The Kenya Bug

Don’t worry, it’s not a giant man eating bug that is only found in Kenya….

The Kenya bug was first mentioned to me by one of my colleagues when he first caught me eating some nyama choma, ordered not because it’s a touristy thing to do but because I love it. Nyama choma is roasted goat meat and it is available everywhere in Nairobi and its awesome. I dip it in salt because salt makes awesome things even awesomer (yes that is a word, google it). It’s a traditionally Kenyan staple dish and it helps me explain the Kenyan bug a little better.

When I arrived in April, I thought, WTF, what have I done, why would I give up all the luxuries in SA to come to a country like this (bare with me). I had all these preconceived notions about Kenya which I’m glad to say one by one have been demolished through my experiences here.

Kenya is a fantastic country, the people are friendly and helpful, the city is vibrant and energetic, the roads are fun (in a “hmmmm, lets see if my car can make it over that giant rock in the road” kinda way). I am not naive and ignorant, I have had my bad days and dealings with some shaky characters but in general and stereotypical way I can finally say, Kenya and its people are superb.  The Kenya bug starts like symptoms of a flu, you start eating nyama choma, you start enjoying the hectic driving, you stop laughing at the way some Kenyans pronounce the letter “R” (no offence) and start to do it yourself, you stop worrying about the mad queues everywhere you go and learn its just a good excuse to chat to the person next to you. I think its a good thing, I’m adapting to my new environment and can finally say things like that “stupid muzungu” when an unenlightened whitey lets a few cars go in front of him out of courtesy, haha.

So I’ll keep this one short cause I don’t feel like writing anymore.

I have the bug, I admit it, this country has grown on on me. My experience thus far have changed my life for the better.

Wiki woooooo!!! (only little britain lovers will understand that one). Also I get to travel to Jozi soon and then China which is gonna be more awesome than awsomerer

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A pic showing site views by region

So my blog is getting around like a cheap prostitue………….

Lol, that is all….

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Pocket Aces

Well, I’ve not posted for a while. I’ve been watching the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it got me thinking. I may not even post this but lets see if I hit the publish button once I’m through, be prepared, this may get interesting.

I’ve lived a charmed life, I’m 28 years old. I’m a kid. We’re always kids in the sense we will be learning from day one and never stop. Some of us will learn from our experiences and change our future actions but some will not and continue making the same mistakes.

I don’t want to make the same mistakes, I want to learn. Life is a gift, not a right and we should never settle for where we are now. This may seem like preachy BS but it’s not, its just the way it is.

28, 28 years on this planet of which we know nothing about, nothing of how we all came to be. Yet, we carry on like we’ve been dealt some cards in a game of poker but no one knows how we got them or who started this game in the first place.

I got pocket aces and I believe I’ve played them to the fullest. I grew up in a great home with a mom and dad who accepted the responsibility of raising children wholeheartidly. They’ve provided for me and my sister from day one and have afforded me the best possible head start. I now find myself with a great job in fantastic new surroundings with great support from my friends (who I hope haven’t forgotten about me in this short time I’ve been in Kenya) and family. I’ve been given a great hand and plan to make the best of it. My folks have provided me with an education and a roof over my head while I grow up. This is invaluable and I am always closer to realising what this means. Don’t for one second take things for granted and always compare your situation to others. This will give you a new perspective on life.  I drive around Kenya looking at the people I could have been, those less fortunate, those fighting to survive one day at a time. I see stinking rich people on TV and think not “damn, I wish that were me” but  “aha, pocket aces, nicely done and well played”.

What am I trying to say, well, this is the life we’ve got and we had no choice in the situtation we were born into. Just make the best of it, try to keep level headed an stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Do I have regrets, yes, but in the greater scheme of things, these fade into nothingness. The past cannot be changed, where we are now is what matters.

What matters to me is living life to the full, for me that’s meeting new people, experiencing new things and not taking things too seriously. If you’re having a heart attack, take it seriously. If your waiter brought you the wrong side dish, shrug it off and realise the veggies he brought you will most probably give you a few more minutes in your life than the fries you ordered.

