A Kenyan’s Guide To Kenya, Vol. I

Unashamedly stolen from an Email forward. . .lol .. .
Enjoy. .

A Kenyan’s Guide To Kenya, Vol. I

I’ve often been terribly disappointed by the tourist guidebooks
written about Kenya. Most of the time they tell you stuff you already
know, like “you can go on safari and see some lions.” That’s probably
why you wanted to come here in the first place, so that’s not helpful.
Other times they give you all manner of useless information. For
example: what’s the point of telling you how to ask for directions in
Kiswahili if you’re not going to understand the answer? (Sometimes
they seem to be written by a malicious Kenyan who hates tourists. One
time I was lying on the beach and was accosted by an earnest American
who said, “Jambo. Nyinyi muna kula viazi?” First of all, no Kenyan
says “Jambo.” Secondly, I was lying on the beach, I was alone and I
definitely wasn’t eating potatoes.)

These books never tell you about all the amazing people you can meet
in Kenya, or how to understand what they’re saying. Determined to
correct this horrible wrong, I’m issuing the first of many useful,
practical tips for our many visitors. Herewith Volume I of “A Kenyan’s
guide to Kenya.” (Disclaimer: this is written from a Nairobi
perspective. Other parts of the country are a whole other story and
will cost you extra.)

Here’s what you should know:

When we want you to pass us something – the salt, say – we’ll point
with our mouths. Example: We’ll catch your eye then say, “Nani.” Then
we’ll use our mouths to point at the desired object. This is achieved
by a slight upward nod followed by an abrupt thrusting out of the
lower lip, which is pointed in the object’s general direction. There’s
no explanation for this. (“Nani” can be roughly translated as, oh I
don’t know, “Whats-your-face,” “You,” or “Thingie.” We’re unfailingly

Frequently, and for no reason whatsoever, we’ll refer to a person as
“another guy.” However, this MUST be pronounced/slurred thus: An-aa
guy. This also applies to “the other day,” which is when some
momentous event in our lives always took place. We do the same thing
with Kiswahili words like ‘bwana’, which is pronounced ‘bana.’
Example: “I was driving in town the aaa day and this guy comes from
nowhere and cuts me off, bana. Man I abused him!” ‘Abused’ in this
sentence must be drawn out and emphasised for maximum effect:

We claim to speak English and Kiswahili, which technically means that
we should be able to communicate with the English-speaking world and
Tanzania. What we really mean is that if you’re not Kenyan you won’t
understand a damn word we say or why we say it.
Example: “Sasa” in Kiswahili means “now.” We use it as a greeting.
Correct usage: “Sasa?” “Ah, fit.” It confuses us that Tanzanians don’t
understand this.

We also, just as randomly, might greet you by saying, “Otherwise?”
Common response: “Uh-uh.” There is no explanation for this.

Kenyans are multi-lingual, but all this means is that we believe that
if we translate something word for word from one language to another
it will make sense. A Kenyan might say, for example, “You mean you’re
not brothers? But you look each other!” Be kind, they just think that
muna fanana can slip into English unfiltered. Speaking of filters,
that’s why some people (tribe/ethnicity withheld to protect my uncles)
will claim to ‘drink’ cigarettes. If you’re not Kenyan you won’t
understand this. Let it go.

We can buy beers at police stations. Grilled meat too. Heck, in some
cop shops you can even play darts. I am NOT making this up. Example:
“Man the aaa day I pitiad (pass through) the Spring Valley cop station
after work. I was leaving there at midnight, bana. I was so wasted! I
told those cops to just let me go home.”

Oh, that’s another thing: when we’re leaving a place (your house, a
wedding, the cop shop bar) we tend to say, “Ok, me let me go…” We’re
not implying that you’re holding us against our will; we’re just
saying that we’d like to go. (The plural is, of course, “Us let us

When Kenyans say that you’re mad, it’s a profound compliment. “Man
this guy is mad. You know what he did…” then they’ll go on to
recount some of your admirable exploits. It’s high praise. Smile
modestly and accept it. By modest I mean look down, draw a circle in
the dust with the toe of your shoe (or just your toe) and then smile,
draw your mouth down into a brief frown, and smile again. Alternate
quickly a few times. This is known by English-speaking Kikuyus as The
Nyira Smile, or The Sneering Smile. Then say “aah, me?” in a high,
sing-songy voice. However, only do this if you’re female.

On the other hand, if Kenyans ask, “are you normal? (Sometimes
pronounced “nomo”), then they’re getting a bit concerned about your
state of mental health. Reassure them by buying another round.

Which brings me to Alcohol. Our national pastime. You know that myth
about Eskimos having thousands of word for ‘snow?’ Well, our beloved
drinks are known by a thousand names and phrases too. Kenyans will
‘catch pints (or just ‘catch’),’ ‘go for a swallow,’ have a ‘jweeze,’
‘keroro,’ ‘kanywaji,’ ‘jawawa…’ really, no list can be exhaustive.
Be aware, though, that the words you use will immediately tip off your
audience about your age. (For the Kenyans reading this, no I was NOT
born during the Emergency, you swine.)

Our other pastime is religion. (What contradiction?) If you’re broke
on a Sunday – and your hangover is not too bad – stroll over to one of
our parks and catch some open-air preaching. Jeevanjee Gardens in town
is a prime location. There you will see us in our full multi-lingual,
spiritual splendour. There is always, and I mean always, a freelance
preacher thundering in English while his loyal and enthusiastic
sidekick translates into Kiswahili.
Preacher: And then Jesus said…
Sidekick: Alafu Yesu akasema…
Preacher: Heal!
Sidekick: Pona!
Preacher: HEAL!
Sidekick: PONA!
It’s hypnotic. We suggest you go with a Kenyan who understands both
languages because sometimes the sidekick nurses higher ambitions and,
instead of translating, tries to sneak in his own parallel sermon. If
you’re bored in Kenya it’s because you’re dead.

As you’ve probably figured out, we like abbreviating things. (Why
would the word ‘another’ have to be any shorter than it is? Why would
the Kenyans reading this find it odd that I keep talking about
‘Kiswahili?’) This can lead to unnecessary confusion. But by now you
should have figured out that when you’re catching and someone says,
“Si you throw an-aa ra-o?” they of course want you to buy another
round of drinks. Don’t worry about the ‘si;’ like so many words in Swa
it’s impossible to translate. Embrace it, sprinkle it liberally in
your speech and move on. There are several such words, which will be
tackled in Volume II.

Posted via email from Mwangy’s Posterous