Nindagucookeria ngaatho…

A good way to finish a hectic day is to enjoy a few drinks with one of your colleagues who tells you about the old times – especially if that jamaa has been working all over Kenya during the last 25 years, and has lots of stories to tell.

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And then you head home, meeting this one guy who sells cooked boiled eggs for 10 bob – an artistically peeled fresh egg, served in a small plastic bag with kachumbari and salt. I always wanted to taste those ones, and now I just did. Delicious.
Next time I am waiting for my matatu in Nbo, I’ll opt for a quick snack and buy one those delicacies.

It has been a hectic day, because the Embu town council decided to extend the main road. In the process of cutting all the trees by the roadside, one of the trees feel on the street, so traffic was diverted to go along in front of our office – with the result that a passing lorry cut the telephone wires and we were left without telephone, fax and internet for the rest of the day.
How are you supposed to dial “997” to report a faulty line if your line is faulty?

So I went online via SafCom GPRS and traced the numbers of their Embu office. Upon calling them (twice!), these TerrorkomKirimus told our secretary something like “tomorrow…..maybe”.

And there you go, wondering why so many ppl in Kenya have a mobile phone.

Customer Service? Hmm. Our boss had problems keeping me from fixing the lines myself. And I already had this *ggrrrrrrrr* attitude. TerrorkomKenya – you just suck! Period.

Soooo…any lasting impressions from Kenya that I will take abroad? Many. Too many actually.
But one thing remains, and that’s the diversification of business. Small deals here and there that shall secure my future. I mean, I actually did my apprenticeship and learned how to be a business man, but then: I do too many jobs and small things free of charge. Atereere…..now where’s the Kikuyu influence? There should be a reason why I am called Kikuyumoja, but until now, I just can’t see this mbeca influence.

Anyways. When I grow up Once I have enough money, I’ll return and buy a plot with good soil somewhere upcountry. And I would like to become a chicken farmer. Chicken farming is just great! Harry of AEM recently showed me his small 1-day old chicks that he plans to rear into broilers. You know, you buy them at 30 bob and sell them after 7-8 weeks for 250 bob. Minus the food and other costs, there’s still enough money to be made. Also, this is something that can work without much attendance. Great!

“He just wouldn’t understand it..”, my colleague Francis told me this evening, “this guy had been an Administrative Policeman up there in Moyale where I was working in 1985/86 and just pocketed a small salary of Ksh 4000/=. He was my escort.”

“One day, he just asked to be taken home and then I realized he could be a millionaire! He had 2000 or 3000 goats, 150 milk cows and some other lifestock. All he wanted is to show his neighbours his big herd, but didn’t want to manage it wisely. He could have sold some of the goats – now that would have made about 5M – and also some cows for about 1M, get a nice plot in town, build some houses there, rent them out, and just live on that. But he just wouldn’t understand how to invest and extend his business. All he wanted was to show off his herd…”.

Different places, different people.

But that diversification thing still remains. I’ll need to invest into different smaller things in future, and be more serious about it. Free of charge working (“pls help me with this and that computer problem”) is nice, but it doesn’t secure anything. Damn altruism. Kenya has taught me a few lessons on how to think more about income generating projects and opportunities, and that it actually is a lot of fun and pleasure to think in agricultural and livestock terms. At least, working with my hands has always been more satisfying for me than pure mental work – and as far as I can date back my family, no one ever worked in the field or did chicken, cow, etc. rearing. Time to make a difference? We’ll see…

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Snapshot of the week! SUPERMATCH! :-)

(yes, Steve, I tried to take some pics of Embu, but you know it’s hard to take pics of the town if you’re constantly surrounded by folks – so I chose to use my mobile phone’s cam instead….will upload some of them on Flickr soon!)

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Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at Saniblog.org. You’ll also find me on Twitter @jke and Google+.

