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Margot Kiser

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Lamu versus Nairobi

Oppressive gray blanket of cloud finally lifted and with it my spirits.  Most days are now sunny and cheerful. This weekend took long walk along Mbagathi ridge, past Kazuri beads, w C  and the dogs – a happy, panting black Lab and Ginger, a small terrier. The kind friends I stay with are Danish and their house is just around the corner from Karen Blixen’s coffee estate. I would walk there every day, but as it’s a museum, they want to charge a thieving 800 kenya shillings ($10) just to stroll the gardens without even entering KB’s house.

During the work week, I often walk alone twice a day, along Mbgathi Ridge and then down the wide and aptly named Forest Lane. Friends ask if it’s dangerous to walk by myself. A palpable rigidity divides locals and the wazungu they work for, but I don’t sense danger. Not in this leafy and insular suburb. I usually greet stony-faced workers commuting by foot in Swahili, or, if I’m listening to my Iphone tunes, I smile or make eye contact. I almost always get a smile back. That said, I do stash my Iphone in my bra so that only the earphones are exposed. Most locals under 30 have Ipods anyway. Still, it’s sad to have hide these things.

If I walk between commuting hours, the avenues are empty and I usually only encounter this mzee (Swa for older person).

Nairobi is expensive – between hiring a driver (I’m never here long enough to justify buying a car). Food at Karen  Provision store and Nakumatt adds up.

Lamu beckons. I love that there are no cars on the island. Donkeys, boats and legs only modes of transport. I miss the place and its donkey-clogged alley ways. Ass-jams.

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