Sunday, December 25, 2016

Jambo Nairobi!

So, my last post was about the city. But what about the people of Nairobi?

Usually, wherever I travel, I try to learn a bit of the local language, if possible. So, of course, I downloaded a few apps to my iPhone to assist me with saying stuff in Swahili. You know, basic stuff like hello, please, thanks, sorry, good morning, etc. 

Well, this was probably my most pleasant experience trying out a completely new language for me! People were incredibly receptive to my attempts, and even very willing to explain stuff to me and teach me additional words! In fact, people in Nairobi were, in general, very friendly, kind, polite and soft spoken. It was a real delight trying to have exchanges, no matter how short, in Swahili with them. Plus, I realized a number of words had Arabic origins, so my Lebanese Arabic kicked in quite nicely!

Of course, English is widely used too, and ads and signs on the streets are usually in English, like in the photos below – a film being shot, and a lottery booth.

Another thing you can't help but notice? People are beautiful. Or at least they seemed beautiful to me. You could actually see how diverse Kenya is (there are dozens of different ethnic groups), mostly in the features of people, but sometimes also in their dress, be it a Maasai cape or a shalwar qameez.

Also, women in particular had amazing hairstyles. They braided their hair in the most astonishing patterns, spiralling up, or sideways, or shaving the sides, or dying parts of it bright red or blue... Really, it made you jealous for not having such amazing hair! And also quite a few women dressed stylish, some even looking like what some futuristic African-themed runway could look like. Sadly, my iPhone proved a very poor camera for the task of capturing all that.

Unfortunately, not all the people of Nairobi have a job or a place to sleep, and at Uhuru Park (and almost everywhere else) you could see beggars and homeless people...

This was one very special experience. Not only was it really pleasant dealing with Kenyans. This was also the first time since I studied in Beijing in the late 90's that I felt like I really stood out as a white person and, unfortunately, as an economically privileged one. That makes you feel uncomfortable. But it's also good to be reminded once in a while about your otherness and your privilege, because in recognizing yourself as different and as enjoying benefits by mere chance of birth, you are also required to acknowledge everybody's differences, aim at treating everybody equally, and keep striving to make a better world for everybody.

Karibu (thanks) for the experience, Nairobi!

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