In early March, a light breeze rippled through the trees surrounding Nairobi Kenyatta airport as I stepped out onto the street in my new city.
It wasn’t the most elegant of entrances. The five large bags I brought were piled precariously high on a trolley by the guard at bag collection. I struggled my way up the exit ramp, dragging my hand luggage full of books (!) behind, to meet Owen. I had planned to come swanning in like some kind of film star, but what he actually saw was a small ginger head bobbing up and down behind a tower of suitcases.
After some (deserved) mockery about my packing skills, we made our way to the area of Kilimani and our new home. It’s a strange feeling stepping into a flat that is ‘yours’, walking around the rooms and telling yourself ‘this is home’. I felt a buzz of excitement and the tummy wrench of the unknown.
Nairobi flats come unfurnished. We didn’t have a cooker, fridge, washing machine, bed… nada. Owen managed to get a ton of stuff sorted before I arrived, but after the first night in our new flat we ventured out to go furniture shopping!
The best place for furniture shopping here is the Ngong Road. Along the dusty stretch leading to Karen, furniture sellers exhibit at the side of the road, with workshops further back. It looks like a giant boot sale, with bed frames and bookshelves and mismatched chairs lining the street. The whole family seems to hang out there, with mothers’ breastfeeding babies, toddlers running around in dirty old Disney dresses, and the men running the shop, sanding or filing off curling shards of wood.
We walked along in the midday sun, stopping to sit under parasols here and there and negotiate prices for the furniture we needed. It’s possible to have whatever you like made for you. I pulled up a picture online of a dining table and bench, we discussed the size we needed, drew up measurements and paid our deposit for the materials and delivery.
Kenyan’s have mastered the art of negotiation, and we definitely felt pretty amateur trying to figure out how much we should pay for things. From talking to a few people since, the rule of thumb seems to be half the first price they give you and then take off a bit more. We’re pretty chuffed with the finished product:
Jaded from the heat after a few hours of negotiations, we got in a taxi to head back to Kilimani. As we drove off, a herd of calves started ambling across the busy Ngong road. Lorry drivers slowed to a halt as the animals sauntered between motorbikes and trucks. I was so concerned we had to stop and watch them all safely cross. Why on earth were they crossing such a busy road?! But as we watched them, I realised for a moment that we had rather a lot in common – we both felt the lure of the greener grass on the other side.