A Very Nice Hotel and a Very Large Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

img_1279I can’t believe I am in Kenya….and I can’t believe I am in Kenya and spending most of my time in my hotel.   It is a very nice hotel.  The staff are really friendly and Chris, the door man, is my new BFF.  The rooms are lovely and the overpriced food is good.  The bartender makes the best ginger mojito you can imagine.img_1259

But I have spent too much time in my hotel because the hotel staff don’t want me to leave without an escort, frustrating because I am longing to be out in the city streets. Without an escort.

fullsizerender-103fab65b7092ba06159de9cc3fecbac8eI did go (with an escort) to the Kenya National Museum. Kenya is famous for its animal preserves and the archaeological digs of human ancestors, Joy Adams who is the subject of “Born Free” and Karen Blitzen who wrote “Out of Africa” (which was made into a romantic movie with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford). The museum presents information about all of this with displays that look like 7th grade science projects and 8th grade history projects.  It has a little art work but the exhibit seems to be a work in progress.

I also went on a tour of the Kibera slum with a young man named Leonard who lives in Kibera and has 12 clients for his graphics arts business. A million people live peacefully in Kibera, which is less than 2 square miles. The single story buildings are mostly packed red mud and tin and tired wood planks. The streets are packed red dirt that provide access to dwellings crowding tiny alley ways.  The vendors at the stalls along the main road sell used shirts for 20 cents and piles of tiny anchovies, even more pungent than the other strong smells of the slum that hover like a cloud in the equatorial heat. Nothing is nice. Nothing escapes the red dust. People sit on worn benches and stoops as if they are waiting for something, but they are friendly and I didn’t see anyone begging or thin.  There was a strong feeling of community and a lot of reggae-ish music coming out of open doorways.

As we walked through the streets, the children were friendly and affectionate, playing with toy proxies and red mud. They looked healthy and loved.

Here are my favorite shots of Kibera.

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I also went to the baby elephant orphanage outside of town (operated by the Sheldrick Trust, which partners with the Kenya National Parks). The orphanage is raising a couple of dozen very happy pachyderms.  Most of them were found at the bottom of wells, abandoned by their families who believed they were forever lost.  Of course, the babies were just darling, playing in drums of fresh water, poking each other with their trunks, and drinking milk out of large bottles. These photos were not taken with special filters — the soil and the elephants are this red.

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fullsizerenderThis song played on the radio during the taxi ride to the baby elephant orphanage and it has the feeling of the landscape here (and in a different way the landscape of home as well).

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14 comments

      1. My god Kim, do I wish I was with you~
        Your journey is so amazing and inspiring~
        I can’t thank you enough for all you do and look forward to seeing you when you return~
        Much love, Craig

  1. Wow, Kim, you are in Kenya! I was there 30 years ago and really liked Karen Blixen’s museum and the Giraffe Center. If you get a chance, be sure to feed a giraffe. Enjoy those ginger mojitos!

  2. Kenya is a country rich in hospitality, nature, and wildlife. Great to hear about your experiences in the country! Just a small correction – it’s Kibera slum, not Kebira. Even in the midst of their difficult circumstances, inhabitants of the slum seem content in their own way 🙂

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