Challenge: Write on “Nairobi Living”

Rehema Abdul

Lots can be said about living in the City in the Sun-(the English doesn’t make sense but hey it has stuck with us for so long) and living in this City brings a lot of emotions from her inhabitants and to the passer-bys. From the ruthless drivers who knowingly cross the red lights and drive on pavements and shout insults to those who cross their paths to men who have been emasculated and keep ringing local stations complaining about the women in their lives and have no courage to do something about it. With communication lines opening up through the web and airwaves to mobile technology-Nairobi is on the map and a MUST LOOK out for City with upcoming Metropolis cities coming up with Konza and Tatu on the way to achieving Vision 2030, not forgetting the gap is set to widen as the rich get richer and the poor can expect for this to get worse with inflation rates dancing up the curve and politicians running around with promises they know so well they won’t keep.

Why I love the City of the Sun still, it’s the only place you will get the same guy who was rudging for a matatu in the morning politely queuing for another in the evening and you are astounded at the chameleon tendencies that he possesses. She reacts more often than she acts and in a sense, she is a sleeping giant and has no idea about this. The potential is so immense and no one has ever told her what she can do. She can literally shake the world. I believe the awakening will come from within when she quiets to listen to what she really needs and wants and acts without being controlled by few individuals and mass reaction will be mass action.

Eric Mugendi Nyaga

If there is anything this city has in abundance, it is people. An odd mix of faces, shapes and colours, caught between the pages of life, forming odd lumps in what can best be described as a diary of nothing much, just heading from one end of Metropolis to another, from Ngara to Community, past sweeping, soon-to-be-completed overpasses, heads bowed in silent acceptance, all the while filled with calculations of how much has been stolen from them, ergo how much they have to steal, prices adjusted for inflation, the cost of looking away as the same guy who wanted money for an operation last-week-but-one approaches with hope, asking for money for ‘care’, the smell of chips cooked in transformer oil and chicken that’s been taken for a spin, the odd puddle where clean clothes are soiled by grinning, air-conditioned yahoos with their hire-purchase Vitzes vying for space on the street with a million other metal monsters, trapped in a contest of who gives way to whom, and a brief stop at High Court for airtime…
Back to walking, head still bowed, our intrepid city-crosser reaches Uhuru Park, where the preacher and the odd camera-man angle for willing buyers, and the grass is the wrong shade of brown. Up some stairs, past the massive flagpole and the accompanying panorama, into one of the nondescript buildings, avoiding the lifts (too crowded), aiming for even more stairs.

Upward mobility.
And so, our hero starts to walk up slowly, scraping the mud from his shoes, all the while trying not to think about how this journey shall have to be made again tomorrow…


SirFelix Full-ee Okaka

I open my eyes and I belch out sweet relief when I realise I am not in the City in the Sun. Scratch that..Lets go with the weather and call it The City in the Rainy Clouds.
I do not hate Nairobi. Just that in my scale of preferences it doesnt feature that high up.
I was under the illusion that I ooze Nairobizm by virtue of the fact that I studied in some marquee school along China Superhighway.
How wrong was I. I touched down in Nairobi with the verve of an exploitative multinational company waiting to discover oil from bare ground in Turkana. KTN was my company by circumstance(Kenya Tarmacking Network).
The conductor shouts ‘hamza salasa’ and I stare blankly at him. I heeded his call and boarded the matatu(i saw on twitter that they call it jav). You see how acquainted I was with the Nai-dialect).
I had to tweet something about me ‘veni vidi vici-ing’ Nairobi. I was sitting at the back seat with my kabambe 3g phone which I still insist is not a China phone tweeting when my window was suddenly opened and I felt my phone leaving my hand.
Pause that…
Random fact..research shows that twitter addicts develop strong thumbs as an adaptation to the tweeting.

Play.. The phone remained stuck on my hands but the trauma of my phone being grabbed lasts till today. The ‘salasa’ conductor grins at me and says ‘karibu nairobi kijana’.
I felt naivety creeping up on my back.
With the ‘nyanga’ full we left for hamza salasa only to find out ‘salasa’ was actually the fare charge.
I would have asked the beautiful lady beside me to verify that but the size of the headphones she put on after trying to strike a conversation advised me otherwise.
I was stuck to listening to some mbusih guy on radio saying ‘kung’uta miwa kung’ kung’
‘Hamza mwisho,the conductor shouted.
Paranoid me alighted while the mbusih on radio bleated ‘mambo mbbrchaaa.
Welcome to Nairobi.

Noel Mwachala

I came from a tropical island to the city in the sun, my arrival was marked by heavy dark clouds that soon begun to spit at me, run, run, watch them run, then watch my step as i run. Water is life the why are we running? Some look like they need some life in their existence, maybe the life raining down will only make their existence wetter making them targets to drying, remember this is the city in the sun.