All this seems like its been written often, there’s a reason for that, it’s the truth.   Living in Kenya has taught me one thing. Live each day like it is the last, ask yourself the question each morning “would I be happy and content if this was the last day of my life”. If the answer is yes, you understand. If you’re slogging it out at your 9-5 same as every other day, your’e too comfortable, change it up, it’s for the better. I change things often, maybe not jobs but how I approach situations and how I interact with problems. Address those nagging issues now, not tomorrow, tomorrow doesn’t exist in my world.

Ok, bye, that’s all. That’s what I wanted to write so I wrote it. Lets see if I hit that publish button………..

Why do I write such dribble, because if today was my last, at least one or two people would undertand I finished off the game with a mountain of chips still holding my pocket aces with no regrets….

BTW, 4500 people have read my posts, I’m glad actually someone is reading cause its really pretty stupid to write all this garble without someone having a look at it.

Raaaaahhhhhhh :)

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The Adventure Continues – Mombasa to Tanga

Well, I had made it to Mombasa in one piece, I was hoping the rest of my trip would be as smooth. I left the beautiful hotel early Monday morning and started the tougher part of the journey, from Mombasa cross-border to Tanga in Tanzania. I expected drama… punctured tires, broken suspension and walking through the middle of nowhere to get help…. I was wrong. I did get stopped by the cops a few times but all was good, they checked my license and if I have  safety triangles, first aid kit and fire extinguisher and then let me on my way. The roads from Mombasa to the border  are really bad and I managed only about 50km/hr average because any faster and I would be somewhere in the bushes on the side of the road.

Don’t know how to rotate the photo in the post, so turn your head. Some road was ok, like a km or two.

I eventually landed up at the Kenya- Tanzania border and handed over my documents, visa, id copy and car registration papers, the latter is for tempory import of a vehicle into Tanzania and was kept at the border until my return. I had to go through the same border on my return trip within the stipulated time. The next stop was immigration, no problems there, just beat a bus load of tourists to the office so was in and out within 30 minutes which is good going, didn’t even pay for a visa since I had a multiple entry from my last visit. So I was on my way to my final destination, Tanga. I was a bit surprised, newly tarred roads, new signs, cops every 5km’s, this was like an Autobahn compared to the roads on the Kenya side, somebody somewhere is doing something ok with regards to infrastructure.

The places I passed on the way to Tanga were quite amazing. People going about there business occasionally stopping to stare at the muzumgu going past. It was an uneventful journey and I eventually landed up at my hotel. A small lodge with some good views and some basic amenities. I arrived at about 1pm and got settled, the client I was going to see fetched my from the lodge and then it was off to work. I took a good photo from the top of the mill showing the Tanga surrounds.

Not much to look at but it was good when you’re there. I carried on with my work, taking measurements, chatting with the client about the red tape in Tanzania and how difficult is is to operate a business there. I was then on my way back to the lodge to enjoy a queit evening. Had some Tilapia at the restaurant, quite nice actually when compared with my expectations.

The next day I spent at the mill and finalised everything by about 12:00, I had checked out in the morning so it was time for my journey back. Wish I had spent another day or two but it was important to get back to the office. I set off at 12:30 after getting some red bull and some snacks for the road. The trip back across the border was quite relaxing, not too many truck, no police so all good. The border and immigration took about 30 minutes this time and I was on my way again on the rubbish road just inside of Kenya towards Mombasa. I reached South Mombasa, crossed to the North on the ferry and made my way towards Nairobi. I was only about a third of the way to Nairobi when it started getting dark, I had been a bit leisurely on my journey back and didn’t really think about driving at night with all those trucks towards Nairobi. I decided to stop in a town called Voi near the Tsavo national park, in fear of driving on the same road as 10 ton monsters that don’t look for a tiny Hilux in their rear view mirrors. It was a little difficult finding a place in the dark (no lights at all) so I started to have a small panic, cue google maps…. I found a great place called Lions Lodge, google my saviour. I phoned the lodge and found they were fully booked, I considered staying in a dodgy place close to the center of town but decided to look elsewhere (yes its snobby but the place really was quite dodge). I pulled into the nearest garage and asked a guy on a bike where was good. He mentioned he knew a lodge on a hill at the entrance to Tsavo national park and he would direct my there for about R20. I phoned the lodge he mentioned and found they had one single room left, I booked it and followed my new friend up the “hill”. It was not a hill…. it was a hectic “in construction” mountain path in the dark. I engaged 4 wheel drive and hoped I wouldn’t fall off the mountain. Of course my friend sped a along at about 60km/hr since he was used to this route, I kept up , it was fun and scary at the same time but oh boy was it worth it . I had found inland paradise. I was greeted with some champagne and a little towel elephant named “little blue elephant”. His friends were sleeping in their unfolded form in the top of the cupboard.

