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  • Mina

A day in Nairobi and how NOT to get arrested

The unforgettable week at Seychelles islands passed in a blink of an eye, but on our way back home we still had a day to spend in Nairobi. We arrived late in the hotel we’ve booked in the city center, and had the unpleasant surprise of figuring out that the room had not been cleaned after the previous guests. Not nice, but the receptionist was very apprehensive and gave us a new room immediately. Kind of had the feeling it was not the first time it happened there...

Anyway, our full day in Nairobi started pretty amazing. We got an uber to the elephant orphanage just outside the city where we saw more than 20 baby elephants being fed and playing in the mud. The job those people do there is really extraordinary. All those baby elephants were super cute and seemed so happy...

After taking thousands of photos of the baby elephants we hopped on a moto-taxi to our next stop - the Giraffe Centre. The one just next to the Giraffe Manor. Well, we tried booking a stay there, but as you can imagine, it was unsuccessful. However, those giraffes that can go and steal your meal at lunch at the lodging, are exactly the same we saw at the Giraffe Centre. And we fed them snack ourselves. Yep, another spot where I took more, at least a thousand photos. We had lunch there, which was very nice, as at lunch time it was less crowded. Which meant I had almost all giraffes for myself to take more photos of. What can I say - I simply love animals. And taking photos...

Arriving back to the hotel we found out that the political manifestations that were planned for the day had been cancelled. Initially, we were advised not to walk downtown Nairobi by ourselves due to that same protest taking place. As it was cancelled however, it was safe for us to walk around. We had a short rest for an hour or two (waiting for the unbearable heat to pass a bit) and then went for a short stroll in the centre. We were staying just next to the market and a mosque, so we gave the area a quick look.

As we were walking around, we were the only ones with light skin tone and I felt some kind of different looks. Looks, I’ve never felt before. It almost felt of being judged for my skin tone (although it was bronzed, as I had just arrived from a beach vacation). I would not like to call it racism, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. I was different, and even though we were trying to stay low key and not attracting any attention, it was inevitable. And I thought Kenyan people are used to foreigners, as it’s a world-wide famous destination...

Walking calmly around, hubby and I were having a nice conversation about the books we’ve been reading on this trip. As we were passing by the Parliament’s building, I stopped for a quick snap. The result was not good, as the sun was already falling down behind it, but as I said - I enjoy taking photos. We continued our walk, as well as our conversation, when a Kenyan military greeted us with a warm “hello”. We responded kindly and with a light smile - I genuinely wanted to be proven wrong and all those thoughts of racism disappear from my head. However, he then asked for my phone, which was still in my hand. I instinctively showed it to him. He took it from my hand and asked if I took a photo of the Parliament’s building, as it’s forbidden and pointed the big sign in font of us. I immediately apologized, as I’ve genuinely haven’t notice the sign and suggested to delete the photo, trying to take my phone back. He just turned around instead and told us to follow him. Passing by a huge gate, he calmly said “Taking photos of the Kenyan Parliament is against the law. You are now arrested”... What?! Arrested?!? How?!? We entered a tiny room just next to that gate, we’ve just passed, sat on two chairs - each one of us at a different side of the room, and they started asking questions. Who are we, what are we doing in Nairobi... Are we terrorists or would we sell the image to the terrorists... What?!? Are you crazy? The photo was not even good quality to serve for anything... While they were making tons of questions, supposedly we were waiting for the “supervisor” to come and take charge of our “case”. What case? We are just tourists and I already apologized at least a hundred times. Don’t you think that deleting the photo would just solve this unpleasant situation? Then, finally, the fifth or sixth guy who entered that tiny room after us, was that supposed “supervisor” we’ve been waiting for. And he looked scary. By that time I was already freaking out. And they haven’t even mentioned the “spending the weekend in jail” yet... As it was Friday afternoon, they told us that the court was already closed and we would have to spend the weekend in jail and face the trial on Monday. Then the court would decide whether to send us back to jail for a month or require us to pay a fine. I am pretty sure my eyes got huge by hearing that and all I could say, with my voice trembling was “but we have a flight to catch tomorrow morning”

Then they wen back to the fine. Apparently, they were willing kindly to let us go if we pay the fine that the court would eventually charge us for such “severe offense” - 200$ each. Of course, we didn’t have that amount of money with us, as we left the hotel for a short walk only and may be buy some souvenirs. They were willing to let hubby go pick up money (as they got to the conclusion that only I was arrested, as in fact I took the photo with my phone), but we’ve left our cards in the hotel as well. And hubby said that he would not leave me there alone... So, we were basically stuck in there. They had our IDs and my phone, and we didn’t have even half the amount they were asking. I really started envisioning us spending the weekend in jail... And then I started crying. But I don’t mean cute, girly crying. No, not at all. I mean ugly, loud and uncontrollable crying. I don’t know if those five or six strong, big, military men in the room got intimidated by me crying, felt sorry for me, or simply knew that they’ve reached the final point of the negotiation, but from there it all happened quick and easy. They agreed to let us go against the amount of money we had with us - which was actually less that 30$. And I had to delete the photos in front of them, of course (which I immediately recovered as we left; shh, don’t tell anyone). They were even kind enough to not take all of our money but left us some change - enough to buy a bottle of water for me to cool down. They were even so nice, they let us know which building we were allowed to takes photos of, and which not. And where is the best panoramic view of the city, but we already had no money to pay the entrance fee...

Leaving the tiny room, that for around half an hour saw a great variety of my emotions and fears, they said goodbye with the words “Enjoy Kenya!”

Thank you, guys! Despite those really unforgettable around thirty minutes with you, I did enjoy your country and left it with an overwhelmed heart. Because it’s beauty is endless and all the experiences it offered me were truly priceless. Yes, even this one. For the first time in my life I got arrested, and even though it was for such a stupid “offense”, things were solved quickly and harmless. Now, I laugh at this. Actually, a couple of hours later, after almost a bottle of wine back at the hotel's lobby, I was already laughing at the entire situation... We left empty handed when it comes to souvenirs, but boy, the memories we took with us can’t compete with any magnet or key chain, existing on Earth 🙈😂

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