Humour: Kenya Diaspora Experiences

You go to Kenya and both relatives and friends think that since you have been based abroad, you have a lot of money. Suddenly, you need to sort the bills for almost everything – school fees, hospital bills, food, pocket money for hangers on, rounds at drinking sprees, Taxis etc.

The “natives” thought that I was so rich that I could fund “development projects” of individuals who wanted to start a shop here, build a residential block there for someone to earn a living, start a mitumba (second hand clothes) business for a relative there, buy school books for an uncle’s kid here, finance some mabati for a house in progress and so forth.

A relative wanted to plough his farm and just needed Ksh 10.000 to hire the tractor and he believed that this would be “nothing” for me. It was like anybody who shook my hand was expecting something. An uncle pulled me aside and told me that if I could give him Ksh 60.000, he could buy a piece of land that would “fix him for life”. That was slightly more than my monthly rent in Stockholm. It was crazy!

I was surprised but I didn’t want to show it. In fact, there is a small gang of close relatives who walked with me almost everywhere, showing me places and introducing me to people I didn’t know. Part of the introduction always included “…and this is our brother who lives in Sweden” or something like that. My being “from Sweden” was very important. Sometimes, I felt like a King, some times exploited while sometimes I just marveled as to what my having gone abroad had done to my personality.

Some joked that I should stand as the local MP although I have never been interested in politics. Others chipped in by stressing how they could campaign for me and stuff and that I was fit to lead!

I had not been to Kenya for five years and I was lucky that I had saved some money before I left Stockholm. I was almost being worshipped like a small God because I was able to solve some few problems. But I noticed that some Kenyans in Stockholm and those based in other countries had somehow “messed up the place”.

Many Diaspora Kenyans never complain openly about the “money problem” because they want to impress that they “have made it” abroad. A guy came with a ramshackle in a container and that thing made a huge impact because “it was a car”.

He stuffed some second hand furniture and electronics in the Ka container and this turned him into a hero kinda a thing within the family. He was dishing out stuff and when I arrived without a container after 5 years in Sweden, it was like I was a disappointment. Some critics even wondered which Sweden I was coming from!

The talk was like so and so was around the other day and “we saw with our eyes”. He had a car, TV sets, nice sofa sets, clothes (Mitumba that may have been picked up after white people threw them away), videos etc. The phrase “…we saw with our eyes” told it all. I only had my suitcase. You could have been there to notice the curiosity within the internal family when the suitcase was opened! There was a small crowd around the suitcase as it was being opened. People thought I had carried the whole Stockholm shops with me, expecting gifts and stuff. I only had my clothes and personal stuff and this did not go down well with others who expected big things.  

My days were running out as I had just taken a few weeks leave from my job as a sanitary engineer (cleaner, dish washer et al). In fact, I was planning to take up an easier job as a geriatrician (working at old people’s homes) and I had an appointment with a Mdosi (the boss) “at a home in Stockholm”.

I had to rush back to Stocky otherwise I would risk missing the job which was also well paying. The money I had saved for a whole year to help me survive in Kenya for three weeks was running out fast because the rate of expenditure was far too higher than I had expected.

As I was trying to figure out whether I should leave shags and spend a few days in Nai ( I learnt some sheng down there eh!) with the little amount I still had, the unexpected happened. My Aunt travelled all the way to request me to be the Guest of Honour at a Fund raising event she had organized to raise school fees for her three kids who were facing eviction from school because money was not enough.

I contacted one of my “Aides” to find out what that meant in terms of cash. I had self-imposed aides who followed me everywhere. In return, they were being treated to anything in terms of food stuffs and vinywaji (drinks). At the end of the day when they had escorted the Modosi to bed, I threw them Ksh 100 each (10 kr) and they were very happy.

It sounds incredible but it was like they just landed jobs – picking me up in the morning, getting me around, explaining new stuff (including sheng updates) before they could get me back to base. No contract was written and they appreciated that I was “very understanding”. If you travel to Kenya and you don’t get these guys, may be, you might not be able to return to Stockholm.

