Kenyan Shares on Life in the First World: From Limuru to Lausanne

Mshamba in town man on escalator

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 is 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 exchange program and here are bits and pieces of my life so far :

The Weather
With the daily temperatures averaging at 4 degrees, 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 it still felt that 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

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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. Nice people 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 an acre of land in Katani? I thought so.

Can you make MY hair?
My mini library includes ALL Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies 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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For the last several years I have had my dreadlocks washed and re-twisted every 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, people have been taught 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. 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 we ask for directions FROM PEOPLE. Sigh. So you have got to find the train station without catching feelings or feeling like a participant in The Amazing Race. Wish me luck. I am going to Milan tomorrow.

 

 

Mrs Mwiti is an Oracle Certified Professional but currently works in digital marketing  and strategy. She’s currently pursuing an Executive MBA at the Management University of Africa and working on various projects , all web related. She’s a wife and a mother. She runs mrsmwiti.com

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