November 24, 2009

Fanye Kazi

I always hated the phrase "good hustle," but somehow I can't really think of another way to describe my day.  Except maybe the word "exhausting," or the swahili translation fanye kazi which means "make work."  

Needing to find a place to stay, I hiked all over a particular neighborhood within Nairobi, where I used to stay in 2007.  It was very strange, as so much has changed in Kenya.  Some things have changed for the better, and somethings have not.  Many businesses have improved, disappeared, or been replaced.  I can say that many businesses now appear more 'upscale' and quite nice, traffic seems more relaxed, and the air is much cleaner.  Of course that idea might also just be the consequence of living in Cairo for the last 15 months.  But I don't remember cars staying in their lanes or people using cross walks.  

I did eventually find a place to stay at a place called International Guest House.  Even though it has a fancy name, it was actually completely empty of foreigners. I was told this is low season, and after December it will be packed. The owner and I spoke for quite awhile, as he went to college in Kansas and upon starting his own tourism company in Kenya, he has traveled through much of Europe, America, and Africa.  He has been to Cairo several times, and he also owns a bus company that transports children to and from school within Nairobi.  

As we spoke, I explained my situation, that I don't have very much money, am starting a new job, need to find an apartment, but will constantly travel between this apartment and the Dadaab camps, so I don't want a very expensive place since I will rarely be there.  He offered to rent me a room at the rear of the compound for 100 dollars per month.  It is a very private single room, furnished with a bed, cabinets, and an attached bathroom with shower.  I explained that I want a 'normal' life, and do not want to be living like a hotel guest for my time in Kenya, so he agreed that I may freely use the kitchen and appliances.  He also offered that if I require anything special, like a microwave/minifridge/heater etc., that we can arrange a system, wherein he will purchase that item back from me at a discounted cost.  In this manner I won't waste any money on buying stuff, only to abandon it in 6-9 months.  

It is certain that finding accommodation this safe or convenient for 100 dollars per month will be very difficult in Nairobi.  If I was Kenyan, this would be normal, but as a foreigner the going rate is at least 400 dollars. It is also in my preferred neighborhood of Upper Hill, about a 15 minute walk from the National Hospital (ATM location) and bus station.  It is a good location because it is clean, green, and adjacent to downtown.  It is also near Westalands, where many ngos operate and expats live.   I have certainly lived in nicer places, and seeing where I will stay now really makes me miss living in Cairo... but this is probably an ideal situation for me.  The owner, Kumaou, gave me a ride back to my current place and I told him that I will see him in the morning.

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