Sunday, October 5, 2008

Routine is Routine, Even Halfway Around the World

It’s been a fairly routine week, with a few new twists. As I mentioned before, we have finally moved into the new office. It’s great being able to walk to work, and I can finally come and go on my own schedule. Although the walk is only about ½ mile down the street where I live, it’s not without its challenges. The road is quite narrow, but accommodates two-lane traffic. There are no sidewalks, although the dirt on one side of the road is slightly more trampled than the other. I’m still not fully used to cars being on the “wrong” side of the road and find that I prefer to face the car that will hit me, rather than be surprised from behind. I’ve been nudged a few times by passing cars - nothing violent, just a friendly, “I’m in a car and have the right-of-way” message.

The office itself is quite nice, and although the building doesn’t have a restaurant, there are a few stalls across the street where the locals from the neighboring factories eat. I thought that lunch for about $4 was a good deal in the old office, but at the stalls, you can get a similar bowl of eggs, beans, ugali (a solid piece of cooked cornmeal) and sukama wiki (cooked collard greens) for about 40 cents. This is clearly where the locals eat and at lunchtime, there are dozens of men and women sitting on the side of the road with their bowls of food.
Deputy Director Kate
Erik the Intern

Carol, our Admin. My Desk

An exciting event this week was the appearance of two notices from the post office that something had arrived for me. I asked the apartment complex manager how I retrieve the mail, and she recommended sending someone from my office to pick it up. Alex the Cab Driver to the rescue! On Thursday, I gave him the notices, a copy of my passport and 500 shillings (about $7) and sent him on his way. I have yet to receive anything from him as he said he can’t figure out at which post office the mail is being held. In the meantime, my absentee ballot arrived in my apartment without difficulty. Go figure.

Last Wednesday was indeed a holiday and I was planning on visiting the newly renovated Nairobi National Museum. However, I was attempting to download some software and so decided to stay home and finish that task instead. We have another holiday at the end of this week, so perhaps I’ll head out then. I did go to the Village Market yesterday. This is yet another shopping area in a very nice section of Nairobi. As I was riding to it, I could see that it was clearly where the wealthy lived - beautiful homes, gardens and even prettier security gates with more frequent electric shock fences instead of the pedestrian barbed wire that’s in my neighborhood (for the record, my apartment has an electric fence atop the perimeter wall.) What I found most interesting was a giant sign at the end of a road saying, “Swedish Ambassador’s House.” I can’t imagine advertising such a thing, but apparently this area is where many of the diplomats live and one of their responsibilities is entertaining.

Village Market is a rabbit-warren of small specialty shops - everything from groceries to electronics to clothing to gifts. There are a few restaurants, as well as a food court in the center. Mini-golf, a water slide and a cinema complete the entertainment offerings. I spent a leisurely afternoon poking in the shops, picking up a few souvenirs and groceries, eating lunch and people watching. This complex caters to the ex-pat community and it had a very international flavor.

This week will be a busy one at work as the rainy season in a number of the survey countries is nearing the end and therefore our opportunity to conduct the survey during peak malaria time will be over. Erik the Intern left for Benin on Saturday for a week of helping the team there and I hope to get out to some of the other countries to assist with their training. Travel between African countries is relatively inexpensive, but it’s often an opportunity for extortion by customs officials. It seems that even having the proper visa in hand is no reason not to try to shake down mzungos, and is a lucrative practice. Flights are also limited. Even if you need to go somewhere for just a few days, chances are you will stay a week until the next flight. For now, I’m staying put. My Pfizer colleague arrives this week and I already feel like the old hand, ready to show her around.

1 comment:

The Life and Times of Donovan said...

Nice office...maybe some local tchachki (sp.?) for a holiday display?