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Nairobi: Still not my favorite place

August 4, 2012

After two night flights, we were exhausted enough not to really be bothered by crossing 7 or so time zones, so arriving in Nairobi at 6 am would have been tiring under any circumstances. On top of being excited to be done flying, we had to get through immigration (“oh you are Odhiambos! If only Odhiambo were here, you wouldn’t have to be tourists! $200, please), get our luggage, find a taxi, negotiate with a taxi, find someplace to LEAVE our luggage…the day that would never end. It was Friday when we had arrived, and we had been traveling since Wednesday. Still, it was early morning, and I knew we couldn’t ACTUALLY crash until I could check-in at a hotel at 2 pm.

So, we got some bus tickets for the following day, dropped the bags, and located a Nakumat. Although there are now many more choices for grocery shopping in Kenyan cities than there were, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for this Target-like establishment. You know, if Target sold mosquito nets and kerosene lamps and machetes. We were there for snacks. I got a taxi to take us to the two places in Nairobi I decided my kids needed to see. I have to say, I don’t love Nairobi. It is a city (that now feels much bigger–guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a developing country would have, you know, developed in 10 years) with regular city problems (over-populated, poverty, garbage, traffic, etc) but no real charm to compensate for those problems.

Anyway, the taxi-driver told me he knew the places I wanted to go and we agreed on a price and were off. Now, let me just say this about taxi drivers: from my perspective, your job is to know where stuff is, and if you don’t know, you should be honest about that and either find out, or tell the customer that you can’t do your job. I CANNOT STAND when taxi drivers (or anyone, really) lie and agree to provide a service that in reality, they cannot! Now you know, we had some problems. One of the places I wanted to go is pretty famous. The elephant orphanage has been featured on 60 Minutes and had a movie made about it, too. It is not obscure. And visitors are only welcome for one hour a day. So I started an hour before that hour, knowing that it should only take 20 minutes to get there. First, the taxi driver took us to the Nairobi National Park orphanage. Hey, I thought, maybe it IS here. The orphanage treats animals from the park and displays them in a little zoo. We paid our fees to get in and walked around for a while. Again, I was told I should bring my Odhiambo so the kids could get in for the reasonable Kenyan rate rather than the totally unreasonable tourist rate, but whatever, I want to see the baby elephants. Within minutes, it occurs to me that people are walking around looking at non-elephants like there are not baby elephants being fed someplace. Why would they do that? So I asked an employee where the baby elephants are, and he told me I was in the wrong place–the elephant orphanage is not here, it is far away, and only open for an hour, and that hour has already begun. And no, the fee I just paid is not transferable.

Growl.

So we RACE out to the parking lot, where the no-good good-for-nothing taxi driver is waiting for us, and tell him we are in the wrong place! He goes to ask where the right place is (elsewhere in Nairobi National Park), and I am told by him and the person giving directions that it is far, and I say, “we better hurry, then.” I really hate being so American, but there is just one flipping place I want to see that day and the driver TOLD me he would take us there and he has already cost me boucoup money getting into the WRONG place, is it terrible that I wanted him to take me to the RIGHT place? So yeah, it took us a loooooong time to get to another gate that was also wrong, where he got MORE directions from a ranger. We drove some more. We got more directions. And drove some more. And the hour is ticking down. The driver is clearly frustrated by the fuel and the roads and whatnot, but I want to see the baby elephants! We finally pull in 10 minutes before the end of the hour and there are LOTS of people there. This is both proof that this is a well-known place and it means we need to hike in further. So we hustle–the kids are complaining and tired and I keep griping “I am DOING THIS FOR YOU. Don’t you want to see the baby elephants!?!” I was really wondering if I wanted to pay (yet again) for a few minutes with the elephants, but by golly, when am I going to be in Nairobi at 11 am ever again? Not for a few years, at least.

So glad I paid.

Baby elephants fix everything.

It WAS crowded–there were lots of people. But the elephants were fantastic for all 10 minutes. One got very up close and personal with Amos, and until then, I think my kids were kind of nonplussed by the whole thing, but getting almost run over by a baby elephant was just what Amos needed to crack his shell and the kids communed with that elephant and loved it.

Then we had to go.

Basically all the tourists made a bee-line over to the giraffe centre, so my taxi driver didn’t have to work very hard to get us there. I looooove the giraffe centre–always have, always will.

While there, Lily spotted a worker with a nametag that said “Geoffry Odhiambo.” She was so excited! She has never known anyone else with her name. It was very cute. I guess that doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but that is the kind of thing I wanted to bring my kids here for.

All of the kids conked out at some point in the taxi ride, so it was finally time we could get into our hotel room. We got some lunch, got to the hotel room, and the kids insisted we swim. Please recall, it is winter and it is Nairobi. That means, it was windy and over-cast and in the 60s or 70s maybe. Still, the pool was nicely heated, so we swam for a while. It was, at least, a good reason to finally get out of those funky clothes we flew in for 2 days and then wore around Nairobi all day. My kids had to seriously wear me down to convince me to go out again and find some dinner for them–I really just wanted to sleep. Forever. But I hunted down some chicken and chips and an internet connection to communicate very briefly that we had arrived. Then it was bed.

Finally.

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