August 2, 2015


In case you were wondering, that's how you say "what is it?" in Swahili.

I'm crossing off my mental bucket list. I must travel, travel travel! To Bali, see the Safari, Rome, Hong Kong, the list is long.

I made it to Kenya recently (yay!) I travelled through the city of Nairobi to Nakuru town, the countryside.  First thing to notice in Kenya is the fact that they drive on the left side, which means, the traffic flows the opposite way, at first, this can be disorienting if not used to it.

This is Africa? 

Nothing could have prepared me for my pleasant surprise. This place is beyond beautiful.

Kenya is a country blessed. It has a lot going for it, especially its natural resources. This is a place brimming with nature, many endangered species can still be found roaming around here among humanfolk, its greenery is lush, there are many lakes. Quite unforgettable is the late afternoon I came face to face with a baboon, distance couldn’t have been more than five feet (okay I was in the car). The creature must have just started his day and came out for some sun, it didn’t seem perturbed by the fact that I was literally screaming in excitement, it just sat on a mound on the side of a busy highway, looking left and right, scratching it's man parts and catching the afternoon breeze, as if to say “I’m used to screaming fans, enjoy the view!” To say the sight was unreal would be an understatement. This unusual sight would be strange to anyone not from Kenya, for different creatures roam around here. I caught a glimpse of the Massai herding cattle in usual tribal gear. There are cattle herders, sheep herders, goat herders, zebras grazing, donkeys galloping along, uniformed school children congregated on the side of the road by the bush, catching the afternoon sun. I wondered what their day was like.

Most enjoyable is sharing space with the wild. They roam free in the many national parks and lakes, due to time constraints, I couldn't explore them all. Beyond exciting is watching the giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, antelopes, warthogs, hippos. Each one gather together in different herds. I zoomed in on a couple of baboons, one meticulously groomed the other, reminded me of a happy couple.

There are alot of things and places named Kenyatta.

Kenyatta International Conference Center is an important landmark located in the business district of Nairobi. With one of its buildings 28 stories high, it is the third tallest building in the city, the top deck is a tourist attraction, providing spectacular aerial views. Named after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, it was completed in 1973 for events and exhibitions. It's amphitheater reminds me of the United Nations, a circular auditorium for at least 800 people with balcony mezzanines that spans at least 3 levels, look up and you will witness one of the best in architecture, it's where "heritage and mordernity meet." Unfortunately, no cameras allowed for security reasons. The amphitheater has played host to dignitaries from around the world, currently used for many conferences, exhibitions and different events all year round.

As I enjoyed spectacular views of the city of Nairobi, I'm reminded of the days on the observation deck on the 86th floor of Empire State Building in New York City, I also remember, I'm afraid of heights! I met the Balozi Family Chior, an organization that gives back to its country. They were in a recording session. They started this patriotic melody and although I couldn't understand what they were singing they commanded my attention. They were more than happy to explain.
I’m a Nigerian and proud of my heritage too, I would not trade my homeland for another. Matter of fact, I’ve gained greater appreciation for Nigeria in recent years that I simply want to stay connected, creating awareness anyway I can, collaborating with like minds on the goal of making Nigeria a place for which future generations would be proud. With that said, I call a spade a spade. Whoever dubbed Nigeria the giant of Africa must be talking about it’s geographical size (an inside joke of a friend), aside from that, Nigeria is yet to demonstrate that in any way else. Kenya, on the other hand gives Nigeria a run for all it’s oil money in terms of infrastructure. Good roads ease the burden of traffic. It could easily compete with the West.
I notice an uncanny difference between Kenya and Nigeria as I descended into it’s territory—LIGHTS! Twinkles outline the landscape like a settlement of fireflies, reassuring me we’ve arrived, holding a certain promise. I couldn’t help but wonder why a country that dubs itself as a giant cannot seem to get itself together. Why are there just too many inconveniences? The persistent lack of power supply in Nigeria is a cancer that have metastasized. It’s the fiber of our being. Will it ever be cured? I sure could use the internet, but we could start with steady electricity for now.

