#12  A Nairobi Adventure As We Take Alison to the Airport

July 18, 2017

Today is Tuesday, Alison’s departure date.  The plan was to go to the Maasai Market to fill up her 2nd suitcase, have lunch in a nice Nairobi restaurant, drop her early at the airport and be back in Naivasha by about 7.  As you have no doubt experienced, people make plans and God laughs. This morning the paper was full of reports about the expanding cholera epidemic in Nairobi, even in fancy restaurants. (It doesn’t help the situation that nursing are striking in all public hospitals!)  We conclude that eating in Nairobi is not a good idea, so turn to our best back-up lunch (yeah, peanut butter sandwiches).

We had time to run to the Naivas for some apples, water, juice and our favorite digestives, not-too-sweet cookies which the kids love, as do we.  Because Margaret and Mokami (Tabitha) of Mji Wa Neema had asked to go with us, we made more than enough for all.

Hillary arrived right on time, Josephat finished washing the car and we were off.  The car was well-loaded with Alison and the 2 girls in back, her suitcases in the boot and me in front to chat with Hillary.  First stop was the newly opened craft shop of James Njorogi, whom I met many years ago at the Maasai market.  He has always had new and interesting items, designed by himself and made at his family farm, where perhaps 20 family members work to craft his clever items.  He has always given me very fair prices and I’ve bought a lot of fun things from him over the years.  I was not disappointed, he had several new things, which I hope my readers will like as much as I do.  We chatted and haggled over a few prices, picked out what I wanted and set up a plan for him to find other things I wanted, but knew he could get them for a better price.  Of course I forgot to take a picture!!!  But here’s one of Njorogi at the big market last year.

As 1 o’clock approached I began to feel hunger pangs and upon poling the troops, learned that everyone else had them too.  Was there a small park somewhere in Nairobi where we could eat.  No!  (I knew that).  We’d have to eat in the car.  But as we drove along I remembered going to the seminary where Hillary spent some 8 years before deciding on a job shift, and the lovely parklike areas around it.  “Would it be possible?”  Yes, it would and off we drove.

It’s in what I suppose might be called a suburb of Nairobi called Karen.  It’s particularly green and lush, even in this drought and the grounds were wonderfully peaceful and beautiful—an assessment by the monkeys who frolicked around the flower beds and trees.  Hmmmm, I hadn’t remembered them.  They would not be welcome at our picnic, but stealing our PNB sandwiches.

As always, it’s nice to have friends in high places.  Hillary talked to a friend who invited us to use their dining room.  In fact, Hillary and the 2 girls had a traditional lunch, offered to all of us.  Alison and I had our PNBS’s.  The buildings are high ceilinged and graceful, very welcoming, but soon we were off to the market, this one held in a shopping mall I didn’t recognize.  There weren’t a lot of venders, not like the previous markets.  Njoroge said he wouldn’t be there because the other venders see his new designs, and 3 months later they are selling their knock-offs.  However, Margaret and Mokami had never been to the market and loved looking at all the displays, as well as watching me buy.  I’ve done it enough now, to have a sense of what is a Kenya price vs a mzungu price and I don’t hesitate to ask for the former.  I tell each person as I bargain about what I do with the items I buy and where all the money goes (back to Naivasha to pay school fees).  I didn’t hurt that the 2 girls were with us, as I explained they were 2 of the almost 200 beneficiaries and are both now waiting to begin their post-secondary education.  Prices plummeted and many people thanked me for what we do.  The sun was hot at I began to feel light-headed, so at several stalls I asked to sit while we bargained.  The small notebook I carry in my purse has notations from last year about what I’d paid, which gave me a good idea of what was possible.  People were very kind and we moved through the shopping pretty fast.  Nonetheless, it was getting late and the airport was far off.  Because we were now loaded with stuff, we took the elevator down to the parking level—first time for both Margaret and Mokami (who couldn’t bring herself to look out the window as we went down.  Too scary.

