I’ve been in Nairobi a week and a half now, with one week of work under my belt. It’s been a whirlwind week, and I’m very very much looking forward to being home for the holidays. Although I think that will be its own crazy whirlwind as well. It’s been tough not having Mike here and I’m feeling very alone in a big city with no car (he needed to stay in Dar through the end of the year, so he will be moving up in Jan). So, how’s it been?
The first couple of days I went apartment hunting so I wouldn’t have to take too much time off of work to find our place. Most places only show during the week and Saturday mornings because that’s when apartment complex caretakers are there. Mike’s office is in Westlands (north part of the city) and my office is all the way on down on Mombasa Road (south part of the city) on the way to the airport. Since most of the restaurants and shopping centers are in Westlands (a big expat and Indian area), we looked mostly in that neighborhood. Mike will have a nice commute, but I will have a not so fun commute. Work has put me up in a serviced corporate apartment in Westlands, so I think they assume that a lot of people will live up this way and I’m walking distance to 2 malls, which is nice when you don’t have a car. The apartments here are definitely much cheaper than Dar because there is more supply and more than one neighborhood were expats live. That’s been a nice surprise. We saw one that we liked in Westlands so we’ll find out this week if we get it. Fingers crossed! Traffic here is a monster so it’s nice to live close to the supermarket and restaurants.
Speaking of traffic…oh. man. This has been probably the worst part of Nairobi. From Westlands, people told me it would probably take me 45 min to get to work. Day 1 of work, my office scheduled a taxi to pick me up at 8am. There was a mix up and they didn’t show up until 11:30am!!! First day of work, already missed half the day of HR orientation. There was a matatu strike going on which made traffic especially bad my first week. Matatus are the minivan buses that you can hop on and off and the local form of transport. The government implemented much stricter traffic rules and fines and so the matatu drivers went on strike to protest. It lasted a couple of weeks and finally now they are back to work. Day 2 of work I got a ride from a coworker and it took us 1 hr 15 min because of the strike. That day I also missed my first meeting because I hadn’t been told that I had a 9am meeting and the traffic just took forever. Doh! Day 3 I told the taxi to pick me up 1 hr 30 min before I had to get to work so I wouldn’t miss my 9am meeting. Then the taxi was ONE HOUR LATE in picking me up. I was going nuts! Miraculously that day, it only took me 20 minutes to get to work so I made my meeting. What is this traffic?!?! I can handle it if there is always traffic and always takes a set amount of time, but the fact that it ranges from 20 min to 1 hr 15 min is driving me crazy. Day 5 I went to my advertising agency for an all day meeting and that took 1 hr instead of the 30 min it was supposed to take. So, in conclusion, Nairobi traffic sucks. Most of my coworkers have drivers so they can work in the car and not deal with the stress. I may follow suit, as the driving here is pretty hectic. There aren’t really stop lights or stop signs, so people just go for it. Hence creating the jams.
The weather has been great. It’s actually quite chilly in the mornings and evenings and I’m realizing that the clothes we packed when we thought we were going to live in Dar are not going to cut it here. I need to bring back more of my cool weather clothes when I go back for the holidays! It gets down to probably the low 60s in the mornings and evenings.
Work has been crazy the first week as I’m going through orientation. The first couple of months at a job are always not very much fun as you get to know who you need to contact for what, and what the process and communication styles are. I’m very much looking forward to feeling more comfortable at work, let’s just say that! People are smart and work hard in my office; it’s very fast paced. It will be interesting to compare the pace here (where everyone keeps telling me it’s the fastest company they’ve ever worked for) to the pace in New York, where I worked for a big beauty company (that was definitely fast!). It can’t possibly be faster than New York, right?…Right? We had a going away happy hour one evening for a coworker so that was nice to get to see people in a social setting. I’m definitely the only American on the floor, the only Asian on the floor, and the only non-African on my immediate team. It’s different feeling like you stick out so much but I’m also glad that it’s much more integrated here in Nairobi between the expats and the locals.
I haven’t had a chance to take many photos yet since I’ve been working, but hopefully I will post some soon!