From Limuru To Lausanne : Life in The First World

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As shared on Facebook

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 :

The Weather
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.
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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.

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My mini library

For the last several years I have had my dreadlocks washed and re-twisted every once a week. I had them done on the morning of the day I came here. Now I don’t know what will happen for the next 6 months. Waithera my hair dresser was very optimistic that I can make my own hair. But I don’t think so partly because what I have heard repeatedly from my hair dressers since I was 9 , is that my hair is quite plentiful! “Aki uko na nywele NYINGI!” , is something I have heard my hair dressers say , more times than I care to count. And I am not about to kill myself doing hair. I’ll check if one of the ladies at the Inside Africa store might be able to recommend somewhere.

Smoking
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.

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But why is there no WiFi in the fancy buses? I don’t understand. Even WE have Wifi back at home.

Old people
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.

D.I.Y.D.S
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]

19 comments for “From Limuru To Lausanne : Life in The First World

  1. nymmoh
    February 19, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Hahahaha that photo totally killed me, I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe! Welcome to Europe, you will catch up and fast. The hair, imagine the easiest way to manage it is to do it yourself.. I had to learn when I moved to Norway 5yrs ago (I have dreadlocks too). And luckily for you it is just for a short while. You can do it, it will grow on you. Good luck with your french and enjoy your experience

    • February 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks Nymmoh.

      I am hoping I DON’T HAVE TO make it myself :(

  2. February 20, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Waiting for more stories from Europe!

    By the way you since you are in Switzerland, you should look for the White Masai..

    • February 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Imma just do that!

      Stories , lazma. :)

  3. Gasheri Gichunge
    February 20, 2014 at 10:42 am

    This is lovely ma’aam, am sure when its time to get back you will have the same feeling you have about home now, enjoy your stay, ooh and catch a few football matches live,

    • February 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you Gashe! Yeah , I’m sure I’ll miss my friends here…

  4. Pamela Bundi
    February 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Wow, I love reading your articles, very interesting and entertaining too. enjoy yourself.

  5. February 23, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Welcome to Europe (yet again) Christine!!!!

    That picture lakini, lol……

    As for hair, you have to learn to do it yourself. Most African salons here have no idea what dreadlocks are let alone how to do them. You can find a few tips here http://mydreadlocks.blogspot.de/

    Wifi in buses, hehehehe, hadn’t even thought about it. Kweli hakuna wifi in the buses but most cities have free wifi and so do most train stations.

    Old people…..they tell us Europe is an old society, you never believe it till you get here and you wonder if you live in a retirement city.

    Storing info…..I’m so guilty. A lady stopped me once to ask for directions to a certain street and I couldn’t help but I remembered I keep seeing the street on google maps. I felt so guilty.

    Enjoy your time and feel free to stop by in Ujerumani 😉

    • February 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Mkenya Ujerumani and it’s been great getting in touch through e-mail.

      Old people…..my next door neighbour is like 90.

  6. February 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

    6 months? It must be exciting! Do you have bouts of homesickness yet?

    • February 25, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      I am trying not to be homesick. It’s too early. :)

  7. February 25, 2014 at 11:33 am

    So did you learn to use the washing machine or are you buying new clothes everyday?

    • February 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Sorry , can I use the words “that is behind me now” for such a minor thing? :)

  8. February 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    At least your family is supportive, I think that’s all that matters. Hehe go learn and bring the knowledge back home. Sure when you arrive, the first thing you’ll want to get is a washing machine…lol

    The French, studied it for 3 semesters and I can barely hold a conversation…not everyone is multi lingual. Enjoy the long trip dear. Definitely look forward to more stories.

    • March 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Washing machine lazma! This living in hand-washing age is not helping :)

      Not to live my dreams through my children but I found myself saying , I will make sure my kids learn French or some other “international” language other than English.

      As for me, it’s not a priority!

  9. February 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    That Map Story and Wifi just had me laughing ati r is like h in french? Rarara! I am now looking forward to more stories from Lausanne. Au revoir (all I remember from french class lol)

    Ps. Since you are a lady it should be a Bachelorette pad, otherwise instead of a mini library with Chimamada it would be a PS4 and a mini bar. I hope our Kenyan ladies don’t read the bit of 10kg of chocolates, I did the math using the 150 gram bars and that is like a pickup of chocolate bars…

  10. March 26, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Umm, may I have chocolate please? Like for real. Thank you in advance Maám. You are the Kenya we want! 😀

  11. March 31, 2014 at 9:06 am

    That first pic! lol. I wonder how you are doing now, you must have lots of new stories..
    About the hair, I get that same comment all the time and mine isn´t even locked so you can imagine the hell it is handling it..
    I also want chocolate..

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