Westgate Mall was the first place I ever visited in Kenya. I arrived late from DR Congo and had a glass of wine with a colleague and friend at a great place called Art Cafe. After months in the bush I remember feeling far too scrappy for chic Nairobi.
Since then I can’t count the number of times I have been there. I would venture to say it would actually be more times than our local mall in DC. It is also as outrageous as if the Pentagon City Mall were attacked and taken under siege.
When James came to meet me in Kenya on an R&R from Afghanistan we spent nearly every morning there for breakfast as we decided what our plan was for the day. James got his hair cut there in a barber shop next door to a sushi place on the top floor that is popularly know for Latin dancing on Thursday nights.
We all knew it was a clear target by Al Shabaab, and perhaps others. It was like a game of risk, knowing that at some point it could happen. Just like the airports I fly through and the city I live in. As the closest place to our office and guest house, it was also hard to avoid.
Now as I return to Nairobi on Saturday, after just more than a year, I consider all that has now changed, between the airport fire and the attacks at Westgate, it will not be the same. My heart goes out to Kenyans and all those who have made Kenya a home away from home.