WanderingTrader

Living in Africa: My 1st week in Nairobi, Kenya

Living in Africa for a week has opened my eyes to city life in Nairobi, Kenya.  Not only have I taken a Matatu in Nairobi (local transportation in the city) and loved it but I’ve also tried a variety of food that is native to the country.  I really didn’t know how many similarities Africa would have with South America.  I went out last night for the first time and I met the diplomat for the country of Ghana and also learned how to dance “the African way”.  Salsa classes in Colombia prepared me for that my friends!

Nairobi, Kenya International Airport, airports in kenya, airports in nairobi

My first sign of Kenya

 I find it amazing how life in South America has really prepared me for Africa.

I knew that Kenya is considered to be a developing country and was much less developed than any of the countries that I have lived in.  Things work surprisingly well in comparison to the chaos that you would normally think to find in Africa.  When we first inquired about having the internet connected in the house they told us it would take 5 days.  WHAT!  On a side note, this is the first hysterical statement that was made when I arrived in Kenya:

“If you get in trouble or are robbed don’t run, a lot of sprinters are from Kenya they will catch you”

borehole in kenya, living in africa, living in kenya

Mom I found Water!

They needed to have a qualified person do a survey and then come and install the internet.  After living in Argentina and seeing 2 guys take 2 hours to change a light bulb I really wasn’t worried.  They had the internet connected in roughly 2 days.  In the meantime I would have my new taxi driver, Sami, take me to the local Java Coffee house to catch up on work.  Sami always smiles when I speak to him in Swahili.

After a week of driving me to what seems to him an addiction to coffee, he still laughs every time I greet him in Swahili and when I come up with new words.

I make them up as I go.

Always remember if you want to make a Kenyan smile speak to them in Swahili.  One of the best things that I think I experienced was actually getting water from a borehole.

I was going to try and get away with showering with beer but they weren’t having it.  Tusker is the beer if you must know the name and Tusker All Stars is the name of the American Idol in Eastern Africa.  This has nothing to do with the power going out but one of the water pumps did go out in the house.

In Nairobi water is pumped into a neighborhood where you have giant water tanks (below ground and above ground).  Once the water is pumped into the water tanks you have to turn on another pump to get the water into the house.  So I had to get busy and fill buckets of water for the ice cold shower I had to take.  I just made a lot of scrubbing noises I actually don’t take cold showers.

This is not an automated process ladies and gentlemen.

Imagine, just off the plains of the Serengeti (a few hundred miles), the Serengeti is cool right? Okay continuing.  Imagine there is a house in a gated community with a large underwater tank of water.  In order to retrieve the stubborn H20 that does not want to go into the house I must first throw a bucket into the tank.  After you throw the bucket in the tank you salvage a 15 foot (4.5 meters) metal rod that a very strong African man bent at the end to lift the bucket.  I played cat and mouse with the bucket handle more than a few times before I got the hang of it.

Don’t worry that isn’t as weird having to switch every plug in the house on and off.

Not only do you have to unplug an appliance after you use it, but you also have to turn the switch.  I did have a fight several times with the microwave and the coffee maker but can you do?  God blessed me with a horrible memory so I have to fight with coffee makers, it’s life.  I experienced the unplug behavior when I traveled to the Guiana’s and other remote parts of South America as well.

food in Kenya, food in africa, things to eat in kenya

My first meal in Kenya: Fish, Rich, Ugali (white stuff), salad

I’ve walked through some dangerous places in South America like the time I got kidnapped and robbed in Venezuela.  That still wouldn’t prepare me for heightened sense of security that I would experience walking through the city that some call Nai-robbery.  It literally feels like heightened sense of security on steroids.  In the neighborhood that I live in called South C I could brighten the streets at night and still not have an issue.  White guy in Africa walking at night? Brighten the streets? You do get it right.. moving on.

It is something that I am going to be talking about in one of my posts coming this week how I am now look like a foreigner.  People watching me as I walk down the streets is something that I never experienced regularly.  The city which has a bad reputation didn’t seem that bad to me.

The power has gone out only 3 times in the last week.

That last statement is part of living in Africa in my opinion.  Luckily the city has gorgeous weather where you don’t need air conditioning.  The only issues I had about living in South America was the occasional internet disconnection.

refridgerators in Africa, living in africa, living in kenya

I think they know I eat too much!

It’s been a real learning experience especially since I get yelled at when I don’t unplug an unused appliance.  My first 48 hours in Africa I could already provide you with a post about things that you would never find in the states.  For example, we don’t lock the refrigerator  door even though there is a lock and key.  We are civilized in this household.

Stay tuned for more updates…

51 Comments

  1. Hey Marcello,
    Good introductory post. We talked a bit about your trip on twitter before you left and I am glad to see you fitting right in! Posts like this are great because it helps to change some of the false perceptions about Africa. I look forward to reading more!!

    1. Any one in mobassa who has a night club or needing care workers please contact me. I would like to live and work there. I have many other skills and experiance…Please mail me for more details. Thank you.

  2. hahah yeah I know they even told me it would take 5 days.. but its not too bad.. it was about 70 bucks to get everything (installation and monthly payment) but its not too bad so far.. def will look into that restaurant! Any other tips in the area?

