I’m in Nakuru, Kenya and I just committed to extend my stay in the country for another two weeks. Destination, Lamu Island on the Kenyan coast. Flight change to The States, check. Flight from Nairobi to Lamu, check. Booking my overnight accommodations for a mere $35/night (including breakfast…and a bonus lobster dinner, but that’s another story…). But wait, they can’t take a credit card. What to do? I worked it out to have the establishment I was staying at in Nakuru, run my card, and then they M-Pesa’d the money to the owner of the little beachside bed and breakfast I was staying at. No credit card, no checks. All through mobile technology. (“M” is for mobile, “Pesa” means money in Swahili). I didn’t really think much on it at the time. Convenient for me, now a nice leisurely re-visit to Lamu.
On returning to The States, I wanted to learn more about the place I had spent the last month in. I set up my google alerts generally to “Kenya.” I get a weekly email digest of the news and happenings… online. What is catching my attention is all of the tech focus and I learn more about the M-Pesa technology. It’s quite amazing to say the least.
M-Pesa was launched in 2007 by Safaricom, a mobile service there similar to our Verizon Wireless. As of 2012, more than 17 million Kenyan’s (roughly 70 percent of the adult population) were using M-Pesa to pay for things from groceries to the little B&B on the coast. About 25% of the countries gross national product is running through mobile phones. Kenya leads the world in mobile money. And with that a bigger technology and innovation hub has emerged out of Nairobi.
Kenyan developers are designing straight to the hand-held mobile device. I can only imagine how their innovators and designers are processing information with mobile in mind, not getting distracted by designing for the computer. Hopefully, Indianapolis-based ExactTarget has Nairobi on their radar. I think we have a lot we could learn from one another.
A night out in Nairobi is exactly what I need before heading back to the Kenyan coast. Kelly with The Village Experience had made friends with one of the co-founders of the Africa Yoga Project and we decide to take her up on her offer for a night out and a bed and hot water bottle at her place. We meet Paige at her place. She is from New York City and had been living in Nairobi now for six years. Paige happened to score some tickets to a wine tasting we are excited to check out. Really grateful to have the opportunity to taste some African wines (and beers) and talk to the wine makers, brewers and distributors. This style of event is quite familiar to me. I felt at home.
My favorite wine of the night was the Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from South Africa, that went for 3700 Shillings or $43 USD. It was as good as fine wine with age with the complexities of tobacco and earth. Heaven in a glass.
Managed to try a few craft brews from The Big 5 Breweries: Kifabock, a lightly hopped Dubbel Bock. Nyatipa pale ale, which satisfied my bitter hop cravings. And ended with a Temstout which had nice notes of coffee and chocolate flavor.
The ladies loved the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It was their repeat tasting while we enjoyed a variety of delicious cheeses and flavored chocolates.
Then off to visit the casino. My first time. Of course my first time to visit a casino is in Kenya of all places. We play roulette. I bet maybe the equivalent of $10 USD and enjoy two double Johnny Black Label on the rocks. I win some and lose most.
Next stop? Tree House where Kelly had heard a DJ friend of hers was going to be. I found Caol Ila 12…neat please. We dance the night away. I danced with an older gentleman that completely took the lead to some music of spanish influence. I felt relaxed and simply enjoyed the night.
Visited Kazuri (small and beautiful) Beads. We meet the women that make beautiful beaded jewelry and accessories and take a tour of the facility. From soil to clay to paint to bake.
Those reading in Indianapolis can check out the selection of jewelry at The Village Experience fair trade retail location at 6055 N. College Ave.
Took in our first safari (journey) at Nairobi National Park where in some areas you can make out the downtown skyline. We spot our first zebra, gazelles, giraffes, warthog and a black rhino.
Jambo (Hello) and Karibu (Welcome)
Arriving to Nairobi on a Sunday evening is good form as traffic can be troublesome during weekdays and Friday and Saturday nights. I get picked up from the airport and simply observe Nairobi on our drive to Wildebeest Eco Camp. The matatu (bus) stations have no lighting. In fact, there isn’t much light at all along man-made walking paths in the grass along the side of the road. It is a struggle for passengers to even cross street battling against the traffic. We pass mutatu stations with Wangari Maathai graffiti. Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. Her memoir, Unbowed, was recommended by our Village Experience guide prior to the trip. In Unbowed, Maathai does a great job of telling her story where the reader can understand what it was like to grow up in Kenya alongside learning about the history of the country. Drivers, my driver included, seem to drive without fear. They drive with faith, assertiveness and confidence. There are very few traffic lights and a couple roundabouts on this particular journey. Approaching the gated Eco Camp at dark, I hear frogs and walking up to my tent I take in the wonderful floral essence.
Our first day in Nairobi we visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. A beautiful and peaceful way to start the trip. They are open to the public daily during the 11 a.m. feeding time. We were joined by two classrooms of children. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a frequent opportunity for these students or if today, together, we are all sharing this experience for the first time.
Grateful for the opportunity to join this itinerary organized by our host and Indy native, Kelly Campbell for The Village Experience: Upcoming Sustainable Tourism Trips.