Why we should ACTUALLY go live in Nairobi

Those points adress a certain clientel and I am surprised that Think Africa Press shared them. In my opinion:

Here are the 17 reasons PLUS why we should ACTUALLY go live in Nairobi:

1. Uhuru Park

Photo: Jorge Láscar

Where the common person takes a nap.

2. Fresh Fish

Photo: Katrina Shakarian

Directly from Lake Victoria to the wholesale markets of Nairobi.

3. Goats in town

Photo: Suleiman Mbatiah

They are all over the place. Especially in the outskirts you can find them even climbing cars.

4. Go Down Arts Center

Photo: Gillian

An old warehouse where nowadays creativity bursts out of every corner in form of dance, art and other cultural phenomena.

5. Nairobi Marathon

Photo: Nairobi Marathon

21,000 people running for a reason.

6. Temples

Photo: G.R. Davis

There are several temples of various religions to be seen in town.

7. Jua Kali

Photo: Steve Daniels

The market where you can get anything, handmade from recycled material.

8. Corner milk shop

Photo: Tristan McConnell

Where you can get fresh, rich milk from the farmer, packed in a cellophan bag.

9. Public transport in a roller coaster-disco

Photo: Cheki Express

The notorious matatus carry people around town and play the latest music.

10. Sarakasi Dome

Photo: Kevin Sabuni

A venue offering regular festivities and home to Sarakasi Trust who focus on performing arts.

11. Jamia Mosque

Photo: open fire

Do not forget to buy mabuyu from the vendors in front of the mosque. They are baobab seeds coated in sugar, chili and food colour.

12. Performances at Tom Mboya

Photo: up nairobi

At the statue of Tom Mboya one will often encounter street performers or preachers.

13. Mlolongo

Photo: nyaran

Photo: nyaran

On the other side of town, Mlolongo grows fast. In this riverbed, however, you might still see monkeys.

14. Cheap Food

Photo: Mark Wiens

Whether you crave for fresh fruit, boiled eggs, roasted maize, chips, sweet cakes or a full meal: The next street vendor is certainly not far.

15. Jevanjee Gardens

Photo: Safari254

Another park to relax, which is especially beautiful when the jacaranda trees are in bloom.

16. Street Art

Photo: Sunil Deepak

It is a form of expressing non-conformity with the government, it is astonishing, and it is all over town.

17. Nairobi University

Nairobi University

The town has several institutions for higher education.

PLUS: Buzzing Blogosphere

For everybody who wants to dive deeper into this city even while not physically being there:

– Astonishing photography by Mutua Matheka.

– University life described by The Real G Inc.

– Nice literature reads by Biko Zulu.

– The entertaining combination of Tech, Motherhood and Everything Else by Savvykenya.

– More blogs are awarded annually by the Bloggers Association Kenya.

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Goats versus Sheep

It is hard to believe, but one month ago I was still somewhere else. However, I knew I would leave soon and started to get used to the idea of farewell by making the following list. (In brackets my thoughts on it today.)

What I’ll miss

  • goats (Here I have sheep and impressive black cows that make a good compensation.)
  • buying almost frozen mala at the milk shop round the corner (There is something like mala here, but there’s nothing like a milk shop.)
  • githeri
  • tapping water
  • watching from 4th floor how women dress and how men carry their children (Watching the school yard from 12th floor is not bad either…)
  • the way advice is asked for, taken and given
  • church songs (I might even miss those most of all the other items.)

What I won’t miss

  • welders (Well, we have leave blowers here.)
  • two hours in public transport to reach the office (Just today I replaced the two hours walk to uni with my new bicycle.)
  • Tom Mboya Street
  • the oily kitchen (The kitchen here is an oily mess, too.)
  • dust – five minutes after cleaning
  • running in circles or in pollution (I started running in one circle only, around the cows and sheep mentioned above.)
  • treating water for drinking
  • Mzungu how are you?
  • Afrosinema
  • preachers

It is expectedly easy to get used to this other lifestyle again now. But apart from the first list, what I miss most seem to be people and the general feeling of being in that place. And that’s a sad good thing, isn’t it?

