22.4.05

A-Z of Only in Nairobi (A-E)

· A school being founded every five minutes: so many academies, primary schools, preparatory institutes, kindergartens, secondaries were being opened, mpaka every ad break on TV advertised “join Mulika Torch Academy today.” Especially after KCPE results day those chuos would kimbisha their ads ati so that people wouldn’t raramika if they didn’t get into their chosen school.

· Ayahs and housies: nearly every Nai household had a housegirl (back then they were also called ayahs) na wengine walitreatiwa vibaya sana, hata to this day I think the serikali should review the system – lazima walipwe better because of the way they keep Nai households going. Usually they were from shags lakini if you got a housie who was shanukad she could hepa with your clothes or drink your hao’s pombe during the day.

· Benga music: it wasn’t until I grew up that I started to appreciate Benga music (kina Daniel Owino Misiani) – it’s that Kienyeji music with prominent electric-guitar sounds. I heard a Benga-type TZ song (orchestra Makassy) the other day and the singer was like “attention! no smoking! mke wangu/ nilimlipia mbuzi/ arusi imefanyika/ kufika Dar’esalaam akatoweka/..” aah that Benga muziki just furahishas me. I heard ati Mugithi has really taken off in Nai even amongst young people, aah that’s good. These were the kinds of music that they played in markos when people were being songwad nywele, in kiosks, in mathrees (mbele ya ‘90s), in bar-butcheries.

· Blackouts: zilikuwa regular sana, especially jioni. I hated the way that, when you were just about to pumzika and watch The Rich Also Cry (kumbuka kina Leonora with her red cheeks) the lights would go off and you could only listen to radio. Lakini in seco when there was a blackout we were still expected to maliza homework by candlelight.

· Businesses of every description: from njembe & farm implement holdings to car spare-part extravaganzas (River Rorry), knitting needle warehouses (Bazaar), khanga/kikoi/fabric stores (Ngara), filing & typing agents (central Nai).. I penda Nai for that.. that’s the entrepreneural spirit of Kenya. Right now it’s computer-related biashara, lakini back then the popular one was “fish & chips” shops, every five footsteps kulikuwa na duka ya chips.

· Banana trees & other fruit trees: yenyewe Nai Estos were like orchards. Fruit trees used to grow ovyo ovyo. Some people in our Esto had banana trees, wengine had passion fruits climbing on their walls, wengine had guava trees, others had berry trees, na mnakumbuka those kei-apple fruits which grew on those thorny fences? Heh-heh apparently they weren’t edible lakini we used to throw them at each other. Those kei-apple fruits were mbaya when they got rotten.

· Chokoras: back in the 80s they were called “parking boys” cause they’d stand near parking spaces in central tao and promise to watch over your gari if you gave them a shillingi (weh! Siku hizo a shillingi could nunua sijui a mandao and a soda was 3 shillings). Back then there weren’t many parking boys and most didn’t sleep in tao, and they didn’t iba people’s handbags or toroka with their ngepas. When they became wobohos it became tabu.

· CID: hao walikuwa kama 7feet tall na walikuwa mysterious, lurking around Nai waiting for someone to sengenya the serikali. I think Inspector Sikujua in Vioja Mahakamani was a CID lakini the real ones were scary kabisa. There were so many people being pelekwad to Nyayo house na hawakuemerge with all their faculties, so people just nyamazad instead of risking saying “ero kamano” to Nyayo house.

· Colloquial language: although other nchis have their slang, the slang of Nai has to be unique. Yenyewe sheng has endelead mpaka it’s as if the sheng of today is a different lugha. Lakini it would be bad if kiddos sahaud real swaha – having said that even KTN news siku hizi is broadcast in swaha so that’s good.

· Dengu mania: or is it ndengu? At some point they tokead in Nai and every hao was eating them with chapos. There used to be such ‘epidemics’ of food crazes, mpaka things were standardised across Nai, like that method of making tea (sijui 2:1 parts water to milk, or is it 3:1?), the method of making chapos (one method tokead of folding them like a snail shell then rolling them). Other standardised dishes included kachumbari, lakini I’ve never seen the ubora of pilli pilli.

· Doors of chuma: hah-hah they were fun to swing on. At some point people became security conscious and they started wekaing milango ya chuma to supplement their front doors, so they’d lock them at night or when they were away. When they tokead those biasharas of metal-welding became popular lakini if you passed by a metal-welder you were warned not to angalia the flame (like the onyo not to angalia the sun with bare eyes).

