Pure Madness

My thoughts on the "behind the scenes" of life. You will find inspiration here. Share it generously


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Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

I don’t know at what point in your life this letter finds you but I hope you are well. There are so many things that have happened to me, to you that I thought you should know. Some of it may not be pleasant to hear but I will tell you anyway.

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Love, what better place to start. I wish I could tell you that this will be an easy journey for you. I wish I could tell you that your heart will never be broken and that you will have the perfect love experience. Unfortunately, this is the one lesson that you will learn for the rest of your life. Your heart will be broken a couple of times and you too will break a couple of hearts which will break your heart even more.

Please learn from your heartbreaks. They will not only teach you something about other people but more importantly something about you that you would never have learnt any other way. Be careful not to keep your heart too guarded in fear that it might be broken, that you miss a chance to experience real love. You will experience real love but not before you experience real heartache.

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You trust easily and always see the best in people. This will get you many friends who will make your life comfortable and bearable. You will also meet people who will pretend to be your friends only to take advantage of you. They will abuse your trust and will take you for granted. Yes the world has such people. Never second guess goodwill. Do your best and be on your way. I’m sure grandma has already told you to never stop doing good?

Always be kind. Never be too busy to stop and give someone else a hand. You may never get rewarded for it but it will keep your heart warm and alive. Be careful what you say to others. You can never undo the damage of a careless word. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Even the Bible tells you that a foolish person is considered wise when they keep quiet.

Give without expecting anything in return. You will soon learn that in many occasions you will only have enough for yourself. Let that not stop you from giving. Like kindness, you may never see the fruit of your giving but give anyway. Hoarding will only make your heart cold so be generous not only with your money but also with your time.

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I know mum keeps telling you to work hard so that you can be successful and make money to buy whatever you want. Sadly it doesn’t always work like that. You will work hard for many years with little or no pay at all. That does not mean you are not successful. Learn to measure your success in terms of milestones. Money is not the true measure of success. You may want to read that last line again.

When given a task whether big or small, do it to the best of your ability. Whatever you set your mind to do give it your all. Be careful not to do anything for the accolades. Applause is good but it can be deceiving; if you get used to it, it will soon become a crutch. When you give your all whether anyone notices or not you will be happy with yourself and that surpasses any compliment anyone else will ever give you.

Failure and disappointment. Oh boy, this will be a difficult one. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to fail or even try more than once! Failure is painful and you will experience it more times than you would want to. Don’t let it keep you down. Get up and try again. Learn to embrace disappointments as a part of life. Not everything will always go your way.

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You will apply for job positions that you think you are best suited for and not make the cut. You will start relationships that will look hopeful only to end painfully. You will expect your friends and family to support you in a difficult time only to be disappointed. Life itself will slap you with a fair share of disappointments like death and disease. When this happens remember I told you “it’s not the end, a better day will come”. Never give up

Never take credit for someone else’s work. Give credit where it’s due. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell someone when they do something good. Empower others by teaching them to do what you have already learnt. Never hide knowledge from someone else. Show them to do it until they can do it on their own.

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If you forget anything that I tell you please remember this; never turn a blind eye to injustice. Teach yourself to stand up for the truth no matter the cost. Speak out if it’s all you can do, it’s more than enough. Even if you find yourself alone, speak out against any form of injustice. As a country, we are currently paying the heavy price of keeping quiet and looking the other way. We allowed our own selfishness to keep us from speaking out against selfishness of others. You can change that. You can refuse to hide your head in the sand, you can choose to be unpopular and uncool. Whatever it takes, do not let corruption become normal to you.

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Many lives including your own depend on your ability to stand up for what is right. Don’t be quiet dear Younger Me. Don’t be quiet.

 

Yours Truly,

Older You.

 

 

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru

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Abroad In Kenya

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

The open blue skies and sunsets in Turkana County are breath taking. Whether you want a nice quiet morning jog or an evening scenic walk, Turkana will offer you one of the best sceneries that you cannot experience anywhere else. The moon appears closer and clearer in this county and the stars, you will have a great time trying to remember the many constellations you learnt in school. Sadly, it’s not all glamour.

