Posts Tagged ‘Nairobi’

Show – In this case, The Nairobi International Trade Fair. It used to be called the Nairobi Show.
Bodaboda – motorbikes that carry passengers usually short distances – up to maybe 6 kilometres

The chaos started just as the matatu (public service van) slowed down at the stop, even before it actually stopped. The motorbike guys, upon seeing me with a child, immediately started offering to take us to “Show ndani.” (into the Show) There were also some guys selling balloons.
No, No, I said making my way past them, but encountering many more motorbike guys.
“Do you have a helmet?” I asked.
“Yes. ”
“How many?”
“No thanks.”
I looked at the many motorbikes there and did not see any with two helmets.
Just the same morning, my wife had told me how a colleague of hers encountered an accident. There was a motorbike rider and his passenger. The motorbike rider had been wearing a helmet, while his passenger had not. The motorbike was nursing a leg injury. The passenger was not nursing anything, chiefly because his head had split open.

One rider followed us and made his offer as well.
“Do you have a helmet?”
“How many?”
Moja aje na tuko watatu?” (How do you have one and there’s three of us?)
“Helmet ni wewe ndio utavaa mtoi hatavaa na ni hapa tu.
(It’s you who will wear the helmet, not the child and we are going just here.)
Later, I wondered if that guy has a child.
I told him to bring his bike, since it seemed no one had more than one helmet.
When he arrived, I gave the helmet to Amor, told the rider to go slowly and off we went. We arrived without incident and the rider set us down at a place near a sign saying ‘No Bodabodas beyond this point.’

There were VERY MANY people around, a good number of whom were pupils in school uniform. It turned out we still had a bit of a walk to reach the gates.
Again, predictably, there were guys selling things for children – mainly balloons and shades.
“Buy this one that matches what she is wearing”
The balloons were those long ones that had been blown and twisted and had a loop. A number of the sellers placed the balloons on Amor’s head. I firmly refused to buy. I asked Amor if she wanted any of those things and she said no.
I bought two bottles of water, though.
At various points, we passed groups of the uniformed pupils forming lines and holding hands. I remembered what my wife had told me, that when they were young and used to go to the show, they would be told to hold hands or they would get lost.
I told Amor, “If you get lost, or if I get lost,” (I added this because it’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?), “don’t start looking for me. Just stay where you are until I come find you. Do you hear?”
“What did I say?”
“If I get lost and you get lost, I don’t start looking for you. I just stay where I am until you come find me.”
“Good. Because if you start looking for me and I start looking for you, you may be going like this,” (I moved one hand in a semi-circle) “and I am going like that,” (I moved my other hand in a semi-circle away from the first hand) “and we don’t find each other.
I will go back to the places we have been until I find you.”

We queued for a security check and queued again for tickets, but both queues moved pretty quickly. Ticket prices were 300/- for adult and 250/- for a child. Then we were in.

Almost immediately, Amor asked me “Wapi pahali pa kucheza?” (Where are the places for playing?)
I decided that since we were late (it was maybe a few minutes to 2:00 p.m.) we should start with the fun fair, so that if we run out of time, at least we will have done that.
So off we went to try and locate the places for playing.

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This work of fiction, inspired by actual events, is my submission for Friday Fictioneers that is ably hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

You can read about Friday Fictioneers at the end of this post.

Join us.

Below is the picture prompt for this week and below that is my story.

Picture copyright Janet Webb



Peter and his daughter Janice queued patiently at the supermarket till, finally buying the toy that Janice had long agitated for.

“Daddy,” Janice said “I want to go for the cooking event upstairs.”

“I’m sorry, not today. We’re going visiting. We’ll plan and go another day.”

Janice kept silent.

Just as they left the till, there were some loud sounds. It seemed everyone froze, then realisation hit.


Reactions were varied but all dramatic. Some people screamed, some dropped to the floor.

More gunshots.

Peter grabbed Janice and made a crouching run for the exit.

Their purchase no longer mattered.


100 words

You can read pieces by other participants here:

I read all your comments and I appreciate them, even if I take long to respond and even if I do not respond to each comment individually.


This story is inspired by actual events here in Nairobi. I am yet to write a longer blog post about that, but for now, here are a few links.

(If I don’t get lazy, I may write a longer fictional piece on that terrorist attack).





Photo credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

About Friday Fictioneers

Friday Fictioneers is a group that works as follows:

Every week you get a picture.

Prompted by that picture, you write a piece of fiction that is 100 words long (or as close as you can get).

