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Ten signs you live in a village, next to the city

TEN THINGS
By Brian Guserwa | November 18th 2021

As a great author once said, all of us live in Nairobi, but some of us live more in Nairobi than others. There are people who claim to live in Nairobi, yet they need to use three major roads to get home. I’m talking about those Rongai people and those Ruiru pretenders.

Here are 10 signs you live in a village next to the big city, but not in Nairobi itself.

1. No food delivery

You know you live far when the food delivery apps want nothing to do with you. As soon as you input your location, the app gets sleepy and shuts down, because it is cheaper to send a sack of rice from Mwea than a bucket of chicken wings to your house. At best, you have to buy that pizza yourself and pakata it on your lap like a toddler.

2. Extreme weather

If you get the kind of weather that predated Noah’s flood; if your area swings from being so muddy it can pass for a riverbank, to cold so extreme you lose the ability to grip things… if there is actual fog on that roundabout next to the highway, and drivers have to drive while hooting, then you live on the outskirts. And if when it starts to rain your safest bet is hurrying home because the nearest shelter is a grocery kiosk with a wooden roof, wewe si wetu, please.

3. You know your landlord

Those of us who live in the city know very little about our landlords. The owner of the property is usually a shadowy figure, a name behind a company that represents a company that manages the property on behalf of a corporation he is affiliated with. But those on the ‘outskirts’ have probably bumped into their landlords while coming out of a shared bathroom. Here’s a good tip; if you send your rent to a Kimani wa Something, you might as well stop telling people you live in Kanairo.

4. Matatus in no hurry

There is one matatu Sacco plying the route to your digs. Two, at most, and one goes to Limuru so it’s not actually for you. Your matatus are the ones with drivers who sleep while they wait. No conductors spanking rusting metal frames. No small boys assaulting you with cries of ‘Wawili iende’. Just a bored man reading a newspaper in the passenger seat, waiting to make the first of two trips that day. And on the return trip, that matatu sleeps in his grandmother’s compound.

5. Wandering chickens

It’s true that Nairobi is home to many cows that lift their hoofs to stop traffic as they cross Mombasa Road. But there are some corners of the city where domestic animals freely graze. Where chickens flirt and mount each other beside the road, and where dogs named Bosco urinate freely on electric poles. People who can hear roosters in the morning should not be telling people they live in the city, ama?

6. Butchery/hotels

Your butchery doubles up as a hotel and the butcher is also a veteran nyama choma whisperer. There is a corridor leading to a small haven behind the building, from which you can always hear soft Mugithi music wafting along the same air currents as the aroma of sizzling matumbo. At that meat point, they use the old-school weighing scales, the ones with rocks for weights.

7. Children actually playing

If you look outside your window and see children playing, it might be a telltale sign that you’re closer to Nakuru than you are to our fair city. Not riding around in tricycles, mind you; not kicking around footballs or hunching over an iPad watching cartoons while a bored househelp watches from a distance. No, actually playing, torn clothes and all, running around enacting scenes from movies and yelling Diamond lyrics. Barefoot. Scarred knees. Runny noses. Those are village kids, sir, and you’re their neighbour, a fellow villager.

8. Business complex

A good sign of your proximity to the city is the ambition of the architecture. If you can see skyscrapers in the distance, congratulations, you’re one of Sonko’s orphans. But if the tallest building you can see is a business complex over there, then I have some news for you. If that complex, all four stories of it, contains a supermarket with eight shelves and a biological CCTV camera (a woman called Wambo), and that complex functions as the landmark you give to bodaboda guys, then deep down you know the truth.

9. Your rent sounds reasonable

You pay rent and still have money left over. Your rent is ‘inclusive’, which means you don’t pay for water, and the security comprises of a gate that is locked at 6 pm sharp. Your house is massive, too. Sprawling living area with enough room for a dining set, a bedroom that can fit more than a bed, and none of that joining bathroom/toilet nonsense. You probably even have a nice balcony where you can hang your underwear without judgment. All for the same ridiculous price someone in South B pays their internet. You know what they say. Village life is cheaper.

10. People whistle when you tell them

When people ask where you live and you tell them, their eyes pop as if they have just seen their M-Pesa statements. And then they whistle as if they have just seen the M-Pesa transaction charges. They did not come for your housewarming, because that would require them to make sleeping arrangements and take a day off work. “Unakuja kunitembelea lini?” you ask them, and they swiftly change the topic.

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