Mathare and logistic arrangements

Trip Start May 03, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Couchsurfing mainly

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Back in Nairobi in Milimani backpackers and ready for a night out together with the boys Roel and Sven. We had a nice time in some bars and eventually the Black Diamond and went home satisfied and full of Tuskers! Next day something serious was on the program since we went visiting the slum called Mathare. Roel have been working here for a few months about 4 years ago and was curious how things were going at the moment. We went around with James and Philiper through one of the poorest places in Africa and saw that they were running a school there and after visiting some classes and the orphanage we handed them some money for whatever good cause they could think off. The pictures show the situation quite well.

After Sven and Roel left I had some days in Nairobi to sort out several things. I needed a new jacket and a cover for my eReader which I arranged both at the second hand market in Nairobi. The cover for the eReader was a bit of a challenge and some local tailor girl managed a nice cheetah print cover, see picture. Then there was the embassy business, I had to go to the Ethiopian, Indian and Dutch embassy in Nairobi for information regarding the rest of the trip. I managed all in one day and got what I needed. This was not everything because I also promised Viafrica Moshi that I would visit the subsidiary in Thika (30 km north of Nairobi) and the e-waste dismantle center in Nairobi and I also managed to do that in 1 long and busy day by taking more than 10 matatus (not overreacted!).

In these few days I couchsurfed at some guys in Nairobi Eastlands. First at Brian and later at Leoh's place because he had more space. All in all quite some activities and then I forget the most impressive and my most negative experience in Africa on which I wrote a blog. Read it here!

My encounter with the conmen of Nairobi

Just an ordinary Saturday afternoon in Nairobi. I had to go to town to get and arrange some things when an approximately 50 year old Kenyan man greeted me with "welcome to Kenya, how do you like it here?". Always willing to chat we got into a conversation and it appeared that he knew a lot of Dutch words and apparently he knew Belgian professor. He wanted to know more about the Dutch education system because he was thinking to go to college there. For me it was time for a bottle of coke and I could also use some information about Nairobi so I asked him to join me in a cafeteria where we can talk while drinking a bottle of soda.

It appeared that this man was not a Kenyan but a Zimbabwean and had his own story. Apparently there was something going on in Zimbabwe and he and his family were suspects so in danger. Because of this they left the country to Zambia. Since it was also not safe there they moved further up via Tanzania to Kenya. Now he is planning to travel to Rwanda and from there his friend, the Belgian professor, can arrange a ticket to Europe. In the end he just needed money for the bus to Rwanda. I thought it was a pretty good story and wanted to test him with some information on Zimbabwe since I've been there too. He passed the test but eventually I had little desire to give money again to someone with a strong always hear. Yet he cracked something in me and I gave him (converted) 4 euros. He had to go quickly because he had more money to arrange with his story so I wished him the best of luck. When I almost finished my coke and was ready to walk out suddenly two elderly gentlemen joined me at the table with the following incredible story.

We are the police, the secret service that investigates terrorist actions in this country (identification was briefly shown), this man who just walks away is a terrorist and we had him and his accomplices arrested this morning but he escaped again .... what do you have to do with this guy ...... what did he tell you ..... did you give him money?? Ho ho ... take it easy .... I thought I was suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar situation with a pile of questions and I just did not know what the hell was going on. Two seconds later I was sharp again and tried to gain some more clarity about what is going on and what I'm dealing with here. On my left was the nice quiet man who talked clearly but at the same time on the right I got a continuous line of questions, accusations and threats fired at me and if I did not cooperate I would end up in jail like other careless whites.

The story was that the man I've been drinking a soda with is a terrorist who is illegally in Kenya and had fake dollars, euros and Kenyan shillings. Because I had given him I could also have fake money and can be brought into connection with this criminal. They asked me how much I had with me, 4,000 shillings (= 40 euro) but no other currency. I showed my passport and my money and the plan was to check the money but I could not come along because then the acclaimed terrorist could identify me as his associate. So these undercover policemen have to go check my money and then come back 20 minutes later and it was all arranged. NO way…I thought. For some time I acted a bit difficult that I did not agree and suggested we just go together and take that risk. At that moment a third man joined the table who was putting extra pressure on me because he was calling and said "if he does not cooperate we get the car and take him away". Because I stayed calm they saw that they could not trick me and suggested to check half of my money and then I knew it was all fake. The atmosphere became relaxer and later they even asked for some small money to buy some beers at night. I was almost laughing out loud but kept my poker face and decided to give them little money to solve the whole thing.

Just for clarification, it is theoretically possible that these gentlemen were policemen and in Africa it is still true that if they want to harm you they can so it is better to be careful in these situations. I exchanged some money at the cash register in the cafeteria to give those men and they were already outside. When I wanted to give them the money outside they were suddenly gone. A few seconds thinking resulted in the decision to just walk further and I did not hear or see anything again from these gentlemen.

Pfuuuw .... even though I remained cool and relaxed my heart rate increased quite a bit afterwards . I told the whole story to a Kenyan friend and he laughed but admitted that I did well in this situation. These men are the so-called "conmen" of Nairobi and perform a whole show on people (whites) to rob their money.

In my 18 months in Africa I have already seen a lot of beggars, touts, flycatchers and other idiots who want something but this was unbelievable. In conclusion, my most negative experience in Africa so far but the consequence is an exciting story for the OneWorld readers and my grandchildren :)
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