Three days ago, we arrived in Nairobi, the first time any of us have stepped foot in Africa. We’ve been staying at the Mayfield Guest House, a hotel of sorts for incoming and outgoing AIM missionaries, so we haven’t really begun to immerse ourselves in Kenyan life and culture. We have, however, ventured out to the mall a couple of times and attended church yesterday. Here are some of my (Jamie’s) random first impressions:
1. Driving here is…different. You have to be aggressive to drive here. Instead of clearly defined traffic patterns and right-of-way, it’s more of a free-for-all. You have to stick your nose pretty far out into the street in order to force traffic to stop for you – or you may never get in at all. As a result, even main roads are a bit slow because you are constantly stopping to let people in. This also means that vehicles get VERY close to each other – and vehicles get very close to pedestrians as well. It can be a bit nerve-wracking for us Americans since it can feel like near-accidents are constantly taking place. However, everyone here is used to it and much of this happens at a pretty slow pace, so I hesitate to say that driving here is necessarily more dangerous. It will take some adjustment for us, though. I hope to get a lot of practice driving before venturing into the big city.
2. Phone plans here are awesome… in part because there is no “plan” or contract. You purchase pre-paid minutes and continue to refill by purchasing new codes. There are no other fees. It’s very simple. And the rates are great: one shilling (or about one cent) per minute in Kenya and three shillings (or about three to four cents) per minute to call internationally. I don’t think we’ll ever come close to paying what we did in the States.
3. I can’t identify any trees or plants. I can’t necessarily identify dozens and dozens of trees and plants in the US either, but my point is that the vegetation is completely different. It’s also very beautiful and diverse.
4. Not all churches here feel all that different from churches in the US. Yesterday we visited Nairobi Baptist Church, next door to the Mayfield where we are staying. Afterward, Kim and I remarked to each other that we both felt as though NBC must be the Nairobi equivalent of College Church, our sending church in Wheaton. Doubtless, we will attend churches where the style, content, structure and length of service are quite different from our past experiences, but this particular church felt pretty, well, western.
5. The Chai is great. The Chai is ubiquitous. Chai has been served with every meal we’ve had so far. The church we attended yesterday served Chai after the service as well.
6. Sleeping under a mosquito net is kinda fun. It’s kind of like sleeping under a tent every night. Speaking of mosquitos…
7. The health risks here are a bit higher. This is no surprise, but now we’re beginning to experience this for ourselves. Water must be filtered for drinking and brushing teeth. It’s best to avoid getting water in one’s eyes or mouth in the shower. Everyone must take various precautions to avoid mosquitos or take malaria medication. Although there may be some health risks in the US as well, it’s just a bit different to know that accidentally ingesting unfiltered water or a mosquito bite could potentially make you pretty sick.
8. You can find almost everything in Nairobi. We’ve visited Nakamutt a couple of times, the Kenyan equivalent of Target or Wal-Mart. The products and prices may be slightly different, but Nakamutt has every bit as much and every bit the selection of Wal-Mart or Target.
9. There are quite a few nice, expensive cars on the streets of Nairobi. I’m not sure if we’ll see a lot of that outside Nairobi, but clearly not everyone here is struggling financially.
10. Everyone loves a baby. Yes, I know, this is no surprise either, but the Kenyans here love to greet, hold, lift, and play with Eliya. This will obviously have its advantages.