    1. Hello am planning to come to Nairobi a Kenya next month for a month holiday like to hang out make some friends and see the cities hope this safe for me as a single girl anything to be careful of please I also like to make friends with you and any other expatriate living in Nairobi. Anyone out there should please inbox me as I need a guide line . Thanks

    2. Also how is the cost of rent this why I need to make some friends with you and any other expatriate living in Nairobi. Anyone out there should please inbox me as I need a guide line . Thanks

  3. Looks like growing up in Manila has prepared me very well to visit Africa!
    When I moved to Amsterdam it took a record 9 days for the internet to be installed. You can never tell with some places! 

  4. thinking about moving to Kenya,and am needing first hand information about the move and what to expect!! enjoyed reading your blog,and if possible,would appreciate any insights you may wish to share.thank you.

    1. Linda… I would highly recommend that you look into other countries in the region. You did hear about the recent bombing in downtown right? You should try Ethiopia.. its much cheaper and it is gorgeous. You will still be close enough to Kenya for safaris 🙂

      1. Marcello there is absolutely nothing wrong with linda moving to Kenya. its very safe here but if there was some bombing incidence in kenya once it doesn’t mean it will happen over and over. Maybe the next one will be in Ethiopia. No offence

  5. Can’t wait to read more about your life there! I’ll be visiting Kenya soon so always interesting to learn more about the ins and outs of daily life there 🙂

  6. There are some things (like power cuts) that are simply part of life in Africa. I look forward to hearing what else you get used to and remembering my days in Kenya.

  7. oops i dont what you folks from west expect but a little bit of toughness in your can for sure help..am kenyan staying in nairobi n i find life much beta here than anywhere else..cause thats home..before you go ahead and talk ill of a destination remember people call that place home

  8. It’s crazy, don’t mean to be super critical here, my grandfather lived for ten years all over West Africa, and he would say, “if you haven’t lived someplace for more than half a year, you were just visiting. It seems these days younger travelers just want to seem like they’ve done it all. Despite how little the might know one place or how short a stay they’ve been someplace, they “know it all” and have “lived everywhere.”

    Sorry about the rant

    -Matteo

  9. man, i am Nairobian, and about the water, thats bad diplomacy.. Folks, we have piped ‘city council’ water for most of Nairobi, including most of the poorer suburbs

  10. Loved your posts. I had been told a lot of things from someone I talk to in Nairobi and I always questioned it…now I believe them…lol

  11. If you wish to visit Kenya, just do some research on where to stay, which places to visit, best restaurants & so on. You say you had to wait for 5 days for Internet connection? I’ve never heard of that. You just buy a WiFi router, plug it to a power socket, switch on & connect your computer via WiFi. You don’t even need someone to install it for you. The estate you lived in(South C) is just a middle class suburb. There are better places, still cheap to live in where you can get anything you want effortlessly, so close to the Nairobi Central Business District. A fully funished apartment will cost you around $1500 a month in a leafy suburb. If you’re traveling it would be great to have a local accompany you so as to show you around. Kenya is definitely a good place if you know where to stay & things to do. The Maasai Mara is the best destination in the world. Diani beach is the best in Africa. Take your time. Learn more about any country you want to visit. For any questions or clarifications, you can reach me on evans98311@yahoo.com.

  12. Hey, i’m in Nairobi. I’m Kenyan. Where exactly do you live that has no water? Even the poorer places have access to piped water.

      1. Where did you compare Kenya to? Civilized world? Who told you the civilization in western world is the only to be compared in the world? Same way they eat dogs in parts of Swiss, they don’t eat dogs in Kenya, same way you may likely to killed by a gun in the USA, but less in Kenya. Terrorism is global, it happened in Paris so as Nairobi. Just don’t move next, stay where you are at your comfort zone

      2. I have lived in Nairobi for years and I have never once fetched water from a borehole. Seems to me your water problem was specific to your landlord.

  13. Hallow to everyone reading this blog! Its great! and at the same time interesting how Marcello describes his experience in Kenya. I can’t help but feel the sincerity of his words.It is exactly how he experienced Kenya, and can’t be judged, crucified or praised based on it. I am a Kenyan, i was born and raised in the country, i know a lot about it, but even so, i cant boost to know it all. there is so much that i’m still learning and is yet to discover. However, i have some comments and clarification that i would like to put across based on Marcello’s experience in Kenya.

    Kenya is a beautiful country by all standards,even to those who their bar of beauty is at its highest. It is also true that, just like any other developing country out there, it has its few shortcoming, but i can assure you those shortcoming are not anything compared to what you are likely to experience in other countries in Africa. Before you consider visiting any country, its always advisable to first consider availability of three major basic thing; water, food and shelter. Of coarse clothing, you’ll not forget to park your own, i advice you thou’, to carry a few, cause this country is full of awesome fabric to to die for. You are likely to shop and shop and shop. Marcello said that he had to physically pump water, that not a lie, it happens every time. This however is not entirely the case, and like i said, he wrote this based on his experience. See, water in kenya, is provided by the government.Nairobi for example has its water provided by the county government, which ensures it is piped. What Marcello experienced was due to private investors who decide to drill their own water avoiding to pay for the one provided by the government, but they end up doing it poorly because they are trying to cut costs. The next time you are coming to Nairobi, contact me, i will take you to houses that will leave you wondering why you din’t come earlier.

