A Brief Glance at Nairobi, Kenya
Coming Home From Kenya
The green-tinted trail from the monitor,
Signals the ending of my journey.
I am at an altitude of 40,000 feet,
And the ride is free from turbulence.
After three months, I am glad to be heading home.
A child cries some thirty metres away,
While passengers remain immerse,
In their own unique reflections.
A translucent blue of vastness,
Peeps through the see-through windows,
Blossoming in my aisle like sunflowers.
Across the Tannoy, the good news resonate.
We are approaching Heathrow,
And the weather is fine.
I touched down on Kenyan soil on Friday the 6th April 2018. It was a cool but pleasant morning and I had no problems with Kenyan Airways, neither with the Airport Taxi service that took me to the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) Central, on State House Road, Nairobi. Taxi prices differ, but on average, it seems that $20.00 is a decent price for travelling about 25 Kilometres or fourteen miles to town. I was satisfied.
Today, Friday 7th July, some three months later and four days post my return to London, I am somewhat tired and so taking things easy and leisurely at home.
Nairobi is a buzzing City, somewhat small and overcrowded, particularly so in the rush hour periods. Many of its workers use cheap City Hoppas called Matatus (mini-vans), for getting to and into the peripheral places and plazas around the perimeter of the city. Some roads and roundabouts can do with a little bit of upgrading to encourage safer and freer flow.
Still, the City has developed a lot and there are many decent buildings and several financial and other assets, located in and just outside Nairobi. Its people are usually quite friendly, and I found them decent and pleasant in conversation. They presented with kindness and courtesy whenever or wherever a situation arose, if they needed to be so. The spirit of Karibu (welcome) seems very ingrained in their nature.
There are a variety of foods but not too much if you are vegetarian. One needs to put some different foods together, unless you are in an Ethiopian restaurant or one of the very few vegetarian restaurants such as is found in Diamond Plaza.
There are many beautiful Malls or Plazas just five to ten Kilometres ride outside the City Centre, and one can go there quite easily with Matatus for about 10 to 50 Kshs. There is the famous Sarit Centre, Westgate and UKay Centre in Westlands; Lavington Mall in Lavington, Diamond Plaza and Thika Road Mall, the latter owned by a father and son (50%) and a small family (50%). There is also Village Market, Junction Mall and a few more. Cost of living is cheaper in the City and more expensive at the popular Malls.
The Country uses the Kenyan shilling (Kshs), but other major currencies, in particular the U.S. dollar is welcome. Many banks and Forex Bureau’s will assist you, but there is also the M-pesa, a new way of transaction, which is encouraged a lot in some Malls and restaurants. See note on M-pesa at the end.
I spent my time there giving classes to include speaking and practical sessions on the life of Yoga Philosophy, essentially the spiritual life. I spoke to about two hundred people over some twenty-five Seminars and workshops. The classes were quite successful in the sense of planting seeds, for a 'moment' soon to come.
The crowd varied from two to over sixty, especially in Pumwani, where I also spoke to kids literally living on the streets. (For God’s own reasons, the benefit system there does not appear to be any way near as affluent as Europe). Overall, my class attendance varied, on average, from about seven to thirteen people per session.
This was my fifth or sixth visit and I did not do the tourist thing this time. I stayed mostly at the YMCA when I was not moving around, but the Terrace area and swimming pool at the back are extremely beautiful. The climate varies from cool at mornings to sunny during the day and cool again from late afternoon. July is one of their coldest months.
This has been very beneficial to the lush vegetation, the flora and fauna … the verdant hue of the trees and foliage, of the terrace’s and surrounding environment at the back. Birds, probably starlings, sing and dance quite frequently among the trees and one can see an excellent blue sky, whenever the sun is radiant and serene.
Kenya has a much younger population than most countries, and Nairobi boast something like 80, 000 students in its university campuses. The youth there are culturally and financial aware of government spending, and share an acute understanding of politics, greed and corruption. This manifests quite powerfully in their art and culture. Religion is popular and a scriptural word or two creeps up in their performances often.
Overall, it was a good experience. I had few worries, although the food became dull from the constant taking of breakfast in one place and the unfortunate problem with my tooth, which had to be extracted. There are many weekend Seminars and services at the YMCA and the place is anything but dull. They sport a Gym as well as the pool mentioned and have three meeting rooms and one Chapel.
They host athletes and refugees, which are very well treated and cared for, until a destination can be found. Therefore, people from Somalia, Congo, Gabon and Ethiopia serve only to inspire and remind me, of how we in the West are quite fortunate. The gap between the rich and poor, are sometimes quite noticeable, but the Kenyan by nature, has a very remarkable and resilient Spirit.
So jumbo (hello) Kenya. It’s goodbye, for now. God’s willing, I will see you again, Akuna Matata (No problems). Until, Asante Sana! Thank you so much!
Note: 100Kshs = $1.00
“M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and in 2014 to Romania and in 2015 to Albania. M-Pesa allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services easily with a mobile device.” (Taken from the Internet)
“In Kenya and neighbouring nations, matatu (or matatus) are privately owned minibuses, although pick-up trucks and estate cars were in the past pressed into service as these East African share taxis. Often decorated, many matatu feature portraits of famous people or slogans and sayings. Likewise, the music they play is also aimed at quickly attracting riders.
Although their origins can be traced back to the 1960s, matatu saw growth in Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s, and by the early 2000s, the archetypal form was a (gaily-decorated) Japanese microvan. C. 2015, larger, bus-sized vehicles also started to be pressed into service as matatu.” More interesting info in Wikipedia.com
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