Friday, July 14, 2017

First Impressions of Kenya

We're here, and we're finally feeling settled! The picture above is from our house. Our stuff obviously hasn't all arrived yet, so it feels very large and empty.

Anyway, I finally made time for the post that I want to write now so I can look back on it in two years: first impressions of Kenya, our new temporary home. Here are a few of my initial observations:

  • Kenyans speak much more softly. I am repeatedly reminded of how loud Americans are in comparison when I'm sitting in mixed meetings or struggling to understand someone speaking (what to me seems) extremely quietly.
  • The weather is utter perfection. We love never needing AC or heat.
  • It's really hard for a diplomat with security restrictions to live here without a car, but driving here is nuts. If driving on the left side of the road weren't intimidating enough, pedestrians just randomly run out into the street if they can so much as sense a hint of hesitation. Also, to the Western eye, matatus and boda bodas are pure death machines.
  • Security is noticeably higher here than what we're used to pretty much everywhere, from homes to malls and other public spaces.
  • Malls aren't just places to shop here. They're important social spaces and event venues.
  • Kenyans are very warm and friendly, as a general rule.
  • Kiswahili/swahili is very, very useful here. We usually only hear English when at least one foreigner is involved.
  • Tribes are extremely numerous and complex. I have no hope of learning all the local ethnic nuances in two years.
  • There's a lot of public concern about the upcoming elections. We've heard about them in passing everywhere from restaurants to church.
  • Kenyan music is delightful. I'll try and devote a post to it at some point.
  • The cost of living is great by our standards. We've heard others say it's expensive compared to other parts of Africa, but we find Nairobi very budget-friendly.
  • Nairobi is very developed. We have high-speed Internet (we can stream Netflix and Skype our families). We have access to modern supermarkets (like Carrefour) and fast food delivery (including sweet, delicious Domino's Pizza lava cakes). That being said, some American transplants defy expectations. (How do we have a Coldstone Creamery, but no Starbucks?!)
  • The Kenyan food I've tried so far is delicious but not exactly the healthiest thing I've eaten.
  • The cuisine and entertainment options here are very international. I can get Korean food right by where I work and then go see a Kenyan or Hollywood film at the mall.
  • Even the capital has a lush environment. We're in the city but live right next to a beautiful forest.
  • Life is a lot easier (or at least cheaper) with a residence card.

I want to include photos of the beautiful local landscape in future posts. I can't take pictures while driving around, so I'll have to wait for a good opportunity.

Let me just close with a delightful gem I found in a major Kenyan newspaper today. They published not only a Mary Todd Lincoln quote but also a fun fact about her pension:

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