“How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” — Henry David Thoreau
There is a hum to the streets of Nairobi that persists no matter the hour of the day or night. It sounds like the grind of those in pursuit of something. I’m staying on the top floor of a recently developed condo in the Westlands district, but the hum reaches my bedroom window. Even though I attempted to frame this trip as an extended vacation, the sound of these streets reminds of my true intention for coming: opportunity.
The view from my apartment faces north, the skyline has a mixture of dated office buildings, state of the art facilities and buildings under construction. These new developments have come at the expense of long standing residences. I started a conversation with a group of young professional men at a rooftop bar of a high rise luxury hotel. They told me we’re on land that used to be a neighborhood that was moved out for the view we were enjoying.
The narrative of displacement is familiar to any San Franciscan. Fancy that, I managed to come halfway across the world to find people facing similar challenges to ours at home. They expressed contempt that their neighbors were displaced, but they expressed a greater desire to participate in the growing success of the country. That’s the justification that comes with money, its power to seduce allows men and women to hold interests at odds with each other.
I didn’t come to Africa expecting to find a land of milk and honey. I also didn’t come expecting to see people in need of charity. Partially, I came to see what it looked like for a high functioning black country to have a place for themselves. Now, who’s actually in charge is a topic of controversy. Is it the ruling tribe, the Chinese government, the Indians that were empowered after British colonial rule, or the people of Kenya?
I have the sense that I’ll leave here with more questions than answers, but the more compelling sentiment I have is this feeling of home. I’m definitely a foreigner here. I’m hella American. There’s also no way my street smarts are going to allow me to maneuver anywhere unfamiliar without my guard up. I’m also proud that I made it here, saw this place and get to uncover it’s story for the remainder of my stay.
Music Recommendation: Swimming