Tag Archives: Nairobi

Nairobi Photos

Home. There really is no place like it, and it feels fantastic to be back!

Here is a slideshow of all the photos we couldn’t post before, from airport to zebra.

First, the ones from the National Park (click to start looking in a slideshow):

And then, the rest:

The Bomas of Kenya

Our final few days in Nairobi have been our busiest so far.

Thursday – Carnivore
Thursday I worked for only a few hours in the morning before heading out to meet another American woman for lunch. She’s the wife of one of Leo’s colleagues here, Dave, and they’re here for three months. Her driver picked us each up and then we drove into the green hills near several embassies to a place called The River Cafe. Combination restaurant and plant nursery, the lush hills and canopy tent provided a lovely setting for a delicious meal. Here I often catch whiffs of jasmine and honeysuckle and this place had plenty of the latter. A few wandering tomcats completed the ambiance.

rivercafe

After yet again sitting in traffic, I arrived back at the hotel at 3 p.m. to work for a few more minutes before getting into another car at 3:30 and heading out to the IBM site where Leo has been working. There, I met him and his colleague Martin, a German man around our age.

This was the night we were finally trying Carnivore. Every single thing we read about Nairobi mentioned this restaurant, a place best avoided by the faint of stomach and vegetarians. Carnivore is similar to a Brazilian steakhouse: if your flag is up, they constantly cruise by your table with roasted meat, slicing off hunks of it with a machete inches from your eyes, dropping it right onto your hot plate. Meat came in many varieties, including beef, pork and lamb, served many times in different ways, and then ostrich, crocodile, chicken, turkey, liver and more. Leo was sure to try the ox balls. His review: wet meat that flattens and falls apart into mushiness. “Unpleasant,” he reported. (I’ve tried them before so I passed this round.)

Here is the Carnviore roasting pit:

carnivore

The other great thing about this meal (aside from burping up meat for hours afterward) is the Dawa. In Swahili, “dawa” means medicine. More than one bar makes this beverage, but at Carnivore, it’s a production. The smiling “Dr. Dawa” arrives at your table, with an Prohibition-era cigarette tray slung around his neck. The tray contains the ingredients he needs to stir up this medicine, which our server urged us to try in order to whet our appetites. His dawas are vodka, limes, honey and a bit of brown sugar. The glass is served with a small muddling stick so you can mix it all up. Delicious! I later tried a rum-based dawa elsewhere. I found the heavy rum flavor overpowering and therefore not as tasty, but I suspect others may disagree. Gin would also do nicely.

The fixed-price meal included dessert, bread and some sides plus sauces for the meat, so we waddled more than wandered out to the parking lot. Still, a memorable meal is sometimes worth it!

Friday – Surprise Work
On Friday, I accompanied Leo and Martin, who rode together daily, to their office that I could work from a real desk and office chair. Besides, I was sick of the hotel. The building is the former library of the adjacent Catholic University, a place where you’ll find cows strolling the grass along with students. The office is very nice, smelling faintly of plaster and wet paint. I got a ton done while there all morning. At lunch, I joined them on their daily walk to the cafeteria, where they dine on a full plate of hot food and a Coke for about $2.50 each.

The afternoon proved more interesting. That morning they’d been on the phone with some bigwigs and something urgent required their help. So a driver fetched our trio at 1 p.m. and we headed to the other office, closer to the city center, where they could assist. The work took awhile, making me glad I’d packed a book in addition to my laptop. We ordered dinner in, but after that, I decided there was no point in waiting any longer. So I headed back at 8 while they continued for another two hours.

Last Weekend
Unfortunately, this project also meant working Saturday and part of Sunday. While Leo worked Saturday, I worked, ran an errand and bummed around with my book outside by the pool. Dave and his wife picked me up at 5:30 and we headed out to dinner in Karen, the suburb where all the ex-pats live. (So named for Karen Blixen, whose museum house Leo and I had previously visited.) The restaurant/guest house was packed with a mix of Americans and Europeans, many cheering at the rugby match on TV. Leo and Martin eventually joined us and we had a nice meal.

