Kemi’s East Africa invasion series: Episode 1 – Kenya (Of old friends and new giraffes)

Hi guys!!!! ‘O to jo meta, oooo’ (a.k.a it’s been a while). How are you doing? Keeping well? You already know I missed you, really, I did.

First, a big shout-out to the people who DM’ed me to ask/harass me about the next post. I know this might sound cheesy, but it feels so good to be wanted. 🙂 Thanks guys! I love being able to share my adventures with you and I appreciate all your comments and feedback. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, thank you thank you!!!

Ever since my trip to Tanzania last year, I have been secretly desiring an East African invasion for 2017. So to kick things off, I was in Kenya last weekend, and I had an amazing time. It was not my first time in Nairobi (last time I was there was in 2011), but it felt like the first time all over again. I am all for revisiting places these days, because I believe there are always new things to explore and new perspective to be gained.  Remember I said I was trying to be more deliberate about my travels going forward, so this trip was more about rekindling friendships and less about sightseeing. As I reflected on the beautiful time I had with the folks I spent time with in Nairobi, I realized that I met all of them (except for one) in the course of work. Yes, you read that right – WORK!

You see, we typically spend a lot of our time/life at work and one of the ‘perks’ not stated on our employment offers is the lasting, beneficial friendships that we can build, cultivate and keep with our colleagues or clients. That’s not to ignore the fact that we also meet some ‘blessedly’ difficult people at work. *shudders*. Anyway, Nairobi was an eye-opener to the blessings of friends that I had picked up over the course of my career.

Mr FS, 2017

Stop 1: Mr FS and Ms DAO – my souvenir-brother and sister from my time in Tunisia. I met them while on a project in 2013 and it was friendship at first sight. Mr F instantly adopted me as his baby sister, and I guess I was Ms D’s side-kick, lol. I spent a good number of my weekends with them and the memories of our weekend away in Sousse celebrating Mr F’s wedding anniversary remain fresh in my mind to date. I had not seen Mr F since I left Tunis in 2013 so it was such a delight to spend time with him and hear about all the progress he has been making. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Ms D (I promise to make it up to you girl – I promise) but we still managed to catch-up over loud, almost deafening music at Kiza.

The struggle to get the perfect picture, lol
Different years, same pose!!! I need an UPGRADE. 
The full Sousse crew

Stop 2: Ms AN!!! My sister-girl from way back in 2011 when I joined the Firm. Our friendship started in Lagos and has now relocated to Nairobi. In reality though, our friendship now resides on the streets of WhatsApp – this is where we play catch-u, so it was really good seeing her again. Her couch in Lekki played host to me several times, and now that she’s moved back to Nairobi, her hosting skills seem to have gone up 10 notches. She cooked up a storm for me in the name of Saturday dinner and in exchange, I did the dishes – fair, right? I just wanted to ensure that she doesn’t think twice about hosting me again, lol. Just securing my accommodation for next time :-).  After wolfing down the food, having serious conversations about work/life, and laughing till our ribs ached, we put on Naija music and started dancing. We had a house party all by ourselves. It was such a LIT evening. I left her place sometime after midnight – more than 5 hours after I arrived.

Hello Ms AN’s pout 🙂
AN’s feast!

Stop 3: Ms LA – my business school senior who I only met in 2015. She was such a gracious hostess – she sorted me out big time and organized the cab that took me on my Saturday morning touristy ‘waka’; she also negotiated an unbelievable fare for me and on Sunday, took me to the salon to get groomed (I think she just had mercy on me and helped me fix my bushy eyebrows and chipped nail polish situation), and she stuffed me with some yummy Chinese food before I left for the airport, all in a bid to make sure I didn’t get tempted to eat in-flight food, lol.

KO + LA #inseadmoments

Stop 4: Ms AOO!!! The fierce lioness of Kenya. She is definitely going to be President of Kenya someday, take my word for it. I met her at work circa 2012/2013 when she transferred from the Minneapolis office to spend a year in Nigeria. I think it was one of those ‘love on the dance floor’ type of connections. We both LOVE to dance. Interestingly, she was the one who made me write my first blogpost ever – it was an article for the McKinsey Women blog and she nominated me to continue to take over her spot when she was leaving the Firm. I think I managed to do 3 or 4 blog posts over about 18 months before I gave up. Look at me now, I have written 10 blog posts in less than a year. Wow! We have more capacity than we think we do.

First attempt at blogging – pictured with the global MD for McK (shameless plug, I know!)

We had breakfast on Sunday morning (notice how a lot of these meet-ups were over food? I am convinced that relationships get strengthened over meals. I have not done the research yet but I am sure this is part of the mystery of the communion) and then we went to church together. I thought it was only at the clubs/parties that Nigerian music had taken over. Wrong! All the praise/worship songs in church were the same as the ones sung in church back home in Nigeria! The only difference was that the people were not as extra in their dancing, hahaha. There was no shoki, no shakitibobo, no azonto, just some good ol’ clapping and regular dancing unto the Lord.

Ms AOO – future President of Kenya ( you saw her here first!)

Stop 5: Ms FA. This was a bonus surprise. We literally crossed paths at the airport. She landed less than an hour before I took off. I love airport meet-ups! I really can’t explain why but I do. Maybe because it is better to pass time talking to someone you know than just people-watching or struggling with airport wifi, lol.

Airport jamz with Ms FA

Beyond having an amazing friendship-full weekend that left my heart bubbling over, I had some other interesting experiences on this trip.

