Wednesday, 16 April 2008

I'm in Kenya - Part 3 - Nairobi

Back in the capital, I met up with my co-director and we made our way, on foot, to the office. I was struggling for breath but put it down to tiredness, the hill we had to climb and the fact that I was carrying luggage.

Almost as soon as I dumped my luggage at the office, I was off in a taxi to the Kenya Wildlife Service compound on the outskirts of the city for a meeting with a client. The taxi waited, we having agreed a price. But the meeting lasted rather longer than anticipated and three hours later, I had to call it a day, making another appointment for after Easter.

The driver was fast asleep in his car - it was hot - but was soon whisking me back to the office. The price had gone up, naturally, but he didn't rip me off as I expected.

Easter. I spent a lot of my days, sitting just outside the gate of my host's front yard, watching the world go by.

As the house is in a gated estate, the world consisted, in large part, of the neighbourhood kids playing in the road. This is not an area where you would expect to see a white man, so I became a bit of a curiosity.

Most kids over five would stare at me then approach and even speak to me. They all wanted to touch the remnants of my hair, my skin, or hold my hand. In fact as time passed, they would come up, offer me a high five and chatter away to me. My first impression was that most of them spoke excellent English and only reverted to Swahili to tease me, or talk behind my back.

Timo, or Timothy as he was christened, is eleven. He is small for his age, has a lopsided grin, uneven teeth, and generally would not win a "best-looking kid on the block" contest.

But he had something else. There was a look in his eyes begging me to take notice of him. I did. He is a charming, friendly, intelligent, confident kid, and I soon found out all about his family.

He lost his father in 2004 and he had to move from private to state school. He attends a a very large class in which he proudly stated he is top.

Over the following week, if he found me sitting on the step, he would slot his slight frame between my knees and just sit there with a contented look on his face.

Timo introduced me to his widowed mother, Florence. He also introduced me to his best friend and 9-year-old nephew, Winston. Winston is taller and heavier than his uncle, but they are obviously good friends.

The regular gang also included Ben, a cheeky 5-year-old who had a striking resemblance to the kid who plays Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris. A bunch of girls made up the "regulars".

Oh, and there was Tyrone. This kid is what everyone thinks an African kid should look like - dead cute. But he has a laugh like a foghorn. You know when Tyrone is around!

After the Easter break, I had a couple of days of meeting people at the office and doing other things that one does in the office. Then it was time to leave Kenya.

We set off for the airport in a private hire car - and hit an enormous traffic jam. It has to be pointed out that in the afternoon it had rained like I have never seen. The roads were flooded and no one wanted to drive on the left as potholes were invisible. We moved about 500 yards in 3 hours. Needless to say, I missed the flight by over an hour, so we turned round and crept home again.

We got back at 3:30. I went to the office for a while and a new ticket was acquired for the following Wednesday, then I went home.

Timo arrived home from school as I arrived and his face just beamed. I explained that I was going to be around for a few more days. He was almost jumping up and down with joy.

I put the extra time to good use, with more meetings with people who may be able to help me settle in Kenya eventually.

All too soon, it was time to leave Kenya - for the second time - and we left ourselves plenty of time.

We spent three hours drinking tea at the cafe just outside the terminal, but eventually, I could put it off no longer - I had to check in.

I will be back soon.

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