Saturday morning dawned bright and lovely – 68 degrees with nothing but blue sky. Inspired by the freshness of the day, I decided to make my first true venture into downtown Nairobi. For several months I had heard talk of a certain “Biashara St.,” aka fabric alley. Finally, curiosity and the blazing bareness of my curtain-less windows won out over my dread of maneuvering down-town traffic. I hopped in the car and set off at 8:45am. By 9:00 I had found the fabled street and a parking spot. Glancing around for a meter or attendant, I saw neither and went my way. After a happy hour of collecting samples, comparing prices and pondering color schemes, I wandered back toward my car. I came around the corner and [dramatic music and zoom in on the driver side] the BOOT! An ugly metal jaw was wrapped around my front tire. On the front windshield: a ticket. “Illegally parked: no permit displayed.” Dismayed, I stood there for a couple moments before I noticed a yellow-jacketed parking attendant two cars down. “Yes ma’m, you have to pay the fee. No ma’m, you cannot pay here. You go down to city hall and pay. Someone will come back with you and remove the boot.” Where is city hall? “Just down there …”
So I learned more than I expected on Saturday. I now know where city hall is. I know where my bank has an ATM close to city hall. I know that Saturday parking is not free. I know to look for the parking attendant. I know that, when paying the parking fine, you will have to go to three counters – hope there are no lines. I learned that Kenyan’s almost never give directions by street name. Expect land marks. If you are new to town and don’t know where the Lifehouse building is … well … keep walking and ask someone every few hundred meters. You’ll get there.