Stirring the Five Senses of Nairobi

By: Bernie Jamieson

I am an Australian living in Nairobi.

I am a little different from other expats that live and work in Nairobi in the fact that I sold my house in Australia, I gave all my belongings away and decided to move to Kenya not knowing a soul, not having a job and with nowhere to live in January 2013.  I have now been living in the amazing upbeat city of Nairobi for 9 months and I have to say, I am loving it.  The expat community is supportive, I have met some inspirational people that are doing incredible things for the people of Kenya and I know that I have found a place that I can call home.  The city is a hive of activity and there is always something to stir your five senses.  The senses of Touch, Vision, Smell, Taste and Hearing and I wanted to share an experience in my remarkable city for each of the senses.  I hope that it stirs something in you and that one day, you may have Kenya on your Bucket List, and my advice that I can give to you is to DO IT!

TOUCH

My first sense is touch and after having a small ponder I thought of the giraffe and it’s long sticky, slimy tongues.  Now I know what you are thinking-Ewwwwww but there is a place where you get to meet these magnificent creatures and get to experience the slim all for yourself.  The Nairobi Giraffe Centre tour gives a completely up close and personal interaction where guests have the opportunity to view giraffes as well as feed them.  It is the coolest thing is that you are able to stand on a purpose made platform and stand eye to eye with them.  You are given small pellets to feed the Giraffes and there are unlimited refills.  Hand feeding the giraffes is just an AMAZING experience and I am pretty sure an activity that you would not get an opportunity to do anywhere else in the world and is an education in itself. You will see, close at hand, how they use their long, prehensile tongues to remove the pellets from your hands and wrap their tongue around the pellet if you hold it out for them to retrieve with their long, and I mean long, bluish and saliva packed tongues.  You also get the chance to ‘kiss a giraffe’.  Intrigued?  You place a pellet, the size of a bullet, in your mouth and the giraffes tongue extends to your mouth and takes the pellet from your lips, saliva and all.  It would have been cool to do, but after feeding them the pellets with our fingers, they are a salivery bunch and the thought of an animal’s tongue on my lips was just too much for me to process.  This is definitely the closest that you will be able to get to giraffes in Kenya and I would go as far and say the world.  It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had the pleasure to be part of and it may have something to do with the giraffe being one of my most favorite animals and to be able to interact with them on such a personal one on one experience was a dream come true.  They truly are magnificent and gentle animals and it will be a place I will definitely come back to and one I recommend to all visitors to Nairobi.      

VISION

My second sense is vision.  There is so much to see in Kenya and the most popular by far is the wild animals.  This is what the country is most known for and one of the few countries in the world that tries to sustain their wild animal populations and you CANNOT come to Kenya without going on a game drive to witness these magnificent animals in their natural environment.  I have been lucky enough to travel to a few of the main national parks in Kenya, but to date, my favorite is the Masaai Mara National Reserve.  It is named in honour of the Masaai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and it is globally famous for its exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.  This is what I travelled to see in the July of this year.  The wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Masaai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these ungainly animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson's gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 elands, and 200,000 zebras. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.  Now you can see what I mean about the sense of sight!!!  We may have not seen the millions of animals that were promised but the highlight of an afternoon was going to be the closest thing we were going to see of the Great Migration and it was a herd of wildebeest heading over one of the rises about 2km from where we were.  There would have been over 1000 animals that snaked their way from the top of the rise all the way back to the last straggler that was about 50m from the truck and he looked tired, actually they were all walking so slowly.  But what an amazing sight and this was enough for me to say I had seen some of the Great Migration.  It just completed what had been an amazing trip and I am so thankful to have been there and for every single day I get to live on this magnificent world of ours. 

HEARING

The third sense is hearing and this was an easy sense for me.  I volunteer in an orphanage in Nairobi and there is not a better sound than the sound of babies laughing and babbling in their baby talk that nobody understands except them.  I LOVE where I work and I LOVE the babies and being there for them as their futures are decided.  Volunteers are always welcome, whether it be for an hour or a day and if you have the time I encourage people to visit an orphanage while in Kenya.  I feel it puts everything into perspective and it really does make you appreciate just how lucky we are.  The Nest is a project for the rescue, rehabilitation and integration of children in conflict with the law & children of imprisoned mothers.  The program reaches out to prevent the children of imprisoned mothers from fighting for survival on the street. The Nest rescues affected children and improves their living conditions during the imprisonment of their mothers. We rehabilitate and later reintegrate them and their released mothers with their extended families and society at large. We also work to create public awareness about the plight of children whose mothers are imprisoned for petty offenses.  Many children are traumatized after experiencing crime or abuse and the arrest of and separation from their mothers. Counselling, provided in the Nest’s loving environment, can heal the wounds they suffer in body and soul.  I’m volunteering at the Halfway House, which is located in the Northern suburbs of Nairobi.  This place provides emergency accommodation for up to 10 mothers with young children upon their release from prison. Here, mothers and children are reunited, often for the first time in years. Along with counselling, spiritual and moral support, and civic education, the women rebuild their self-confidence for reintegration into society.  To date, we care for around 100 children—ranging from newborn to 17-year-olds.  We also care for a number of abandoned babies for whom they try to find loving families.  This is one activity that you not see listed in the travel guides but you will not regret visiting an orphanage and it will change your life forever as it has mine.