Ok I really wish I knew how to rotate the photos, I upload them correctly and then they get rotated, sorry. Anyways, I got settled in and got out of my driving clothes into lets relax a =nd go for dinner clothes. I had a fantastic dinner at the restaurant and made my way to bed. Little did I know what was waiting for me in the morning. On of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen, the pictures don’t do it justice, it went on forever. Also there was a gigantic lizard, it was awesome and we sat together watching the sunrise on the sublime African  plains. His name was “Gigantic lizard”, he was friendly and didn’t run away.

I had to leave eventually and left the lodge at about 10am after a nice breakfast. The mountain path on the way down was a little less terrifying and I wonder what all my fuss was about. Overall I had a spectacular journey and hope to do it again soon. Made my way back to Nairobi and straight to the office to get some work done.

Over and out peeps, just wait till you here about my beautiful trip to Murumvya in Burundi. More to come…..

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The Adventure Continues – Nairobi to Mombasa

Well, its been an extremely busy past few weeks. I managed to visit Mombasa, Tanga and Murumvya and a whole bunch of new places in Nairobi.

The land sale for the new plot is completed, land registration takes a couple of weeks but its full steam ahead on the design work and contractor sourcing.

Work is going well, learning more each day and meeting more and more people as time goes by.

Let me start with my trip to Mombasa. We have a client in Tanga, Tanzania and it turned out the flight was a little complicated for my liking. A colleague suggested I drive down to Tanga so that’s what I did. The drive is about 750km each way with predomininantly fair roads with some aweful ones:

I prepared the car, made sure I had my visa, etc…. and set off. The drive from Nairobi to the Kenya/Tanzania border is about 500km and the roads are acceptable for about 80% of the way, the rest are terrible. I set out early morning on a Sunday with a full tank in the Hilux. I had some biltong for breakfast and the Hilux ate up some bumps and potholes. Its a truly phenomenal car on the open road and is a pleasure when it gets a little rough. It’s hard to describe the roads, they aren’t great, lets keep it to that for now, I might get emotional if I continue further (a crater in the middle of nowhere for no reason at all…..an upside down mountain in the road out of the blue):

There were many many many trucks on a Sunday and I counted 282 on the total journey to Mombasa, I counted because I passed each and every one and thought I would make a game of it, celebrating each 10 with a funny hoot and a sip of my red bull. The Hilux has a mind of its own and was enjoying the game, seemingly drawing power from nowhere when things got interesting…

I stopped at a garage just outside Nairobi to stock up and bought 10 packets of biscuits, and 5 red bull and a sandwich. The red bull was for the truck game, the biscuits to hand out to little kids on the side of the roads, the rule was that if they shouted Muzungu Muzungu when I passed, I would stop and give them biscuits …… the smile on their faces was indescribable, and will stay with me forever.  As the journey continued I saw many new plants and trees of the like I haven’t encountered before:

As seen above, some of the roads were quite user fiendly, unfortunately only two lanes, so not easy for overtaking. The trucks are the kings of the road, I was the little rabbit hopping around them:

About three hours in I got a bit hungry and stopped at some dodgy truck stop (dodgy… lets put it this way… there was a sign on one of the buildings saying Gentleman’s Bar… obviously a place where truckers fulfilled other needs than just food), anyways I got some fresh pineapple and some snacks and was on my way:

The rest of the journey to Mombasa was quite uneventful, a few goats, cows etc… but nothing crazy. I was almost at my destination and it was time to check google maps to see if I was on the right track. I was but there was a small hurdle, my hotel was in South Mombasa and I arrived in the North, the main city area. This was ok, I just drive South and all is good, not quite…. google told me there were no roads along the South coast and I had to go around, I switched off google and made a plan. Turns out for 50 shillings I could take a simple 5 minutes ferry ride from North coast to South. I was expecting a wait of an hour or two and the ferry to break down in the middle of the journey, no such events. Everything went smoothly, I pitched up at the ferry, drove up to the ticket counter and onto the ferry platform, departing within 10 minutes of my arrival. Lots of people, bicycles, cars and goats…..

