Nairobi to me is about pushing the limits of creation and innovation. The limits of the imaginable are pushed and just when you think someone can’t get any more creative, they surprise you. Think of Sheng, the language in Nairobi that evolves so fast that you risk using obsolete words if you don’t keep up. Each generation brings new words to life and the innovative spirit takes a different edge. One generation produces tyres while the next makes shoes out of them. One person talks of going green and the residents see opportunities to make money from recyclable products. The impossible is truly made possible in Nairobi.
I would give a lot for a chance to experience Nairobi nights every so often. You will love and hate the days in almost equal measure but just when you think you can’t take any more of the hustles, Nairobi gives you its lovely Sunday nights. There aren’t too many people walking around and the few who are pace arm in arm. There’s almost always a breeze if it isn’t raining and it will refresh you and make you dream and evaluate your goals. It’s those deserted streets that remind you that everything is possible really; that you can find peace even in the loudest of places.
The weeknights are different, obviously, because you need a little noise in your life once in a while. The buses hoot like they are paid to and the music in the club. You will wonder what is worse between the obscene utterances of matatu operators and the terrible voice of the drunk guy at Karaoke. Everyone will seem to be in a hurry and you will get shoved if you stand and pushed if you walk slowly. You will want to cover your ears but you don’t, because the noise kind of keeps you alive. It startles you and angers you so you feel you need to bring change in the world.
Nairobi without hustles is like a drum without drumsticks. The hustles are the lifeblood of the city, they make the music to which we dance to every minute. The hustles put food on his table and take her children to school. Vendors are everywhere and you often won’t need to spend time on a shopping list in this city. It’s a ‘you need it, they’ve got it’ affair with these vendors and they will remind you what you don’t have even if you don’t need it. Nairobi is that vendor who has his real price and a price to get your attention, and you only know he charges ten times more when you get closer. But there are honest ones too and the city goes on because of them.
I bet Nairobi is as many things to me as it is to you. I have seen things and known things and done things I could never have imagined in Nairobi. I know there are two other cities and another in the offing but I haven’t lived and loved and laughed like I have in Nairobi and that is unchangeable. Sometimes a big city can tend to swallow you whole and you feel so little and alone in the midst of the crowd but once you hear the sound of Nairobi drums, you will want to dance. I am, partly because Nairobi is. And Nairobi is because we are.
What is Nairobi to you?