Jonathan Paul

Yesterday after work, I joined a crowd next to an ‘Iko-Toilet’. We all had a common enemy; rain. Someone was feeling my back pocket; they would only find a KBS bus receipt there. A lady sprinting across from us slipped and I heard several people sigh, some from disappointment; others from relief. A young girl with pink, red and blue braids and boxing shoes was popping gum noisily in front of me. The street boy on my left looked at me and asked ‘utanunua phone boss’ producing a handset written ‘NOKLA’ at the back. That was my cue to leave.

Edwin Thedivinebandit Mukabi

Arrive in the city in the sun.
This city has lost its sons.
This is not a humorous pun.
Life was ended by guns.
It’s true we had our fun.
But now my nose runs.
As silent as a virgin nun.
Shadows creep and my soul burns.
The tropical tribalism gives me a permanent tan.
Politicians bribe my friend and his vote turns.
We all do what we can.
Survive the traffic, take home those daily buns.
Its hard enough to be a man.
But the peace of our women, this city shuns.
It murders our grandmothers.
Sexually abuses our sisters.
For all their love, no one bothers.
It’s high time we protected our daughters.
In this city, we feed from our sweat.
That is except our so called leaders.
As the rain falls and the ground is wet.
They print out their lies, we are the readers.
One day it will get better, I bet.
We are still young, look at our baby-feeders.
The stage is finally set.
We are not selling our city to the highest bidder.
The streets of Nairobi are calling.
The time is NIGH, we ROW to success, the city in the sun we shall BE again.

Morris Kiruga

Alighting from the matatu at OTC, does anyone call it that these days? Am in the city now, I was once a stranger but now I know, I have a mental map of the entire city, the inner workings of what they used to call ‘the green city in the sun’. Someone, or people, died on this spot a few months ago, I do not feel the presence of their ghosts, but not to worry, I might still be human after all. So am walking up, towards the unofficial stage behind Khalsa Primary & Secondary (How do those kids study), through the pathway into Bus Station, this place, kids, used to be a mess. You could get lost in this tiny place, and let me not even mention the furor that was the neighboring KBS stage.

It is better now, I tell myself as I navigate through the human traffic, past Tusky’s. I must be ready to furiously shake my head here, because South C matatu conductors can be stubborn. Past Ukwala now, there’s Afya Centre. It was the Hilton before the Hilton, where you met your date or a stranger who did not know any other part of the city.

But am walking on, jumping to avoid being hit by a Langata-bound matatu that just did a U-turn in a place full of human traffic. Cross Tom Mboya Street and head to the walkway that leads you past Nakumatt. Now Moi Avenue, to my left, infront, another Tusky’s. The bushes and shrubs separate us, but I know a bit to the left is the Co-op building, the site of the 1998 bombing. People died, many people died…

But I turn and walk right as I cross the street. Am trying to avoid human traffic, but clearly my chosen path is no better. On the other side I walk on, Kenya Cinema, where almost anyone with teeth watched their first movie, went for their first date, now just a shell, or what’s left of it. It closed up last year, no?
Up, up, a little past the noisy Samba Restaurant and I take a left because Kencom Stage, perhaps this city’s busiest bus station where the conductor who screams himself or herself hoarse is not the one who picks your fare. Hard times this, even that they had to subcontract, it’s an art too, I hear.

Am on the Aga Khan Walk side, walking on, through Reinsurance Building and across Taifa Street (I think). Infront is the High Court Parking lot, where I bought the amulet that has been donning my right wrist for the last three years. I did not buy it from a witchdoctor-cum-judge, but on a weekend when it transforms into Maasai market.

A little to my right, City Hall Way, and then a quick left. Behind me International Life House, and next/across the short street, the monstrous Hilton Hotel, with a Bata shop on its ground floor where I have met more people than I care to remember, inside whose arcade I cannot stop myself from staring at the phone display, sometimes the watches, the occasional shoe polish.

But am not headed there, am crossing the road, away from High Court and towards St. Ellis House. A quick turn right and there’s where the City Fathers sit and plot about plots and morgues with broken fridges and occassionally build consensus by throwing chairs and punches at each other. On my right, is Nakumatt, formerly Woolmatt, next to it Salama House, my first workplace several years past, a building on a street (Wabera, named after the PC, or DC, Hussein Wabera) that I did not know existed until my first day on the job…I smile, memories…

Timothy Mugambi

Like a weed.(seen it all before)

