Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Episode 29: The Street Badges

Like other industries ours too has best practices. One of these involves how we sell ourselves to clients. Best practices demand a girl sells herself by focusing on her personal strengths rather by pinpointing the weaknesses of a colleague. A girl should not act like politicians who win by degrading and mudslinging opponents. Though there is no definite punishment for going against the best practices, doing so comes with consequences.

Two or so weeks ago a white man came driving some not so good looking car, but girls here think white is gold, it matters little how the white is packaged. So three other girls and I crowded the car. Among them was Mariam; a woman who somehow seems out of place on the street. She is relatively older and acts rather mature. Mariam is one of those considered pillars of the street; she is polite and careful with her words. She dishes these random pieces of advice to girls. And among all of us, she seems the most focused and organized. Mariam is very pretty, but has a problem speaking proper English. However considering the nature of our business, that has never been a handicap, actually in some circumstances it is a plus.

The white man seemed interested in Mariam, who was on the driver’s side. She was speaking in her smooth Swahili and the man was enjoying; like most of the white men who come here, he had an odd looking, never ending sheepish smile. Then I did something girls don’t do. I competed by bringing Mariam down. I was broke and had partaken some strong drink. I didn’t care for best practices. “She is fat" I shouted, as if being fat was a bad thing. The white man looked at me, more in surprise than appreciation. Miriam is not necessarily fat, bet she has the right amount of weight. And even if she was, there are men who want such ladies. I said it in bad taste. Miriam forgot about the white man, and came blazing to where I was.  Within minutes I was on the ground, there was no way I could fight her. She beat me almost senseless. The girls didn't try separate us, perhaps they thought I deserved it.

I was out for some few days. When I went back, head down in shame, I apologized to her, blaming it on alcohol. And as the rule in such situations, I topped my apologies with some small monetary compensation. We are now in good terms, but I have a small scar on the back of my shoulder; a badge of shame.

I have another badge. When I first came to Koinange Street, I tried to be the people’s person. Trying to be nice and polite to every of the girls. It didn't take me long to realize that was of no use in a very individualistic and competitive environment. In the eyes of the other girls I looked stupid. And yes, I saw the looks when a man picked me and later heard their scathing remarks. Who did I think I was to go round being nice to everyone?

I shed the Miss Good image, and became more acceptable. I could gossip and take sides in arguments rather than be the girl in the middle who giggles sheepishly. Most importantly I could hate. Whether my feelings of hatred were real or not mattered little; the important thing was that in my eyes and those of the other girls I was becoming street worthy. Yet I didn’t have what is unofficially perceived as the street badge of honor.

There is no girl on the street, however good, who is loved by all the rest. Everyone has an 'enemy', and as they say in those hip hop songs, having an enemy is a sign of success; something to be proud of.  I knew there were girls who disliked me and openly called them enemies, though I never actually considered them as such. Yet in moments of extreme pressure and competition say as a result of poor business or strong drink I became a little eccentric and  took the fight to my  so called 'enemies' . At such times a slight excuse was reason enough to pick an oral fight with the 'enemies'.

However oral fights can only last as long. The main victim of my insults was a short, stocky girl called Caro. My issues with her started when I was told, by another girl, that she was going around saying I was a cheap prostitute who had been practicing at the Sabina Joy but now  had the guts to go snatching men from the street. Thinking of it now, there was some truth in her statement. But I was not to take it lying down. I confronted her, and that was the start of months of exchanging words.

One evening I was drunk and as she passed near where I was standing, I said “Seems today men have rejected you" or something to that effect. As tradition I expected her to insult me back. But that time round she looked at me for a second then slapped me with her thick hand. A slap begets a slap. I slapped her back. In a few minutes we were rolling on the ground. She was stronger and heavier than me. I was drunk and my punches weak. She beat me proper before we were separated. I still have a scar on the neck from that fight. Though I was beaten I consider it my street badge of honor.

Things here and there in my life. Somehow I can't think straight. I will do one more post this week before taking a short break out of this town.

I was interviewed on Aljazeera sometime last week. You can listen to it here
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Twitter: @suenairobi
Facebook: Sue Maisha

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  1. I think you had a good interview. The panel was lenient on you though :-P either by default or design they seemed unwilling to point out that some of what you said was not in tandem with what you've written. A different lot and you may have got your first media badge :-)
    Oh, I got a mention, yay!