The road from Kapenguria to Lodwar must be the worst road in the country. The road is so bad and the insecurity is so high that you need police escort to move between Kainuk and Lokichar towns. Last time we used this road, small boys with big guns took off when they saw our police escort. It’s no wonder that residents of this area talk about Kenya as if it is a neighboring country. To them, we are in Down country, Down Kenya.

I love traveling. I actually prefer road travel because I get to see my country. But when it takes over 12 hours of really bad road and being on the edge that anything could happen since young boys don’t graze with sticks but with guns; AK47s and G3s, the joy of travel dies.

There are no 300ml sodas in Lodwar. The only available milk is long life. Fresh produces are not as readily available as in most parts of the country. Phone network is poor for most parts of the region. Transport to and from Lodwar is twice a day by road; morning and evening. Even though there are daily flights to Turkana, will the mwananchi afford to pay almost KES30, 000 for a return flight?

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

And then “they” discovered oil and gas deposits in Turkana County. Today, the residents of the county talk about the oil sites using their code names; Ngamia, Twiga and Ekale 1 as if they are local kiosks. That’s not enough. Recently, huge water reservoirs that could meet the entire country’s needs for the next 70 years were also discovered in the same county. One of the driest counties in the country could now provide water for the rest of the country for close to 100 years!

This is good news right? Well, only for us who think we are all in the same country. The communities up north are very apprehensive about “visitors”. Some people hurled insults at us saying that the press had been painting them in bad light. This was because a local media house recently did a feature story on how prostitution had increased in the area since the discovery of oil. I guess their concern was after years of having nothing good to say about the area, they thought oil and water would change all that. Clearly not.

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

Whatever happened to Brand Kenya? Is it right for Kenyans living within Kenya’s boundaries to refer to themselves as outsiders? Since this has been ongoing for a long time, why isn’t the government doing anything to change this perception? The legislatures from these regions are always in Nairobi, why are there no motions in Parliament to address their grievances?

Haven’t we learnt anything from the sad events in Lamu? Turkana County cannot declare itself a landlocked self-governing county. That is a fact. As much as they are not willing to open up their region to foreigners, the power of demand and supply will soon overpower them. What happens then? What will happen when Kenyans see the potential “abroad” (in Turkana) and move there to invest? How long will it be before the residents feel “invaded” by Down Kenya residents? What will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Photo Courtesy of Imani Manyara

For the longest time, you denied them good hospitals, good schools and good roads. You ignored their insecurity concerns. You refused to send relief when they called out. You allowed NGOs to take advantage of them causing them to live on handouts. Now they have something you need. Do you think they will hand it over to you that easily?

If I was the government, my strategy would be simple. What has been their need all these years, still is. Act now. Build schools and hospitals. Give the Chinese or whoever the contract to build the roads (as long as it’s not Kirinyaga Construction). Increase security presence in the area. Make the residents feel like you care. In the process, investors too will be impressed and the rest will be history. Ignore this process, and history will judge us harshly.

Surely we learnt something from the “Lamu Experience”. Didn’t we?


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True To Self, True To Country.

To be honest, the ladies in the NYS campaign are pretty. If any young man is looking for any motivation to join the service there is no need to go beyond the Ads. I know what you are thinking – they are just models. Imposters. Well, we both don’t have any evidence to support our claims but I like my assumption better.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.nys.go.ke

Enough of the shallow conversation. Let’s go deeper;

This is a great initiative Mr. President. It’s a step in the right direction. 70% of Kenya’s population is below the age of 34 years. There is definitely a need to tap into this resource. Sadly, a lot of the work that NYS does often goes unmentioned. I would have mentioned some of their work but their website is now about their future not their past; a minor oversight on their part.

When selling a product it important to give its history. How long has it been in the market and what are its success stories so far? Most importantly, why do I need to get the product? It not enough to make a sensational ad, content is key when marketing for ownership. I Love the ad but I am also of the opinion that to achieve its objectives the government needs to package NYS in a more youth friendly way.