    Kenya is a unique country in Africa. Why do i say this? Don’t get me wrong, i do not say this simply because i was born there. NO! In fact far from it. You would be surprised how much i also hate it. but that is besides the point, and the topic for another day.Perhaps you have hard of the saying, ” jack of all trades” Well, Kenya is such a country. Kenya exhibits characteristics of every country in Africa. If you want Nigeria, you will find it, if you want Tanzania, you will find it here, South Africa, yes! it is there too, how about North Africa, it there too. Therefore by visiting Kenya, through contact of the right people to help you explore Kenya, you will experience the whole of Africa. I mean, who doesn’t want this. You will sure save on cost.

    I have so much to say, but we will have that time when you decide to visit this amazing and blessed county. It is true, their is crime, it is true there is lots of difficulties in terms of access to water, as said above, transport and so much more. But you and i can agree this is not only unique to Kenya, it is everywhere, even to the most developed countries. Secondly, what fun is there to visit Kenya, if you are not going to have new experiences from the ones you are used to! Visiting other countries, i believe is all about creating new memories. You can not do that if what you experience at the other end is just similar to where you come from. The only serious downfall that i have to admit has nailed the county, is the fight against terrorism, which is also a global problem. We have experienced a few attacks. It is however nothing to worry about, as security agencies are watching everything.

    Thank you all, and looking forward to meeting you guys when you visit Kenya!!
    email- jeffdindi@yahoo.com

  14. KENYA has changed now,internet connectivity is best in east and central Africa,its now a middle income country as from 2013….wait,l’m in maasai mara park right now…see u later

      1. Sanibelo, u can visit the Amboseli if you are not willing to stay for long. You would think its a zoo, because, just by taking a drive around the park, you will be able to see all big 5 and much other game.. if you plan to stay, consider Kileleshwa, Westlands or Lavington.. If you are white, these areas are populated by many white people and you will blend in and not be conspicuous as to think maybe you are been looked at too much as to fear for your security. As for hotels, there are many 5 stars located all over the country… make sure to visit the coast, the beaches are amazing and if you have more time you can visit game parks in Mt. Kenya region.. born, raised and living in Kenya

  15. haha, Marcelo, Even for Kenyan standards, that photo is hilarious. Most Kenyans would consider fetching water in that manner (drawing from a well), not only archaic but dangerous too, especially the Nairobians.. Your landlord must have been a mean guy, but then in the case of South C, I get why you had water problems and am sorry for my earlier comment.. South C, you should know, is the only suburb in its level, I.e higher middle class, that is notorious for water shortages.. I get where you are coming from now

  16. Some time has passed since you wrote the blog. I’d love to write about your experience for my blog. May I interview you?

  17. So I am a Kenyan who lives in the US but goes home to visit often as I love and adore my country.
    To be honest, I think tourists and other foreigners who travel to Africa need to do better in portraying the positive side of Africa. Some of my family lives in South C and its not too bad..its middle class..there are other neighborhoods..lots and lots of neighborhoods in Nairobi and other cities that can afford you so much luxury if you want but if your budget takes you to a middle class neighborhood then mention that aswell without generalizing….
    Upper middle class to rich neighborhoods check out: Runda, Kitisuru, Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Lavington, Hurlingam, Parklands, Karen, Gigiri, Muthaiga,Langata, Ridgeways.

    Middle class/Upper middle class: Langata, Embakasi, KahawaSukari, Garden Estate, South B, South C, Westlands, parts of Buruburu,

    Other affordable neigbourhoods(may be over populated): Nairobi West, Kasarani, Buruburu,
    Talk about the good stuff aswell not just perpetuating the stereotypes of what people know about developing countries!

    For people traveling in 2016: There has been uber and Airbnb for a while now so you can feel free to check out different neighborhoods.
    While other countries are just now getting into mobile wallet, MPESA has been a tech forward startup that has helped kenyans to use mobile wallet and transfer money for many years now!!…

    Lots of Apartments have pools, internet, and round the clock security guards.

    Also if you go to Kenya,we have an amazing Arts,fashion and Music culture with lots of events and you can check out blankets and wines for upcoming events…there are other festivals/open mic/standup comedy shows all over the country!!!..

    Last but not least, to help you see a better side of Kenya that is not talked about.. like the page :This is Kenya on facebook and please use TripAdvisor to check out hotels and other destination because there are over 460 hotel reviews and pictures on there.

    Google the different malls and centers because there are different malls in different neigbourhoods.

    For restaurants I would advise you to check out tripadvisor because there are so many amazing restaurants in Nairobi and other cities in Kenya. Also check out other cities and towns because there are amazing places to tour and other cities besides Nairobi.

  18. I am Kenyan living in Western Kenya around Obama’s father homeland and I welcome you guys to Kenya and even to visit Kisumu a city in sun within Western Kenya.

    George

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