I was glad when they said unto me: “Let us go to the house of your father.”
By ‘they’, I mean the people in my head. They were busy planning my trip home and I loved it. My passport was about to be very busy on its way to Nairobi.
So during my holiday in January I willfully submitted to the merger of all forms of chaos that represent my beloved Nairobi. My home. This is my ode to my Nairobi.
Nairobi is like a cousin twice removed: there are undeniable ties, without the obligation. Nairobi won’t take it personally if you don’t spend every Christmas together. Nairobi is freedom. It only takes a few hours of being home to unshackle my mind from all the constraints of first world living (read: laws).
Likewise, it only takes a few hours to remember that I must recalibrate my street smarts and make sure that the passport of my tongue matches the passport of my travels. When I can’t complete a sentence without facing an onslaught of mockery for my tweng (accent), I know I’m home. Nairobi doesn’t care if I roll my r’s or let my words slide gently from my lips. Nairobi listens to the language of 42 tongues, it could care less if I misplaced the Queen’s English on my layover.
Nairobi is not please and thank you’s. Nairobi doesn’t wait to give way as I indicate my wish to change lanes. Nairobi is not impressed with my two-month-old braids, it does not think my old nappy hair is beautiful. Nairobi won’t wait for me to catch up. Nairobi will find a way to sell me my own skin at an inflated rate.
Nairobi wants me to get with the program, like yesterday. It is where free enterprise thrives, where metamorphosis is the order of the day. Nairobi is hungry for fresh ideas and untapped minds. It’s tired of the regurgitation of skills. Nairobi is uppity – it’s judging my ashy elbows.
Nairobi is the mistress who welcomes you with open arms and the wife who kicks you out of bed in the middle of the night. Nairobi is a cocktail of elegance and class, duplicity and decadence.
Nairobi is the clang of metal and the click of heels. Nairobi is the pop, snap and crackle of roast maize on the side of the road. It is the music of horns blaring in an incessant daily symphony.
Nairobi is the sound of a vibrant nightlife and drunk dialing. It is the sound of a mosquito buzzing in the dead of night and a cock crowing at the break of dawn. Nairobi is the smell of kerosene and firewood the next morning, the bubble of freshly brewed chai. It is the stress of public transport congestion and the forlorn look of early commuters.
Nairobi is trying to form its identity. Nairobi is transitioning. It doesn’t believe in fairy tales and tooth fairies. Nairobi is on Instagram. It speaks the language of social media fluently. Nairobi can tell you where you’ve been and where you need to go.
Nairobi is in Poland. It’s in Norway, Turkey and New Zealand. Nairobi is here, next to me. Sometimes I forget to put it in my bag, and sometimes I leave it at my friend’s house. But Nairobi, Nairobi will never leave nor forsake me. Nairobi is home.
PHOTO: Jeff Turner