· Eggs: our nchi pendad mayai- egg boiro sandwiches, egg & chips, kuku na mayai, mayai na ugali. I kumbuka having to eat eggs ati cause they have protein mingi, but I still don’t like them. One day I was tengenezaing a cake and I broke an egg to find that a kuku was already growing inside. From that day I always put an egg in water first to see if it floats hata ikifloat kidogo ishindwe kabisa. In seco we were going for a field trip and the teachay insisted that we carry eggs boiro for the packed lunch. Ushamba sana. I also kumbuka a moral story (the ones we’d be taught in Sunday school) about a boy who stole an egg to eat it in secret and the moral of the story was whatever you do God is omnipresent, lakini nauliza the kijana ate it raw?? Ai jameni.

· Ever-hazzardous swimming pools: I kumbuka many swimming pools getting greenish, yani if you dove in you disappeared. They used to weka chlorine that wasn’t enough or they didn’t bother wekaring it. Ai yani you could find churas germinating their tadpoles in swimming pools, thinking it was a pond. You hear wazunyes going on holiday somewhere and complaining ati the swimming pool was green and you’re like “kwa hivyo?” we swam in them na hakuna danger kubwa hapo.

17 Comments:

At 2:51 pm, Blogger Adrian said...

the business of churches popping up at every corner is probably similar to that one of schools. especially shags there are too many churches - compared to the number of people. you find ma churches with kitu 20 members.

dengu mania: chapati and dengu is till today my favourite dish!!
LOL @ folding chapos like a snail - my mom does that!

doors of chuma: i can hear the sound of people knocking with keys or with the padlock/chain.

thanks so much for the wonderful memories - from A to Z, everything was so true!
keep the memories coming!

 
At 4:11 pm, Anonymous mshairi said...

Two things:

Have you seriously considered getting published?

Your memory is phenomenal, memoire!

Btw. A friend brought a young woman from her ancestral home to work in her house. The girl was excellent. She worked hard. She became sophisticated. My friend’s husband fell in love her and they lived happily ever after. Except for my friend, of course:)

 
At 4:34 pm, Blogger nick said...

*had been waitin wit baited breath for ur next installment*
can't imagine what else u have in store for us...

now in the smae spirit of bad manners of adding on peoples posts or completing msairi's shairis

Housies: oh remember how they'd oga with rexona or the houseboys with lifebouy
and they pendas vaseline hair tonic with plastic combs!they formed soroities with other housies in the esto and gossiped live live

TV: ha u remember rich also cry, akina wildrose, lady of the rose....

Oh yes ur house wasnt he house if u didnt have burglar proofed windows or doors

Swimming: it used to be 50bob..i'd go swimmin at boulevard,silver springs and safari park. tupa ten cents(they were there back then) and dive for them.
there was a time ymca was popular..however there was a drownin incidence and here used to be this white lady that would bring chokora's to swim....

C=Church. if u were catholic u would know the joy in discovering St Paul's 6-6:30pm mass.short and sweet

 
At 12:50 am, Blogger Afromusing said...

lol! 'mulika torch academy' enyewe that was a thorough one! i enjoy your blog sana btw.

 
At 2:43 am, Blogger Kenyan Pundit said...

Again, thanks for the wonderful memories and I echo Mshairi's comment on publishing...your blog has me thinking on how great it would be if we could record our parents and grandparents memories in a similar way. We could have a Nairobi back in the 60s, Kenya back in the 50s etc. blog Better yet would be an oral history project. It shouldn't take folks like Carole Elkins to come to Kenya to reveal our own history. OK, I'll get of the pulpit now :)

 
At 5:50 am, Blogger grothe said...

When I was in the 6th grade I wrote a report on Nairobi and have dreamed of going there ever since. One of my close friends is from Kenya and she really wants me to travel there....

http://grothe.typepad.com/

This is my first time at the site.

 
At 7:41 pm, Anonymous chepkemboi04 said...

Memoire, you've done it again. I agree with Adrian on the churches, and as for chapos, i still fold them like a snail before cooking (my granny would kill me if I skipped this part of the process !!), and as for Mshairi, your comment is just too wicked ! BTW, I agree with Kenyan pundit.

As always, keep blogging.

 
At 1:41 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

As always asante sana everyone for all the appreciation :-)

@ Adrian: for real, people even made opening a church a form of biashara, that's not ungwana and I think congregations should be united anyway labda ya 20 people a church.

