I posted a few days ago about my life in Tala. The main purpose of that was to get some pictures of my surroundings up online, but I ended up writing a lot about life in Tala. I’ve posted at least one “a day in the life” entries in the past, but this is a bit different. I realize most people who read my blog regularly have, by now, formulated their own pictures of what goes on in Kenya. I wanted to continue the trend of showing photos, and I happened to be running errands in Nairobi today, so I snapped some photos around town (embarrassing at first, but I decided I didn’t care after a bit). Hopefully these pictures add some color and correctness to the ones you already had in your head. Enjoy.
I like Nairobi, there are a lot of young people and the town has lots of energy. I’ve been to large cities in the countries neighboring Kenya but I’ve never come across a place which felt as fast and forward-moving as Nairobi; just ask any high school or university student in Kenya, new slang is being manufactured every day in tao (“town”… Nairobi). Maybe it’s because I live here, but I really think Nairobi stands out from other capital cities in the region. It’s a great city (don’t mind the “Nairobbery” nickname).
Few of you have any clue how I live. Other than the “for just a fifty cents a day, you can sponsor…” commercials which used to air on TV, most people in the United States don’t know anything about what goes on in Africa. There aren’t any of those kids with flies in their eyes, swollen tummies, etc in Tala… I think you have to go to the slums of Nairobi to find those (Kibera, Mathare, Kariobangi). In order to both quench your appetite for information and to educate those of you who are clueless (or have terrible imaginations), here’s a little bit about where I’ve been staying for the past two years…
I live in a town called Tala. It’s not so much a town as a big market where people from surrounding villages come to conduct business. There aren’t many people who actually live in Tala (maybe 5,000?), but there are always people in transit through it, especially on market days. Most of the people in Tala come from one of the surrounding towns or villages (Nguluni, Kangundo, Kathiani, Sengani, Matungulu, Katine, Kinyui, Mitaboni, Kikambuani, etc!). We have two “market” days (Tuesday and Friday) and the place is packed on those days. You can find anything in Tala on a market day: cows, cabbage, honey, brooms, bows/arrows, rope, spare tires, speakers, drugs, prostitutes… anything.
I had a little run-in with the police the other day while riding a matatu (public transport minivan) to Nairobi. Police checkpoints are really common here, and it’s not unusual for a matatu to get stopped twice in the one hour ride from Tala to Nairobi. The routine is as follows: officers pull seemingly random matatus over and, while “checking” the driver’s license and various aspects of the vehicle, pocket the money folded into the license. They’re good at it and it’s no secret.
As one officer was chatting with the driver another one pointed at me in the front seat. He had seen that I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, a crime in Kenya. He began to scold me, “You need to wear your seat belt.” I know I shouldn’t have, but I pointed to the guy next to me and said, “Neither is he.” Ignoring my comment, the officer continued to patronize me, “You have already violated the law. It’s not for my safety, it’s for yours. I am just warning you.” As matter-of-fact and helpful as it sounds, he was actually giggling; I could see he thought I was a clueless tourist. So I buckled up and off he went, grinning ear to ear and laughing with his buddies.