Monthly Archives: July 2011

Kenyan Tidbits


~ Swahili is one of the most common languages in Kenya – I would go so far as to say that nearly everyone knows at least a little bit of it – and it is our goal as a family to learn to speak it.

~ The UN headquarters for all of Africa is based here in Nairobi, so Nairobi is a pretty major hub. People from all around the world live here.

~ Since there are so many different kinds of people, it would stand to reason that there are many different kinds of food – there are Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese foods (to name just a few).

~ Despite there being a good-sized international population, this is still really an African big city. Think New York City, only try to imagine it un-Americanized – hardly any fast food (I haven’t seen even one place yet, but there might be something), lots of African local food (I haven’t quite gotten with the different food so far!), no road laws (I will tell you about that momentarily), and many, many languages other than English in common use. On top of all that, try to imagine no sidewalks, lots of poverty, literal “seas” of people on foot in the roads, people trying to get more $$$ from you because of your skin color and accent (convenient when many things don’t have price tags), and, comparing to the U.S., a great deal less variety in stores and the kinds of quality goods available.

~ There are oodles of apartment complexes here in the city. From what I have seen so far, either you live in an apartment or you live in your own house in the shadow of an apartment building.

~ We are living in an area called Kilimani and are about a forty minute walk to two big malls. (These are walks we take nearly every week to get some groceries.) The larger of the two, the Junction, is five stories with a decent variety of stores. (I am hoping for a large Christian bookstore! On second thought, a nice library would be wonderful….)

~ The power goes out frequently here, but people just take it in stride. The lights will even be off in major shopping centers for a few minutes before the generators kick in. When this happens, a collective “Oh!” goes up and then everyone laughs quietly as though all part of some sort of inside joke. Nice big candles (or a back-up generator!) are important to have. Oh, and when I mean that the power is out, I really mean that the power is out – we have to go all day without power sometimes, and generally, electricity is off for at least a few hours. We went several consecutive days in July with 10-hour daytime stints without electricity.

~ Driving here is nuts. To drive in Nairobi, you either have to be crazy as well or you have to be a good enough driver to avoid the crazy people. If there are road laws, they aren’t enforced. And the traffic, like any big city, is heavy mornings, evenings, and weekends. (Or maybe all the time!)

~ Housing is expensive in Nairobi. Lots of $$$, even for a very modest, unfurnished apartment. Our apartment is four bedrooms, all ensuite (that means we have a guest bedroom with a private bathroom; hint hint, friends and family!).  It is fully furnished, but it is still more each month than we were paying for our newly-built house in Grandville, Michigan.

~ Most people here don’t own cars. They either reply on public transportation via matatu (like a jam-packed minivan that you can pay to ride in) or on the back of a motorcycle called a bordaborda. Others, who are able to afford it, have hired drivers who pick them up and take them where they need to go.

~ So housing might not come cheaply, but lots of produce does, especially veggies. I mean, seven avocados for the equivalent of 20 cents U.S.? Doesn’t get much better than that!

~ Apparently there is a roving Nairobi apartment monkey who lives around here. Nearly the size of a German Shepard, this mean, fruit-thieving primate (sitting) reaches Sam’s waist. We found him in our kitchen the other day, taking bananas. (yikes!) Our brave Sam walked right up and smacked the monkey with his hand – which, thankfully, cause him to run away (albeit with our bananas.)

~ Toilet handles are “flushed” three times in quick succession; twice to fill the tank with water and the third time makes it all go away. Each bathroom has its own water heater which needs “turned-on” with a switch on the wall (it looks alot like a light-switch) when you are ready to heat your water. The same is true with the kitchen sink – there’s a mini-water heater under it. So we have hot water on demand if we plan ahead.

~ The weather in Nairobi is moderate year-round with an average high temperature of 73 and an average low temperature of 54.  The sun rises around 7:00 am and sets around 7:00 all year long.  In the warm season (December, January, February and March) there is between 250 and 300 hours of sunshine every month!

~ Last but not least is the fact that many Kenyan women are constantly “changing their hair” – putting on different wigs or getting extensions. It still surprises me when someone comes to one church service with waist-length pink braids, and, the next time I see her, she has Shirley Temple ringlets. It certainly makes it difficult to recognize people!