Today, Leo headed into the office once more, hoping to finalize a few things and finish early. I met him and Martin for lunch. Martin returned to work, while Leo and I headed out to the Bomas of Kenya. This cultural center has a few traditional Kenyan huts set up for visitors to see, but the main draw is the dancing. According to Lonely Planet, “the artists perform traditional dances and songs taken from the country’s 16 various tribal groups.”

dance

We stayed for an hour to watch, then headed back to get Martin and return to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we head home. Our flight does not leave until late at night, so we have a few activities planned. But we won’t have much Internet access, so farewell from Nairobi, and we will see you soon!

Business as Usual

Everyone is, of course, asking us about the Westgate mall shooting. I even received an interview request from my former TV station.

But for Leo and I, it’s been business as usual. We returned to work Monday, and other than a few more security measures at our hotel, things in the city center have been operating normally. Our hotel has been packed with attendees for multiple conferences, and the big rugby tournament continued this weekend without incident.

It’s Leo’s last week of work here, so he’s making sure to finish up what he began. For me, things are a little slower, giving me more than enough time to venture out for lunch each day.

Yesterday it was Dorman’s, a coffeehouse that serves lunch. It was OK, but less quality, cheaper and less polished than Java, the competitor at which Leo and I ate Sunday. The food here is international and diverse. We’ve eaten Chinese, Indian (twice) and various forms of American. I also tried some African cuisine, including ugali, which is a staple starch formed into white cakes. It’s plain alone, but apparently you’re supposed to put things on it. It reminded me a grits, a southern food I just haven’t gotten into, and I had about the same reaction with ugali.

Last night (Tuesday) we dined at an Italian place with a balcony overlooking the city. That was a nice change of pace because it enabled us to feel as though we were outside after dark. For safety reasons (even before the mall incident) we aren’t able to walk around the city after sundown. Walking a new city is one of our favorite activities, so we’ve found it limiting to take cabs even a few blocks to dinner.

It’s still been interesting to work in a new city, and we’re looking forward to some plans tomorrow and this weekend.

Tourists, Finally

Giraffes, gazelles and lions — oh my! It’s been a busy few days for us, as we finally had time to tour around a little bit.

(Photo note: Leo left his DSLR at home on purpose. Instead we brought our small point-and-shoot. But we forgot to bring the cord to transfer those photos to our computers so you’ll have to wait to see them. The photos you see here are those I found online to help illustrate. )

Urban Views — Friday
For me, the fun started Friday, when I quit work a bit after noon to go meet a friend of mine from college. Daudi (aka Dave) and I worked together on the college newspaper and he now lives in Tanzania, the country just south of Kenya. He travels a lot for his work, a nonprofit company based in the U.S. that helps feed children in Africa and teaches women about business. He was coming to Nairobi for the day, so I met him at Java, a local coffeehouse chain.

Java is like Starbucks: it’s packed, comfortable and approachable. Two main differences: you have a server and there is no row of hipsters with Macs and iPads. I arrived early, and was asked several times if I could share my booth because seats were hard to find. Dave and I caught up on our life stories over some sandwiches, coffee and tea. We then wandered around the city center quite a bit, stopping first at a market, where the sellers aggressively encouraged me to examine their flip flops, jewelry, cards, fruit, wood carvings and art. We then wandered some more so he could track down some grass seed for the yard around his office.

We wandered through parts of the city I had not yet visited, and it was nice to follow someone knowledgeable about the city, especially someone who speaks Swahili. To wander the streets here is to feel sensory overload: colorful signs in all shapes, sizes and materials hang overhead, throngs of people fill the sidewalk, the streets are choked with cars and buses, the smell of exhaust is everywhere and city noise blends in with the music blasting from stores. Walking alone is easier; you focus and weave your way through crowds. Walking with someone was more difficult.

