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Lessons from Kamakis: What became of kazi ni kazi mantra?

A waitress serves tequila shots with lemon at XS Millionaires Club. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The long Easter holiday found me looking for nyama choma (roast meat) along the Eastern bypass, at Kamakis.

I was entertaining guests. Meat is not my favourite meal. Kamakis, a name pioneered by one of the “joints” demonstrates how the government can stimulate economic growth by building roads, the most critical public good.

You can get other amenities like power or water by yourself, but you can’t build your own roads. Back to Kamakis.

We ordered some meat and some drinks. The guests were much older than me. One jokingly ordered porridge.

The young lady explained it was not on the menu, jokingly adding: “Wakikuyu wanapenda uji sana“ (Kikuyus really love porridge).

She was probably right, it’s a delicacy in Kiambu. Check the number of outlets selling uji, excluding “uji power”.

Who holds the patent or trademark for uji power? Uji power has a predecessor — chibuku, chakula kinywaji. What happened to this hybrid drink?

One of my guests asked her where she was from, based on her question and fluent Swahili.

“Taita,” she answered. “How did you get here,” we asked. “I am a student, just hustling,” she answered.

Apparently, she is a student at a private university in the Rift Valley. “Can I inform your Vice Chancellor that you work here? I have his number,” I joked. “No, no,” she quipped.

Clearly, she was uncomfortable hustling. That’s why she would not want it publicised. Yet working in that “joint” is a job and earns her money.

To her, work is not work, or as Kenyans say, “kazi si kazi.” I noted that in North America such work is not looked down upon, students see it as a rite of passage, a great experience to quote in life.

Think of this girl becoming a CEO and quoting her work experience in a “joint”. Her shyness is probably a hangover from the past when university students got “boom.”

This Easter encounter left me convinced that though in hustlespeak kazi ni kazi or wíra ni wíra, this has not been reconciled with economic reality and societal expectations.

Her job might not be directly related to what she is studying, but it’s a learning experience. And there is nothing like a bad experience.

I hope this girl will one day own a restaurant or become a big person, and maintain her humility.

Don’t ask me why Wanjiku or Njeri was not working there. Are you a hustler and feel your job is not “yours?“

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