I have moved within Nairobi severally, but every time it gets interesting. I will skip all the other moves* since they will be integrated into another story and there is no need to make this one lengthy. But for the record, I have spent most of my time in the Eastlands & its fringes. The crazy region. Started with Mathare, then Pipeline, Kariobangi then at some point, South C, then Nairobi West, Madaraka for a while before I got back to Embakasi, and then to Huruma, and then now to Mathare North.
The main criteria was proximity to work of course, then affordability and then the area had to overlook an airport or somewhere planes were operating. So all that Mathare K South region had the view of Eastleigh Airport. Mathare from the Northern Side. Ksouth was exactly lined up to Runway 24. Since planes took off from Runway 6, I could always see them on the runway ‘run’, and finally taking off with their belly right over our balconies – You just don’t know how exciting this is. South C I lived on the other side of Runway I can’t figure out which, not that close but Wilson Airport being the hub for flight training, there were so many landings and take offs and even what do they call them – circulations on top of me. Had the best view as well from that roof. In Embakasi it was obvious. The Mother of them all – The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This I was too good. I could tell you landings and take-offs. Not the complex schedule stuff, Just that the easy stuff like, The Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner used to land over lunch hour, the A340 would land around 4.30pm, The KLM Jumbo around 5.30am, Korean would leave around 11am and all that other ujuaji blah blah you wouldn’t hear on an ordinary day.
|View from the side balcony|
So there reached a point when this could no longer be a parameter for house choices. Fast forward to my most recent move. That last leg up there. Not that there was anything serious about it. It was just my worst day in my moving experience. Why did I move this time? We had started getting used with the neighbors badly (Kuzoeana vibaya). Especially now that I ‘operate’ from the house. The housewives who were living around thought this the best opportunity to keep knocking at my door for all weird requests. Others just gossiping outside my door. It is quite a challenge being single in places where you are surrounded by young families and other single ladies. Like they wonder how does this ghost operate. I was a stranger back in the days of leaving at 5.30am and coming back at 7.30pm. I am not a fan of home games if you know what I mean and so some may have concluded this guy is lonely and suffering in silence – thus trying to help. I do not know what is with idleness and influencing people to be generous in visiting their neighbors, but I know I love my peace. For the few weeks that led to my move, there were always knocks on the door several times during the day. Some were marketers, others were clothes sellers, a musician here a marketer there, all trying something funny. Please note they only came when their husbands were not around… I did not want to be burnt in my own house or marched to the streets naked.
Then there is this drama of houses tumbling down. That also scared me but it was not a major factor in this case. Rumors also started flowing that I was part of the gangs terrorizing the hood in the late hours because I was never leaving the house, my lights were on all night and I never seemed to ‘struggle’. These all-nighters of mine always get people confused. I searched for a house, and passed my vacating notice to the caretaker. I was not going far, just within two Kms of that place. In such a hood, 2 Kms is quite a figure with every piece of 50 x 100 occupied by single rooms and bedsitters rising 5 – 7 floors high, you can imagine the population in that area. It would take people ages to find you.
Moving day came, and I sought the assistance of two of my friends. I also went in search of a lorry to ferry my things. You will be surprised how we plan the space of these houses to fit all there is to be fitted. Getting the things out was hell on earth though. I always live anywhere above the 3rd floor. This time I was on the 6th floor. Gave me a perfect view of things around me, and the planes of course. Training nights were the best. I came to the balcony to watch helicopters circling the skies with their beautiful lights being reflected on the rotors (& a little bit of Kopp Etchells Effect). Always impressive. Getting things from the 6th floor was disastrous. Worst experience in anyone’s life. So don’t bring in the vibe of cube movers and etc. I am not of that league yet. My truck guy came with two more people. At some point they wanted to go slow on me. They felt ripped off since I had told them “ni kabedsitter tu”, “sina vitu mingi” at some point we even negotiated in Kikuyu. Being the end of January, they took my offer. They had no reason to be choosy after such a dry month.
Shock on them when they got to my “Kabedsitter”. We moved the things for three hours. Couches, wall unit, kitchenware and most shocking of all a chest freezer. Then this guy goes like
“Wanaume mna nguvu!” “Boss kwani mnachinja watu hapa?”