Our hunt for grass seed took us into a few grocery stores, an honest slice of life in any country. They sell many of the same products, along with a mix of other junk you’d find at hardware stores or Target, but you walk through metal detectors to enter. I also found it interesting that in the second one we swam through a sea of exhaust from the row of buses idling outside. Few places have air conditioning here (no real need) and the front row of “windows” was really just a metal fence. I coughed and wondered why people put up with inhaling toxic fumes while trying to pick up toilet paper and crackers.

We took a break after 3 and returned to my hotel so Dave could take a work phone call meeting and I could check on work. We then headed back out, south from the hotel toward government buildings. The streets were packed with people, many selling things on sheets: candy, used books, shower caps, toys, whatever. When it began to rain the shower caps made a lot more sense. Black women cannot get their hair wet, and out came umbrellas and head wraps in all types of materials. We found siege in a tiny eatery, akin to fast food, with rows of stools lined up around skinny counters. The staff worked inside large metal cages, selling roasted chicken and chips (fries) wrapped up in paper. Some are open 24 hours, so the cages are a robbery prevention measure. He and I ordered ginger ale (warm or cold, they ask) and sat on a stool to chat and wait out the rain.

But soon it was growing dark, so we had to walk back to the hotel with some sprinkles. Leo returned from work and off we went in search of Ethiopian food for dinner. The rain began coming down in buckets as we left, and traffic is atrocious even during good weather, so it took awhile to get out to the restaurant. Plus, the driver looked for it, but had heard it was closed and we never did find it. Instead, we continued a little father to another place, one which he claimed had “the best Ethiopian food in Nairobi.”

Photo by brownpau.
Photo by brownpau

The food was indeed delicious, but neither Leo or I had ever tried Ethiopian so I can’t say it was the best. 🙂 The place was a converted house, with strange seating. We shared small room with another couple and we all ate on a couch or lounge chairs around a coffee table. Ethiopian is served on a large, round silver platter. The dish is covered with spongy bread, upon which sits small piles of meat, vegetables and hummus. More of the spongy bread is rolled and placed in a basket. You grab a roll, unfurl it, rip off a piece and use that to scoop up a pile of something. It all tasted great and cost roughly $22 for three people with beer and wine.

Giraffe Day — Saturday
“Out of Africa” book/movie fans may recognize the name Karen Blixen, though she wrote her most famous work under a pseudonym. Saturday Leo and I headed out to the Karen Blixen museum, her former home in the Ngong Hills.

The taxi company our hotel contracts with offers drivers who stay with you while you tour, so that you have a way to return. Essentially, you end up hiring a driver for the day. Or, they will come pick you up again after dinner if it’s nearby. Our driver, Peter, suggested we visit the baby elephant orphanage first, but we opted to save that for another day.

Instead, we drove out of the city and into the suburbs, Langata and Karen, the latter named for its former famous author. Suburbs here appear more like a rural setting, with large, fenced properties. The word “compounds” comes to mind. Most of the areas ex-pats live out there in these large houses, a far cry from one of Africa’s largest slums, visible on the Nairobi hillside as you return to town.

Peter deftly maneuvered the car around the many potholes, a jangling, jolting, jarring ride. Still, better to than riding in a matatu (ma-TA-too), a small van-like bus with four rows of people sitting with their knees around their faces and luggage in their laps.

The Karen Blixen property was once 4,500 acres. Today the house and grounds are much smaller. Through the haze, we could see the Ngong Hills, small mountains also known as “the knuckles” due to their appearance.

Karen Blixen Museum.
Photo by Christopher.Michel.

The setting was lovely, and in fact, a wedding was taking place while we toured. I was thrilled to glimpse the bride, who wore a long white, strapless wedding dress and a simple veil with beadwork. The Chivari chairs, flowers and reception tables under tents were easily recognizable to any American bride.

