June 9, 1987

6/9/87 Nairobi

Jacaranda Hotel

The last of our group arrived this morning from the airport. It’s almost as if we’re taking over the hotel with NOLS students and instructors everywhere. A lot of people are pretty laid back today. We won’t be able to mail any letters for another three or four weeks while climbing Mount Kenya, so everyone is sitting around the pool writing back home. I think those of us that have been here a few days are ready to go. The few that went out on a tour of Karen Blixen’s home yesterday said the drive through the country-side was beautiful. I’ll just be glad to get out of the urban squalor of Nairobi.

After all the time I spent studying Swahili in the months leading up to the trip, I have been having a hard time remembering any of it. I can remember a word just not the meaning. One sad thing is that we’ll be divided into two groups before the mountain section and we won’t see each other till the end of the course, but maybe one day in Nairobi between sections. It seems the friends I’ve made in the last few days are all in the other group.

After dinner, a lot of people wanted to go to the casino. I knew the odds are against you but I thought "What the hell!" I watched for awhile, then lost 100 shillings playing blackjack. But I had a good time. One of our group, Dave, was up about 1100 shillings but ended the night with 300. I tried to haggle my first taxi driver but she wouldn’t budge. I didn’t mind, where else can you ride a Mercedes taxi.

To my surprise, people are really warming up to me. I mean actually seeking me out. I had taken off my ear cuff thinking that they wouldn’t think it was too cool. But most of the girls have really complimented me on it. I guess everyone doesn’t want me to feel out of place. These kids come from wealthy families from the Eastern US, and are attending the most prestigious schools like Yale and Stanford. So, not only am I the oldest in the group, but definitely from a different socio-economic background. The other surprising thing is that quite a few already know of each other.

Tomorrow’s the big day! I know everyone will do fine but I think it’s going to be a big adjustment to some. Some of these guys are really party animals, and I others don’t look like they’ve ever roughed it in the outdoors.

Dear Mom,

If you got my first letter, it was pretty down. But I wanted to get another letter to you before we leave for Mount Kenya.

Yesterday I met about half the group. It seems as if everyone is staying in the same hotel. Most of the others are very young, about 18-20 years old. But they do seem like a fun bunch. I'm making friends pretty well. I just wish there were a few older students. The oldest besides me is only 23 and the youngest is a girl who just graduated from high school.

I think we're all very excited. Tomorrow we all meet the instructors and go over the course details. Then its off to Naro Moru in the afternoon. Thursday we get all of our equipment and Friday begins our three weeks on the mountain.

After pizza last night, we had a few drinks with one of our instructors. Nice guy. He's from Canada and has only been here a month. He even brought his mountain bike.

I admit at first I felt very alone and scared but my confidence builds everyday. I think it will get a lot better once we're out of the urban squaller of Nairobi. I guess it's like any city really. People don't smile and their walking seems lifeless. A few of the group went on a tour of Karen Blixen's farm and said the people were so different in the country, a lot friendlier and happy.

I just didn't want you to worry about me having a terrible time. I'm really getting excited. And don't worry, you'll be able to read a more detailed account of what's been happening when I get home. I've only been here two days and already have eight pages written in my journal. So until the next time, be happy.

Love,
Jim