Everyone knows Kenya, right? We are famous for lots of things like winning grammies and Nobel Peace Prizes. And we are known for being a running Nation. We run in the Diamond league, Olympics, marathons etc etc. 17% of our population are night runners, 30% are undecided whether to be night runners and the rest just might be aspiring or fantasizing to be.
But otherwise we are a specially gifted bunch. Otherwise?
Take for instance our special and colourful way of pronunciation. You can have one phrase pronounced in several different ways which can be translated widely by a non observant listener or one who joins the conversation midway. The latter normally does not understand the conversation in its “immediate context”.
Last night my wife’s friend jokingly asked her when our baby shower will be held. She referred the query to me; my answer was in form of a question (a common Kenyan habit) like, “Kwani who told her our child does not bathe?”
But of course i do know what a baby shower is………..
So it hit me how the phrase “baby shower” can be pronounced differently by several Kenyan tribes to mean something entirely new and surprising..
Nderitu from Nyeri will pronounce it as “baby chawa” which translated will mean baby Lice (ouch!). Following a conversation by a guy fom Nyeri can be very hard especially if you are not familiar with their change of “Sh” to “Ch” etc.
It is not unfamiliar to hear a “tisha” (teacher) form Nyeri issuing instruct-chons (instructions) to a student like, “Young man, can you priss tuck in your chat (shirt), walk there and do blah blah blah on the shat (chart).”
And I totally have nothing against Nyerians baethewei; I spent four good years there, i love the people, the culture and the place. In fact, i intended to marry fom Nyeri, but my spear landed a stone’s throw from Nyeri, Mombasa. Close enough i guess….Mombasa is closer to Nyeri than Istanbul is, right?
Odhiambo, aka Odhis from UK (United Kisumu) will flamboyantly pronounce it as “Baby Sawa”, which may mean baby good (what??), ok, fantastic, fabulous, gorgeous…… the list is endless! Now, trying to correct Odhis, who FYI has several degrees and a Doctorate on the way, is like trying to make a race horse out of a jackass!
Another habit that’s very common in Kenya is witness accounts at accident scenes. We always precede the Police at the scene of an accident, or any other scene for that matter; crime scenes where someone’s bowels are on display, scenes where robbers have been shot dead after the usual “shoot out” with police, scenes where a hippo has been run over by a trailer and the “wenye nchi” are hacking away huge pieces of steak while the poor animal is metres away from the gates of death.
Hey, even scenes where an irate drunk wife is stoning her equally drunk husband for purportedly having a side dish. Kenyans love dramas involving side dishes!
So by the time the Press arrives at the scene there will be differing witness accounts; accounts that are so creative, imaginative and thrilling one is left wondering why we are lagging so far back from Hollywood.
What about our dearest Police Officers? This morning i got a message describing 5 ways of catching a Tiger. Styles of doing so vary between 5 different Police Officers in other countries and our very own Kenyan Police.
American Police style: allow the Tiger to catch you, then you catch it.
China Police style: Chase the Tiger until it becomes tired then you catch it.
Arab police style: kidnap the Tiger’s wife and threaten the Tiger to surrender.
Indian Police style: sing for the Tiger until it comes close to you, then catch it.
Kenyan Police style: Catch a goat, beat it until it agrees that it’s a Tiger!
That’s Kenya. That’s being a Kenyan.
And when a Kenyan doesn’t know what to say next in a conversation, he smiles, shrugs his shoulders or if seated he taps his knees and says:
If that happens to you then know it’s a sign that the conversation is over and your presence is henceforth considred inappropriate.