For my birthday adventure in Kenya, we spread the fun over a couple of days. There were a few things I had long been hoping to do in Nairobi, but we hadn’t been able to figure out yet, partly because they are located towards the city center, and our house is not. Thanks to helpful advice from neighbors, and logistical information and tips from encouraging friends at the college, we have become familiar and comfortable with the buses and matatus here. It has gradually become easier for us to get to places as a family that are beyond walking distance – since the car Ryan uses from Bridgeworld (usually) only holds 5 people – and we were ready to tackle an expedition downtown for “Birthday Eve Day” (day before the birthday: Thursday the 10th, in this case).
I have always loved libraries and museums, and so I was curious what Nairobi would have to offer in these areas. Maybe I also thought visiting a library and museum would earn me a little extra homeschooling-mom-cred 😉 right? We found a few libraries by web searches, and chose to visit McMillan Memorial Library (it doesn’t have an official website, but there’s a brief intro; see also here) for a few reasons. Opened in 1931, it is probably the oldest conventional library in Kenya; it is a beautiful building on the outside, and it is near the other places we wanted to visit on this day. We were also intrigued by this library as it is supposed to house some furniture sold by Karen Blixen to Lady McMillan, who had the library built in memory of her husband. As it turned out, we weren’t able to figure out which pieces these might be. Unfortunately, the inside of the library, including some artwork, items from the McMillan’s estate and elsewhere, is a bit disorganized and in need of some repair, but we did still enjoy browsing the shelves – some were gorgeous wooden units – and admiring different titles we discovered.
(As always, click any image to open larger slideshow)
Next stop was a quick (for me, not so quick to the minds of several of the kids) look at Freeman’s, a yarn and textile shop on Biashara Street. Most of the shops along here featured fabrics, children’s clothing, and baby items. I was curious to see what yarns might be available: mostly acrylics imported from the UK it turns out, as well as some other craft and sewing supplies. The shopkeeper was very friendly and didn’t mind my window shopping at all.
From here, we hopped on another matatu (rather: squeezed into it; sorry for bumping your head on the van door, Saeryn), and headed for the National Museum. You may not take photos in much of the museum, but it was a very rich experience, with extensive displays and collections featuring Kenyan history, wildlife, and cultures.
Included with our museum tickets was a tour of the Snake Park, which also featured turtles, tortoises, fish, crocodiles, and lizards, mostly native to Kenya or other parts of east Africa. There were a few exceptions, such as an American Alligator, for comparison to the crocodiles, and a milk snake that a hapless Canadian tourist
attempted to import was trying to smuggle in as a Valentine’s Day gift a few years ago. You can’t make this stuff up. And, finally, we walked/dodged/darted/scurried through the bustling city center to find the bus home.
On my birthday proper, the 11th, we walked up to the Hardy Shopping Center, which houses a grocery store that we frequent, a pharmacy, and a couple other small shops, as well as a nice restaurant called News Cafe. We enjoyed the breakfast special there. Lunch was a party at our house that we will talk more about later as it was combined with a farewell party, but it was a very special time with Bridgeworld College friends! Friday afternoon, we packed up for “Birthday Boxing Day” (thanks, Marcia, for getting us on board with this!) November 12 was the first day of our vacation on the east coast of Africa! More to come on this, too.