“Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats as we approach Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta airport.”
I’m slightly apprehensive leaving Uganda as I leave behind the familiarity of the Luganda greetings that I’ve been having such fun with over the last nine months. I feel like an outsider again. Will everyone speak English?
I’m excited to visit my second African country. The Customs Officer is apologetic that the much-lauded East African tourist visa only exists in theory: my Ugandan work permit should allow me to travel freely throughout East Africa but I still get charged $10 for my transit visa. “Would you like to pay in dollars, pounds or euros?” he asks me. I get a blank look when I ask to pay in Ugandan Shillings.
Travelling from Uganda to South Africa via Nairobi gently eases me back into the developed world. Smooth roads! Streetlights! Motorbike riders wearing helmets! People wearing jackets and coats! People even wearing shoes! As I watch pedestrians on their way home from work, I’m struck by how affluent the average person looks in comparision to the vast majority of Ugandans.
I’m conscious of the world having shifted as the tannoy broadcasts details for flights east to Mumbai and Dubai and onwards into Africa: Lagos, Khartoum and Lusaka. Nairobi is a major transport hub (I’m only stopping there on my way south) and I’ve never seen such an array of beautiful traditional clothes: African, Islamic and even Latin American.
I’m delighted to be staying with Faith, a Kenyan lady I met at ‘Africa Hash’ in Kampala back in May. ‘Hashing’ as we call it – for ‘drinkers with a running problem’ – is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ll be staying with another Hasher in Cape Town too.
Faith gives me a great big hug. She offers to share her bed with me which I’m fine with until I meet the Dutch couple also staying with her. The lady is scary. She is of Amazonion build and was the 1972 national shotput champion. She hasn’t changed her hairstyle since; lank grey plaits hang either side of her face and she looks through me. I hesitate for one moment: have I unwittingly signed upto a foursome? Will the video be going on sale shortly in downtown Amsterdam?
We sit around and watch TV. It’s strange to be sat on a three piece sofa; the room has thick curtains and carpets. How positively English!
Early evening we pile into Andrej’s car and they give me the guided tour of Nairobi. I feel quite safe. The traffic is ridiculous but it’s a nice-looking city, very north European in feel. We drive through Nairobi West, a very Kenyan part of town, where men sit outside one of dozens of small bars selling Guinness. “This is where I want to come next time!” I tell Faith.
[PHOTO: typical Nairobi street scene: traffic at a standstill. Few people ever drive into town].
We stop for a quick drink. But Hashers don’t stop at one and, before we know it, it’s one o’clock in the morning and we’re at the club next door. The Congolese band have gone but “Creamed Rice” (a well respected Kenyan lawyer) and I chase each other round the dancefloor. I can’t stop giggling as I plan my return trip to Nairobi.