April 20, 2011

Karibu Kenya

...and have been since Saturday night. I have a rant about Dubai ( where I spent 4 hours), but that is for another post.

So I land at JKIA, go through customs very quickly because I am not  'carrying any gifts, or did not buy anything new in the USA' ( yeah right!)...and I am hoping to see my friend and her husband waiting. They are not... I see a tall white guy who looks like my friends' hubby's brother, I walk towards him and he looks at me funny. Thankfully, I had not been wearing that, 'so glad to see you smile..'

I crisscross the meeting area, accosted by taxi drivers who surreptitiously try to get me to use their cabs. Finally, I am convinced they forgot to pick me, or they looked at my itinerary wrong. They moved house immediately I left the country, and have no idea what part of the new estate they live in.

I figure that I have a phone  that I can out a SIM card in and call them. So I walk to the nearest Safaricom shop and ask for a SIM card. It's KES 200. Now, I know that inflation is high in Kenya, but not high to an extent that a SIM card that used to go for KES 20-50 is now KES 200. Apparently that is how much they cost if you buy at the airport. Poor foreigners!

I have no option but to buy this SIM Card. So i get my phone out and alas, it died somewhere between the last time I used it in Canada and 7 months later here in Kenya. So I have to buy a phone. I ask for cheapest phone they have. They show me.  It's a cheap Nokia that I know I have bought for  clients who are in Kenya for a short while. They go for about KES 1,500. The suckers at the airport  wanted KES. 3,500. I only had KES2,000 in shillings and was not about to exchange money at the airport. The upside to getting back to Kenya right now is I get more shillings for my dollars...and I planned to get the best rate possible.

I walk to the nearest ATM - Barclays. I put in my Barclays ATM card, it tells me I have negative. Since i rarely put money in that account, they have been using the little balance I had to pay for ledger fees. Then when the bank went to zero, they started charging me for having a -ve balance. I try out my KCB card. On the screen it says ' Select One Option Below.' There is only one option available - Return Card. Not good.

As I prepare to walk back to the Safaricom shop and tell them I cannot afford the phone and can she lend me hers to make the call ( Then I can refund her airtime, no?), my pal's hubby shows up.

Long story why he is late... but we get home. I cannot sleep.. my body thinks its midday but its midnight here. The following morning, I off to Kibera to check up on our film school kids (okay, most of them are 5 years or less younger than me, but they do feel like our kids). I am there till midnight!

I decide to buy them dinner. Ati fries are KES 100.  Nothing says welcome home than having to decide whether to feed your 'kids' or to fuel your car.

3 Comments:

  1. mcnthia said...
    Hi Nate’s Girl,

    Recently I have become a big fun of your blog.. its great n its makes me connected to my fellow Kenyans who are out here in the ‘Wild’ as I call it. So keep up the good work.

    Clearly you should have done some homework before heading back home. I do frequent Kenya from Z├╝rich so here are some pointers:
    1. To avoid your phone dying on you. Charge it during your wait at transit lounges of whatever airport(s) you find yourself in, enroute to Nairobi.
    2. If you have to get a taxi at JKIA book it at one of the offices right there at the Arrivals, to be safe and sure you got a legit deal. Other wise you’re taking a huge risk.
    3. Safaricom: or any other Simcard for that matter, take you simcard with you back to the US and occasionally activate it while in the US (roaming) just so Safcom back home sees that the no. is not dormant. You don’t even have to make any calls. PS: make sure you register the no. as yours before you leave Kenya.
    4. Banking: if you still desire to keep your home account active, just register for online banking that way you can monitor your account and make deposits etc from the anywhere (just don’t do it on a public wifi network).
    5. Forex: here you have two ways to go about it. One, use your Debit card for your account back in the US, so long as its acceptable in the ATM you are using, Barclays accepts all major international cards eg Visa (Electron), Master card, Maestro etc. Secondly, you can simply transfer funds to your Kenyan account prior to you visit (just do it at at time when the $ is really strong). Both of this methods give you the best exchange rate because its bank to bank forex. Which is better compared to Forex bureaus any where. (Forex Bureaus are a NO NO.)
    6. Inflation: Just pray for Kenya..!!

    All the best I hope the you are enjoying your stay in Kenya.

    J’Mc
    Nate's Girl said...
    mcnthia

    thanks for the advice - response...

    1. I had not used the Kenyan phone in months.My US phone does not use SIM card, so when i get there, i store away my Kenyan phone.
    2.I rarely use taxis from the airport.. I'd rather have someone drive my car to the airport. BTW, they cleaned up the taxi menace now..
    3.I had registered the number... i lost the SIM card somewhere in my house in US. For people like me who cant keep a SIM, best idea to leave it with someone who can keep 'sambazaing' KES 50 to your SIM.
    4.I have online banking. KCB deactivates your ATM card if no activity in 3 months, unless you tell them you are leaving the country.
    5. Very wrong. Bank exchange rates are way lower than forex bureaus. I use forex bureaus even for my busines here in Kenya. e.g I wanted to transfer money from my dollar a/c to my KES account. the bank was going to do that at a rate of $1 =KES 83. My usual forex bureau was giving me KES85. i'd rather withdraw the money, change it a t a bureaus then deposit it again.
    J'Mc said...
    It seems you had done your home work, just a streak of bad luck.

    I bank with Coop' bank and Stand-chart' the accounts stay active so long as there are transaction, I think at least once in 6 months.

    As for Forex, I guess that Swiss banks give us way better exchange rates.. (They are Swiss after all!!)

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