Capitalism in a Cup of Tea

It is another morning that I find myself internally displaced (without violence) in a hotel in Dandora Phase IV. For those of you who do not know Dandora, I will tell you a few things that makes it famous and then you can fill up the rest. Its most famous and biggest physical feature is a dumpsite. You may not have read about it in your geography classes, but you couldn’t surely have missed it on your screens. You may have missed its name, but I bet you didn’t miss its contrast to the beautiful Julie Gichuru. Before you call it trash, gunmen actually fight over. You are more likely to be killed on your way to the dumpsite, than when going to the bank (its Dandora anyway). Now I guess you can fill up the rest of the details about Dandora, you have a representative sample. In case your imagination is big enough, you are now comparing the struggle in Dandora to the fight for independence by the Mau Mau. I mean, considering that every thug is likely to be dreadlocked and camouflaged in the trash mountain that rivals the Aberdare ranges in size. Actually, you are right!!! The originators of hip hop in Kenya, Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, hail from here. Now clap for yourself, or slap yourself, whichever you find necessary.

Dandora Dump SiteDump 72

Image: Dandora Dumpsite. Courtesy of Grandpa Google.

By now you might be wondering why I choose to speak about the garbage mountain while in a hotel. I wonder too what you would speak about if you came across such a site daily. I choose to call this place a hotel , because there is a small wooden sign with the words ‘Hoteri’ written on it. The words are written using charcoal, but I will not assume it is a child who was practising to write, otherwise those big mandazis in different shapes could not have been placed by the oversize window facing the murram road that has traces of tarmac on it. Furthermore, I have never heard of a standard definition for a hotel. Isn’t it a place where a person goes to eat or drink, then pays for the service? So, welcome to our hotel. It is made of blue iron sheets, just in case you weren’t keen enough.

I can’t remember the last time there was a storm here, but our hotel seems to be leaning more on one side than it was yesterday. Anyway, picture yourself in, and make yourself to feel in a ‘hotel’ by sitting on one of the blue wooden benches. Don’t sit away from the others, otherwise you will be deemed to be too unfriendly and eating a lot of space, which is uneconomical. I guess by now you have already figured out what to wear for this date, so no need for you to fear your clean clothes mixing with the rest. Disobey this unwritten rule, and you might end up walking out with less clothes than you came in. Don’t sit too close either. Not that you will be accused of indecent touch, no, such words are unknown here. How can we have indecent touch in a place that is not considered decent by most people? But everyplace has its rule, even the jungle. Sit too close to someone and you will end up leaving with less money than you intended to.

The waiter, who also doubles up as the cook and the owner of the hotel, will approach you with an empty cup and a flask. He has already sized you up and knows how much tea you need (big cup or small cup). In case you look like a construction site worker, you are likely to get ugali served with a mixture of kales, cabbages, beans, peas and anything else that your service man may find necessary (call it ugali mix). But I guess just like me, you have gotten the small cup of tea that will cost you just ten bob, and you will just request two chapatis to go with it. And as we share this magnificently transparent cup of tea, let’s think about all the harms that capitalism has done. About how you would have had to prepare that cup of tea at home, and then head for your job. Or about how you would have gotten the cup for free, if the hotel owner had gotten the resources for free. About how much more you would have paid for the cup of tea in another place, and compare the profit that would have been made to the one made here. Don’t worry about the cup of tea, I will pay for it.

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