So I came to Nairobi… And did all manner of things, including walking all the way to Rongai and meeting my high school sweetheart, Makena. As I was telling you…meeting Makena introduced a new aspect to my Nairobi life… a new dimension.
Makena had progressed a big deal. She was way ahead of me in class-she was almost finishing CPA while I was starting. She was a laid back, devout young lady while I was a Hip Hop head.
But then, if we had started something in high school when she was a fourth former and I, a mono, we could find our way back. This time I could treat a girl, and I could not shy away from hugging…even kissing… like I had been in high school. I was also a bit of a playa, entertaining these thoughts and I had a girlfriend at home! Nairobi men!
So, we would meet, talk about things in a monotonic kind of way – we had no stories. Until she introduced me to her cousin, Ken, who happened to be my classmate – she was clearly bringing her family close – and had a crazy suggestion, that we move from the hostels and live together!
Moving out of the hostel was quite appealing – I would start a life, when I finished school I wouldn’t start from scratch, I would own stuff, I would hustle seamlessly, it was cheaper sharing, and I would have a pad with my girl(s)! There was no way my parents would allow that, so, even as we looked around for a house, we did it secretly.
Looking for a house is the number one hustle in Nairobi. You just can’t get a residential house near town! We were chased by one landlord for not being married, another one for not having beards, and another one thought we were looking for a cleaning job which wasn’t available! Those agents who write up their numbers using charcoal in the streets would not help either…after taking our money, they would either turn off their phones or take us to slums with mabati houses.
When we finally found a house in Ngara, it was a shop and the rent was Sh. 10,000. This was a huge room facing the street…all noisy and huge..but it was all we could get. The challenge was the money. It was too much for us. Solution? We get two other people! Ken brought in another Ken and I brought my fan, Kero, remember him? Paying Sh. 2,500 each was bliss, very cheap. To make things better, Kens had everything we needed. Two beds, cookers, utensils, iron, a computer with a TV card and the knowledge-they could cook! Kero and I sneaked out of Duwano Hostel…you see, rent was due and we couldn’t pay! We even left our beddings!
Life wasn’t bad. It involved sharing everything. We ran out of cooking gas and all contributed to buy, Ken’s TV card got spoilt and we bought another one… We would contribute to buy bread in the morning and all the shopping, equally. If you didn’t pay up and say, we bought sugar, you would take your porridge sugarless. It was a Harambee living. One of the Kens used to literally live at his girlfriend’s place, so we didn’t get to see him much….So, we lived life pretty well….until we came home one day with Kero, and caught Kens red-handed.
The bastards were packing everything to a cart! And by everything I mean everything… Everything that belonged to them was everything – except our clothes!
Bewildered, we asked what they were doing, and they said, “Tumeamua kuhama“
|We were frustrated|
Who moves without telling the roommates? I mean, just moves with everything and leaves two people to pay that much rent, without notice? Who moves and leaves friends with nothing, not even a light bulb?
Kero was sobbing, I was angry. We asked them if they could at least leave us one bed since they would not be using both and they told us “Not unless you hire it. Pay us Sh. 200 daily for the bed.“
We were devastated as we watched them move – they carried the freaking padlock and the curtains too! We then walked into the house… all dark and empty except for our small suitcases at one corner. There was even no place to sit and cry. Trouble had started. We had no place to sleep, no light, the house was open to the public and it was late in the evening! Shit was real!
Matress, bulb and two chapatis
Luckily, we had not paid rent yet. We went out, bought a small mattress, a light bulb, and two hot chapatis mwitu. There was no place to stand to reach the bulb holder, so I stood on Kero’s shoulders and pulled it down, wires and all, to the floor. Our light was at the floor level! Then we set the only bed sheet we had on the main window…as our curtain, ate our chapatis and slept.
Real life had started.
Rent was due the following day and we couldn’t possibly get the 10K. No school that day, we had to move out. So we crossed into the Railways Estate and spoke to our friend Jeff’s sister who was living in a very small single room SQ there to assist us in getting a place to stay. She told us we could move to her place and she would help us get a house before the day ended. So, we moved, unsuccessfully looked for a house all day.
We slept at her place… on our mattress, under her bed!
We all woke up early the following day and continued where we had left the previous evening, knocking in every day and asking that infamous question, “hapa kuna nyumba vacant?“…till we met a lady with a heavy Kisii accent who looked unsure that she had a room. She even called her husband to confirm. See, we were young and reckless, Meru and hot-tempered.. skinny and maybe poor. Kendi, our friend’s sister pleaded with her…using a testimony. And we got ourselves a place!
|This room is much better than ours|
Room within a house
Now, this was a large bedroom in the main house. To get into it, we would pass through the family sitting room. It had no socket, so they got an extension from outside and perched it through the ventilator expecting us to buy an extension to take it the rest of the way, which we couldn’t afford, ..so we let it be. It’s not like we had any electrical stuff anyway. Someone lived next day, in another bedroom. There was a separating glass window which was covered with newspaper and a locked door (since he had a TV, we would take turns watching through a small gap between the newspapers at the window and through the door keyhole).
The room was also huge. And all we had was the mattress, our small suitcases, an old cooking stove we got from a cousin’s friend in Eastleigh, two plates, a jug and two cups, one which we had helped ourselves to from the main family table room. We fixed a nail on the wall near the socket – remember it was up near the ventilators – where we would hang the jug in a polyethylene bag and drop a water heater inside to boil cooking water and save paraffin. Masters of creativity, no?
There were rules, too. We were to supposed to be in the house before 7:30 so that we don’t disturb the owners as they ate their supper in their sitting room and also so that we don’t spoil their sons….who were in their thirties!
We never washed our room – people wash under the bed and tables and the kitchen and the toilet, and we had none, so there was nothing to wash. And we were very okay with that. The madam of the house soon started making noise. We once met our window open, somehow, and when we asked she said the room was stinking, so she opened the window to let air in.
I told her, in a very stern Meru tone and accent; “It IS our room, WE pay rent to live, independently. So, if you think it is stinking, learn to live with that. I don’t want to get that window open again, ever!” ..then walked into the house and slammed the door hard. Kero was laughing so hard inside, he was literally on the floor. Being stereotyped works sometimes.
The following day, I met the window open again, I didn’t talk, I just stood there looking at it and trembling in anger. The house girl met me in that state, said hi, and when I didn’t respond, she ran back into the house and came out with the owner. Madam just said,
“Pole, ni paka alifungua”. I was like “I want to see that cat, and cut off its hands”.
The window was never opened again.
By the end of the month, we broke a basic rule and had to move. This time, we had no place to go, no plan, no money. Did we become street boys? Find out in the next edition.