Of Chai Boba Tea, Accents, Kiswahili, and Frat Parties

Finally. Here I am. In the US of A, and in Stanford (Die Luft der Freiheit weht!), with a few dollars in my pocket (emphasis on ‘few’). Keeping right while biking, and soaking in the California sun. To be specific, here I am, in the Axe n’ Palm, regretting my double scoop vanilla ice cream (with caramel) order, but then not really because life is short. Life is short especially when you have 2 midterms coming at you in quick succession early next week.

But we shall not speak of the ridiculous pace of the Quarter system. Here I am, on a Friday night, in the Axe n’ Palm, responding to every email I’ve been guiltily glancing at for the past week, reflecting on the past month, and listening to way too much John Mayer. If you haven’t caught up by now, this is the obligatory ‘new-country-travel-diary-series-first-post’. It was inevitable. It’s super interesting, I promise.

  • It’s been a month, and I can still hardly believe it. And by it, I mean how expensive everything here is. Water for 130 shillings- 500 ml plain water. Kenyans, you thought Galleria or Junction was bad. You have no idea how lucky we are.
  • But that’s just the price to be paid(ha! pun!) for good service. One thing I can’t fault America on, is its organization. The streets are perenially clean, hearing someone walking behind you, at odd hours of the night, doesn’t induce a panic attack; systems work more-or-less perfectly.
  • And people stop at stop signs. I know right? Pedestrians can actually cross the street without fear of death. Every time I use the zebra crossing and see a car speeding towards me, I relax and take my time ambling across, because they will stop for me. I can imagine attempting such stunts in Bus Station. Or in Kenyatta. Shindwe, banish the thought.

There are many other things I could speak of, which pertain specifically to Stanford (Like the fact that my roommate is the most beautiful soul here). But you already know all of that, don’t you? It’s all I’ve been harping on about on Facebook. Let’s get down to the more, erm, challenging aspects of life in The Greatest Country in the World.

First of all-  Kiswahili! Or as the folks around here call it, ‘Swahili’. I didn’t know how hard it was to think and communicate purely in English until I came here. No more ‘sawa’s over here. Sindio, ati,alafu. The list is endless. And of course, the weird things we used to throw into our sentences (who can forget ‘Meeeeeeennn’, ‘brathe’ ,’kidogo tricky’,?). That was what I used to flavor my jokes y’know? And it just does not sound the same when you translate it mid sentence.

“Eiisshh, brathe umenimaliza niokotwe Kawangware!”

Oh man, that was so funny, er… collect me in a small town in …Nairobi?No?”

See what I mean? And then I’ll have no friends and will resort to buying cats, then be kicked out for violating school policy on pets, and be very sad. The only Kiswahili word they know here is chai, and that’s referring to some drink with roasted cassava in it. Yes you read right.

Two words: frat parties.

One word: Nope.

The one time I went to a frat party (went is a stretch; more like stepped in and out in a 2 minute interval), I was hit by a blast of EDM music, sweat, flashing lights, alcohol, and flashbacks of the generic party scene from every American teenage comedy I’ve ever watched.  Then I remembered the good ol’ days jamming to dancehall hits, Naija hits, and Sauti Sol, and dancing, and it was a sad time to be a Kenyan in a US frat party. Because the probability of the good ol’ days’ music being playing… was not very close to 0.2 (haha, you see I know Math…That midterm is stressing me, can you tell?)

Perhaps the most striking thing about my experience in America was the sudden shift from majority to minority. I’m a black female here, and you can pick us out in a crowd. Understanding that this is how African Americans have grown up, makes me empathize much more with the #blacklivesmatter movement. I just….I get it now. Also, apart from that one guy who asked whether we have universities in Kenya (bruh), stereotypes have been insignificant.

In the same vein, the abrupt realization that I am, by no means, the smartest kid on the block is both profound and humbling.

I’m a Kenyan navigating her way through Stanford, and I won’t pretend to know the answers. I’ve 4 years here, and I plan on devoting my time to finding them.

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11 comments

  1. A boy · October 10, 2015

    hahaha meeeen umenimaliza niokotwe kawangware XD

  2. Shalom · October 10, 2015

    Ah…I love this. “Collect me in a small town in Nairobi” haaaaa…LOL!!

  3. MWENDWA GLO · October 10, 2015

    I don’t why I felt like I was with you in that ice cream shop.
    All the best in your journey Norah. The best is yet to come.

  4. wamuyuyvonne · October 10, 2015

    Siz,umenimaliza…niokotwe kwa chai…:-) looking forward to more…!!!

  5. Pere · October 11, 2015

    yaaaaaaay! 🙂

  6. Tony Sami Wambua · October 11, 2015

    Hahahah…… This piece is dope…. (For the first time i can type LOL as I actually laugh in real sense)

  7. Mind on Fleek · October 13, 2015

    Ahahahahahaha. Aluta continua✊😂

  8. nelly · October 13, 2015

    Hello:) She’s back!! You might feel like you are away from home (mostly because you ARE, hehe) but THIS is also home; your blog, so welcome back. I stumbled onto your blog a few months ago and I just follow silently, learning and laughing and wishing you well …. Keep the Kenyan flag flying:)

  9. Dominic · October 14, 2015

    Another awesome piece 🙂

  10. Doris · October 14, 2015

    LOL…Norah…so funny niokotwe AGIP..Wishing you the best as you find those answers girl.

  11. Daggy · November 7, 2015

    Awesome read! You know how to capture the imagination!

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