“So where is this place already?”
“you know the road where they ambushed and killed 5 people a few months ago?..”
Ladies and gentlemen, apparently this is how you give directions in Nairobi.
Nairobi is looking very much like one of those gripping books with a slow start. You know, the ones that require a few chapter of description before the real action kicks in and you can’t put that damn thing down anymore?
After a slow first 10 days of settling in our flat, exploring the nearby Nakumatt 23 times per day, welcoming Ruth and getting a food poisoning, the real action started with our collective trip at the Nairobi National Park with the team on Sunday.
Early rise. As we get out of the van to buy the pass, we first encounter a massive warthog trotting in the car park.
Then once in, we immediately see buffaloes. Which marks the ticking of the Big Five for me. Then giraffes. Very close to the road, one just popping its head out of the bush.
We see many antilopes, zebras, heartbeests. A rhino.
Observing these animals grazing with Nairobis CBD skyline on the background is surreal.
Then Willy the driver gets the info about a couple of lions.
20mn drive. Unbelievable. A young couple of lions under a bush, very close to the road. Many cars arrive. The lioness gets nervous and wanders. Willy explain they’re on honeymoon. Uh?
As we were filming them we get what he means.. A muzzle rub, and in less of a dozen of seconds we have lionporn on tape. Final neck grab included. The lioness then rolling on her back visibly satisfied.
That was. Wow. Nothing like the documentaries I’ve seen. They were very affectionate and sweet.
I went back to the park a few weeks later with a good friend Michael, for a photo shoot competition. Well, there wasn’t much completions really…
More animals but also a visit to the Giraffe centre, where I got kissed:
The setting. The mini makeshift shops . The sewage.. The dust. The smell. The people. Their smiles. Hundreds of kids coming back from school and dancing with us. The absence of aggression. The train passing in the middle of al this.
I’m just speechless.
So many people, and kids living in these conditions. No electricity or running water. There’s a community center which offers laundry, toilets and showers. I even spotted a shack sporting a “brewery club” sign (trust me to spot that one).
I went back to Kibera just before Xmas, and after a difficult start of the walk, where my guide had a epileptic seizure, we all ended in one of those shack pubs having some beer and some Kenya King (no idea). I got to visit The bones art atelier, where some locals collect copper and bones from trash and transform into jewellery, as wel as the women centre, where a dozen of women with HIV live in community by producing and selling clothes.
In the meanwhile, I settled in Nairobi’s life. Learning quickly that you can never have the below 3 together in one day: wifi, electricity, water.
That you need to account an hour to reach a destination a couple of kilometres away in peak hours.
We learned to roll the 18l water bottle downhill towards home.
I learned that I can’t sleep without a net in Africa. That despite being vegetarian I still want to kill that fucking mosquito.
I got to discover the quirky Kenyan culture. Its dynamism, pride, curiosity and ingenious nature. That there are many Kenyas, with its tribe’s pride.
I learned not to fear, but to befriend. I rarely felt unsafe. Well, the place is not a safe heaven, but also no more dangerous than any western city in the nineties. Milan in my uni years is still the most dangerous place I have ever lived. But to all my Oz friends yes you need to be careful. Just like in most places outside Oz cities.
But above all what I learned is that Africa did it to me too. It gets under your skin. It doesn’t want you to leave. Wraps you up in its warmth.
And indeed, a few months later I was back.