Early this year, I received my letter of transfer from my organization. Mark and I were officially moving to Nairobi! I had requested for this transfer because Mark had been offered a position in the city. I felt lucky and happy to have gotten it, especially since it came quite easily. But as soon as I did, I started going through the motions.

First, came excitement. I was finally getting to visit Kenya – a place I have always dreamt about travelling to. However, I understood that visiting a country for a couple of weeks was one thing, living in it was and is a completely different situation altogether. After Mark moved to Lagos two years ago, we often explored the options of living in a different country. Being travellers at heart, we always knew that a move away from Nigeria, whether temporarily or permanently, was in our future. But now that the time had come for us to make that move, I began to feel nervous and overwhelmed.

Lagos to Cotonou Road Trip 2019

We decided to break the news to my parents on the day of our legal marriage ceremony and we decided that it was best the news came from me. But as we sat across my parents at lunch, I couldn’t bring myself to look at my mother in the eye and tell her that we were moving to Kenya.

As a woman who spends a lot of time watching international cable news, my mother doesn’t necessarily view Nairobi as a safe city to travel to, let alone live in. This was also a view I partially shared because of news of insecurity I had seen in parts of the city. I wanted to visit Nairobi but I did not want to live there. The irony isn’t lost on me that we both live in Nigeria, a country plagued with cases of insecurity and bad press but you know, we always tend to see the speck of dirt in other people’s eyes and ignore the log in ours.

When my sister and I visited Tanzania in 2016, we transited through the Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and my mum barely slept a wink until we got back from our 2-week holiday. Yes, it was difficult for me to tell her about this move. So, Mark did. And I watched her take the news – her eyes rolled to the back of her head, I thought she was going to faint!

NG and I in Tanzania

My mother wears her heart of her sleeves and could never successfully hide her expressions. She was visibly upset. My dad, on the other hand, took the news like a champ – at least in front of us. We all then tried to offer encouraging words to her. Eventually, she gave her blessings after Mark had a one-on-one conversation with her, while my dad and I went to use an ATM.

Moving to Nairobi – The Journey

With my parents on board, the excitement started to build up again. But then, Covid-19 hit and stalled our plans to move for several months. Five months after our original transfer dates, we arrived in Nairobi via a charter flight. A friend of mine, Fisayo A., who is an avid reader of this blog helped get us on that flight and I cannot say enough, how thankful I am for and to her. It seemed like our lives, post-marriage, had been on hold for some time and being able to get that flight gave us an opportunity for a fresh start.

Moving to Nairobi

In the last few days as we packed up to leave, my nerves got the best of me again. More than being apprehensive about leaving my family, friends and the life I had in Lagos, I was worried about the one I would live in Nairobi. Would I love the city? What would our lives be like here, Mark and I? Would my new life be a constant comparison of the one I leave in Lagos? Would my accent give away my nationality and would I be pre-judged before given the chance to prove myself?

For this last thought, I didn’t have to wonder for long. Upon arrival at JKIA in Nairobi, a Port Health official simply glanced at my passport and decided that my yellow fever card certificate was invalid. She asked me to step aside while she waived other travellers past, barely even looking at their cards. Some of them had old and washed up cards and she didn’t even bat an eyelid.

We had arrived at about 1 am, tired and worn out from a long day of travel and she refused to speak to us or tell us why she thought the card was invalid. At some point, she got very chatty and friendly with a traveller who didn’t have a yellow fever card at all. I suspected that she might have let him through if we weren’t there.

After several minutes, she put a call through to her colleague who came and confirmed that the card was fine and the problem was due to a particular date not being legible. It was a sour first impression into the country but the friendly immigration officer we encountered made up for it.

Jomo Kenyatta airport
At JKIA in 2016

Another thing I wondered about was what working here would be like. While I have undergone work-related training in several countries, I have only ever worked in four – Namibia, Liberia, Egypt and Congo. In Namibia and Liberia, where I spent a month and 2 weeks respectively, I worked aboard a ship with people from multiple nationalities and English was the common language spoken. It wasn’t much different from my experience working in Nigeria.

In Egypt, where I spent 3 months working, my interpersonal relationship with the clients was almost non-existent because they spoke a different language. Nevertheless, the job and general work culture were not very much different than what I was used to. Congo, however, did feel different. The laid back attitude to work and the long break hours were things I struggled with in the beginning but later grew to appreciate. How would working in Kenya compare to these two?

One of the ways I felt my work relationships could have been better, both in Cairo and Pointe-Noire, Congo, was learning the local language. So for the past few months, I have dedicated myself to learning to speak Swahili fluently. I have had vivid dreams of getting a new client to agree to a product purchase, simply because I was able to convince them to do so in Swahili. Of course, I know this is silly. Sometimes, the dream turns into a nightmare when the audience realizes that I have only memorized the presentation and cannot respond adequately to their questions.

It would be a long time before I learn to speak fluently or integrate fully into the Kenyan life but I am looking forward to doing so.

Nigerian International Airport

Since our arrival, we have settled in quite nicely. After spending 4 days quarantining in a government chosen facility, we moved into our apartment to self-quarantine for an additional 10 days. We got released early because our negative COVID-19 test certificates were still valid. Even after the quarantine duration has passed, we will continue to apply the same level of caution as we did during our months of isolation at home in Lagos.

I am of course, also looking to exploring Nairobi and Kenya in general, as well as other East African countries, safely and as a tourist. I will be sharing both my tourist and non-tourist life here and on Instagram and I welcome you to join me on this wonderful adventure!

