I have this green cargo jacket. It's not the fanciest or the best jacket I own. It has those useless button clasp pockets that can barely hold anything. It's a pretty cheap jacket, but I love it and wear it all the time I'm in school and in Nairobi. I actually have two of them, just that one is a little bit more padded.... but I'm getting carried away.
This jacket is probably the unluckiest jacket I own. The first time I wore it out, the tag was still on it. I went to class and sat for a whole hour and 15 minutes before I went back to my room and realized the tag was right under my armpit towards the back. I used to sit at the front of the class. That should have been the first clue that this jacket was bad news, but I still wore it and cherished it.
I came back with the jacket to Nairobi because it's light enough that if you layer it well, you can easily survive Nairobi “winters.” Plus I look really stylish in that jacket. But that's not why we're here. Every time I've gone to an event/concert in Nairobi I have almost been robbed or robbed, depending on how you look at it, while wearing the jacket.
As we all know, Africa is a pretty dangerous continent. In fact, Nairobi might be the most dangerous of all the cities in Africa. Why else would they call it Nairobbery?
Side Note: According to World Atlas, the most dangerous city is in South Africa, while Nairobi is number 10 on the list.
Nairobi was once known as the green city in the sun, which I find hard to believe because it's pretty dusty out here but hey, colonial eyes see what they want to see. As the times went by, Nairobi slowly shifted to the slightly outdated term Nairobbery. A term used to describe the insecurity of Kenya's capital. Growing up and even today we hear about people who get robbed while walking in town, people getting carjacked right outside their gate, people being robbed in the middle of traffic or the thieves breaking into their house… you know everyday things.
I didn’t know Nairobbery was a term until a few years back. The posh uptown girl in me used this opportunity to tell my friends in the US that nothing could phase me because I had seen it all in Nairobbery. Which technically is true, growing up in Nairobi you learn to be aware of your surroundings. If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you are being robbed or carjacked, don't be a hero, give them what they want. If it's late at night, don't come to a complete stop, err on the overly cautious side of going the long well-lit route instead of the shortcut. The list goes on and on, but the main thing is to always be aware of your surroundings.
Growing up, I was terrified, TERRIFIED of Nairobi, these days I have a low key but healthy fear of Nairobi. When I was younger, and we would travel out of the country, I would dread going back home because I was scared someone would rob us on our way home. My biggest concern was my new toys which were obviously hot commodities, and I couldn't bear to lose them before I played with them. I think this fear began after my parents got robbed while my brother and I were out of town visiting my grandparents... but I don't know I'm not a psychiatrist or anything.
Even when I am in the US, my Nairobi senses take over sometimes, and I'm wearier than I probably should be in certain situations. However, I have also become a little bit laxer. In my school, people leave their laptops and other belongings on a table in the library for hours and come back and still find them. The first time I took a bathroom break and left my belongings there, I was sure I would not even find my pencil when I came back. Everything was still there when I got back. The Kenyan in me was so confused as to what type of sorcery was working here.
While I am slightly less worried in the US, every time I'm back in Kenya I know the drill. Check your surroundings, be vigilant and you should be good.
This is where my green jacket comes in. The first time I was almost robbed was at Blankets and Wine last year. It had been a pretty good afternoon and evening. My friend and I were standing in a line trying to get water. I'm in line with my bag tightly under my shoulders, my hands in my green jacket pockets, and the phone securely in the pocket where my hands are. I was secure in the knowledge that no one would get me. A random guy comes and stands extremely close to me. Kenyans know very little or choose to ignore the concept of personal space, so I thought nothing of it. I don't know why but I decided to glance down, and I see this young man's hand stretching from under his kikoy towards my pockets. I turned around, told the guy 'excuse me' and moved closer to my friend before moving my phone to a secure location.
I admit that maybe I was overreacting, and my Nairobi senses got the better part of me, but you can never be too careful.
The second time and most recent time I was robbed/almost robbed was at Jidenna’s concert. I've mentioned before how Kenyans have all the artists I would love to watch when I am out of the country. There was no way I was missing this concert.
The show was amazing. That night I learned what Naija no day carry last meant. Anyway, after the concert was over, we were hanging about when the crowd began cheering for Jidenna’s band members. I’m not going to lie, I got excited and carried away, there may have been a few God bless you’s thrown in there, but in my defense, they were pretty good looking.
I was wilding out so much I put my phone in my pocket.
I put my damn phone in my green jacket pockets that are nice when you’re not somewhere you can easily get robbed.
One moment of thirst and I forgot where I was. I put my phone in my pocket.
I stop wilding out, and I’m either dancing or talking- I don’t remember- but you know that feeling like your phone has fallen out of your pocket?
That’s what I felt. I quickly become those security guards at the mall and begin patting my pockets. There is nothing but lip balm in my pocket.
My first thought was “shit! My phone is gone. ” I didn’t even assume my phone fell on the ground because we all know these events are where petty thieves come to thrive. I immediately turn around and grab the guy next to me by his leather jacket and ask if he took my phone. He looked clueless, so I let him go. I start looking around, thinking how the person can’t have gotten far away, it just happened. At that moment, I became the meme of Mr. Krabs wondering who could have taken my phone.
I see this other guy, not too far from where I am, turn and glance back in my direction and then turn around and continue walking. I go after him, and I grab his arm and ask if he has my phone. He looks at me like he has no idea what I’m asking him. I start looking at his hands, and my phone screen lights up.
This dude is holding my baby with three fingers, and I say “you have my phone.”
He drops the phone on the ground. I see him drop the phone on the ground. This guy tells me that it’s not him, he points in a different direction and says it’s some other guy.
I just watched this dude drop the phone, and I did not give a damn about whether he was the one that took my phone or not. I push past his legs, pick up my phone quickly, and walk back to my friend.
I’ve never really thought of myself as an aggressive person but I think of my actions that night, and I am stunned that I still have my phone. It's currently dangling from a precarious location on my bed playing music. God is so good Y'all.
I was extremely, extremely, extremely lucky. The dude could have been one of those no nonsense thieves who slap people before walking away with your phone and now your bag. A lot of people probably lost their phones at this event. It always blows my mind that people pay for tickets and then go to the event to steal.
However, it also makes sense. It's the perfect spot, people are drunk, not paying close attention, having a good time and they are not going to think twice about someone dancing really close to them because it's pretty packed. On top of that, all you have to do is pay between 3,500 and 8,000 Ksh (35-80 dollars) to get in and you can leave with a phone worth 100,000 Ksh. It's simple but illegal mathematics.
I don’t write these blogs to scare people off Africa, Kenya or even Nairobi, that’s what the US travel advisories and reports are for. Some of these are my experience, my understanding of stereotypes and general stories. Nairobi is equal parts fun and dangerous as many places are. It's just as much Nairobae as it is Nairobbery. In fact, according to the 2015 annual crime situation report by the Nation Police Service, robbery numbers had gradually decreased from 3011 in 2014 to 2865 in 2015.
How true are these numbers?
I don’t know besides I don’t think they are counting the daily robbery by our politicians as crimes so they may be a little skewed. Danger is everywhere, and it comes in different shapes and forms, especially on the internet. Which is why I told you these stories. So you could recognize how badass I am and that you should never follow my example. But most importantly, so you could donate to a poor African girl (me) in her quest to buy a new jacket. I’ll link my M-pesa, Paypal, etc. for you to send the donations.