After 7 hours from Johannesburg, I arrived late last night. Flights on SAA are good, comfortable and generally with good food. I was lucky to have two empty sears beside and so I could work on the laptop with relative ease.
On arrival I made my way to passport control and as usual there were several different lines: residents, non-residents, visas and quick pass. Looking over at the latter which is where international civil servants and diplomats pass I saw several colleagues waiting in line. I was certainly pleased to see them as I was expecting to see them only the following morning.
By the time I passed through passport control (where they also take your picture with a Logitech web cam) my luggage was circling on the carousel ready for pick up. It wasn’t long before I was able to fund someone from the hotel who would shuttle me there. As usual in the Africa I visited so far people are helpful and friendly. In any event when all was said and done there was an interval of several hours by the time I actually got to my room.
The next morning I took a taxi to my meeting location outside city center, about 30 min in good traffic. The complex is huge, with banks, shopping restaurants, monkeys roaming about, and long walkways all within a highly secured area.
The day before I left, I took the opportunity to wander from the hotel, iPhone in hand, to take pictures. Since every city in Africa has its own do’s and don’ts, the common being no pics of anyone in military or police uniform and certainly no military or police installations. Other than that, you just have to get a sense of what people will tolerate and how safe it is. It is impossible not to be conspicuous, first because of my skin color and second because of my camera. Fortunately, Nairobi is a city filled with tourists, so while conspicuous, I was generally ignored or viewed with idle curiousity. There were a few moments though when there were those who looked at me with more than passing interest, no doubt by my camera. But those moments were very shortlived. It was clear, that like most cities in Africa, Nairobi is not one where you would walk at night, and definitely not alone. A shame though because my guess is that night photography would be especially interesting. Coming back to my hotel by taxi late after a long day’s meeting, the streets were certainly lively and gay.
The manner however by which one takes pictures with the iPhone is you must hold it up in front of you, compared to a regular SLR camera where you bring it up to your eye and focus from there. Thus, although I hold on the camera tightly, it really would take very little for someone to run up and grab it from my hands. The result is that although picture-taking is common, it is difficult not to feel a certain tension in crowded areas with your camera held out in front of you. Eventually, I decided to ignore the issue and tried to be discrete and focus on taking interesting images. Some of these were taken just by walking around and others from my hotel window. The Autostich app is truly a wonderful piece of software and can be used as an expressive tool.
© Frederic Borgatta and Fredericsblog, 2009