I would love to hear from you! What kind of content are you most looking forward to reading about? Everyday life? Work-life? Tourist life? Also, If you been to Nairobi, please share some of your favourite spots with me in the comment section below. And finally, I would also love to hear your tips about moving to a new country or city if you’ve gone through this experience before.

41 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Congratulations on the move.

  2. Avatar

    Congratulations Amarachi!
    I am definitely looking forward to everything, the work-life, everyday-life, tourist life and I hope to visit Nairobi early next year if this whole COVID19 relaxes.

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    Awwwwnnn. I think with change generally in different aspects of life comes with uncertainty, deep thoughts and more.

    Glad your mum gave her blessings.
    Trust you are checking up on her from time to time, am sure she will be missing you.

    I pray and hope one day we get to the point where humans don’t judge based on nationality, tribe, race etc.

    I’m looking forward to all of the jist: from everyday life, to work life to tourist life.

    Seems it will be a long time before we get another YouTube video on through our eyes channel.

    • Avatar

      Thanks for your comment, Faith. I will certainly be writing about all those aspects. Ah, Through our Eyes..we will try to work something out πŸ™‚
      Also, so far, Nairobi has been great. People I have interacted with so far have mistaken me for Kenyan and once I learn Swahili fluently, I won’t even correct them anymore!

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    I wish you a beautiful stay in Kenya. I felt almost the same way when I was travelling for master studies and probably a long stay in Germany. The language, the food and how to quickly integrate into their system, was a huge challenge. Its almost 1 year now and I am fine and coping well. I speak little German now. So, I guess it’s only a matter of time.

    However, I am looking forward to visit Kenya perhaps during my next trip to Nigeria. Hopefully Covid-19 would have gone.

    • Avatar

      Thank you, Oladayo. Great to hear that you are settling in nicely. I would love to hear more about your coping mechanism. Did you find a Nigerian community in Germany or did you just go with the flow and not actively try to seek that out? Hope you get to visit Kenya. It is a truly beautiful country.

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    Congratulations on the move, Amarachi! Why do I feel like I’m missing you. Lol! I’m sure you will do great and Kenya will be good to you.

    Maybe we’ll finally be able to connect outside of Nigeria. 😁

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      Haha, I know exactly how you feel. The internet makes the world smaller, I actually feel like I have met you before. I hope we do get to connect or travel within or outside Nigeria.

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    Awww.. Sorry about the yellow card issue. Hopefully we get to the stage where we are not judged by our nationality. Looking forward to all, work life, travel life and everyday life. Best wishes to you both as you settle in.

  7. Avatar

    Congratulations on the move. With time, it would be an exciting stay.

  8. Avatar

    Lovely account. And congrats on your move! Got fond memories of my visit to Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, and the unforgettable Hell’s Kitchen in Marafa. Also a great opportunity for you to explore East Africa – Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, et al. Enjoy!

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    This is huge, wish the very best settling down in a new city. Will reach out if I’m ever in Nairobi

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    Welcome to East Africa! Hello from next-door Uganda πŸ™‚
    Nairobi is an incredible place. There is so much to see and do (but it’s very fast paced).
    Take time to explore green spaces such as Uhuru Gardens (in town) and Nairobi National Park (for a safari).
    The Murumbi African Heritage Museum is my all-time favourite place. I have to visit on every trip.

    • Avatar

      Asante Sana and thanks for the suggestions. I will be sure to check all these places out. I am also looking forward to visiting Uganda and exploring more of East Africa in general.

  11. Avatar

    Congratulations on your move. I am sure you’ll settle in nicely.

    I’ll love to read about work life and how you find your feet in Kenya.

    All the best!

  12. Avatar

    Happy for you, Amarachi. And I trust you and Mark will have a wonderful time there 😊 I have been to Nairobi twice but never really got to explore her. She is definitely on my “must-explore-list” πŸ˜„ Looking forward to your adventures πŸ‘£

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    So glad you both were able to go and that your mom came round eventually! Super excited to see content from you; daily life, traveling within the continent etc. I hope your time living in Kenya is amazing!!!

    ++ Yess to learning a new language!

  14. Avatar

    Fisayo A. sure did you a good one Amarachi. Congrats again on your moving and I think you should start with the city life before getting all touristy especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Also, knowing in-and-out of the city will help you enjoy touring the neighborhood much more!

  15. Avatar

    This post is so heartwarming. Congratulations again.
    Quick question – have you started eating Kenyan food or you’re still playing it safe.
    I’d definitely love to read about everyday life.
    I’m upset with the immigration officer – it pains me when Africans are prejudiced against fellow Africans.
    Wishing you the most amazing stay.

    • Avatar

      Girl, you’re a real one! Asante sana to you and Joy.
      Haha, I haven’t eaten any traditional kenyan food yet – but I have eaten foods made by Kenyans :D.. soooo, same?
      Oh, the joys of travelling while Nigerian. I truly hope it does get better.

  16. Avatar

    Congratulations, Amarachi. The fact that you’ve been learning Swahili is beautiful, I wish to hear you speak someday.

    And about the contents, well, this is me signing up for all. Give them to us detail by detail.

    You take care. You and Mark.πŸ’•

  17. Avatar

    Awwww. Congratulations on finally moving. I look forward to hearing all about Kenya from you.

    I’m always “terrified” of moving; the uncertainties, letting go of the familiar. Whew!! Let me draw strength from you in case relocation is in my future. Lolll.

    Wishing you the very best. My love to Mark.

  18. Avatar

    Congratulations on the move. Wishing you all the good things of life. Hope to hear from you about the life, hot spots visited etc.

  19. Avatar

    Visiting a country for 2 weeks its a whole lot different compared to staying permanent in the country. Kenyans are nice and calm people. Congrats!

I love to hear from you!