I’ve spent the week in Nairobi for work. I’ve gained five pounds (because of the good food), taken long showers (because the pressure is more than a medium trickle), and restarted my interval training (because the hills aren’t strewn with boulders of every shape and size). In short, I’ve been in Heaven. And Heaven might be the only place in Africa where you can wear the one pair of heals you moved to Africa with…unless you plan on shopping on Ngong Road. I went for a massage this morning (didn’t I say HEAVEN!). I was supposed to wear these these shoes for a grand total of fifteen minutes walking to and from the car. That was not the story of my day.
Ngong Road is famous for two things: traffic jams and hand made furniture. It is the only thoroughfare that connects the swanky Karen community (inhabited by UN officials and foreign diplomats) and Nairobi. And this is where I agreed to accompany my colleague on her hunt for a side table. Spoiler Alert: no side table was bought.
Our first hurdle was crossing the road. It might sound like a chicken could do it, but please bear in mind that we are in Kenya. This means no crosswalks and traffic lanes are optional (more on this later) especially for motorbikes. Thankfully, the horrendous traffic also meant enough time for us to say a quick prayer, look RIGHT then LEFT, tighten our core, and madly dash across the pavement. We did this three separate times. It was three times too many.
The wonderful part of shopping at Ngong Road is that there is a light smell of worked wood in the air and curly cues of shavings littering the ground. You only have to spend minimal energy ignoring the burning trash and cow poop. At the second place we tried we were lured back into a storage room with the false promise of just the right table! It was too short. The haphazardly stacked furniture in varying stages of finish threatened to topple us and I couldn’t see the road anymore. Time to go!
We wound through furniture “show rooms” that flowed one into another giving no indication as to when you’d left one and entered the next. All along the way I found myself looking down as to not fall on my high-heal-wearing-behind traipsing across the uneven earth, but also watching my path to avoid being clobbered by carpenters carrying planks of wood, other furniture, or welding metal bed frames in the walk way.
Once, trying to get to a new section of furniture, my colleague stopped abruptly. I cocked my head around her body to see a number of cattle being driven down furniture row between the wares and the traffic.
All the salesmen were eager to assist us with our shopping. I heard “cousin”, “sister”, “madam”, and “mom” called in my direction trying to attract attention to the wonderful offer they had for me.
During a particularly long traffic stop I was surprised to hear an accelerating engine coming from behind me. I glanced back to see a public bus barreling down the dirt shoulder. “Bus!” I called out to my shopping buddy. And we turned sideways to let the bus continue its trajectory unburden by the bodies of two female missionaries. Just after, another bus attempted the same traffic jam evasive maneuver. However this bursting blue beauty came perilously close to tipping over right on top of us! I captured no picture of the event. I was too busy escaping.
In defeat, we headed back over to the other side of the road, first crossing the drainage ditch via a shoddily constructed bridge. The one pictured here is actually a first class experience. More frequently, it was a split log spanning the distance.
And so we journeyed back to our wonderful hotel, without a table but full of stories and thankful for life. My activity tracker tells me I was active for over two hours today! I’m going to go wash my shoes and go to bed.