November 28, 2009

So Far You Can Walk There

The one quality that really distinguishes Nairobi from other cities is not necessarily the cuisine, the architecture, or even the hospitality of the people.  It is the sprawling distance.  I have repeatedly experienced the same conversation in which people give me directions from one place to another, specifically stating that I am 'very close' and while I can of course take a bus or a matatu (micro-bus), I can just as well walk.

Over and over again I fall for this.  In my mind, walking distance is probably a bit farther than some other people's ideas.  I think of anything less than 30 minutes as walking distance, although less than 20 is probably the ideal distance.  Of course measuring distance by units of time does little to describe the terrain or the fluctuating elevations.

I haven't been this sore in a long time.  The problem apparently with living in the neighborhood of Upper Hill is that I am constantly walking up the hill!  Everyday to go to the bus stop, to catch a cap, or to make the 25 minute stroll into downtown, I am walking up and down dirt paths, rocky broken sidewalks, in and out of ravines, through the chaotic passage of traffic.  And this is the heart of the city!

I don't generally mind all the exertion.  So I'm certainly not complaining.  Its just one of those surprises of being in a new place and of living in new conditions.  I never really considered the terrain of Cairo as flat until I moved here.  In general, I enjoy all the green space within this city.  Its sprawling parks and green space shoved between the buildings, the dirt shortcuts people have carved into the landscape, and the blossoming flowers adorning the trees.  For those who know me well enough can confirm, I have a terribly weak sense of smell, and as I find all sorts of delicious perfumes within the air, it must be really something special.


  1. While I have no doubt you're telling the truth about all of this, the picture really looks completely flat except for the way background. Perhaps it doesn't quite do it justice?

  2. yeah, this was the best photo i could find for now. To the left is upperhill, where i'm at... although its not in the photo. Downtown is flat, but really more like at the bottom of all the hills. Of course this is how most cities have been historically structured, with the rich people on top of the hills and the poor at the bottom, industry along the river, and the central business district at the center. Nairobi is a classic example of all this.