StoryMoja got me to do this. Check out more details for their ‘My Nairobi’ stuff at http://storymojahayfestival.com.
Now imagine you are landing in Nairobi a night like this. From the windows of the Boeing you see the red-orange beacon flickering on the wing. And below is the capital shimmering with stars. The nose tips and the Boeing body dives in. Close up, your eyes range over the assortment of switched on tubelights and turned on TV’s, trying to peek further into the underlying life of the Nairobi world and hoping, before the undercarriage hits the fine tarmac, to spot through an open window, in a split second, the steaming beef and vegetables being scooped out of the pan.
And when you come out of the airport there is suddenly daylight. You don’t know why. A taxi comes along and you take it. As it moves you hear the faint drone, from downtown, of the bipolar bible men who shout into traffic lights on Kenyatta Avenue and speak in Ecclesiastes.
Taxi man tells you arrival at the hotel is going to take a while because the new double decker flyovers coming out from the traffic fizz on Uhuru (like big, wide, flat and curving grey straws) are not yet ready to suck in the cola of heavy traffic.
He says “Call me Nairobi traffic na mimi ni yule yule, hapa hapa, huku huku, sibadilishi wala sibadiliki.” (“I am the horns of Toyota, the engine purr of Probox, the squeak of engineless mkokoteni that is laden with cockerels tied at the legs and packed for the slaughter at dinner, and bunches of bananas for the kiosk; I am the industrial R&B blasting from the matatus that roll in the deep with Adele; I do not change my underwear and neither does my underwear change me.”)
Your taxi man is simply a collection of roundness: soccer ball head, tapeworm stuffed potbelly, crude oval legs. He smokes a cigarette and sometimes chomps on Cadbury’s chocolate. Your taxi man gradually eases you into downtown.
A white capped policeman stands alone on a packed highway, bites into his walkie talkie, and eyes a mob lynch on Kenyatta Avenue.
The cars are so many you smell gasoline.
Your taxi man has a problem easing you out of downtown.
This means the sun is now dropping at 5 o’ clock.
Your taxi man says “Call him Nairobi Sun. He is cutting downtown into shapes of his girlfriend, the dying and slanting Miss Day Shadows – these unsheathed KICC long nails of hers and her Eye & Em long fingers and her Lonhro long legs. You see Miss Day Shadows’ parts arranged almost parallel, block and street upon block and street. You cast them like her too, here at this edge of my taxi. Then this section where too many of us are coming out of caves of Tusky’s and Info-Touch Cyber’s and Mohammed Ibrahim’s Assorted Stalls, so we have to Stand On Zanzibar whilst waiting to make our way out of here please. Maybe you were expecting a forest designed by Ernest Hemingway but it is mega-pixel perfection only spoiled by a run over dog, or a sprawling garbage heap vultured by Marabou Storks, or some half-human street urchin oozing mucous and swarmed all over by flies, or a City Council litter bin stuffed with expired and yellow certificates of vaccination.”
You are now looking at the legs of this blue chip damsel walking down Kenyatta Avenue. At her high heels which are faux suede with peep toe fronts, ruffle ruched around the front keyholes, and they have back zipper closures, and comfy cushion footbeds, and ribbed soles, not to mention the one and a half inch platforms and five inch heels, fuschia coloured.
You look at the footwear of your round taxi man, he wears tyre sandals. That is sandals made from the hide of car tyres. Somewhere along the trip he tells you how, when he first tried on his new sandals, his wife washed his feet and bandaged them at the end of a long day because the texture of their hide blistered his feet, made them ooze blood.
It is almost night, the beginning of a Friday evening. Your taxi man has almost reached your hotel. Nairobians are out of their offices, are in their cars and are going home. Headlights everywhere.
He says “They are going home, man.”
They go home and switch on their tubelights, turn on their TV’s, activate their microwaves, boot their laptops; open their fridges and bring out the banana yoghurts; slosh the pans with the olive oil and throw in the veggies and beef. Stir fry and serve.