A Month In Kenya: Day 20 (Monday, July 10)

Day 20 unfolded slowly at home until we left about 1:00 to meet Kanjii. 

You may remember hearing about a terrorist attack at a Nairobi mall in September 2013. We had been to that mall (Westgate) when we were here in 2010, and it was horrifying to see the footage of people hiding and hurting in the very same areas we had visited while there. 

Day 20 marked our first return visit to Westgate since 2010, and the increased security was even more pronounced than what we've experienced at the other shopping centres on this trip. There were dozens of guards at the entrance. Some stood alongside the road to prohibit cars from stopping, and others stood with fierce dogs at the edge of the steps leading up to the mall. At the top of the steps was a full-fledged metal detector, conveyor belt, and more guards to check inside customers' bags as well as items removed from pockets. Inside it looked just as I remembered it: shiny, well-lit, and lined with upscale-looking stores. It was hard to reconcile what I was seeing with the violent event I knew had happened there.  

We settled at Artcaff√© (a Starbucks-style coffeeshop) for pastries, tea, and a smoothie. Kanjii joined us for a short while when he arrived, then he led us out of the mall and across to the street to his business office. 

Kanjii (pronounced con-JEE) is a brilliant, talented guy who was the original lead singer of Milele, the band Harry was in when I first met him. Since returning to Kenya about 12 years ago, Kanjii had all kinds of successful endeavors, musical and otherwise. (His most recent CD is one of my favorites and you should go buy it immediately.) His wife Mwendie is also creative and passionate. She has written one awesome children's book and is at work on the next. And it's crazy how their milestone life events have paralleled ours. We got married April 30, 2006. They got married twelve days later. They had their first child (daugher Selah) on October 3, 2007. Ezra was born twelve days later. They had their second child (son Benga) on September 7, 2009. Nehemiah was born five weeks later.  

To begin our time together, Kanjii took us to the offices of their business (Kijiji Agency) and filmed the boys doing their own music video in the studio space. The boys were more bashful than I would have expected (like Will Smith in the movie Hitch: "This is where you live. Right here.") but they had an awesome time anyway and were so excited!

Before we left Nairobi, we stopped at Mwendie's favorite butcher for some provisions, then Kanjii drove us all to their home in Red Hill, about 40 minutes northeast of our apartment. I loved visiting their home. First of all, RED Hill?! Perfect name for me. Second, the lush, well-kept lawns and plants in their neighborhood were gorgeous, and their large, rambling home was inviting and beautifully appointed. Third, their area was noticeably colder than Nairobi so we got to have a fire while we drank our after-dinner tea and talked late into the night. Fourth, and more meaningful to me than even a fire, these people are gold. They are kind and generous and deep and soulful, and they made our visit a taste of heaven for sure.      

While the grown-ups talked, the kids played outside on the trampoline until it grew dark then came inside to play video games. Kanjii even had the kids do a couple of divergent thinking exercises (like handing them a fork and saying, "OK, what else could this be or do?). We all sat down to the table together to enjoy a satisfying meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots with a little lemon and sugar, and spinach. The kids went to bed at a ridiculously late hour (11ish) and Nehemiah & Benga were talking and being silly until midnight.