You add a link to your story on the Fictioneers page, and read the (awesome) stories by the other Friday Fictioneers.

Feel free to join us! Everyone is welcome.

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Someone on Facebook said something similar to the story narrated below happened to him.
Ken joined the queue for the bus at Ambassadeur bus stop. Nowadays, there were few incidents of grab-and-run phone theft, so he pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and went to Facebook.
Ken was being entertained by the various posts and comments by his friends when an old lady approached him and said “Excuse me. Sorry to disturb you, but I have just arrived from Nakuru and I cannot see my son who was to pick me. I do not have a phone. Can we use yours to call him?”
“Sure. You have his number?”
“Yes.” She handed him a piece of paper and Ken called the number that was written on it.
No answer.
“Let me try again” he said.
Still no answer.
Ken waited a few minutes and tried yet again, with the same result. By this time, the bus had come and Ken got in.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Being careful to ensure that his phone could not be snatched from the bus window, Ken went on Facebooking. He hoped that the old lady’s son would show up and pick her.
Some men talking loudly a few rows ahead of him caught his attention.
“Someone has picked my phone from my pocket!” said one of them.
“You had it when you go in?” asked his partner.
“Then maybe it’s still in the bus. Let’s call it.”
The guy took his own phone and dialled a number.
Ken’s phone rang. He did not immediately grasp the significance of the phone ringing, but as the eyes of the passengers turned on him, he realised that he was now accused.
“This is my phone!” he said, panic setting in.
“Thief!” said the man who had said that his phone had been stolen. “You are not even smart enough to switch off the stolen phone!” He charged towards Ken.
A slap across his face made Ken painfully realise that he was in real danger.
“This is my phone” he repeated as other passengers got up and started closing in to get a piece of the action as well.
This is how people die, Ken thought. He recalled seeing pictures of lynch-mob victims.
The man who had slapped him grabbed Ken’s phone.
“Get that thief out of my vehicle” said the bus conductor. “I don’t want blood in here”
Ken wanted to pee. He wanted to do Number Two as well. He could easily get killed out there.



“Wait!” said an authoritative voice.  The man who had spoken took Ken’s phone from Ken’s accuser.
“If this is your phone,” he said to the accuser, “let us switch it off and you switch it on and put in the PIN.”
Ken felt hope rising, as his accuser and his partner both began to shuffle backwards towards the bus door, uncertainty on their faces.
“Yes! Put the PIN we see!” echoed someone from somewhere in the bus.
The accuser’s partner reached the door and got out hastily. His friend followed closely, but someone landed a kick on his back that sent him face-first to the
pavement outside the bus.

“Those are scam artists,” said Ken’s rescuer. “They ask you to call someone for them, and they get your number that way. Then they follow you and claim their phone has been stolen. They say they want to call the stolen phone and then call your number and take your phone, with others actually helping them!”
“Yes” said Ken. “An old lady asked me to call her son for her just before I got onto this bus.”

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[This post is very Nairobi-centric]

1 US$ is about 85 Kenya Shillings (85 bob)

2 km  is about 1.2 miles

The Government of Kenya decided to do something about road accidents in the country. It basically increased the penalties applicable for various traffic offences, and introduced some new regulations – renewal of license every 3(?) years after an eye test, among others.

Matatu (privately-run public transport vehicles) operators went on strike, protesting these changes, and many withdrew their vehicles from the road. There were some reports of violence. The time to leave work and go home arrived. I did not have our car, and I did not want to ask my wife to come pick me.

Nairobi matatu

Nairobi matatu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out of the company car just after it emerged from Karuna Close and joined Waiyaki Way. I crossed Waiyaki Way, saw the walking crowd and joined them. This was 6:25 p.m. I actually jogged a little bit but settled for a brisk walk instead. I encountered a man selling boiled eggs (and sausages too, I think) and bought one egg. I walked on.

There were some matatus that were calling for passengers to Sodom for 30bob. I did not know where Sodom was and I did not want to ask (yes, I am a man), so I walked on.

I turned into Muthangari Drive, there were quite a number of us walking. I was sweating by this time.

I emerged on James Gichuru Road at 6:50 p.m. That’s about 2.6 km in 25 minutes.
It turned out that many of those walking with me turned right at some point, leaving James Gichuru Road. They were probably going to Kawangware. Soon there were very few people walking near me, but plenty of vehicular traffic.

