I have been walking to and from work most days so far. It’s about a 30 minute walk from my apartment on Brookside Drive to the mall where our office is located. I like my daily strolls, even though it’s not the most walkable route.
About half of it consists of unpaved footpaths that get washed away when it rains. The earth is red due to its high iron content, which means I am leaving a red trail wherever I go. I wish I had bought red shoes instead of blue ones.
The other half passes by a busy street. Sometimes the air is so thick with heavy black grime, it makes my eyes water. It’s basically the only exercise I get around here, though, and it also makes me feel sort of like a celebrity.
People stare at me, smile and wave: “Good morning!” or “Hi, how are you?” or “Hello, Madame!” or “Jambo, Missy!” But usually not in a creepy cat-calling way. Women do it just as much as men, and so far it has always been friendly, never intrusive. But why?
I am guessing it’s because I must be a peculiar thing to see. Wazungu (white people) are hardly ever seen walking in Nairobi. Let alone walking alongside huge and busy Wayaki Way. (Don’t worry, Mama, the footpath is wide enough and I always use a pedestrian bridge to cross.)
Nairobi traffic is notorious. According to a friend, it’s especially bad in the beginning of the month when people still have money to buy gas. It reminds me of Istanbul some 15 or 20 years ago. When you’re stuck in one of those long lines of hooting cars that aren’t moving at all (most of the time for no apparent reason), you have to roll up your windows, no matter the weather. The air pollution is just too bad.
But when it moves, it really moves. Just recently, I saw a guy rollerblading down the middle of Wayaki Way at a breathtaking speed. He seemed not to be bothered by the cars at all, and he had mad style. Funky 80s clothes and big headphones, no helmet obviously. Walking my Wayaki Way Walk of Fame may make me feel like a celebrity, but I won’t ever come close to having that dude’s swag.