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We’ve gone to Graceland

February 27, 2008
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A week ago today we moved apartments, just around the corner from the old one off Ndemi Road and up to the 5th floor of Graceland, on Muringa Road. There is no address, only the name, which is bit more helpful when giving directions. The best we could do before was ask if a driver knew where the Language Center was, since it was on Ndemi Road, too. No one has a physical address, and no one would deliver mail to you if you had one. If you want a letter in Kenya, rent a P.O. box.

It’s a long and frustrating story as to why we weren’t in this very apartment a month ago, since we tried to rent it then. I’ll save you the pain and chalk it up to the obscurity of Kenyan business dealings and its middlemen especially. But Ndemi taught us to appreciate the luxuries we expect but suddenly didn’t have: hot water that comes out of the tap, Internet of any kind, a washing machine, a private outdoor space. It also taught us about people and kindness, since Mbugua, the caretaker, was about the most genuinely amiable and standup man either of us have ever met. Quiet, steady, and always ready with a smile and a welcome you could believe. The afternoon we moved, he helped us carry out our bags. When I walked over to give him our house key, he wished us well wherever we were going, and I almost busted out in tears.

So here we are in the treetops. It’s all brand new, with a nice TV, stereo, a pretty fair Internet connection, fancy washing machine, hot water heater, pool(!), gym(!), and somewhere to sit outside, for which we’re newly appreciative and very grateful.
the dryer:

Up here you don’t hear the call to prayer from the local mosque broadcast at 5 a.m.; don’t hear the banging of men working in the apartment downstairs, gutting and rebuilding it because someone blew up the heating system and blew out all the windows; you don’t get your shoes dusty walking to the car; your clothes don’t come back damp and crinkled and not quite rinsed anyway; but you don’t get a sense of place, either. No monkey is going to hop Graceland’s high electric fence, like the one who came right up to our open door the hour we moved from Ndemi.

We could be on the top floor of just about any sunny city with vaguely Mediterranean architecture. Vegas, Ojai, Portofino. Some days, after too much walking, too much dust and diesel fumes down your throat, and too much humanity compressed into unventilated spaces, it’s heaven. But I’m not really sure it’s like living in Africa.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. MIL permalink
    March 1, 2008 10:30 am

    Ah, there must have been a reason we never saw pictures of Ndemi. :-) At first I thought you guys named “Graceland” since it’s obviously at the other end of the comfort spectrum. It looks beautiful. Your photography is lovely! One thing we’re sure of: you and Chris really do know how to “bloom where you’re planted.”

  2. March 1, 2008 7:53 pm

    I feel that way about our apartment in NYC too- I have to admit I got used to it pretty quickly though! I think of it as a way to rejuvenate myself before the the beautiful onslaught the next day.

  3. Judy Edmands permalink
    March 2, 2008 1:36 pm

    Lynn and Chris, We have really enjoyed following your days in Kenya, and so appreciate your amazing writing and photography skills, Lynn! Chris, Congrats on the Science Foundation Award! No surprise to us–just happy to see it happen. Having spent a little time in Kenya, and feeling a real affection for the people we met there, we’ve been especially touched by your descriptions of the people and disruptions of their lives by recent tribal violence. It’s so hard to imagine living under those circumstances.

    I am curious about how long the flower industry has been such an important one for Kenya? It has been 10 years since we were there last, and maybe we were just completely blind/deaf, but I don’t remember any references to it at all at that point.

    Could really identify with your thoughts about “Graceland” being a great retreat–yet maybe not really reflective of real life in Kenya. We kept thinking about that when we were travellers there, knowing that our comfortable living was not at all what most natives were experiencing.

    We’ll continue to look forward to your news (are currently in BV Colorado, watching the snow come down–still….The skiing has been incredible!). Love, Clay and Judy

  4. June 25, 2009 3:40 am

    Was browsing internet when I came across your beautifull writing about your experience in Africa, Kenya and in Ndemi and Graceland apartment in particular.

    You made me see Graceland apartment from a different perspective.

    Thanks for being our client and please come again.

    Wario- Graceland Director


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