Making Friends

May 1, 2015

The following morning I was ready to go. But first, I needed to know where Irene's accent was from. Fortunately, she was up and about just as I was about to hit the road. I greeted her good morning, gave the usual polite courteousies, and then delved right in. "Irene, where did you learn English? Its perfect and you have an English accent." She replied,  "Oh no, I'm a Brit. I'm not from Kenya." We had a great laugh with that one. Mystery solved.

 

I got directions from the maid, Chastity, and decided to start my Nairobi adventure on a matatu to the Nairobi National Museum.

 

I had read of matatus as being loud smelly and squished buses. They stuff people to the brim while the collectors of money hang off the side of the bus. Well... all of that was true, but it wasn't so bad for a 5'1" woman. It cost 30shillings which equates to 0.33 USD! You can't go wrong with that. Those on the bus were just like me. A woman or man with a purpose to get to where they needed to go. Men in suits holding briefcases filled the bus. Women ready for their own workday or tugging along their little ones all cozied up next to one another without being shy. The matatu pounded out Bob Marley and Alicia Keys through the speakers and the money collectors taunted and coaxed passerbys to get on their particular  matatu. It was their culture and their version of the CTA, maxi taxi, doller bus, or whatever is in your town for public transportation.

 

I told the money collector hanging off the side of the bus exactly where I needed to go. When it came time to get off, I sifted through the people and landed my feet on the side of the road in the middle of a highway.

Ok... where to from here?

 

I saw two others hop off a different matatu and promptly asked for directions. An index finger pointed up the hill and a gesture that said to follow. I walked behind the random guy and there at the top of the hill was the museum. But it was on the other side of the highway. As much as the matatus were an adventure, I was not looking forward to this one.

 

Kenyans have crossing the road down to a science. It almost appeared to be like double dutch. You would see them observing the driving patterns, lean forward and dodge for it. I was a bit nervous about using my own judgement so I looked for whoever seemed like the most agile street crosser and followed that person.

 

A woman in a skirt with a briefcase and flats. She had to know what she was doing. After what felt like 5min of observing traffic patterns I saw the Kenyan lean, prepped my own, and darted across the street. Finally, I was at the museum.

 

 

 

The sign and large gate gave a very modern and prominent image to liven up what was otherwise a very simple space. The museum honestly didnt look like it held too much updated information, so I decided to walk through the botanical garden, snake park, and the peace path. After an hour of this outdoor exploration I decided to try a self guided walking tour provided by some app I had downloaded on my phone.

 

My sense of direction sucks. So I prepped to pull any ounce of navigation skills that could have possibly passed from my military father into me and headed straight to the receptionist desk for help.

 

I atleast needed to get to my first destination.

 

Apparently, the receptionist wasn't too sure either. The receptionist called over another man named Deche to look at the map with him. Now the real adventure was to begin.

 

After some discussion in their native tongue, the receptionist asked if I did not mind having Deche, take me to town. He was heading that way anyway. I said, "Of course I don't mind! You sure he doesn't mind taking me?" They both said it was not a problem at all. Now I knew I wouldn't get lost.

 

We headed out to town and I began to go in - in my Tiffany way - to get as much information as possible so that when Deche left me, I'd have plenty of local advice. I found out Deche worked in the botany department of the museum. He was from Mombasa, a city on the coast of Kenya. Him and the receptionist were actually from the same town hence why they were not speaking in Swahili or English but in their native tongue. Beside botany, Deche loved music, had written some of his own and had created a few music videos back on the coast.

What was supposed to be one stop in the middle of town turned into a four hour guided tour of all the places on my map. Deche cancelled a meeting he was supposed to attend and said he would be happy to show me the highlights of Nairobi's town center.

 

 

 

While walking, we talked about his music career, the state of Nairobi, my home country of Trinidad, food, religion, and the history of the places we saw. I mentioned, in passing, getting fruit and he made sure we curbed our tour to stop in the veggie and fruit market. I got fresh bananas, pineapple, tomatoes, and mangos, all for less than the equivalent of $3 since Deche was with me.

 

At one point, Deche received a phone call.  He spoke in Swahili, and I heard  random words like reggae, French, and Mombasa. I figured maybe Deche was a traveler as well. When he got off the phone, Deche said, "You are good luck." (Something Ive always known). The phone call was about helping a French company coming to town to set up for a music performance they wanted to do in Mombasa next week. Which meant Deche was going home, doing music, and making a large sum of cash. We celebrated with high fives, thumbs ups, and Asanti Sana (thank you) to God.

 

On our way back from our treck, we met a friend from his hometown on the coast named Gabriel. Gabriel also worked at one of the museum branches called the Institute of Primate Research in Karen. We walked back to the Nairobi National Museum and hung out for an hour where I got to see the botany department, listen to some of Deche's original music, and show them pictures of Trinidad. Deche and Gabriel are both wishing to find a wife in Trinidad now after viewing pictures of my cousins and I at Carnival. Ha!

 

It started to get late and I was to meet a member of Nomadness, a travel group , for drinks. I told them I had to go and planned on walking back as the museum seemed relatively close to where I was staying. Deche kept on saying, "This girl can walk!"

 

And that I can.

 

Unfortunately, I wore them out underestimating how far off the place I was staying really was. My two new friends refused to let me walk alone and joined me on a 45min journey to my couchsurfing residence.

 

Gabriel insisted that I come see his place of work and the waterfall right by it.  I had no plans, so I agreed to do so. We organized for me to meet Deche in his office and we would ride to Karen via bus to check out the Karen Blixen Museum, Gabriel's office at The Institute of Primate Research, and the waterfall.

 

We passed some awkward hugs goodbye ( I don't think Kenyans are used to that) and I headed back to homebase.

 

 

 

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