7:11p.m. Lavington Green Shopping Centre. 5 km covered.
I paused to take a break and send some texts. Then onward Christian soldier!

7:40p.m. The Junction. 7.4 km walked.

I crossed the street and went to the bust stop.
A motorbike guy offered a ride to Karen for 100 bob. No thanks. The usual matatu fare is 30 bob.
A car stopped and someone said 100 bob to Karen. Some guys got in, Then the guy said 50 bob to Karen. I don’t know what cause the sudden price drop, but someone took the remaining seat. I wondered if the guys who had gotten in already would also pay 50 bob.

Then another vehicle came and said 50 bob to Karen, 100 to Rongai. I got in and sat at the front seat. I was pleased.

8:11p.m. Got off the vehicle at Karen roundabout.
I started the 2km walk home.
My right knee started paining somewhat. The road had very few pedestrians and little light, apart from that from passing vehicles. The bushes seemed more prominent in this darkness, than when I drive by during the day, but I was not scared.

Then I felt the first drops of rain! Oh dear. I started jogging, but that did not last long. Neither did the threat of a drizzle or a downpour.

8:33 Home

(Now you can figure out around where I live 🙂 )



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Last week, a friend invited us to her birthday celebration at the (Golden?) Spur Steak Restaurant at the Holiday Inn, Nairobi. On Thursdays, they have all-you-can-eat pork ribs for KShs 1,500/= (about US$18) per person. For those not familiar with Nairobi food prices, that would be the price of maybe 30 wholemeal loaves of bread. Or you could buy five meals at regular eating places. All the same, all-you-can-eat still sounded good.

So we went, ordered and the meat came. It comes with fries or potatoes or something else that I can’t remember, and salad. The meat was del.i.c.i.o.u.s! It was tender, tasty and peeled of the bone with ease. I think it was well worth the money. Now I hope to try out other places offering similar deals.

This was several servings after arrival

In other news, a follow-up to this story, I went again to Nakumatt Westgate to look for a scissor jack for the car. no luck. I walked over to Nakumatt Ukay and behold! They had scissor car jacks! I think out car weighs about a ton, and the jack for a ton costs slightly less (KShs. 1,295/=) than the one for 1.5 tons (1,595/=). I decided to play it safe and bought the bigger(?) one. I also bought a fire extinguisher and First Aid kit to have in the car as required by law. (Yes, my salary had come in 🙂 ).

Torin Scissor Jack

Now I need not fear a puncture. Speaking of punctures and related, my dad taught me how to change a car tyre when I was quite young. Maybe 8 or 10 or so, I really can’t remember. I intend to pass that on when the time is right.

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A friend of ours (my wife and I) is getting married in November. When we were getting married, this friend volunteered to be in our wedding planning committee. Let me explain a little for those not familiar with how wedding committees work in Nairobi.

The concept is simple, and probably good: a couple decides to get married and picks a wedding date. They then call their friends to help them plan the event and manage various activities surrounding it.
What actually happens many times is somewhat different: The couple decides to get married, picks a date and venue and draws up a budget for the wedding. Then they contact friends, acquaintances and colleagues, inviting them to join the ‘committee.’ So you can get a message from a former schoolmate, who you have not been in touch with, informing you that they are getting married and asking you to join their committee. Some even bluntly ask for a contribution.

The idea sometimes seems to be that if our wedding budget is, say, 400,000/= and we have raised 200,000/= then we can form a committee of 40 members and have them raise 5,000/- each. Of course some couples start of with less than the 200,000/= in this example, so using this logic, they would have to either increase the number of members in the committee, or increase the contribution per member. I am yet to hear of a couple that adjusted their budget downwards to match the available resources.

Now, as can be expected, this fund-raising scam (strike that, scheme) does not always work that smoothly. Some of those invited to the committee do not show up, some show up but are either unwilling or unable to raise the stipulated amount.

You knew you wanted a (big) wedding, you should have saved up for it. It’s not an emergency.’

This means that the pressure increases on those who, for one reason or another, feel that they have to help raise funds.
Their reasons for feeling obligated to give money could vary: One of the pair getting married is a relative/family member, the bride/groom is a close friend, one of them helped raise funds for their own wedding, the hope/expectation that they too will receive similar assistance etc

So the committees meet, and plan, and argue. Group dynamics always come in – one member forcing their views on another, the bride or the groom making decisions that totally violate what was agreed at the commitee meeting (such as deciding to buy an expensive wedding dress, when there isn’t enough money for that and a cheaper alternative had been arrived at and ‘agreed upon,’ members expressing their views outside the meetings, when they could very well have done so openly during the meetings, and so on.