Introducing: The Little Revolutionary

The last three weeks I spent upcountry. Madhe summarized them well with “maandanzi and fresh air”. Now I`m back in town, winding up. On the countryside there is always the Little Princess, whom the favourite human described as my handkerchief because she won`t leave my side for a second. Back in town there`s a new handkerchief with the name of a revolutionary. He`s the son of the Friend, but not the Wife, and on the first evening he took a nap on our bed before dinner and left a puddle of pee. His voice is thin and rough and high, but he can produce quite some strong volume at times. From the moment he sees us in the morning until that evening nap he usually talks in that voice, fifty percent questions, fifty percent comments, in Kiswahili, without mercy, and he won`t stop even if you tell him. He sits on the floor of the living room during meals. He had some stomach problems the first days and he would just stop eating and turn his back towards us, until they bought him medicine and today he ate three plates of almost plain spaghetti, only with very little sauce. He doesn’t want sugar in his tea or cocoa, which is very unusual for children or generally people here, but he says it makes his tummy ache.

Now the Little Revolutionary involuntarily has become a plaything between his father and that one`s wife. It`s complicated and I understand it only partly. However much I believe they are not doing it on purpose, the Little Revolutionary still doesn’t feel accepted completely. At least he senses that not everything`s well. So I took him to the library today. He´s quite smart and wrote down the entire alphabet and red all the numbers and counted up to fifty eight stars in a book about zodiacs without a mistake. On the way back he ran ahead in front of me, meowing like a cat. Back home I watched my Mexican soap opera (more about that another day!) and we peeled peanuts.

Then this story about the thief came up. The Little Revolutionary had to collect a bottle for the Wife but refused because there was a thief in the bedroom. Then he refused to go to the toilet alone because there was a thief. While the sun was still setting he insisted on switching on the light, because of the possibility of a thief. At a certain point he hurt himself to tears and messed the kitchen up with noise and scattered peanuts, because he had entered the dark kitchen and ran out of it hurriedly because of the thief and had knocked something down.

What were we supposed to tell the Little Revolutionary? I remember very well the hippo that was always luring at the dark staircase to the basement when I wanted to go to bed at night and had to pass it. And the dark creature that was standing behind the door of the bedroom until I switched on the lights and it disappeared into thin air. Up to today, during my rare visits to our home, in the evening on my way upstairs, I can still feel the slight presence of the shadows of these creatures. So I crammed all my Kiswahili together and explained the Little Revolutionary how much the thief fears children, and Mums, and Dads, and light, and the TV, and even darkness. And that he doesn’t like toilets either because of the smell. Which means he won´t enter this apartment, he is just not able to do so.

Let´s hope the Little Revolutionary believes me. As I am writing this, he sleeps on our bed again and I wouldn’t like another puddle.

Food vs. Woman vs. Time

Today I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. A LOT of time! In the morning I cleaned yesterday’s dishes although I hadn’t even had dinner with the others. Meanwhile the favourite human was preparing breakfast – whereby I ate my share of yesterday’s dinner. Then I cleaned the breakfast dishes. I have to admit that yesterday I was freaking out a little because we haven’t established a routine of who is washing dishes when and the piles in the sink just asked for some action. The Wife and I just have to arrange ourselves. (The kitchen is womens’ territory and only the favourite human and sometimes the Cousin make an exemption of that. The favourite human’s Best Friend never does.)

At around 11 I went back to the kitchen to make rice and small fried cakes from grated pumpkin and eggs. That took me some hours. After lunch I continued right away with making the dough for chapati. We now have a plan for meals that everyone agreed on and for today it shows chapati. However, I got a little traumatized in the beginning of this year when I was supposed to make chapati for the favourite human’s family and failed in such an enormous way that up to today Madhe reminds me of “these things you made the other time that I don’t even have a name for.” They were very bad indeed. But Madhe wouldn’t be Madhe if she would not – after caning me verbally – tell me the greatest secret for making yummy chapatis: Take your time! Sitting in the kitchen today, listening to the children playing outside, different kinds of music from different sources and one neighbour shouting to another, I rolled out one dough ball after another, applied oil, folded it in that special way and put them aside for the Wife to roll them out again later and fry them. And I refused to think of my final paper that was sitting there, waiting. Or of my skype date. Or of this blog post that needed to be written. Or of any other very urgent thing. I took my time, I rolled and rolled, and I haven’t tasted them yet but with this high amount of patience and love they can’t really be bad.

