I'm not sure how I imagined Nairobi to look. All I knew of the city was based on faded memories from Robert Ruark's "Something of Value," which I read when I was barely 18.
The city's architecture is fantastic, square white buildings of several stories, slashed by sunlight and shade, wrote Ruark nearly 60 years ago. Goatskin-caped Masai with spears and ocher-clay make-up swagger arrogantly along the sidewalks.
Ruark's characters would sip iced gin in the lobby of the New Stanley Hotel while a much younger Erin watched on, sighing and fantasizing about this far-off place.
Flash forward to September 21, 2013. Nairobi pours out from my television looking nothing like Ruark's exotic jungle oasis, but a whole lot like Any City, U.S.A., except this city was enduring a terrible nightmare. The images from frantic phone cams raced across my screen revealing things so familiar: shelves lined with snack foods, a Clarks shoe store--exactly like the one from which I purchased a pair of loafers a year ago. Tables and upended chairs littered a food court just like the one where my daughter and her friends giggle over frothy lattes and Orange Julius.
Nairobi is no far-off place. Nairobi is our city. Nairobi is my city.
My friend Kirsten Bell got it right when she said, "We are a global community allied against terrorism, and need to behave as one."
Heart to Kenya. Tears for Nairobi.
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