Something is seriously wrong in Kenya. I rarely have problems with people over charging me or being abusive to me, but lately I’ve noticed that if I’m with black Kenyans those problems occur more often than when I’m by myself. A few examples…
There’s a great second-hand, open-air market just outside of Nairobi’s business district, Kikomba. You can get good shoes, shirts, bed sheets, pants, etc for really cheap in “Gikosh!” Remember the gay marriage hat I saw there one time? I spotted that when I was there with my Dutch friend Renske. I’ve been with all sorts of people, and the experience is always different:
- With white girl: People generally impressed by our Swahili — a man even told me, “Swahili yako imenibamba” (your Swahili made me happy, or “jazzed” him)
- With black girl: Someone yells, “Umeshika mzungu!” (you’ve “caught” a white guy) to my friend.
- With black guy: Someone asked him if he was my tour guide…
Yesterday evening I was waiting for a matatu (minibus used for public transport) at City Stadium with some Kenyan friends. One makanga (conductor) for a particular matatu that had pulled up told us that the price to get to Nairobi city center was shillingi kumi (ten shillings), but that the mzungu (white person) had to pay mbao (slang for twenty). I just looked at him and told him, ““Nimesikia” (I heard that). We thought he was kidding, but he gave us our change minus ten, he reminded us that the mzungu pays twenty. We got our ten shillings back, but not without a lot of name calling and yelling. Come on… really? Ten shillings? That’s twelve US cents.
Next to police, matatu people have the worst manners of anyone I’ve met in Kenya — they’ll even harass old mamas carrying vegetables and a baby on her back. That always makes me feel so sad for the future of this country… where did we go wrong? How do we teach today’s youths to respect people?