Let’s start with the target audience of these campaigns.

“…The Kenyan youth aged between 18 and 25 years…”

I am yet to see a young person who has just left high school and wants to VOLUNTARILY go through a system that makes them feel as if they are back in high school but with primary school rules. Let’s not lie to ourselves, we are talking about the youth coming from an education system that has made them feel like a prison for the last 12 years! Youth at this stage want a sense of freedom and independence.

The only idea that most youth have of NYS is what they see on TV during national holidays; young men and women following orders. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us thought that careers are about money until we realized there are responsibilities involved before you get the money. So in my view, NYS should package the 6 months as a critical practical step towards the youths careers.

 “…with a passion for Country and National Pride and only those who want to be a part of the change our country is seeking…”

Apart from being the target to be recruited into vigilante groups, Kenyan youths are also dealing with an education system that is burdensome, unemployment, lack of representation in the country’s leadership to mention but a few.

There is very little effort that is going into developing their national pride before they are 18 years. Given a chance, most of them will leave the country and go to any country that is branding itself as “the land of opportunities”. Many have a passion, but against the country.

Look at the hate that is always trending on social media and the tribal stereotyping that has become the Kenyan norm. National pride is a myth. A whisper in the shadows. A bed time story that we tell our children to fall asleep.

Photo courtesy of www.nys.go.ke

Photo courtesy of http://www.nys.go.ke

So now, what next?

Am glad you asked. First, don’t make the service recruitment optional, make it mandatory. Let all youth be on the same level regardless of where they come from. This will give the impression that the service is an opportunity for everyone not just a special few.

Please change the spade emblem. Let it be something that gives the impression that it’s a source of pride not work. Why not use lions they have better symbolism. They protect provide and have a status. Make the youth identify with a significant “brand”. How many of these young people have ever used a spade in the first place? Branding is everything!

Let the curriculum be about our heritage, our culture, our past and of course our future where we want to go. Sell the vision of the country to the youth. Show them the different routes that they could take to be part of the change; medical, technical, educational, musical etc. Make the youth appreciate and understand that whatever level they plug in certificate diploma or degree their output is valuable.

Equip them with relevant and practical skills. It’s ok to plant trees and do all other things NYS does but equip them with skills they will use in future. As much as a certain level of discipline is important don’t forget that waking up early for a jog won’t hold any water on their resume.

The idea behind NYS is noble. It’s the first step in the right direction. Let’s put some meat into the program. If you want the youth to be true to self, then you need to know what value you are adding to their lives before they can be true to their country.

Go on. Be Great!


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R.I.P Kenyan

There are more than a thousand ways to die in Kenya today. These are just a few ideas of places you are likely to meet your death in Kenya. Though hilarious, this account is NOT factual but that does not take away from the fact that there are people who die every day from these situations. Be the judge. Will this be the way you meet your death? Today, you get to choose.

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If you are the president of a country called Kenya, beware of flying shoes and add a backup anti theft system on the presidential escort vehicles just in case the current one fails and your car is lost. As the president, the citizen might decide to boo and chant as you (their president and Commander in Chief) try to negotiate with them to give you a chance to address them. These are just a few things that you should be LEAST worried about it.

But if you are a Kenyan citizen, your life is more at stake than you think. What happens to you when you are unwell? Well that’s easy right? Kenya have some of the best hospitals in East Africa and you have a medical cover! Lucky you. Today you get to cheat death. But for the mwananchi whose lifeline is that public hospital that is close to 400Km from where they live, death comes even faster when the doctors of that hospital are on strike.

You don’t have good roads; if any in the first place, the security in your area is questionable if not non-existent and by the time you finally get to the hospital three days later, the doctors are on strike? Before you leave your house it might be a good idea to leave everything “in order”. You may be gone a little longer than you think.

