Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15, 2007 - Driving in Nairobi

Hello again!

We haven't posted anything for a few days because our internet connection has not been working and, frankly, there isn't that much new to report. Kristoffer continues to love his job. This week he sat in on a meeting with several representatives from the Ministries of Health and Education. In addition to his other work, he will become quite involved in the WFP's School Feeding Program here, which is vital for the health and education of children. He is constantly amazed by how practical the work is and how interesting the people are. I am really hoping he will write something on the blog soon.

As for me, I have realized that nothing in terms of work or volunteering will happen until January because everything is or is starting to shut down for the holidays. On the apartment front, the one I found that met all of our requirements is absolutely enormous and we aren't going to take it. It is nice but we don't need 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, family room, laundry room, servants quarters, and kitchen with a breakfast nook. We are only 2 people and the reality is that you are all not going to come visit us at the same time. So...the hunt goes on. I showed Kristoffer two other possibilities this morning and on Monday I will look at "Riverside Park", which is the fanciest and most expensive compound in Nairobi. The good thing is that we get a rent subsidy from the UN so we could afford it. It looks amazing and the only bad part about the compound (without having seen the actual apartments yet) is that it is set back off a very busy highway. So basically, we hope to choose between these 3 places on Monday and move in by Thursday at the latest.

The WFP lent Kristoffer a car until we buy one. Driving is really scary here - in addition to no traffic lights (although we did find one at a roundabout...but it was just constantly blinking yellow so that was not really helpful) there are also no speeding limits and poorly paved roads (or unpaved roads in some cases). People drive like maniacs! Our first day driving was yesterday and Kristoffer did really well! There were only two scary moments. The first was that the car was too close to the left side and we went into a ditch for a moment. Kristoffer stayed in control of the car and we recovered well; that was only in the first 10 minutes of driving. About 20 minutes after that on our back home, we made a right turn (a little scary when you're on the left side) and Kristoffer accidentally got into the right lane. When I saw a matatu (that means "little bus" in Swahili) coming at us, I very calmly said, "We are in the wrong lane." I didn't think that screaming would help the situation. After shouting a choice expletive, Kristoffer swerved into the left lane and our lives were saved. Since then, his driving record has been perfect.

One other story before I go...we have been having some problem accessing our money here. As Kristoffer says, it is not that we don't have any money it is just that our assets are not liquid! I spoke to the bank on the phone earlier in the week and they said everything was now taken care of: we increased our spending and ATM limits and noted that purchases in Kenya should not be flagged for security. My cards are working fine, but Kristoffer's cards are (apparently) not. So last night we went to a really nice fondue restaurant here. We have found it very easy to get vegetarian food in Nairobi, as opposed to other parts of Kenya or maybe even Africa. It might be due to the population of Indians who live here. Anyway, we had a really delicious meal and Kristoffer put down his debit card to pay. The manager came back saying that it kept getting declined. For security reasons, we only carry one card with us at a time and I didn't have any cards with me. The ATM at this place denied his card as well. So I had to stay at the restaurant (preparing to wash dishes) and Kristoffer had to drive home to get another credit card. It was so embarrassing! Luckily for us the manager was really nice and said it happens to people there all the time. As soon as I can get calls to go through to the US (for some reason yesterday no calls were going through) I will call the bank again to resolve the problem.

Right now we are going to look at a car. It is a Mitsubishi Pajero io (a small 4WD SVU, called a Montero at home) and is owned by a British guy. If we like it and negotiate a decent price, we hope to purchase it at the beginning of the week. Everyday brings us something new!



Yi-Lun said...

Your adventures are so exciting and well-written! I see a book in the making. I ran into Kristoffer when I was in DC during Thanksgiving, but didn't get a chance to buy him a beer although we ended up at the same restaurant. To make it up, I'll pay for the DataWatch card... next time you give to a charity in Kenya, just stick my name by it.

Duffy said...

I've missed your blogs. Happy to see one today. Driving on the wrong side of the road can be scary at first but before long it will be second nature to you. It does sound like you're handling it well. Love to you both.

Victoria said...

man, I shouold have taken my driver's test there instead of Jersey.. I would have passed!!

MDM in Chi-town said...

The driving in Kenya sounds like the driving in the Carribean and in Mexico. No lane lines, just a mosh pit of moving vehicles. I bet it makes you appreciate Boston drivers. Or perhaps certain other drivers you're more familiar with...