  2. Hahaha...chic..now you'll have men going crazy looking for the lady with a scar on her back. LOL..you're smart..very smart.

  3. Thanks Sue for the good work. Keep the blogs coming.Seems that you have acquired a lot of street badges over the years and I pause to wonder whether looking at you in the nude one would surmise that you were a tomboy growing up!!Which brings me to another point,some of your readers do crawl the streets, could you put on something distinctive so that we could pick you out?

  4. love the AJ interview,nice to put a voice to the writer now. keep up on the good work on the cyber front

  5. I liked the interview with AJStream and had a question that I felt u didnt answer fully when do u plan to retire...(i.e in how many years)

    Good writing

  6. Dy said...
    Hahaha...chic..now you'll have men going crazy looking for the lady with a scar on her back. LOL..you're smart..very smart.

    Hahaha, are nairobi behinds and breasts about to get new competition?

  7. Mmmm, It is sad when the fairer sex has to go through such ordeals all in the name of putting a meal on the table.

    I wonder why people have to blame beer for their mis-happenings.

    Great post Sue

  8. I looked up your blog after watching that interview on Al Jazeera. I had to 'prove' for myself that indeed a lady who sounded eloquent as you could indeed be a practicing prostitute. I must say I had my doubts but reading your tales of the trade my doubts are seriously being questioned. Am fascinated. When am back in Nairobi the temptation to look for you will high. How I wish you would assist me not taking long to find you.

  9. Wow, Al Jazeera. You go girl. Am rooting for you behind the scenes.

  10. Dear Sue,

    Haiya! I just listened to your radio interview and I am still in shock. When I heard your voice my heart sank. You have shifted my personal paradigm of thinking surrounding sex workers. Your blog at first turn me on.. listening to your rough tales. But now I am left humbled and bit de-masculined(?).

  11. I've read each and every one of your blog posts. The only reason I don't comment is because I'm usually left speechless. I don't know what to say. Today is no different. But since you say you plan to go on a sojourn I thought I should say something. I've also just listened to your interview and like most guys here, I'm surprised at how eloquent you sound.

    I have this stereotype of sex workers and to sum it up in just one word, maybe two, I cluster them in the lewd and unpleasant category. I guess what you have taught me is that if only you cut someone some slack, there is a certain depth to every one of us.

    It's always a treat to stop by and find a new post :-)

  12. you should definitely look into CNN heroes.. u might just win...

  13. mbesha02 AT yahoo DOT comMay 17, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    My pickings from AJStream.....

    u have huskier voice more than ur ave lady. That ussually indicates a smoker and in more often than not a dark lady of slightly more than average build. - kitu kama Angela Angwenyi - even the community may be AA's

    Ur english is typical Nairobi but I sense alot of "west of Uhuru HWay infuence", leaning towards an neighbourhood with Indian influence.

    Ngong roadish hivi hivi.

    That is my pick and any of ur Kstreet visitors look out for my decsription and report back

  14. If u can please be posting at LEAST twice a week. Please.

  15. I have just asked to be your friend on Facebook and will repeat here more or less what I said there. Your fluency, eloquence, irony, subtle observation and poetry seem to indicate some sort of group effort by a team of would-be writers who think they are on to a way of making money. However, your coherance, together with just the right amount of Kenyan errors in English, make me inclined to accept you for real.

  16. I have just read the other comments and thought I might as well add that I also discovered your blog through your Al Jazeera "appearance", which fascinated me and left me regretting the impossibility of seeing you.

  17. Great writing, I've read all your posts from when your blog was quite new. However the English isn't as great as many readers allude. There are numerous grammatical errors (like "some few" in this particular post, and lip bum instead of balm in an earlier post, just to mention a couple). Anyway, this isn't an English language session.

    Keep up the entertaining work (writing, that is).


  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Just wondering, do any of your colleagues read your blog? And if they do, what are some of their reactions?

