The monthly rent for my two-bedroom flat in Westlands is 45,000 Kenyan shillings (600 US dollars) per month. Taking into account that the three-bedroom flats cost a considerable amount more, and that everyone’s rental agreements hike their rent by 10% annually, it’s safe to say that the average rent is around 60,000 shillings per month here. With fifteen or so apartments in the complex, whoever owns this place is looking at close to 1,000,000 shillings per month. Why, then, do we pay three askaris (security guards) 4,000 shillings each per month to protect our fancy asses? That’s fifty three dollars!
The security guards work in shifts. One mzee (old man), Musa, works from 6 am to 6 pm, and then two younger guys come for the graveyard shift. They have the mind-numbing job of opening and closing the gate all day and protecting all of us and our fancy stuff. I doubt there has ever been an incident, but the electric fence ain’t there for looks, man. Inside these walls live families with BMWs, big-screen TVs, and children. You’d think those things would be worth more than a couple hundred bucks a month to protect. This is Nairobbery, after all!
It’s not much, but I do what I can to help by giving them hand-me-down clothes and food every once in awhile. Also, I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that I might be the only one who gives them anything more than the time of day. I’m slightly comforted by the fact that, even if I all I say when I come home is, “Mambo vipi?” (how’s it going), at least I’m not zipping in and out in a fancy car, honking impatiently at the gate, and giving some plastic smile.
Maisha ni ngumu (life is hard)…. be nice to your askaris.