Surviving Week One

So, we’ve made it to the end of week one of our new life in Nairobi. It certainly has been an adventure, especially since we spent nearly 3 weeks in the States dashing from one place to another. I will be glad not to have to pack and get back on a plane for a long time. Actually, tomorrow we pack to go to Tanzania on a 7 hour shuttle to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and then fly home.
But we’ll forget that for now and let you in on some of the challenges / pleasures of the week.

1. Accommodation

We were pleasantly surprised to have a cottage to ourselves on our arrival. Okay, it’s 2 shipping containers transformed into a cottage but it has two rooms and a bathroom. We were expecting the 3 of us to be put into one small room and try and not fall over each other with all our baggage.

2. The Team

We’ve joined the team from Afri-Lift and they have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. There was even a fruit bowl and food in the fridge when we got here. They’re happy to give info on how much to tip, how much we should be charged for either a matatu or motorbike ride to the mall. I even have my own desk in the office!

3. The Weather

I could easily get changed 3 times a day here. Shorts are not what you wear to the office but I’d be more than happy to wear them if I could. Things really heat up here late in the morning and jeans are a killer in it. I spend a lot of time in an office so can get away with it, but am really over them. In January it gets up to 30 degrees, so I’ll be clothes hunting for something that doesn’t look daggy but not expensive. We’ve noticed a real price hike since being here last year.

4. Transport

We don’t have our own car yet, and won’t for a while so are catching pike pike’s (motorbikes) and matatus (mini vans squashing in 14 people). They are super cheap, only about 45 cents to go to the mall. They also move really well through the traffic. Congestion is an understatement here. It can take 2 hours to get back from the airport, for what should be a 20 minute ride. We’ve also been doing a bit of walking cause that’s what the locals do and a lot of the time it’s faster than driving short distances.

5. Security

Our neighbour had her handbag stolen out of her car as she was stopped in traffic. Sure, she should’ve had her door locked and window up but she’s a visitor and wouldn’t think that thieves work in teams. We take as little money with us as possible and even on the compound keep everything locked when we’re in the office. Security is something you can’t take for granted, especially here. You have to keep your wits about you. You also don’t go out at night very far, so for us we catch a taxi. We’ve got someone we can call upon and we can trust to not rip us off too much.

6. Technology

Technology is great when it works, but when it doesn’t it’s a pain in the butt. For some reason my Aussie phone won’t send or receive anything even though I’ve topped it up. When you go from one side of the compound to another you have to log into different routers. Last night we had our first power cut, when Pete was in the shower, which we thought was really funny. When it’s dark here, it’s really dark. Most of the time we have the internet, our local phones work and life isn’t harsh for us, just sometimes inconvenient.

7. The Food

After 3 weeks of eating crappy US food (sorry guys, but so true) it’s nice to get back to normality. Gone is the idea of steak on the barbie, instead it’s often chicken. Pete’s discovered a charcoal BBQ and it cooks chicken really well. I’m surprised that the supermarket up the road has some gluten free items like cereal but I miss a few things like rice crackers and the New Zealand cheese. I’m sure I’ll find them somewhere, well, not the cheese! Pete is loving the Kenyan coffee and there is plenty of fruit galore. We’ve got a small bar fridge so a big weekly shop is out of the question. We send Liz up to the supermarket each day but she is still not confident on crossing one of the busy roads.

I think once we come back from Tanzania we’ll be more settled and in the swing of things. But then we have a camp we’re involved in so who really knows!

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Travelling in a Group

We’ve just finished spending three weeks in the States on our way to Kenya. It’s the super long route to take, but since one of the kids was paying for it, who am I to object. We went to LA, San Diego, back to LA, Houston, New York City and Washington DC. Getting to Nairobi took 8 flights. Because we were moving country we had baggage galore. While we are on the road for 2 months of the year this certainly was quite different, going from hot summer days to places where it was snowing.

Here’s some tips for travelling in a group:

1. Number all of your bags.

It’s very easy to lose one or two small items like camera or video bags. At least when you get off a bus, train or plane you know which number is missing. Simply put a tag with a large number written on it.

 

2. Put things back in the same place.

Jetlag is a killer on the brain. When you put the passports or travel documents in the same place every time you won’t be stressing out where they are. It’s bad enough trying to find a pair of socks let alone the passport.

 

3. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on.

This is especially so if you’re the one who has put the itinerary together. You might know what’s happening but don’t assume everyone else does.

 

4. Double check info before leaving home.

You may thought you booked a hotel in LA, but accidentally put in Louisiana instead. While the taxi driver might like the fare, it could lead into all sorts of problems with your team. Also check the distances from your hotel from the airport. That way you won’t be shocked at the price.

 

5. Get the cab drivers number

Once you find a good taxi driver, get his number so that when you need a ride you don’t have to wait around. Depending where you are in the world, negotiate the taxi fare before getting into the car.

 

6. Print out everything

If you’re travelling to lots of places, put it down on an Excel sheet and print it out. Then print out all the tickets, motel addresses etc so you’ve got it in hard copy. Put everything into order so you’re not fumbling through a zillion pieces of paper to find the right one. If you need to, put them in plastic sleeves or in a small folder.

 

7. Pace yourself

If you’re on the road for more than 2 weeks you’ll be exhausted if you’re on the go all the time. Try and pace yourself so one day you do an activity and the next you spend gazing at shops or at the beach. While everyone is entitled to a bad hair day, it’s a bit harder in a group to hide it and it can spread like wildfire. When everyone is exhausted it can make things 10 times worse.

Happy Travels!!