James is waiting for us outside the Nairobi Club. Over the next three hours, he will drive us out to Nakuru where we will be staying for the next week. The drive out of Nairobi city is much faster today than was the drive in from the airport last night. James expertly weaves his way in and out of traffic, sometimes driving straight into oncoming traffic (this seems to be the Kenyan way). I am just grateful that I’ve driven in Paris and Rome because at least here the speed is relatively slow.
It’s not long before we reach the edge of The Great Rift Valley. For anyone who’s never been here before, the Great Rift is actually a massive deep rift in the land. One minute we’re driving at 8,000 feet above sea level and the next we’re descending into a deep dry basin that runs from north to south like a deep dry river. It’s noticeably warmer down in the valley and it’s not long before my eyes drop closed and I drift into a rhythmic dream.
Dad taps me on the shoulder and there, just next to the road, are my first zebras. Now I know I’m in Africa. The donkey-like animals stand in a small pack, each of their tails fanning the face of the next. We see a few more zebras as we drive along, passing all manner of African daily life: people carrying heavy loads of timber on their shoulders, bicycles loaded with water or crops, motorcyclists wearing bright reflective vests as they weave insanely in and out of the traffic, and highly decorated buses pushing their way in front of anyone who wasn’t quick enough to stop them.
We finally arrive in Nakuru around 12:30pm. Rosemary greets us as though we are old friends returning after an absence. Of course, she knows Dad who has stayed here before but the friendly welcome is still a joy. I’m shown to my room upstairs where I have a comfortable bed, wardrobe, bathroom and choice of two balconies. Dad will stay in a separate room downstairs so he doesn’t have to listen to my snoring or early morning waking. I’m warned that I will have to pretend to be a soccer fan for the next couple of weeks as Rosemary and Dad will are big fans and soccer is plentiful on Kenyan television.
Christopher comes down to take us into Nakuru and down to the school. I admit to feeling a sense of culture shock as I walk the streets. While much of what I see is similar to China, it’s also vastly different because the people here are African and the air is dusty. Street food is being cooked over coal fires and little stalls abound, selling everything from shoes to mobile phone connections. We walk in the street despite there being a footpath and dodge our way across busy roads. It’s not frightening or bad; I’m just fresh off the plane and know it will take another day to adjust.
We ride a tuk tuk to the school. It’s my first ever ride in such a vehicle and it’s quite cool. The drive is slow as we enter the Kaptwembo slums and bounce our way over the badly pot-holed and rutted dirt road. Chickens and goats behave as though they own the road. The main street of the slums is like the main street of any city or town. It is made up of small stores selling goods or offering repair services. Christopher tells us it’s called the Fool’s Market.
The school is amazing. The two-story block building has cheerful yellow doors and a different coloured door for each classroom. It’s incredible to think that even in May 2013, this building was little more than a dream and a credit to those involved to see it reach this stage. A garden is starting to grow in the three-sided school building’s courtyard and the orphanage is well on its way to being completed. Christopher tells us about how proud the parents are to see their children achieving an education and, with it, opportunities for the future.