Before we came to Nairobi, we were often told that when we landed, one of the most obvious ‘welcomes’ we would get was phone theft. It’s like Nairobian thieves have a nose for newbies. It didn’t happen to me though. I stayed for years without being welcomed. When it finally happened, it didn’t rain, it poured. It’s definitely not being new, there’s something else they see or smell and I just don’t know what. I am quite conversant with methods they use, situations and places that habour them, but somehow still, they have made me victim- not once, not twice, but four times! Four phones in three years!
Phone number 1
My sister-in-law and I are walking along a crowded verandah- one of those which we Nairobians use often because of the absence of a pedestrian walkway, or because even if there is one, we don’t acknowledge it because we’re are not used to it. Each of us has a baby strapped on the front, and some other luggage hanging on our folded arms or shoulders. She happens to be carrying my handbag, which has my everything- money, documents, phone, everything. This is often what I would prefer to carry myself, to reduce the risk of theft. I know which side-pocket carries my phone so I would keep that almost inside my armpit. I know which way the zip goes so the end of it is in the front and not the back. I have a mental picture of what is where in that bag, and what I would lose if it probably were to be snatched from me. I would carry the bag with that in mind. But this wasn’t the case. It’s no lame excuse, but when you have a baby, priorities shift a great deal. I’m all over the place casting an elbow at every turn to prevent someone from hitting my baby as we press against each other on the verandah. At some point I need to make a call. I just remembered that we needed to keep our husbands up-to-date on our journey so that they could advice if we should wait for them in town so we can proceed together. “Hey, let’s make that call,” I call on to my sister and reach out for my handbag which she still has hanging from her right shoulder.
Oops! The side pocket that holds my phone is not in her armpit; it’s facing the crowd. How could I forget to tell her? And it’s open! There’s no phone!
'This is never going to happen again,' I swear to myself. But phone number two was going to happen, sooner than later.