A-Z of Only in Nairobi (F-J)

· False advertisement: mingi “fish & chips” shops only sold sausage & chips, and you could ingia a restaurant and order the ‘dish of the day’ lakini you’d be ambiwad ati it wasn’t available. Siku hizi its swimming pools without water (ymca), bakeries without cakes mpaka afte (the one in 20th C) … err but hizo ni part of the hubbub of Nai

· Fanta na Coca Cola: those were the sodas to drink. Kina sprite, sijui mirinda, tangauzi lemon, ginger ale, those sodas couldn’t compete with fanta/coca cola. Hata when fanta blackcurrant na fanta zingine tofauti tokead they still couldn’t beat fanta orange. Lakini mnakumbuka when small kiddos drank soda alongside biscuits? Aah they used to wacha “floating fish” in the soda bottle. "Hamna adabu?" They'd be asked. Na mnakumbuka that thing in chuo of sharing a soda, and before one person passed it on to the next they would wipe the bottle with their sweater sleeve? Eurrgh sana hiyo.

· Football Africa style: there were mob football fields hapa na pale and people would kutana there to play matches. Some players were barefoot lakini they gongad the foota mbali sana. Na je those days of Gor Mahia (“Gor biro”) v. Harambee stars, and people in the stadium would riot and jump over the podiums into the field. Some wobohos only arrived at the mwisho of the game in time for the riots.

· Footwear like: sandak (they’d melt on people’s feet when the jua tokead), akala (sijui kama they were moulded with fire au they were sewed together from tyres), ngoma (bila style but handy for impromptu running for a matt), safari boots (lakini they were mostly valiwad by tourists with those khaki outfits) oh and who can remember the colour of their slippers? Yani every Kenyan wore slippers at home, it was a total and absolute Kenyan tabia. Heh-heh try playing in an area with thorns and unavaa slippers! Mob thorns ingiad people’s feet that way. Ooh "ndutu" also ingiad people's feet when they wore slippers.

· Gates: Na pia gates had sharp spikes – hah! We used to ruka over our gate when we were katazwad to go nje and play, but then those spikes could wound someone. Mnakumbuka those metallic gates with ornamental designs and a kaplace to chungulia from? Hakukuwa na mambo ya ati doorbell, you gonga on the gate with a shillingi. Na gates used to be fungwad with a chain and padlock – some padlocks were industrial-style and our mbwa used to cheza with that chain and piga kelele with it.

· Githeri-to-go and chai-na-bofuro-on-the-run: mnakumbuka those hawkers in every part of Nai who used to sell cold marrow in sacks, chai from vibuyu and mkate bofuro (those big slices with blueband). Maze they were kimbizwad from central tao lakini people used to stop and drink tea there.

· Gongaing on bus roofs: as a signal that you’d fikad your destination in Kenya buses. Maze they used to be so packed, lakini the dereva could hear when someone gongad the roof and the bus would simama mahali popote – bus-stop or no bus-stop. Also matts used to stop for passengers anywhere.

· Gout: the way people ate that combi of nyama choma and Tusker/Pilsner, mob men developed gout and beer bellies. Hata some manos objective yao ilukuwa to eat nyama pekee and to drink beer, day in day out.

· Handshakes: it surprised me that wazunyes don’t really shake hands with each other lakini in Nai if you didn’t shake someones hand it was rude. Us kiddos pelekad the handshake a step further – who kumbukas the name of that handshake whereby the thumbs clicked accompanied by that craze of saying: “‘sasa?’ ‘fit’ ‘story?’ ‘hakuna’) heh-heh maendeleo ya teeniez.

· Hao watu wa: makaa, wa sukuma wiki, wa roasted maize, wa fried samaki (aah the harufu of those samaki was too much), watu wa fried nduma, wa mitumba, wa kubeba mizigo (like you could pay them to beba crates of soda or mizigo from the market on bicycles/ wheelbarrows), wa sugar cane (aah I really loved sugar cane, yani that sukari is second to none lakini they could maliza your teeth). Asiye taste sugarcane raw hajawai kutaste sukari.

· Hospitals za kubeba your own blanket: aah that’s not ungwana. People going to public hospitals had to beba their own spoons and blanketi or they would tetemeka in the cold.

· Idle/leisurely TV presenters: hah-hah kumbuka when a VOK/KBC/KTN was being aired and the sounds of the presenters/staff talking could be heard; ai yenyewe. Na pia when the weather was being presented the weatherman/ woman wouldn’t have prepared a script beforehand, they’d just randomly point at a map of Kenya and sema “err huko Mandera hakutanyesha… err…Mombasa kuna humidity…. Oh- na pande za Rift Valley kutakuwa cloudy. Okey goodnight. Oh na pia huko Pwani kutanyesha. Goodnight” Woi woi we would cheka, those presenters were comedians bila kujua.