Take a step into the road, all like color-blind fools.
J-walk out of convenience (partly out of choice), speeding past everyone,
missing each face that passes by. You made them all into a collective blur.
Head down inside, yet the rebellious one holds it high to the world. Too self-conscious
to discover the simple truth, “they really don’t care”.
Woke up with the unknown urge to please “them” ,an had the gut to lie in the mirror to lie that You are ruler of Your own destiny.
Slowly moving traffic, You are the drug moving in the veins of the city… intoxicating it with a mediocre air of self preservation, an identical cog in this well oiled machine, but You make this city high every time You break the mold.
Slip into the second hand shops, get some thing to impress them all. What they’ve seen all so many times before, yet You’ll rock this.
Heading off home, so You start a scrum-down on the commuter line… as if home is some constantly shifting fictional palace. An elbow here, a grunt there, a shove, a push, and a mean sheng word to top it all off. Unknown , You all get in.
Seated like a scholar, in self imposed silence…listening to the crazy radio presenter feeding out their verbal effluence to the poor soul that will listen.
Hey, You never missed a thing, You’ll do it all again.
… or not

Ivy Mutisya

‘Eish…Sura mbaya..hebu songa! ‘ I turn back to see a high-school boy heckle at a group of young girls. The girls from a different high-school cower and turn the eyes to the ground. Each of them having the exact same thought, “Did he mean me?” One day it won’t matter to them…I walk away not saying a word, neither one to reprimand nor to encourage. I hate public transport…They dropped me off at Ngara again! Odeon, my foot! I don’t want to seem intimidated by the environment or the distance to “actually town”, a scared woman is an easy target. Chin up…Bring it Nairobi. “Eh siste na si umebeba…” man walking next to me, a little too close for comfort. “Erm..asanti?” no ignore the bugger, I’m a lady. That’s not how you talk to a lady. Bigger strides, maybe I can shake him. “Malaya wewe, kwani umebebea nani?” If I laugh he will only get madder. So here I am on display for good old Nairobi, Strange man in tow insulting my outfit (picked out with public transport in mind) and not a word from a soul neither to encourage nor reprimand… and now the question I see other women (which is what I am now…most of the time) recognize on my face…”why do Nairobi men hate their women?”

Zaynah McAdam

_The NIGHT, BOYS AND A CRISIS In Nairobi City_
How could she have forgotten about the withdrawal. Arianna scolded herself well knowing exactly why her sister’s money was still in her Mpesa and why it had eluded her all evening. And it went without saying that it had everything to do with warm-eyed lovely face with an enchanting smile. The thought of Joe and the wonderful evening they had, automatically brought a smile on her face as she trodded away towards Zeep. Dinner at Dancing spoon has never been that delectable! A quick glance at her watch told her that it was almost midnight. Perfect timing! Just when the matatu was about full, she had remembered about the money. The money she had promised her sister to go back with. Not to mention it had been in her phone all week. She had to get to an Mpesa tonight!

Arianna hastened her pace hoping that it wont start raining, because the cold was already getting to her. But obviously that wasn’t stopping people from gong into the Creamy Inn some paces ahead. Immediately she got to the Mpesa stand just next to Zeep, she anxiously reached out for her purse to remove her ID card and absently asked the attendant if she could withdraw some money. The lady claded in a green and white t-shirt rudely claimed that they were closing up. Not that it surprised her; the ladies at that particular Mpesa were often- if not always- moody.

With frustration, Arianna walked away taking her right, then quickly crossed the zebra-crossing without having to look much to the right, left and right again, since the road was almost deserted. Plus she was not ready to deal with the bunch of street kids that were heading her way. She rushed past Ibrahim Electronics and that extensive piece of glass at the foot path in front of Sarova Stanley, which she frequently wished was a mirror.. Looking around, there was no Mpesa in sight. Sad to admit but the only place she could get help that time of the night was if she went all the way to Lifestyle. Not that she had a choice anyway.

Three minutes later, Arianna was going past the pretty blue I & M building and heading straight on. Pulling her jacket closer, she wondered why there was no much light on that particular street. And a sigh of relief left her as she took the corner at the Barclays building, and walked towards the staircase infront of Lifestyle. Arianna has never been so glad to see so much light! And thanks heavens the Mpesa just before the chemist was open. Her quest for an Mpesa had finally come to an end.
No she would not go check out the pretty bracelets and colourful bangles that were displayed at the stall opposite Nakumatt Lifestyle, she told herself after the money was in her bag. She knew herself too well. Plus she had already spent quite a fortune on the jewelery she had bought at Maasai Market over the weekend.

Standing infront of the glass doors, next to the cake-stand outside Lifestyle, Arianna hoped beyond hope that she would bump into somebody she knew. The thought of walking all the way back to the other side of town alone was close to traumatizing. But no one she knew was in sight. There was only one way out of this one. Call up Duncan. The guy she had refused to go out with on countless occasions. The one person she was sure would to come to ‘her rescue’ the moment she called him. He did say he was at Lifestyle Lounge after all.

Despite having ignored his calls all day, she picked up her phone and scrolled down to his number. She hesitated a bit, debating on whether she should really press the green button or not. Looking at the darkness and secluded roads stretched infront of her quickly made her mind up. She had no choice but to call Duncan. The one person she didn’t want to see earlier was the one person who could help her right now.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I missed this one. I have something i had written earlier about Nairobi on my last day before i left. I will publish on my blog then share 🙂


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