  20. Just wondering, do any of your colleagues read your blog? And if they do, what are some of their reactions?

  21. Have you ever come across missionaries (people who talk about Jesus Christ) on the streets as you work?

  22. Yu oozed intelligence, confidence, a very high level of maturity; even tho' a few of your answers conflicted amongst themselves n' parts of your blog, your articulate, clear n' concise mode of communication left me in awe. I'm humbled. I doubt I'd have done any better in an international forum... Yu even have a bright future plan!

    At a point in tyme in my life sex was so plentiful n' readily available for me that I lost respect for women; but over the last couple of years I have regained a renewed respect for any woman who'd spread her legs for me.. after listening to your interview, the same has extended to prostitutes.

  23. I do not like the way folks here believe we should be writing the queen's english here. Fuck off losers.

    Sue, so I listened to your interview and went searching for you on the Aljazeera site. All keywords have not worked, just thought I'd see your face posted there.

    Usipotee sana. Come back soon. Try posting from where ever you are going, unless it is Syria, Libya or China.


  24. Sasa.... just wondering how much do you charge for creme session?

  25. creative writing put to waste,sue why dont you write positive things that would add value to our kenyan society,this country is crying out for such talent,now we have all sorts of sex oriented kenyan blogs,why have we become such an empty society,and wasters of God given talents?
    For the blog readers,shame on you,coz this isnt a blog you would want your kids or young siblings to read,and as for sue you arent a hooker but a talented an creative writer,put it to good use.

  26. Do u people in that sector have professional ethics e.g confidentiality? I'm refering to the one Samuel Wanjiru had the night he knocked his head on the concrete, she fed the media(CitizenTv) with so much in last nights news. C u pliz put uaself in her shoes n write a post n what u cd have

  27. Take as much time as you need to clear your head. Be safe

  28. You`ve got the scars to show that you`ve barely made it along life`s road.but for how much longer can you take it?perhaps its part of the job satisfaction well that is as far as my distant hunches go.
    Great interview I loved much the way you authoritatively took on the questions with a truckload of conviction on your part.You could sell me a skunk if you showed that much spirit. In my opinion though I think the interviewer was just playing soft ball.
    Tougher questions are likely to follow in subsequent interviews more-so when you decide to go public because rarely do we have anonymous writers,but on the plus side it could be an edge over the rest.

  29. but why do i see sue of the interview whoring at gypsy and pavement, not the k street tales she tells us?

    sue , dyou know that internationalsexguide website? ( oh men, go and read it,,, you will know where to prey-he he he

  30. I think i know you your real name starts with a W

  31. I listened to the interview and just found it incredibly sad. For an obviously intelligent, articulate women to choose this path is totally baffling. There must be more to it than a 'reliable income'. I can't help feeling that it's partly curiosity or maybe just boredom with the alternatives?

    I wonder if Sue will discuss her 'working girl' life with future (or even current) partners? Is it even any of their business? Is Sue less attractive or desirable because she has taken the path she has? Maybe not, but I think that many potential (or current) partners may find it very difficult to deal with.

    Maybe Sue would say that any partner judging her in those terms is not a partner worth having. I'd be interested to know your opinion, Sue.
    In the meantime, good luck and stay safe.

    London Mzungu.

  32. Hey London Mzungu,
    I think you raise some interesting questions and I agree with you that it would be nice if she would be gracious enough to give her opinion on at least some.

    I can also understand that you felt sad for an obviously intelligent (...). I however am not. Having been to and occasionally lived in some of the most deprived areas in the world, I have made friends with women engaged in the same profession who were some of the most stable, self actualized, puposeful people I have met.

    I, from that respect, am sad that wonderful individuals are subjected to subjective societal definitions of morality when our societies are largely ignorant. That realy makes me sad.

    I think you are a thoughtful and respectful person. A rare breed. Looking forward to more of your comments.

  33. Hi Eazy, thanks for your kind words. I'm afraid this hopeless sinner is in no position to judge Sue as I've succumbed to temptation myself on far too many occasions. In particular the allure of an African woman is very hard to resist. Best, London Mzungu.

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  35. These juxtapositions, and imagery that you are able to use tells me that you have developed your writing, I am scared when I read you and write comments. Cut the bullshit and join one of the schools as a teacher, or even go to nation and start a column those guys will train you if already you are not trained.

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