MUTHAIGA OR KIBRA, IT IS A TOUGH CHOICE: The Bradford from Sweden Series (II)

DEAR Bradford,

Yes, I did receive your email…and yes, I was to reply to it, eventually, like I’m doing now. I really don’t get what the fuss is about because you personally wrote, “kindly reply within a week.” It is exactly a week since you sent it, so I’m still on time.

And since your mail was in relation to you falling in love with this country (apart from the roads) and wishing to settle, I might as well confess that we do have some peculiar affinity with the ‘last-minute dash’. No one knows how we developed it or for what annoying reason, but you better get used to it.

All the same, myself and fellow countrymen are glad to learn that our roads haven’t done you in yet. Generally, we love guests, living guests. Once they die, it becomes a different story all together. Yes, my white friend, nothing terrifies a black man like the dead, so whatever you do, just don’t die.

That said, you did allude to ‘citizenship, relocation and permanence’, if I read right. First, let me admit that my friends at the office are convinced something, probably a malarial parasite, has made you bonkers.

That’s because they believe opportunity flows freely through your rivers and floats in your air like dry leaves on a windy day. They can’t find any other reason you would want to abandon what they think is paradise. Forgive them, they are beings of limited travels.

Anyways, to help in your quest to settle within Nairobi, pray tell me, how wealthy are you?

That piece of information is important because it will determine the neighbourhood you will call home –and that is critical in this here city. Indeed, your pocket is the limit.

The Choices…

Actually, range in real estate pricing is as wide as a hippo’s mouth. You have the choice of a corrugated tin shack in the middle of Kibra for as little as 300 Kenya Shillings a month, an equivalent of three US dollars. Alternatively, you can go for the Sh650,000 (USD6,500) a month mansion in Muthaiga.

Both locations are less than ten kilometres “from the mayor’s office” as you would like, only that we no longer have a mayor. Governor, is what we now work with, though the last I checked, Nairobi may have lost her to Machakos. But his offices are still in the CBD, so the measurement stands.

Now, if your wealth leads you to Muthaiga, you will be rubbing shoulders with retired presidents, heads of multi-national companies, miracle-making clergy, successful drug barons, high profile witch-doctors, government ministers, Garang’s children, high-ranking politicians and exiled dictators (we don’t turn away guests, especially spending guests, unless they irk our combative Twitter military).

But if you think Kibra has a better ring to it, your neighbours will include the multi-national companies’ casual labourers, clients of the drug barons, ordinary South Sudan citizens, struggling drug pushers, miracle consumers, refugees running away from poverty caused by the exiled dictator and expendable foot soldiers of the high-ranking politician.

Here, you will realise that of all days of the week, Sunday will stand out like an ice-cream stand in hell. It is a day your new neighbour will dress entire family in matching kitenge outfits then pull a disappearing act after scenting the entire estate with an assortment of very affordable perfumes.

Many will be found in the church run by the Muthaiga clergy, receiving free miracles at a fee. Others will be found cat-wheeling and speaking in strange tongues in any of the numerous worship centres that dot the neighbourhood.

Highly religious folks, is what you will discover your neighbours are. It will, therefore, be adviseable to acquire on Saturday anything you will need to borrow, such as salt, laundry pail or chapati frying pan.

After church, your neighbour will walk the family to Uhuru Park for face-painting or just aimless strolls through the streets of the city. It is a routine that is near-sacred.

Only a summon by the high-ranking Muthaiga politician for a contest between police bullets and stones can change it. Often, the bullet wins, so don’t be surprised if your neighbour fails to return from the political misadventure.

Whichever way, Sundays will be sort of deserted, even lonely in the estate. On the up side, this will be the perfect day to do laundry. The queue, if any, will be short at the water point. And there will be nil competition for the hanging lines.

Manual clothes drier…

Still, you will have to train your eyes on the garments until dry. Otherwise, you will painfully discover that dripping wetness is no security against theft.

One way to shorten the wait time is by wrapping the soggy clothing in a towel and twisting out as much of the wetness as possible. Works like magic –until the towel splits from repeated abuse.

But besides saving Sh649,700 each month, you might be pleased to learn that the Sunday lonesomeness is confined to just the Holy Day. Other times, you will be fully engaged –willingly or not –by unending social activities. Audibly participating in domestic confrontations –both the angry and baby making sort –will be a regular inevitable.

But it is when the Muthaiga politician squeezes his convoy of multi-million-shilling, state-of-the-art behemoths through the tiny streets reeking with poverty and destitution that the neighbourhood really comes to life. You won’t want to miss the excitement these visits bring.

It will probably take you very little effort to notice that these tours happen only when the Muthaiga politician is seeking to drive a particular political agenda –rarely, perhaps never –that of your estate or its inhabitants.

But however smart you may be feeling, do not, I repeat DO NOT ask the politician why he didn’t start the mobilisation among his neighbours in Muthaiga. No, he won’t order his body guards to shoot you. He won’t have to.

Your new neighbours will turn on you so swiftly and thoroughly there won’t be time to curse your clever mouth. They are nice people, your fellow Kibrians are. Just highly combustible when in a group, more so when the particular politician is involved.

Remember, you still have the option to join the politician in Muthaiga. But you stand warned that every day is Sunday there.

Recall that ‘rubbing of shoulders’ stuff? Well, it is just good for essays. You will probably never get to know if the marble driveway to the manor across the paved, private road is inhabited by the cleric, the retired president or the drug baron.

The much you can do is guess how much more important than you your neighbour is by the type and size of security at their gate. Otherwise, you are on your own.

And the rich seem to like it that way. They either have a lot to hide from the rest of society or wealth turns humans into mistrusting, insecure, detached snobs.

But since you, Bradford, is from a wealthy country, you surely must understand this phenomenon. Perhaps you can explain it to us some day.

So, once again I ask, how wealthy are you?

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