Nairobi’s weirdest ‘mzungu’

The thing about writing about living abroad is that, while I try not to, a lot of the stories end up being about the weird and bizarre aspects of life here. It’s not so much because Kenyans are that much different to you and I – but because the weird stuff makes a good story! The danger is you create a sense of a world apart from what we consider “normal” which I don’t consider a particularly helpful attitude to adopt and it certainly wouldn’t be accurate.

So I was more than happy to stumble across a little rejoinder courtesy of The Nairobian, a local newspaper with a rather wonderfully titled article “Nairobi’s weirdest mzungu”. (Just in case you are not following my ad hoc lessons in Kiswahili, “mzungu” means white person…)

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/thenairobian/article/2000122089/nairobi-s-weirdest-mzungu?pageNo=4

A little bit of translation so you can get the full idea of why these mzungus are viewed so strangely:

The first story is about a white lady who has taken to being a matatu tout in her spare time. Now, matatu touts are among my favourite features of life in Nairobi. They tend to be swaggering young men, who handle wads of cash, shout, bang and whistle their way across town, hanging perilously out of unpredictably driven buses (matatus) stuffed to the rafters with passengers who are slowly going deaf from the soul-shakingly loud music blaring from the internal speakers. As far as I can see being a tout is a lifestyle, a personality. They are the kings of the road and they know it.

So I LOVE that someone from outside this world has said to herself “yeah I can do that”.

And I love even more the snippets of chatter from bemused passengers: “Why is this one hanging on the matatu?” “Maybe in Europe there are no touts”.

“Nikii uyu ara cuherera gari?” (Why is this one hanging on the matatu), one bewildered woman asks her friend when Helen hangs on the door.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/thenairobian/article/2000122089/nairobi-s-weirdest-mzungu?pageNo=1

The second story is about a German guy who has given up his life at home to go on an epic road trip across Africa. So yeah, it’s on the extreme side of travel but I’m pretty sure we all know someone – or have even thought about it ourselves – who saved up and went off an adventure. To be fair this guy does sounds a bit socially isolated but I love the language used to describe what he is up to:

“His strange odyssey, he claims, started in Munich four years ago… So far he has spent more than 70,000 Euro on his journey to nowhere…The strange foreigner claims to have been a building contractor in Germany… From the conversation, it gradually emerges he might have sold this property to foot his expensive adventure

These adventures do sound pretty mental when you consider how far that money would go here… and at home for that matter.

His strange odyssey, he claims, started in Munich four years ago and took him from Windhoek through Cairo at a cost of €100,000 Euros (Sh11.77 million). So far he has spent more than €70,000 (Sh8.24 million) on his journey to nowhere.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/thenairobian/article/2000122089/nairobi-s-weirdest-mzungu?pageNo=2
His strange odyssey, he claims, started in Munich four years ago and took him from Windhoek through Cairo at a cost of €100,000 Euros (Sh11.77 million). So far he has spent more than €70,000 (Sh8.24 million) on his journey to nowhere.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/thenairobian/article/2000122089/nairobi-s-weirdest-mzungu?pageNo=2
Your are here » Home » NaiNotepad Nairobi’s weirdest ‘mzungu’ By Samora Mwaura Updated Thursday, May 22nd 2014 at 22:37 GMT +3 9 inShare Like most touts depend on memory to sort out their client’s ‘change’ after collecting fare, Helen returns the balance even to those impatient customers saying, “Yangu ilikuwa mia” (Mine was Sh100) for which she replies, “I know, and you’re not the only one waiting for change,” she says with a smile, as her right hand flips through notes wrapped round the index finger of her left hand. Helen appears not to care two hoots about the curious stares and gossip. “Shukisha Shell,” (Get me off at Shell) the woman of “Nikii uyu ara cuherera gari?” says while whispering to a friend, “Nataka kujua kama anajua Kiswahili,” (I want to know if she knows Kiswahili) then Helen asks while slapping the door: “Hapa?” (Is it here?) Helen is not the only show-stopping mzungu in town. There are many others. As a matter of fact, a shabby-looking mzungu lives inside an old van parked somewhere in city centre. The Nairobian, figured him out. Mysterious German lives alone in caravan in CBD After weeks of looking, we finally caught up with the strange European last week around Simmers Restaurant where his mysterious caravan rests. “I am from Munich, Germany and I travelled all the way in this van. I have travelled to many countries in the last four and-a-half years,” the man, who refused to tell us his name, told The Nairobian at the Simmers Restaurant where we found him sipping a soda. “In Africa I have been to 11 countries namely: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.” His strange odyssey, he claims, started in Munich four years ago and took him from Windhoek through Cairo at a cost of €100,000 Euros (Sh11.77 million). So far he has spent more than €70,000 (Sh8.24 million) on his journey to nowhere.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/thenairobian/article/2000122089/nairobi-s-weirdest-mzungu?pageNo=2

The article ends with a request for more stories about ‘weird mzungu’s in your neighbourhood’. Just hope I’m not doing anything inadvertently….!

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