“Ha ha” “Maisha ni kungangana tu” I said
“Hii nauza kwanza, Ukiskia mtu anataka uniambie”
|Moving the Freezer|
At some point, I tried a milk venture, and then Milk ATMs came, kicked my ass out of business. Then a butchery, ‘my guy’ started his in like six months taking all my customers with him. No, they were his customers. The service industry is a bitch if you are not the service provider. So I let this stay at home, I will figure out its OLX day. Alternatively, I could start another chest freezer related business soon.
By now, most of my neighbors were at the balconies watching in awe, you could read it from their face that they could not figure how these things could have come from that tiny room. I could not walk down with the heavy mattresses, so as a short cut, hmmm we threw them from the sixth floor. The first landed okay, the second one was not too lucky. It ended up across the fence of the neighboring hospital. Retrieved it later. This created a distraction for the gossipers for a while. The look on some of the ladies faces, was priceless! Even those who never responded to my greetings when we met on the balconies or stairs. Clearly, I would be missed – or so I thought.
Then the mafia came – ha ha dream on. The Mungiki came. Yes, “Kiama”. You remember what hood this is right? Word had gone round that there was someone moving out. The dwellers of these neighborhoods were subject to some illegal tax by these renowned illegal sects & hood cartels. To this day. It was known as security fee. Security fee my foot! It wasn’t. Just plain extortion. I have never paid that crap since I got here and I wasn’t gonna be taking the moving fee nonsense either. It was so heated an argument I knew I was gonna be beheaded that same night or in the weeks to come.
They had these weirdly slow, druggy voices.
“Pesa ya chama?”
“Chama? Chama gani?” I was playing dumb here, of course I knew. My heart was beating so fast because I started seeing the things they would just pick from there and say:
“Ile siku utalipa ukujie hii”
So I go like “Wewe ndio nani unakuja kuniitisha pesa ya chama hapa?”
He looks at his right man and he says, “Ona huyu? Ati Hanijui”
This has started creating a scene because all the people around that place knew them. The shopkeepers, the residents, etc. Of course, they knew them, they have been threatened into paying these illegal fees. You even wonder what the clowns in uniform do patrolling these streets.
I was getting angry
“Wewe utoke mahali umetoka, ukuje hapa nikupatie pesa, kwani wewe ni nani?”
The guys made a crazy laugh.
“Wewe hautujui wewe!”
“Nyinyi mnajua mimi ni nani?”
“Hizo siku za vitisho ziliisha, hakuna kitu unaniambia.”
He then tries to talk nicely. Telling me he is the one who has been collecting ‘Taako’ as they called it. I told them I didn’t care. He even produced a tattered booklet, which looked like a debt collector’s book.
“Nyinyi ndio nani sasa?” “Mkitisha watu kadhaa mnadhani ni wote wanatishika, wewe ni mwanume bana! Enda utafute kazi kama wanaume wengine. Mimi hiyo pesa sikupei, enda ata uite Ras!” “Mwambie nimekataa”
Some skinny shabby looking guy with dreadlocks covered in that big cap shouted as he passed: “Watu walipe taako!”
I was ‘this’ tired and then some idiot thinks they could just threaten me into giving them money because others give them. ‘Kill me if you can’ my mind was thinking. They retired to a corner as they contemplated the next move. My mouth was confident but deep inside, weeee!!!!
I walked upstairs in a huff and on the first floor balcony took a picture of the two clowns, then proceeded to get the rest of the stuff from the 6th floor. After all was loaded, we had ourselves sodas and then moved to the new location.
|Good to go!|
It was getting dark and we offloaded in a hurry, dumping the stuff into the new house with no particular order. It looked like some auctioneers warehouse. When I say this is the worst moving out experience I ever had, believe me. The couches could not pass through the gates. I had secured myself a little corner house on the ground floor of some unnamed building in the fringes of Mathare North. There were three gates to my corner house. And we had to break & cut the doors to get the couches inside. I left the freezer outside because it could not get in unless I dismantled the entire cooling unit. That needed daylight. The whole moving in – out business ended at 10pm. A process I had started at 2pm. breaking doors included. I stepped out on the street and had myself 40/- worth of Mutura (Ordering in bits of ten ten ten – you get more), two large mangos and the tiny 200 ml packet of milk. That was my supper.
I threw myself onto the mattress and was out before I could even reposition myself for a comfier stay.
I threw myself onto the mattress and was out before I could even reposition myself for a comfier stay.
I woke up the next morning feeling as if a truck had hit me! Cursed to the site of the house and remembered I had a freezer to dismantle and reassemble once inside & doors to weld back in position. Rickety and torn couches & a broken coffee table poorer.
I swear I am not moving again!