The difference is the same

19 Aug

I feel very blessed to have lived in all 3 original East African countries over the last 4 years. It amazes me how we are all so similar yet so different in so many ways. We look almost the same; the food is almost the same even though preparation varies a little, all developing economies, similar languages etc. Over the years, the borders have sort of faded to me and been replaced by one big block of people with similar mannerisms and all headed in the same direction albeit at slightly different paces.

This is not to say that there are no major differences. They are there!! Big, stark differences, hostilities and everything in between. I am the naive kind so I did not notice it when I first moved to Tanzania at first but slowly they became more pronounced as I learnt more about the people around me and I quickly learnt to keep my guard up and not take things at face value. At one point my guard became so high it almost became the Great Wall of China I tell you. If it hadn’t been for the close circle of friends I might have lost my marbles in the midst of people I was supposed to brothers and sisters, the so called “Jamii ya Africa Mashariki”. Needless to say, by the time I moved to Uganda last year, 3 years and tonnes of experiences down the line, I was wiser and more cognizant what to look out for in order to survive my time here with my “being” still intact.

I could say a lot of good and bad about the people of East Africa, but that would derail the purpose of this email and I do not want to do that. May be one of these days I will write about my experiences as I had actually promised to do when I first started this blog (see here). . I will however leave you with an interesting observation I once heard somewhere and which bears an element of truth even though its hilarious (to me). “For the East African Community to work, Kenyans would have to learn MANNERS, Ugandans would have to learn SWAHILI and Tanzanians would have to learn ENGLISH”. Lol :-). If you have interacted with any of these people you will get it.

What I wanted to talk about today is one particular quirk that puzzles me about us. Our drinking habits, and by drinking I do not milk I mean alcohol. Drinking and clubbing
Most East Africans I have met constantly accuse Kenyans of being heavy, irresponsible drinkers and I must agree to some extent. Man! Kenyans loooooove their drink!! We drink and drink and drink some more. The jury is still out on the matter of us being the worst drinkers in East Africa though.

Allow me to break down my 2 cents on this very important matter of regional security (sic)

Kenyans are heavy drinkers. We drink to get high. We drink when we are high to get stupid. And even after we become stupid inebriated idiots we do not stop till we drop!! I am as Kenyan as they come lakini I am seriously bothered by the way we drink. Guys go to the bar at 1pm on a Saturday only to leave in the wee hours of Sunday morning, not dancing or something of the sort but downing drinks as they compete with fellow walevis. A Kenyan will be heard bragging about the way he consumed about a crate of Malt Lager or over 1 bottle of Jameson all alone. As in the fact that he drank himself to a stupor should earn him bragging rights! It does not matter whether he crawled home, auto-piloted home or slept in a trench. He drank all that on his own! Clap clap!! SMH!! I don’t know where we got this culture from but it stuns me nonetheless. Males and females who care about nothing but their drink, responsibility and decorum be damned. A Kenyan’s idea of fun is walking into a pub where his favourite drink is fairly priced and served at the right temperature preferably by a server who knows him/her; where he can talk to his peers till the gauge breaks. No wonder we do not have any real nightclubs in Nairobi! I mean who cares about dancing when you can drink all night? Those pretty young things who want to dance can gyrate in between tables for all we care!!

Our Tanzanian and Ugandan brothers on the other hand, drink for “STAREHE” for lack of a better word. They drink to have a good time and enjoy the company around them and not just merely to get drunk. I find that our brothers have limits which should not be misconstrued to mean that they have less fun; I actually think they enjoy themselves more. Where these limits come from I have no clue. They drink a little less and enjoy a lot more. A typical Ugandan will have a few drinks, dance a little, have fun with his woman a little, enjoy his boys company, generally have a great time all round and DEFINITELY last longer than his Kenyan counterpart. This is why our brothers and sisters will leave work, go home, spend time with their families and friends, dress up good, smell good then hit the club after winding up their other responsibilities. There they will have a leisurely drink and have a jolly good time without pressures of finishing a crate or breaking a bottle of Mtembezi on other people’s heads. For example, in Uganda and specifically Kampala, it happens every single night of the week but the point is never the alcohol, the point is to have a good time. Same thing with Dar, people sort of know the limits, not necessarily to reduce the pleasure but to somehow increase it and make it last longer. I don’t know if that makes sense at all but I am constantly impressed by my friends and neighbours here.

A Ugandan would rather clean up good, have a fine well-dressed woman on his arm, go to a really nice place where he will buy his alcohol a bit more expensively thereby drinking less but have fun overall. On the other hand, a typical Kenyan might scream if you tell him to buy a beer a Ksh. 250 in a decent place with decent people. Why bother when he can lounge in his shorts and branded t-shirt (and cap) at Buffet Park with the boys and get a beer at Ksh. 160 with free tooth picks to boot? SMH *2!!!

