The challenge with travel blogging is capturing all those tiny moments and experiences and small footnotes relative to the larger context of the trip. I take hundreds of pictures when we travel to Kenya. Many hundreds. And when I’m reviewing which ones to post, I can get analysis paralysis. There’s usually a much larger story to tell, but not whole enough for an entire blog post.
For what it’s worth, here’s [a small portion of] the rest of the trip.
Right next to Nduku’s parent’s home is a mango tree. One day Nduku’s mom wanted me to help her knock some down. We taped a couple of broomsticks together and after getting the low hanging fruit, reaching those nearly three stories up wasn’t so easy. Hence the cliche, right?
Whenever you’re traveling long stretches across the country, you can expect police roadblocks. It’s mostly for security because there are some parts of the country where it’s not as civil. To slow the traffic, they use these spikes. And as rudimentary as they look, I’ve seen much more simple. Like nothing more than a thick tree branch.
If you watch travel shows about Kenya, it’s almost inevitable they’re going to bring up the matatu. They’re the preferred mass transport option for the locals. They’re minibuses that go just about anywhere, within the city and to other towns. But what makes a mass transit option so appealing to travel shows, and tourists, is the creativity used to attract riders. You don’t operate a matatu without some eye-catching artwork.
This has to be the first time I ever saw any vehicle in which the muffler was in the front of the vehicle.
It’s not uncommo to have someone come over and do your hair. Through some references, we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy. Though a Civil Engineering graduate, hair is her specialty. It took a couple of days to complete the work, but it was a work of art and only a fraction of the cost of what it would’ve cost to get it done in America. Literally, I was trying to convince her to consider getting her Master’s in the U.S. where she could charge in the hundreds of dollars for each head she dolled up, rather than what amounted to the equivalent of 15 to 20 bucks in Kenya.
Another artist at his craft, we stopped by this little shop off the side of the road where we met Maurice. There we selected the fabrics we wanted, the design, got measured for the perfect cut and again, only for a fraction of what it would cost in America for tailored clothes.
Funny how kid’s will choose a candy, not based on how it tastes or how sweet it is, but what color it’ll turn your tongue.
Nduku, being the fitness junkie she is, wanted to go for some morning runs. I, not being the fitness anything, tagged along only because it’s not the wisest to let her go running around be herself in the morning. Her parents stay on the outskirts of Nairobi and sidewalks are common. We ran along Mombasa Highway and at some parts, we had to get creative to our way.
Literally right in front of the entrance to Nakumatt, a huge department store found all over Nairobi, is the parking lot. But that doesn’t mean your belongings are safe.
Ok. So let me explain. When I go to other countries, I like going to the rawest parts of town. I like to go where the masses go. Resorts are for travelers who want to pretend they’re traveling another country but really are in a western world bubble. Now, we do resorts as well, but we have to get out and see the local economy. And when it comes to clubs, I like the one’s where everyone is a local. I’m like that in Washington, DC, as well.
But for this night, Nduku was pressing me to go with the flow and trust her friend Vanya. Vanya knows everyone. She knows all the spots. She knows Kenya. As much as I try not to do the west side, where the money is, we headed over there to see what Vanya had in mind.
We started at a cafe ran by South Africans. The food — delish. The decor was impressive. It would fit nicely in Washington, DC. I wanted to go to a dive, and she took us to one. I liked it. Homey. Grungy. My kind of place.
The five bar worked for me, but Vanya wanted us to check out this place called Kiza. So, let me tell you about Kiza. Maybe others have seen this before but it was new for me.
When we got there, I saw all these people wearing headphones while on the dance floor. It didn’t make sense to me. Vanya explained that the headphones had three settings. You could listen to the music blaring on the speakers are select two other channels with different music. Still, it didn’t make sense to me. You mean, all those people are dancing to different music? Weird. Why!? Seemed a bit antisocial to me.
But then someone at our table, seeing my skepticism, offered me his headphones. At first I was listening to the same music being played in the club. But instead of this loud noise assaulting you from every angle, it was a more sterile sound, cleaner, and somehow, it made me happy. You can still hear the song banging in the background, but with the same song on the headphones, it was just, better.
I then hit the switch and went from whatever hip hp song was playing to some local Caribbean-influenced, African rap song that just went well with the scene. I liked it. I gave the third channel a try and again, another perfect song for the moment. And if at anytime I wasn’t feeling whatever was playing in the headphones or the loud speakers, I just hit the switch. I get it. And though we’re surrounded by hundreds of others, with the headphones on, you almost feel comfortable in your own space.
I can’t explain it. How do you explain how a set of headphones transform the club from a noisy collection of inebriated patrons to a personal space you share with hundreds of others?
The guy wanted his headphones back, after I don’t know how many songs, but no worries. The headphones are given out for free to anyone who wants them. Nduku’s sister Nzambi was also a bit skeptical, but when she gave it a shot, she turned into someone I didn’t know. I mean, she became the life of the party. She danced at the table as if it was her personal dance floor!
I liek the concept so much that when we return, I might even see if we can go back.
On one of the last days in Kenya, we headed out to the west side to Kazuri. It’s a ceramic bead factory founded by two single mothers who now have a workforce of over 340 other disadvantaged women who make this jewelry which is sold all over the world. The beads shop was open but since it was the holidays, they weren’t running any tours. But you can tell from the quality of their work that they take their craftsmanship serious and why these beads are popular everywhere where women like quality jewelry.
And now, the rest of the rest of the photos.