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January 18, 2007

The backpacker scene

On that travelogue-ing note, I’ll put this entry into a link…

I write to you Nairobi Backpackers Hostel…

I write to you from Nairobi Backpackers Hostel, where it’s 6:45pm, almost dark, and I’m settling in for the night. While it feels pretty safe to wander around Nairobi during the day (ok, parts of it), it’s still not a good idea to go out at night. So here I am, being a backpacker at a traveler’s hostel.

I would say this is a pretty typical hostel… young mzungus (white people) hanging around, drinking beer, making travel plans together (again, it’s all about safaris here). There’s also a TV with cable (last night showing futbol and cricket), a computer with high-speed Internet access and an outdoor chill space with fire, pool table and bar. The unique thing about this hostel (so I hear) is the honor system: next to the computer, the coffee/tea area, the kitchen and the self-serve bar are sheets where you write down your name and what you used. Each day they tally the tabs and add them to the bill. Sweet stuff.

So, I feel a little bit on the outside of things because I’m not the typical around-the-world traveler, here just to see the sites, go on safari, and drink away each night. I have actually been contacted by a few local Nairobians who have offered me places to stay, so I may switch scenes. But ya know, this is a good place for my first few days in Nairobi, and on the road… lots of people to ask random travely questions.

Once I got talking with folks, though, another layer emerged. Yup, it’s the “Americans are in their own bubble” phenomenon. It’s just such a contrast: people in almost every other country learn world history from a young age, and seem to just be more up on international politics, etc. I knew this before coming here, but now I’m the American in a sea of Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, and even Canadians. Of course, a lot has to do with the individual, and my own path of not knowing enough about the rest of the world. But that’s why I’m here, right?

Fun fact that I learned at the bar last night (drinking my $1 Guinness): in a New York Times poll of Americans asking, “Who is the most important American of all time?” the answer was……. Jesus! He got 34% of the vote.

By the way, I think I’m going to develop some kind of accent hanging around with all of these Brits, Irish, Kiwis and Aussies, as well as all of the non-native English speakers. American “accents” are so boring. ;-)

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