I tried one more time. Nairobi at night. This time with the help of two GAP guides, one being my future leader across Tanzania and the game reserves. They escorted me back to Ranalo Foods to educated this rusty mind on eating with your hands in East Africa. Grabbing ugali (corn flour and water boiled down to a squishy solid) by the fingertips, they molded a wad to fit the width of their hands, ending in a spoon-like shape near the thumb. Then, they went for the meat or greens, pinching the food together to the ugali and taking it all in with a large, meaty bite. It took me a few attempts to look as thought I eat like this all the time. Of course, I still got some stares and was probably looking quite silly, but having those guys accompany me gave me the confidence I, for some reason, lacked the night before.
And then we went out for drinks. People were pumped to get on the dance floor, but most of the time, it was a floor full of gyrating men. The guys explained most men are pretty afraid of girls because the majority of the women surrounding us were quite obviously "ladies of the night." They danced with an eye behind them, seeing who was watching and hoping to entice someone.
The bathroom was for refueling, to smoke and primp among the puddles. Standing in my simple, modest attire, the ladies and I had a moment of pausing to observe the other. All faucets were covered with bags, so a massive tank of water took up the majority of the open space, and a small bucket bobbled in hopes someone would want to be clean. A woman in front of me couldn’t stop moving to the music outside and gyrated by the toilet stalls. I loved it. I wanted to join her. The other woman next to me, one of the few ladies that wasn’t working that night, handed me some toilet paper. I was much obliged.
The curtains by the dance floor parted on a band led by a great Congolese singer, and immediately the place exploded with energy. The music pulsed to a heartbeat or a quick breath, to the natural bounce of the joints, all about the hips, shoulders, and head, which usually looked down to see how the rest of the bod’ was doing.
At one point, a man collapsed "dead" on floor in a game to get money. He rose after the efforts of a few very dedicated and drunken men (giving money and pleading to the gods) and came alive…alive enough to strip down to basically a full spandex onesie and about twelve pairs of colorful or slinky underwear. Once he got down to nothing but a G string over his black shiny get-up, he proceeded to do a headstand fit with impressive hip gyrations. A couple audience members were quite enthusiastic to have me contribute to his medical school fees or whatever he was dancing for, but my boys had my back and gave me a backbone in the vulnerable situation.
The dancing king of the night, a.k.a. the Masai Matisyahu of sorts, told me to get up and dance. I mimicked the popular moves and fit in nicely. Then he asked me to be at home (that's nice) and feel free (oh ok...) to make another Obama if I felt like it (since I’m an American woman…in Kenya...wait, WHAT?). It was the second time someone said this to me in two days. At first it struck me as hilarious. Then I realized with the inauguration of our new president, the entire country of Kenya had a fresh new joke for the tourists that they all found as comical as they did the first time.
Bottom line: Get a local perspective on Nairobi nightlife, and you'll walk away pleased...and possibly swervin'.