Our entry fee included a guided tour, during which we learned about Blixen, a Denmark native. Photos inside the house are forbidden due to movie copyright, so we settled for a few outside of the gardens. We picked up a carved hippo in the gift shop and watched a bit of the wedding before heading up the road to the Karen Blixen coffee house. The coffee house is a hotel, spa and upscale restaurant, and it includes a nice outdoor cafe, with tables set up on smooth grass with small tents and trees here and there for shade. We sat under blue skies and fluffy white clouds, sipping wine and beer and munching on Kachos (Kenyan nachos), lamb meatballs and French onion soup.

We climbed back into our taxi and headed to the Giraffe Center, where non-residents overpay to stand in a treehouse in which you stand to pet and/or feed giraffes. They are incredibly tall; Leo could nearly walk under them. We learned that there are different types of giraffes, identifiable by the different patterns of spots. And it turns out that it wasn’t just my imagination: they are sort of like cows. They have four stomachs and chew the same way.

giraffes
Photo by Conservation Concepts.

Many of the giraffes stood and sat a few meters from the treehouse, calmly chewing. One seemed more cooperative, coming up to the treehouse so we could all feed it and touch its head. (Watch out for head butting!) We also got some great video of that one, as it stuck out and curled its long tongue to eat.

When we returned to the hotel that afternoon, we learned on the news there had been a shooting at the mall in Westlands, a nearby suburb. The U.S. embassy had sent us emails (I had signed up with them to log our travel plans) and encouraged us to remain away from the area and in secure places. We were feeling tired anyway, so we stayed in until dinner. We remained in the city center, cabbing a few blocks away to the Thorn Tree Cafe in the famous Stanley Hotel. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth and Earnest Hemingway are two of the famous people to have visited this hotel. The food was international; Leo had stir fry and I had tilapia.

To the Lions! — Sunday
Today we were up at 6 a.m. to grab our hotel’s buffet breakfast before catching our tour to the National Park. Leo’s colleague Martin, from Germany, met us here. The park is not far away, and a much easier destination on a Sunday due to light traffic. In fact, you can see the tall buildings of the city center from some parts of the park, which means you can get a cool photo of wildlife against that backdrop if you’re lucky. (We were not.)

The weather was cool and the skies were gray. The van has a pop-up top so that you can stand and look out all around you; a brilliant idea when it’s not chilly and you’ve forgotten your jacket. 🙂 Still, the park was amazing. Leo made jokes about Jurassic Park as we entered, and it’s actually not dissimilar. (Except the lack of dinosaurs.) It’s 117 square kilometers, mostly wide open grasslands with short bushes.

tour van
Tour van. Photo by khym54.

We eagerly watched around us, eyes scanning the distance for wildlife. Soon, we had our first catch: impalas. And soon after, we spotted more, mostly in the distance. But as our driver jostled along the muddy track, we caught sight of more animals and closer: zebras, bushbucks, kudus, elands, a buffalo, a jackal, ostriches, gazelles and some sort of large bird the size of a really big wild turkey.

Later, as we kept driving, it seemed the cool weather had chased the animals away. “Maybe the animals have hangovers,” Martin joked.

We then came upon a giraffe, taking a leisurely stroll on the road. It stared at us, then slowly wandered right past; we could have reached out and touched it. We later had the same experience again.

The landscape changed and became more rocky and hilly. At one point, we stopped at a picnic area and got out to wander for a moment. There, we found a bunch of baboons hanging out, perhaps hoping for a handout. We also spied some hyrax lounging on a rock just below us.

The track was more fitting for a Land Rover than our mini-van. At times we laughed, bouncing along so much I thought we were going to lose a few parts. As we passed approaching vehicles, both drivers would stop, to catch the park gossip, we guessed. We had been bouncing along for more than an hour and a half and starting to get tired when one of these stops proved fruitful: lions! Just ahead!

The driver stomped on the gas pedal and zoomed forward, clearly exceeding the 20 kph speed limit and sending us springing into the air from our seats. We careened along the track like this for a few minutes until, at last, up ahead, we spied a group of vans like ours.