TASTE

The forth sense is taste and according to all the travel guides no trip to Nairobi is not complete without a trip to a restaurant called Carnivore.  Carnivore is an open-air restaurant and as the name would suggest, its specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet and it is referred to as 'the ultimate 'Beast of a Feast'.  Twice voted amongst the world’s 50 best restaurants by an expert panel in ‘Restaurant Magazine' the restaurant, since its inception has played host to over 2 million customers from across the globe.  So what is the secret?  The meat is constantly basted and turned until cooked to perfection, making the meat succulent and well flavoured. The Carnivore doesn’t conform to the familiar restaurant traditions of passing out menus and waiting for people to order. Diners simply take their seats on the Zebra striped chairs and the movable feast begins.  First comes the soup of the day then a sizzling cast-iron plate is placed in front of each guest along with a plate of home baked brown bread and butter.  Then an army of carvers wearing zebra striped aprons and straw hats then move from table to table carrying the Masai swords laden with different prime meats deliberately carving unlimited amounts onto the sizzling, cast iron plates.  The beast of feast begins with whole joints of meat - legs of lamb and pork, ostrich, rumps of beef, sirloins, racks of lamb, spare ribs, sausages, chicken wings, skewered kidneys, crocodile and ox balls-are roasted on traditional Masaai swords over a huge, spectacular charcoal pit which dominates the entrance of the restaurant when you arrive.  The feeding frenzy doesn’t stop until defeat is declared by the over-fed guests who signal that enough is enough by lowering of a carnivore paper flag that is perched atop the central tray and when you think there is no room for anything else dinner is then followed by dessert and coffee. 

SMELL

My last sense is smell and that was also an easy pick.  Most of the main roads and streets in the city have flower sellers which leads to the last sense of smell.  Did you know that Kenya is a large player in the world’s flower industry?  Kenya's economy largely relies on the agriculture sector which contributes 22% of GDP of which 3% of the national GDP is from the horticulture sub-sector while 1.6% is from the flower industry.  Horticulture is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country generating approximately US$ 1 billion annually.  Kenya is the lead exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of about 38%. Approximately 65% of exported flowers are sold through the Dutch Auctions, although direct sales are growing. In the United Kingdom, supermarkets are the main retail outlets.  Other growing destinations include Japan, Russia and USA.  According to horticulture validated report of 2012 the main cut flowers grown in Kenya are roses (53.6%), Easter lilies (26.5%), Arabicum (4.1%) Carnations (3.1%), and Hypericum (1.98%).  It is estimated that over 500,000 people (including over 90,000 flower farm employees) depend on the floriculture industry.  So if you live in Europe, the UK, Japan, Russia or the USA and buy roses for a loved one, take a minute to wonder if those beautiful flowers came from Kenya and sit back and literally smell the roses!!!!!!

So that is my city in the smallest 2,000 word blog nutshell that I could fit. I am an Australian living in Nairobi and I will be here for many more years to come.  I look forward to sharing many more experiences of my life as I forge ahead in my adopted country.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingBernie Jamieson is an Australian expat living in Kenya. Blog description: After traveling for 22 months visiting all 7 continents I decided to move to Kenya and start a new life helping others in a volunteer role at an orphanage. My blog shares the trials and tribulations of a new country and culture.
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Contest Comments » There are 28 comments

Haley Wretham wrote 5 years ago:

Love hearing about all your adventures Bernie! I kinda wish I had done like-wise for Canada but never feel like I have anything that interesting to say!!

Anna wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie!!! Your blog is a source of inspiration and I love your honesty, humour and passion for life and experiencing all that life has to offer. Your blog is a true reflection of you...a beautiful and adventurous soul. Your words have encouraged me to live my life with purpose and adventure. Thank you!!! Always a great read Bernie...thank you for having me as a part of your journey x

Mandie Farren wrote 5 years ago:

I met Bernie on a holiday in Scandi 2010. Shortly after returning home her life was turned upside down with the death of her mother and breakup of her marrage. She embarked on a 22 months around the world trip and I loved following her on her travels and adventures. Enjoying each blog and photo and living her dream. After the trip she gave up everything and moved to Nairobi to do volunteering work. Nothing but admiration for Bernie

Lisa wrote 5 years ago:

I really enjoy reading your blog Bernie. You write from the heart and tell it like it is which makes for such easy and interesting reading. You are living a truly inspirational life and I look forward to reading about your future adventures.

Nancy Brodeur wrote 5 years ago:

Everytime I read your blog you make me dream. Dream about all there is to see in the world. You put a smile in my face, you make me laugh and sometimes, even cry. Your speak with your heart and you have a big heart. You inspire us to be better. Wish you luck and continue to make us dream.

Rebecca Jamison-Jones wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie, your blog is amazing! I have never read such a well written blog where I feel like I am traveling the journey with the writer. I love the frank, honest account of your travels. You share your extraordinary life with your friends and followers and it makes me, for one, strive to live my life with a positive and adventurous attitude. You are truly one in a million and to any reader of your blog it is reflected in your writings. Keep doing what makes you happy and please keep writing about it!

