I am not a native Nairobian. It doesn’t show much nowadays, but if you had met me that first year I moved to the city, you would have definitely noticed. I was naïve, a bit scared, a lot excited but mostly I was curious about this city.
When you decide you want a career in journalism in Kenya, you move to Nairobi. On a cold September morning in 2013, weeks after I had cleared out of campus, my dad walked me to the bus station. My mom would later tell me she couldn’t take me to the station that morning because she was scared. Scared that I was about to begin a new life in a big city all alone. She was scared and she didn’t want me to see. If it sounds dramatic it’s because it was.
I was born and raised in the small town of Eldoret. Went to primary school, secondary school and campus in that same town. It wasn’t a bad town to grow up in. It has that small-town-charm. It’s relaxed, genuine and unpretentious. I was used to that and my mom knew that Nairobi was anything but. So she was scared.
I spent the first night in a hotel at the CBD with traffic sounds and sounds of hawkers lulling me to sleep. I remember feeling so small. Nairobi was loud, big and bustling.Much, much later, I realized that I love that Nairobi is loud, big and bustling. I hate that people are always is such a hurry though, and that if you aren’t careful, they’ll step on you to get where they’re going.
I hate that when a trend hits, you’ll see it everywhere in Nairobi but like most Nairobians, I’ve owned an Infinix phone and it served me well. There is a joke that if you threw a stone at the CBD it would most likely hit an in ifinix owner or a photographer or an Instagram model :) (Nairobians will get this). I’ve had two phones stolen since but in the most ingenious ways I was almost impressed by the thieves.
I am still discovering the city and sometimes when I have the time, I walk around aimlessly trying to get to know Nairobi. You must see the economically and socially different uptown and downtown areas. Their diverse look and feel is a thing to marvel at. How can one (uptown) area have well-lit streets, five star hotels, fancy cars and sky scrapers while the other (downtown), have none yet it’s still the same city?
There is Kibera, one of Africa’s biggest slums, but you can also find a national park coexisting with this metropolitan city. No major city in the world can boast of the fact that you can see wildlife and marvel at the wild vast land with the city’s skyscrapers as the backdrop.
I take a matatu most times and I hate that the drivers and touts can be rude, reckless and obnoxious but I love that their different, creative art and music gives one a story to tell every time you use them as a means of transport. I also love that you can get through a book in the time you are stuck in traffic.
I’ve stayed in Eastlands for the past few years which, compared to Westlands, is noisy and crowded. But I feel safe in my house and neighbors are kind and awesome. Over the weekends my landlord’s wife boils a lot of githeri and she will insist that I must have some. I’m safe and I will never sleep hungry. What more can a girl ask for?
I hate that there is a lot of injustices that go unchecked in Nairobi but I love that there are #KOT and they can get a man deported. Ask Kofi Olomide.
I hate that I can’t afford to always eat international cuisines at world class restaurants, which are a dime a dozen in the city, but I love that I can get an equally impressive, filling meal at my local joint (Kibanda). #KibandaAppreciationDay.
I hate that buying expensive, beautiful clothes by some of the Kenyan designers can be hard but I love that I can dress in unique affordable clothes sold by street hawkers. (The trick is to conduct your business really fast, before the cat and mouse chase between them and county askaris begins. Speed is key).
I’ve been in Nairobi for three years now and as much as I get annoyed sometimes with Nairobi, I love it most times. I have great and bad days in the city, ups and downs.... It’s complicated.
The love-hate relationship with Nairobi continues…..