· Interactive advertisement: mnakumbuka those mathes outside markos or hairdressers who used to urge passing women to go and have their nywele songwad, karibu they vuta them by force, mpaka you could enter into an argument with those mathes saying to you “ah-ah lazima tukusonge nywele.”

· Joto, flood-rains, cold nights: Nai could be hot, hot, hot, especially siku za Christmas but at night the temperature would plummet kama ile ya Sahara desert. And when it rained it was liked someone mwagaing a bucket from mbinguni hata we used to sing “rain, rain go away/ come again another day/ little children want to play/football (or netball).” Lakini it would continue to nyesha and we'd play "stuck in the mud."


At 5:56 pm, Blogger nick said...

its great to be back on top

1.Fanta- what were they thinkin ati Fanta cream,tropical,grape, strawberry..there was an incidence in our school where a boy substituted tropical wit urine...

2.Fish and chips..if u had money and were business minded that was the way to go(yet that kenchic kuku always ruled)...then wit time Salons were they way to go...cyber cafes...and now driving schools!!!

3.Hospitals taht u beba ur own blanket even if u dont have a bed!!!! i shall not speak ill of my employer

4.Football played on the table wit bottle tops and a button plucked from your shorts-now thats was footie

At 11:56 pm, Blogger nehanda said...

there was this place karibu bus station where i used to take number 15 mathree...it had the best sausage pies ever.. i think it was like 5 bob for the longest time.. this was before the nando craze and what have you..reading this..im so homesick

At 3:13 am, Anonymous Mshairi said...

I would be shaking people's hands when I first came to England and getting strange looks or downright reluctance. I learnt not to offer handshakes. When in Kenya, I get strange looks when I don't shake hands :)

At 6:48 am, Blogger nick said...

@mhairi: in nyeri where i work. its an offence not to greet nurses by hand....but they're gettin used to my polite "mornin" as i stroll in ...i don't do handshakes

another offence if u dont sit down and gossip withthem over a thermos of tea

At 10:59 pm, Blogger Adrian said...

footwear: and ma bata bullets

i remember that weather guy, wandemi muchemi i think, yani that guy used to shrub!

watu wa magazeti: the guys who used to sell newspapers in the middle of the road in the traffic jams. my mom bought her paper from the same guy every day. i'm sure i would recognise him if i bumped into him in town.

interactive ads: in places like kenyatta market i remember my mom having to say at almost every stall: "nafika pale mbele alafu nirudi"

At 8:51 am, Anonymous Mama JunkYard said...

Oh man...I didn't even make it to the top 3 commenters here.

I remember those Fanta flavours. I liked them all. Apart from Cream Soda.

I can't wait for the rest of the A-Z

Thanks Mem.

At 4:23 pm, Blogger KymmBr. said...

talk of having to eat some weird lunches...i remember when i was in colle and after class we hit 44 mathrees to town then go to this place in law courts where a certain mathe used to sell some big weird chapos and stew....and then si we wud hog yu guy like there was no tomorrow...funny thing is we were doing all that so that we can save bakes to go rave at ibiza on a furahhiday.

talk of interactive advertising...yenyewe those mathes at kenyatta market were too much. last time i ws in kenya and i took my sis to see pal those sides and those mamas are all over yu ati they do her hair...am lyk wtf, we donn want no hair done..
but i rem all this and realise i miss home damn! am coming tonite.

At 10:02 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Nick: for real, those driving schools zimeenda too far, mob cars just conglomerate in tao bila learner-drivers.
As for the flask of tea yani if you don't agree to kula/kunywa as offered it's vibaya even if you've already shibad.

@ Nehanda: amazing how far 5/= went, now Nandos would charge sijui 100 for the same thing, hao wezi kabisa

@ Mshairi: some manos when they've just finished poking their nose they then extend their hand na yenyewe someone cant really not shake it

@ Adrian: you kumbuka the weather guy's name, wow, those presenters would hog a whole channel mpaka they retired. It's amazing how those road newspaper sellers manage not to be kanyagwad by garis!! They're still uzaing them that way.

@ MJ: Fanta orange took 1st place then maybe Fanta blackcurrant but why they put fruit names is a mystery, there was no fruit in them.

@ Kymmbr: there's something about chapos and stew, even now I don't tire of that chakula, kwanza when the mchuzi is cooked vizuri.
There also used to be mathes promoting their sweater-knitting stalls and their vegetables!!

