A few amusing snippets from these first few weeks.
When I was on safari we had been on a particularly long game drive. I really had to pee. Our small convoy stopped and a fellow got out and relieved himself. Another lady went to go behind a bush out a ways, so I decided to join in. I dodged a large pile of rhino droppings, found a bush, kept a lookout for snakes and went for it. Only to be yelled at halfway through that we were only 2 minutes from the park gate. No one could have mentioned that before 3 of us got out and mentioned our intentions?
Even what I thought were mostly perfectly comfortable shoes, have still given me blisters in my 1.5+hours of walking each day. Very thankful that I have other comfortable shoes I brought with me.
The wind from a passing Matatu is enough to blow up your skirt. Yup.
I look down when I walk by myself for a few reasons. First of all, I am painfully aware that I am a bit out of place and am being stared at by some. Looking down helps me not face this reality. Second, there are very, very few conventional sidewalks. Some streets have barely any room to walk, most have some sort of dirt trodden path. Some of these paths have rocks. Some of these rocks are loose. Some of these loose rocks are on sections that are at a bit of an incline. These things lead to tripping and slipping (so far no falling though!), which frankly, is kind of embarrassing. Third, there is a lot of dirt and exhaust being blown around constantly and looking down helps in preventing dirt from getting in my eyes. There are also random piles of, um, waste that I would prefer to not step in. I also look down because the couple of times I have looked up and at people (because in the US it is impolite to be looking down at your feet all the time) it has usually invited some sort of verbal greeting or comment. Which would be ok I guess except that as I walk past I heard a few men mock my “hello” response, and I just felt a little uncomfortable. I am absolutely still learning what is culturally acceptable and such (like, is eye contact inviting? If I smile at a stranger does that mean more than I think it does? Is it stupid to try and text while I walk? Etc), and it is likely that is me being a little paranoid. But I am ok with that for now. So, I will continue to look at my feet to avoid falling for the time being.
Crossing the street is scaaary. There are no traffic lights, crosswalks, or road signs really. So when crossing a street you kind of wait for a break in traffic, usually there isn’t really one. Generally I kind of take a deep breath cross one lane, stand in the middle, then run through the other lane. Some kind souls slow down so you can go. Sometimes it works out that someone is turning and you get a lucky break. I always hope for locals or someone else at the same intersection who is braver than me to be crossing the same way, and I just follow their lead. One day the road was really busy and I was feeling a little overwhelmed so I just stood there for a minute. A guy standing there must have sensed my insecurity said “You can just go, they will stop.” I said, “Uhh..ok,” and ran across. The cars did slow down. That was nice. I was telling a Kenyan girl at the office about it and she found the story really funny. Silly Americans.
On my walk home the other day I passed a man on the ground with some sort of bloody head injury and bloody hands with a small crowd of people around, that had doubled by the time I got halfway up the street. If that doesn’t serve to pick up ones pace when walking I don’t know what will.
On a more amusing note, I accidentally bought 20 bananas from a street vendor the other day. Whoops. It only cost me about $1.15, though, so no harm done really.
What do you do with all those bananas? Share some with your guard of course. Now we are friends. He told me his name was Oballa, not Obama. I was amused, and it helped me remember his name.
I have had a few Africans ask me how their boy (Obama) is doing. They love him.
On my walk there is a sweet old beggar man with a prosthetic leg that sits next to him. This man seems really sweet so I bring an extra banana (because I have a few to spare) or sandwich or something to give him every day. I know it isn’t much, but to do nothing feels kind of callous. The kids who follow you with open palms are the hardest to walk by, and also the most persistent…especially when you are carrying 2 bags of groceries. A few seem a little taken aback when I reach in my bag and hand them fruit. I did hear, though, that in big cities that some gangs use beggars. That’s tough. So I carry very little money…and extra bananas.