Now, that is what I would call Slow Food (C). I haven’t really done any research on that movement but I guess slow food is good. Healthy for your stress level, good for awareness promotion and the result is real and nutritional food. If I interpret the name well it’s an opposition movement to the unhealthy consequences of fast food. But I recently realized that there is also good fast food.

Two things: One, the Cousin who is currently staying with us invested some part of his salary in a kind of pay TV that adds us some channels to the usual ones that are for free. On one channel, interestingly described as a “male channel”, I am sometimes following the show “Man vs. Food”. It’s about that guy who travels the states, introducing pubs and places where you can get heavy food. A lot of meat, a lot of melted butter, a lot of cheese, more often than not a lot of jalapeños or chilies, a lot of acryl amid and glutamate and bad fats and all that stuff causing cancer – and making the average American full and happy. I don’t like the “versus” part of it, whereby eating becomes a competition against time (eat as much as possible as fast as possible). But I like how the content of fat and unhealthy but – let’s be honest – yummy ingredients is being valued. (And I like the idea of cheese chips that I saw there yesterday. Why haven’t I thought of that before?)

Two, I found a blog called Stonesoup which provides simple recipes with not more than five ingredients which you can prepare in less than 10 minutes. And it is so healthy food – and in such a big variety. Here I don’t agree with eating canned protein (like kidney beans etc.) every other day and calling it fresh food. And the suggestion of eating eggs every morning does not really fit me either. But why spending hours in the kitchen when you can have a quick, healthy, filling and tasty meal in five minutes? I think the Stonesoup concept is a great one.

Today I am eating late because I want to wait for the favourite human to come home and we eat together. Chapati and beans. Heavy food, late at night, that took three quarter of the day to be prepared. Tomorrow I will eat the left over pumpkin cakes in the office and quickly fry rice with vegetables for dinner. So it is, as usual, all about the balance. Which I am still about to find, even when it comes to stomach affairs.

Extreme Simple Living

If life was a sports game, my current way of life could maybe be best described as Extreme Simple Living. It’s my last day in the uni town and the favourite human has already taken a lot of my stuff to his flat in the capital. He carried a big suitcase, a mattress and some small bags, too.

Just as to add on that, the gas cooker decided to misbehave in a way that couldn’t even be fixed by the experts from the supermarket. So they sent it to the manufacturer from where I will get it, hopefully repaired and working, in a few weeks. In that way, it traveled to the capital for free. I experimented two times with the jiko, a charcoal cooker, but the charcoal I had bought had actually been rained on heavily, which made me burn a significant amount of paper to light it. It frustrated me so much, though, that I am currently feeding on bread, avocado, bananas and nuts. (Or I invite myself to the kitchens of others and cook there for all of us.) But it forced me to get rid of some paper like university notes, which I would have kept and not used, anyway.

So I am somehow back to live “out of the backpack”, sleeping in my sleeping bag and washing a few clothes every other day, because I don’t have many extras. This shows me especially what I miss or what I really need and can hardly do without. Paper, for example, seems to play a big role in my life. I keep papers that are written on on one page and use them on the other side for scribbles, sketches, notes and any kind of lists. (I list almost everything!) I also have various notebooks for noting my expenses to keep a budget, writing some fiction, short stories and poems, taking general notes, putting down quotes I want to remember, taking short notes of articles or academic books I read, keeping my dreams and collecting observations which I might later use as inspirations for stories. That’s a lot of paper organized in many notebooks. Currently I am remaining with the observation book (now also serving as the dream book) and the general diary (my most important notebook, currently also serving as the budget book), as well as the big college notebook where the final paper for my bachelor’s degree is maturing (currently also providing some pages for letters). But I am very much looking forward to find that big blue plastic thing in the capital, containing all my paper treasures and notebooks.

Hot food, and especially morning tea, is also something I quite miss since it’s not there currently. I used to read some things about the raw food movement and I was interested in one day experimenting with it, but now that I mostly eat cold food for the time being, I realized that a cup of hot tea or some steaming meal is something very delicious, not to be replaced by some raw smoothies or salad.

