Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Diasporan Harassed at Artcaffe in Nairobi

Diasporan Harassed at Artcaffe in Nairobi

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On Saturday 10th December 2011 at 2.21pm, I met my Business Partner and Her friend at the Artcaffe in Junction Nakumatt Mall, Nairobi, Kenya. This was my first time to visit this establishment.

My Business Partner and I sat at a separate table from her friend as we were discussing our business.

After an hour, we paid for our drinks and snacks and left Artcaffe. We then went to the basement where I had packed my new Audi A4 to show them some handbags I had brought from London for my Business Partner. As they both looked at them (in my boot), 2 big burly men appeared from nowhere and asked us in very intimidating tones what we were doing. Before I could even answer those 2 KK Security men and a tall older looking Middle East man materialized. At this point I thought that we were either being car jacked or something was very wrong.

The 3 of us were shaken and wondering what was going on, I quickly explained that I was showing my 2 friends my new handbags. The Middle East man asked me to lock the boot and come aside. I did as he asked and my friends were standing on one side of the car and I was standing on the other with the Middle East man.  He explained to me that we were suspected of stealing a hand bag and laptop from Artcaffe and they had CCTV footage proving this.

When I looked at him in disbelief, and asked him if we could go and see the CCTV footage he agreed. At this point 5 more KK Security men appeared and we were frog marched all the way to the Artcaffe. When we got there I demanded to see the CCTV footage, the Middle East man again pulled me aside and told me that I was not a suspect and that it was my business partner's friend who was. I told him that if that was the case I still wanted to see the footage and that I could not leave them.

After much confusion of whom had the footage, a short Middle East man accompanied by 2 Middle East women came with a laptop and the older tall Middle East man asked us to go to a handbag shop opposite Artcaffe to see the footage.  When we got there, they then refused to show us the footage and told us that we were free to go. The old Middle East Man explained that it was a case of mistaken identity and that the handbag and laptop (which belonged to a tourist) had been stolen on 5th of December 2011.(please note, the 3 of us were not even in Nairobi on this date).

I looked at the elderly Middle East man in disbelief and asked him if he was the owner of Artcaffe, of which he vehemently denied that he was NOT and that he was a shop owner at the Mall and that we was trying to 'assist' us and the Artcaffe solve this issue. At this point a crowd of people and more KK Security had gathered round us.

I then confirmed with him again if we were free to go as we were not the suspects and he categorical said YES!

Disgusted and tired of the whole ordeal I asked my friends we leave and file a complaint later for this harassment.

As we approached the main exit/entrance of the Junction Mall, 5 KK Security men, stopped us and told us we were still suspects and that we should wait for the police to come.

I could not believe this nonsense, a Commander appeared in a KK Security Car with 3 other Security guards and blocked the exit/entrance and surrounded us and told us that we could not leave. I explained to him what had transpired in the last 1hour.

He then told me that the Elderly Middle East man was actually the owner of Artcaffe and that he had told the KK Security that he did NOT want Kikuyus (a major tribe in Kenya) in his premises as they are thieves and that he was 99% sure my business partner and her friend resembled the suspects in the video footage.

At this point it dawned on me that my business partner and her friend were not dressed according to the Artcaffe standard and they did not fit the so called urban chic criteria that can afford a meal at the Artcaffe. And I had been left out as I looked the part and drove an Audi A4!

The most ironic thing is that my Business Partner owns a very big NGO in Kenya that is supported by very many affluent people including 10 businessmen whose businesses are listed on the New York Stock Exchange!

To cut the long horrible ordeal short, we waited for 1.30 Hours for the Police to come, the police saw the footage of which they said that it was so unclear that one could not see the faces of the thief that stole on the 5th of December 2011(Please note it was only 1 thief not 3!)

We went to the nearest Police station (Muthangari Police Station) and wrote statements (although the Police insisted I was not a suspect) but I insisted on doing one as I do NOT Trust Artcaffe. The reason is that if the Owner can Lie to us with a straight face what can he do if given the chance???

My friend I urge you to please boycott this establishment that harasses innocent Kenyans, Racist, Classist  and I strongly believe that we do not need foreigners (who we welcome with open hearts) to insight tribal HATRED in a Country that is only getting over the last Post Election Violence as we approach another Election.

Please pass this on.

By Becky Karanja, a London resident.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taste it Twice - Part 1

A former business partner, good friend of mine, from the Asian community in Kenya once told me "You know you've eaten in a good Indian restaurant when you taste the hotness in the food twice, once when it goes in - and the second time when it comes out" I have never forgotten the statement and it always bring a laugh when I share it with friends and family. But even the graphic nature of that statement could not prepare me for what I went through during a recent trip to India.

