The end of last year began with mediocre meal at the best Latin restaurant in Nairobi. That’s right: the best Latin restaurant in Nairobi. May as well be the tallest mountain in Kansas or the prettiest girl at Cornell.
But the Stella was cold. Hell, they actually had Stella.
At around 11:00 we headed off to my other favorite spot in Westlands when we realized Havana has no bubbly. A New Years without bubbly is like nachos without cheese.
I’d done the work a number of times, and had no trouble. But I’d never walked it with a white woman before.
As we turned a corner, a young man walked up to me asking me for money. I ignored him.
“Just five shillings,” he pleaded.
I slowed, realizing the pittance he was soliciting. It was then I heard a woman’s scream. I had increased my pace due to the boy’s nagging, and left my friend a little behind me.
I whirled around, my eyes darting and my fists clenched. The boys were running away, but my friend was hurrying towards me. They had tried to grab her purse, but she had iron-fisted grip and they were thwarted.
She said she was alright and I walked with my around her for the rest of the way.
We arrived at Gypsy, a big hangout for Indian expats. It’s four bars right in a row with a big patio that interconnects all of them. I apologized for my naïvety and compromising her safety. I was angry at myself for falling for an easy no-lookie con. But my friend was cool about it, and we were in a safe haven for booze once more.
Unfortunately there were only Freixenet minis left. So I got a six pack and we partied white trash style, carrying the full ones in our left hands and drinking from the bottle.
We counted down at midnight and it was a pretty ordinary New Years despite being thousands of miles away from the country in which I’d celebrated the occasion ever other time in my life.
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New Years has never been about the celebration for me. It’s a night for amateurs. As well, it’s never been about looking forward and making resolutions. Mostly it’s about looking back.
2006 was an amazing year. I traveled the world, living in a near eternal summer. New Years last year in Manhattan, a week in Vermont at the beginning of January, skiing outside Vegas on my birthday, and August in Scotland was about as lousy as I had it.
The Birds came back from 5-6 winning only to win the next five straight and are more fired for the playoffs than any other team around. Not to mention their third strings and rookies walked all over Atlanta to round out the season.
Feldheim, a collaborative music blog between some friends really took off.
I became a Vegas karaoke celebrity.
I got a new laptop.
I went skydiving with some of my best friends from college.
I drove across the United States with one of my best friends from Bethlehem.
I got new and challenging job in a new nation and on a new continent.
Rumsfeld got fired.
And I found a beautiful, supportive girlfriend.
2006 was spectacular by any standards, yet I can’t help but look forward this time around. The biggest project of my professional career is taking off. Before that happens, I get to spend two weeks running around Cairo, Giza, and the beaches of Zanzibar. And I am beginning to truly feel at home in this new and different place.
Things are great now.
But it’s only gonna get better.
Happy New Year.