January 25, 2011

Today is one of those days that I work less but end up learning more.

Being the nice girl that I am not, I volunteered to fax some documents on behalf of Nate at the nearest Fedex Kinkos. For my peeps in Kenya who have no idea what Kinkos is,
it's like a cyber cafe with computers that do not work, fax machines that seem to understand this sentence only - 'press the keys with your fist as if you were punching cement bags in your local gym', printers that give you such errors>>>

and after all that you pay no less than Kshs. 100 regardless of what you went in there to do, including sending a one page fax. Anyway, while battling my own fax demons, some guy was battling the customer service lady at the main counter.  The conversation went like this. I will call the man A Stupid Sucker Has Overtaken Lovely Earth (A.s.s.h.o.l.e or A for short) and the Kinkos Girl...lets just call her Girl

A: I need a sharpener.
Girl :  Sure, there are right next to the fax machines ( where I was standing)
A: Are they for sale?
Girl: Yes, they are sir
A: Why?

At this point, me and several other customers looked up. If the guy looked like the pic on the left,
I would understand the basis of that question, and perhaps event take time off my faxing that I had already been working on for 10 minutes (2 pages!!), and explain to him the concept of selling and buying. But he did not, instead, he looked a like a very respectable middle aged man whose faculties were still intact.

And so went on the conversation:
A: Why are they not free?
Girl: I'm sorry sir, but we provide pens, paper, and other writing materials. But we do not provide sharpeners.
A: That is unacceptable. A whole store cannot supply sharpeners to its clients? What kind of business is that? I brought my own pencil. The least you could do is give me a sharpener.
Girl: I'm sorry sir, but you will have to purchase on from the store.
A: Will providing me with a sharpener put you out of business? I bet they only cost a dollar.

Now, I think if Girl was the owner of Kinkos, she would have explained why she has not made them free yet. In A's eyes however, it was her responsibility explain to him macroeconomics, profit and loss and what have you. Even maybe give him a presentation on how Kinkos sets their prices? But seeing as Girl is hired to serve clients...

At this point I was thinking, then why don't you buy it then if 'they only cost a dollar?' Oh, but he did not! He went on and on about how the store should give free sharpeners and how all the other Kinkos he has been to had 1,2,3 free stuff for use by clients... and the Girl, the Girl kept calling him SIR! Now, me, I am not made for retail business. I would have dropped the SIR in the second sentence. And what would have followed would have had me fired because of a stupid sharpener. Girl finally walked over to where the sharpeners were, picked one and brought it over.  How much is it? A barks.It was about $1.49 (rip off, yes, but you did go to Kinkos, so suck it up!). Again, he went on and on. Calmly, Girl opens up the sharpener and even sharpens the pencil for him. WHAT? I would have stuck that sharpener and pencil where the sun never shineth, pulled them up, stuck them in again, and added Tabasco on top!

Reminds of a time I had to pick up a package from Posta at GPO. I walk in, wait for hours then finally get attended. The package is addressed to my company. She asks me if I have permission to prove that I am authorized to pick the package on behalf of the company. I say yes, its my company.  She tells me she needs proof. I give her my Passport (me no have no national ID). She says its not sufficient. Do I have a business card? As fate would have it, I had just given out the last of my business cards. I could not prove that I own my company! I tel her she can call the company, which is listed in the yellow pages, and ask who the boss is? She tells meno. I tell her I can open my laptop and show her my email signature. Nah-ah. I ask her, so what do I need to do to prove it? She says to get  a letter from the boss instructing me to pick the package. But I am the boss, I say.  "Msichana, nimesema kama hauna proof sikupei package!" meaning - Young girl, I said without proof i am not giving you the package. with that she turns around and disappears into whatever world Posta and other government officials disappear to when they are tired of serving you.

Armed with my laptop, i start scouring the streets of Nairobi for a place where I can print. The first shop (actually, a stall that cannot fit two people, equipped with a photocopier that occupies the whole room, a PC that I swear still uses floppy drives and a bored attendant who look at me as if i am trespassing), does not have coloured printer. I don't know why I chose this time to be particular.  I am stubborn like that, even to myself! Our logo has red gold and black. Why I did not just print an effing b/w copy, I have no idea! So I walk and walk and walk. It was stupid to drive into the Central Business District as trying to get parking would have been another ordeal. I find a row of stalls, much like the first one, with even sour attendants, one tells me she does not know how to print, she is shop-sitting for her pal, I tell her i know how print, and I can do it myself. She says she is not allowed to touch anything... aaarrgh! Finally, I get one that looks promising,  I type a letter on my company letterhead giving myself the permission to pick the package, ( I'm serious!), BUT I forget I have no flash drive (its in the car) so I will have to connect my laptop directly to their printer.. oh wait I have a MAC, need to install software and at this point i say Eff the package, it could be anthrax for all I know. Good Samaritan offers a flash drive, I save the letter, connect the flash to their PC, anti-virus goes bonkers, and suddenly the we cannot see any of the documents on the flash. Good Samaritan is angry about all his documents being lost, attendant is worried about virus, I've had it to my neck and I want to go home and never receive a package through Kenya Posta... I ask the attendant to get off the chair. I sit and do my IT nonsense troubleshooting that now and then makes me thankful I took IT before I saw the light and voila, I am able to print my document. Go back to the Post Office, hand the my own permission letter, she does not even ask me for an ID, and gives me the package. I swear I wanted to reach over and...

And what I have been leading to, I came across is this website that allows you to compare your country and another. So I picked USA and Kenya and this is what I got:

What would you choose. I chose Thumbs up. Why?
1. Because I do not have HIV
2. I did not die in Infancy
3. I am not unemployed
4.I do not have more babies
5.I did not die at 19
6.I do use less electricity when in Kenya
7.I do consume less oil when in Kenya
8.I do not care how less / more money I make
9.I do spend less on healthcare
10.I do not feel the class divide.

Now, that is not to say that the above does not happen, but the fact that there is someone in the USA who will do the same comparison and make conclusions about how badly off my lovely country Kenya is.  The fact that we will use statistics to give countries thumbs up and thumbs down, and ask people if they would love to live there,  is disgusting to me. Pick any country, say Somalia. To the people outside Somalia, they see nothing but war, hunger and pain. I have never met more fiercely patriotic people than the Somalis. so much so, that some are of Somali origin born in Kenya or USA, never been to Somalia but defend it as if they spent years there. With all the problems that Kenya might or might not have, I love it, I would live there over and over and if you'd  rather not live there, good for us, the more of our country we have.

Where are all the good sides? Where is ' In Kenya...' you will less likely die from all the chemicals in your food, ...you will take in a deep breath and take in the smell of the land, pure soil and fresh air and not smog,...you will see beautiful animals in the natural habitat and not in cages,...you will, within 1 hour in any direction from Nairobi, see almost all the geographical features you are likely to find all over the world,...you will walk to your neighbors house and borrow salt / sugar,...you will have strangers who will treat you like family,...you will have the whole village come together to assist you,..you will eat tropical fruits  for almost nothing that you will spend hundreds of dollars per month on....I could go on and on, but that was not the point they wanted to prove, was it?

Maybe they had another intention, but taking it from an ignorant American point of view, it just downright makes Kenya a really horrible place to be  in!

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