A Crazy “Thank You”

Someone once told me that it was the hot Ukambani sun that made people wander aimlessly around the streets of Tala. It’s funny, but it doesn’t quite explain why we have lots of crazy people in Nairobi (and San Francisco, too). Nairobi estates have these guys who wander around with burlap sacks picking up trash. I haven’t quite figured it out, but for some reason they usually have like three pairs of pants on (a dress code, of sorts?). I even see them walking in pairs sometimes, as if they are roaming the streets as a team. Also, I’m pretty sure they sniff glue, because I can never understand what the hell they are saying.

Today I was walking home down Church Road just after dark and I ran into one who was haphazardly blowing his nose into the air. I was just minding my own business swinging my umbrella and humming and I decided that was gross and I should cross the street. I told myself that was pretty messed up, but rationalized it that I wanted to go buy some eggs and milk at the shop across the street down the way. A few minutes later I was standing at the kiosk when that guy came up behind me and said, “Uncle, nisaidia. Nataka kula ndizi!” (help me, I want to eat a banana).

I kinda ignored him at first but he was very patient and didn’t really bug me anymore. Everyone else just pretended he wasn’t there. I decided I’d buy him a banana, so I asked the guy at the booth, “Ndizi ni pesa ngapi?” (how much are bananas?). 10 shillings… “Sawa, mpe huyu mlevi moja” (ok, give that drunk guy one). As I was walking away some dude asked the crazy guy, “Hakuna asante?” (you didn’t say thanks), and the crazy guy yelled a big, formal “thank you” in my direction. I was nervous because I thought was going to run after me and try to thank me in person. haha.

The word for a drunk person, by the way, is mlevi, which that guy probably wasn’t — the right word probably would have been wazimu (crazy)!!!