Apart from surviving a rough turbulence-filled landing on the second flight (although barely), I managed to make all my connections, including the one in Istanbul where I was forced to quickly adopt the slight pushiness required (because lines do not indicate order) to receive my boarding pass, get through security, be stopped by a random police check, and manage to find the boarding gate just in time see that the gate had been changed. Given this, I am not only thankful that all my luggage arrived (a first for me in Africa), but also that I made it here myself. Apart from this I was able to sleep on the planes, felt the time go by relatively fast and enjoy relatively decent ‘airplane’ food. I couldn’t have asked for more… except for maybe for an airport pickup as expected. My flight arrived at 0120hrs and by the time I got through customs, found a reliable taxi driver who knew where I was going (to the best of my knowledge), and drove (relatively slowly at first to avoid hitting any zebras), I made it to the correct entrance of my accommodation at 0330hrs. Long couple days.
I was up at 0830hrs, (since I couldn’t sleep it was so cold) and was off to breakfast and to buy a sim card for my phone. The weather here is sweater or jacket weather. I knew it would be cool but after the last few hot months in Canada I forgot what anything between 18-10 degrees Celsius feels like!
The best news – windows sealed with screens, no insects (not even in the bathroom when it rains, with nothing coming up the drains), internet and running HOT water! I knew I should have expected these, especially hot water, but you can never be sure in Africa and all I kept thinking of was those times in Ghana when I’d had cold water bucket baths in the morning, and at night always had a shoe-in-hand armed against the insects.
Later Friday I met with my supervisor: dress shirt, dress pants, briefcase, smile, coffee, development theories and work experiences, all using the lingo and acronyms, such as RBM. Perfect. I know I will be challenged and learning lots while contributing what I may. I am excited for Monday and to meet the rest of the team, extra thanks due to the nice warm welcome. I went home with homework; not what I expected as I don’t start until Monday, although I was glad to feel more prepared and have something restful to do as I try to get over jetlag.
There are many other young ladies my age staying here. Most are from Germany (working at NGOs), some are from Austria (working at their embassy), and from Italy (working at the UN). It is quite an interesting group and I am getting my fill of German. Everyone here can speak it and many of them are trying to learn Arabic. At first I was surprised at their interest in Arabic, but a surprising number of them have been to Istanbul and have shared stories about the large Turkish population in Berlin. I supposed where we learn Chinese and the US learns Spanish for trade and demographic reasons, they are learning the languages which best reflects their geography and changing migration patterns.
I managed to stay up all day Friday and Saturday by visiting with Gillian, a friend from home who has been here since February. It’s true, I encouraged her to come saying I’d be joining her soon but with the delays in my start date, it’s nice that we have been able to meet at all since she leaves this Wednesday. She introduced me to a Minty Pineade which you must all try to make at home. It is made of a LOT of mint (because the drink is green) and pineapple juice. Interesting taste; very good. There were also some others there from the IOM and another who had studied at Humber College the year after Gillian and I. On Saturday, after a nice solid sleep, I met with Gillian again and we took a matatu (mini buses, filled to the brim with people) to ‘town’ (aka. downtown Nairobi). She showed me which one I would need to get home (look for Village Market or UNEP), pointed out parliament, city hall, Jomo Kenyatta Mausoleum, climbed to the top of the KICC (Kenya International Conference Center) to look out over the city, and wander through the city market where Gillian helped me get my bargaining skills back in use as she bought souvenirs for family and friends. It was a great day which ended by getting get caught in the rain.
Another personal surprise – I’ve had both pizza and pasta since I’ve been here. Two things that I again, probably could have expected living in a city, but I had said goodbye to thinking I’d have to go out of my way to get Italian food. It was a welcomed surprise.
Overall, while I knew my experience in Kenya would be very different from Ghana, I can’t help but realize how very different Nairobi and Accra are. Friday I only saw similarities and Saturday I only saw differences. Accra had the Ghanaian flag and colours everywhere. People wearing the Ghanaian materials and colours were constantly moving, singing, or humming to the loud Ghanaian beats coming from every car and store. It was not uncommon to see people carrying things of all sorts and sizes on their heads and selling in the streets, after all, this was how we bought our t-roll (aka. toilet paper). In Nairobi, people tend to dress, by comparison, in western styled clothing of less bright colours, and I only saw one person carrying something small on their head, and only one person selling on the street (although I now hear that selling on the street is permitted in Nairobi on only street in particular). Not to mention here there are a disappointingly small number of motos (motorcycles). Just as well, taxis are probably safer. It is very interesting and I am beginning to understand why my supervisor was curious to know what differences I would find between here and West Africa. So far both are nice, just very different. I wonder what it is like here outside of the city and in the rural areas.
Hope you are all doing well. I can’t wait to start and share my first week at work.