Wednesday, November 26, 2008


All the UN people here in Sudan have a mandated R&R (rest and relaxation) every two months or something like that. Apparently, it's too difficult to live in Sudan without regular breaks. So that's exactly what I gave myself recently - a long weekend in neighbouring Kenya!
Let me tell you, arriving in the capital Nairobi was like seeing a whole new world. I felt like I was in Europe - paved roads, public parks, fancy cars, skyscrapers, EVERYONE in suits. I felt underdressed in jeans. When I saw a man biking in a suit, it was as if I was in Amsterdam. Honestly, I could have been in downtown Toronto - except that everyone was black and spoke English with a beautiful Kenyan accent. Even the construction workers on the side of the road wore bright orange fluorescent vests, instead of the usual - bare feet and dirty sleeveless shirts. I have never seen a place in Africa quite like this (I imagine South Africa is even more incredible). For people who have been around a while, this is totally normal, but for me, Nairobi was a shock.

In any case, it was interesting being in a new country. They drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. It's been a while since I've had to make an effort to speak the local language, Swahili - "Jambo" = Hello! "Habareeyako?" = How are you? But of course, everyone speaks English, so it wasn't much of a problem. In fact, Swahili has a lot in common with Arabic - 600 for example is "meya sita", police officer is 'askary'. About one third of the population here in Muslim, from what I'm told.

Speaking of police, while in a taxi, I saw a bunch of police officers running down the street with sticks in their hands. "Hookers," the taxi driver said. haha. It's a weird place. The headline of the one of the newspapers read: "This mum watched her son starve to death." Weird. As developed as Kenya is, it's still Africa. And inter-tribal violence that killed hundreds after the elections here in January was a reminder of that.

After Nairobi, I headed to Lamu, a small town on Kenya's northeastern coast, for a nice relaxing day on the beach. First time I see a beach town with both tourists in bikinis and locals in niqab (full face and hair covering). Many Muslim traders settled on Kenya's coast, so the people are a mix of Arab and African in both ethnicity and religion. Anyways, it was a great few days. I can see why so many foreigners like living in Kenya. It's got all the beauty of Africa without a lot of the difficulties. Maybe I've just been in Sudan too long!


Salooly said...

wow, i just learned a lot about kenya that i clearly did not know. looking lovely in that picture!

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