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Hanging Around Embakasi, Mlolongo, Nairobi, and Trying Out Naked Pizza

After returning from the coast and a day before heading out to Kitui, we had a day to just improvise. There were some errands needing to be run, but I just go with the flow when the Malombe sisters head out to shopping centers.

We stopped by a shopping center in Embakasi, a division of Nairobi on the east side. Kenya’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, opened in 1958 and was known then as Embakasi Airport. The lady was explaining to me how much more developed it is now than when she was a kid living in the area. What stood out most to me, though, were how many people just hung their clothes on the balcony to dry. Nothing wrong with it; actually, I found it quite fascinating.

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Kenyan Version of a Car Wash

Because a lot [if not most] of the roads outside of Nairobi are dirt roads, even a short burst of rain can be devastating. While in Kitui it rained a little, but enough to turn the roads into pure 100% Kenyan mud.

The car we were riding in was caked in mud. The morning after we returned, mzee and I took it to the car wash. But in Kenya a car wash is a bit different from in America. We’re spoiled and take for granted simple stuff like vacuums, hoses and Windex. Let alone the automated car washes. And in America it’s cheaper to run your car through an automated car wash than it is for a hand wash detailing. In Kenya it’s the other way around.

The car wash we went to was like a carport over dirt. There’s no running water or vacuums. There’s no Windex, Armour All or Tire Cleaner. Just a couple of Kenyans with a few rags, a bucket of water that constantly needs to be changed, and exceptional attention to detail.

Car Wash in Kenya

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Category: Mlolongo  2 Comments
Najwa Meets More of Her Extended Family

If you’re visiting Kenya, there are a ton of things to do, places to visit, activities and events to experience. It’s one of the few African countries free of a violent and bloody past saturated with coups, dictators and civil wars. It’s home to a UN office and many regional offices for NGOs, international and multinational companies and other organizations, and one of East Africa’s busiest ports connecting it to the world.

There’s the safaris and wildlife. It has a highly visited coast and mountains and the legendary Rift Valley. Because of colonialism, English is widely spoken so it’s not difficult to get around. The dollar is strong, the people are humble and welcoming, and the capital is clean, modern and easy to navigate.

But the main reason we were there was for me and Najwa to meet Nduku’s family.

On our second full day there, Nduku’s sister Mutethya arrived from Dubai with her son Alexander. Since she was staying only for a few days, their grandmother came up from “upcountry” to see her.

The Malombe Family

From left to right is Nduku’s sister Mutethya who lives in Dubai, Nduku and Najwa, Nduku’s youngest sister Nzambi, her grandmother, her dad, mom and niece Ryana who is Nzambi’s daughter.

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First Stops In Kenya: Mlolongo, Kiambu and Wangige

I was so excited to finally be in Africa, to be in Kenya and to meet Nduku’s parents that I couldn’t sleep. Well, maybe if I put my head down, but I was afraid I’d wake up when the city was shutting down. Not wanting to miss a moment, I rolled out as soon as we got in with Nduku’s dad.

Our first stop was in town. Now, my vision of town is a bit different from what town means in Kenya. We went to the business center of Mlolongo just outside of Nairobi and I was shocked to see how un-modern the area is compared to what I’m used to. Dirt and extremely bumpy roads, piles and piles of trash, buildings that look half-built or half-falling-apart, just a level of un-development I wasn’t expecting to see.

But, amid all the crumble, there’s a spirit that I was even less expecting to see. Entrepreneurship. There were market stalls and storefronts and street hawkers and just people everywhere minding their business, literally. There’s a spirit in Kenya that inspires you. People don’t sit around waiting for the government to support them [in Kenya that support might not find you]; instead, they find ways to make it happen. There are so many small businesses selling everything from produce, airtime for mobile phones, barbers and hairstylists, small [and I mean small!] kiosks with everything you need on a daily basis from food and drinks, household supplies and everything else.

It’s really impossible to explain the level of small business owners and how they just make it happen in such an environment. To them, everything is normal. For me, coming from America, it was a shock. I was overwhelmed with how poor the area is, how much commercial and retail activity there was despite the conditions, and how everything seemed so normal to everyone — except me.

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