by: Kairos Dela Cruz
It is not often that I get a chance to travel to Africa, much less to visit a country that reminds me of a meerkat and a warthog singing “hakuna matata.” I arrived in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport around four in the afternoon after spending 18 hours flying, in addition to 11 grueling hours walking around NAIA, Changi, and OR Tambo trying to prepare myself for the long flight. Manila is that far from Kenya, and thanks to layovers, it took more than a day, but I have an inkling that it might all be worth it.
Once in Nairobi, a man named Wisdom helped get me a supposedly cab to the hotel. Of course, it wasn’t , but our conversation during the 20-minute drive gave me a good glimpse of Kenyan hospitality. He gave me a sort of a list of things to do such as go to national park, feed the baby orphaned elephants, and try Kenyan coffee. He also assured me that my stay will be fun and safe, despite the growing problems of the country with terrorism.
I told Wisdom I was in Nairobi to attend the 9th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation or CBA9. His response was surprising. “That’s good, we need more of that. Look at our country, we are still green, we try to stay green, but it is becoming more difficult.” Wisdom is a name that suits him indeed.
We arrived at a small and serviceable hotel in Kenya. It is modest, but it radiates character in its own right. It has a big bar where people go to sit, talk, watch football, and engage in animated conversations. No loud music, which is good. It is my kind of space, a place that Manila can have more of. White Cap, a local lager, capped my brief stay at the bar.
A friend of mine who works for UNEP, which is also housed in Nairobi, invited me to his place for dinner and a proper catch-up. Everything was going well until it rained, really hard. The electricity went out and my friend kept on saying in awe, “it hadn’t rained this hard before.” We just laughed about it, we made fun of one another — two dudes having a candle-lit dinner in a house in a forest. He lives in the forest border of the diplomatic part of Nairobi, wherein most of the embassies, diplomatic houses, and UN Center are located. It was easy to makes joke about the downpour and our wet plight, because we both knew Africa is long due for good rain.
Maybe the often drought- stricken country is moving towards a wetter future. Maybe agriculture will flourish or maybe flooding will become a problem. Who can tell?
I don’t think CBA9 will answer these questions. It will probably raise more questions. Who knows what 400 individuals can concoct over sweet breads and coffee. The event itself is a bridge in the conversation gap between communities and national executives, including international policy folks. It humanizes what people in suits and fancy dresses talk about during the Conference of Parties (CoP) to the UN climate change convention. It shows what is really at stake.
Before travelling, I always try to know some of the common local words. A quick google browse led me to a page about common Swahili words that will help visitors in East Africa. Jambo was on top of the list, which translates to a heartfelt hello. Jambo represents Kenyan hospitality in two syllables. So, here is my first day. I’ll try to write more about my stay and CBA9. Jambo!
Featured photo: A common bird in Kenya, which is locally known as sunbirds. This guy hangs out in front of my hotel window everyday, collecting twigs and leaves for their nest.