Speed bumps were placed somewhat indiscriminately upon the main highways and secondary roads. It was obvious that these were not planned for protection of pedestrians. Their most common function was to test the vehicle's nonexistent shock absorbers, tire pressure or the weight of passengers or cargo being carried. In most cases, these traffic control devices were so severe as to cause each vehicle to slow from its typical right next speed to a near stop, before speeding off again. As in many other cultures, automobiles come first and have the right-of-way, often missing the many people walking on the shoulder of the highways by inches. Even on the modern thoroughfares, of which there are a number, cutting in front of other drivers, tailgating and driving far beyond the mechanical safety margins of the vehicles are all part of normal everyday traffic congestion. Of course, all of this is slightly more disconcerting to North American visitors, given the fact that Kenya is a right-hand drive country (like South Africa).
Since arriving in Kenya it has been difficult to get a grip on which is the real Kenya. It is a country, like others in Africa, with an abundance of contradictions. It has incredible beauty, and some extraordinarily modern commercial and residential skyscrapers. Yet urban housing for the poor often consists of little more than a small, tin shack or mud and sticks structures with none of the basic services available. Despite being equatorial, it is green in many places, yet struggles with supplying many of its citizens with the basic requirement of clean water. Education and healthcare can often be out of reach for the country's poor, thereby condemning them to shortened lives, and a lifelong search for meaningful and remunerative work. Yet there is a thirst for knowledge that drives young people who will form the future of this country. The country's capital, Nairobi, is proud of its multinational company offices and modern technology, equal to many Western cities. Yet the rural population ekes out a living farming small plots of land or working in tiny shops that make minimal profit despite working long hours.
Our experiences with the contradictions that make up Kenya were numerous, commencing from the moment we first arrived. Despite being the hub of this East African country, the Nairobi International Airport lacks any of the polish of an international point of entry. On the other hand, Kisumu International Airport is modern, efficient even though it is small (only 3 gates) and, despite its name, has no international flights arriving or departing from its facilities. On a side note, the Kisumu International Airport does have one of the best bookstores we have encountered, despite the fact that it is no more than 10 ft.² (3 m²).