I still write a monthly column for UP Magazine. Below is an excerpt from this month's issue. UP Magazine is distributed free of charge at coffee shops, shopping malls and petrol stations in Nairobi. Of course the article has gone through an editor.....
There seems to be so much anxiety in this city. It’s all reflected in the daily hustle and bustle of the residents. Few people are calm and relaxed in what they do. An example, the ever growing party scene. Rather than end up looking genuinely happy and relaxed, party goers wear worried looks and their joy seems artificial.
The Street is not immune to the city’s anxiety. But whereas the anxiety in the rest of the city seems to be driven by the search for the little more and the pressure to become the best, the worry on the Street is more a result of efforts to maintain the status quo and keep from falling. In most of the City settings success is well defined, and the formula for success is clear. However on the Street the formula for success is vague; as anything that is largely made up of luck, unpredictable human emotions and what not.
The girls who show most of their skins or dress up fashionably are not the most successful. And so are those who only pursue white men and sleek cars. Success on the Street is thus left to “God” and our daily labors are aimed more at maintaining our present state of achievement. The fear of becoming worse than we presently are generates a lot of our anxiety. We are focused less in succeeding and more in preventive measures to avoid a fall. A fall is a matter of both personal and peer honor. If I am yanked off the Street because I was jailed for stealing from a man, or since I could not sweet talk the city council askari or the magistrate, then that’s a fall.
And so is when a once-favorite man stops picking me in favor of another girl; it does not matter whether the girl is less glamorous than me. If I am out for two months or so because of sickness, not necessarily sexually transmitted, then that is a fall.
If I am sick I would rather say I had gone to chase Ugandan men in Kampala. Here on the Street there is a very thin line between a decline and a fall. Well, here they are one and the same thing. A fall will mean that I become part of the Street fable. And because girls talk so much, I will be walking round the city thinking everybody knows everything about me. What causes a fall, whether chance or choice, is seen as contagious, and girls want to have little to do with a girl who has fallen even once. Thus girls will use all manner of trickery to avoid being seen as fallen.
Sometimes the anxieties of the rest of the city’s residents converge with those of us on the Street. As happens once in a while a regular client will drop me and pick another girl. The only way to avoid being labeled a failure by the other girls is not to let them know that has happened, which is almost impossible, or to redeem myself by having a better man pick me. Better would mean a man who drives a more expensive car, or who is foreign. The country of origin matters little. So it happened to me the other night. A regular client ignored me for Nancy; a newbie. But before the other girls could start talking I got a chance to save my skin the same night...Read the rest here
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