Another difference I noticed is at Kenya’s international airport—ORDER! There’s no haggling by vultures that parade themselves as authority figures with the agenda of collecting bribes. I really don’t understand why or how a country that portray itself as a giant cannot seem to get itself together. At the airport you can sense an order to things and the energy is peaceful, no feeling of struggle, no fighting, like that you experience Murtala Muhammed Airport and you swear you were the object of someone's nightmare last night. The luggage trolleys are free, staff greet you with smiles on their faces and go out of their way to help you, free of charge. In Nigeria, I had to assertively, sometimes aggresively ward off the vultures lurking at me, a lot of times, they think because you come from a foreign country with a foreign accent, you don’t understand their antics.
If you ever get a chance to head to Kenya, make sure you stop at a market or at least, a souvenir shop, you’d find many handmade materials you can’t find anywhere else. I admired the sheepskin goods crafted locally and quite supple, made into rugs, hats, and other accessories, it’s one of a kind. Milano Curio shop, a souvenir shop named after some Italians from many years ago that helped construct some of its roads and buildings. Although the Italians are gone for the most part, they left a part of them here. I encountered the tiniest church I’ve seen in my entire life, only fits two rows of church benches and and pulpit, with relics placed all around it. It made up for what it lacked in size with character. This Roman Catholic church was a spiritual refuge for the Italians who lived there back in the day, and couldn’t share a church with the British.

There's no education quite like you get from traveling the world. There are so many misconceptions fed to us on CNN. When I'm in the U.S, people want to know updates on Boko Haram and the Chibok girls, when I'm in Africa, people want to know if I was there to witness all the shootings involving black men. The truth is, you probably know just as much as I do. Media outlets and now social media feed into our paranoia, they perpetuate all the bad news in the world, portray a whole country, continent as all and the same when it comes to bad news (don't get me started on folks that think Africa is a country). A verse in the bible uses this metaphor (or parable): a little leaven ferments the whole lump [of bread]. Kinda like that. If we listened and internalized every news we hear, Isreal and the rest of the Middle East would look like a desolate, war-torn area with a sign 'Do Not Enter' stamped at the entrance, the entire continent of Africa would be a desert or a rainforest with the most rudimentary of human beings. What we watch on the news for the most part, as bad as it is, happens in small geographical areas.
It was a blast hanging out with Tamara, George, John and Carol. Time wasn't on my side or we'd toured the whole country. John kept reminding me to ask questions and ensure I've crossed off everything on my must-see list. George, thanks for showing me your HIV/AIDS clinic in Nakuru town. It's admirable to hear how you single-handedly work on getting the street workers off the streets and educating them.We can all make a differece in the world, one individual case worker at a time. I will be back.

Here’s a tip:

  • If you’re not a Kenyan resident, make sure you have your passport with you at all times as a form of identification. This has its disadvantage, as Kenyans tend to raise their prices up to 75% to non-residents. So, it is also advised that you have a Kenyan show you around and help you shop. A day at the National Park is 1200 KES (Kenyan Shilings) for a Kenyan and 7500 KES for a non-resident. Souvenir shops jack up their prices for tourists.
  • Kenyans love their greens: kale, cabbage.  Kenyans also love their tea, they're tea growers, it's the offering of choice in their households. When a Kenyan offers you some tea expect to have milk in it, you can choose to add sugar.
  • The exchange rate is 1:95 (Dollar to KES, approx.)
  • It's cold in the Summertime. Be sure to pack a light jacket and sweater.
  • Kenyan families are hospitable, you should expect that, don't be shy, it might be an insult if you refuse an offering in their home.
  • Leave all the misconceptions you've heard about Africa at the airport and plan to have a good time!
  • When you hear "Karibu" in Kenya, smile because they just welcomed you!
Mural of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta during the colonial years, being released from prison. A prominent sight in KICC.


1 comment :

  1. "Kwanini?" means "why?" not "what is it?". "what is it?" is "xxx ni nini?" depending on the object in question eg "Hiyo ni nini?" where the speaker is asking about an object that is in his/her view.


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