If you grew up in the nineties, you must have heard the song I am a Jamaican in New York by Shinehead. Well, I am a Coasterian in Nairobi. If you are Kenyan born and bred along the beautiful and ever shiny coastline of the Indian Ocean between Kiunga (just before Somalia) down all the way to Shimoni (just before Tanzania), consider yourself a Coasterian!
During the December holidays, Mombasa â€“ my home, normally gets an influx of Kenyans from all over the country going to enjoy its hot weather, delicious cuisine and beautiful people after a long year of work and no play. It was the perfect time for a blogger friend of mine to write an article â€˜How to Spot a Nairobian in Mombasaâ€™ and start #howtospotanairobian on Twitter which trended for quite some time with some of the views being really funny. If you live in Mombasa and you are not in the hospitality, transport or any business where you will be busy making killer profits from hiking the prices of everything you offer, you will not fancy being in Mombasa at that time. Movement becomes a problem with people seeming to congest every corner you can think of. Even private beaches become public! One old uncle of mine blames the December heat rush on the â€˜guestsâ€™ saying long time ago Mombasa never used to be as hot as it is now!
Naturally, the irritation caused to Mombasa residents would have all their senses glued watching the â€˜guestsâ€™ at their every move wishing they could ask them to be coming in small scheduled portions. When I saw #howtospotanairobian trending, I smiled knowing this was one day coming!
As I said, I am a Coasterian in Nairobi. Who better to spot a guest Coasterian in Nairobi than a Coasterian who has lived in Nairobi for many years? Nairobi is the Capital City of our great Nation Kenya and like the dysfunctional people we are, everything seems to be centred on it. Unlike their counterparts who go to Mombasa for holidays, Coasterians are forced to travel around five hundred kilometres just to come for something as simple as an official stamp from a government office that could have easily been obtained if we at least tried to be as advanced as we claim to be. A few of them, the daring ones, will occasionally come to Nairobi for leisure but for whatever reasons Coasterians will always be swallowed in the huge masses of Nairobians. A Coastarian living in Nairobi like I, will sniff them out from miles away. Nairobians will have no business getting irritated by Coasterians as is the reverse.
Despite all the beautiful spots available, for one reason or the other, they always find themselves in downtown Nairobi where I personally avoid like the plague. I have not been able to point out what about Luthuli Avenue or River Road attracts them. It is probably because all the buses arriving Nairobi through Mombasa â€“ Nairobi highway make their final stop there. Why else would guest houses designed to fit Coasterians tastes and small food joints selling Swahili delicacies thrive in downtown? Some will even tell you the place is convenient and if you ask on what basis they will tell you because Kijiti (Khat) is all over the place; cheap and fresh.
They reek of suspicion and fear. They will be looking at an old man walking across minding his own business as though it was an FBI agent who has spotted the late Bin Laden still alive and in disguise! To them, every Nairobian is a mugger. The men will have all their attention around their pockets while the ladies cling on to their handbags tightly tucked under their armpits. While alone, they will occasionally rehearse on how to counter an attack just in case it presents itself. They will try to avoid crowds at whatever cost and make sure they are in their hotel rooms or a relativeâ€™s place while the sun still shines. You cannot blame them from the numerous news reports they hear and read in the local media every single day about Nairobi where people are mugged, kidnapped and bullets fly all over the place killing innocent people.
You will see them in an English Primer League team jersey on a cold morning or in a big over sized sweater on hot mid-morning coupled with baggy trousers and sandals lazily dragging their way through town. They will often be overstepped by Nairobians who will walk past them at light speed not even looking back. While the Coasterian will be left wondering how on earth can one step on anotherâ€™s feet and not apologize, all the Nairobian knows is he just passed a stationery object.
When the phone rings while they are on the street, a Coasterian will not pick that call whatever the emergency. If the ringing persists, it is cause for alarm and it is now time to find a shop and walk in pretending to ask for prices or buying items they did not need just to pick that call.
â€œSorry I delayed picking your callâ€ the Coasterian will apologize â€œI’m in Jiji!â€ (Jiji is City in Kiswahili).
The caller in Mombasa will understand the risk of picking up a phone call in Nairobi with muggers lurking around and they will proceed with their conversation. Once done, the Coasterian will make sure the phone is switched to silent so that when it rings again, no one can ever tell he owns a phone.
The next time you spot a Muslim man in a Kanzu in a Wines and Spirits shop in Nairobi, please do not judge. At least observe if he is talking on his phone first.