AMONG THE LOST IN NAIROBI
I recently slid into a conversation with someone in the thick of their own identity crisis. They said that even though they are Kenyans and have hardly stepped on foreign soil, their accent and image gives them a universal look which makes it difficult to really operate in Nairobi.
If we spoke to a stranger, I’d seem more international while your case would be different because you’ve got a Luo accent. He said.
The same person wondered how I played jazz, lawn tennis and rock & roll with the kind of schools I went to. I think he thinks those things were only reserved for people like him. International schools kids.
Back in college, I was seriously into this chick. Tomboyish, easy-going, fit as a eucalyptus and hot like Indian sauce. We even had lunch and a romantic pre-class bake in a young forest. Then she asked me where I lived.
I don’t fuck with rich kids were her last words.
Though not intrigued, I laugh in amusement. I know who I am and these little urban fvcks can continue living in ignorance, right?
One of my new friends drops by my digz and is totally disoriented that I’m listening to a four hour long playlist of West African highlife while a reading a Madonna biography. WTF, we first met at Temple.
Then I’m taking a break from the streets to eat 30 bob chips at 2am pale Odeon and a bunch of online friends show up. Conversation goes like,
Yooooo, inakuaje arif?
I am fine, so you also come to these places?
Yeah man, roundi mwenda 😀 😀
But I don’t want ambient people to know that I can even speak English because they don’t know me like that. So I insist again…
Inakuaje buda, form ni gani?
Ishakuwa, buy me even chicken, Kare Francez, Kare Forward. Me I only have 30 shillings and you-you know you are going there in aeroplanes…jets! I saw a picture of you and the governor of coast! Niachie ata Ferrare.
Achanga izo, sina maziwa.
But I end up spending more than I had planned.
The next day I have to attend Art @ The Bus and a distance that used to cost 50 bob last year, the boda guy now wants 250! I lose my calm, curse him and warn him that soon there will be Uber for bodabodas.
At the event, I’m caressing a cold Tusker, wandering about because that’s what you do at an art market. An old kid from way back is back from studying African History in Europe and is now showing his friends that Kenya is not all wild animals, at least from what the eye can tell.
He goes like…
WTF! Long time guy, whats happening?
Ive been—nilikuwa niki—, was uhm. Nilikuwa chuo in The States so tu-tunachill tu. Niko hapa na my friends-John, Joey, Brad, Quails.
Awesome man, nice to see you.
We-we unafanya nini, still unacheza na drums too? He turns to his friends (this guy used to be a drummer back in church) giggles
I raise by bottle and bounce.
And you see, Nairobi is a multifaceted identity crisis wandering in pursuit of self realization. In the next chapter, I’ll show you how language will save us.