How can one be so swooned by a city but at the same times be saddened/frustrated by it?
This has been my emotion this past- my first- weekend in Nairobi. Everywhere I have gone, from the National Arboretum to the Central Business District to Kilimani to my own neighborhood of Upper Hill, I have met cool people and loved the different environments. The “Western-ness” of Yaya Centre allows me to indulge in my American ways if I so desire. The wilderness and rocky trails of the Arboretum gives me an opportunity to do my long run surrounded by 100-year-old trees and monkeys. The huge fruit and vegetable open market on Ngong Road is my food haven… the sweet bananas and juicy mangos are incomparable with those in the States.
The people I have met so far have been incredible and nice. I spent almost an hour talking with one of the security guards who guards the apartment compound in which I live. My driver is extremely nice and gives me the latest gossip on everyday Kenyan life. Both the expats and the Kenyans I met at St. Patrick’s Day party are doing amazing things and have accomplished so much. I admire their seamless transition from Western way of talking/behaving to Nairobi’s way and pace of life.
Yet at the end of the weekend, as I reflect upon my experiences, I cannot but feel saddened by Nairobi as well. For some inexplicable reason, Nairobi represents all the things I have missed in life and all the things I could have become. It has pockets and holes in which I can see all the opportunities I had missed and all the people I could have met if decisions were made differently. In short, in Nairobi, I see all my regrets eerily floating around, surrounding me with their invisible claws. This feeling of sadness is juxtaposed by the simultaneous emotion of hopefulness. At the same time, Nairobi is also a blank slate- tabula rasa. I have the potential to carve out whatever career and life I want. I can decide who I am and want to be. I can have new friends and establish myself as whatever/whoever I want. The possibilities are virtually endless. The oxymoron that Nairobi symbolizes confuses and exhausts me. At the end of the day, the oxymoron makes me alienate all my emotions, and I feel numbly lonely. Alone. Isolated. It makes me want to tear out my heart and stop the oddly painful and lonely sensations.
I would not say that it is a hate-love relationship between Nairobi and I. A contemplative-love relationship perhaps. Being so far away from everyone I love and know and physically away from the States, Nairobi (coupled with several insomnia) has forced me to really think about who I am; why I decided to hop on a plane to go half-way around the world without personally meeting any of the people here except for one; and what I want to accomplish with my life.
My only relief right now is sleep…something I have not been able to achieve very well for the past two weeks. If I can sleep, it will be the next day. And I always start the day feeling excited and prepared…until the evening creeps around, and I am stuck with being all alone.