A Lovely Couple Political Hours in a Gas Station

July 31 2008

At around three in the afternoon I found myself standing under an overhang in a gas station, shoulder to shoulder with at least fifty Kenyans. It was raining hard so we had all come to the conclusion that wherever we had to be or whatever we had to do could wait until after the rains. I stayed there for around an hour and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Being a muzungu (white person), I attracted a lot of attention. No one could understand why I hadn’t just taken a taxi or at the very least why I wouldn’t just buy an umbrella. Stupidly, when I was packing for Kenya, I had generalized that “Africa” is hot so there’s no need to pack an umbrella. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that the opposite side of the world also has opposite seasons. August is the “long rains season” and is by far the coldest season in Kenya.

As I stood at the gas station I kept rubbing my arms, trying to keep warm. This prompted one of the boda (bicycle) drivers to remark, “Oh so you people get cold too!”

This was one of the many great remarks I got while standing at the gas station. Instead of spending my money buying an umbrella from the guy walking around hawking them, I bought a newspaper to read instead. It ended up not really being just for me as all the guys I was standing around were reading over my shoulder as I flipped through the paper. Finally I asked them if they wanted to read it and gave them each a section. Kenyans love news. Even the Kiswahili greeting ‘Habari yako’ meaning ‘how are you’ technically means “What is your news?”. My Mama says that if she doesn’t read the newspaper and watch the 9:00 news she feels like her day is incomplete.

Perhaps my favorite part of Kenya is that people don’t just read the news, they love to discuss it. In America, a lot of my friends get tired of me trying to talk politics all the time. Here, I talk politics with everyone. It always strikes me as really interesting that a  lot of people in America don’t care at all about politics and don’t even think its worth their time to vote. Here in Kenya politics is a matter of life or death, seriously, this past election period neighbors killed each other over political differences.