South B is my neck of the woods. It’s – predictably – in the south of Nairobi about a thirty minute walk from the centre. And I love it.
We moved here one week after arriving in Kenya and if I’m honest I was nervous. We’d spent a week couped up in a guest house doing induction training and had one too many sessions on the dangers we faced here. Theft, violent crime, traffic accidents. You name it. But sometimes you just get to a place and know you are going to be happy. South B was one of those times.
It’s not a particularly pretty place. In fact, it’s a pretty ugly place. There are hardly any trees, no public green spaces, there is rubbish on the side of the street (which occasionally sets on fire) and the roads are congested.
But it has life and lots of it. Fruit and veg stalls line the streets, run by ladies who alternate between trying to rip you off and waving and smiling as you go past. ‘Shopping Centre’ is the imaginatively named high street where you can get pretty much anything you need and run the gauntlet of matatus. There are two local pubs: Piccolinna’s for excellent vegetable curry, cold Tusker, 80s power ballads and flashing neon lights shaped in a heart to give you a warm glow. And Dream Village, nestled next to a petrol station and serving up late-night Congolese live music and dancing.
But above all else, the thing I love the most is that there are people everywhere, walking round the streets, even after dark. And in Nairobi, a city characterised by insecurity at night with neighbourhoods of faceless compounds with huge security gates, this sense of community is a breath of fresh air.
I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Post script: In case you’re wondering, there is no South A. Funnily enough there is a South C. I’ve done the requisite Google search to find an explanation for this anomaly but can’t find a thing. I’ve even asked the local taxi men who normally have an answer for everything. Nothing. So if you get a lead let me know!