Merv Griffin's headstone at the  cemetery in Westwood Village, Ca, Splash

If you are a Kenyan citizen, well, how do I put this; get ready to lose your phone a couple of times. That’s not all. Get ready to lose more than just your phone. You might lose your car to car jackers at gun point and after they have cleared the little life savings you have in bank account, they will probably not see your use any more so they will shoot you and no need to pray for a good Samaritan because they are only good with your goods. If they take you to hospital well you will die in a “safe environment”.

Car jackers are angels in comparison to what kidnappers will do to you if you are their target. Apart from denying you your basic human rights including food and water, some of them might rape you and after they have their ransom, you will already be dead! That’s not all. Meet the new face of terrorists. They are young and driven, passionate about their cause. But they are also desperate and frustrated and finally found someone who knows their value. Well, you never get to meet these ones if you do at least you die together. The rest will “throw death” at you from a distance in the name of a grenade. If you survive, remember the doctors are still on strike.

The main mode of transport in Kenya is road. You are likely to meet your death on this avenue too. The “certified” un-roadworthy vehicles operating as public service vehicles are driven recklessly and despite having speed governors, the speeds are literally “out of this world”! If you think you are safer on a motorbike otherwise known as bodabodas well think again. The helmet is filthy and you are always tempted to think that you don’t have time to wear it since you are not going far. That’s your first mistake and your step in the direction of your death door. Well there are many wards specifically for motorcycle accidents so you won’t be lonely. But then again remember doctors are on strike.

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There are many other ways to die in Kenya. You could fall into an uncovered man hole around town break a few bones before an ambulance comes to your rescue and dashes you to hospital… oops you just got to your death faster! The high cost of living will definitely not be your cup of tea especially because it might raise your “sugar level” and we don’t want that for obvious reasons.

For you who have clean water to drink every day and even flush your toilets with it, you don’t get to die today but for the majority of Kenyans who have to walk miles every day to get a gallon of dirty water, every day is death day. That’s not the only “death wish” they have to worry about. They have leaders that they voted for who should be “eliminating these death traps” for them. Sadly, they will only get to see these leaders after five years – and that’s if they will be alive.

So today, when you are alive, before you meet one of your a thousand ways to die, don’t you think it’s time you “fought for your life”? I can point you in the right direction but unfortunately it’s all I can do because I too have my a thousand ways to die to deal with.The way to stay alive today, begins by you using your right and power to choose the right person to be in power.

The power is in your hands. Use it wisely. Tic toc.


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Dear Youth; YOLO (You Obviously Lack Originality)

Remember when you were young and carefree? Remember how you had all the time in the world to do everything you wanted? You could watch movies the entire day and still have a few more hours to take an evening stroll with that lass from next door even though her dad was apprehensive about your late visits? Surely you must remember the youth camps and the bonfires and the texting all night and I hope that’s as far as you went.  

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Then campus came along and classes were just a few interruptions of the fun. The party weekends; oh, what was in that drink? Life became about pushing limits. We were free. No parents, no curfews, no Christian Union meetings, no limits! The world belonged to you (and most of the young women in it). Life in campus was even better when there were riots. Such adrenaline! You still have the scars and stories to accompany them. Just like in high school, before you knew it, the four years were over and you were ready to go “out there” and make money and perhaps change the world…but more money than change.

How long has it been since you graduated? How many job offers have you had? What was the starting salary they offered you? Hmm… They actually asked for “something” in return for you to get the job didn’t they? Really, in this day and age? Oh you are considering it? Wow, all the “fun” and education in campus never prepared you for this huh? Well the good news is, you are not the first to experience these things and neither will you be the last. Now that you are here allow us to share some “wisdom” with you that we have “collected” along the way.

First, swallow your pride and take that job. Yes it has nothing to do with what you studied in school and it doesn’t pay much or even pay at all. It’s about the principle – this job will help you develop certain skills. These skills are what most employers look for; ability, better known as experience. I know some of your friends got a job that offered them cars and mortgage facilities before they even left campus but since you haven’t gotten such offers, take whatever is on the table.

