A few days after arriving in Nairobi a few weeks ago, I met a friend of a friend who has since become a friend himself and as we were chatting, my new friend mentioned something about the 12th Kenya National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) to be held at Safari Park Hotel on Thursday, May 29, 2014, which was a couple or so days away.
Curious, I probed more about this and at the end of our conversation, my new friend agreed to arrange for an invitation for me to attend the event.
I was initially to send someone to pick up the invitation but as it turned out, my new friend and I subsequently agreed to meet for lunch over something else where afterwards he gave me the invitation.
I have attended a few of these events back in Washington, DC so I was curious and actually looked forward to attend the one in Kenya if anything to find out how we as Kenyans do ours even though the concept is the same.
Just as in the US NPB, guests are required to be seated by 7:30AM latest, which is usually some good time before the president, who’s usually the chief guest, arrives to grace the occasion.
In practice, the time before the president arrives is time for mingling and/or getting to know those seated on your table and tables, save for a handful or so, are usually non-assigned, meaning you seat wherever you find space.
This is intended to maximize opportunity for attendees to meet and make friends with new people, which is not a bad thing at all and is consistent with the nature and purpose of these NPBs.
A funny anecdote regarding being seated and where later.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 28th, 2014, I had a meeting with another friend of mine at his office and the conclusion of that meeting, I asked him if he was attending the NPB to which he answered in the affirmative.
I told him I was, too and asked him if we could ride together even though I had my own driver who could take me to which he also responded in the affirmative.
“I’ll pick you up at 8AM” were his last words to me as we bid each other goodbye and I left his office.
As I was leaving, I found myself wondering why my friend would pick me up at 8am when I was told and the invitation clearly stated guests must be seated by 7:30AM.
Given I know who the person is and that therefore he had to know the protocols and procedures, I didn’t make much of it.
The following morning my phone rang at just a few minutes after 7am, “sorry, we must leave now!” were the words on the other end.
It was my friend who noted he was mistaken as to what time we were to be at the venue.
Fortunately, I had gotten up early and was already getting ready so I told him I was ready.
“Where are you?” my friend inquired, “Well, I am at _______but I can’t really tell you how to get here so let me get someone to tell you.”
I had someone give my friend’s driver instructions only to have them drive right past the gate and discovered this at a point where coming back would take forever as it would be with traffic.
Realizing this, my friend called me and wondered if in lieu of him coming back with that heavy traffic, if I could just walk over to where they had pulled over and not too far from where I was I said I would and did just that.
That was an experience as is the case walking anywhere in Nairobi for yours truly which I avoid altogether for a number of reasons not the least of which is I never know which side to look for traffic, coming from the Keep Right world, the rude, unyielding drivers who would rather run you over than be 3 seconds late to kiss the car bumper parked ahead and going absolutely nowhere in heavy, non-moving traffic, fear of being hit dead cold in the face by a stranger who doesn’t like the way you look, etc.
Indeed, the last time I recall actually walking CBD was a long time ago I was with my sister and suddenly, out of nowhere, this lady carrying a baby appeared and started walking side-by-side with us asking for money.
My sister quickly took some cash from her purse and gave her what she would later tell me was a large bill but she didn’t care.
“Did you see what she had on her hand,” my sister inquired.
“No I didn’t; what was it?”
“She had spit likely mixed with poop on her hand had we refused to give her money, she would have dumped the entire content on our faces!”
I am fairly certain that was the last time I walked anywhere beyond into and out of a car into or from a building in CBD.
But I digress.
Back to walking toward where my friend had pulled over, this made sense because we were already late and any further delay in traffic would make matters worse so with someone in tow or more precisely ahead of me, we briskly walked toward where my friend was waiting and in less than 10 minutes I was in his car and off we left for Safari Park.
As it would turn out, we arrived ahead of the president and actually still found people mingling but given there were no seats assigned, save for a few individuals like the president, the Speakers, some cabinet secretaries, etc, my friend just told me to watch wherever he sits and sit on the same table as we were to leave together immediately the president finished making his remarks as both he and I separately had other engagements following the event and did not want to be caught up with everyone leaving.
My friend then takes a seat on one of the few designated tables this one for diplomats but knowing I was not my friend, I said to myself, “no; don’t sit there lest some diplomat comes and you’re told to get moving!”
More on this later–the anecdote I first refer to above.
So, next to the table my friend took a seat was another table where there was only one person sitting out of a possible 10. The table was the first one to the right of the entrance to the huge tent where the event was held, and therefore next to the open air and field, which was ideal for me as I tend to get closer phobic.
As soon as I took my seat and said hi to the only other person sitting there, I saw the table was also reserved for diplomats!
Fortunately, it turned out to be an overflow table for diplomats and several other late comers who were not diplomats joined us to my relief one actually turned out to be a brother of my friend and he and I have also since become good friends.
One of these was a Parliamentary staff member who by way of introduction said I could never figure where she was from going by her last name and surely enough I couldn’t; it turns out she’s from one of our little known communities I now forget (no pun intended) but I was nonetheless happy to see a young member of this community as she is doing something within the corridors of power and hope that she, too, can some day be just that power.
Shortly thereafter, the president and his entourage entered and the program started.
More in Part II coming soon.