Thursday, June 3, 2010

Part 1 of the Beginning of the Great African Adventure

Hello everyone,
First, I apologize for not updating this blog since leaving America. 1) I have always had difficulty updating blogs, but 2) my internet connection has been horrible in Arusha, so I feel like I have a legitimate excuse.

For one, I am well, safe, sound and secured, but a little tired. The jet lag has still not been cured yet, as I am in this trend of going to bed around 9pm and waking up at 4am. Fortunately, I’m feeling a lot better today. Additionally, I’ve already lost one belt notch since I got here, so I’m guessing I’ve lost 5 pounds or so from eating far less than I did in America.
So again, polĂ© [sorry in Swahili], but here’s a run-down of the adventure thus far.

So, Beth dropped me off at the airport at 5 AM on Tuesday, May 26th, with only one hour of sleep due to packing/applying for a scholarship the night before. It was great to see her for two weeks between law school and this trip, but it was incredibly difficult to leave her for 3 months. Beth, in addition to being my fiancé, is also my best friend, and my confidante, so everyday I miss her a bit.

But, anyway, I could write an entire book about my admiration and love for Beth, but you probably don’t care about that [unless you are Beth], so I’ll continue to write about my adventure to Africa.

I got on the Delta flight to New York, which was a horrible flight on a cramped flight. Also, JFK Airport is a horrible airport [sorry New Yorkers, but any airport, where you have to leave the terminal and go through security AGAIN to go somewhere is ridiculous.] Even O’Hare is a better airport.

However, everything got better once I got onto Emirates.

For one, Emirates’s international jets had plenty of legroom, even for tall [6’2’’ or 6’1’’, depends on the day, I’m having] people like myself. Also, each seat had its own television, which had actually really current movies on it. I saw Invictus [great movie which put me in the mood to go to Africa], Avatar [not bad, but highly overrated], and something else that was apparently so memorable that I’ve already forgotten what it was. I think the third movie was good. I don’t know.

Also, I think my favorite two things about Emirates were the meals, which were a fresh Arab/Indian mix [I have also become slightly addicted to curry over the past few months], as well as that everything was in English as well as Arabic. From being in Africa and Dubai, I have become somewhat fascinated with Arabic culture. It has some incredibly beautiful elements to it. I will definitely fly Emirates again; it was the best airline that I was ever on. If you ever have to travel anywhere internationally, check if you can fly Emirates, it was definitely worth it.

Dubai was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. Basically, Dubai is America with an Arabic twist. I honestly think I saw more skyscrapers in Dubai than I saw in New York; but, it literally seemed at times that Dubai just assigned three people to a skyscraper. What I have found from my international travels thus far is that most people speak at least broken English, so it was relatively easy to maneuver about the city. I thought the exchange of dollar to dirham was fair, and it was a buck or two for the most part to travel around the city.

I am actually proud of myself, because I made sure to see the major things in the city. I only had a 7 hour layover in the city, so I had to use my time as effectively as possible. If you ever have only a few hours in Dubai, I highly recommend using the Dubai Metro, as you will be able to see most of the city quickly. First, I went and saw the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest skyscraper in the world. I almost went up in it, but I was more impressed with how humanity could build something so tall. I then saw the Dubai Mall, which was literally at the same metro stop, which looked like an incredibly modern mall.

Truthfully, the only thing that really disappointed me about Dubai was the amount of American influence over the city. I saw a T.G.I.Fridays as well as a Chili’s [I’m embarrassed that this is how people probably think of us abroad], while I was there as well as multiple Burger Kings, etc. I wanted my first real foreign experience abroad, to be distinctly “foreign”, but it felt strangely like America.

The last thing that I saw that I was in Dubai was the Palm Tree Island, which is a huge man-made island, right off of the coast of Dubai. You can only really see the outline of the island from different parts, which looked cool. Dubai is also making a set of man-made islands, which will look like the world, but these islands are still a couple of years away from being open to the public.

Another thing I actually somewhat liked was the presence of the military everywhere. While the civil libertarian side of me screams “NO! BAD!”, I got to be honest, I felt really safe in Dubai. It makes sense why their crime rate is so much lower than the U.S. The military officers were very polite as I asked them questions of how to maneuver around their city.

The only thing that I did not see in Dubai was Ski Dubai. I saw it from the outside at the Mall of Emirates, but it would have been interesting to see from the inside. Anyway, I’ve never gone skiing in my life, so it really would have lost its purpose on me, as well as it leaves me something to do the next time I’m in Dubai.

Here are some pictures of Dubai [Captions Below]
This is a view of a part of downtown from the Metro.

This is the view of the Burj Khalifa from ground level.

A picture of one of Palm Tree Island's Fronds.

What Palm Tree Island would look like from the air.

Dubai's Airport feels like a palace.

Dubai does not need a Coldstone Creamery.  Then again, neither does the United States [nor me specifically!].

I then got back on Emirates and headed to Nairobi. Let me tell my initial entrance into Nairobi was quite a culture shock, as I got in around 7:30 pm that night. First, you have to realize that Kenya, Tanzania, etc. is in winter, so it gets dark outside around 6:30pm – 7:00pm at night [it’s also very cold at night]. Additionally, I was supposed to meet up with a friend that I met on facebook, Jana, but unfortunately, we got our signals crossed, so I was alone at the airport. I found a cab driver who took me directly to my hotel, the Kwheza Bed and Breakfast, which was located right outside of Nairobi, but it was a very safe/secure hotel, which had GREAT internet [I was able to skype call my Dad and Beth], and a GREAT view of the city.  Jana and I finally met up later that evening.

I found out from locals after I left Nairobi, that Nairobi is probably one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I’ve heard that there have been a lot of carjackings there, and fortunately, I was only there for a little while. Jana, who had worked in Nairobi for two months before, said that she really loved the city, and said that its bad reputation was overrated.

The thing that I disliked the most about Nairobi was the smog, and the general dirtiness. I was corresponding with my friend Henry, and I really blame foreign companies from coming into Nairobi and operating their manufacturing industry, not to the higher anti-pollution standards [still, way too low] imposed in America. Especially from traveling through the African countryside, Africa has great natural beauty, but I think foreign companies like America are destroying it.

Well, I will end my description of part one of the journey, here, leaving you with a couple of cliffhangers.

Did I ever make it to Arusha? Did I ever start work at the ICTR? Did I ever find housing? Did my stuff make it with me? What does Harvard, Columbia and the U now have in common?

[For potentially worried family members/significant other, the answer to all of the questions above is yes. Sorry to ruin the surprise for everyone else, but then again, everyone knows I secretly hate surprises.]

Talk to you all soon. I miss you all, but I am well.

A picture of Nairobi from my hotel.

Khweza Hotel

Asante sana! Heri, mate!


  1. "I think foreign companies like America are destroying it."

    William you're ruining your future campaign for the Presidency. Although. I agree with you that America is a terrible company ;)

    Have fun.


  2. Happy to hear things are off to a great start. I miss you bunches

  3. What do Harvard, Columbia and the U all have in common (Somehow I don't think the answer to THAT question is Yes). Keep on blogging, it is thrilling to hear of your adventures as Eli and I sit on our butts, eat ice cream and watch So You Think You Can Dance. Be Safe