog at about 5,400 feet, a city that stands
higher than the famed mile high city of Denver.
As our plane was pulling into the jet way our pilot announced the jet way was broken
and we were going to have to walk down a set of stairs to the runway then back up
another set of stairs into the airport... welcome to Kenya.
Shortly afterwards, however I had almost completely forgotten about the instance
since I was distracted by a sign that read: Do not attempt to bribe, or give a bribe
if asked by any employee of the airport. This assured me of the situation I was
getting myself into... and it sparked an aura of excitement of the unknown ahead.
After gathering our bags we walked through customs without being asked a question
or even having to be stopped, they simply waved us through to the "lobby,"
which was more like an outside walkway. The day was dreary, and the land was drab;
it was the dry season.
No sooner had we found the man holding a sign that read "Alpine Ascents,"
did we see another man walking around swinging a semi-automatic. Later we learned
this is normal and we soon became accustomed to the sight and learned to ignore
it. They are here for our safety and the safety of everyone flying into or out of
Many people looked at us at the airport and I felt watched as many people stared
us down; I've never been a minority before and the feeling was at first uneasy.
Once much of our party had arrived we got in the car and began our ride to downtown
Nairobi, where our hotel, the Serena Nairobi was located. The ride was fascinating,
just outside of the gates of the airport we saw men with sickles cutting down the
tall grass in the middle and outsides of the "expressway." A couple more
miles down the road we saw a bank with an armed guard on the roof, as well as other
buildings surrounded by barbed wire and armed men.
As we got closer to downtown we came upon much of the city's housing: make shift
blankets or tarps over sticks in the downtown park; it was sad, especially seeing
all of the children standing by the roadside with nothing better to do.
The ride however was short and we came to the Serena Nairobi to find a completely
different world. At the gate of the hotel there were armed guards who searched our
van for bombs before opening the gate and allowing us entrance. The day was still
young so a few of us decided to make dinner arrangements at the world renowned Carnivore
for dinner, but before that we decided to take a nice stroll through the city to
the national museum.
The city was interesting and we were strongly advised not to wander the streets
alone, however we ventured off anyway. The sidewalks were mostly mud, but at times
had some semblance of concrete. The streets were dirty, and the roads hectic; it
seemed like there were no rules of the road and cars were going in every direction.
The cars consisted of everything from Mercedes to old Volks Wagons vans (these were
one form of public transportation). Public transportation here works quite differently
from the United States: here the buses
were marked and many passengers were literally hanging out of the vans, hanging
on by one hand and one foot.
Downtown was a sight: half the people were in suits and the other half in old tee-shirts
and ripped pants, some of whom were shadowing, but not threatening us.
We left downtown and entered the university campus area, reasonably nice and an
area in which we all felt much safer than we did downtown. The museum was run down,
but had such incredible archeological finds that it was still first class. Much
of human evolution is traced back to this part of Africa
so many of the historic finds by the Leakeys are documented here. Although the museum
was nice, it was small and we were soon on our way back to the hotel.
The walk back was shorter, since we decided not through downtown this time. We went
to the main park in the city center and talked to a couple of men playing checkers.
In the park many children came up to us bagging for money, but after we would say
no, their parents would talk to them and they would soon be back for another try.
Another thing in the park that caught my eye was the clothing everyone wore, I saw
one person wearing a Miami Dolphins Starter jacket and everyone else seemed to be
wearing American clothes as well.
That night we went out to the Carnivore and we were in for quite an experience.
The food served was zebra, crocodile, Grant's gazelle, hartebeest, and ostrich
among others. I found the Grant's gazelle meatballs to be revolting and the
crocodile to be very unpalatable, however everything else was good, especially the
ostrich. We went on with our feast in ordinary fashion and ate everything offered
except the liver of some animal. Throughout the meal, the waiters would come out
and sing a song we found quite catchy and very fun. We didn't know what the
occasion for the song was, but we cared little, for it was fun and exciting none-the-less.
August 5, 2003
We awoke early to get on the road to Tanzania. The road
was in poor shape and the landscape was barren; on both sides of us we constantly
saw termite mounds, stone piles perhaps representing graves of the fallen Masai
warriors, and donkeys along the roadsides. Here, unlike in Nairobi, the clothes
were very colorful: reds, yellows, oranges and blues. Many shirts were tie-dyed
and represented every color, but the Masai stood out by their dress of all red.
The towns were sad; children were in the streets, every other building contained
a bar, and everyone stopped to stare at us as we drove past. Not far from one village,
in the countryside we saw the Masai Ostrich Farm, a place that transported me into
a different country in a past century. The scene was identical to many drawings
I've seen in American history books: slaves working the plantations, but this
in front of me was daily life, it was reality, and it was the best job these people
There were probably a dozen women in the fenced in farm, carrying baskets and picking
fruit from the trees. I felt they were caged in, they had no machines, only their
hands and baskets, lined up in rows, picking on their hands and knees. There were
many women for the tiny area and I believe the abundance of labor was due to the
small cost to hire them, but it still seemed like a plantation, not different from
those I've only seen in history books.
Continue the above trip to: Tanzania