Saturday, November 19, 2011

Things I've learned in Kenya - Part 1

In the first of what I imagine will be a regular series of posts, I will recap what I have learned in the past fortnight of Kenyan life.

Kenyan men love sweater vests.

In the past week I have seen more sweater vests than in my whole life up to that point. Either Mr Schuester from Glee or Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has had a big influence on male fashion here. On a more general note people here are very well dressed, my bus and matatu in the morning are full of very well turned out men and women in their suits and jackets. I am so far making an effort to be fairly smart for work but I am playing it by ear to see what is acceptable or not within our office.

Always keep a spare outfit at work. And relatedly, cream trousers are a bad idea in Nairobi.

These two lessons were learned simultaneously yesterday morning on my way to work on Friday morning. I was all excited heading to work as my boss was letting me come with her to a meeting that afternoon with McCann Kenya, a media agency who are working with UNICEF and the Government of Kenya on a new Child Protection campaign which will start running across TV, radio and other media shortly. So I put on a nice smart outfit for work that morning and headed off on my commute. Upon exiting the matatu I had a little slip and got mud all down the back of my trousers. And I mean all down. The mud stain was enormous. But I was a ten minute walk from my office so I could hardly head home. So I walked up UN Avenue (yes, that is actually the name of the road that the UN complex is on) exclaiming ‘bollix’ periodically every time I glanced at the back of my legs. A quick attempt to wash some of the stain proved fruitless so I spent the entire day getting confused looks from colleagues and strangers about my trousers and had to explain over and over again my little accident in the most amusing way I could. At least it will make for an entertaining chapter in my autobiography.

Classic 105 is the best radio station in the world and must be brought to Ireland.

Classic 105 seems to be the radio station of choice for the majority of bus and matatu drivers here in Kenya. There are a few other stations I’ve noticed being played since I’ve been here (most notably some sort of Evangelical Rock station and a few hardcore R&B/Reggae one) but Classic 105 has been playing in about 80% of the modes of transport I’ve taken so far. It plays, as the name suggests, classic music, but really epic, often cheesy, and sometimes downright obscure. Here are a few deadly tunes that feature regularly on Classic 105, and have caused me on more than one occasion to be ‘the crazy singing/tapping/head nodding white lady on the bus’. (I'll put up more as I think of them)

I know that I still haven’t really written about work yet but to be honest this week was pretty quiet, I spent most of my time reading reports and looking up the kind of projects that UNICEF tend to run in the area of Communication for Development. Once things start getting busier I’ll update with what it is I’m doing.

Love from Nairobi!


  1. So happy to be getting a little glimpse into what your life is like in Nairobi,keep em coming! Though I have to say: cream trousers? Andrea...
    Mustachioed love from Glasgow x

  2. Glad all going well! pics would be good too please.

  3. Loved this post! Seems like a really fun place.x

  4. This made me laugh, post a pic of sweater dressed Kenyan man xx