Kenya 101

As we hit the 7 month mark of living in Kenya I thought I’d share with you some of the things you will never find on a website nor in a Lonely Planet book.

  • They are called ‘blinders’ here not ‘netting curtains’.
  • There’s no cell phone, nor mobile phone, we just call it a phone.
  • You’re either from Western Kenya, Central or The Coast – seems like nothing in between and definitely no South.
  • Kenyans don’t like Ugandans. It’s a relationship similar between Aussies and Kiwis.
  • Asians tend to belittle Africans, it’s like they are the superior race.
  • All Muzungu’s (white people) are considered rich. They think you have enough to give them extra work, extra money and extra for when they don’t have it.
  • You get a fine for being on your phone when crossing the road. A council worker will grab you by the arm into their car, then you pay them off.
  • Everything is negotiable, especially when they say ‘what are you prepared to pay’.
  • If someone says ‘it’s possible’ it probably won’t be.
  • If someone is directing you in traffic or on the footpath they might say ‘straight’ but may mean left or right depending on the direction their hand is in.
  • People will say yes to your face, but what they really mean is no.
  • Someone will say ‘yes, yes’ which actually means they don’t understand what you just said.
  • Tipping is not mandatory, but it is highly appreciated.
  • Your ‘friendly’ traffic officers have no worries about paying their kids school fees with your ‘donation’ to them paid at their discernment (or lack of it).
  • You can wear whatever you like in the city, but it’s a big coverup for the ladies in the country.
  • Up country doesn’t refer to the direction you’re going, it means you are traveling more than 2 hours out of town.
  • You seem to be every Kenyan’s ‘friend’ especially when they want to sell you something at the market.
  • Always make use of toilets available, especially when you probably will be stuck in traffic for 2 hours after a meal.
  • A meal without ugali is not a real meal (Google ‘uglai’)
  • Having dinner (called supper here) before 9pm means you will need a snack before going to bed
  • If you want to leave work, you just don’t turn up to your present job, it’s usually done just after payday. No resignation letter, no text message – just don’t show. While it ticks your boss off, you’ve been paid so that’s all that matters.
  • No matter how bad the singer is up the front at church, you clap anyway in appreciation.
  • Kenyans top at hospitality. Even if you’re super poor, you put on the most amazing meal for your visitors.

If you learn this by heart before you come you will be years ahead of us!

Going to the Movies

I’ve been to the cinema twice here in Nairobi, once to see The Hobbit and then the latest Die Hard movie. When we are in a new country we go and see a movie just for the experience.

It all started with watching 2012, showing in Arusha Tanzania. Pete hated going especially since there was an outdoor cafe outside and he despises those types of movies. After 8 weeks on the road I told him he owed his kids that much. He survived.

In 2011, Liz and I were on our almost solo trip to Uganda as Pete was holed up in a very nice hospital in Kenya with a broken leg. Since we were staying in a $15 a night motel we splurged out and went to see Rise of The Planet of the Apes. We thought it was a bit risky to leave our bags at the security desk but had no option. But for $6 we got a movie and a Coke. A pity there was no air conditioning but since we there were only 3 of us in there I ripped off my hiking boots and rolled up my pants. There’s not many fun things to do in Kampala, but I do suggest the cinema.

As soon as the Hobbit arrived in Nairobi, Liz and I jumped on some motorbikes and headed up to the local mall. Actually, bodaboda’s are a really cheap way to get around town, all of $1 to get to our mall. I hadn’t read the book so it was kind of vague and I didn’t know the movie was a trilogy so I was a bit of a let down. Also, the teenyboppers behind me were like “OMG is that for real, if it were me…” the whole way through the movie. Really wanted to turn around and slap them silly but you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t. On the upside, we didn’t fry because of a lack of air conditioning and then we accidentally bumped into some fellow Aussies in the cafe next door.

There’s a small but nice waiting area where you can buy some snacks and wait for the doors to open, there’s a flat screen TV playing previews and there’s even some toilets. Here’s the sign outside the lift:

theatre 2

Roll forward to 2013 and Die Hard. Liz was keen as mustard to see it. Me, I like the action, hate Bruce Willis’ language, I just want to get in there with some soap and a toothbrush to wash out his mouth. Seriously, there’s no need for every second word to be the ‘F word’. We dragged Pete along under the guise of a dad/daughter date, with me as the tag along. I was seriously surprised at how little swearing there was in comparison to his other Die Hard movies (or it’s been so long since I saw them that I’ve forgotten). Entry was a whopping $5 each and for another $5 we all got a bottle of fizzy and the most delicious caramel popcorn. Because it’s been here for so long there were only 7 of us in the theatre, all adults and although the air con wasn’t on, it was quite pleasant.

theatreHere’s one of the theatres, there’s 4 in the nearest cinema.

I’m looking forward to May when a whole bunch of decent movies come out. The TV shows here are really old and if you choose to buy DVD’s on the side of the road (we don’t) the sound can be terrible, the movies don’t work or they suddenly stop halfway through.

I’m not sure if I can convince Pete to come again as he’s not a big theatre fan, but Liz and I will definitely take some time out from all of our work here. There’s nothing quite like zoning out of reality for a couple of hours and having a breather. While most people here can’t afford the $5 to go to the movies, it’s something we can do every few months that doesn’t mean eating ugali, corruption, dealing with poverty or avoiding potholes bigger than the car.