It wasn't my first time to visit India - no - I was in Hyderabad in 2008 for the Internet Governance Forum conference which was hosted there at the International Conference Centre. The IGF attracted what looked like close to 1,000 visitors from all over the world and lasted one week. The food we ate, both at the event as well as at our hotel and at the various evening functions, while spicy, was not balzingly hot. It might be that in preparation a general circular was sent out to all culinary venues to ease back on the hot stuff for 1 week while all these foreigners are in town. Anyway, all in all - I enjoyed very much the food I ate during that visit.

This time, though, I was on a man-solo trip to meet with our two main point of sale device vendors. One was based in Bangalore and the other in Hyderabad. Upon arrival in Mumbai (where I spent the night) I had a series of rushed meetings before proceeding to catch the flight to Bangalore. I got to the airport well on time, joined the loooong queue for the flight to Bangalore, got to the check-in counter and presented my passport - shock! It was not my passport - apparently another Kenyan had checked into the same hotel the same night, a few minutes after I had, the guy was even a Kamba and had a name and looks similar to mine. So when I checked out of the hotel - the reception (which had retained the passport), gave me the wrong one. In a panic I called my business colleague in Mumbai - he sent his driver immediately to the hotel to pick up the right passport and get it to me quickly so that I could board. By the time the driver arrived with the passport (I gave him the wrong one to take back to the hotel), and I got into the queue and made it to the check-in desk, I was too late to board the flight. I asked to be put on stanbdy on the next Mumbai-Bangalore flight (they fly hourly) and the lady obliged. One hour later - I was back on the waitlist because all the booked passengers arrived. Another hour later and I was back on the waitlist again! Yet another hours and this time because I was at the top of the waitlist I was given one of two only available chairs on the flight. Got to Bangalore exhausted - took a cab from the airport to hotel (almost 1 hours drive) and slumped into bed like a sack of potatoes.

The Next morning found me up nice and early - ready to face this new city and busy day that lay ahead. But first, breakfast - since I arrived in the wee hours and got to the hotel too tired to order room service, I had overslept a bit and missed the 9.30am deadline for breakfast. No problem, I just headed out onto the street found a nearby coffee shop - asked for a chicken sandwich and black coffee and sat down to wait. Coffee and chick-sandwich arrived together - both looked delicious - I took a huge bite out of the sandwich, and..... aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh..... it was loaded with tear-gas-like chilli. Needless to say my first reaction was to take a sip of the closest drink - hot coffee! Ouch! Well, that was breakfast....

Once I had regained my vision and general sense of direction I picked up my laptop from the hotel and headed off for my first meeting of the day. I jumped into a tuk-tuk better known as "auto" (3 wheeler moto-taxi), showed the driver my map and address - and off we went! 2 dreary hours later, soaked with sweat and dust I walked up the stairs of our prestigious partners office building and into the main entrance. The security guard at the main entrance took a visibly tighter grip of his firearm as I approached but when I asked for the boss in English, he relaxed, smiled - mumbled something to me and triggered the fingerprint biometric switch which made the door swoosh open and I entered the cool, air-conditioned interior. After 1 hour of an introductory session my hosts invited me to join them for lunch upstairs on the balcony canteen. As we walked up the stairs, the politely asked if I minded indian food - I proudly told them that indian food was my favourite whenever I went out for dinners back home in Kenya. At the buffet style counter - we were served portions of the various dishes on offer by a bunch of cute, chubby ladies. We sat down at what was clearly the table reserved for the executives and began to eat. With my first bite I am sure my face must have turned purple or some other strange color from the hot and spicy food because without a word, my host dashed to the water dispenser - dashed out a plastic cup full of water and hurriedly gave it to me. With my eyes watering I tried to excuse myself and gulped back as much of the water as I could. Not wanting to lose face, I gathered my manly courage, set my jaw firmly and proceed to finish the meal, spoon after flaming spoon.

