Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quiet Week(s)

While every week here in Nairobi is incredibly amazing and special, this week was also exceptionally quiet. We are in the thick of our classes, having midterms and test these next few weeks.

Because of this blog, my weekend blog updates will be a bit sparser than they have been. However, I will always post if anything exciting happens!

Marriage Proposal #2

This past Saturday a group of us wanted to check out a mall called Village Market. We weren’t too sure what to think, but when we arrived we were surprised by everything about it. It was incredibly western, incredibly expensive, and incredibly nice. We walked around the mall for a bit, not really buying a lot, but just enjoying the atmosphere. Once we were about ready to leave, we realized we were not far at all from the US Embassy as well as the UN Headquarters (they’re conveniently across the street from each other). We decided to venture to them, and after getting some directions from the guards we started our walk. It was a perfect temperature out, partly cloudy, and not too dusty. We trekked along the road, every few feet having to stop and admire bits of houses we could see through breaks in the trees and fences. They were massive mansions, with huge yards, perched atop small hills with a beautiful view of Nairobi City on one side and the start of the rural areas to the other.

We eventually found the embassy (after asking a few guards along the way), and were amazed at the beautiful sight of a huge gray wall that greeted us. We had found the service entrance. We said hello to one of the guards, then walked a bit. We decided to stop to figure out our taxi situation, and call them so they could be on their way. A few of my classmates were not feeling well, so I stopped with them while others ventured on up ahead. As we are sitting in the shade, a security guard approached us. We were all expecting him to scold us for sitting on the grass and tell us to move along. Instead the conversation went like this: “Hello. Are you citizens of the US?’ “Yes we are.” “Okay. Do you need help? What’s going on?” “Oh we are okay, just taking a rest in the shade while we are waiting for our taxis” “Okay. We saw you on the cameras and there was a call over the radio about possibly distressed Americans. Did you need us to call taxis for you?” “Oh. Thanks, but ours are already on their way!” “Okay. What brings you to Kenya?” “Study Abroad through American University” “Oh, great! Well welcome to Kenya, and let me know if you need anything”

The guard then reported back to the gate and him and another guard stayed outside, occasionally glancing over at us to make sure we 1) were not up to mischief and 2) to make sure we were still safe.

After this I decided to go and regroup with the rest of my classmates. I enjoyed a nice walk, saying hello to the guards along the way. As I almost reached my classmates, and as I was admiring the front of the US Embassy and the UN Offices, a Kenyan Police Officer (with their typical AK-47 firearms) walked up to me and said Hello. I said hey, and told him I was just meeting my classmates. He said no problem. A few minutes later, I passed back by him and decided to strike up a conversation. He asked me what brought me to Kenya, and if I was enjoying it. I told him it was a great and beautiful country. Then the conversation got quite humorous. “So would you like to stay in Kenya?” he asked me, I responded “Yeah that would be awesome, although I’d need a job in Public Health”, “Well, my cousin is available and you could get an attachment with the United Nations!” he joked “But you’d have to give me some cows first”. I could help by laugh and explain to him my first marriage offer, and how I wasn’t expecting how many cows I should have brought with me to Kenya. We continued to joke around about marriage possibilities (both his and mine), and he was telling me how trustworthy Kenyan women were. When one of our cabs showed up, I talked to the driver, then let others get in to pick up the rest of our group around the corner. He asked if everything was okay, then immediately pulled out his phone to start calling another cab for us. I explained to him that the other one was one its way, and it would be here shortly. While we were waiting he continued to joke around with us and finally introduced himself as Michael. I gave him a handshake as I was leaving, and my classmates later joked “You know that handshake? Little did you know that was a binding agreement! Congratulations Wyatt, now go find some cows before he brings his cousin!”

It was an amazing Saturday and to be able to stand between the US Embassy and the UN Offices was a one of a kind feeling.

Receiving my second marriage offer was an incredibly different, but also one of a kind feeling.

My advice to next years group: always count your cows before coming to Kenya. You never know what you’ll need them for!