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Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself with others. Time and chance happens to us all. For some chance comes faster while for most of us it takes a little longer. Whichever group you find yourself in whether it’s the sprint or the marathon the principle remains; grow yourself. Set goals. Don’t be comfortable with where you are – with little or much. Go the extra mile. Do more than you have been given more than you are paid to do. Volunteer to anything that offers you a chance to grow your skills. Yes I said skill not money. If you are lucky you will get both. Take advantage now before you have responsibilities like family that require more predictable working hours.

Get involved youngling. Start now. One day you will learn that you can’t really change the world. But before you come to that realization, give it your best shot. Challenge everything! Don’t accept the mundane and norms the world imposes on you. Ask those irritating whys and why nots? Step out of your comfort zones and step up for what you believe in. Take risks! Dare!

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Get involved in the leadership. Look for opportunities to lead. Learn to be accountable. Why? Because unless you know what it means to lead, you can’t identify leaders. So you end up voting for whoever looks handsome or pretty on that ballot paper. Always remember you have and will have interests in the country. Chose a good Captain for your ship or you will end up in a destination that you are unfamiliar with. What’s the point of working hard only to lose everything that you have worked had for?

Whatever you do, SAVE for a rainy day. Not just money, save the environment, save your relationships, save your contacts! You will need them in future. Always be yourself. No matter how little you think you have, learn to give. For crying out loud learn to WAIT! Nothing happens overnight. Everything takes time. Be patient. Always thank God for both the good and the bad that you will experience along the way. These things eventually make you who you are. And for your information, you will turn out just fine.  Breathe, dream, laugh and enjoy the ride!


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In Case Of Emergency…

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Have you seen your country lately? Have you noticed the bleeding? Can you hear the citizen wailing or have the cries become so common that they have become part of your life? Do you see the pain on our faces or hear the bitterness in our voices? Do we matter to you? How long should we wait for change and what’s the price we have to pay for it?

What can a nation do when its citizens cannot access good healthcare? When parents have to helplessly watch the lives of their children slowly fading away? When a hospital – a source of hope – becomes a source of despair and pain? What about the child that has to grow up without the tender care of a mother because she died giving birth in “alternative health institutions” under the arms of an untrained midwife? What becomes of a nation whose hospitals become monuments and historic sites; places where people used to get their loved ones “brought back to life”? Where new members of the family were first introduced to their community as healthy “bouncing babies”?

Is there anything more comforting than the reassuring words of a health worker that “everything will be ok”? To a first time mom, nothing is trivial and doctors understand this. They will gladly reassure the parents that “it’s normal”, “it’s nothing to worry about“ and “It will go away”. Imagine the agony we impose on first time parents when we take away this important channel of support. When our health centers close down for whatever reason.

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The Health sector in Kenya is ailing. Hospitals still don’t have the right equipment and are running low on medicines. Doctors are resigning daily and funds to run our public hospitals are no longer a priority. That’s not all, people are going back to alternative methods of treatment because they are affordable and accessible. But these methods are neither safe nor certified and hence further endangering people’s lives. Our health sector is ailing and we need to find its cure fast.

For you and I who may have a medical cover, we are lucky. It is easy for us to trivialize and underestimate the state of public health care in the country. As the cost of living continues to soar, many people in rural areas rarely afford a healthy diet to sustain themselves and their families. Children suffer from malnutrition and so their bodies are not able to fight diseases effectively. Apart from the hunger and its effect (which we should be able mitigate in this time and age) we are also unable to provide adequate health services; a double tragedy.

When a pregnant mother does not have access to prenatal care, we are putting the lives of both the mother and the baby at risk. Hospitals are one of the main centers for fighting deadly diseases such as Malaria and HIV. Already as a country we struggle to provide affordable health services to patients who suffer from terminal illnesses like cancer. Special needs citizens including autistic children and spinal injury victims need specialized facilities; they are yet to be established. Instead, we would rather talk about sitting allowances and tax free perks.

With the current challenges facing the health sector it is evident that as a country we will not meet the Millennium Development Goals on health. Devolution, which on paper and in concept seemed like the appropriate vehicle to aid development in the health sector has become the “choking agent” of this process. Affordable healthcare for all is still a pipe dream… Literally!

