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Take me Back to Eastlands!

Sometimes writing a blog needs you to think deep… You are so blank, the only thing your mind can think of is an empty flask and how it would feel sitting inside one. I get those spasms too, where I just sit, stare into thin air and smile. Blank. But then something that is supposed to spark your enthusiasm does what it does best. I don’t react to anything with much emotion. I’ve been dead inside since KCSE results came out in 2009… Then it irritates me and reminds me why I should bother… Guys you need to ferry me back to Eastlands. Please.

You see I was excited, very excited that day I was moving out of the muddy Embakasi. I could see my now famous neighbor mama Kulowi, who has no idea her name is a real character on some people’s minds, almost shedding a tear. I made life bearable for that woman by not knocking on her door to ask for salt or a matchstick, and she returned the favour by knocking on mine to ask for plates once or twice. I made sure I never said hello to any of her kids, because we all know single mother kids in that side of town have a tendency of getting attached to any bearded male character who looks into their eyes, and they returned the favour by calling me ‘anko’.

So when I was moving out, I thought I was running away to the life… My people, the other side of Nairobi does not have anything for me. There is no fracas, househelps are too careful and everything is just too organized. Take this for example, at Embakasi I could explain why there was traffic; because everytime it rains, there is a narcissistic bastard whose Probox is scratched by water (Splashed by Embassava of course) and he wants to stop and yell at passersby. Then the car behind stops to go out and listen, then a car moving the opposite direction slows down to ask what is happening by his window, and voila… traffic. But here, with a dual carriage way, no mud or intersections therefore, you will sit at Kenyatta Hospital roundabout long enough to remember you have an upcoming sneeze that should be checked. There is traffic you cannot explain.

Matatus in Embakasi don’t have ten bobs. Donda picks your fare, tells you to ‘ngoja kumi’. If you like fracas like me and a majority of Embassarians, you will follow him for that ten bob like it’s the difference between you and poverty. Including ladies who all along tried looking so modern in their white earphones. Here, the donda gives you all you change back before moving to the next guy. Today, I had a thousand bob. Fare is 40 bob. So I hand out my cash and he picks it. Then, he hands me notes, one after another (200 bob, then another 200, then one hundred, then 200, then another two hundred, a fifty bob and two twenty bob coins) as if to show me he is ready for any sort of shit I would try. In Emba, before that donda picked that cash, it would have been a battle. “So wewe unafikiria hii change niliamka nayo ama nini?” or something like “Bwana chukua hii elfu moja yako unajaribu kutushtua nayo asubuhi na ushike adabu.” And if he picked your cash, you’d keep asking for change and everytime it looks like he has jumped to another matatu. He goes looking for change and you’re there walking to the door “Ata nashukia tu hapa, nipatie change”.

Recently there was a water shortage. And nobody was making a fuss about it. Do you know what happens in Embakasi when there is a water shortage? Let alone the fact that it is by no means the caretakers fault, there is a woman who will dedicate her time to spy and wait for the now anonymous caretaker. Where I lived, it was a haggard short Kisii man called Sammy. Sammy disappeared with water: No water, no Sammy. But there was a woman from fourth floor who could tell when Sammy was back. And she with her Sacco of stay home mom’s (called housewives uko) would bang Sammy’s head with their water complaints.

“Wewe utatuletea maji ama urudishe pesa”

“Madam maji ni kanjo imekata”

“Hatutaki kujua, tunalipa rent kwa kanjo?”

“Sasa nitafanyaje madam”

“Sammy sitaki ujinga. Ujinga peleka Nyamira ama Pipeline unasikia?”

“Wacha kuongea mbaya madam”

“Sammy tunataka maji. Kesho kama maji hakuna ni napkin tutaleta kwako utapatie zikiwa safi unasikia?”

