03.08.2012 - 05.08.2012
When I first arrived in Kenya in mid-June and stayed at a hotel near the Nairobi airport, I thought that I never wanted to go back to Kenya’s capital. I’m not sure whether it was the nervousness of being in a foreign country or how primitive the city looked. My coworker Garret invited me for the weekend and I gladly took up another chance to get out of Eldoret for the weekend. I took a short 45 minute flight on Friday morning and spent the day working at the AMREF headquarters. Garret is working with AMREF on a project to educate 250,000 health care workers throughout Africa. Sending out an e-mail with a link to a video won’t work for people living without electricity, computers & internet. Nairobi is a very modern city with skyscrapers and traffic lights that drivers actually follow. Garret and his AMREF partners Kim from the UK took me to a local restaurant that served real beef hamburgers. The food was incredible and I felt like I was back in an urban setting similar to Philadelphia or Chicago. The more I travel throughout Kenya, the more I realize that even though Eldoret is Kenya’s 5th largest city, it is in the boondocks.
There are six Pulse volunteers from four different countries (US, UK, Turkey & Estonia) living in two extremely modern apartments. On Saturday three of us ventured out to some tourist attractions in town that they had not yet explored. First stop was the Nairobi Train Museum. We learned that the country of Kenya was actually built around the railroad infrastructure. Starting in the late 1890’s they began building a rail line from the port at Mombassa through Nairobi and eventually to Kisumu & Uganda. An interesting story from out guide was about lions regularly attacking and eating the workers during the construction. While driving through the middle of town, the taxi driver pointed out the previous site of US embassy that was destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1998. The site is now a park with a wall to commemorate those killed with pictures of damage to the surrounding buildings. This act was one event that led up to the USS Cole and 911 attacks a few years later. The next stop was the Maasai market where you can buy any African souvenir from a Maasai spear used for killing lions to a 6 foot giraffe. A “guide” met us as we entered the market and offered to be our procurement representative. The pressure to buy was incredibly high and everything is negotiable. But once we told them that we actually live in Kenya and will be here for 6 months, they relented. The last stop was a huge park that runs through the center of town. We hiked up a hill to an observation point to see the whole town. We walked past hundreds of people asleep in the park. They didn’t look homeless and it was almost noon. Much too early to take a nap people.
On Sunday Garret and I went to the Yaya Centre which is just like any US mall but with another outdoor market selling the same African trinkets (I hope that I can get three Christmas present spears through customs). As we travelled away from the center of town, the scenery began to look more what I’ve seen in western Kenya. Sunday afternoon horse racing was our next stop. There were 7 races of various distances. Bets could be placed starting at 40 shillings (~48 cents). It was very family friendly with many children running around on the grass, and there were many ex-pats (foreigners like me). We had lunch and enjoyed watching the races. Note that I won’t be flying home first class or quitting my day job to pick horses for a living. The best part of the weekend was the camaraderie with fellow Pulse volunteers and talking out our home countries and assignments. The group here takes turns making dinner and I was very grateful to not go out to a restaurant. I learned more about the country of Turkey that I ever knew as Sibel discussed her homeland. Everyone is here for similar reasons and it’s nice to bond with people that I never would have a chance to met otherwise. Now I have to find my boots and hope it’s stopped raining in Eldoret.