He slowed and we arrived in time to see seven or eight female lions sitting just in front of us in the middle of the road. They seemed bored with our presence, aware of us, yet ignoring us the way cool people do. After a few minutes, they slowly began moving away, one moving a few feet and then sitting again. Another would do the same. Then another. They slowly leapfrogged this way until they were hidden in the tall grasses and out of our sight.

Almost as fascinating as the lions were the huddle of people around. The vans and cars contained Asians, some wearing those germ face masks, groups Europeans/Americans, and a car full of men wearing white turbans.

zebras
zebras. Photo by Jorge Lascar.

After the lions, the tour continued for another hour. But that was the high point. Alas, we never saw a cheetah or leopard. Instead, we only saw more of the same animals, and they became fewer as we continued climbing throughout the park. At that point we had begun to get very chilly, sore from the jangling and squirming with full bladders. (Or maybe that was just me.) It was a relief to return to the main gate, close the pop-up top and return to the hotel.

From there, Leo and I grabbed lunch and and thawed out with hot drinks at Java House and then wandered about the city for a bit. Now, we’re relaxing in the hotel, keeping an eye on the Westgate mall situation, writing postcards (and this novel!). We’ll make plans for dinner soon.

The National Museum

Did you know they have flying squirrels in Africa, too? I didn’t, but I learned that Wednesday during a trip to the National Museum.

The problem with business trips is that you’re actually working. But after getting a lot done on Tuesday, I decided I needed to get out.

Of course, I want to save all the really cool stuff for weekends when Leo can join me, but I figured a trip to the National Museum wasn’t a requirement for him. So Wednesday morning I grabbed a cab and headed out there.

entrance1

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a “national” museum, but it turned out to be fairly interesting. This building is the third reincarnation of the museum, and part of it was undergoing some work. After I paid my fee, I entered the main hall, which features items that reflect the key aspects of Kenya’s country and culture.

An intern named Diana gave me a free private tour, explaining everything in great detail. Too much detail. One hour and 15 minutes into it, we still had plenty to go. I’ve never had a private tour before, and it’s slightly awkward to constantly nod and “mm-hmmm” every time someone explains something. Filing that away for future reference.

So here are just a few tidbits. First, back to the main hall, where I was greeted by gourds and girls. The pack of quiet school girls openly stared as I toured around. I’m not sure I’m that interesting a creature, so I tried to smile and seem like a friendly human being. I snapped this one after they’d all turned back around.

girls_gourds

The museum offered information about Kenya’s history, the evolution of human beings (in “the Cradle of Life” exhibit), stuffed animals found in the country and art. I ended my tour at an exhibit that showed items from all the stages of traditional Kenyan life, childhood through old age. There I was interested to see that humans really are the same everywhere. As children, they play with dolls and toys. They mark the graves of their dead with wooden headstones, taller ones for the more important people. However, they don’t mark the site until the person has visited them in a dream to let them know they’ve gone on.

After enough museum, I bought a pair of earrings from the gift shop for KSh300. (That’s 300 Kenyan shillings, which is $3.) I then headed over to the snake pit, where the gaggle of girls was now standing around the main exhibit, an outdoor sunken square full of snakes. One or two of them smiled shyly at me, which I got a kick out of.

I lunched at the museum cafe, where I learned that “Creole style” chips (chips are fries, just like in any former British colony) are covered with a fantastic cheese sauce and red and green peppers. I also ate a club sandwich, made of three slices of bread, bacon, some sliced chicken and a fried egg. Delicious!

I was nervous finding a cab outside the museum, but it wasn’t a problem, and I was back at the hotel by 1 p.m. to do some more work.

In theory you’re supposed to click on an image and then it opens a slideshow that you can click through, but it doesn’t seem to be working and I don’t have time to fix it now.

Our Nairobi Routine

Jet lag is brutal. Today is our third full day in Nairobi, but we haven’t done much yet as we recover from the time change and begin work somewhere new.