After lunch we had a very productive afternoon - meeting other members of the team they had assigned to work with me, going over the salient points of our project and brainstorming on a workplan for the next 8 days that I would be in Bangalore. At the end of the day, they summoned an 'auto' for me - and I jiggled and joggled the next two hours back to my hotel. After a quick shower I decided to take a short walk around the neighborhood of my hotel. Less than 3 minutes down the road I came across a massive (to my Kenyan eyes) Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) spot. I immediately rushed in, and with my mouth watering ordered a takeaway meal and salad to go. Rushing back to my room it was all I could do not to start eating on the way up in the lift, no, I wanted to do this right. Got into my room, laid the meal out on my little bedside table - washed my hands thoroughly at the tap in the bathroom and then descended upon the feast with avengeance..... Ouch! Oooow! Sssss! That chicken was so spicy hot that for a moment I thought I was eating pili pili straight from the farm! Goodness gracious! There went whatever hope I had of a blissful KFC eatfest. I picked at the fries and the salad - put it all back together, snuggled into bed and flipped channels for about 30 minutes before drifting off into a somewhat troubled sleep.

Very early in the morning I got up to attend to my bodily needs in the toilet. I was still a bit groggy and sleepy as I sat on the ivory throne so I let loose with my usual gusto.... I barely managed to contain the scream that hurtled forth from the depth of my belly. I felt as if my intestines were being dragged out of my rear end.... with a blowtorch burning ever so brightly at that posterior to make everything nice and colorful. Agony of agonies! Torture of tortures! The next 5 minutes found me reduced to a shivering, shaking wreck of a person. After cleaning up I stumbled into the shower, turned the cold water tap onto full pressure and present the resultant, soothing jet of water to the offended area. Then it came back to me, what my asian friend had told me, so - this is what he meant by tasting it twice!


woiyeee, boohoohoohoo, nisaindie yameni.....

*wipes tears, blows nose and snuffles loudly*

I lost my beloved, cherished Huawei IDEOS smart(est) phone....

It was a cold, dark night in Gaborone - and it also happened to be my birthday. My work colleagues took me out for dinner and even before it was over, begged their leave and left me all alone in this vibrant, classy and quite well visited restaurant. Sitting on a stool next to our table was a vocalist - belting out golden oldies, and every two or three songs wishing me a happy birthday on the mic and dedicating a song to me (maybe it was the 100 Pula tip I gave him for singing "Malaika" so well).

So here I am, all alone - finishing my meal and wondering how the rest of my birthday evening was going to be. Then I get a pat on my back and a guy I had been introduced to the previous week says hi and asks if he can join the table. I welcome him and he sits down, waves a hand in the air and "poof!" 3 dazzling ladies appear - one is his sister, the other his girlfriend and the third a cousin. After about another hour, the vocalist's crooning get's a bit tiring and my newfound friends suggests we find a place with a little more 'life'. Of course I am game. After a short drive we arrive at 'G-West' - Gaborone's equivalent of F1. We join the already crowded top level, find a corner at the bar, lean back and try to allow the pulsating 'house' music to sink in. By around mid-night I'm kinda ready for bed, but my friends... no way! By now they know it's my birthday and want to make sure that it is well celebrated. So we depart - driving about 30 klicks outside of Gaborone CBD to the only 24 hour joint - "Magic King" - which is absolutely packed to the brim - we try to fight our way to the bar to get a drink, give up mid dance floor, and turn back to try get out of the entrance we came in.

That is when the "tsotsis" (mbulale mbastards) make their move - in a very well orchestrated motion, I (unknowingly) am surrounded by about 5 guys who seem to be dancing around me - their hands are raised, at least that's what it looks like, and their heads are bobbing to the loud, glaring beats of the 'house' music. As I try to shuffle towards the entrance, I realise something strange, these fellows seems to be dancing - moving in the same direction and at the same pace as me - we're like some kind of interconnected cluster of bodies moving synchronously towards the entrance. I push one guy who is resting on my chest away - and he immediately 'reconnects' - I do the same to another on my flank and get a similar response. It then dawns on me that I am or have been played - I swirl round, duck, lunge forward, and escape the clutches of this five tentacled octopeople that is trying to swallow me - and I'm out of the door and into the cold, fresh air outside. I find my friends out there and we all agree to call it a night and that they will drop me off at my hotel.

As we enter the car I decided to check my email/facebook/twitter - you know, the usual addictive impulse that hits us socio(net)paths every 10-20minutes. I reach into my jacket breast pocket and shock! Phone gone! ....... Billions of blue, blistering, barnacles! I've been robbed! thefted! stolen! plundered! - I quickly check the rest of my pockets and find that everything else is intact - even my Nokia E5 (bought same week as my beloved HINDIOT). But alas, my swiss army knife of mobile phones, my multi-purpose, multi-faceted, multi-factor interaction interface is gone! the only bean in the githeri of my technical arsenal is lost! I am bereft..............

..............Friends and family are meeting in my Google Plus hangout every evening from 5pm GMT for the next 5 days. Well wishers and those bringing condolences are welcome.