Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nairobi living...

I don't think I could ever get used to having people serve me, and attending to all of my chores. Henry, the cook, always laughs at me when I instinctually pick up my dishes after each meal and bring them to the kitchen. Roda, the maid, always giggles when she sees me making my bed, and folding my clothes. It's quite the different lifestyle here, and although I am loving it, this is one aspect which is hard to get used to.

The week here in Nairobi has been absolutely wonderful, and I am so thankful to Naziha's family for making me feel like I have yet another home away from home. As her adopted sister for the week, I've gotten to live like I was born and raised here, visiting all of the local places, having lots of chai and coffee, and really getting a feel for the laid-back lifestyle here.
Friday evening after prayers, I met my dad's cousins, Shina and Mina, who both grew up in Nairobi. Mina Aunty was in town for just the evening from Mombassa, so both of them, and Shina Aunty's two kids, Karim and Karima, took me out for dinner. We visited the famous Diamond Plaza, an outdoor food court where you choose a table and sit down, and representatives from each of the booths in the court rush to your table with a menu. It was cool, as we ordered each of our dishes from different representatives, so as to get the best of the best. They fed me quite a bit, but it was all delicious, especially the fresh fruit juices that I downed quite quickly! It was lovely meeting them all, and I look forward to hopefully seeing them all again at the next extended family reunion.

On Saturday, I got a taste of how the youth in Nairobi party. And boy, do they party hard! Naziha and I were picked up by a couple of the guys, now familiar faces after the BBQ Thursday evening, and we made our way to the first club. Ali, another friend from Western, who's presently doing an internship in Nairobi, met up with us, along with his cousin Azhar, and friend Alykhan both also from Western, in addition to a couple other friends from Nairobi. The first club, Gypsies, was fun, and attracted quite the interesting crowd, including lots of foreigners, older expats, young tourists, and locals of all ages. By 1:30am, we were beat and ready to go to bed, but they all convinced Ali and I that the night was still young, and led us to the next club, called Treehouse. This place was awesome, with amazing DJs and a really cool vibe. However, Ali and I, as the two Canadians who are used to clubs closing at 2am back home, were absolutely exhausted, and looked pretty weak when we sat down for a while at 3:30am just recharging our batteries while our group kept on going! We ended up leaving Treehouse at around 5:30am, which is apparently still early for Nairobi standards! I cannot believe how they can do this on a regular basis, and with so much energy too! I'm also quite impressed that they can all function perfectly well the next day; what tanks they all are!

Sunday morning we slept in a tad, before getting ready for a family day. We visited Naziha's parents' company's new office space, which is being renovated presently, before heading to the outskirts of town to do some furniture shopping. Afterwards, we made our way to the famous restaurant called Carnivore for lunch. As the name suggests, this restaurant features meat, and boy was it delicious!
We then made our way over to the Nairobi National Park, where instead of going on a safari through the park, we walked into the Animal Orphanage. The orphanage is home to numerous wounded or orphaned animals from around East Africa, and serves as a sort of rehabilitation centre for some, and simply a safe haven for others. They are all caged, but treated very well, and it is therefore kind of like an exotic zoo.
We got to see about nine majestic lions up close, with their humongous teeth and beautiful manes, as well as numerous cheetahs, who darted about as we called their names.
There were a ton of monkeys roaming around on site, and many primates in the cages as well. My favourite animal though, was the leopard, with its silky coat of fur in the most beautiful spotted pattern. Leopards are incredibly rare to see both in the wild and in captivity, so we were quite lucky that there was one staying in the orphanage when we visited.
One of the kind zookeepers also gave us the chance to feed the giraffe it's lunch. Jihan, Naziha and I all took turns holding up leaves for the tall creature, as he bent down, stuck out his giant black tongue, and ripped off a piece of each leaf before chewing profusely. He was quite gentle, so we were able to pet him as he was chewing, however at one point I mustn't have been holding the leaves at the right angle, as the giraffe almost licked my face! Thank goodness he was quite slow in this action and I was able to turn my face right in the nick of time! It was a lovely afternoon overall, and I got a taste of the incredible wildlife Kenya is famous for.
Monday evening, I was fortunate to meet up with a couple other Western students who are also from Nairobi. Raheel used to live on my floor in the apartment building I was in during my third year. He and his roommates were good friends of mine, and we used to alternate Friday dinners after prayers at each of our homes! He and Azzam, the frosh rep from this past year's ISA, of which I was fortunate to be President of, both invited Naziha, Ali and myself to dinner. It was great catching up with them at this mini reunion, especially since I won't be seeing them all so often next year!
My last couple of days in Nairobi have been just as wonderful as the rest of the week. I've spent a lot of time chilling with Naziha and her friends, who have been so kind to open their circles to me. We ventured around the famous Masai Market on Tuesday, featuring local handicrafts, and experienced Nairobi Fro-Yo. I have only recently been exposed to the wonder that is fro-yo, and I was excited when one of Naziha's friends, Zain, asked if we could stop by the Nairobi chain, Planet Yogurt, for dessert. It was delicious, but what was the most awesome, was that amongst the typical toppings, were mini "gulab jamun!" This is a traditional Indian dessert, and I was quite amused to see it in the restaurant, so I of course took a picture and tried it with my yogurt. (It was not nearly as good as my grandma's, but it was still delicious!)
Early on in the week, I also received a surprise Facebook message from an old friend. My babysitter, Aleeda, from when I was about two until five, had found out I was in East Africa, and was dropping a line to say hello, as she lives in this part of the world now! Aleeda used to be the only person I'd let my parents leave me with when they had to be at institutional meetings, or when they were leading the local congregation as Mukhisaheb/Mukhianisaheba some 20 years ago. Since my blog hadn't been updated for a few days, she didn't know I would be in Nairobi, and I was so excited to respond that I was actually in the city! We made plans for the next day, and I was super excited to see her.

Aleeda does some really cool work in the tech space in the developing world, and she actually launched M-Pesa, the famous mobile money service in Kenya with Safaricom, back in 2005. She has since been doing all sorts of neat things, so in the morning, I got to go with her to the launch of the Nairobi Innovation Hub's User Experience Lab, which featured a talk by Google's Director of EMEA, Steve Rogers. Some of her clients that she consults for were present at the talk, so I got to meet all sorts of brilliant people, and get a sense of the energy and excitement that is surrounding tech in Kenya presently.

We then went for lunch before I got to meet her youngest daughter, Kayla, who is just eight months old. She then dropped me off at Naziha's home, where I remembered to take a picture before we said farewell. It was so wonderful catching up with Aleeda, and I'm so glad we became more than babysitter-babysitee, but grown-up friends over this reunion as well!
I packed my bags and had one last cup of tea with Naziha, Jihan, and their mom, Saira Aunty, before we had to say goodbye. I wrote it earlier, but I really cannot express how much it meant to me to have them take me in for the week, and treat me like a member of the family. That's exactly what I needed, and it was so wonderful spending time with them all - I will miss them dearly!

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