Visiting Nairobi, as a first timer, is a pure baptism of fire. Surprising emotions always surface at the thought of the ‘real world’ in which we have newly entered. It’s usually a blend of anticipatory anxiety and excitement. The former outweighs the latter. It is a feeling of loss, of uncomfortable and unforseen struggle – It is this awful trepidation.
Stepping into this city, you are not the same person you were when you emanated from home. You are a total freak. You get to know parts of you you didn’t know existed. You look upon the new place as a curiosity and then also wonder if there is like a snake that might bite you.
Our greatest fear remains taking a step and not knowing where our foot will land. Furthermore, it is kind of a sacrilege to ask just anybody for directions. Those relatives who stay in Nairobi should come for us from the stage. Do not leave us all in the hands of vague directions – the number on the matatus we should board and the colour of kitambaa a ¹mama mboga in our supposed destination wears.
If possible, conduct city walk tours to us. Show us Mama Ngina Street from somewhere called Hilton. Take us to see the statue of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. You must also not forget to conduct some cultural orientations, we want it the way only a teenager can want something!
To you, coming from the city centre into the suburbs where you live is as easy as pie. But to us who lived their lives in the village, getting lost is something that happens to the best of us, the rest of us, the most seasoned travellers of us. We get disoriented sometimes.
You’ve never heard something like Jericho School of pickpockets yet there exist a slew of these professionals. They don’t come individually. They come as disgruntled party members looking for clearance to run as independents. It is an invasion.
These are folks whose part time job is body building, you freak at the sight of their muscles. They are not your yesterday’s ragged rascals, they are highly refined operatives, who are fashion conscious and well fed. They know how to tell the difference between someone from Kisumu and one from Kindaruma North.
Our abounding fear is always this impending firsthand experience with gentlemanly goons – “working middle class men”, doing some off-duty errands. You wonder where to keep your phone, before they can dip a huge chunk of their Mathare hands into your pockets.
Acting a Nairobian
To survive the pickpockets and muggers, you’ve got to fake it till you make it. Act like a nairobian. Pretend you are singing some random Sauti Sol song with hands flying high in the air. Be doing something rather than standing still creating an impression you are lost or waiting for someone. If you spot a male – with descriptions akin to pickpockets – greeting you in public, thrust his fist with yours mid-air – I mean give him very strong ‘gottas,’ ensure you are mumbling some words like ‘ fiti fiti mzae.’ And do remember this rule number one: wear close-to-dirty, unappealing old clothes.
¹ vegetable vendor