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What Christmas says about Kenyans

By - | December 31st 2012

By Ted Malanda

Colleague Allan Olingo had me in stitches on Christmas Eve.

Calling a friend who had left the city for his rural home in the wee hours of the morning, he was shocked to hear the fellow was still in Narok.

“But what would you still be doing in Narok? You left Nairobi six hours ago!” he exclaimed.

Well, our man wasn’t holed up in a bar. The radiator of his car was overheating and he was in the process of getting it banged back into shape by a shifty eyed fellow armed with a hammer, who claimed he was a mechanic.

More amusing was that the same fellow reported that he wasn’t the only one cursing. He had passed tens of Nairobians staring blank-eyed into the innards of their failed car engines on the roadside.

As a matter of fact, Christmas Eve was something of an official ‘bonus’ for mechanics. Cars that had not moved for ages were driven to garages for service. Even those that ran daily needed a look-over. Many drove to garages where bored children and wives spent hours waiting for the old junk to get tuned up.

So whereas Christmas takes a year to arrive, it still has this annoying habit of getting us unprepared. We never have cash, clothes or shoes, and heck, we rarely even have the chickens to eat. That is why in Kakamega, a place where chickens run wild, the price of the birds shoots up from next to nothing to as much as Sh900 over Christmas.

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But as we run helter skelter fixing cars, buying clothes, finding chickens and goats to slaughter, like the government, we forget one thing: We have no money!

So we divert money meant to fund the recurrent budget — buying food, underwear, tampons, paying rent and fees — into an entertainment and merry-making budget. We replace car tyres, fix our hair, splash on villagers and booze up the rest.

When New Year dawns, far from excitement, we wake with dread and with this scary feeling in our tummies. We have humongous bills to pay and as usual, we have no money.

Still, we congratulate each other for ‘seing a new year’ because in these parts, only an idiot assumes to see the next day or get to the end of his or her destination safely without a detour to the morgue.

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