Millions of people, so many people in one spot, crazy. It was fun, my first time on a drive on ferry. So I carried on to Whitesands hotel which was a touristy hotel but made the whole drive instantly worth it:

Mmmmmmmm, spent the rest of the day relaxing, went down to the beach bar at night and mingled with some other Muzungus. Never slept so well in my life…..

Proper beautiful hotel, completely amazing, words don’t do it justice.  Probably one of the top five in Africa.

I appreciate being able to stay at places like that and thank my company for giving me the oppurtunity (just in case any colleagues are reading this…).

Ok, so I’ll stop there for now, just going shopping and will continue in the next post – The Adventure Continues – Mombasa to Tanga

Raaaaaaaahhhhh…….

 

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Kenya: Update

So I got my work permit which is valid for two years so legally I’m all sorted. It’s also a psychological thing making the move seem more real now. Two years are a long time if you’re wasting it away in a boring office doing the 8-5 grind. Luckily my project is exciting and I get to mobilise at least once a week to meet with the people assisting in the project. When construction starts I expect to be on-site at least once a week monitoring progress and doing a little expediting. The land sale agreement will be signed in the next few days which means things will start getting very busy, very quickly. Negotiations with the engineers, city council, architect etc… will keep me very busy indeed. Looking forward to getting the final design ready to go.

Things here have been good. I’ve been busy on the weekends, a few colleagues have been visiting Nairobi for various projects and I am their tour guide while they’re here. We’ve been going to a couple of good restaurants and bars and I’m getting to know the city a little better. One thing I’ve noticed is the politeness and general friendliness of Kenyan people. I’ve been here long enough to see this is a common theme all over Nairobi. Even in a club or bar, people are still polite and well-mannered. Had a fantastic Sunday lunch with a client at his house. When he had invited me over in the first place I thought it was a loose request but turned out to be genuine. He’s a genuinely nice guy, inviting his friend along to cook for us. Properly brilliant indian style chicken with indian flat bread. He’s an indian guy and loves his cricket so we spent the day watching the final. The cricket was more of a side line since he had lots of interesting things to say. His kids have moved out the house and he does not need a fortune to support himself so I asked why does he still work 14 hour days, Monday to Sunday, with the occasional Sunday off. He replied matter-of-factly, “the more I work the more I develop Kenya as a country”. He did have the choice to work half days and only on weekdays but opted to spend his entire life at work just for the good of developing his country. I was a little surprised at his answer but it showed me a key trait of many Kenyans, they take pride in everything they do be it selling wares on the street or running a maize mill.

Apologies for not keeping up to date with my blog entries, no excuses, I’ll write more often.

In general ,things have been good. Just had my first visit to Joburg, longest time I’ve ever been out of SA and it was weird to see things from a tourists view. Compared to the people in Nairobi, people seemed tense and uptight. I had a general feeling of unease which I had never felt before in my 28 years living in SA. It was strange. I never realised what a big adjustment it would be living in another country and never expected the dramatic differences between the culture, environment and people of Nairobi compared with Joburg. I admit I feel at home here in Kenya, some more adjustments are needed but I’ll get there with time. It is a very comfortable place to live for a rich whitey like me and I’ve never doubted my move for a  second. I do miss family and friends but I’ll be back. Anyways, let me get something off my mind and hopefully explain Nairobi a little better at the same time…

There’s something I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks, how perspective changes everything. Humans are interesting creatures, as evolved as our brains are we can still only take in the world through our five senses. It is a rare quality in a person to be able see the world from another persons perspective. It is a true gift to have the ability to see the big picture.