When I tried to find out what it meant to be a Guest of H at a fund raising, I was shocked. I was told that if you are the Guest of H, you have to contribute an amount that nobody else will be able to contribute at the fund raising. I asked how much this could amount to in order to check if I could manage the situation because I also sympathized with the kids. I was told that you needed not less that Ksh 10,000 to be sure in the situation that had presented itself. No big shot was expected and, in fact, I was expected to be the big shot otherwise the alternative was some primary school headmaster who was “just a filler” because not much was expected from him. My Aunt worked under.

You can start by contributing ksh 5000 and check the situation if there is a challenger. In case someone threatens to overtake your contribution, you could begin to compete by increasing yours and asking that izindikishwe (it be escorted). What this means is that on top of your 5 thao, you could add another one thao and ask that the audience add anything on top. This is the procedure and is perfectly normal.

Besides, I was told that if you are the Guest of H, you are expected to zindikisha people who were also contributing so you need to change some cash into coins so that you can be able to cope. Anybody could pop up at the High table and request that you zindikisha. Changing currency notes into coins is done in advance and there are people who specialize in the operation. You just have to accept that you can be the G of H and the rest falls into place.

To be approached to be the Guest of H was actually a big deal for me because I have never been one and I have never imagined that I could be one anyway. According to my Aide (another relative just imposed himself as my aide by the way), being the Guest of H also meant that I would take a seat on the High table and regarded as the most important person at the Fund raising.

Kids would greet me with flowers at hand when I arrived while all late comers had to get to the high table to say hi with “we are pleased to have you here…” kinda comments. What else did I need to relax and feel big after turbulent excursions in turbulent Stockholm where people are for themselves and the Swedish State for us all? Really, I needed a break from a place where some enemies wanted to eat me alive.

To some extent, my ego was inflated but on the other hand, I began to understand that being abroad had changed me in the eyes of my relatives whom, before I left Kenya, regarded me as a nobody.

In the end, I decided to cancel by luxurious trip to Nairobi because the amount that was required for the Guest of Honour operation was still within my reach. After the fund raising, my Aunt was happy because over quarter million Kenyan shillings was raised with me as the Guest of H. The fund raising was a well rehearsed operation and as soon as I arrived, a ring of flowers was placed around my neck so that I could easily be identified and I began to like the pomp.

Whenever I zindikishad someone, the Master of Ceremony would say something like “…and this are kronors from Stockholm…you know people from Stockholm are very powerful…you have to get to an Aircraft to get to Stockholm…” and that kinda stuff. I just giggled because it was funny. “…he is living with wazungu (whites) and there, development comes to an end…”. Those guys are comedians I seh!

At one point, “The Master” requested that those who had travelled in an air craft raise their hands and nobody did. Suddenly, I was in trouble. Then I was alerted that I had to “do something” because since nobody raised their hands, it added a new specialty to my situation because everybody who was at the function have only seen the aircraft fyling in the air.”Next time you see it, our son could be inside, back from Stockholm…”, as people burst into spntaneous laughter.

In simpler terms, I needed to make a further donation to appreciate that I was a special Guest of H because I was the only one in the room who had climbed an Air craft and oh my God! what was next?

I had my sister strategically seated beside me at the high table so she could whisper stuff in my ear, just to keep me updated. She told me to throw in ksh 100 (around 10 kr) for the air craft thing and I was happy that it was no big deal because I was also running out of cash.

Then someone stood up and decided to “fine” everybody who was putting on spectacles. The cost was Ksh 20 (2 kr) and I was also affected. But since I was putting on “spectacles from Stockholm”, there is just no way the price was going to be the same. I had to pay more. As I wondered, I got a whisper that I drop in Ksh 50 and it worked.

Surprisingly, people were happy and on the spectacle bit, I am the only person who received an applause. This inflated my ego even further. My time was up and I had to leave Kenya back to Stocky. As the plane took off, I had lots of things to think about. Going to Kenya is sweet but it can also be expensive.

Okoth Osewe


“Kenya Diaspora Experiences” is humour which is purely for entertainment. Any similarities to real life experiences of anyone is purely coincidental and KSB will not take any responsibility if sories reflect real events that happened. Stories could be gathered from tales from Wakenya who take contact with KSB.

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