So far it goes like this: We get up at 7 a.m. and eat breakfast together. Leo’s ride to work arrives a little after 8. I change clothes and then hit the gym downstairs. Then I work for a few hours, go to lunch, take a short break and then work some more until Leo returns and we take a cab to dinner. Or that’s the basic idea, anyway.

Sunday night we had both woken up at midnight and read for three hours. I managed some more sleep, but Leo did not. So I can’t say I broke any records on the treadmill the first day, but at least it was a start.

The fatigue caught up with us as the day wore on. Leo had a successful first day at the IBM site, but came back early feeling poor. So we stayed in and ordered room service for the first time in my life.

Monday night we slept better, waking up today with a little more pep. I managed to actually walk a few kilometers in the gym and then got a lot more work done. Photos of the hotel room:

20130917_084102 20130917_084113

 

Venturing Out
You’ve heard the phrase, “Stands out like a sore thumb.” Yep. That’s me.

We’ve read a lot about safety, so I felt nervous wandering out Monday and Tuesday for lunch. But who wants to hang out at the hotel all day? I don’t carry a purse and I memorize my route so I don’t look too much like a tourist. Unfortunately, a white woman walking alone seems to attract some attention. Both days multiple men have approached me to chat. They all say “Jambo” (Hello). Then they all want to tell me that “karibu” means “welcome.”

Some are selling safaris. (Note: You should never take those. Go with a reputable company.) Others seem eager to remind me to look right for traffic first, then left. Very helpful advice, by the way. This being a former British colony, they drive on the left.

Of course, people here drive like crazy and the pedestrians don’t seem to mind just walking out into the street whenever. I go with the flow, figuring if they’re walking, it’s OK for me to walk, too.

hotel_view
View from the hotel room.

Even going with the flow, I feel awkward walking down the street. Everyone here is dressed well in dress pants, collared shirts, dressed. So aside from my skin color, I stand out in my casual pants and simple shirts. Some people seem downright annoyed by my presence. Others seem to think, “Oh look, a white girl.” Most are, “Wonder what she is doing here?” Our hotel is full of a variety of races and ethnicities, but most are business people heading to an office. The others tend to be older white tourists, likely taking hired cars to their destinations.

Today’s random chatty person was the most amusing so far. He walked up to me as we crossed the street, warning me to look right. He asked which country I am from and what I am doing here. I’ve already learned that “working” is the best answer.  He then asked where I was going.

“Lunch,” I told him, as we kept walking.

“Where to?”

“Tropez.”

“Oh. Why go there? You need to go to Java. That’s where you’ll find people like you. You know, white people.”

“Uh, that’s OK. I want to try local places.”

I never found Tropez though. Leo says nearly everything in the city has a hand-me-down look. I find this especially true of the signs, which are sort of haphazard. So I ducked into a Turkish place nearby and munched on something delicious that resembled a gyro.

I was hoping to visit the National Museum this afternoon, but I’ve actually had a lot of work to do, so I plan to go tomorrow morning. Instead, it’s time to research dinner options!

Photos
It’s illegal to take pictures of government buildings here, and I haven’t wanted to bring a camera or phone out on my lunch trips, hence few photos so far. The sun sets at 6:30 and it’s considered dangerous to walk around after dark, so we will be taking cabs to dinner. That means even fewer chances to take pictures. But I promise we’ll be making up for it on weekends when we head out to be tourists!

We’re already making fun plans to feed elephants and pet giraffes. Our itinerary will also include a stop at Carnivore, a restaurant mentioned in every single article and guidebook about Nairobi.

First Impressions

Comedians always joke about air travel, probably because it’s so easy. Two flights — a seven-hour red eye followed by a four-hour layover topped with the final eight hours sitting in a tin can — and we weren’t laughing much. But we survived.

