Being on the road early this rainy weekday morning
was a sobering experience in Nairobi. The rains have started and boy does the
So picture this; at 6.30am, when the grey
first light was struggling to appear, pedestrians were getting soaked. This week,
since the onset on the rains, roadside verges have morphed from compacted earth
to sludgy puddles and potholes. There are no safe pavements or places to walk
so people take to the tarmac in their thin coats and floppy umbrellas, darting
back onto the mud when cars pass. As a driver, extra care must be taken to
avoid spraying people who walk or cycle past.
6am is one of the most busy times of day in
the city. Dawn is when the day officially starts year-round. Night guards make
their way home as others hustle to their jobs and offices before the dreaded
jam really starts. Kids are off to school, some of them very tiny and often
unaccompanied. Bobble hats bouncing as they leap over puddles.
Wet weather gear is loosely translated in
Nairobi. It’s not needed that often and it’s never really cold, so anything
goes. As roughly dug rain ditches ran
furiously in the pouring rain carrying rubbish to goodness knows where,
pedestrians, some men in smart dark suits and women in jackets and high heeled
boots, struggled over the mud to make their way to the city buses. Others walked fast with no protection from the rain whatsoever, seemingly oblivious to the wet conditions - or rather, just accepting it. I saw one
man wearing a full length bin bag sized, clear plastic bag as an improvised
rain coat. He had made a hole for his head. A minute later another man passed
wearing a similar bag but this time it came right over his face with no hole. Another man wore a small black plastic bag
perched on his head. It was filled with air so was billowing the wind as he jogged along. A plastic bag is often used as an effective
rain hood here for men and women and nobody raises an eyebrow.
I felt sp guilty sitting in my warm car with misted
up windows, moving cautiously as part of the queue of cars shuffling into town. The radio presenter talked about Nairobi traffic
jams and floods. Many people will be sitting in wet clothes and muddy shoes today,
even though the sun is now shining by lunchtime. The disparity of wealth
was very clear to see this morning.