Monthly Archives: August 2011

Private island for sale

If you’re in the island-buying business you’re in luck: there’s a private island for sale in Lake Victoria, the lake that borders Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. I happened to be perusing the property boards in the mall the other day and this caught my eye:


You have to wonder whether the “resort on site” is part of the deal? I also wonder if there’s some sort of protection against President Museveni of Uganda, as he’s been known to make bold claims with regards to Uganda’s interests in the lake region of East Africa. I’d hate to spend my life’s savings on an island only to have it usurped by some politician!

Who wants a postcard?

I was just sitting here thinking that I hadn’t sent a postcard to any friends or family since last year when I was in Malawi. I thought about all the people I know in cool places around the world who I could send one to; and then I had an idea: it would be kinda cool to send a bunch of postcards to anyone who wants one, even people I don’t know! Postcards are cheap, fun and unique, so why not?

So… who wants a postcard from Nairobi?

If you want one, leave a comment below to say something like “Hi!”, and maybe where you’re from, then e-mail your mailing address to [email protected]. If you leave your address in the comments I will erase it so that weird people don’t come hang out at your house when you’re on vacation! You’re welcome ;)

Kenyan queue dynamics

Kenyans have weird queue dynamics. First, I understand that the word “weird” is relative/subjective, but I hope it’s not offensive. Second, I may not be Kenyan, but I’ve lived in Kenya since 2007 (yes, including ocha… for two solid years). I’m not bluffing when I say that I’ve stood in plenty of queues during my years in Kenya.

In the bank…

Yesterday I was at the bank waiting to see a teller about a wire transfer. The place was a bit hectic, but the line wasn’t too long. After a few minutes of waiting I was in the front of the queue, the next person to be serviced. Another few minutes passed and a chair finally freed up, but I still stood there in the queue; I wanted eyeballs, body language or some other form of confirmation from the teller that she was ready for me to come sit down.

After no more than five seconds of hesitation, the man behind me pointed and told me, “You can go there.” Our ensuing dialog was as follows:

  • Me: “I’ll wait until she calls me.”
  • Him: “She won’t.”
  • Me: “She will.”
  • Him: “She won’t.”
  • Me: “She will.”

After another ten seconds the teller was free and signaled me over. As I went to sit down I turned back and told the man behind me, “It’s polite to wait.

Maybe Kenyan culture is different, but it just feels right for me to wait. Is it safe to assume that, because the man behind me was Kenyan, and because the teller was Kenyan, that she would have expected me to behave in the same manner? Were it me behind the desk I would have thought it rude for clients to simply barge forward, out of turn. What do you think?

At the grocery store…

I was baffled again by queue dynamics a few weeks ago when standing in line to checkout at the grocery store. It was around 8 or 9 in the evening, and I had ten or so items. There were two people in front of me, and one or two people behind me. I was just chatting with Cassandra when, all of the sudden, a dude with a bag of spinach squeezes by us with all sorts of haste and intent.

Assuming he was with one of the people in front of us, we made that courteous, passive sound you always tend to make in that situation, and scooted over so he could pass easily (you know that sound, it’s something like, “Ooop!“). When he passed it became clear that he didn’t know anyone up there, and that he was just cutting.

I was a bit put off. When I have one item and the line is long, I just stand quietly in the back and wait for my turn to checkout. Some nice person inevitably says, “Oooh, it’s ok, you can go before me.” That way everyone wins, right?

It’s entirely possible that it’s a Nairobi thing… Kenyans, what do you think?

American food

Kenyans always want to know what the staple food is in America. Maybe I’m not a typical American, but I always say that we don’t have one. A typical Kenyan meal revolves around ugali (a thick maize porridge), usually accompanied by some sort of greens like spinach or kale, and roasted, boiled, or fried meat. While a case could be made that hamburgers are America’s staple, I generally just say, “In American people eat whatever they feel like eating.”

It is true that we/I eat a lot of fast food, but home-cooked meals made from store-bought ingredients also vary in shape, size, and ethnicity. Here’s a photo diary of a few things I ate while I was home for about a week in California (in no particular order):

Keep in mind that I’ve been out of the States for a year and only home for a very short time, so I was on a bit of a fast food bender. So when you see me back in Kenya and I look a little chubby… be nice. I’m looking forward to getting back to my rice-and-beans diet when I return to Kenya.