My biggest concern about writing this piece was the fear of not painting my nation in its best light. Kenya is known worldwide for its runners, its reputation as a must visit tourist destination and the fact that Obama half hails from within its borders hasn’t done too bad in propelling us further into the lime light (I mean, come on! In this day and age if you’ve never heard of Kenya you probably need to get from under that rock of yours and grab an atlas). I was asked to write about my neighbourhood and was given precise guidelines stipulating that this wasn’t supposed to be the normal cookie cutter stuff about all the go to spots in my capital or nation at large because that would have been a tad bit too easy, Oh no, I was told to write about my immediate environs, not the Maasai Mara that boasts Seventh Wonder of the World ‘Raging-River Leaping Wilder Beasts’ (pretty cool , right? ) , or the beautiful beaches of Mombasa or the Highlands of Mount Kenya, for a second there I half wished I lived in those areas but fortunately or unfortunately I don’t ( Well, I lived at the foot of Mt. Kenya a year ago so maybe I would have just stretched the truth a little and gone with that angle) so you are going to get to hear the story of South C, my neighbourhood.
Why are we going to delve deep into the belly of the beast and bring you all the nitty gritty intel on neighbourhoods , borough and suburbs ? If I may quote Trucross, he’s the blog page creator and responsible for the pieces on Sydney, Singapore and Tokyo, our main aim is to‘ (1) Challenge travelers to have intimate personal experiences with the local culture, (2) Challenge local residents to see the beauty of the everyday and of course (3) Raise awareness about issues facing local communities in different cities in the world ‘. I think you get the drift, this isn’t your every day average, run of the mill travel blog, it’s one that hopes to make a profound difference in not just your bank balance but help change mind sets of both the traveler and the local. Enjoy.
So, South C, never to be confused with South B, (Oh yes there is a huge demographic difference and each takes pride in its own style. Also please note that South A or D do not exist) is a middle class residential housing estate located in the southland area of Nairobi, built in the 1970s. Its original settlers, we can call them that, were a large population of the Kenyan Indian community, then came in the native Kenyans then a large influx of Kenyans with Somali, Sudanese and Ethiopian origin. This diversity has made South C a melting pot of ethnic and religious culture. I’ve lived in seven different areas, South B included, in three different towns and never have I experienced weaving of faiths, beliefs and customs to this degree of intricacy. You name it we’ve got it. Church spires, Mosque minarets and Temple shikharas all dot our skyline. Christian processions, the Adhan and the occasional Hindu/ Sikh wedding are all part of the norm with us. In no other sub-urban dwelling will you be able to find camel milk and meat, sweet and savoury Indian confections , chicken tikka, dates and shawaarmas in the same 1 km radius area, in a world of bigotry, religious hatred, tribalism and racism, ‘South Side’ as it has affectionately been dubbed by locals is a champion for cultural and religious tolerance.
South C takes its status seriously as being the birthplace of Kenya’s more modern music sounds. The ‘God-Fathers’ included the late E-Sir, Nameless, Big-Pin, Logombas K-rupt ,Habib but to name a few. At the turn of the millennium it was the coolest thing to be from South C ( I may be exaggerating but I even think a few people even moved there to be able to soak in the fame and glory with the hopes of being discovered) today, well ,not so much. Today, our biggest trait is incessant traffic and at the oddest hours, Seriously, where would everybody in the estate be leaving their homes for at 10 a.m on a Saturday morning? Free give-aways somewhere I wasn’t informed about? And then there’s the little water shortage situation. The silent hum of water pumps chugging away in the night have become part of our distinctive sounds, without a pump or external tank your chances of survival within ‘The C’ are close to minimal.
Need I go on to air our dirty laundry to the international public? This is the dilemma I had mentioned earlier, I love my country, city , neighborhood to pieces but what happens when those pieces don’t paint the prettiest picture. Do we sweep them under a rug, pretend it’s all sunshine, daises and the occasional unicorn? Unfortunately as much as it pains me to ‘talk bad’ about my neighbourhood I do it in the hopes of striking a cord somewhere , aiding a synapse connection in the brains of our leaders that might just help them understand that living in an area that makes it to the news every time Nairobi rains for window-ledge high floods, or having to jump across free flowing raw sewage to get to your front gate, or having to suffer through poorly constructed roads is not the life tax-paying Kenyans deserve. Sue me if I’ve embarrassed us, but it’s true.
Pretty avenues from the remnants of what used to probably be an all Indian neighbourhood , grand homes with their characteristic flat roofs, balconies and small flower gardens frame the outskirts of South C , but these pretty avenues are as pretty can get with South C, what we have within the interior is number of roads neglected by the City Council, one still at the conception stage and therefore a proper dust mine for the poor home owners who have to live along that particular road( South C-arians, ya’ll know what road I’m talking about!)
Don’t get me wrong, though, I might have carried on for a bit there but the total cesspool of filth that might have been conjured up, especially the Western mind, is only as a result of a lack of proper lack of exposure to true African living conditions. The media lies and your imagination might have got the better of you for a minute there. We are a bunch of middle income families who live albeit in an area with a few dusty jam packed roads, our homes are decent, safe and cosy (Yes! Masonry houses, not mud huts for the over imaginative, non – atlas owning, media worshiping few).
Mugoya, a former military estate now open to the general public with its neat rows of pretty bungalows and maisonette , Five Star Estate with its not so common three level homes, Akila , Akiba and KPA (Haven’t lived here long enough to know what it means but I’ll take a wild stab at Kenya Pipeline Association) one of the newer residential areas with its numerous flats that come in every shape size colour and fancy trimmings and privately built homes all but to mention a few, form part of the larger conglomerate that is South C. If I was to pick my favorite feature, that would be the Catholic Church that shares a fence with a Suni Mosque. Need I say more? Or the Mugoya shopping centre taking up two sides of a street with its characteristically Kenyan stores, stalls and enterprises. You have your , barbers , wine and spirits slash barber shop, bakery, butchers ( Halal and Not Halal of course), ‘A’ bar ( South C is not really the drinkers hot spot due to its large Islamic population though for those thirsty travelers do not despair for Nairobi West, South C’s next door neighbour prides itself for being Nairobi’s best locale for cheap alcohol ) chemists, DHL courier, DVD store, and by store here we mean we buy our DVDs for 0.56 $ (and here ya’ll think living in the West is fab, over here, you name it, we’re watching it! If you will here allow me to give a shout out to the best three series I’ve had the pleasure of owning ‘Kenyan’ DVDs to: Vampire Diaries ,Fringe and lastly Downton Abbey that I’,m rooting for come Emmys night!) event planners, green grocer, kiosk, laundry mats, mini-mart, salon and spa, street food vendors, vegetable kiosk, vegetable lady (Kenya’s love their sukumawiki and warus !) and finally wholesale store.
We are the only neighbourhood that boasts Nairobi National Park and Wilson Airport in its backyard (NB: If any of you has lived near an airfield you understand that sliver of terror that shoots down the spine at the thought of that plane choosing to land instead on your roof and what I mean by , when that plane’s a-comin’ even turning up the volume won’t help).With five sports clubs, four hotels ,one of which actually overlooks the game park, Headquarters to the Red Cross Society, shopping amenities , delectable fast food locales and several hundred schools ( I exaggerate) , South C isn’t doing too bad for itself could be better but for now I call it home.