8 comments » Write a comment

  1. Nice synopsis of your stay in Kenya and lessons learnt.Ati making mbeca has not rubbed off of Kikuyu’s to Kikuyumoja. Si I told you go to my home town ah well my guka’s place Mathira Divison and that money lover kikuyu’s attitude will rub on you . Ukweli, lakini if you want a business partner I mean bookkeeping/biashara management aspect of it,count me in. Whatever happened to the other venture of German Sandwiches etc…:-)
    I’m sorry your stay was cut short but look at it as a time away to digest what you have experienced and when you go back,it will be full throttle, ama?

  2. Thx. Well, of course it has ruubbed off on me, and also before coming home I knew about this mbeca seriousness – but it’s just that staying here reconfirmed me in this assumption that I really really have to watch out where my money goes and isn’t put into dead investments and/or when you lend out mbeca to friends and waiting ages for a return etc…

  3. Ah i see that every-opportunity-equals-money attitude has gotten into you good good. Anyway the boiled egg i must confess i tried after a night at the “disco” as my ma would cal it and yes i got the recipe and its all homemade now. thanks for the pics.

  4. JKE

    I concur. Telkom sucks. Big Time. Big Big Time.

    I already pronounced them to be a dead dodo.

    I can’t wait and I mean CAN’T wait for the last Telkon guy to turn the lights off as he goes home when the last of their copper wires are stolen to make curios …

    Their attritude coupled with their stupid prices (Ksks 9000 for DSL? Are they serious?) will lead them to their end.

    Now, I have always been too terrified to try the boiled egg (or samosas), I always tend to go with fruit or maybe even some njugu from those kids who look like they should be in school. Which all reminds me about one of those kids selling njugu whom I brought to KNH a while back after he was hit by a car at PanAfric. While we sat there from 7pm till the doctor saw him at maybe 11:30pm, he told me all about his life and why he did the stuff that he did, how his parents made him come home with a certain amount of money at the end of the day – it was really sad. He did not want to go home even if he was injured since he did not know what his parents would say.

    Chicken farming is not all that it is cracked up to be: my next door neighbor did it commercially and he was wiped out each time they got an infection – it is a very risky business. Good profits but very very risky.

    One lesson that I am still learning the hard way is that in Kenya, people “dharau” free things. You have to charge for your time and your stuff. Never give anything away, make them pay something even if it is just a little. When I started charging, I seemed to get more work from people who were willing to pay significant amounts. Someone told me that they thought my work had improved – and this happened after I started charging them.

    What do you mean, I asked? You mean I have been crazy, trying to be nice to you all this time, giving you my time and effort for free. Fogo jembe wewe!

    After years of what I thought was being kind to them, they tell me that they really wanted me to charge?

    Since then, I charge dearly for my time and surprisingly, demand is still high.

    Altruism is for suckers…

    – Steve

  5. Steve, that ain’t just Kenya, that’s life.

    In the past I used to do computer for free for friends and family. Nearly everyone was satisfied with my work, but there were some criticisms that all inferred that I couldn’t be as good as if the people had paid someone for the work.

    Like you, I started charging. Initially the cheapskates stayed away. (good!) Others tried to be do-it-yourself-ers. Stupid and lame requests completely went away. But curiously everyone else was happy to pay.

    The only grumbles I get are about the price. My response is always, “Hey, that’s a discount. I charge more for people I don’t know.”

  6. I agree with Steve’s views free services aren’t worth a damn. If you need something and it is of value to you you should pay for it.
    Telkom is just the worst you can imagine I work in lower end of Embu (Mbeere) where our only telkom line is an antique VHF transmitter which any enterprising guy in Embu can tune to by getting one of those japanese car radios with out band expanders and tuning to Kiss FM. Imagine this in the 21st Century. I try connect in my house with GPRS but considering the costs you cant really do much.
    Someone should seriously consider putting up decent comms infrastructure in small towns like Embu soon.

    Kirima