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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Musings of a Kenyan serving in the U S of A.

Part One
It’s been 45 days already since I left home to the land that has been long thought of flowing with milk and honey. I must admit that I am thoroughly enjoying what I came here to do which is another blog post altogether. Today however, I want to share some of the most interesting, surprising, funny and downright ridiculous experiences and culture shocks that yours truly has been dealing with thus far...
As a Kenyan of course it surprises me that “everyone” seems to be jogging. From DC to Portland this has been a common occurrence on my way to work, or on my way to church. Runners in droves seem not to be too bothered even by such horrid weather. I have honestly never seen such a phenomenal especially hailing from a country that prides itself with exceptional athletes. Not to give away the Kenyan formula for sweeping all the marathons, training well has lots to do with altitude...
I have recently take up the jogging bug  for the sole reason of burning calories which is something I have never thought of in my life until getting here. The food as interesting as it is, is extremely fatty, salty or sugary. Being the carnivore that I am, I am disappointed about the strange taste of every meat I have eaten. I have never cared much about portions and what is in a meal, but more and more I am finding myself reading the ingredients closer. The food frustration gets worse when I am offered cold food for lunch in the name of a sandwich. In Kenya that is considered a snack or an appetizer in anticipation of the real hot food! It is even more frustrating when I ask for chips and get crisps. Chips which is what many East Africans would also call French fries is considered a meal and comes in generous portions. I have bought laughable sizes of this here! I have found it very strange to be offered chips (I mean crisps) for lunch. From where am from this ‘chips’ are considered children’s snacks and I would be fired if I offered consultants in Nairobi this and dips for lunch!
I do love my coffee and tea and I still think that Kenyan coffee and tea is the best (I travel with my own supply) and so I understand the Starbucks craze. What I don’t get is the sticks!!!!Honestly how much more would it cost to get disposable spoons? I have found this interesting kitchen cutlery in virtually every office and coffee shop I have been to. Since I don’t want to jinx my day by stirring my hot beverage with this thing I know not its name, I now carry my own supply of disposable spoons in my lunch bag too!
I have found it very weird in reading the groceries papers or coupons to also find on sale a riffle! Am I the only one who has difficulty seeing the lack of market intelligence or the lack of correlation in purchasing tomatoes and guns? Other foodie things I can’t get over are the sink erector! And purchasing food on board a local airline! It leaves me wondering what the airfare covers exactly. Especially when it’s a seven hour local flight!
Flights, airlines and airports bring me to my next experience. Albeit an upsetting one, I like finding the hidden humour. Did I mention that the average time it took me from Nairobi to DC was about 18 hours? On arrival, it took me another two hours to clear though customs. The officer I met looked at me and said ‘you look tired madam-where was your last destination?’ I was too tired to talk and handed him my passport. Even before I spoke he immediately said-‘wrong line American passport holders only!’ I knew I was tired but the counter he was attending said VISITORS!!!! He then proceeded to reject five or six other travellers who like me had ‘no idea’ what the word VISITOR meant. Too tired to line up in a different queue I walked up to someone who looked like a supervisor and explained my predicament....long story short, the guy did not apologize to neither me nor the other passengers for making our wait longer than necessary and instead gave a funny announcement that his desk despite the visible sign will only handle a certain group of people! It made me wonder why the signs are there in the first place!
On a separate day in a different airport, I was speaking to an interesting traveller on various topical issues. She looked like she was well in her forty’s and asked me where I was from. Her expression on learning that I was born and educated in Kenya was quite strange and I should be offended! Her next question was ‘Oh my, where did you learn English from? You sound British? This statement on where I learnt the language of the Queen has been repeated on more than this occasion and I just want to say here and now ‘we are taught in English’!!!I learnt it in school like everyone else! As for the British ascent it must be historic. They once upon a time colonised my people and we pronounce and spell some words differently as a result, like colour or issue.
It has been very clear to me during my short stay here that most Americans have no idea on what is happening in the world outside their borders. It is shocking to me that in such a developed country I have to actively seek out international news to keep up to speed with the crisis in Syria or on the status of the recent peace accord in South Sudan. The most reported piece of news here in my opinion is the weather! With such limited or lack of diverse reporting it is not surprising when someone thinks all Africans speak Swahili or worse still when someone tries to convince me that Saudi Arabia is in Africa!! I am the one who should be asking where you learn geography from. Or what exactly do most people here have Google Maps for? Driving from within the same city ONLY?
Do stay tuned to for part two of my American shockers...


  1. hahaha my dear, all the best, wellcome to Americanah!!

  2. There you travel the more you appreciate home

  3. Hahaha! Nice one. Straight from the horse's mouth. I will look out for more.

  4. Brilliant as always, Kiama! The bit about English must be universal. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to either explain or apologize for speaking in English!

  5. Hey J...take it in stride gal!you are awesome and need not apologize for any such thing!