Continued Observations from Naivasha as the lockdown gets extended by another three weeks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announces that the nightly curfew and the cessation of movement in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area, Mombasa, and Kilifi will be extended for 21 days.
I have been in Naivasha now for 6 weeks. I’ve got at least three more to look forward to. It is what it is. Worrying changes nothing.
The Kenya Airways flight that left Nairobi for London last Friday went well, but sadly the return flight was cancelled. Kenya Airways rules stipulated that all passengers would be required to take a Covid-19 test. Passengers could get the test done at Lancet medical facilities. The cost of the test was incorporated into the flight ticket price.
The NHS in UK are only testing people with symptoms. The pre-flight tests were supposed to have been organised at private medical facilities but it didn’t get organied in time, which caused the High Commissioner in Kenya to receive a lot of flack from angry Kenyans accusing her of being a ‘colonialist’. Thankfully some less angry Kenyans reminded them that she was responsible for getting Brits home, and not Kenyans out of UK and that the Kenyan Embassy was responsible for getting Kenyans home.
I mention this as I am wary of any situation developing which involves the British getting a bad name.
There will be other flights and everyone hopes that things will go more smoothly. Evac flight are organised under tough conditions. People tend to forget that. The High Commissioner can organise the flights but then there are Covid-19 tests, the travel permits, connecting flights from Mombasa, and the restrictions put in place by the authorities here.
A second report I read was about two cousins who arrived back in their village having ‘escaped’ from Nairobi on a motor bike, bribing police at the road blocks or avoiding them altogether by going cross country. Residents, upon hearing that two had somehow arrived from Nairobi, the epi-center of the corona pandemic and fearing for their own safety, had reported them.
This is the situation that I felt when I arrived here. I was looked at with suspicion by a few. I would be called “Corona.” In the small café that I still frequent, the younger waitress had asked me point blank, “So you bring corona here?!” I was unsure if it was a question or a statement.
But I tried to ease her mind by saying that I had not arrived from Europe and that I had been in Africa some time. I wasn’t lying. I left England when corona was still in Wuhan.
The café is a family owned business. Now it’s just mum who comes in sometimes and the two daughters who work alone, one week on, one week off. There is a guy out back who cooks and washes the dishes. Business is slack. To observe social distancing, each table has just one chair set before it. eight tables, eight chairs, and the hand washing station outside.
This is Kenya. There are a lot of Westerners here. Last week I asked one of the girls what she felt about Mzungus (the Swahili word for foreigners – it is not an insult in any way) and in particular about the British. She said the British were “good people,” and added without a pause “people associate all Mzungus with having a ‘history of travel,'” which is how the media describes the situation when new cases are discovered, i.e. corona having being imported.
I am not arguing against this. I know this. But supposedly the first corona case here was a Kenyan, flying in from the US via the UK. And that the governor of Kilifi flew in from Europe, did not quarantine himself and was later found out to be positive, although there is lots of speculation around all these reports. But someone brought it here, that’s for sure.
I had asked one of my guys here at the guest house .. I say guys, there were three girls, now just two who still remain about us Mzungus and I mentioned that I hadn’t seen one for weeks.
“Maybe most are in hiding because of corona discrimination. Not everyone is welcoming and nice.”
Wanting to push the subject a little further, I joked, “at least I am not Chinese,” knowing full well the sentiment here after the treatment of Africans, including Kenyans, in China.
“Yeah, Chinese are not really liked by most Kenyans.”
I had asked in the café too about the feeling towards Chinese. Maybe not wanting to give her own opinion, she said that she didn’t know of any “Chinese here in town.”
Back in the café today, I asked the girl who is just starting her weekly stint if she was on 50% salary or working for free as she was ‘family.’ “No, we get paid per day. 400KSH.” I was like OMG, that’s 4 fucking US$ for a whole day’s work. I know life is cheap here, but 4 bucks a day!?! WTF. Sometimes I think I should just ask a local if they need a lodger. Maybe it will come to that.
I carry on to the supermarket. Each day there seems to be more young lads outside calling Mzungu with their hand out. They are not persistent nor aggressive in any way but have decided to stick to the main road instead of taking a short cut down a side alley — not that I feel threatened but I lived for a few weeks just north of Mombasa back in 2016 and after sometime I was warned to be careful where I walked. Common sense prevails.
I wash my hands again on entering the supermarket and do my shopping. All staff wear masks as must all customers. They are sanitizing the handles of the baskets and everyone gives everyone a wide berth, not just with me. I queue up at the till, everyone observing social distancing. At another supermarket they zap all customers with the temperature gun. I know that doing this is not going to pick up all those carrying Covid-19 who don’t have symptoms but those with higher than normal temperatures are refused entry and are reported to the authorities. Something I believe the UK should be doing. Zapping people will at least weed out some of those who are positive.
I walk home and that’s the end of my daily excursion beyond the property of my guesthouse, where I don’t hear “Corona” being called any more. I guess they realise I am here quite a while and they know that the borders have long been closed, the same with in-coming flights. No new cases with a ‘history of travel’ being reported except for the truck drivers bringing in or taking out essential supplies to Uganda.
And for me, personally, life carries on. It’s getting boring. I still get up early. I like early mornings. I sit outside with a coffee.
At 8am the first member of the staff turns up. The night watchman is relieved. He works seven nights a week here. Sometime after, the guy who maintains the property arrives. He has Sunday off. One guy covers his duties. Then the two girls arrive. They mostly keep themselves to themselves.
I go into town most days. I am glad that I can. And I am getting young men coming up to me, rubbing their bellies to emphasise the fact that they have no work and want me to buy them breakfast. The girl in the café said, “They will take advantage of you. They associate all Mzungus as being rich.” It makes me feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes I get food in for all of us and we eat lunch together. I make afternoon coffee for one of the girls most days. By 6pm the four daytime staff have left. The night watchman arrives. The cook who is no longer employed, lives on site. We chat but we don’t sit round a fire drinking Tuskers late into the night.
I’m in my room, writing or reading. I call my dad on Skype most days. Tusker (the resident dog) lets himself in, sits at my feet for a bit then wanders out again. He is bored and lonely too, as his master is stuck in Germany.
This corona lockdown is a long way from being over.
Read more stories from Trevor on Nomadic Backpacker.