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Counties administrators seem to operate on peer influence. We do not have established emergency centers in hospitals yet we spend millions in buying and hiring ambulances. What good will an ambulance be to a patient who has a terminal condition? What good will an ambulance be to an accident victim if they are rushed to a hospital without doctors or medicine? Recently a Governor bought a private hospital at KES185M! How many functional dispensaries would that amount of money build around the county?

To a dying patient, all they require is immediate treatment. They don’t care about the politics of how much the government has released or how much the counties governments actually received. They just want to see a doctor who will make them better. That’s all! What will it take for you our leader to realize that the place formerly known as a place of hope is now the place haunted by death?


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Survivor Nairobi Edition

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Are you a Kenyan or a tourist who plans to travel or relocate to Nairobi?  Well, there are a few things you need to know before you make the big step into the big city. Depending on how you look at it, this is neither life threatening information nor a thoroughly researched document. If you are looking for that, Google is your friend.

Nairobi has a very unique mode of public transport commonly known as matatus. You will get distracted (or impressed) by the loud music and the graffiti but please keep your eyes on your luggage and your pockets. There are very well mannered men and women (emphasis intentional) who make a living out of your living. When you get to your destination, always remember the-left-foot-down-first-rule. Most matatus will not stop completely so you need to alight with your left foot first to maintain your balance in case the vehicle moves while you are still midair.

There are many investment opportunities in Nairobi too. Be careful of “investment groups” that move cards around in populated city corners and ask you to guess where a certain card has moved to. These guys have a lot of experience and know the best seasons to entice you to “invest”. Often, you will be more vulnerable during Christmas and back to school season in January. You will be offered “an opportunity” to multiply your cash in a second. There are different packages for different markets. Some will even offer to pray for your money multiply right before your eyes! In the end only your sorrows will be multiplied.

Don’t eat anything offered to you by a stranger. No matter how pretty or handsome they look or how hungry you maybe, please say no. Many have been victims of these “acts of kindness” and have woken up days later with empty pockets without a recollection of events beyond the sweet they were given by a seemingly generous passenger.

Don’t think with your heart in Nairobi. You will come across decent women who have heart breaking stories and men who will even shed a tear for you to give them some money for transport lunch or claiming to have been robbed. You are the one being robbed. Be in the same spot the following day and you will meet these actors and actresses in the same need. These days they have recruited young men who want sponsorship to go to driving schools and schools kids who are raising money for certain humanitarian events.

If you like having a good time, Nairobi has some of the best hangouts. Whatever you do, don’t leave your drink unattended. Yes, even that pretty lady with a “to die for” smile across the bar cannot be trusted. Your drink will be spiked and the entire nation will watch you on the evening news making incoherent pleas for your passport.

Be careful who you ask for directions in Nairobi. Some people will show you the direction to your misfortune. Walk into a shop and ask the attendant to assist you. Watchmen are also trustworthy but that is soon changing as they too have seen the potential in this untapped market. If you are lost act like a mwenyeji. Otherwise, “helpful god sent angels” will appear to you in your hour of need.

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If you have to be out at night, stay in well-lit streets and environments. Refrain from using your phone while walking. If you can, don’t use your phone at all at night. If you have to, stop somewhere secure, make your calls then wait a while to make sure you don’t have an audience before you continue with your errands. Many have “lost ground” and found themselves on the ground with empty pockets and aching neck because they were not conscious of their environment.

Security personnel can also be a source of insecurity. Whatever you do, stay clear of the security forces known as the City council askaris. They are known to be ruthless, reckless and walk in masses like high school outfits. They will stop at nothing if you are the target. If you fall victim to these guys stay calm and plead your innocence. God be with you.

Nairobi is a great city. There are great people and places here but there are a few bad ones too. Prepare to meet both. Tell the world about the good, I have already done the bad, well a few of the common ones.

Welcome to Nairobi, the green city in the sun.