Since I’ll be tripping to the coast town tomorrow and from there go directly to the capital, and since the widely accepted stereotype about the coast is that it’s hot, I put all the sweaters and pullovers in the suitcase and they are gone. But I realized, however practical a raincoat is – it won’t replace the feeling of wearing a cozy pullover in a chilly evening.

And yesterday morning I also started to value my running shoes. I started running this year, and I was so proud to buy these quite cheap second hand sneakers so that I didn’t have to run in my sandals anymore. Yesterday morning I was forced to wear the sandals again – and it’s not a good feeling! With the shoes it is so much easier.

Missing something for a while makes you realize what you need and what you don’t need. My blankets, for example, seem not to be that important to me, because I really don’t mind sleeping in my sleeping bag. But I will appreciate to have my notebooks, sneakers, pullovers and a cup of tea back in my life.

My new life – in English

Who would have thought that this exam would drain me that much? – Who would have thought that I would finally blog in English and make it public on facebook? Now I am sitting in front of my laptop, very recovered, very inspired, trying to pull this post together which feels like the very first one.
All this is about something that I would call my new life, however it is not so new, in fact it is as old as myself. But currently I have been reading various blogs and articles and I got inspired to come up with my own life program or outline. Now it is on paper and it sticks on my wall, and it is also lying on my desk, being ticked every now and then. And it is going online on this blog. The testing started yesterday and will run until the end of April, when I will move to the capital in my favorite human’s flat. One of the principles of my new life program is not to talk much about my plans, therefore here I won’t disclose my intentions after the move yet. But you will be able to follow them here later, if you are interested.
Another thing that the outline is focusing on is my diet (as in eating, not fasting). And here I go back to the university, where I must have looked very tired after the exam, because two of my choir friends asked me independently from each other whether I was from an exam. One of them had a plastic bag and what was found inside? A piece of blackforest cake from the supermarket. My Soprano Friend had told me about it and that it was not always available at the supermarket, but if it was, she would usually buy it, enjoy it and then gain weight like the way yeast dough multiplies in the bowl. (She didn’t express it in those particular words, but I am trying to be metaphorical.) I know blackforest as Schwarzwälderkirschtorte and I doubt that Kenyan blackforest can even get close to the Schwarzwälderkirschtorte I used to feast on at Granny’s when I was a child. (Like that “chocolate ball” I sacrificed for myself in the capital after a successful day in the center – it was so unnice, that I couldn’t even finish it.) But after an exam, which, I just in that very moment realized, had obviously drained me, I really felt like Schwarzwälderkirschtorte in form of blackforest. Then, walking home, I thought that I shouldn’t buy it because of my food rules, where I try to cut animal products, sugar and carbs – all of which are very much present in a blackforest. But then I realized that one of the most important rules is that they are flexible – actually it is me who made them, so it will also be me who is able to break them. And in fact, I am not breaking them. I might go, buy and eat that blackforest on Sunday and tick sugar, carbs and animal products and then just avoid those on other days. And I will enjoy it, hopefully it is nicer than that “chocolate ball”.

Meer

Weder Schwindel noch Rausch empfand man im Flug, sondern nur das geheimnisvolle Arbeiten eines lebendigen Organismus.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Nachtflug

So ist das auch mit dem Meer. Die Bücherautoren machen es gern zu einer verhängnsivollen Sucht, zu einem lockenden, tödlichen Tier, zu einem Magneten, der die willenlosen Menschen auf faszinierende Weise in ihr Unglück zieht. An der Küste habe ich gemerkt: So ist das gar nicht! Das Meer hat seine Tücken, und die Menschen kennen und beachten sie, aber sie rennen nicht blind hinein. Sie sind von ihm abhängig wegen der Nahrungsmittel, die es bereitstellt – nicht wegen ihrer Lust, ihrem Bedürfnis, sich den Wellen hinzugeben. Sie wissen über diesen Organismus Bescheid und kennen seine Funktionsweisen.

