Thoughts of a 90's child

Is home really home or are we still tenants of the Crown?

The afternoon train at the Mombasa terminus has a reputation for leaving people who don’t make it on time. We all don’t want that, especially when you have to be at work the next morning, therefore human beings endowed with paranoia, like myself, leave Mombasa at 12:00pm for a train scheduled at 3:00pm.
Easiest means of transport, take a cab, especially if you have luggage. No need to Uber and pay 600 – 800 bob, you just need to know someone in the business. (Welcome to Kenya!) It ends up being way cheaper.
The cab pulls up after church at exactly 12:00pm and as is custom, I take the back left seat. A decision I heavily regret since the window wasn’t working when it was probably 500 degrees in the cab. My cousin says hi to the cab guy, saying he looks familiar only to find out he worked at his local a while back. Then we leave after the formalities.
The drive to Miritini is pretty long, the driver said he wouldn’t speed since we were in good time and in all honestly I didn’t mind the view leaving the city. He tried to engage in small talk but despite the listener in me we didn’t really talk much. After a few ‘how is your day going’ questions here and there I asked if there was a place I could eat before we got to the station. Soon enough I was knocked out into slumber because the heat was too much.
An hour and a half into the drive, or however long I had slept for I hear the driver calling me. He says we’ve arrived and I see a swarm of vibandaskis. Sheer joy my people, sheer joy. These aren’t the Nairobi vibandas that are in a container and serve food in glass plates and the bill comes to 500 for just ugali and meat. Nope, these are the MVP’s of vibandas, they all probably went to grad school and are certified vibandas. You see the food from delivery by the supplier to it being presented to you. And the waiters? Nicest people in the world, they don’t frown while they serve you or accidentally drop their plate until your soup spills.
Now here I’m having lunch with the cab guy and I do not live for awkward moments, so I pick my mind for bits and pieces of the sketchy conversations we had in the car just to try my luck.
My cousin had mentioned seeing him at the local, perfect, I ask about it and he is more that willing to indulge me. His story is different, he is a proud Kenyan, he loves his home, he is unapologetic about his love, but he still feels like we are prisoners in our own land.
My cab driver, let’s call him Mkenya, was previously hired at a restaurant owned by so non-kenyans to be discreet or lets say foreigners. It was a job that needed him to work hard. His shift stated at 11:00am and ended around 10:00pm. He didn’t mind the hours because bills don’t pay themselves.
With time the restaurant also hired some of their people, people of their decent to clarify. Mkenya finds out they are paid close to 3 times his salary and they have flexible working hours. So he asks if he can get a pay raise. Just something closer to what they get. His boss says no. Mkenya continues with his job. He tells me how he feels that he is not equal to the other foreign workers. How he feels he is seen as less of a person. How that doesn’t do well to a man. How it makes you question your manhood on your own soil.
The thing with big employers is you get sort of standard form contract. A take it or leave in kind of thing. A friend of mine also worked at a foreign company and before he quit his job he sort of had the same issue. How the employers looked down upon Kenyans. Your holiday goes up to 26th and by 27th you report to work, but their people are allowed to be on holiday till second week of January. That’s just unfair, I’m tempted to use the word discriminatory. A very big word.
Mkenya decided he couldn’t take it and he quit. Surely our forefathers didn’t fight for independence for us to struggle with neo-colonialism in our own country! I felt a tad bit proud that he did. Now he enjoys his job, he drives around and makes good money out of it. He doesn’t have to be sad waking up to meet an unappreciative employer or go to bed angry because he had a heavy day.
Most people may not be able to quit their jobs. Especially because of the unemployment rate in our country. That’s not even the moral of the post. After we talked here and there a little girl walked in to have her lunch, her mum had sent her there. She stood by the door  for a second wondering how on earth there was a lady in a red dress, neatly combed hair eating Ugali with a spoon. She must have thought she was hallucinating with her mouth agape. You could see why because the kibanda housed people from around. They came with their sandals and half buttoned shirts and spoke loudly when they ate. The ladies in their deras and lesos sweeping the floor. So I understand her confusion.
She is the generation I worry about. My country happens to be pegged on encouraging investors to come on board and set out their companies here. Which isn’t bad. My worry is, do these foreign people who bring their businesses here understand that they also work with people? People with rights and a voice? I don’t know how may Kenyans just accept to be oppressed. In the morning for example as we escaped Thika road traffic using the Baba ndogo route, you see swarms of people walking to their work place with their employment ID’s dangling around their necks. I may not know their story or where they work but I really hope their employer is good to them.
At the terminus for example I stood in line as we went to board and a ‘foreigner’ stood beside me but was off the line. Somehow the attendant told me ‘madam ingia kwa line’ and I had to look clueless wondering if standing in a queue had an algebra formula. I clearly was on the line. But since this ‘foreigner’ is more esteemed in my own country as a ‘big person’, the Kenyan has to be the one who is wrong.
It just speaks to how much we have accepted to be colonized a second time. Our mindset is a mess. Even in the service industry foreigners get better service than our own Kenyans. Kama hio si ukoloni mamboleo, I don’t know what is.
We really do need a change of attitude. Mekatilili would be very disappointed if we continued to be apologetic for being in our own country. She’d wonder why we couldn’t get our own things together and build our country. Its ours whether or not we want to be here. Wasn’t Kenyan once an economy equal to Spain? Doesn’t that say it is indeed possible?
We really need to be unapologetic about our motherland. If not for us for the people who shed blood for it. Who believed we did not need someone else to tell us we couldn’t do it on our own. Or for the future generation, so that when this beautiful girl stands on a podium with a student from Havard to participate in a competition representing her country, she knows she deserves to be there just as much as anyone else.


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