Saturday, October 15, 2011

An oasis in Nairobi

After spending a few days in western Kenya on a trip for a group that advocates for more global health research, I returned to Nairobi last night for just 24 hours. I went out with some friends to dinner and a nightclub, where we saw things we had never seen before. There was dancing that left little to the imagination, a big woman who gyrated her hips in such wide circles we were awestruck, and gumby-like men dancing with gumby-like women.

I didn’t expect to run this morning. But I did, joined by my colleague Michelle and her friend Natasia. The day was beautiful. Blue skies, 70 degrees, a light breeze. We drove to an oasis in the middle of the city, the Arboretum. 

Nairobi is traffic hell. A six mile ride can take two to three hours.  Buses and minibuses emit black smoke. But in the midst of these horrible road scenes is a protected forest with dirt pathways. One path around the circumference is two kilometers, or about 1.25 miles.

We set off under a canopy of mostly eucalyptus trees, an invasive species brought in years ago from Australia. The path was wet clay and soon we were running with inch-thick mud caked to our running shoes. But it felt great to be in a forest in Nairobi, almost euphoric, and we went down hills and up hills and along a roaring brook.

A monkey ran in front of me and scampered up a tree. It joined a family of monkeys and they all looked down on us as we ran under them.   We ended up running four laps, eight kilometers or five miles. We saw several other monkeys, red birds, orange birds, yellow birds.

I had to get back and pack my things for the plane ride home. I’m taking chunks of Kenya with me, clay caked to the bottom of my shoes. I packed them in plastic bags, and know that when I clean them at home I will get a good whiff of a side of Nairobi that I didn't expect.

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