Roger wrote 5 years ago:

brilliant Blog bernie, Made may travels in west africa more enjoyable

Elsabe Sadie wrote 5 years ago:

Its going onto the same adventure, seeing what Bernie sees, smelling what she smells and experiencing everything with her when reading her bligs. I enjiy Bernies blogs as its insightful, interresting and fun. Not only that, but it takes yoy into a world, her world thats unknown to us. As Bernie experience and and travel, we are with her. I would realky recommend Bernies blog to everyone...she makes reading teavel stories so much fun...putting a smile and with times a tear in the eye. Well dobe Bernie...please keep it up!

Joanne Lakhdar wrote 5 years ago:

Love your blog Bernie. From before you left I was following the preparations for the first leg of your amazing journey! Lots of stories, adventures and photos have been shared and I am sure everyone has enjoyed them. Most of your blog entries I read in the middle of the night while feeding by little girl. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading many more!

Kelly Heymans wrote 5 years ago:

You are a real adventurer Bernie! Because we are living in Kenya at the moment too, it's inspiring to see Kenya and Nairobi through your eyes. But you have bravely ventured further afield and your blog tells me more about the Africa I love and that you are clearly passionate about!

Kendal Wiseman wrote 5 years ago:

I met Bernie when she was our travel agent sending us away for our honeymoon which was a gorgeous experience. What I love about Bernie's blog is that whilst they are informative, they also have a humorous side to them. She makes me feel like I am experiencing her adventures with her. I feel like I've gotten to know Bernie more through her blog than when we lived in the same country. It takes a special person and writer to evoke the emotions and interest that Bernie does for her readers.

Charlie wrote 5 years ago:

Hey Bernie! Your blogs are always so inspiring. I think it's great, what you do. Hope to read from you in 2014!

Raychael wrote 5 years ago:

Your blog sport is very educative and not forgetting the humor. 'thank you so much bernie and we love it when you come and volunteer

David G wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie is an inspiration. She has grabbed hold of her life and is chasing her dreams, not content to let life slip by. Her blog is but one weapon in her arsenal to inspire people to greater things.

Laura Gant wrote 5 years ago:

I am so proud to have the amazing Bernie as a friend. Bernie is an inspiration to everyone to be genuine and embrace life fully and honestly. Bernie's blogs are so engaging and I love to read about her experiences. Big Love Bernie!

Clem wrote 5 years ago:

Wow Bernie - your blogs really make everything real! With all the travelling I wonder how you get to write them. Great stuff keep on it!

Sian Edwards wrote 5 years ago:

After meeting on a recent West Africa tour I am now a dedicated follower to Bernie's blogs. I love reading about the positives and challenges she has encountered. Her story is also very inspiring and I have just decided to live in Ghana for a while on her 'just do it' advice!

Kim Julius wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie Jamieson you are an inspiration to all those that knew you before you embarked on your journey. You are now proving to be the same in your adopted country of Kenya. Keep on doing what you are doing. Keep on writing because everyone that knows you,enjoys reading about all your adventures.

Michelle Elkin wrote 5 years ago:

Amazing words about an amazing country, written by an amazing person!!!

Katie Tong wrote 5 years ago:

brilliant blog - having shared the same experiences over the last year (many with you!) its great to read about all the reasons why I love Kenya too

Sandra Randall wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie has always had an amazing life, now she is taking it one step further in an amazing country!

Altu Sadie wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie your blogs are inspirational. You have a gift to immerse your readers so that they experience your travels with you. And above all your writing is entertaining.

Chris Hoey wrote 5 years ago:

Bernies blog has entertained me since she first started chronicling her travels. It is sometimes joyful, sometimes wistful; always from the heart. She's my favorite world trsveller!

Claire Sweeney wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie, thank you for taking me with you on your amazing journey that you started a few years ago. I have learnt so much from reading you blogs and get so excited when I see a new blog posted. Your honesty makes me feel like I am on the journey with you. You are an inspiration and motive me to also make the most of every day. Please keep the blogs coming and living the dream :-)

Andy Simon wrote 5 years ago:

I have never meet you I person, however my fiancé follows yours blogs so I have started to read your blog to see what all the fuss is about. Brilliant writing, I have been reading your West African adventure, this has opened my eyes to a part of the world I know very little about and makes me want to travel.

Sven Heuberger wrote 5 years ago:

Great adventures from a great person! Thank you Bernie for sharing all this with us, makes me feel like I'm still on the road myself!

Zoe Elkin wrote 5 years ago:

Aunty Bernie I most loved reading about the giraffes and I hope to come and feed them, when I visit you in Kenya

Denise Falsay wrote 5 years ago:

Bernie, I don't know anyone else that is so committed to sharing their journey with the world (good and bad). We have lived your journey with you and although we are thousands of miles apart, we are still sharing in your happiness, sadness and frustrations.... I am sure your blog will one day become a book and will be read by thousands who will be inspired to live a better and more fulfilling life.... Good luck xx

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