Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Christmas in Kenya: Days 15, 16, 17, and 18

This is Part 4 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous post, or start at the beginning.

Masai Market

Masai Market is a sight to behold. I mean, it is an experience, that's for sure. We woke up fairly early that morning to drive into Nairobi to get to the market. It's kind of on the outskirts of town, near the embassy district. The shopping center itself is actually very well off, with all sorts of shops and stores for the more wealthy citizens. It looks very much like a traditional Western mall. However, under a tarp roof, just outside one of the exits from the mall, there is a place set up for vendors. I think that it's close to the size of a hockey rink. There are hundreds of vendors set up in rows very close to each other all throughout this space, trying to sell their carvings, or their beads, or their shirts, or whatever else you are looking for. There are multiple vendors with the exact same items, so you can look at multiple options. Apparently it was not a crowded day, but it seemed packet to me.

The crowds in Masai Market on a slow day.
Masai Market on a slow day
When we first arrived at the mall, we went to the movie theater to check what time The Hobbit was showing. Dagger's family hadn't seen it yet, so we wanted to catch it while in Nairobi. After we figured out how long we had to look around before we had to come back, we headed over to the actual vendor section of the mall. My goal for the day was to get some souvenirs and stuff to go bring back for my family for Christmas presents. I wish I could say that I was planning ahead for next Christmas, but no, this was for the one last week. I spent the time wandering the aisles, looking at what was for sale, getting mobbed by the vendors ("Hello my good friend! You are my first customer! I give you good price!", "Hello! You are American? I love America! I give you good price!"). It was quite overwhelming.

Now, about The Hobbit. Dagger and I had actually gone to see it at the midnight showing in Fort Worth the night before we flew out, so this wasn't the first time that I saw it. However, I did like it enough to warrant watching it a second time. I had reread the chapters in the book that the movie covered the day before going to see it this second time, so it was fresh in my mind. I was actually quite impressed with how they adapted the story for a movie. I think that Peter Jackson made the right choice on many of his changes, simply because they work better for a movie format vs. a book. Sadly, the theater was showing the movie on film, not digital, and the film was very low quality. It shook and there were lines through the screen at times, plus the sound in the theater was not balanced, so it was hard to hear what was being said at times and it was so loud that it hurt at others. In Fort Worth, we went to this theater that had the most ingenious idea ever: combine a theater with a restaurant. You have comfy chairs with lots of legroom and personal tray tables. You have a button to press for service. It lights up, and a waiter comes over to take your order. They have a menu with food (burgers, steak, chicken...) and drinks to purchase at reasonable prices. You're free to order throughout the entire first half of the movie, after which they shut down the kitchen and bring you your bill. The best part is that the drinks are bottomless and the ticket price was only $6. Whoever came up with that idea deserves a medal.

After the movie we had lunch and went back to the market. We spent another good two hours there, going from vendor to vendor, trying to find the right things to buy and the best price for them. Haggling is the most interesting way of buying things, let me tell you that. One thing, the vendor started off at 4,500 shillings (which is ridiculous), and when we finished, we had agreed on buying it for 700. Apparently there are some tourists who buy these things for a price that's 7x inflated. It was an exhausting experience, but a very rewarding one. At the end of our time, I had bought everything that I needed, and was ready to go home.

We got back, had dinner, and unwound. Ordinarily, this is the part where I say that nothing else really happened the rest of the day, but that's not true this time. The phone rang. It was one of Dagger's friends from his class, and he was calling to let us know that there was a movie night happening just over in lower station (which, if you remember, is the part of Kijabe Station outside of the RVA fence). We decided to go to the movie night, so I got to meet a couple of Dagger's friends from his grade. We watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which, if you read my England trip, you know that I saw last Christmas, but it was still a good movie. I didn't mind seeing it another time, and it was even better this time because one of Dagger's friends gave a lovely running commentary through the whole movie. I found out later that he loves Mystery Science Theater 3000. Go figure.

