Funny things happen when you’re white and you walk around Nairobi. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed:

  • Every cab driver thinks you want a cab
  • Every tour guide thinks you want to go for a safari
  • Every begger gets excited when they see you, then they give their best “Jambo! Hello!”
  • People selling trinkets get excited when they see you (like, “Yeah! Now that you mention it, I DID want a box of matches!”)
  • Shoes shiners want to polish your shoes

Sometimes I tell them funny things, like I’ll tell the cab drivers ndio hizi (like, “yeah, these”) and point to my feet, or nataka kuenda kwa miguu (“I want to go on foot”). It’s harder to be nice to the safari dudes; if I’m annoyed I’ll just tell them mimi si mtalii (“I’m not a tourist”). I know that’s a bit rude so I always feel bad after. I guess you can’t blame them for assuming you’re a tourist. The hilarious thing about the shoe shiners is that I am usually wearing sandals when they ask me… they laugh when I point to my feet and say, “No thanks!”

Realistically, any person who isn’t black probably experiences these things (Japanese, Swedish, etc). There are plenty of non-black Kenyans, but I don’t know any so I’m not sure if they have similar experiences. I guess the locals can tell if you’re a foreigner.

Karibu Kenya (“you’re welcome in Kenya”!)

Kenya, Pictures

Warthogs have the right of way!

… has become a favorite phrase of ours. For those of you who don’t know Kiswahili, the literal translation is, “I am not a tourist”. From negotiating matatu fares to haggling for clothing, food, etc. I think we’ve used that phrase more than any other. However, I think the phrase means more to us than it does to Kenyans. Matatus are still scary and we count our blessings before getting into one, and haggling is still difficult and tiring, although we’re getting better.
Making dinner in Nairobi
Most of our practice comes during our weekend visits to Nairobi. Because we have lots of volunteer friends and we’ve needed several big-ticket items, we’ve spent a lot of time in the city lately. Last weekend we made a feast with some of the Nairobi-based volunteers and took a trip to Nairobi’s National Park “Safari Walk” (it’s really just a zoo… San Diego’s is better).