Then of course in the background, there are the bridesmaids and groomsmen who usually have to get their prescribed outfits at their own expense, usually from an already chosen tailor or shop. That can get problematic as well, when there are delays, or when one of the people feels that the outfits are too costly etc But that is usually the couple’s headache, not the committee’s.

As the wedding day approaches and funds are insufficient, the committees usually resort to fund-raising meetings, selling bookmarks etc, asking members to increase their contributions and/or pay what they had already pledged, and similar tactics of pressure. Again, I am yet to see a committee that simply said “Let’s cut the budget.”

Anyway, back to yesterday. I attended our friend’s first committee meeting, because I felt she has been a good friend to us. We were informed that this was not a fundraising committee, and that most of the money needed had been raised. Not only that, the couple had already selected service providers and made initial payments to them. We were appropriately impressed and pleased. At least one other person and myself were.

I tried to avoid saying much at the beginning of the meeting, before the appointment of committee officials, because, in my experience, when you speak confidently (or merely sound confident?) in such meetings, people tend to elect you chairperson. I contemplated volunteering to be secretary, so that I would not be elected chairman. My plan did not work. A certain lady was quickly and overwhelmingly elected secretary. She proved to be a good choice. She extracted a laptop from her bag, took minutes as we proceeded, and that very afternoon, the minutes of the just completed meeting was in our mailboxes. (This usually takes days, as the secretary usually writes the minutes by hand, then later finds time to (remember and) type and email the minutes.) Moments after the appointment of the efficient secretary, I was made chairman. Sigh.

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I still have the alarm set on my phone. It is set for 6:00a.m. I think I woke up before it went off. I went about doing last minute things, receiving phone calls about cars and jackets and things like those.
The original plan was that I go to my dad’s house for breakfast and prayer and then set off from there, but that did not happen. Instead, I wrote the music that was to be played to CD, and the vows and then actually walked to the Doonholm roundabout!
My best-man was getting a tad worried at this point and was calling from time to time.
I reached town, went to buy embossed paper and The Paper Shop, then started looking for a place to print out the vows. I met a neighbour who was understandably surprised to see me still gallivanting in town!
As if that was not enough, I still had to go collect the groomsmen’s jackets from the laundry. More calls from the best-man. I printed the vows, went and collected the jackets and my best-man finally picked me up and drove me to the Church. So much for the BMW ride that had been planned. It was months later that my wife knew that I had arrived after her!
My brother, who was one of the groomsmen, called me asking how to get to the church! Apparently, they had been moved out of their designated vehicle, that was to have brought them to the church. Fortunately, there was another wedding before ours, so we still had to wait for the church to be ready for us, so my lateness was not obvious. There was a man keen on taking photos of us. I was not too keen, but later learnt he was the official photographer! No, I had not met him before, he had been sent by the friend who had decided to handle photography for us. Then we all went in. We just walked. No skateboard or smoke machine. In fact, I think we used a side door.

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Call – 009

I walked to the caged counter and gave the lady behind the counter 20 bob. She gave me back 10 bob. I remembered a friend of mine remarking that the fee had increased from 5 bob to 10 bob – a 100% increase. I walked in before the lady could give me the two or three squares of toilet paper to which I was entitled.

On the right, there were two or three buckets full of water, just outside first of four
cubicles. Why don’t the loos flush? I wondered.

On the left were four urinals. There was a man at the second one. I had the option of going to one of the two beyond him, or to go to the nearer one, from where I could be visible to people passing certain points of the street outside. I chose the first.

I did not look at him directly, but I felt that the man seemed to be looking at me, as if he was perhaps waiting to make a comparison.

I got on with my current mission, while trying to remain reasonably discreet. Was that just my imagination or was the man trying to take a peek? He finished, tucked in and walked out with his shoulders back and head held high. Did parents not teach children to wash their hands after visiting the loo?

Someone came in. Behind me, he knocked the door of one of the cubicles. “Hello” someone responded from within.
The man knocked the next one. The occupant knocked from the other side. Can we not have those latches that say ‘Engaged’ or ‘Vacant’? We would thus avoid the caution that is required when using the cubicles, and the balancing needed to either knock or hold the door closed.
The man stood waiting.

I finished, washed my hands (at least the taps worked, though the soap dispenser was empty) and  walked into the evening sunlight.

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