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!
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.
You’d think knowing Kenya is in the midst of the long rains I’d carry my umbrella everywhere; alas, another day walking home in the rain without an umbrella. I did have a minor epiphany about umbrellas while sitting in the matatu on the way home, though. I had just run a kilometer through Uthiru to the bus stop in a thick drizzle, trying to get to a matatu before the rain picked up. By now it was raining properly, and some poor suckers who had reached their stops had no choice but to get out and face the elements. We even saw one jamaa (guy) slip and slide down a muddy slope, dropping all the fruits he was carrying. Pole sana (so sorry…).
Strangely there was no rain in Westi (Westlands, in sheng), which I assumed to be my good fortune. I alighted the matatu at ABC place (a few kilometers from my stop) to do some grocery shopping and then walk home, one of my weekly routines. By the time I was done it was raining again, go figure. My groceries and I set off on foot, in the rain. I just kept thinking how funny it must be to see a white guy walking in the dark, in the rain, without an umbrella.
Several people asked me, “Hauna mwavuli?” (you don’t have an umbrella?), and some others even laughed. Plenty of cars drove by and sprayed me, to which I said, “Wewe!” (you!) but thought, “Asshole!” It’s my fault, and I sealed my own fate when I looked out the window that morning at 7 am and, seeing a clear, blue sky, left without my umbrella.
Here’s a novel idea: it’s May, and there’s a high chance of it raining (regardless of the color of the sky in the morning), why don’t I carry my umbrella with me everywhere?