It was raining when we headed back, and we found out the next morning that during the night, a branch had broken off of the cabbage tree in the yard that was about a foot in diameter. Those trees are so flimsy it's scary. That day was another calm one. We played some more BZFlags, and then Dagger, his brother, and I all went down to the court to play some racquetball. I had never played racquetball before that, but I think that I just may do so again; it was actually quite fun. I'm not very good at it, but that's ok. I'm sure that I'd get better at it with practice anyway. We played around for a bit, swapping out so that there were two people playing at once, before heading back for supper, which was with company. We had samosas with friends for supper, and they were really good. After dinner we hung out with the guests, ended up playing some Settlers of Catan, and that was pretty much the evening.

This seems like a good time to bring up the lost bag again. If you remember, one of the bags that Dagger was bringing with him had gotten lost along the way, and we had asked the airport to look for it. Well, a few days ago we had gotten news that it had been found and sent by courier to the house. But it never showed up. Dagger's dad had been calling the airport, Kenya Airways, the courier service, and many, many other people, just to try and track it down. It wasn't working. There was days upon days of this, and it was getting very frustrating. The airport referred him to the courier service's Kijabe office (which doesn't exist), the courier service said that it had been delivered (and that it had been returned to the airport), and the driver never answered his phone. Finally on Saturday, Dagger's father called the Kijabe hospital in the hopes that it had been delivered there on accident. The very nice lady there said that she'd look into it, and when she called back a little later, she had news. She had found the bag, but not at the hospital. She had experience working with this courier service before, and knew who to call, so she had been able to locate the bag. It was in a town about half an hour away, and had been there since Christmas Eve. Rather than have them try to deliver it, Dagger's dad drove out there himself to pick it up. 13 days after it had been lost, the bag was finally returned.

The next day was another Sunday, but this week, instead of going to the IDP camp church, we went to the nearby AIC (African Inland Church, founded by AIM - African Inland Mission). The church has two services, an early one in English for the white people, and a later service in Kikuyu for the locals. The later service generally lasts much longer than the English one, and as we left I could hear it starting and I could tell how much more lively it was than the one that we went to. The preacher for this week was a guest speaker who was only 24 years old. He was very impassioned, speaking on the topic of "Passionately Perusing God's Presence." He was very good. After church we played some Catan: Cities and Knights (a very well made expansion) and some Monopoly, and that was pretty much the day.

New Year's Eve was spent with people. First off, we attended the RVA Staff Lunch, which was packed. All of the families that live on campus were there, and there are a lot of families. Probably around 150 people. We all ate in the cafeteria (where all of the food was home made), and the noise level was so high that it was nearly impossible to carry out conversation with the people at the table around me, which was unfortunate. After lunch, it was time for a walk. Dagger and I tried to walk to some caves that are just outside the RVA fence, but we couldn't find them, so we gave up on that and decided to follow the train tracks that go just above RVA. These are the same tracks that were in The Ghost and the Darkness, and they offered up some magnificent views of the valley. After we finished that walk, we went with Dagger's family out on another walk, this time through the trees nearby. It started to rain while we were out, but it was only a light rain, so it was ok.

We came back for dinner, and then it was off to a New Year's Eve party. There were several parties that evening, but this one was for the college age kids that graduated in the past few years. I got to meet more of the people from Dagger's class, and it was a blast. There was karaoke (I can't believe how many of those songs I didn't know), card games (Pit, Dutch Blitz, Spoons), and a fire. Nothing really spectacular happened, but we managed to kill time until midnight, and I got to ring in the new year before the rest of my family.

Next up, on New Year's Day, we're off to Hell's Gate. I'm not 100% sure what it is, but it's got the risk of flash floods, so the trip may be canceled at some point. Let's hope its not, but I would rather not drown.

Full Series

Part 3Lazy Holidays
Part 4: Masai Market


  1. What sort of things did Puñal's friend tell you about MIGP? Did you feel like the monstrous lions from Ghost in the Darkness would attack you on the bridge?
    -Ominous Nomynous

    1. He wasn't giving facts about the movie (that's my role). He was just making fun of the characters and whatnot. Like how serious the female lead was all the time. That sort of thing. And thankfully, I never felt like lions were coming for me at any point during the trip.