October 27, 2012
One month in Kenya and transportation
My one month anniversary for living in Kenya was two days ago. I feel like my brain has gotten out of "what a crazy adventure I'm on" mode and it's more into "this is what my life is like now" mode. So in honor of that anniversary, I'm finishing this post about transportation that I started two weeks ago and never finished.
I've never made it a secret that I dislike New York City buses. They're confusing, undependable, and I can often walk faster than them.
So with that in mind, let me introduce you to the main form of Nairobi public transportation, the matatu:
That's what I take into work every day. If you think way back into your head of stereotypes of Africa, you might think of like twenty guys packed into a small van, maybe with a guy hanging out side. That's a matatu. They're usually pretty packed, sometimes smelly, sometimes with loud music, and very hard to get in and out of for anyone over six feet. The price to and from work varies a bit, from 20 shillings (a Kenyan shilling is about equal to a US cent, give or take), to 60 shillings. It depends on a number of things, time of day, which route I'm taking, and whether the guy taking the money decides to charge me extra because he figures I either don't know any better or that I can afford it and won't put up a fight for a few dimes.
Traffic here is chaos. I didn't see a stop sign or a traffic light for my first two weeks here. The first time I saw a traffic light was as my cabbie sped through a red light as if it weren't even there. A few years back, I remember there was a news item that there was a guy in the US who had to cross a six lane highway everyday to get to work, and one day got hit by a car. Because of where the matatu drops me off, I have to do the same thing, and so do a lot of other people, and it's a miracle that anyone survives. They just completed a huge green walkway over the street by my office so that you don't have to walk across all the traffic, but no one uses it, and everybody just runs across the street anyway.
I've also taken a boda-boda.
They're basically small motorcycle cabs that you ride on the back of and hang on for dear life, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes not. My first ride on one was my first ride on a motorcycle ever. I wasn't sure what to do with my hands. Wrapping them around the driver seemed a little intimate for someone I had just met, even though I wanted to. They go pretty fast and you really feel like you could just slide off at any moment. But I just held onto the seat, and was later told that was actually the safest thing to do.
That's it for now, this weekend is the Kenya Film Festival. I saw a one short and one feature documentary last night, I'll probably see one or two movies today. Toodles!
October 16, 2012
I've had two experiences with prostitutes in New York. Both in the early 2000's. The first, I was walking somewhere in Manhattan with some friends when a woman came up to us and asked if we wanted to party. We said no. The second (and to be honest, I'm not really sure if this lady was a prostitute or just weird) came up to me on the street because she thought she saw me at the party she was just at, and then proceeded to talk to me about something or other and suggested that we go to the nearby bodega, get beer, and go back to my place. I told her that I was only buying orange juice and going home, but she was insistent and followed me all the way until I actually paid for the orange juice, after which she left without a word. The irony of it was I actually had intended to buy beer and I had to go home with just the juice.
But today on the way home from work, I went to the place where I pick up the matatu (vans used for public transportation that I'll elaborate more on in another post). When I asked which one was going Agha Kahn (the stop near my apartment), I was told to go to one with only two women sitting in it. They started chatting me up, asking me where I was from, what I was doing here, what my name was, etc. This kind of interest in me from Kenyans was uncommon, but I was polite and answered their questions.
Then a guy came up to the side of the matatu and asked me if I liked his girls. "Are these your girls?" I asked. The three of them laughed. "This isn't going to Agha Kahn, is it." They laughed again.
"What, are you married or something?" the guy asked me. I told him no and got up to leave the vehicle, but someone from the other side shut the door. I couldn't reach the handle and it was one of those "now I'm in trouble" moments, but one of the women opened the door for me, and nicely showed me to the correct matatu.
October 13, 2012
If you like Looper, you lack critical thinking skills.
I know I promised more about Africa, but whatever, I'm talking about Looper now.
Here are some questions about Looper.
1) Why do criminals send people they want killed to the past? Joseph Gordon-Levitt says it's hard to dispose of bodies of the future. Harder than operating a time machine? Do they not have forests in the future? Or tubs of acid? Why don't they send them to outer space? Why don't they send them a hundred years in the future where they can't go back and kill you when you're a kid?
2) This is the best use of time travel that future criminals have come up with? Have they not seen Timecop?
3) Why don't they kill people before sending them back? Or at least sedate them?
4) Why would you ask someone to kill their future self? If a looper knew that was coming eventually, wouldn't they be a little hesitant to kill whoever is under the sheet? Wouldn't it be easier to get a different looper to do it? Isn't it very probable that someone would let their future self go?
5) Why do they kill future loopers? Bruce Willis has been living peacefully for say, thirty years, without causing any trouble, without ratting anyone out, spending his pile of gold. Wouldn't it make sense to leave him alone? Wouldn't giving him a big pile of gold give him the ability to hide from whoever wanted to kill him?
I do not like that movie.
October 1, 2012
Kenya: Week One
I've been trying to collect my thoughts about my trip so far and to figure out a way to write it all down without sounding like some doofy white guy who's never spent any significant amount of time out of New York State, but whatever, that's what I am, so here goes.
1) Poverty. It's one thing to know that it exists, but it's another thing to be thrown right into the middle of it. Just on my cab ride from the airport to my apartment, three different women with babies came up to the car and asked for money. This morning I saw a guy washing his clothes in a drainage ditch. And it's all not that far from decadent places that from the inside are indistinguishable from a fancy bar in New York. The funny thing is, people who have been here for longer than me say that what I've seen isn't that bad, so I'm not sure what to think.
2) Crime. My apartment building, and most apartments around where I live, look like fortresses. They have ten foot walls with barbed wire at the top, and a gate with at least one guard posted at all times. I've also been warned not to go out at night by almost everyone I've met. The severity of these warnings make it sound like zombies come out of the ground when sun sets. If you want to go somewhere after dark, you get a cab, and not just any ol' cab, because some guys will just kidnap you, so you need a go-to cab guy to call. My second night here I saw Nairobi Half Life, which is a great movie, and from what I hear, has a good chance at an Oscar for best foreign film. But damn, that is not the movie to see you your second night here. The movie basically paints Nairobi as a place where at any given moment, in any given place, a guy might just come up to you and take all your stuff, maybe kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it. But so far I've been fine, and I'm being careful, so don't worry.
3) Weather. Surprisingly tolerable. I wear basically what I would at home. Sometimes I even wear a sweatshirt. Since most of you are probably coming from facebook, you've probably already seen this, but here's me in front of the clinic with a donkey.
Also, in un-Kenya related news, here's the trailer for Movie 43, the movie that contains the sequel to Robin's Big Date. It's coming out shortly after I get back to the US in January.
Sadly, you only get a second of Justin as Robin in there, but here's an article from Entertainment Weekly, where you get some stills.
Interesting to note is that in the picture, someone digitally removed Batman's ears and replaced his logo with a 43. For legal reasons, I guess. Weird.
Anyway, lots more to say about Kenya, so stick around.