Als wir spätnachmittags einmal in der Flut schwammen, saß A., der Nichtschwimmer, an der Stelle am Strand, wo die Wellen anbrandeten, und er wurde beinahe umgeworfen. Unser Freund von der Küste warnte ihn: Das hat Kraft! Er meinte die physikalische Kraft dieses sich aufbäumenden Wassers, die besonders einen Nichtschwimmer wie A. nicht nur umwerfen, sondern ihn mit dem paradoxen Verlauf der Wellen anstatt an den Strand zu spülen, Richtung Horizont ziehen kann – wo wir biologisch logisch ohne Kiemen und Flossen reichlich verloren sind.

Mit meiner Chorfreundin war ich nun zweimal in Narok schwimmen. Wir wollen nicht immer nur laufen gehen und die beiden Pools in Narok sind günstig und machen Spaß. Ihr Vater arbeitet in Mombasa und sie haben ein Haus nahe am Meer. Ihre Mutter ist eine sehr gute Schwimmerin, sagt sie. Sie selbst bewegt sich ungern ans tiefe Ende des Pools, weil sie nicht richtig schwimmen kann. Sie lässt sich treiben, taucht ein bisschen, und kommt am Weitesten, wenn sie auf dem Rücken schwimmt. Sie sagt, nachdem sie ihre Schwester an das Meer verloren hat, habe ihr Vater ihr und ihren Geschwistern jeglichen Kontakt mit Wasser außerhalb der Dusche verboten. Kein Schwindel, kein Rausch, nur die pragmatische Anordnung eines traumatisierten Familienoberhauptes.

Ströme

Seit ein paar Wochen sind wesentlich mehr Touristen auf der Hauptstraße unterwegs als zuvor. Sie werden in diesen Safaribussen gefahren, die hinten eine lange, schwankende Antenne haben, die mit Tennisbällen fixiert ist.
Ich fühle mich überhaupt nicht wie ein Tourist. Schließlich bin ich Student hier. Manchmal vergesse ich sogar, dass ich in Kenia bin, und dann wird es mir nach einer Weile umso stärker bewusst. Manchmal nervt es, mit den Touristen in einen Topf geworfen zu werden. Gestern wollten mir zwei Straßenjungs nicht abnehmen, dass ich in Narok studiere. Eine Couchsurferin, die zu Besuch kam, fiel beinahe vom Stuhl als ich ihr erzählte, dass ich noch nie im Maasai Mara war.

Jedenfalls fließt da wohl ziemlich viel Geld die Straße entlang, aber ich habe das Gefühl, dass nicht besonders viel davon in der Stadt selbst hängen bleibt. Ein paar Restaurants, Banken und Tankstellen am Straßenrand profitieren wohl, und manche Leute können vermutlich Perlenschmuck verkaufen. Aber weiter ins Stadtinnere als bis zum Supermarkt, jenseits der Hauptverbindungsstraße, kommen die wenigsten. Umso angenehmer ist es da für mich zu sehen, dass dort ein eigenes Stadtleben existiert. Dort kann man billiger Essen gehen und die Bedürfnisse der Lokalbevölkerung werden hier erfüllt. Die Leute hängen zumindest nicht komplett vom Tourismus ab.

Das ist ganz anders als an der Küste, wo die Bootsfahrer und Restaurantinhaber uns geradezu angefleht haben, ihren Service in Anspruch zu nehmen, weil sie so sehr vom Tourismus abhängen, und da gerade extrem wenige Touristen vor Ort waren, hatten sie Schwierigkeiten, überhaupt zu einem Einkommen zu kommen. Der Gegensatz war enorm. Auf der einen Straßenseite verdeckten hohe Mauern die Aussicht auf luxuriöse, menschenleere, Reisekatalog-Hotelanlagen. Auf der anderen Straßenseite warteten die Leute vom Ökotourismus-Projekt auf Kundschaft. Ohne Touristen keine Arbeit, kaum Leben.

