Downtown hustle ‘n bustle

Inside the LMS guest house courtyard where we are staying

The road outside our guesthouse that leads to city centre

Kenya’s Parliament Building

First off, some very important housekeeping.  I’ve received some feedback recently that my blog posts are hard to follow since they are written in the 3rd person from my hair’s perspective.  So to clear the air, when I say “we”, I mean my hair and I and when I refer to nicknames, they are my nicknames received from all walks of life, and when I use each of them I’m probably referring to some inside joke for those people who call me that.  Writing “I” in a blog doesn’t seem fun to me, so please bare with it, try to follow along and when in doubt ask yourself “what would YOUR hair do in similar situations?”  As always, feel free to comment anytime.

Four days in and everything is getting settled nicely.  The initial shock (and jet lag) seems to be passing over and we’ve certainly done our fair share of trekking around the streets.  Shampoo / conditioner rations are low and I’m lucky to get a rub down every 2 days with Kenyan deluxe hotel soap so the wings are flowin’ and I can actually stay in a twisted unicorn shape now which resembles a Flock of Seagulls music video from the 80’s.

Downtown is a really busy place – always wheelin n dealin for sure.  While on a random walk to nowhere we ran into a super nice guy Raphel, who’s main job was to walk the streets and find customers for a Safari company he was working for.  Before long we were whisked away to a small office downtown with stories of Kenyan culture, politics and community history, immediately offered tea upon our arrival, and very strategically promoted the full line of service and offerings of the Safari company.

***Hidden Message #1: – From an entrepreneurship perspective, Raphel and his primary marketing skills is business at its finest.  Brilliant!  Makes you think how in N.A. we rely so much on digital media and marketing that we’ve lost the essential connection with our customers.  OK, I agree, online promotion does wonders for delivering first time customers to businesses, but it certainly DOES NOT foster return customers and organic word of mouth advertising like Raphel and his Safari company.  I feel that with the explosion of online media we have lost the intimate connection between our customers and if we are to truly sustain the viability of our businesses we need to get back to our roots, communicate face to face with our customers and find out what truly motivates them to use our products and services.  ***

After leaving the Safari company with a full quote and nice cup of tea, Raphel insisted on touring us around downtown Nairobi to show us some of the great historic sites and monuments.  You can see one of the pictures is Kenya’s parliament building, where they host their round table meetings to discuss governmental topics of issue.  Being Ottawa natives we can certainly appreciate the importance of the buildings, although the shear size of the buildings were a tad puzzling.  Finally, after several hours of dusty roaming and educational stories we parted ways from Raphel but not before learning an extremely valuable lesson.  First, let me prelude the lesson here a little…in several other countries that we’ve been in the general “hustle” always included some type of immediate compensation for people’s troubles.  If we were ever given this type of ‘touring’ service there was always an expectation that we would help them out and grease the palms a little.  Being completely naive, this is how I expected the hustle to work in Kenya, but I was DEAD WRONG and very embarassed by my assumptions.  Raphel explained to me that the best thing I could do to help him was to book a trip with his Safari company so that he would get his bonus.  He didn’t want any tips or compensation at all for showing us around because we were friends and brothers with the same blood.  Raphel explained “in Kenya, we want to welcome you and make you feel happy and comfortable because we care.  Tell me Chris, if I was in Canada would you not want me to feel the same way?”   Woah. Shell shock.  Completely humbled. Message received.  Thank you Raphel.

Oh and P.S. he texted the next day saying that he was very happy to have met and that his wife wanted to know if we would come and visit because she was excited to meet us!?  We told him that when we were in Mathare we would be honoured to visit his home and meet his family.  I ask you this….when was the last time you met a complete stranger on the street, befriended them,  and invited them over for dinner to meet your family the next day???


  1. Mark says:

    Two things:

    1 – Where do I send the Keith’s for you to bring to his Family?
    2 – Do you want a Costco Sized box of Soap and Shampoo for either use or barter?
    3 – Have you found any interesting spices or cooking instruments to send back?

  2. Lynne aka Mommabear says:

    A few things:

    1 – I guess I should Have gotten a hold of you to cut your hair with a nice buzz cut @ Chez Lynnie’s prior to your departure…..oooh saaay is all I can say about the unicorn look! My favorite of course….mais OUI!!
    2- Along with the Keith’s Mark would send I could make and send a few p’ti cochons for the family gathering as appetizers with a little french moutard on the side and a little baguette…
    3 – Did your mother not always tell you to not follow strangers around ANY WHERE!!!!! Predictable but another ooooh saaay from Ottawa.
    4 – The Parliament building looks more like a local church or maybe that engineering building thing of ma gig at Ottawa U!
    5 – Glad you are enjoying your time there and having such a great experience…seriously you will take this with you for the rest of your life. Puts things in perspective for sure and your abode actually look pretty decent too!
    6 – Still love ya all the world ….loads of hugs, kisses and prayers are going your way. STAY SAFE AND CLASSY BABY BOY! xoxoxox

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