Day Two started with a trip to the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi (yes, they use British English in Kenya, so it is the “Centre”). I went with Cindy, and then three students at Georgetown (“the interns”) who are here doing research for a professor—I’m gonna talk about the research at some point in the future, cause some of it’s mad cool. We planned to also go to an elephant orphanage, but it was only open from 11-12, and well, when it’s 45 minutes away, you sort of have to get up at a reasonable hour for that to happen. In any case, the Giraffe Centre was great. The workers there give people oat-like pieces that can be fed to the giraffes. The giraffes are happy to eat the food you offer them, regardless of it’s in your hands or between your lips:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4YeFKjRk-E&feature=youtu.be (if you read no further, at least watch this video)
From there, we went on a nature hike nearby, which despite the signs that we needed to be at least 15m away from any giraffes we encountered, did not lead to any “wild” giraffe sightings. It was still fun though.
Afterwards, Cindy and I went back to Zara’s place. An amusing element of driving around in the city is that the majority of places we went did not have addresses. Moreover, the way we described the places to cabdrivers was by their proximity to the nearest shopping mall. In each of the foreign countries I’ve lived in (Argentina, Bolivia, and now Kenya), malls have been a huge deal. I guess having a mall that would resemble one in the States is seen as this demonstration that the country has developed, and being able to eat or shop at a place with US prices is seen as a sign of status. I remember being excited to experience Bolivian food, but when my co-workers took me out, one of the first places we went was a shopping mall with a Subway.
After using the nearest mall as a description for how to get home, Cindy, Zara and I went to the arboretum, a green space in Nairobi, where we walked around. Similarity between the US and Kenya: in the green spaces in both, there are lots of critters who are very used to getting food from people, and are accordingly very bold. Difference between the US and Kenya: the aforementioned critters in this case were not pigeons, or squirrels. They were monkeys. I found them pretty hysterical at first, but I have to admit, when a monkey that’s been following you begins to climb into the tree directly above you, it can be a little unnerving.
After our walk, we went for coffee (at a mall) and then dinner. Zara wanted to show Cindy and me how insulated the Indian community in Nairobi can be, and she did not disappoint. The place we went to, Chowpaty was a super busy place, with white people at one other table, and then besides us, every single table was full with an Indian family. Pretty bizarre to experience in Kenya.
We ended our night at a bar called Casablanca, meeting up with one of Zara’s friends, and his roommate. It is worth prefacing this next bit with a discussion of the sorts of people you meet in an expat bar. There are all sorts of articles and blog posts about this, but among others, there are the doe-eyed idealist on their first major assignment abroad (that’s me!); the hardened, embittered aid worker; the backpacker; and the misfit—the dude who didn’t really get along with others who has decided to make a life for themselves abroad. As it turned out, the roommate of Zara’s friend belonged to the last group, which led to an uncomfortable night for Cindy (and me by extension).
It is worth saying that being awkward is in my mind not a bad thing at all, I am certainly guilty of that all the time. However, when that is mixed with creepy, it becomes a bit of a problem. The guy in question didn’t take any interest in our conversation until he learned Cindy had studied in China, which led to a lengthy discussion of how kickass everything in Beijing and China was. (In fact, I created a drinking game where I drank every time something was characterized as “kickass” or “incredible”, which had to be abandoned if I wanted to maintain any level of sobriety). The discussion of China evolved into efforts to impress Cindy with his vast knowledge of Nairobi and Kenya, and efforts to hold her hand and grab her leg—womp womp. While Cindy was a good sport about it, it led to us heading out a little earlier than we might have otherwise, to go home and prepare for a “kickass” Sunday.
My lunch break is just about over, so check in tomorrow for Part 3, where I try to discuss business models with “tourist trap” workers.