September 28, 2012

That sort of thing

Nairobi can be a very boozy place, if you're into that sort of thing.  It can be a very boozy place even if you're not into that sort of thing.  I attribute it to the plethora of things to celebrate: Birthdays, Goodbye parties, Welcome Back parties, Safari parties, We-Just-Finished-A-Hike parties, It's-Friday parties, It's-Saturday parties, Lets-All-Eat-A-Bunch-Of-Samosas parties, and on and on.

Last weekend was a birthday party at Olepos Country Club, about an hour's drive outside of Nairobi (4 hours in traffic, yes).  To get transport to the birthday party, I joined up with a going-away party who was taking a party-bus to get there.  A party on the way to a party.

Being on a party bus is actually a marvelous way to get around Nairobi because when you get stuck in traffic, no problem!  You're entertainment is already there, and your biggest troubles are 1.) How will we open the wine without a corkscrew? (No problem; it's boxed) and 2.) Is the bus aisle big enough for salsa dancing? (Yes, it is).

This type of city safari also affords plenty of chances to see exotic creatures:  "Look! Tourists!"
Inside the bus:

Savannah sing-alongs

Beer from a party straw is not as bad as it sounds.

And then when you finally hit the open road, you get this.
Outside the bus:

And then, of course, you finally arrive at the official party.  A pool-side view that's worth the drive:

Olepos Country Club

September 20, 2012

We indulgently dined

Both Seattle and San Francisco are wonderful places for outdoor activities and weekend adventures, but there are simply some things you can't do in the U.S.  One of them is jetting off to the Indian Ocean for a weekend with friends in a 3-story Swahili mansion.  First, the U.S. doesn't have a plethora of Swahili mansions, and if it did the price would be undoubtedly prohibitive.  In Kenya, you can share a place like this for about $20 per person a night.  

From the lounge area on the other side of the pool.

Stairs and stained glass.

3rd floor balcony for lagoon and Palm sunsets.

Night swims. 

From Nairobi you can head down after work on Friday (45min flight or overnight bus), spend a full 2 days soaking in the sun and sea, and return by Sunday evening or Monday morning in time for work.  For those who are local and interested, the house pictured here is Sugar House in Watamu (plot 16), and it sleeps 8 people.  

Not pictured her is the ping pong table where I almost tripped over a friendly (and large) millipede.  Nor the seafood curry and fresh crab claws that we indulgently dined upon.  Nor the local beach for sun-bathing and kite-surfing.  Nor the second mansion where the other half of our group slept in turrets.  Nor the local tuk tuks that took us for Italian gelato and dancing with fake Maasai.  Nor the fish that ate out of our hands as we snorkeled in the coral reefs.  

But I suppose these things, as with the warm coastal sun, need to be soaked up in person.  

 On our way to the coral reefs in our glass-bottom boat.

September 13, 2012

The sleep and soup

For all my big talk about activities every night, I've spent an inordinate amount of this past week sleeping.  Whenever I move somewhere new it's not uncommon for me to get knocked out with a cold at some point within the first month, so I suppose this is my due.

Days progress as such: wake up and make a valiant effort to go to work; realize I am useless and go back home; drink some mango juice; take a nap; eat some soup; go back to bed; repeat.  Of course, there is a small amount of variety... some days I eat fresh mango or a mango Popsicle instead of drinking juice.  And today I went to the store for more Kleenex and medicine.  But the sleep and soup are always the same.  I've been logging about 12 hours of zzz's a day.

 Home-made is the best-made.

Mango-tropical blend Popsicle on the balcony.

But I've rounded the corner and am now packing for a sun-filled trip to the coast.  Weekend njemi, all!

September 9, 2012

Kenyan Idol

It's been 17 days, and I'm exhausted.  Living in Nairobi feels like the first month of dorm-living in Freshman year of college.  It's like summer camp for young adults, without the counselors and without the curfew, where campfire songs have graduated into AM clubbing in a "treehouse" and the ropes-course is either safari or rock-climbing at Hell's Gate.

The social options here are relentless (not to sound threatening).  Every night of the week has standing appointments:

Mondays: Nairobi Hash House Harriers run & dinner
Tuesdays: Karaoke at Black Diamond
Wednesdays: Live band and salsa at Brew Bistro
Thursdays: Hip Hop classes

Last week's karaoke night happened to also be the annual "Kenyan Idol" contest, complete with 3 critical judges, a grand prize recording contract, a Michael Jackson impersonator, and live broadcast on a dozen tv screens throughout the bar.  



But overlaid on top of that weekly schedule is a manifold of other options.  Within a 2 week window, I have been presented with all of the following options: Blankets and Wine event, lunch and tour of organic farms, group Mexican dinner, Go-cart racing, Wine and Cheese Festival, Rift Valley Music Festival, ravine hike in the Aberderes, weekend trip to Lamu island, and safari.

The newest plan seems to be a flash dance mob somewhere in Nairobi.

Lights, fire, flashmob!

September 2, 2012

You're walking around a volcanic crater

The best thing about living in Nairobi is, as obvious as it sounds, living in Kenya.  Nairobi might have the restaurants, bars, paved roads, and the majority of the country's currency, but the areas outside the city possess the most natural wealth.  

This is what driving around Kenya looks like:

Marsabit county, northern Kenya.

Rift Valley cows.


Last weekend I took a third trip to hike Mt. Longonot in the Rift Valley.  It's a grueling ~7 miles, up to ~9,000ft above sea level.  I enjoy getting outdoors and hiking, but each time I do this trek it's a painful endeavor.  But I can't think of any other hike I've done that's more rewarding.  

You're walking around a volcanic crater rim in the Great Rift Valley!    

Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha left; Crater right.

Crater left; Rift Valley right. 

I learned from my experiences last year of trying to hike these places in flimsy sneakers and came prepared with legitimate hiking shoes this time around.  The traction was better, but unfortunately the shoes don't confer any additional cardiovascular fitness.  It's always amazing to see what shoes Kenyans are wearing to hike this mountain.  It's one of the closest hiking spots to Nairobi, so it attracts day-trippers who come trudging up the mountain in flip flops, plastic sandals, and high heels.  The outfits can be pretty wondrous as well:  

Blue velvet suit.  Yes.  Blue velvet suit.  

But really, this view is what it's all about.