Kenya

A day in Nairobi, Monday 18th January 1999

I am writing this from the neon lit room 116 in the Dolat Hotel after a yellow alert incident, just reminding me a bit that there is a danger on the streets in Nairobi when dark (nothing too serious). I was coming back after gorging myself on burgers and pizzas carrying a takeaway coffee. I initially found the Malindi Dishes Restaurant was in the process of being refurbished and the place next door only served beer. Anyway, I was walking back, the usual beggars appeared but one guy grabbed my arm and because I had my long sleeved shirt on I could not twist it free. He was persistent, and only smiled and repeated when I said “f**k off” many times. I had considered the option of throwing the hot cup of coffee over this guy but he was obviously slightly glazed or drunk and it is always better to follow the non-confrontational path. A severe first strike is always dangerous and the situation could have turned violent. I saw his concentration wander towards the lower zip of my day pack and then I was able to break free – he managed to open the pocket and I believe got away with a packet of tissues. The incident was over and diffused as quickly as possible. I felt slightly stressed and had to quickly ask some shop guards the direction back to the hotel as I had become slightly disoriented (shock). I believe I minimised any risk and the final judgement of the severity is the profit and loss (change) at the end. One could even argue that it will make me less blasé and more careful. Anyway, the day started at the film developers where although expensive, I put in my film to develop. I saw great enlargements of cheetah photos on the walls. The shop was a bit expensive but was the recommended reliable place to get them done. I then searched for the Pasara café where I had plenty of fresh fruit, and juice and a cooked breakfast. I read the Economist, which was provided. Lots of people were walking about going to work. I relaxed for a long time just reading. It is probably the first day that I have had a chance to relax on this holiday. Before finding the breakfast place I actually went up the Kenyatta Conference Centre, to the 28th floor to view the city; the panorama was kindly described by the porter stationed up there, who pointed out the direction of the American Embassy that had recently been blown up. It was soon time to collect the photos. I was a bit early but knew I would be in the shop for a while looking at them – colours turned out very well. I headed towards the National archives to get out of the bright midday sun. I saw interesting paintings and carvings and had too much to overload the senses and took many photos. I then started of a circuit in the Kenyatta conference centre to use the phone, but no one was in. I visited the cathedral – sat inside for a while, cool, colourful, but with an unrefined finish on the roof and walls (car park concrete). I went to the market and relaxed high on the steps before buying juice and water. I then turned towards the Telecomm place where after about an hour either the phone was engaged, unobtainable or rang with no-one answering. I gave up, returned to base via a wide route. I paid for all hotel expenses including my unofficial washing. I rested then set off for evening food. One day is enough in Nairobi. I saw less than 10 European faces today. I am trying not to sound racist. My left toenail was still very red and bruised. I have a nice plane trip tomorrow to Zanzibar, and hopefully we will get a good view of Kili on the way down.

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