01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Wierd Parallel Living in Nairobi 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Wierd Parallel Living in Nairobi

Half the time it all feels kind of OK and not unlike our normal life, taking the kids for a swim at the local club, filling the day, meeting up with friends trying not to talk too much of the current crisis because it’s ‘New Year’. Then we switch on the local news at home, or buy a paper, or look at the internet and the reality of the situation hits you in the stomach and suddenly I think that it's time to begin packing up our life of nine years and of leaving Africa for good. The fact that we’ve just bought our Nairobi house and sunk everything we have into this place, notwithstanding.

The Kenyan crisis just gets worse. Not only is the violence escalating, but it’s becoming wholly tribal, dividing the entire country and where are Kibaki and Odinga now? They are standing back to back with their arms folded, standing on principal, refusing to talk!!! Things surely must now have come to enough of a head with hundreds of people now dead, including over forty children burned alive in a church in Eldoret today, to compel some kind of political dialogue between the PNU and ODM to begin. If these politicians insist on sitting on their hands and keeping their mouths shut, then they will have genocide and a country neatly destroyed in the course of one week – they already have blood on their hands. The tribal killings and reprisals are continuing now for a fourth day countrywide. The news footage and photographs describe mayhem and lawlessness.

Meanwhile, in expat land, we go out (albeit within a small radius of our homes), get together, pool food supplies and Christmas leftovers, order chips at the club and shrug our shoulders when almost everything and anything else is off the menu. We talk of going back to work at some point, discuss safaris planned, of school restarting soon. We talk of the houses we are building or have bought; we talk of the whole thing ‘blowing over’.
'I don't mind about the food shortages, I could do with losing some of this christmas cheer!' we say patting our tummies.
We don’t admit that we could be on the brink of losing not just a little weight but everthing. That wouldn't be sporting; 'It wont come to that' I am assured.

We telephone friends out of town who are still on holiday. They say;
‘We're having a lovely time! We're planning to drive back to Nairobi on the 3rd of jan, do you think that will be OK?’
and I hear my husband shrieking;
‘But that’s Raila’s day of mass action!! Have you not been keeping up with the news – that really might not be a good day to travel when over a million people country wide are going to turn out on the roads in protest?!?’

Most of the rented holiday houses here are not equipped with TV or radio. Many people have stuck two fingers up at what is going on and have managed to get to holiday destinations without trouble, which makes 'alarmists' like me feel a bit stupid. There was someone buying fireworks in the supermarket yesterday for a new years eve party - 'that will frighten the neighbourhood' I thought, when the bangs that we've been hearing lately have been gun shots.

Old expat timers say;
‘I’m not going to let political rubbish this spoil my holiday! We will continue our plans as if nothing has happened; it’s really not that bad, I’m sure it will be alright to drive through Mombasa on new years eve at midnight - no problem!’
‘Hellooooo!' I feel like screaming; ‘sorry to spoil your plans but you may want to re think - we are on the brink of civil war or have you not noticed! People are dying on the streets every day and night in horrible ways!’
Then I think, ‘…. am I over reacting, should I be more of a stoic like them? what’s the matter with me? Am I going mad?’

Alll we can wish for now is please, please, please let some high level mediation take place tonight or tomorrow. Please let the day of mass action be called off and let a compromise be reached somehow (no idea how myself?). Please let the violence stop, then, in months to come, if it all stops now, we can look back on this as a bad patch, or a blip in Kenya’s political history. Hopefully the booming economy will not be affected too badly – if nothing changes radically in the next 48 hours then I feel we are all doomed. (or am I being too dramatic?!?!?)

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