The rains have started and boy does the landscape change.
So picture this; at 6.30am, when the grey first light was struggling to appear, pedestrians were getting soaked. This week, since the onset on the rains, roadside verges have morphed from compacted earth to sludgy puddles and potholes. There are no safe pavements or places to walk so people take to the tarmac in their thin coats and floppy umbrellas, darting back onto the mud when cars pass. As a driver, extra care must be taken to avoid spraying people who walk or cycle past.
6am is one of the most busy times of day in the city. Dawn is when the day officially starts year-round. Night guards make their way home as others hustle to their jobs and offices before the dreaded jam really starts. Kids are off to school, some of them very tiny and often unaccompanied. Bobble hats bouncing as they leap over puddles.
Wet weather gear is loosely translated in Nairobi. It’s not needed that often and it’s never really cold, so anything goes. As roughly dug rain ditches ran furiously in the pouring rain carrying rubbish to goodness knows where, pedestrians, some men in smart dark suits and women in jackets and high heeled boots, struggled over the mud to make their way to the city buses. Others walked fast with no protection from the rain whatsoever, seemingly oblivious to the wet conditions – or rather, just accepting it. I saw one man wearing a full length bin bag sized, clear plastic bag as an improvised rain coat. He had made a hole for his head. A minute later another man passed wearing a similar bag but this time it came right over his face with no hole. Another man wore a small black plastic bag perched on his head. It was filled with air so was billowing the wind as he jogged along. A plastic bag is often used as an effective rain hood here for men and women and nobody raises an eyebrow.
I felt sp guilty sitting in my warm car with misted up windows, moving cautiously as part of the queue of cars shuffling into town. The radio presenter talked about Nairobi traffic jams and floods. Many people will be sitting in wet clothes and muddy shoes today, even though the sun is now shining by lunchtime. The disparity of wealth was very clear to see this morning.