Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When getting in cars with strangers turns into the best decision you’ve ever made

From Uganda I made my way over to Kisumu, my first stop in Kenya. A lovely town on the northeast tip of Lake Victoria, and Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu has received some negative press in recent months due to violence associated with the upcoming elections—but my visit could not have been more relaxing and enjoyable.

Giraffe at Nairobi's Giraffe Center
I arrived late on Saturday and checked into the Duke of Breeze, which was nice; although for backpackers passing through I would recommend looking elsewhere (best bet is further down on Oginga Odinga Road) for cheaper accommodation.

The next morning, I treated myself to a fancy buffet breakfast at the Imperial Hotel and headed out to take in the town. Having said goodbye to Rita and Sera in Jinja, Kisumu was my first solo stop on this trip, and I have to admit I wasn’t feeling all too comfortable just yet, particularly on this sleepy Sunday.

It didn’t take long for an obnoxious (and very possibly crazy) young man to start hassling me. Although not immediately disturbed, my discomfort must have been pretty obvious on the deserted main street, because before long a car pulled over.

“Miss,” an older man called from the driver seat, “is this man harassing you?”. “No,” I said as the smelly man next to me started screaming louder, jumping up and down. “Miss, please, where are you going? I can take you!” said the friendly man. “Really, it’s ok,” I continued to lie, despite the crazy man’s increasingly loud voice and decreasing respect for personal space. “Just get in the car! He could hurt you!” I hesitated for a moment, but as the man on the sidewalk went in for my arm, I made a quick move for the car.  

“Where are you going?” asked the driver, clearly relieved I had avoided further confrontation with the sidewalk dancer. Since I wasn’t going anywhere in particular, I told my new friend to drop me off on the next block, where he was stopping for some groceries.

National Museum in Nairobi
As we pulled into a parking spot, Zool explained he was buying ice cream before meeting up with some friends for their traditional Sunday grill. “Would you like to join us?,” he asked. Once again, since I couldn’t think of a good answer to my now staple “you’re here, so why not” question; and because food was involved, I enthusiastically responded, “sure!”

The following few hours made up what is now one of my favorite memories of Kenya. Zool, Kenyan of Indian descent, retired businessman, and President of Kisumu’s Rotary Club, introduced me to his friends, who work in the Nile Perch and Talapia export business, and entertained me with stories about Kenya and his family, while feeding me the most delicious fresh fish and chicken, all garnished with exquisite Indian spices, accompanied by cold Tusker beers, and topped off with some delicious ice cream.

In some cases, getting into cars with strangers isn’t such a bad idea after all!   

No comments:

Post a Comment