Tuesday, September 4, 2007

out on the streets

Happy Post-Labor Day to all the Americans reading this blog! Hope you enjoyed your day off (if you got the day off)!

Today I got to walk the streets! That’s probably really worthy of about 5 exclamation marks rather than one, but I’ll let one suffice because I know there are people out there who get really annoyed by over exclamated writing. ;-)

While you can observe a lot about a place by driving through it, nothing really beats walking (even when you have to look the wrong direction before crossing the street). In fact, I think I have an old post or two over on my
Coffeehouse Journals blog about this same phenomenon in Nashville. Unfortunately, for various reasons, these past 5.5 weeks have included quite a small amount of walking, at least any lengthy walking along streets with time to soak in surroundings as I walked.

I’m back in Nairobi and am still backlogged on blog posts from the other stops on my trip. Maybe I’ll get those written eventually. Or maybe you’ll just be stuck wondering what nuggets of experience never made their way out of my head.

The friends I’m staying with here—Andy and Jodi Keller (he’s one of my dad’s former students at Moody Aviation) are people who knew me when I was a junior higher (quite a bit younger than their oldest kids are now)—live in the city, unlike the other folks who’ve hosted me in Kenya. Just a short walk from their house is a nice little shopping center containing such fine establishments as a couple internet cafes, a couple chemists (pharmacies), a bank or something like it, some clothing shops, a leather/shoe shop, a Kenya Lamps store, a produce shop, a bookshop and a nice, American-style coffeehouse complete with free wireless internet except I’m not able to get connected (one of those times where the internet signal is strong, laughing at your inability to access it). Most of the other laptop users have just left, but when I walked in it looked just like any coffeehouse in Nashville with laptops decorating about half the tabletops.

I walked over earlier today for an internet run and then came back this afternoon to finish writing up some of my Kenya assignments. It was nice to take myself somewhere this morning, to go somewhere of my own volition and under my own physical output. It was also nice to walk along the street, to taste life here outside a house.

I’m discovering that no matter where you are, life is life. I mean, in general, people everywhere eat, sleep and work every day. They travel, whether by foot or car or matatu or taxi or boda boda or donkey, to and fro. They smile or don’t smile at the people they pass as they travel. They say “hi” or “jambo” or not. We get so caught up in how different we all are from each other. And, well, things are different, I guess. The details and specifics are different. The big stuff is less different than we imagine it to be. And even if we approach the big stuff differently, we’re still all pretty much doing the same big stuff.

For me so far on this trip, because I’m here to work, my days in Africa aren’t so very different from my days at home in Nashville. The main difference comes because I’m trying to work and travel at the same time. Otherwise, just as at home, I have a love-hate relationship with formal interviews. I still hate the moment of having to commit to telling the story a certain way. I still want to talk to everyone around me instead of writing. And then I still want to write down everything I hear, everything I see and everything I learn.

This shopping center seems to attract a fairly cosmopolitan crowd. I’m mostly hearing English being spoken, but folks appear to have parents who’ve come from a variety of places outside of Kenya. My single mocha and blueberry (or some similar kind of berry) scone were tasty. I’m sitting inside near the door, but if it were sunnier the courtyard outside would have lured me over. At lunchtime the courtyard was packed.

When I arrived at the shopping center, I moseyed around for a bit. Checking out my surroundings. Seeing what wares the shops sold. I had a small victory when I discovered a post office all on my own before I’d asked the Kellers to take me to one. (There’s nothing quite like feeling a moment of self-sufficiency in a foreign country. ;-) ) I even opened an account today at the internet cafĂ©. The same girl was there—Juliet, I found out is her name—today as last night. She suggested I open an account because it’s cheaper. I figure I probably won’t have any trouble using up 1000 shillings before the 14th. Plus, that’s something you do when you really live in a place, right? Another moment of self-sufficiency perhaps?

Anyway, this entry goes down as my first writing in a non-American coffeehouse. The first of many? My computer’s out of juice, and I don’t feel like looking for an outlet, so I’ll sign off for now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Sis--
You definitely have a way with words. I guess that helps when you are a writer. :-) I miss you and am really proud of you. You are on such an amazing journey and may God continue to bless and protect you. Keep up the great work.
Love ya--Erin