Imagine flying over Joburg, you’ll see a bustling organism of a city with areas for farming, residence and industry and some large empty pieces of land and giant bodies of water, that’s about it. What you won’t see is the little dudes on their farms tilling their crops, the thousands of cars with little people in them keeping the city alive. You won’t see the machines quietly going on about their business cleaning water, generating power, transporting goods, relaying information etc…. bare with me…

Imagine the city as an organism similar to our human body, one that pulses with life every second of its existence. One that cannot exist without us little dudes keeping it going. The farms are where we get our nourishment taken directly from this chunk of earth we’ve found ourselves on. The roads act as pathways connecting all the different work centers. The cables and wireless signals bouncing around the city act as an information sharing system. The garbage dumps serve as a place to put everything we’ve used once we’ve squeezed out the nutrients. The industrial areas are centers for producing things needed in this organism. The residential areas are where we recharge and get ready for the next work cycle. All these areas combine to create a living organism of a city. If we look at this little world we live on, each city is like a microbial growth on its surface. Some more advanced than others. Switzerland as an example is a well-functioning organism with high levels of advancement allowing it to run efficiently and with the least stress to the organism. Joburg is still a small organism slowly evolving but with a fair amount of stress. This brings me to Nairobi, an organism with a long way to go… a stressed out organism with extreme ups and downs but one with huge potential to be the best.

Again, perspective is everything. If we fly down a little lower we start to see the little dudes tilling their crops, we start seeing the people and cars moving around the city, we starts seeing the machines doing their work. We begin to realise that just like in our bodies, there are billions of mechanisms that combine to keep us going. We are those mechanisms and some of us don’t realise what an impact each an every one of us have on the organism as a whole.

Oh here comes my point; to build a country and truly make it thrive each and everyone must change their perspective. Start thinking about how your actions have an effect on the greater scheme of things. If we improve ourselves one step at a time, we improve our cities and our world at the same time. If we think a little about how our actions affect others, even for just a second, we will create a utopia. Imagine if our leaders in government thought this way. We have enough nutrients on the planet to feed all the organism, we have the ways and means of distributing it around the world. There are no excuses, if only our leaders could sort out all the political shit and get down to business. I don’t understand how we can become so involved in stupid things like a painting of Zuma’s penis when there are so many more pressing issues. How can we possibly be more interested in setting up an e-tolling system than feeding the hungry, providing education and creating jobs. What the hell are our leaders thinking? In evolutionary terms the majority of our fat, lazy, self-centered leaders would end up as the excrement of higher functioning beings. What is happening? Does nobody else think like I do?

Arrggghhh. Ok I got a little off topic but I don’t care. Freedom of speech and stuff.

Kenyans in the majority understand what I’ve been ranting about and everyday discussions are focussed on improvement and how things can be changed. Kenyans believe in the future of their organism. I’m not saying South Africans don’t think about the betterment of the country but it’s an impression I get from all those I meet an what I read in the media. I’ve been unfairly stereotyping people of different countries but I do this only to drive home a point. Of course I write from my perspective and can only report on what I observe but the message is the same……

WTF

I had a nightmare last night and it was freeing, it’s only once you see how bad things can be that you truly appreciate all the good things you have and how lucky you are to be one of those little dudes working to make an organism flourish.

Also, thanks Justin for an awesome party complete with drinks, friends, fights and poo. And thanks to M for making it a great night, always good to see you.

Over and out… till next time…… Raaaahhhhhhhhh!

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Demon 30

So the dreaded 30 years is approaching,  sure I still got some time but not long……

The demon doesn’t strike swiftly and with precision. He sneakily creeps up on you and slowly infiltrates your thoughts. At first with random strikes and then with co-ordinated attacks forcing you to reconsider your once firm beliefs and ideas. He slowly introduces pervasive ideas like marriage, the future, responsibility, and stablility. These are foreign ideas at first but the demon is very persuasive and he eventually burns these ideas into the depths of your mind.

30 is really just a number but it’s usually the amount of years it takes for the demon to become apparent. The demon may start stalking you at 21 or 25 but one thing is for sure, he visits everyone and for some he never leaves. Youth brings exploration, creativity and freedom. The demon brings caution, restraint and contentment.

The demon comes in many forms, it may be a move to Kenya that brings him to foreground, who knows. One thing is for sure, myself and my friends nearing the age of 30 have met him and it seems he’s here to stay.

Ok bye, new post later this week

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