Monday, March 07, 2005

Rhino Charge

So I had a great weekend. I found yet another huge shopping mall, this one more stereotypical of what you'd expect. The only thing is the walkways in front of the stores is extremely narrow. Also, the clothing stores look "busy" as the merchandise looks clattered. In most you can't tell where men clothes end and women's begin, same for shoe arrangements. Oh, and the sales people will follow you everywhere. Doesn't matter how nicely dressed you are, there will be someone right by your side, practically hugging you as you make your way around the store checking out the goods. Their intention I know is to help you find something and you will need them as the size charts are practically Mandarin. e.g., my shoe size 8, here 6, dresses are done sometimes in centimetres and not inches and the clothing they have on display will have varied measurements based on their countries of origin. "My Space" is an alien concept and it will take time to the concept of the severe lack of it.

The mall had an amazing food court; chinese, indian, typical fast food etc. Then I found a lounge/bar called Zebra, tucked away in the corner. It's hidden by huge pieces of complementing fabric that hang from the ceiling to the floor and the colors within remind me of a very warm summer evening by an outdoor fire. Very nice place and they were showing soccer games, woo hoo! The menu looked great didn't try anything and they also have the shisha pipes. (I'm not sure when that became increasingly popular because they are everywhere) Kenyans are ingenious by design and use of available resources. The bar had utilized a large piece of Mabati - sheet metal that would have been scrapped a long time ago. Instead they beat it flat, welded three racks of shelves, drilled symmetrical holes all across the bottom (about 4 x 8) in three seperate panels and fixed a light source behind the holes. Then they took it and stuck it on a wall and voila, you have a raw bar wall, strong enough to hold all their booze, the rivets and welded parts clearly visible and not hidden, the light coming through the holes, throwing a soft glow on the bar....beautiful piece, all made by the Jua Kali industry.

Jua Kali literally translated means "Hot Sun". It refers to an industry of tradesmen and skilled artisans who make anything and everything while sitting out in the open air. They tend to move from place to place but in the 80s the governement helped them establish a niche in the main industrial area. They make charcoal stoves, rubber sandals, kitchen knives, pots, pans, etc. etc. More and more businesses are turning to them to use their craft as centerpieces or accents for their own products. A great industry but the market is now awash with even cheaper imitations from a country that shall remain nameless for now.

Anyway, really nice lounge but we were off, to the other end of Nairobi. A suburb called Runda. This is where all the UN, embassies, NGO's and the serious "haves" live. The money here is just plain sick. The drive there was interesting because the scenery changed so abruptly from crowded, dirty apartment buildings almost on the road to expansive, green spacious well protected lawns with huge mansions in the background. When we got to Runda, tons of embassies all over the place, the Canadian one is something of an architectural delight, good to know the UNEP offices were there too. Anyway, we got to Village Market which is a mega....doesn't even qualify as a mall, has a great big grocery store, huge food court area (sushi served here), a miniature golf course, swimming pool, huge slides (the Splash City I lost my hearing to), bowling alley, movie theatre, restaurants and clothing stores. Basically an international zone because you will forget where you are instantly.

I was there for a close friend's birthday party and my brothers had come as well, there were about 30 people in our group. Was a lot of fun reminiscing about growing up in Kenya, a lot of laughter. Then someone mentioned the Rhino Charge. This is a charity event held once a year and it's usually for the continued conservation of the public parks usually in the form of building fences to keep people out and the animals in. There's a registration fee of not more than $300 (I'll need to do more research) and your own vehicle and I think about 4 - people per car. It is limited to sixty vehicles. Registration closes months ahead of time and the sponsors will not tell you where the race will be until about 3 weeks before it starts and it will most likely be at one of the game parks or super remote regions.

Last year's race was a 62km event; a basic get to point B from A in a day with mandatory check point areas. The map will not indicate precise locations, it's basic navigation at it's purest form. Although GPS units are now being used. I got this from their site: "The challenge of the event is for the entrants to reach 10 Guard Posts (Control Posts), whose whereabouts are only revealed to the entrants on the night before, each Post set up in a remote and tricky location. The teams of up to six people set off at dawn with ten hours of difficult driving ahead of them to reach all ten checkpoints by the shortest route possible - testing endurance, engineering and navigational skills. Speed is not a feature of the Charge." Check it out at

The winner of the event is the team who manages to complete the course with the least distance recorded as well as the most money raised. The participants are put up in tented camps and the services are not to shabby and since the event is held right before the heavy rains, the terrain is dry and dusty. It sounded like so much fun, I hope to do it sometime in my lifetime. There are awards but the funniest is the Forkawe award which means "where the f*** are we?". It's given to the team who gets lost in the most spectacular of fashions and last year's winner found himself in Tanzania and had to be spirited out before immigration caught wind of the unwilling illegal alien. He'd somehow crossed the border and having no passport or appropriate paper work was dubbed the award champ.

After much laughter, we headed into the mega whatever to a club called Sikiliza meaning "listen" where we watched an amazing jazz perfomance by legendary local Mercy Myra. The girl's voice is rich! What a singer, I didn't know how versatile the music scene had become. The lounge area of the club was okay, lots of tourists, nice lighting, atmosphere but not enough seating. The club area was very hip, better than a lot of the places I've been to in CLE actually but the d.j. hmmm. He would play an amazing set of house music and then abruptly cut it off to put in a Michelle Branch/Vanessa Carlton (can't tell the difference to this day) slooooow song. Then on one set he just let a Kylie Minogue cd play through without mixing. Totally ruined the ambience but was a very nice place, empty as well. Saturday's are best spent at house parties or quiet restaurant evenings, not so much a clubbing night.

Nice drive back home at one in the morning, stopped at a gas station to do car switches. Oh, always travel in a convoy. We were in a three car caravan and all the occupants had to switch at the gas station in order to ensure at least one person is alert because they're not in their own vehicle. Very smart move. Alas, the gas station had a huge food court Pizza Inn/Chicken Inn/Burger Inn.....I think it's the same company, ha ha. Anyway, Kenyan fries at 2 in the morning....delicious. Had to do 100 extra crunches the next day but was totally worth it.

Again, sorry for spelling/grammar errors. The spell check has refused to come up. Oh well, I'll edit later when I have time.


vdthemyk said...

CSK, I think you just found me a name for my baby!

Kali...meaning 'Sun.' I really like it and would like to suggest that to Kathy.

I hope all is well and it looks like you were in the mood to write today!

Hugs and kisses!


ArsenalGal said...

Who is up for the challenge? I'm all for it. Beats the Amazing Race! lol
Wooo hoooo!