This photo was shared on my Facebook wall and I LAUGHED.I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. I laughed at him – this anonymous guy at one of Nairobi’s newest malls, trying to hold on, in a world that’s moving too fast for him. I laughed because he reminds me of myself. See, until two weekends ago , I had never in the 30 years of my life used a washing machine. And as I paced around my studio apartment (a fancy name for a bachelor’s pad) that Saturday morning , my biggest headache was how to get my laundry done without having to ask for help….and without ending up in an embarrassing situation like Mr. X above. It’s been 20 days since I relocated to Lausanne , Switzerland where I am based for 6 months on a work Interchange Program and here are bits and pieces of my life so far :
With the daily temperatures averaging at 4 degrees centigrade, this is a “mild winter” in Lausanne this year. Some days, there is sun but you DARE NOT step out without a coat, like I did the other day. The sun was out but it still felt like I had stepped into a freezer. My colleague told me “It would have to take several sunny days for the sun to warm up the atmosphere so you can feel the warmth of the sunshine” or something like that. I am not certain that my Geography teacher would agree but but it kinda makes sense.
My New Home
The studio apartment I live in is managed by the Hotel Bellerive so once a week they will come in to clean and change the towels and what not. To get to work , I can do a 10 minute walk or I can take the bus. But as part of my almost nonexistent exercise regimen, I choose to walk.
French , The people
Everyone in Lausanne speaks French by default. “Me? English? Very little!” , they will say. But they are nice people. You know nice people because they randomly greet you even though you are a stranger.
I just wish My TV didn’t speak French too. My Youtube French classes are yet to bear any fruit. I am still stuck at pronouncing “r” like “h”. Sigh.
Read : My first time in Europe
Sky High Prices
As a rule of thumb , to know what it will cost you to buy something , multiply the cost of the same thing in Kenya , by 10. That’s how high the cost of living is. One Swiss Franc is equivalent to about 95 Kenya shillings. A loaf of bread…that will be 4 Swiss Francs madame.
Land of Chocolates
Did you know that a Swiss (or generally a person living in Switzerland) eats on average 10 kilograms of chocolate per year? It’s only been three weeks but I am halfway my second kilo. I eat chocolate when I’m feeling happy, or tired, or stressed, or thoughtful, or adventurous. For no reason at all I eat chocolate. This is Switzerland , the land of endless chocolaty opportunities. And designer watches.
But let’s not talk about the latter. Do you want a Swiss watch or half an acre of land in Katani?
I thought so.
Can you make MY hair?
My mini library includes ALL Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books. I find her stories always featuring African immigrants particularly entertaining. She makes a fuss about all things African , from our languages to our kinky hair. Oh she fusses about hair! In Americanah none of her characters gets away without a mention of their hair! “Hair is political”, she says and makes such a big deal over her character Ifemelu’s lack of convenient access to a Salon that would make HER hair, in America.
There is something about people smoking, especially women. Thankfully I have enough bad habits already – like checking my WhatsApp every five minutes like a teenager – or I would have picked up smoking as a new past time.
Internet Speeds From Heaven
I live in Limuru. And for my browsing I use Orange Monthly “Unlimited” Internet bundles. Now, there is nothing positively unlimited about the speed of my internet connection but it serves the purpose. I mean , my mails can stream in at the pace they want so long as I get them finally. It’s not that I am a cardiac surgeon. The same goes for the internet speeds generally, even those by other providers. Playing a Youtube clip to kill time while sitting on traffic in Nairobi , can be more stressful than the traffic itself.
The fact that for the last 3 weeks I have been able to play songs and listen to speeches and watch movies on Youtube with no buffering at all , has added couple of years to my life.
Read : Livng in Limuru
Nice Airy buses but where is the WiFi?
As a “tourist” they will give you a card to move around Lausanne using public transport at no charge. Permanent residents have to buy this renewable card at some fee , which enables them to move around Lausanne without paying every time.
There are so many old people I have seen in my short stay so far – which is not so surprising for a country that boasts a life expectancy of 85.
But maybe Lausanne is where they all come to retire??
I’ll find that out when I have a chance to visit other cities soon.
Do It Your Damn Self. In a place where Government websites actually work and where a city map is thrust onto your hands the first day you arrive, people have learnt to have little patience for questions like “So how do I get to the train station from here?” even if it’s your first time in the city. Like… IF YOU KNEW HOW TO USE GOOGLE you could find that information on the train website. And do you STILL have the map…? It’s like no one stores information they are not using in the next 10 minutes. They just look it up when they need it. And that’s a culture shock for me. Where I come from you get directions from someBODY. If they don’t know then you ask another PERSON….and so on and so on. Maps are the last resort….First of all have you ever seen a printed map of Nairobi? I mean , outside your Primary School Atlas , have you? And last time I checked Google Maps was still a Work In Progress , no? But you always get where you want to go even to places you’ve not been before because you know people who know those places! Or maybe it’s me who just doesn’t use or trust maps..Surely they must have a phobia for that?! So you have got to find your way to the train station without catching feelings or feeling like a participant in The Amazing Race.
Family , Friends
“You are going away for SIX MONTHS? What about your FAMILY??” People would often ask on hearing about my upcoming Interchange program. I have made enough jokes about running my home over Skype , like the Kenya Digital Government. But at the back of my mind I know I have a great support system at home , which I don’t take for granted…
Anyways , on evenings I can be found chatting my family especially with hubby and the girls, walking around the apartment showing them this and that. “Show me your kitchen….what are you cooking? ( Nothing , I don’t cook except on weekends. It’s too time consuming)….show me your sitting room…” Then I have to explain to lil’ June , my 7 year old that there are all these rooms in my house it’s just there are no walls separating them. WHY? She always asks.
I miss my family but thank God for good friends. Last weekend I got a visit from my friend Kage who was my husband’s classmate in Primary School, who, I had never met before but for Facebook. She and her beautiful family who live in Geneva , came over. It was great and so generous of her. “Feel free to call me to ask me the ‘stupid questions’, she said.
Finally, someone who doesn’t ask me to Google!
[More photos to follow]