Es fällt mir schwer, nicht generell abwertend über die Safari-Touristen zu denken. Als wäre meine Art des Lebens in Kenia irgendwie besser oder authentischer. Ich übe also, immer, wenn so ein Safari-Shuttle oder ein Landrover voller Weißer an mir vorbeifährt, sie nicht überheblich zu ignorieren (denn in Wirklichkeit sehe ich sie mir ja doch aus den Augenwinkeln an wie fremde Tiere im Zoo). Ich stelle mir vor, dass durchaus nicht alle Touristen sind, es kommen ja auch Geschäftsleute, Forscher und Leute, die für Organisationen arbeiten. Vielleicht fahren sie Freunde besuchen. Vielleicht ist eine unter ihnen, die dort die Liebe ihres Lebens finden wird oder einer, der ein Projekt aufbauen will, von dem die Leute profitieren werden. Nicht urteilen. Nicht homogenisieren. Klingt wie ein Anti-Rassismus-Seminar. Und folgendes klingt wie ein Rat von Buddha: Liebe senden.

Wahlnachbarn

Vor einer Weile sind gegenüber viele Leute eingezogen. Seitdem riecht es nach Räucherstäbchen. Das finde ich angenehm. Außer wenn die Frau, die in dem großen Haushalt das Sagen zu haben scheint, Pfannkuchen macht. Dann riecht es zuerst nach Kohle und dann nach Pfannkuchen. Dass sie während der Wahlen nicht gegenüber wohnten, habe ich an zwei Dingen gemerkt: Ich höre keine Frauen mehr rufen oder schreien oder laut diskutieren. (Nur die Amerikanerin auf der anderen Seite telefoniert weiterhin stundenlang und lautstark mit ihrem Handy außerhalb ihres Hauses.) Und die Wäscheleinen hinter dem Haus (auch die, die für mich gedacht ist) hängen nicht mehr täglich voll mit weißen Unterhemden und großen bunten Tüchern.

Nun sind nur noch zwei junge Männer dort, die ich vorher nicht bemerkt hatte. Einer brachte neulich abends sein BlackBerry rüber, mit der Bitte, es an meinem Laptop aufzuladen. In seiner linken Backe kaute er auf einem Knäuel von Miraa-Blättern.

Unsere Küchenfenster sind genau gegenüber. Als wir neulich viele Besucher hatten und kein fließend Wasser, machte ich den Abwasch, und während das Wasser aus dem Eimer in meiner Plastikschüssel plätscherte, klapperte es auch gegenüber in der Spüle.

Wenn diese Wahlen vorbei sind – und wir warten auf das Ergebnis, dass heute noch verkündet werden soll – werden die lauten Frauen wieder zurück kommen, und es wird wieder nach Räucherstäbchen oder Pfannkuchen riechen, und ich werde in die Normalität zurückkehren, wie es sich derzeit wohl die meisten Kenianer wünschen.

Na hiyo ndiyo maendeleo

Nach dem letzten Test des Semesters ging ich mit meiner Klassenkameradin vom Campus runter Richtung Stadt, nach Hause. Es war heiß und wir gingen langsam. Ich war ganz euphorisch und erzählte ihr von meinen Weihnachtsplänen. Sie hatte sich das alles noch nicht überlegt. Heilig Abend war nur noch drei Tage entfernt. Ich würde viele Filme ansehen, viel lesen, viel kochen und noch mehr essen. Sie überlegte es genau in dem Moment, dass sie ihre beiden Kinder wohl für ein paar Tage besuchen würde, die schon eine Weile auf dem Land bei Oma waren. Aber dann müsste sie bald zurück kommen, schließlich habe sie einen Haarsalon und die Feiertage seien ein gutes Geschäft. Die Wolken ballten sich auf einer Seite des Horizonts zusammen, aber wenn nicht der ganze Himmel über Narok komplett dunkelgrau bewölkt ist, ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit hoch, dass es nicht regnen wird. Sie sagte, Regen täte ihrem Feld gut, dann könne sie umgraben. Sie ezählte von ihrem Traktor und dem Fahrer, den sie für solche Zwecke anstellt. Und sie versprach, Fotos von ihren Kühen, Ziegen und Schafen zu machen, damit ich sie mal sehen kann.

Wir kamen an der kleinen Schule vorbei, wo ein paar Kinder kichernd schaukelten. Sie sagte: “Now I can see, Narok is really developing. Can you see these children just playing and enjoying themselves. And can you see how the town reaches even to that other side? It is really developing.”

Als ich nach Hause kam, in meine schicke, eingezäunte Wohnanlage mit Springbrunnen, gab es kein Wasser. Jemand hatte die Leitung sabotiert.