You and your neighbors only go to the mall for essential purchases and even then, you must anoint yourself with sanitizer, and not just any sanitizer the one approved by WHO, and wear gloves when you step outside and especially, when you touch those trolleys because who knows who has left the dreaded virus on the handles? We can’t take chances and you are right, there are no ICU beds, the medics have gone on strike heck even the medics are dying of this virus!
It’s been a real struggle, readjusting, reimagining and realigning. And I am sure just like me, you though that everyone is at your level. Newsflash! They are not! You are living in Utopia, you and your circle of friends who discuss in hushed tones about your neighbors who were kicked out because they didn’t make rent.
The rest of Kenya is going on! I don’t blame you for your lack of knowledge. See until 4 hours ago, I was in your submarine. My eyes and mind were only focused on the reality of my circumstances. That’s until I decided to visit Gikomba market. If only to ascertain the sad stories they are running in the media of late on business slowdown. But mostly, because I am tired of relying on half-baked hear-say stories from my privileged circle of friends who think the world stopped because they are working from home. Here are five culture shocks that you should prepare for when you leave your safe zone:
- Matatus now carry 9 passengers: Remember when Kenya’s public transport sector was chaotic? Then we got a saviour in John Michuki the then Transport Minister who in the words of the media brought sanity to public transportation? Yes. That was no mean feat! However, it can’t beat the sanity in the industry brought about by the need for social distancing. Matatus now sit nine passengers and there are no conductors to insult and hustle you into the vehicle! How cool is that? It’s like riding in one of those luxury tour vans to the coast. Now that’s sanity!
2. Small businesses in Gikomba never worked from home: Sounds obvious. There is no way to work from home if you rely on selling second hand clothes for a living. Some traders re-imagined their business model and went online. Others joined hands and have now set up thrift shops in the CBD. However, majority of businesses did not close operations. For them it’s do or die quite literally so. If you do, you increase your chance of contracting the virus and possibly dying; if you don’t you increase the chance of death through starvation. Whichever way you are doomed. It’s a hard place for these businesses.
3. Social distancing…What’s that? If you have been to Gikomba, you know it is impossible to control the crowds that flock into the market all day long. Not only are there no official entry points to control traffic, the market is congested with traders selling fruits lined up along the roads such that every time a truck ferrying goods in and out of the market appears, they have to pull away the carts to make way for the vehicles. In this condition, social distancing is a mirage. In fact, it’s a term no one has ever heard of in Gikomba.
4. Fruit vendors now wrap fruits with cling film: so, you are cringing right now, you don’t see yourself eating any food in Gikomba. Remember this is not about you. It’s about the traders and buyers who visit the market on a daily basis. Innovative entrepreneurs invented thriving fruit vending stalls on wheels within the markets. BC (Before Corona), they would just chop the fruits and spend the rest of the time waving away flies. Now it’s a more sophisticated process, they chop the fruits and wrap them in cling film. This is especially convenient for young mothers who just grab a slice of water melon and throw it in the hand bag for the babies to find it when she makes her grand entry home.
5. There are no cheap second-hand clothes: So, you used to save up some money say 3-4k every quarter go and pick up cheap second-hand clothes for yourself and the little ones. It was a painless, straight forward, convenient and of course affordable option. You may want to rethink your strategy. Due to the Pandemic, the supply chain of second-hand clothes was disrupted and now, the price has gone up by about 30%. It doesn’t end there. If you are obsessed with “Camera” clothes you may really want to reconsider your trip to Gikomba again. Due to the supply chain disruption camera clothes are either not available and when they are, they are double the price.
Finally, Gikomba market has not changed. It’s still muddy, hot, disorganised and chaotic. So when you finally decide to weather the virus and update your wardrobe please don’t forget to bring your gumboots and a mask. Leave the sanitiser and the gloves at home though. You shall not need them!
All the best during this year’s thrift Christmas shopping!