Nairobi traffic is unbelievable, but Hillary is a very skillful and aggressive driver, getting us through the worst of it fairly quickly.  At the airport we looked for the right terminal, International departures, and finding it, I point to a parking lot entrance, we immediately found a spot and set about filling up Alison’s second bag.  We gave her a good-bye hug and off she went with her loaded cart, while we piled back into the car.  It was then the Hillary told us about the officer who was complaining that our entrance was actually an exit and he had broken the law!  I’ve had experience with the airport police in the past and know them to be particularly aggressive in enforcing “the law”, regardless of how trivial the offense.  As he was explaining it, I saw the officer, signaling Hillary to get out of the car and come to him.  Hillary is no dummy, he signaled the officer to come to the car, which he did.  He demanded to see Hillary’s driver’s license, but again, Hillary was no fool.  He didn’t say he didn’t have the license, but  he didn’t produce it either.  The guy was pretty aggressive, so I took over, “It was my fault, officer, I told him this was where to turn in  (true) and I’ll be happy to take over the driving.”  Whereupon I produced the photocopy of my International Driving License.  No, no, that would not do.  He was the culprit and he must produce his license.  “The law states a driver is required to produce his license when requested by an officer.”  “It also provides that he has 24 hours to do so,”  I countered.  By this time he had been joined by a female colleague who perhaps had a slightly higher rank, because he backed off and she took over.  “There was no sign saying ‘Exit only’ nor ‘Do Not Enter’.  We didn’t realize it was an exit.  No one was driving out and no one was inconvenienced in any way.”  (me)  “There’s a bump right before an exit to slow down the traffic and the driver should know that!” (she)  Later I noticed a bump right before the very next entrance!!!  Back and forth we go, Hillary sitting there, not saying he doesn’t have his license, but not producing it, and I realize we’re not getting anywhere.  We’re not paying a bribe (which is what they wanted) and they thought they could get away with it because I was a naïve old mzungui.  NOT.  Finally I look over the rims of my sun glasses in my best school marm manner and repeat, “No one was in the least affected by this.  It is really such a big deal?”  All the time staring right in her eyes.  She knew damned well I knew she was asking for a bribe and she could see I wasn’t intimidated.  “We’d really appreciated it if you would let us proceed back to Naivasha now.  It’s a long drive and we are tired.”  And so they did.  As exited the exit, Hillary said, “I have my license, but I wasn’t going to give it to them.  They just take it away and you have no choice but to pay up.”  “ I knew all along you had it.”

By that time it was after 5 and the traffic getting back to the Southern Bypass was Nairobi traffic at it’s best, cheek by jowl, inching along, no one conceding a millimeter.  Eventually was hit the bypass, stopping for “petrol” at a station Hillary knew of that had the best price in town.  Sure enough it was almost ksh 5 per liter less than I’d paid in Naivasha 2 days ago—approximately $.25 per gallon.  To be sure, gas dropped 2.2 shillings 2 days ago, but this was a real bargain!

On the road again, the hunger pangs again arose and then I picked the scent of PNB.  Ah, yes, there were some left over, which the girls were eating in the back.  We all had a ½ (maybe the girls in back had more) and we finally arrived home at about 8:30, tired, but unscathed!

This is now Friday night and the first time I had to find some pix to include. I have a few others, scenes along the road.

This is a donkey cart to deliver water to homes with no hookups.  To the right is charcoal, the making of which is illegal, but I guess selling it is not!

As we rode along, I was aware of how many animals were grazing along the road.  No need to use herbicides—goats, sheep, cows and donkeys keep the area cropped clean.  The animals seem to make it back home safely.  Rarely do I see one tethered.  Maybe there is someone tending them in the background.

People standing by roadside, waiting for a matatu, with big loads are common sights.  Small shops abound in clusters.

This is a display of fresh produce, mostly cabbages, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, all beautifully arranged. They are all along the Nairobi road

The woman is carrying her child on her back, legs hanging out lesso wrapped around the kids butt to hold him/her in.  This one looks old enough to walk, but maybe they have a long distance.

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