This morning the breakfast hall of the Norfolk was quite full. The hotel is being used by many attending a very large conference in Nairobi.
The buffet breakfast was robust as usual: one side table was filled with fresh cut fruits: grapefruit, watermelon, oranges, mangoes, several kinds of passion fruits, placed next to a tub of various kinds of yoghurt with attractive little bowls of almonds, walnuts, and various Indian nuts and spices.
The long 25′ buffet table began with cheeses, smoked salmon, a dozen different kinds of pastries, a dozen different kinds of breads, and cold meats. There was then the cooking station where a friendly chef whipped up any kind of omelette or pancake or waffle, and there were six kinds of syrups and heavy creams for garnish. The rest of the table was laden with hot tubs of bacon, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, several kinds of sausage, eggs benedict, the “chef’s special” and ended with a huge tub of appropriately altered “ugali” or (very delicious) corn porridge.
More than a thousand delegates were attending the World Congress of Agroforestry at the UN Headquarters in Gigiri, during which they predicted widespread famine in Africa. Today, the Kenyan Government announced up to 10,000,000 Kenyans were starving because of the drought.
It was a damn shame that I didn’t bring an umbrella, yesterday, because all morning long it rained in Nairobi. About half of all the Kenyan livestock in the country is dead because of the drought.
Many of us went for a quick swim in the Olympic-sized pool before going to work this morning. The Norfolk is my favorite hotel in Nairobi, and they heat the pool very nicely, wonderful in this cold season.
A third of Kenya’s population must now buy water to survive. Kenyans living in the city slums with a per capita of less than $300 per year must now spend $5/day for enough water to drink and cook. In the residential areas of central Nairobi, every other day is now without water.
Several of Nairobi’s popular discos – thought off limits to foreigners only a few years ago – are now popular with conference goers, tourists and foreign workers. The Simba Saloon is a popular suburban disco and Gypsy’s is very popular in the city. Every night, loud contemporary music, strobes and sometimes floor shows. Throughout most of Nairobi and the country, electricity is now turned off during the day, because of poor hydroelectric power. In many places, night rationing is beginning.
Schools can’t use computers. Refrigerators are useless. No one knows the news, because radios and televisions are quiet.
So goes the paradigm of heart-breaking Africa. Tomorrow, the first of my 22 clients arrive for a fabulous safari.