Only in Kenya
Update: Following on from a comment to this blog, there are a lot of Kenyans living abroad in Europe, USA and even Japan. You must have seen things in your host country that strikes you as funny, peculiar or even downright mad – things that would fall into the “Only In …” category. So, let’s hear about them.
Oh! How many blogs have I read with this title? Most are humorous, one or two are disparaging.
This blog has not been written to criticise Kenya or Kenyans, but rather to point out the differences in points of view between Kenyans and “Westerners”.
I was visiting a hotel in Kisii. It is not the most luxurious hotel in the town, but it is very cheap and more importantly for the visitor, clean – spotlessly clean. It is set in beautiful gardens with many colourful plants and shrubs. Even the trees are colourful – and it is close to the town centre.
It is purported to be the oldest hotel in Kisii, having been built in the 1920s, and it shows. Some of the windows in the cloisters are rotting, even to the point that the lowest pane of glass has fallen out. But it doesn’t matter, I was told. The windows are never closed, so why replace the glass. It is superfluous. Logical. If the window pane is replaced, eventually it will fall only out again when the frame rots.
Outside, there is a large covered patio where patrons can sit, eat their meal, sip Tusker (other lagers are available) or just enjoy the gardens. The patio is supported by rough-hewn poles, typical of Kenya. But either they were too short, or the roof has been raised, and, the gap between the top of the poles and the roof trusses is filled with bits of planed 3×2.
It rather detracts from the overall impression of the place. I asked why bits of off-cut wood were used to extend the poles and was told that it was practical. In other words, the bits of wood nailed to the tops of the poles did what was necessary, no more, no less. Of course, from a purely practical point of view, the solution is practical, and a lot cheaper than replacing the poles, or seamlessly adding more pole to the existing ones. Practical.
A couple of days later, I visited another hotel in the town, at the insistence of the Mayor. Now this was a different kettle of fish. If they had the star rating system, in Kenya, this hotel would have five. It was brand new and looked it. Again, it was set in grounds with manicured lawns, mature trees and clipped hedges.
The centre-piece is a bar and seating area. It is covered, but with open sides. It was magnificent. Quiet Kenyan music played in the background, not intrusive. The staff were attentive. This was truly a nice hotel. My associate and I sat in the bar area and sipped tea as we chatted to the manager. But, when she was called away to deal with things that hotel managers deal with, I looked around – and up.
The roof of this bar area is part thatch and part corrugated steel sheet. And on some of the sheets of this roof in this excellent hotel were – black prints, not just faint smudges, but real full-on hand prints.
It really spoiled the effect of this hotel for about five seconds. Then I laughed quietly to myself. Only in Kenya. Don’t get me wrong. I love this country, I love the people, and maybe this is part of the reason why. The roof is perfect, the hotel is perfect. And after all, what is a palm print on the inside of the roof? It can be cleaned off – later.
These little anecdotes are, to me, what makes Kenya Kenyan. Never mind what it looks like, if it works, don’t fix it! Maybe we could learn something from this.