Thursday, March 16, 2006

Nairobi’s Methodist Guest House

This is the entrance to the Methodist Guest House, where we stayed on the night before and the night after the plane rides into and out of Lui.

Previous Lui travelers had given me some sense of what to expect. “Imagine a 1950s motel that hasn’t been refurbished,” they said. When we arrived there, somewhat jet-lagged and still trailing assumptions from the U.S., the place seemed quite spare and primitive to me. It just fit the description of a “clean, well-lighted space.” We were comfortable, but certainly not pampered.

What a difference, though, when we arrived there after our sojourn in Lui! To me, it felt like a Ritz-Carlton. There was a shower. A toilet. Running water in the sink. Napkins and eating utensils in the restaurant! Lights that you could turn on with the flip of a switch. OH WOW! This was the lap of luxury!

This is a view of our room accommodations, and a view of the tropical view out my room window:

But I'm getting ahead of my story. On this night, we were just beginning to adjust to this entirely different culture.

We arrived that night about the time they were scheduled to close-down restaurant service, but they extended the serving hours just for us. In view of things I later learned about how things work in Africa -- and especially in view of things I later perceived about the "pull" that the Diocese of Lui seems to have -- I have a hunch that this matter of "extending the serving hours" was probably accomplished by our hosts as they chatted with various folks on their cell phones between the time of our landing at the airport and our arrival at the Guest House.

We had dinner together. That night, it felt fairly spartan or primitive. The food was good (if a bit warmed-over), but we were cautious. Sandy had been to Africa before, and we had heard the horror stories of previous travelers about how almost all of them became very sick because of eating food not processed or washed according to our standards. So everybody was very, very cautious -- frequently asking, "Is this o.k. to eat?"

Now fast-forward to Thursday, March 2nd. We arrived from Lui in a very different frame of mind. Suddenly Nairobi and the Guest House seemed the height of luxury and sophistication. We had scarcely seen a vegetable in the previous week. Certainly, we had seen no raw vegetables. One of the items on the buffet was salad, and I completely pigged-out on it: two full dinner plates of salad! Ah, fresh, raw vegetables! Ah, vinaigrette!! I was delighted. (Unfortunately, it appears I let down my guard a bit too soon. For I paid the price later. Don't ask. It was ugly.)

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