The ‘Nairobian’


You wake up one day from your teenage haze and realize that life has just passed you by. Early in your twenties, you look back and try to see how much you have achieved. Besides a pile of low self-esteem people whom you stepped on while on your path to self-absorption and a bad relationship with your parents, you can clearly see nothing. You had such high hopes. You are supposed to be a millionaire by now, I mean, you are 22!!!!
You look at the few friends you have and meditate on that ‘breaking through to your destiny’ sermon you heard the one time you were in church. You had thought the pastor sounded like a fake but you had no way of knowing. You were no authority on that seeing you do not even own a Bible. You decide that he was right anyway. It is time to find new friends; these ones are hindering your prosperity. You move on, looking for relevance.
You are 33 and still discontent with life. No, you are not poor, you are in fact, among the few people you know who have been lucky enough to have the job of their dreams by this age. You are the C.E.O of your company. You make over two million Kenyan shillings in profit per week. What more could you ask for? This is after all, everything you have always wanted.
You long gave up on women after being disappointed by your high school sweetheart when she dumped you for someone who was richer than you. You know now that you would outdo him by far. You have politely ignored all the potential mates who came your way, but now, you cannot shake the feeling. You desire a family. You sign up into the dating website, looking for relevance.
You have always loved to write. Every time you did, you would feel right. You would write when you were angry, when you were happy when you were bored. It was how you found expression. Words seemed to have a way to be able to comfort you, cheer you up or merely just pass your time. When people read your work, they could not help but wonder how you always came up with that.
However, that was before you started your blog. After you did, you just could not stop making posts. You had so much to say. You could not understand how anyone even put a word limit. What were they, cruel? Two years later, you still have a lot to say, but you seem to be the only one interested in what you write. You have only two followers, yet you think you are so bright. You trade in your content; you start to plagiarize, looking for relevance.
So I met these three people some time back. They have had their share of life; they have seen how unsatisfying life can be. They can tell you first hand that there are always reasons to be dissatisfied. Their stories set me thinking about life in general. What is the meaning of life? But that is hardly what this post is about, just stick with me for a little while longer.
Relevance -This is a word that has condemned many and set others on their paths to success. People have done so much looking to be relevant. So today, I will reduce for you one more item from your list of things to worry about when trying to be relevant in Nairobi.
It is called the Nairobi ‘jargon’.
You wake up early in the morning excited to be leaving for Nairobi. Sure, the fare is no longer 60/- and you do not have to be on time to catch the only bus that goes to Nairobi. Sure, you will not get recognition in the village and enjoy gifts and adoration from the villagers. So what if Nairobi has lost some of its glory? Nothing will take away from you this day.
You take your already packed bag of excitement and soldier on!
It does not take you longer than three minutes to realize that you are in a strange land. The chief will not come to meet you here! People will not let you pass just because you politely say ‘excuse me’ and then repeat it louder in Swahili ‘tafadhali nipishe’. You are confused.
So, to avoid this, here are a few pointers.

Conductors are not the most polite people you will meet. I do not mean the ones from physics. I believe you know them as ‘Makanga’. They may insult you for no reason. That is okay. They may refuse to return your change. You will get angry because that is your hard earned money. That is also okay. Just let it be, you do not want to be seen as petty.

They will likely speak to you in Kyuk. Even if you do not understand, do not show it. Unless of course, you suspect that it is the end of the road, in which case you just nod and alight. Never say thank you.

When you alight, mark the direction you want to go to. See that green building? That is afya center. It is your compass. Every other place has to be explained with respect to this building unless you have managed to stay in Nairobi for over three months. Or unless you happen to know archives.

After you mark that direction, walk fast towards it. Hold your bag tightly with your left hand, and put your Motorola phone deepest in the bag. As you walk, make sure you hit two or three people with your right arm which you will be aggressively swinging. Do not stop to apologize.

There may be kids who will call you uncle, please do not confuse them for your sister’s kids. They do not know you. They will ask you to buy them something to eat, ignore them at first. If they insist, even if you have, tell them that you have nothing to offer them. Say this with a stern face then walk away thinking that you have just saved humanity.

Do not, I repeat, do not use full terms when explaining where you are going. For example, do not say you are going to Muthaiga, say ‘ninapanda 108’ then expect everyone to know where that is. If they do not know, they probably live under a stone.

Whenever you find yourself in an awkward situation and you need to make conversation if you do not know what to talk about, avoid the weather, sports or any other recent occurrences. Talk about Rongai. That joke about how far it is never grows old.

Whenever you are late for any meeting, do not apologize. Blame it on traffic regardless of the time, or where you are from. This is a valid excuse for all situations except the day when you actually get late because of traffic. Then, you can make up another story.

Remember that there are good people in Nairobi, but always assume that the person next to you on the queue or in the matatu or wherever, is not one of them unless they tell you that they are from your village. But then again, why are you talking to anyone else? There are always better things to do. Trade in your Motorola and get a smartphone that you can be staring at any time you are not walking unless you are in River road.

Remember, I only want you to fit in, so follow these to the latter. Be relevant.

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