What Else Did You Do When You Were Holidaying in Kenya?
You are married but reality of “ndogo-ndogos” tempts you into “mpango wa kandos”
I get all sorts of questions via email from Kenyans at home about all sorts of subjects about Kenyans abroad, sometimes with focus in Sweden. I am not usually able to answer all these questions because I don’t have time. Sometimes, I find the attitude of some Kenyans at home towards Kenyans abroad very weird but when I look at some of the issues critically, it becomes apparent that some Kenyans abroad are also responsible for nurturing stereotypical attitudes about the Kenya Diaspora community. Let us begin from the basics.
You are a Kenyan based in Stockholm and you are returning home on holiday. You have been planning every bit of the trip and when you land at JKIA, you are anxious because you want everything to fall into place. During the last one year, you have been saving for the trip and raising KSh 100k to carter for your personal expenses (aka keeping the standard) is very much within your reach. After all, you will, for a break, be living like a King so the budget is fair enough. In any case, why should you go on holiday to face the same hardship oppressed Wananchi are undergoing after vulture politicians have stolen tax payer’s money?
Sending cash home “to alleviate poverty” is very taxing but it helps you psychologically because it reminds all beneficiaries home that you are an economic power to be reckoned with. When you arrive well loaded, relatives, friends and observers alike, are always very expectant because you normally carry some goodies from ulayani to please the eyes – electronics, clothes, watches, anything. Once you have dished out everything, you begin your holidays in earnest.
You begin to spend big. If you don’t hire a “top of the range” car to help you move round, you swing in a taxi almost everywhere you go. At the pub, you sort all the bills and when you are around, all other wallets remain locked in pockets.
In your mind-frame, you are always more Swedish than Kenyan, not out of your liking, but out of your many years of experience ulayani. At 120 Kenyan shillings, a bottle of Tusker is damn expensive for “watu wa home” but in your brain, you cannot help wondering why stuff is menacingly cheap in Kenya. Wananchi are crying that unga is expensive but when you convert the amount in kronazz, it adds to 14kr and you begin to wonder what you can do with that amount in Stockholm and you quickly run out of options. Just to zoom in a public toilet at the Central station to pee costs 10kr and at current rates, that is already the price of Tusker in Kenya at a well-to-do pub in town. Since you are in Rome, you agree that life is very expensive in Kenya. You cannot dare say that 14kr is nothing in Stockholm and cannot even buy a soda at Pressbyrå.
As you make your presence felt, you are always surrounded with a gang of five or more friends (ma jama wa mtaa) whose job is to take you around and show you places. You have been away for too long and you are no longer used to what happens around so you surely need some help. You are out having a good time in town and everybody is happy except that everybody has whispered a small personal problem you may have to solve and you have promised “to look into the matter” at some time. Members of your entourage are patient as long as they have access to you. In Stockholm, people rarely follow you anywhere because everybody is bussy. Unlike in Stockholm, you feel important and you are enjoying every bit of the attention you are getting. You are very much respected and there is no racism to think about. Sometimes, you wonder how the world can be different!
When the tummies of your minders are filled up with Nyama choma and their heads are spinning after constant vinywaji consumption as you flex your financial muscles, the bill is under Sh 4k. You smile because that is about 400kr, cash that can hardly enable you to have a good time at some third rate Stockholm joint, buy beer for five friends and feed them to capacity.
An equivalent amount in Stockholm can only be ok if you are meeting one buddy for a chit-chat. Even then, you are within the comfort zone because the vinywaji-buying is always pendulating and this circumstance always reduces the size of the hole the pub experience can drill on your poor wallet. In any case, the wallet is filled with worthless credit cards to help you sustain the image of a person “sitting pretty” financially Miguna Miguna style. The truth is that you are part of the statistics at the debt collection agency (aka krono) since your bills surpassed your income long time ago. Instead of failing to pay your rent and risking homelessness (ungechekelewa), you abandoned some credit-based bills and this is how you got admission at krono. That is one of your most kept secrets!
Air-lifting Kenyans to study at Swedish universities
You are a kijana and although girls are very scarce in Stocky or expensive when you are lucky, you suddenly become the darling of the girls as soon as you hit home ground. Sometimes, you almost feel like it is your democratic right to be surrounded with young smooth chicks whose attention are all hooked on you expecting some financial stuff.
Sometimes, you are married but when you begin to absorb the reality of Kenyan ndogo-ndogos with sharp titis mounted horizontally; and with shaking kilos of round madiabs pointing backwards from the posterior, you voluntarily download your conscience from your consciousness as you fix plans for mpango wa kandos. You are hoping that mama watoto in Stockholm will never catch wind of your excursions with “vikarias” because you are miles away. In fact, you have even moved away from relatives so that you can get your freedom to do as you wish. You call it “freedom of association”. After all, you have the money and since money talks in Kenya, why not get spoilt for once before you return to prison in Stockholm? You argue.
