Monday, December 22, 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

I left Lusaka around 11:00. I was headed for Nairobi but had a lay over in Lilongwe, Malawi. My three Zambian proteges managed to make it to the gate with about 30 seconds to spare. I would spend the next week with these three as I was escorting them to the Cybercrime conference. Their names were Mulunda, Nkandu and Omari. Malunda and Nkandu worked together as prosecutors for the Zambian Government and Omari was a senior investigator for the Zambian Police. They turned out to be great guys and we had a great trip. However, it did not start out that way.
We arrived in Nairobi around 16:25 and made our way through customs. By 17:00 we were standing out on the curb awaiting our transport to the hotel which was about 25 Km away from the airport. Our transport turned out to be some guy with an unmarked Toyota Corrolla who assured us he was hired to take us to the hotel. The four of us piled in and fortunately none of us had very much luggage or we would have had to leave it behind. As we left the airport I noticed a very high wire fence about 20 ft tall lining the road exiting the airport. As we travelled down the road, I quickly realized why the fence was there. On the other side there were giraffes and zebras casually grazing in an open field. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture as I was not expecting to see any wild animals at the airport.
The next four hours were spent navigating the streets of Nairobi until our arrival at the Safari Game Park Lodge 25 kilometers away from the airport. During those four hours I saw four accidents, I saw two lane roads turned into three lane roads, we had a flat tire that required us to get off the main road so that the driver could change it and then try for twenty minutes to get back on to the main road. I later learned that this was standard fare for traffic in Nairobi. Let me just say in no uncertain terms, THIS WAS THE WORST TRAFFIC I HAVE EVER BEEN IN ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! Four hours to travel 25 kilometers or 15 miles. I could have walked quicker. But hey, shortly after the fourth accident, as we were waiting for traffic to begin moving again, a dude comes cruising up from behind us on a camel. As he continued to move, and we didn't, the camel looked at us and bellowed a loud grunt as if to say "what are you looking at." Once again I failed to snap a picture as I truly was not expecting to see a guy on a camel in all that traffic. Plus, I was a nervous wreck because we narrowly missed at least seven accidents ourselves as our driver continually made lanes of traffic where there were no lanes of traffic and drove on the shoulders of the road in order to move ahead a maximum of two car lengths only to argue and cuss out the guy who was angry because we cut in front of him.
The rest of my time in Nairobi was much more pleasant. I was able to meet up with my counterpart, Rob Bowman who holds down the fort for Kenya. He is in charge of the same program I am but he also has a few more duties that I don't have. The interesting thing about Rob is that, for those who don't know, he is a Durango High grad just like me. He is class of 79 so a few years my senior. His mother, Mary Ruth Bowman, was my health teacher at Miller Jr. High. Small world isn't it! Who would have thought that two Durango High School graduates would go on to represent the Department of Justice in two African countries. What are the odds? Must be something in that Durango water. Pretty good testament to the public school system.
Nairobi is a big city compared to Lusaka. Millions and millions of people, pretty large skyline and lots of shopping, including malls. I couldn't find a Starbucks but there were plenty of good coffee shops selling Kenyan coffee. Plus there was an excellent sushi restaurant at the hotel. I have not had sushi since my last trip to East by Southwest a few weeks before we left. I ate sushi three out of the five days I was in Nairobi.
All in all, I had a good time in Nairobi despite the unbelievable cluster$#@% that was the traffic. I was able to snap a few pictures of the city and of some of the students who attended the conference before my trip was through.

1 comment:

Melody said...

jim! thats so amazing, you need to have the camera attached to your forehead. I am dying to see more pics. for your poor snowbound New England cousin, I beg of you :) I had Mrs. Bowman at MJH too. WEIRD!