Being a ‘newbie in Nairobi’

Posted on November 19th, 2010
Categories: News

I have been asked to share some of the joys or not so joyous moments since arriving. The first thing I would say is that if you are ever given the opportunity to live here, for whatever length of time, whether you have children or not you should!  A great place with so many things to do & see. The move is certainly not without its frustrations & if anyone should decide to write ‘Moving to Nairobi for Dummies’ I think it would be a welcome edition to the bookcase.

In the meantime here are a few suggestions that may or may not help!

Embrace the driving style – there is a distinct lack of road-rage; no-one flipping the bird or shouting obscenities! Coming from the UK this is quite a shock. As long as you have your wits about you driving over here can be very liberating.

Buying Appliances – don’t expect to walk into the shop (which will remain anonymous) and be able to walk out having paid for your brand new oven! On the contrary, you will need to go through at least 5 or 6 weeks of visiting the said shop, being told that they will be in ‘tomorrow’. Once the ovens finally arrive you will still only be allowed to look at them because the shop will still be waiting for the prices!!!?? When I naively asked if I could choose my oven and pay over the phone, I was simply told ‘it’s not like the Western world you know’.  After a couple more visits ‘just to look at them’, my oven was finally delivered – but to add the icing to the cake – there was no plug!!!!!!! I clearly need to lower my expectations!

Importing A Dog To Kenya – having been spoilt and had everything done for me back home in preparation for relocating Ruby, our very ordinary (meant in the nicest possible way) 3 year old cross-breed; she was transformed into a very expensive pedigree on reaching Nairobi!!! We were very excited the day she arrived & got to the airport promptly that evening – there was the first mistake!  We had been warned that there would be a charge from customs based on the value of the dog & so went armed with what we thought was an appropriate amount – there was the second mistake!!!! Apparently, during the course of the BA London to Nairobi flight our dog had gone from being a lurcher/viszla cross worth £80 to a Doberman worth £7000. So at 11.30 p.m. we needed to find quite a lot more money as our protests over pedigree were ignored.

Finally, at 2.30 a.m. after visiting a number of ‘out of order’ ATMs with no result, two episodes of ‘mzungu (white) woman’ ranting, which caused great amusement and nothing else, and the threat of the dog being kept over night in the dubious animal holding area, a member of staff came to our rescue. Obviously, we had never met each other but he very kindly offered to lend us the money until the next day. I was over the moon and fortunately stopped just short of kissing him!! After five long hours of great frustration this kindness certainly restored our faith in human nature. And so our fourth child came back to her new home.

Inspecting your container – my final piece of advice is for if you are female and ever have to visit Embakasi, the part of Nairobi that houses the Ports Authority, to inspect the container with your house contents in it, that has made it safely to Africa, only to be broken into en route from Mombasa to Nairobi.  Firstly wear trousers as you will probably have your bottom photographed by one of the officials as you climb over the contents of the container whilst another twenty five men all look on! Secondly, ensure you take a very good and very long book as you are likely to be there for some hours. I would also recommend the staff canteen – very friendly and very cheap!

I hope that these anecdotes don’t put anyone off as they certainly turned from quite annoying frustrations to funny memories in a short space of time.

New in Nairobi, Sarah