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  • "This is sad," I exclaim over dinner, pointing out the people around us, one to a table, faces ghostly in the light of laptops and voices ringing out in cell phone conversations.

    "It's a business hotel," my friend protests.

    "I know," I say, shaking my head. "But it's still sad."

    We could be anywhere in the world as nothing about the scene screams Nairobi or Kenya or even Africa but for the very slight accent on the man taking our order.

    In the corner, a man strums a guitar and softly sings, seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the restaurant but my friend and I. We smile and clap, thanking him in Swahili, as we return to our conversation of everything and nothing at all.

    We're in between legs of our trip. The first safari has finished and the group has scattered, some to Mombasa for a beach vacation, some back home to DC and beyond, and the two of us to a hotel on "the safest street in Nairobi" (across from the Israeli embassy) to wait for a shuttle to take us to the Kenyan border with No Man's Land and Tanzania beyond.

    For the moment, though, we're still here. In Nairobi. At a business hotel. The tables for breakfast are small as they expect people to dine alone, and they had run out of rooms with pairs of twin beds so instead of giving us a big bed to share, which we would, they have given us rooms of our own, lovely, clean and bright. Stark. Blond wood. White duvet. A single cup for tea on the counter and a single towel on the rack.

    A pad under a pencil on the nightstand bears the words "thought pad." I tuck it into my book as a bookmark and place to jot my thoughts when my computer isn't charged and/or my notebook is missing. Though, I keep losing pens.

    Power outlets dot the walls and the baseboards throughout the hotel and a notice in the rooms apologizes for the speed (or lack thereof) of the internet connection. Apparently, a cargo ship cut a cable by dropping anchor and cut communications for the country. It doesn't feel slow at all as I pull out my own computer and catch up with family and friends.

    A "polite notice" on the door to the hall that leads from reception asks us to keep our noise to a minimum and on the reverse it thanks us for doing the same. We use our room keys to open that door as well as another that leads toward the rooms and to get into the rooms themselves. We used the keys to get through the gate that led to reception, too. Four times. To get to our rooms. Outside, men with guns patrol the area and with the Israeli embassy across the road, it is considered the safest in Nairobi, which is good as last night a bombing in the city killed at least three people and injured 40 more. An explosion at a bus station.

    The news is somewhat unclear on the details of the attack. Multiple explosions or one. A claim of responsibility. Somali rebels. No one seems to know for sure, but our hotel with its small tables and blond wood, guitar and guards, feels a million miles away from the violence.
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