Shopping Along The Way

By now we have all developed a good feeling for the area. We seem to know where we are going, and know key landmarks to help us navigate the Westlands area. This on top of my ever-improving Kiswahili skills means one very important thing:  I can now shop along the walk. All over the city there are small stands selling everything from Airtel credit, to baked goods, to fresh fruits and vegetables.

This past Tuesday I arrived back at the apartment and the housekeeper was still working, so I decided to walk around and do a bit of shopping to kill some time until she was done. I decided that I wanted to pick up a watermelon, and rather than picking one at the store I decided it was time I start the bargaining. Over the course of a few hours I visited 3 different stands, and bargained for a watermelon. At two of them, they wouldn’t go lower than 300ksh ($3.40) so I walked away. At the third stand, the one I first visited she was stuck on her price of 200ksh ($2.25). I knew I wanted to get the best deal, so I said “200, if you give me two carrots too!”. She laughed, but knew I wanted to get the most for my money. I was pleased with myself, for walking away with one of the best watermelons I have ever had, as well as two delicious carrots for my initial budget of 200ksh.

My love of fruit is very extensive, so on Thursday I decided that I wanted to track down a good deal for some more fruit! I found a small stand that we pass everyday, and he was selling fruit salads for 100ksh ($1.12). I decided to buy one and it was incredibly delicious!

I am really starting to enjoy “shopping along the way”. It’s nice to be able to go to the grocery store, only pick up a few things, then on the walk back pick up all the fruits and vegetables I need – at an incredibly good price.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Early in my time here I was introduced to the phrase “Kenya Standard Time”. This isn’t an actual time-zone but more the time that people operate at. For example, you call a taxi they tell you two minutes, it turns out to be five minutes. Five minutes becomes ten minutes, and anything over ten is really a guess as to when they will get there.

Now, I know what you’re thinking “Well Wya..err Peter, it’s because of the traffic. Duh..” Well you’re almost right. Let me provide further evidence for the existence of KST.

Our Kiswahili class is about an hour and half long. After an hour we are given a “five minute break”, ten minutes later we all return to our seats and talk for another five minutes before actually starting.

“Well, maybe it’s just one professor Wyatt!”

My other courses are three hours long. After about an hour and a half the professor asks us if we would like a break. We all nod, and they ask how long. Usually we say ten or fifteen. We take our break then return before the time is up. About ten minutes later the professor strolls back into the classroom and waits another five minutes.

Kenya Standard Time is very real. And my Kiswahili professor even admitted it today!

“Well what’s the problem? Everyone enjoys taking their time”

Anyone who knows me, or my family knows that punctuality is not something we joke about. I just started wearing a watch daily, so I don’t have to look at my phone all the time for the time, and it’s set a minute or two early. One of my favorite sayings is “If you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late you’re fired”. It's Wyatt Standard Time. I know, I know, it’s not a very nice saying but seriously people don’t just be on time, be early. It’s not a hard concept to grapple with!

And so the perpetual struggle of Wyatt Standard Time versus Kenya Standard Time will continue.  Despite recognizing that many of my classmates are adapting KST, I will never hesitate to use my favorite saying “Hey [insert name], did you happen to bring the tardy sauce?”. 

Don't be the one to bring the tardy sauce.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Makin' Mandazi's

Well I woke up this Sunday morning to discover that we were still without WiFi. We haven’t had it since 6pm on Friday now. Last weekend I bought Mandazi Mix and decided Sunday was a perfect opportunity to make some (if you don’t know what Mandazi’s are they are basically heaven on earth; or fried dough. They are similar to a donut just not as heavy). McKinnon and I had agreed last night to have a little baking party, so she came over and we got at it. We started frying them, and they weren’t coming out quite right. We had the genius idea to make our own deep frier. We grabbed a pot, poured tons of oil in and heated it up. Surprisingly, these mandazi’s came out really, really well although they probably weren’t the healthiest (don’t worry- we interspersed Mandazi’s with fruit and juice). Although no WiFi can be a bit of a pain sometimes, I’m starting to enjoy the time to try new things.

I wonder what we’ll cook up next weekend when we probably won’t have WiFi again…