Saturday, January 8, 2011


Here's something in Nairobi that's not bolted down but not being actively stolen.  Why?  It is often covered in meat and then left in the sun.  That's right, want a theft-proof solution for your laptop?  Hot, raw steak sandwich. 

Nairobi, overall is a pretty nice place, but graft and grift are nothing short of rampant.  The gov't is currently undergoing a comical process of trying to root out the independent body they created to root out corruption, and on the streets the scammers, while unsophisticated, are alive and well.  Today, I had a tasty sample of the local stylings (don't worry I didn't get scammed) that was rather elaborate.

So I'm walking down a busy main street in the middle of the day minding my own business when some a middle-aged guy with some pretty serious hepatitis eyes walks up to me and asks if he can ask me some questions about universities in America.  Not having any particular agenda, I figured I'd humor him and see where it went (given that we were in a public place in the middle of the day).  He walks with me very deliberately to a particular open-fronted coffee shop where he proceeds to suggest we have a cup of coffee.  Not wanting to get too deep into whatever he had planned I declined having anything to drink, but seated myself diagonally across from him such that I could watch him and the street at the same time. As he proceeds to tell me how he's a refugee from Zimbabwe and how he needs money to get on this boat to America (What, that's not where you thought this was going?) he is clearly paying as much attention over my shoulder as he is to me, and after not too long I resolved I'd rather not stick around to find out what he was waiting for and politely bid him adieu (making sure to take careful stock of where he went on the way out).

So here's where I'm impressed:  As I come around the block I am met by another guy who flags me down and starts asking me what I was doing with the other guy, telling me "he's not a good man" and "migrants like that cause all sorts of trouble".  This second man then shows me a rather pathetic looking ID and claims to be from the government.  He suggests that I come with him so he can tell me more about "these people".  Really, are you kidding?  The government?  You might try a uniform, or fixing your teeth, or realising that the last thing a government official is going to be doing is paying attention to this sort of BS.  Needless to say I told this one I had somewhere to be and hoofed it quickly away, but I did look back enough to immediately see him get on his phone (presumably to the bad-cop half of this little routine) as he walked off in the other direction.  I'd rather not guess what might have been in store had I accompanied helpful local number two where he wanted to lead. Makes one feel a bit like a the slab of beef on the back of the Chinese bike.

Just another day in the neighborhood...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HA! Sounds a bit like the local offline version of Ghana scams.