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LIFE BY LOUIS: My travel dreams, unpacked

Monday January 27 2020

I have not been lucky to step into Europe or America, and I have always sworn that the day I will step my foot into those great lands where big dreams come true, the internet will surely crash. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH

I have not been lucky to step into Europe or America, and I have always sworn that the day I will step my foot into those great lands where big dreams come true, the internet will surely crash. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

LOUIS MUIRURI
By LOUIS MUIRURI
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The flight carrying the last batch of our brothers and sisters from the diaspora will take off from our international airport this weekend.

It has been a pleasure hosting you over the Christmas festivities and the January extension. Anything beyond this weekend shall be considered as overstaying the hospitality.

I understand that this is your motherland, but after acquiring foreign accents and soft palms we no longer consider you as one of us.

We are also not sure that you are helping us to repay the huge debts that we owe the Far East.

It is very likely that you only show up to enjoy our smooth roads and ports of entry and exit, then you leave us here to languish under the heavy burden of debt used to construct those facilities.

We have read elsewhere that you remit billions of shillings back to the country after toiling in the foreign land. We are not very sure whether some of those remissions go towards helping us with pacifying the taxman.

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We only see your relatives wearing new clothes and supervising construction of flats under your names.

We are a bit uncomfortable with that position because we are not sure that you are feeling the burden of these taxes, some of which are now being branded as 'patriotic'.

But maybe I am just being jealous of your achievements. Plus the fact that you managed to find your way into those foreign lands by acquiring visas that have eluded most of us back here.

BURNT OFFERINGS

I am sitting on a high stool in an outlet that sells adult beverages and with a smoky section at the rear where the late domestic herbivores and birds are roasted over hot charcoal and presented to us as burnt offerings.

It is midweek and I have just walked in so casually like I am attending an afternoon cattle dip annual general meeting. These are some of the perks that come with being an adult male who lives and works for gain in the republic of Kenya.

I am joined by Kim and Dan. The discussion intensity is polite and the noise levels are low. The bottle of blessings in front of us is depleting methodically like we are conducting a fractional distillation experiment in the laboratory.  

We are playing with three variables – level of noise in decibels, amount of depletion in metres cubic, and intensity of discussions on the Richter scale. The lower the level goes in the bottle, the higher the noise levels and the higher the intensity of stories. 

If your stories include anecdotes in Continental Europe and the United States of America, they score higher on the intensity scale.

You are likely to draw the attention of the members of the next table who could be discussing the political future of their local ward MCA or the recent locusts scourge.

LOCAL CONTENT

Naturally, the stories move from local content to escapades in faraway lands.

Kim goes to Europe the way I go to Matimbei to look after my cows. He can rush to Brussels on a Tuesday to pick his phone charger that he forgot in a hotel room over the weekend.

He attends a mid week brunch in Stockholm and passes via his friends house in Bulgaria.

He buys his underwear from Belarus has a girlfriend in Budapest. He has been to Scotland several times and even wore that ridiculous men’s skirt.

Dan on the other hand has worked for all the major multinational firms in the City, and has benefited immensely from overseas travel. 

They talk about taxis. That taxis in Germany are Mercedes Benz. They talk about metered taxis and they talk about hailing a cab as opposed to calling a taxi the way we refer to the exercise locally. They talk about underground trains in London.

I try to become relevant, and I ask if you can book the train in London online, or you have to go to the station to print the tickets like SGR. I get blank stares, I am clearly exposing my naivety in these matters international.

EVERYONE'S FEARS

I remember a taxi I boarded in town and the engine was sucking petrol from a jerrycan that that the driver was holding on his lap like a guard of porridge.

I was going to sit for an exam at an institute located in South C and I was running late. Every time we stopped in traffic, the engine would stop running.

The driver had to suck a mouthful of petrol and spit it directly at an opening on top of the engine. This means he had to alight every time and open the car's bonnet.

As he did that, he would instruct me to step on the brake pedal, start the engine and rev the fuel pedal. Needless to say, I was late for the exam and the results were equally disastrous.  

I wanted to regale Dan and Kim with this story, but I backtracked at the last minute because if I did, it was going to confirm everyone’s fears.

I have not been lucky to step into Europe or America, and I have always sworn that the day I will step my foot into those great lands where big dreams come true, the internet will surely crash.

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