Red-eye flights: These are not the easiest flights to be on. All these flights that take off at odd times like 12:55am are just painful. You can’t nap for fear of missing the flight and the airport seats and plane seats are too uncomfortable to get any decent sleep. Note to self: Never again! (Except of course it is completely unavoidable)

Can someone give me a bed, please?

Traffic: The traffic in Nairobi is special. Goodness! It took about 90mins to get from the airport to the hotel, which was only about 20km away. This is a shorter distance compared to driving from Lagos International Airport to Victoria Island (~ 25km ) but the drive felt like we were going double the distance. I slept through the trip sha (remember I had just gotten off a red-eye flight so I was exhausted). I thought that was going to be my last ‘go-slow’ experience but I was sooo wrong. There is traffic almost EVERYWHERE in Nairobi. Inexplicable traffic!! At least in Lagos, you will see the broken down car/truck that’s causing the traffic or the wedding event centre whose guests decided to park on the road. Not so in Nairobi, no reason, no cause. One of my friends said the traffic is spiritual. I agree! Kai, after spending a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon in traffic, I agree that Nairobi traffic beats Lagos traffic, hands down! Lagos 1, Nairobi 0. 🙂

Traffic – Nairobi style
More traffic

Tourism: Kenyans have cracked this tourism business, end-to-end! I give it to them. To start with, their $50 visa-on-arrival make them a preferred destination for everyone. No one really likes to fill visa application forms and queue at embassies to beg for visas. Once you are in, there is a variety of activities you can engage in, depending on your preferences are – explore wildlife (either on a safari, at national parks or at some of the specific animal parks) or shop till you drop at the different local markets; eat to your heart’s fill or go tea/coffee tasting; or just drive out of town to go hang out with the Masai people. I had very limited time for sightseeing (only Saturday morning) so I chose to go to the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Orphanage. I naturally have a phobia for animals (blame it on the dog that chased me around my friend’s compound when I was about 7/8) and so, being in such proximity to these animals was, errrr, initially uncomfortable. But I got into the swing of things and started enjoying feeding the giraffes. At some point, I think I got too comfortable, lol.

Such a happy giraffe feeder
z giraffes in all their glory
Eddy the Giraffe
Pet giraffe???

The Elephant orphanage was an experience. It is open to visitors only between 11am – 12noon daily, and the queue to get in was looooong. It was one of the few times I have seen ‘oyinbo’ people rush for stuff, lol. That Nairobi traffic spirit also found its way to this queue, sigh. We essentially gathered to watch the baby elephants come out to eat. They feed them like babies, literally – with a milk through a feeding bottle. It was so cute to watch.

Baby elephants drinking milk

I was also fascinated by how the baby elephants enjoyed rolling in sand and getting dirty. Isn’t this how human babies also like to play in sand and get dirty? I think I must have eaten a fair share of sand as a toddler, lol. When it was time for them to go back to their nurseries, there was no resistance. They left in a single orderly file. I am sure some of us need to go and learn that skill from the baby elephants, lol.

Rolling in the deep

On my way out of the orphanage, I met a masai guy and we did the usual jump. That was fun! Not sure I nailed the jump but yeah, whatever, lol.

Happy jump times are here!

Uber drama/why you must have a functional phone: Hmm, that’s how my uber broke down on my way to FS’s house o! See panic!!! I jumped out of the car and sharply called FS on my Nigerian phone (for once, I didn’t mind the cost) to come and get me from where the car broke down. All sorts of random thoughts ran through my head, especially as okadas (motorbikes) riding past slowed down to talk to the driver in languages I could not understand. Thank God for safety o!

Le Uber

Other random observations:

1) All the road-side corn sellers were men! Although I saw women selling other things on the road, I did not see any woman selling roasted corn. I guess corn is a ‘guy-thing’.

2) Eh ehn, I forgot my sunglasses and was hoping I would find someone selling Ray Bans in traffic – no joy! I trust my Lagos brothers, they would have sorted me out sharp-sharp.

🙁 This is what happens when you don’t have sunglasses. Err, not sure what that other Aunty was looking at o, lol. 

3) Kenyans LOVE bananas! There were bananas everywhere – at every junction, street corner, kiosk, etc. I figure this is how foreigners are surprised by how many orange sellers hang out on the streets of Lagos.

4) I was surprised at how everyone described distances between places in kilometers, (similar to how it is done in the West). I had always thought it was a Western thing but it seems its only folks in Nigeria that describe distances between two places in minutes. Or am I on my own on this one? Am I the only one that still gets confused when people are describing the size of a room – 25 by 34 square foot? I guess it’s not too late to learn distances and dimensions  *shrug*

Next stop in the East African invasion is Uganda. I will be attending another colleague-friend’s wedding and I can’t wait to see if they will have small chops, lol. Trust me, I will come and tell you all about it! I also have Rwanda and Burundi on my radar. Let’s see how much of East Africa we can cover over the next few months.

If you are planning trips to any of these spots, hola at your girl. We might just be able to sync schedules or bump into each other at the airport, at the very least.

That said, let me end by thanking God for the blessings of fantastic colleagues that have no time for office rivalry but rather have become friends/sisters. I am deeply grateful! Do you have colleagues-turned-friends you are grateful for? Froleagues ???!!! Nice word, Oxford dictionary please take note. Hehehehe.  Do share in the comments section.

Hugs,

Kemi