A Night in Nairobi
“Kenyans love to have fun. What are you doing later?” That was John. One of the people I was working with at the bank
“Oh. Back to the hotel.”
“You should go out. See the town a little.”
“Thanks. Maybe. If I am not too tired.”
A text came in. My driver is outside waiting. I say goodbye and head out.
We spend an hour and a half in the traffic going to the hotel.
The driver says in case I want to go out later, I should let him know. He’s on duty all night.
I get to my room and stretch out on the bed. Nothing much interesting on the TV and the night is still young. I should call “Cee-Cee”. She’s faraway: an hour behind but probably still in school.
I called the driver and ask him to pick me up in front of the hotel in thirty.
A quick shower and I was ready.
“where do you want to go?”
“Somewhere not too far away”. I say.
“There are a few places around. It depends on what you are interested in. There are some wild places as well. Some of the msungus (not a particularly nice name for typically white people from the colonial past) like to go there.”
“Thanks. Somewhere a little exciting. But not so exciting I get into trouble” i say with a smile.
“Which one would you suggest?”
“Gypsies or KlubHouse”
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
“KlubHouse it is.”
It’s a relative big compound with several big “sheds” under which seats were arranged around small stages and a bar. The driver goes off to find a place to park his car.
Something was obviously going on in the nearest one. I turned in and found a seat. A lady on the stage was just introducing a band. They came on stage to loud applause.
The band was quite good. I ordered a bottle of some light stuff. More people drifted in. Soon there were very few seats free in the place. A group of four who seemed rather animated ended up on my table. They ordered drinks.
I think they know the band. Because their applause after every song was louder than everyone else in the place. Besides they spoke a mix of Swahili and English. I could pick up some references to the band leader’s name from time to time.
They didn’t seat still for long. Back and forth. Sometimes with their drinks, sometimes not.
After a while, three of them went to hang out at the back of the place with some other friends I assume.
The fourth I guess decided to seat for a while and take the load off her feet.
Our eyes met a few times. I was just thinking the polite thing to do was to say hi when she said “Mambo”
I didn’t remember the correct response so I said “Hi” instead.
We both smiled.
“You should say poa or sawa.”
“Thanks. I couldn’t remember for a minute there.”
“You don’t sound like a Kenyan.”
“No. I am not. I am a Nigerian.”
“Cool. How do you like Nairobi?” She at least didn’t mention “Ebola” which was nice.
Off and on while we Listened to the band. We somehow got around to talking about how busy the city, the traffic and the population. Family sizes, and so on.
She: “Do you have any siblings?”
Me: “Yes. Three boys and a girl.”
She: “Not a lot.”
Me: “What? I think we are too many.”
She: “That’s not many. There are fifteen of us! A football team.”
Me: Wow! Not from the same woman?” (I couldn’t help myself)
She: “No. Two women. Eight from the first wife and seven from my mum.”
Me: “Where are your parents?”
She: “My dad works in Uganda and my mum has gone to visit him.”
Me: “And the first wife?”
She: “She’s somewhere around.”
Me: “How many kids do you want to have?”
She: “Two or three. This generation can’t afford to have more than four.”
Me: “I think even four is too much. Two or at most three. You have to feed them, clothe them, take care of them, love them, etc. It’s a lot of work.”
Me: “How is it raising a kid on your own?”
She: “It’s hard. Especially if you are a woman, and there is no man to help and it’s difficult getting a job.”
Me: “True. So how old is she? Is that her picture on your phone.”
“Yes.” She said as I asked to see the picture.
Me: “She’s pretty like her mother. How old is she?”
She: “Thanks. Five years.”
Me: “What’s her name?”
Me: “Nice American name.”
Me: “Where is the father? Doesn’t he help?”
She: “I don’t know where he is.”
Me: “How old are you?”
She: “Well I was eighteen when I had my daughter and she’s five now.”
Me: “That makes you 23”
She: “How old are you?”
Me: “Make a guess”
“Not even close. Add more years. Many more.” I said laughing.
Finally I told her my age.
She: “Stop lying! Why are you lying?!”
I assured her that’s my true age.
She: “You don’t look it at all.”
Me: “Thanks for the compliment. I am an old man.” I said laughing.
Me: “So how much schooling did you do.” (I tend to ask this question when I think “Childhood: interrupted”)
She: “I completed my secondary school. But I was very heavy during my exams.”
Me: “How were the results?”
She: “It was ok. But not as good as I would have liked.”
Me: “Yeah. It couldn’t have been easy.”
Me: “Any plans of going back to school?”
She: “Yes. When I have money. I would have to stop working to do that and right now I have to work to pay my rent, take care of my daughter, and so on.”
Me: “So did your parents kick you out when you got pregnant?” I said with a smile to lighten the mood.
She: “No. I decided to move out after I had my baby and get my own place.”
Me: “So what do you do now?”
She: “I am a stylist. I like fashion. You know, clothes and materials. And I know how to put them together. The group performing are my friends. I style them. I have also just decided to start modeling. I am putting together my portfolio (of pictures)”
“Are they on the internet yet?”
“No. Not yet. I found out I have to take between 300 and 350. I am getting a friend to take the pictures so I don’t have to pay.”
A text comes in. It’s from my driver. I had told him two hours. He’s my get out of jail free card. Time flies when you are having fun.
I was ready to leave but thought I should offer her a drink at least. It was the gentlemanly thing to do.
“I have to leave. Long day tomorrow. Nice meeting you. Would you like a drink.” I asked looking at the bottle in front of her which was almost empty.
She says thanks. Indicated another bottle of the same light beer she was having would be nice.
I called over one of the attendants and paid for the drink. I got up to leave. One last waive and I was out in the brisk Nairobi evening.
I will call “Cee-Cee” when I get back to the hotel. She should be back from school.
Some “FaceTime” would be nice.