I was so amused that just after my previous post, i was now in another world of templates…. what is this world getting to??

asking for directions is one of the most daunting tasks in NBO, i was walking in tao (Nairobi City-for ma international readers) one lovely evening, as usual i was late and just finished a call sayin

“…i’m 5 minutes away, jus relax, am coming….”

amidst the call i had taken an unconcious turn, i looked around to get my bearings, and i knew deep inside, for sure that i was going to be another 10 minutes as this young blighter, lets call him James, that caught my attention. “Praytell what was he like? ” you would ask? well let me indulge your thoughts abit in his appearance at first glance….

He was a rugged young lad with all this ambition of being a doctor or a pilot when he grows up… he had this bright smile as he sang to himself that makes you want to smile back amidst the winter weather of out city in the sun. He was dressed in a worn out maroon sweater that had seen the best of its days probably before the current owner had it, a yellow shirt (no tie) grey shorts and a pair of well worn, dusty shoes that would cough and fall apart if he stopped walking tha housed a pair of grey tattered socks that seemed to be hanging by their last thread. And finally comes his bag…and ugly grey racksack bigger than he was that had ropes for carriers and seemed to contain more than his body weight.

“niaje?” he asked – he wasnt really saying “hi”, this is actually the most common phrase used by most kenyan men when trying to catch a fellow man’s attantion…

This began a 10milisecond dilema in my mind all through which i have a number of thoughts running up and down being processed and weighed….

i thought to my self, i counted all the money in my pockets and even looked for the spare change incase James wanted money for bread, i realised that the coins in my pocket wasnt enough spare change for anything of substance. then i set myself to say,

“sina dough, labda siku ingine chali” – translated, “i dont have money, maybe another day dude” this is really a template variation that is used on parking boys, street kids and beggars depending on their mode of asking.
some have the unfortunate “i cant see you and walk by” mostly from well dressed, stuck up men, others get a blunt “sina!” or “hapana!” and others get “aki pole toto sina pesa” mainly from ladies with the biggest heart.

But our James hadnt asked or said anything yet, i hadnt even stopped to listen to him

then i thought, “why dont i just pretend i didnt hear him and dash to my coffee meeting in the uptown cofee shop?” but something urged me to stop, my friends tell me its God talking to me at that point….but that his for another day, remind me.

i looked for the most obvious yet polite way to look like i am in a hurry but can spare 2 seconds to hear James out. Chances are that he noticed my thought pattern and he went ahead and asked me…

“hii ni njia ya railways?”

i loaded google maps for nairobi



Isn’t it amazing that most people find it difficult to give efective directions to any place, even their own office or home. you’ll hear things like;

“enda hivi alafu uteremke hapo” or “enda straight kwa corner…”

and the most amazing part is that you will be givin directions to the watchman so that you can ask him for directions.

In many cases you will have ahd to solicit for these directions because we as nairobians are quite mean with any information that we have. It amusing when you ask a fellow pedestrian for directions and before you finish or maybe before you start you get an abrupt “sijui”.

the preocess of soliciting for this information is a palling process that makes one humble. it involves alot of skill involving

  1. a smile at the begining – hopefully to create common ground and a friendly playing field for the innocent you that is lost
  2. the hook – good attention grabber is “excuse” this is cross cultural in our massive city and will allow you to know what language to use if the person stops to listen, another good one is “niaje?” which can be used on agemates or easier placed…generationmates
  3. a polite ask – once you have used the hook to determine the syntax of communication … determine the best mode of delivery… you will need to know if you should include your hads in the asking process, this is very inportant because it determines how the askee will give you directions. take it as a guide/tutorial for the askee.
  4. listen – the most interesting part. a cultutral block may cause you to missout on most of the terminologies used..also known as shrubbing or as the foreigners put it, accents.
  5. add ons – the most important thing is to factor in the hands. most kenyans give stories with their hands, but it is important to know if the hands and mouth are coordinated. in many cases the askee may also use their lips to point in the direction you desire and they dont say a word and move on. watch out for that because in many cases it may be translated as a sneer

i wish you the best in the next ask

ill next time….

keep ballin – unclexam

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