I snapped this picture of a Coca Cola bottle last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
I thought it was cool to see the famous brand name printed in something other than English. In the Amharic language the four characters spell “Coca Cola” phonetically: Co-ca Co-la. The bottom part apparently says “Trademark.”
Kenyans drink a lot of Coca Cola. You can get Pepsi in the fancier stores if you really want it, but I don’t think many Kenyans have ever tried it, haha. I was never a really big soda drinker, but there’s something about having a cold Coke with Mama Oliech’s fried tilapia and ugali! What I didn’t realize until recently was that Kenyan Coke is much like Mexican Coke.
A few weeks ago, while I was in San Diego, I was talking to some buddies about how, in Portland, Oregon, it’s common to see “Mexican” Coke on restaurant menus. One buddy commented that he didn’t like Coke, that it tastes funny. Thinking that I sometimes drink Coke and enjoy it, I said I never noticed that it tasted too sweet or anything. That’s when I realized, that any Coke I have drank in the last few years would have been a Kenyan Coke!
You see, American Coca Cola is sweetened with a syrup derived from corn, high-fructose corn syrup. In America at least, high-fructose corn syrup is a cheap substitute for “real” sugar because of government subsidies on corn and high import tariffs on foreign sugar. Also, fructose is sweeter than sucrose, so corporations cut costs by having to use less.
If you own a restaurant or store and you’re planning to sell cold drinks, Coca Cola will give you a free refrigerator. I guess it’s a good deal but there’s one condition: you can only stock Coca Cola products in the fridge. Sure, Coca Cola’s product line includes something for everyone (even water, Dasani!), but don’t even think about sticking a 7-up or a left-over hamburger in there, man! I’ve been paying attention for a few weeks now and I can’t remember seeing this rule violated. Certainly, the little store at our college has a small fridge and you’d never catch us stocking it with anything but Coca Cola products. The same goes for all the cafes I frequent in Tala.
I wonder what the consequence is if you get caught with an Alvaro (soda from East African Breweries), a Red Bull, or a 7-up in your Coca Cola fridge? Who knows, but it cracks me up to think about the plethora of laws broken every day all over Kenya. To name a few:
Urinating in public (possibly even on the “No Peeing” sign)
Littering! (usually next to the “Keep Kenya Clean” sign)
Smoking in public (yes, it’s illegal)
Carrying extra passengers in matatus (public transport vehicles)
It’s pretty comical, but is the Coca Cola man really that scary? Could an encounter with the big, bad Coca Cola man be worse than a fine for peeing on a wall? What about being sent to jail for stealing (or worse, mob justice)?