Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Charm is Harder to Find

One of the great things about being here has always been the reward of being innovative. If you can’t find what you need solve a problem or would like to decorate, you invent it in your head, sketch it on paper and find a fundi (an ‘expert’ at his profession) to create it. There are plenty of carpenters, iron smiths and tailors in this country. In my decade of absence from my beloved country it seems that everything has been invented, thought of, created, and now is overpriced at the upscale shopping malls dotting the ‘suburbs’ of my fair city.

It used to be that one had to know a bit of British English to make yourself understood, or find a local similar item to describe what you are talking about. I had become accustom to referring to a movie as a film and describing guacamole as kachumbari. Now thanks to exported western television, we Americans have no secrets.

Speaking of guacamole, eating in Nairobi is altogether different as well. Back in the day finding a nice restaurant for a special occasion was possible, but they were few and far between. If you were careful, you could find one that was even reasonable. Now it seems that there are tons of nice options; Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Italian, Chinese… and even a local chain called Java House that would make any Westerner feel like they weren’t in Africa. It’s next to impossible to find those little hole-in-the-wall places with risky but delicious food and decent prices. I’m still looking though.

I count it an advantage that the matatus (public transportation: 14-seater Nissan vans) in Limuru area still play the twang-y Kikuyu music instead of hip hop with raunchy lyrics like the matatus in town tend to play. Imagine sort of a country guitar twang (like early Johnny Cash) under the high-pitched nasal foreign language lyrics. Hmm, I know it doesn’t sound great, but its part of the charm.

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