Now both guys are having fun in their own right, but the Ugandan man’s kind of fun is more my kind of fun (and that of a lot of girls who think like me by the way – even if they may not say it).

Disses aside, I will give Kenyans credit for knowing when to drink and when to work. Kenyans hardly mix the two and are very disciplined about working hours. Sure a drink can be mixed with business but that is only after official hours have been served which is not necessarily the case with some of our brothers

To be fair to Kenyans again, they also know the place and the time for drinks and strictly respect this. At least the majority do. I wouldn’t really say the same for some of our brothers.

Case in point; Last year while living in Dar I used to frequent this salon, not because it was the best in town but because the lady was really good at braiding my hair. Now the problem was that, she would consume atleast 3 bottles of Serengeti beer while plaiting my hair. Yes you heard me right! I once asked her why she needed to drink while working and she very politely told me that she has this thirst that just could not be quenched by water or soda. Before you complain, it was not the only salon where I had seen a hairdresser drinking on the job so clearly its “kawa”. Thankfully she never messed up my hair and with time I got used to it. Note: not comfortable, just used to it.

Another incident happened a few days after I started my job in 2008 and was to continue throughout my employment there. We left the office at about 9am Monday morning to visit one of the directors at his home as he was unwell. On arriving there at about 10am, we were graciously welcomed with breakfast and alas, bottles of Heineken which the rest of the managers and directors proceeded to consume as if it was 5pm Friday evening!!! People!! Shock is an understatement. I politely declined amidst jeers from my new colleagues as we were going back to the office to WORK. I soon got used to this culture of drinking on the job as most days my boss, a senior colleague and I would go for “supu” at around 11am and they would each have 2 Heinekens and go back to work for the rest of the day. (The leaving work mid-morning to go take supu is a whole other topic I won’t touch)

What prompted this post however, is something that happened at my gym yesterday. We have a new, very loud, older lady who has been coming for the last few days (mostly to keep an eye on her younger from the look of things). I do not know everyone at the gym but this particular lady clearly had to be noticed. She is a little older, comes in with her younger husband while well beyond tipsy, plomps her fat ass on the bike practically not moving and proceeds to speak all the Luganda she knows while Mr. Hubby works out on the treadmill. I HATE NOISE!! Especially so when everyone else is so civil and proper and am trying to concentrate on my work out after a long day

Anywho, jana she comes in with her hubby n female friend carrying two beers. They do their normal routine, her on the bike, him on the treadmill while get this, the friend sits at one of the weight machines a distance away, sipping her beers which they chat across the room. Jehovah!!! Si I was about to get off my run and give them a piece of my mind. I was so uncomfortable, being caught in the middle of all this Luganda verbal diarrhea which I do not understand on the one day that I did not carry my ear phones! NKT!!! Surely, how do you come to drink your beer in the gym where other people are trying to work out and perhaps enjoy themselves? I should put a disclaimer that this is not one of those cheap local gyms where people chat all over the place like a market. It’s a really good facility at a great hotel where everyone minds their own business apart fromb the occassional nod at a familiar face. So it puzzles me even more the lack of social decorum that these ladies displayed! More so because they are not exactly young and look they have a bit of money so they could have opted to go drink at the bar upstairs instead of bringing their alcohol and “wolokoso” (too many stories) to the gym. Such is life I guess!!!

To put an end to this long rant, how you drink is a personal choice as long as it does not in any way affect your health, your responsibilities, how you are percieved by the people who matter to you and others in society. That said, there is a lot to be borrowed from each other across the boarders!!!

Have an incident-free weekend lovelies!!! xoxo 🙂


10 Responses to “The difference is the same”

  1. Ghafla!Guy October 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    great post…drinking at the gym is lame!

  2. saidi September 19, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    nice blog lets follow each other..

  3. Embracing weightloss August 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Wow- you write so well, you make me wish i took my writting classes seriously SMH. But cmon though , working out and drinking at the same time ? #lame.

    • not-so-little Miss Random! August 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      Wambui, thats quite a compliment coming from you. I appreciate it.

      Btw I might need advice from you on a good gym in Nairobi 🙂

  4. Vera August 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    Awesome read sweets!

  5. Wanja August 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I have enjoyed reading this….love it.enyewe thats weird drinking in the gym?eish

    • not-so-little Miss Random! August 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm #


      Si even me my jaw almost dropped to the floor!! Its just plain inconsiderate.

      Thanks for visiting hon, xoxo 🙂

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