@ Mshairi: yup that one is a sad consequence sometimes, esp common when the wife treats the housie vibaya lakini some housies just get malicious or thirsty for cash money. Basi afadhali 'houseboy' hapo

@ Nick: hah I kumbuka Lifebuoy was pinkish in colour and it was made from cow hides or something. I didn't know about that incident in ymca, kumbe that's why it's not operational. Vaseline hair tonic!! Maze do they still sell it?

@ Afromusing: thanx sana I penda your blog also

@ Kenyan Pundit: that's a great idea (I had a rela collecting memories of elders a few years ago), I'd be quite curious to soma a blog by a 16 year old on what it's like in Nai lakini labda they're busy futaring sigara!! Ok just jokes there.

@ Grothe: welcome, tell your friend about this site, hope you visit Kenya sometime

@ Chepkemboi: It's amazing those Nairobisms of chapo and tena we Kenyans love chapo so much it's unreal!

@ all: dunno if I might take a break for summer and relieve y'all of the reminiscing (back to the present I guess) ;-)

 
At 4:30 pm, Blogger Adrian said...

ati a break for summer?!
i know you're kidding!!

a) it's not summer yet!
b) you can't take a break!

unless it's to go home and come back with the latest...

A FAN

 
At 2:38 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Adrian: maze it feels like Summer the minute spring ingias and the sun's out more (or it gets dark only after 8-9pm). I'm missing Kenya big time. I'd love to start a biashara in Mombao and kunywa palm juice.

 
At 10:00 am, Blogger Adrian said...

count me among those who can't stand these mambos of ingiaing (8ish) and tokaing (5ish) jobo when it's dark.

 
At 1:28 pm, Blogger M said...

The MOW swimming pool was a complete eco-system. Ducks, frogs, dolpins...

 
At 12:30 am, Blogger Poi said...

ok i gotta make a confession coz my poor ass is gettn fired girlfriend. I just discovered ur blog leo, en am on the floor. Seriously, yu r hilarious in a classic level.

I jus love the way yu write, the mixture of swa/eng plus yu sound lk its way too sanifu(ayah?)hahaa
Am feeling yu on the mboch(aya) issue bana one day my cuzoz whooped their's wit potaz, by the time the folks got home she had all these swellings on her, yani they should be in the constitution review they r doing if its still on(now tht its taken like forever)

The 'dengu' issue bana, i never ate em, i'd rather chapo/juo. So yu kno mathe wuld sema ati if i cant eat the chap/dengu i kaa like tht..bana, some of those things yani.

I am with yu on all ur issues, but coz am 'illegally' postn on ur blog wacha i chomoka.

Ur memory! Awesome.

 
At 5:45 am, Blogger fayvalady3 said...

you forgot chai or bakshish. bribing is the absolute Kenyan way of doing everything.

 
At 10:55 am, Blogger Chatterly said...

I just looooove your blog! Great sense of humour you have...keep it up!

 
At 2:27 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Poi: feel free to share memories. Nafikiri domestic workers need to revive workers unions au the situation will just continue.

@ Fayvalady3: oh yes kitu kidogo hata that song by Eric Wainaina was like 'ukitaka "chai" hewe officer kunywa KETEPA' funny but true

@ Chatterly: welcome and thanx :-)

 
At 9:19 pm, Blogger Naya said...

i keep saying that i'm going to log out right now and go about my day but i'm hooked on this blog. the comments and your memories are fantastic.
mboch issue: i told my sister to quit treating her mboch like a step child - her mboch was a supuu it was unbelievable - coz karma is a bitch, she might jet off with her hubby. she was a great mboch though, classy and great with the kids. i think my sis was insecure, haha.

rexona/lifebouy: who kumbukas sunlight? my clothes used to sparkle when i washed them with sunlight. did y'all know you could use it as bathsoap? haha, life in boarding school teaches you how to invent - sunlight=laundry soap=bathnbeaty soap.

ketepa: i never liked tea, always preferred drinking chocolate, coz my mom assigned me the duty of making tea and you know people drank tea all day, and it always used to boil over and i hated that! anyway, i now love tea (but without milk of course - too many flashbacks of 'chai imemwagika')

chapos: i'll never get over chaps, i make them on every special occasion, every holiday. only learnt how to make them when i moved away from home.

great, great blog. thanks for allowing us to 'jipox' on it with our endless comments ...

 

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