We arrived in Nairobi at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday local time. The airport suffered a severe fire in early August, so our first glimpse of the landscape occurred as we disembarked onto the tarmac. There wasn’t much to see, however, as we soon climbed aboard a small bus to ferry us to the main terminal.

The spartan terminal featured none of Heathrow’s shine and is the smallest I’ve seen. The floor is painted gray concrete and there were small desks with those elastic black row creators forced us into lines for visas. Beyond that lay only a small conveyor belt and some carts.

Leo had arranged a ride for us through IBM, and as we entered the building, it was nice to find a woman holding our name on a card. Maria introduced herself and helped guide us to the “Fast Track/Diplomat” visa line, making us feel like VIPs. Especially when we realized everyone else with drivers had to go outside to find theirs. She and her colleague Linda helped us wheel our luggage out to the parking lot where our driver waited.

Driving here appears to be an aggressive sport, each player making strong moves to nose forward in front of others through queues, roundabouts and parking lots. Leo says the drivers in China are more aggressive, but I was still amused watching ours wrestle through the crowd of matatus (mini van-like buses jam packed with people).

The air temperature (21 C) felt great as we cruised along a dark highway toward the city center. One of the first things I noticed was how few electric lights shone. In some U.S. cities you can practically wear sunglasses while driving a night (looking at you, Miami) because of the blinding number of highway lights, billboard signs and well-lit buildings. Billboards here feature only one or two small lights and building exteriors are not lit like Christmas trees. Even the flagpole and small monument outside our hotel stood in darkness as we arrived.

I couldn’t decide if it was cool — yay, no light pollution! — or slightly creepy until we arrived at our hotel, where a locked gate prevents entry until guards check the trunk and use a mirror to sneak a peek at the car’s undercarriage. Creepy it is, then — sort of a wild West vibe with everything shut up tightly at night to keep out boogeymen, bombers and bad guys.

We emerged from the cab and our luggage was hoisted onto an X-ray machine. Then, at last, we entered our hotel and checked in. The Intercontinental is five stars, but stars go a little further in the U.S. That said, it’s a nice place and frankly, by that time it was 11:30 p.m. and we didn’t give a damn as long as a bed was waiting.

Today we forced ourselves awake at 9 a.m. to catch the included breakfast buffet downstairs at the Terrace Restaurant, which overlooks the hotel pool and terrace, along with the outdoor tiki bar. We had our choice of six fruit juices, including passion, mango, pineapple and of course, freshly squeezed orange. A fruit bar offered mangos, watermelon, bananas and more tropical fare, plus yogurts and some cold sliced salmon and other chilled meats.

Hot food included an omelet station, various types of sausages and bacon, waffles and French toast (a little different form than those we find at home), plus scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, an array of muffins, croissants, toast/jams, an odd-looking brown porridge and more. We disliked the scrambled eggs, but everything else was good.

After breakfast, we ventured out to the city center to orient ourselves. Most guidebooks offer a lot of safety tips while wandering, but the city center seemed fairly quiet except for bursts of praise song coming from the open windows of churches. There were the standard unsavory characters on corners here and there, found in nearly every city, but overall we felt safe, especially considering the impressive number of guards sitting on folding chairs on just about every block.

Naturally, we still stood out and got plenty of stares. And of course, we were often hit up by beggars or those offering services. Two children tried asking me for money. Another asked Leo, first giving us a first bump because we’re from “Obama country.”  Others offered Leo and I safaris and cab rides.

There isn’t much to see in the city center, so we wandered a bit and got our bearings and then returned to the hotel. We then discussed activities, but the jet lag is making us light headed and slightly dizzy. So we opted to take it easy today, aside from venturing to lunch at Restaurant Havana in the nearby suburb of Westlands. (Trust Leo to find a Cuban sandwich and ropa vieja in Kenya.)

We now plan to lounge a bit and eat dinner in one of the other hotel restaurants before turning in early. My hope is that one more night of good sleep followed by a jog in the hotel gym will put us on Nairobi time.