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.