For your friends who have been hanging around; or for family members who have been watching the “impact” of their kith having relocated abroad; and for observers witnessing your “success” from the point of view of “the huge size of your wallet”, you have left a lasting impression that will encourage members of the population to try and relocate to Stockholm. The impression you have created is that in Stockholm, money grows on trees for how else would you be able to spend such a huge amount of money within such a short time if you don’t have that money in plenty? And if it doesn’t grow on trees, how could you be wasting it at such a high rate?
Matters are made worse because when you left Kenya a few years ago, you were jobless and very hopeless. Your apparent “success” is being associated with your “Diaspora status” although behind this “success”, you know that the saving and planning process for this trip has never been easy. However, you are sure that you can always pull the trick every year so no one will ever discover that in Stockholm, you are literally breaking your back at MacD or other joints to make ends meet.
After you have been doing five thousand dishes per day at some restaurant, or after you have been cleaning around in a building like a robotic machine for ten hours, the routine when you get home is usually to find yourself sleeping on the sofa where you collapsed. That is if you don’t end up snoring on your bed until the next morning although you were just taking a nap ahead of a shower.
Back on holiday in Kenya, you have tuned your parasitic acquaintances to believe that you are the Manager of some successful Company in Sweden. To sustain the image of a Mdosi, you even have contact cards of some phony Company you registered in Stockholm many years back when you used to sustain illusions of doing business in Sweden before reality struck. Then there is the worst part.
Through your “Company”, and because you are being pestered with questions about friends and relatives seeking your help to relocate to Sweden, you have begun to make bogus promises: that you can help the son of this and that contact to gain admission at a Swedish University because education in Sweden is free. Jameni!
At the back of your reasoning mind, you know that this is “mission impossible” but you proceed to encourage the prospective student to acquire a Kenyan passport and hand you all academic documents so that when you return to Stockholm, you can talk to a good lecturer friend of yours at Stockholm University to help with admission! The truth is that you are yourself unable to gain admission at any University although you live in Sweden but now, you are cheating some ignorant bloke in Kenya that this is very possible. Haya! That is not the only big lie you have told. There is another one.
The girls you promised marriage are looking for you
There are these contacts who are, basically, 8-4-4 drop-outs and who are themselves sure that their academic ambitions are over in Kenya. They are idle. What they want is just an opportunity to land in Stockholm and settle down to begin a new life. Instead of being honest by enumerating the difficulties which might be involved in the process, you let go “the pack of lies” once again because you must sustain your importance as a Diasporan. You have a different strategy of how such hopeless persons can be helped.
You can facilitate a flight to Stockholm after which you can help (through your good contacts) to fix a cute Swedish white chick who can marry your candidate and help him settle. The truth is that you have, yourself, never managed to hook a white chick because you don’t have the skills pronto!
If it’s a woman who “needs help” to relocate, the plan is equally easy – you can help fix a nice Swedish man who can shack with the woman in marriage, thereby help her with settlement. On this account alone, the precious goods have been made available “to entice you” and you are on what can only be described as “high consumption” of the goods. While Kenyan politicians are “Party-hopping”, you are effectively “Vajey-jey-hopping”.
In fact, you are impressed with the “Diaspora magic” and, as the goods get sweeter, you proceed to lie even more – that once in Sweden, the chick will quickly land a job (which you will fix) and be able to live a decent life, just like you. You will be there for her from day one because you have a big villa where she can stay as she tries to find her way out. Once the “seed of relocation” is planted in the heads of contacts back home, what follows is real application for passports and fund raising by families to purchase the ticket.
Since the promised relocation is a process that may take time, you excuse yourself by stating that you will first have to return to Stockholm “to prepare the way” and “lay the foundations” before the trips can be facilitated. You board the plane and after landing in Stockholm, you keep quiet. Your back-breaking job hardly gives you time to pay attention to anything else apart from visiting Vasa ocassionally “to discuss the situation in Kenya”.
You know too well that no one will call you from home with enquiries because due to poverty, making phone calls ulayani is very difficult. The worst you expect is an SMS which is easy to deal with because you just have to ignore them. In case emails are sent through the fake contact card you left behind, you are safe because either, you never check mails at that address or it has already expired after the web site was closed down when you abandoned your bizz ideas.
There were some young girls who were hanging around you when you were in town and interestingly, you promised to marry them as you consumed their goods liberally. They are the easiest to dump because every contact detail you gave them was fake.
Unable to reach you, some contacts have now contacted KSB seeking help. Kumbe, you took 50.000 Kenyan shillings from a father of four as “registration fees” of a son at Stockholm University but since you left home, you have never communicated? The family is crying and seeking a refund if the deal is off but you have gone underground! What else did you do when you were on holiday in Kenya? Let us know…