Sunday, April 4, 2010
Rather abruptly, the rainy season has begun. My last evening in Nairobi, after some sedentary days working long hours, I was more than ready to go for a run. I walked out of the meeting room to find a driving rain. For some it would be disheartening. For me, it was invigorating. I said farewell to a few colleagues who were heading to the airport, hurried back to my room and put on my running gear. I asked the concierge for some advice as to where to go since I don't know Nairobi that well. The guy looked at me like I had something wrong with me to want to go for a run in this weather. He sort of pointed in one direction and, without much confidence in his suggestion, I headed out.
In spite of the rain, the sidewalks of Waiyaki Way were full of people, most with no umbrellas. I weaved in and out of the crowds focusing on the uneven "sidewalk" and trying not to twist an ankle. I was completely soaked within minutes but the exercise, cool air and rain felt good. As I got further away from the city center, the people thinned and I could spend more time taking in my surroundings. I think that Nairobi could be a great city if it could reel in the whole crime thing. It's a massive problem and locals tell me it's getting worse. Our security briefing at the beginning of the week sounded more like Afghanistan than East Africa. Nonetheless, it seemed to me that the bad guys were not likely to be interested in working in the rain and there's little to take from a sweaty jogger.
On the return, as I neared the hotel, I heard a loud honk from behind. I turned around and saw a small bus (matatu) headed straight for me on the sidewalk. People were diving out of the way, as did I. I'd heard that the police were cracking down on their crazy driving and in general I'd seen remarkable improvement since the last time I was in the city. Nonetheless, there are some that are still taking the liberty of using the sidewalk as the fast lane.
I was out for about 45 min. and arrived at the hotel drenched, muddy and happy. The concierge smiled, shook his head and opened the door. I apologized for dripping all over the hotel lobby and he just kept smiling and shaking his head. "Hamna shida," he said. No problem.
Now back in Dar, the rain continues. Long Easter weekend and, due to travel and exhaustion, Priya and I decided to stick around. The city seems quiet and it's a nice time to regroup, get some things done and prepare for another busy stretch from now until our summer holidays. The UNHCR High Commissioner arrives week after next from Geneva. I've met the Deputy High Commissioner but this is the HC's first visit since I've been in my current position. At the same time we're bringing on new senior staff and there'll be a trip or two out to the camps. I'm getting tired just thinking about it.