Nai... what a place, why can't someone make a movie about it asap

At 11:55 pm, Blogger Shameek said...

ahh i just found this...although i'm not from kenya in the 80's or 70's, i still rememba nairobi...Ngara...

Slippers...Every Kenyan has those red or blue Bata slippers...no matter who you are.

Anyone rememba gatundus?

Namnagani? Fit
stop acting hard

its tru...fanta orange is the best

rememba the competitions where u had to towa the platic thing from coke bottle caps?

adrian...i know which guy your talking about...he chilled in that big intersection by the oooold church...he was on the way to my school.

Mama Boga anyone?


This place makes me miss home like anything

At 11:01 am, Blogger kipepeo said...

i miss fantaaaaaaa!!!!!why doesnt european fanta taste like fanta???? fanta orange is even yellowy! fanta's still my drink!! and those little bata rubber sandals for kids that my dad used to cut the back off when i had outgrown them so i could wear them as slippers, they smelled soooo nice, dont ask why i was smelling my bata sandals...

At 6:54 pm, Blogger Sunflower said...

LOL! When us guys were in high school we'd go to the petro station) and ask for those to rubber thingys for motis to wear on our wrists. As for the mama's those Kenyatta market mama's for shuaking were so funny yelling 'aunty, aunty kuja kwa stall 156, tuta ku shuka fit' As for those slippers.... i still wear slippers....lol
As for fanta, hee fanta blackcurrent ime shinda! I hate the one they have here! Kenya is CLASSIC!

At 10:39 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Shameek: oh yes mama mbogas, they always wore headscarves and some also sold ready-boiled maize; Bata is a national institution in Kenya lakini I heard ati it's a global company!!

@ Kipepeo: Fanta outside Kenya is nyuma sana, it tastes too citrus-acidic, they should mwagia it more sukari

@ Sunflower: there are also people in JKIA who accost people as they arrive, offering taxis by force, yani you try to toroka but they insist like those marko mathes

At 8:16 am, Blogger gishungwa said...

why is evryone forgetting the ultimate shoes, North Star and Gumboots.
Memoire kwani ur mum dint valisha you those pull up socks among other styles for doing socks in primo the square, the rolls. the net dresses with like 30 layers and telling you 1919 chiks new nothing and who sed mlazo is good for shule all line rudiing nyuma.
the Mutura just next to the mboga and the maize roast, the supu and matumbo.....
still you rule, get published you got real talent

At 10:14 am, Anonymous Old Citizen said...

Maze, I came across this piece months after it was published. But it's still da bomb. It took me back to them days:
Kiddos taking the very sweet fanta and biscuits... yes, I remember the 'fish' floating in the soda. How the pieces of biscuit went back to the soda is not rocket science
-the foolishness of wiping the soda bottle's top as kids shared the soda... oh, the wisdom missing.
- people gongaring the roof of the KBS (how true: those buses were always overpacked) and had no working bells. Remember how people hang from the doors?
-Oh, the slippers and the mob thorns
-Remember closi (closing day) where sodas were seen as a must have.. and the crisps, bicuis, etc
-Oh, the gates, sharp spikes, mbwa kali signs everywhere and the maperas and zambarau growing inside rich compounds hehehehe
-Talking of beer and goat meat; remember the popular use of those Tusker posters (ubiquitous: on walls, bus stops, electric poles) advertising Event: Disco Disco Disco Where; XYZ Bar sijui etc Entry: Free!!
-KBC announcers zubaring even after they were back on air after a story or something. They would stare and when they realise they're on start mumbling and get on with the news.
-Oh, the mob fields ...kids would play anywhere anytime.. curse the landgrabbers!!!
-The jamaas frying cassava in shopping centres with lots of chili,and outside schools mama barafus and maembe with chilli and sliced proper.And oh, the mabuyus

At 11:21 am, Blogger Chatterly said...

Did anyone ever HOTCOMB their hair? Those days before perming became popular you just had to have this very heavy iron comb, heat it up, grease your hair and listen to the sizzling sound....like frying bacon...lolll!!!!

You would then have straight hair for a day or two...then be back to the same kinky ol' hair.

At 2:34 pm, Anonymous Memoire said...

@ Gishungwa: awww thanx. As for gumboots ati they became fashionable a couple of years ago in ulaya!!

@ Old Citizen: karibu sana. Kama you kumbuka the late 70s/early 80s, please share your reminsces. Who kumbukas the days of the attempted coup in '82? Kiddos were like 'school's off, let's play!'

@ Chatterly: yep one could literally 'hear' their hair being sizzled by that hot comb!!!


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