This just after a day without water. And Sammy would get two lorries to pump the building’s tanks with water enough for a day. Hapa Highrise there was a shortage for a week and everyone was just fine. Most people I know in real life have no idea when I bathe or not, and most people on the Internet don’t know who I am in real life. But here’s something, I don’t go to the bathroom to get clean, I do it to avoid getting fired or murdered. So when there is no water for a week, I had sent a few people goodbye texts and they were like ‘Where are you going’. Don’t worry folks, it will wait another day. You don’t need no gym in Embakasi, chasing Sammy is enough.

I think I can’t just survive in an organized society. In Eastlands, things happened that make your day light up. The opposite building shared washrooms. Every floor had their own. Now the problem is, early in the morning someone had an almighty dunk and did not flush (No the cistern and flushing unit works fantastically well). Probably he was too tired to flush, right? So when the next person came in and tried flushing, the whole thing blocks and it’s a mess, in the morning. So it’s morning, you can’t go to the toilet, you go to the caretaker who apparently has been watching. He knows who didn’t flush. Caretaker walks to their door and knocks, and instead of walking in to scold the properly dressed man, probably working in a bank in town… He shouts.

“Wewe hautatuachia mavi hapa asubuhi”

“Nini mbaya, kuja ndani tuongee”

“My friend siingii ndani. Ni wewe utatoka uende uoshe hiyo choo,”

“Hautanisumbua. Wacha madharau,”

“Angalieni huyu! Wewe unatuachia kilo kwa choo asubuhi alafu unasema madharau?”

“Sawa, wacha kelele”

“Nitasema na nguvu hadi kila mtu ajue tabia zako za asubuhi”

On this side of life, there is no such fracas. I was so excited when I discovered mboches here pretend they are going to unhang clothes so they can call their boyfriends somewhere in Kibera… But it ends at that, A call. They blush, but they are not creative. Mboches in the East don’t just date… Those mboches haunted anyone who was not their bosses husband. Me I had some mboch sending babies to play outside my door. So that I could open and look and she would come over like, “Aki habari. Hawa watoto hawana ata adabu aki. Pole sana aki. Unaitwa nani…” Before long you see the woman’s friend request on Facebook, and she gets pissed whenever any chic walks into your house. Here, these ladies don’t give a damn. A man is a man. I don’t get how you can be happy being a mboch, dating a man who walks with an overall and a pipe wrench in oil stained hands all day. They have salons, built structures. Pale Eastlands we were welcoming ladies from Karen everyday to Umoja market open air salon. A stool is a salon and your lap will hold the scissors, the hair pieces and the hair oil. No rent, no nini, just a stool.

Everything is so damn expensive. Chapos are 20 bob. Imagine. Chapos so thin they look like second hand tissue papers, selling at 20 bob. Pale Embakasi chapo za mbao ungekula mwenyewe. Worse, if word spread out fast, people would steal your jiko or frying pan or stool, or the bucket you stuff chapos in. That thing can mess your business. Try cooking chapos while standing (on a jiko) ama you light your jiko and then just after kneading that dough you notice there is no pan. Shoe shiners charge a whooping 50 bob, and they don’t blink. They look straight in your eyes and demand 50 bob. Pale East, you can bargain and take a deni on a shoe shiner. And the movie guys at Embakasi are damn loyal. They have your number, they know your house, and they call you when the new episode of Game of Thrones is out. I had to go to Facebook to know the new season is out.

Lastly, you can’t know whether it’s Sunday or Monday here. Last week I was up early, and fully dressed up for work. I only realized it’s Sunday when I was in a matatu and realized women were in African dresses and looking very decent. That’s what you do on Sunday, look for that dress that makes you look so decent and stylish. In Embakasi, the opposite mabati structure is ‘Jet Fighter Ministries Intanashonol’. The pastor sleeps there with three other guys or something, because you cannot tell me someone leaves his wive’s bed by 3 to be in there by 4 to start singing at 4:30 am. By 5:43am there are six different churches within that 300metre radius all singing different songs, some making prayers, some testing microphones and speakers, some playing Mary Mela… So much noise you have to wake up and go find Sanity at All Saints cathedral in town.

You need to find me a house in Eastlands.

PHOTO: COURTESY

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