safety and security

yes i’m still in africa, but kenya and rwanda are not at all the same country. everyone i talked to before coming here told me that, immediately followed by horror stories of muggings, hold-ups, and cameras stolen out of locked hotel rooms. even my trusty lonely planet cautions against walking anywhere after dark in ‘nairobbery’. i am not a particularly paranoid person, and i manage on my own in kigali with a cool head and an arm on my bag and don’t stress. but the rumors of crime in nairobi have me a little spooked. the result of my jitters: as i leave the airport i have money in four different places- stuffed inside my sleeping bag, in the folds of a book, in my money belt, and in a decoy wallet. my passport is in the money belt, my rwandan residence card, credit card, and US drivers’ license are in with my underwear, and photocopies of all are in the folds of another book. my camera is in with my socks, my phone in the mosquito net bag, and my ipod hiding with my toothbrush and tampons. mom has taught me well.

so what do i immediately do as i leave the airport? jump in a cab. super expensive, but option B is the notorious city bus, marked with skull and crossbones in lonely planet. would rather not get ripped off on the first day. once at the hotel, i feel ok, mildly silly about excessive precaution, and hungry. but it’s after dark. do i skip dinner for fear of walking down the street? this is getting ridiculous. i leave the hotel with only enough money for food, stop in the doorway, look both ways for sketchy characters, and finding none, half-run to a restaurant two doors down. so far so good. spend all the money i’ve risked on a stellar cheeseburger and fries, promising not to eat this well on the rest of the trip. en route back, i have no money, no valuables, nothing really. i have the urge to open my bag to show passers-by, to say go ahead mug me, i’m clean. but of course i don’t. instead i retreat to the hotel, having survived one night in nairobbery.

that was five days ago and i’m a bit more chilled now (level of initial jitters being downright absurd really and not sustainable). i hopped in a taxi-bus (a matatu, as they’re called here) today as i would have in kigali, with only a hand on my bag and an eye on my pack in the trunk. the guard at my campsite tonight carries a bow and arrow, so i think i’ll be ok.

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~ by aliciawolcott on November 24, 2007.

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