USIU is like an urban legend, most people that talk about it have never been there. They rely on rumors that have been passed on from one social construct to the next. And in these rumors they are comfortable; it is easier to believe that a student there drives to class in a fuel guzzler that consumes half your HELB loan when it starts. It kind of makes it easy to hate them. Everyone hates the rich kid. Even the rich kid hates the rich kid.
I was these guys too. You see; I went to KU and there, the closest I got to anything international was that one time I had chapatti with French beans. Although they had a Chinese program; but those guys are no longer foreigners. They’ve built so many roads they practically own the country. As far as they or I am concerned, we could have been roommates living in Roysambu; splitting a four hundred bob mzinga bill because we are all too cheap and too broke to buy it by ourselves.
So about a week, maybe two, ago (insert Shmurda dance) I get invited to the USIU culture night. You know I have always wanted to say that right? Got invited. It sort of validates my decisions as a creative. I did not care that these were not my personal efforts as a writer but rather the trickledown effect of working at an agency. Point is I got an invite and point is I went. Anyone that has a problem can go and argue with Sultan’s KCSE certificates.
So anyway I get to this place circa 6.00 pm and it is like even the air changes. It is saturated with Swanglish, and it has an attitude. And this attitude is the kind that uses Uber as a verb. The rest of us guys just say “Let’s take an Uber” because that is not something we normally do. The breeze is gentle, like on its way from Githurai all the harshness was robbed from it. It comes humble and ready to kiss ass. And I was just at the stage; bag over shoulder with the camera weighing me down; hadn’t even made it down the driveway to their gate. Guys, that’s how you know a university has made it; they have a driveway. KU is just off the stage. You alight and those monstrosities they call gates scare the shit out of you. JKUAT sort of have a driveway but they have a shortage of women so it does not count. I am not sure about UON; they might have one or they might have uprooted it and used the loose tarmac to pelt unsuspecting pedestrians for lacking marmalade in the mess.
Let me call it a hunch. Or gut feeling. But me thinks most Gor Mahia fans are former members of The University. Which is the most condescending name I have ever heard being peddled with pride. It does not matter if you were UON or Kabianga. If you are a halfwit, drunken, and irrational fella the name of the school does jack shit for you. There I said it.
Back to USIU.
When your school name is the name of a different country, throws in international just for laughs somewhere in the middle of it and trails it with University; you can afford bragging rights. That’s exactly what this place does, it brags. This is not such a bad thing; I mean we all long for a day in the spotlight; some more than others; but this place does not even know it brags. It just exists. Like it is mocking you. It is a child born into money. Old money. A child whose first pair of everything was custom made by a designer and designed not to look like it was made by a designer. Do you know how much that would cost? Paying Marc Jacobs to design clothes that no one would ever know were designed by him? I also don’t know but I bet my two kidneys that I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway. Unless he took three hundred shillings, a shot of my whisky stash and lots of exposure.
Walking down the driveway. Yes, I know how that sounds. But walking down there was this chap at the corner, red t-shirt and black jeans handing out fliers. He looked pleasantly disinterested in what he was doing. But anytime a person went by him he smiled and handed a flyer. In this Nairobi people do a lot of things to stay afloat; handing flyers is one of them; but that I do not think I would do. People in Nairobi are very apprehensive and they act like they are above offers. Their eyes will lecture you on how much money they have and how disrespectful you are for letting them know about a discount. These are the same people that have screenshots of the same offer when they came across it on Facebook. They are just too engrossed with their image to take anything other than a selfie. I pass the guy. I don’t take the flier. Not ignorance just that the streets are already littered with his fliers; there’s no point in adding to the statistic. He understands though. Smiles. And retreats into his mind.
I get to the event; and it seems that the social currency on these streets is short clothing for girls and fancy rides for the guys. The whole thing has been organized by the students; it’s impressive. They even have this fancy Jack Bauer type walkie talkies that they use to announce cleared cars going down to the parking lot. There’s the ladies in short denim shorts – is that a thing even? Short denim shorts? Heels and a top that leaves nothing to imagination and everything to the mercies of the weather. Then there’s the ones in short black dresses; specifically this tall brown lady (must have been the heels; or me. Any lady is tall to me); her dress ended before it even began. It was shorter than a fly’s attention span. She kept trying to tug it down but there was nothing to tug down. She had better chances pulling on her skin.
The official story, or what the poster said, was the event was to start at 6. But you know how these things are right? They are like weddings, they never start on time. There’s always an excuse, the mic is in the shower, the school mascot has chicken pox, or the emcees dress is not what she expected. Something. These guys leisurely start at 8. When I should’ve been leaving. But some of these punches you take and roll with especially if you’ve been given free food which includes chicken wings. Chicken wings make everything better.
So the event starts; I try and get a vantage point where I can show off some of my amateur photography. Look busy. Earn my keep. The usual. For a moment I decide that just standing from where I am seated I could get good shots. But no. Some guy in a gray charcoal suit gave me a mini lecture on how he needs to watch what was happening on stage. It came with two CATS, a take away assignment and a final paper by the time he was done. So I get up; walk around and find a different spot. The first place I go is where a band is sitting. They are Tanzanian’s. Their Kiswahili is a cocktail of biryani and ukwaju. I don’t bother to say hi I just start clicking away. One of them is intrigued with what I am doing so he walks up behind me. Real close. The hair on my neck is almost touching his breath. It is uncomfortable. You do not want a man behind you with his labored breathing and warm rough breath rubbing across your neck.
The first performance is South Korean. They won the last culture week that the university had. Won. They are winning everything now from culture weeks to tenders. These chaps just do not know when to quit. On stage they do some fancy dance in pajama like clothes. If I cared any less; I would’ve wrapped myself in one of them and slept on the stage. I still click away though. Sure that I would not use any of it anywhere. Sometimes you just do it for the sake.
To be honest, I did not really care for the chronological performances. I will just write about them in no particular order.
You know how you walk past a Somali and even before you get close to them you already twitch your nose? Like you already know your nasals are going to be attacked by unwarranted scents. The Somalis here were different. Maybe they got a memo that told them to go easy on the perfume. Maybe. But these guys put up a great performance. There was so much zeal in their performance you could feel the love they have for their culture spread in the room. In that moment you forget about the news, Al Jazeera, CNN and the local stations that call it war-torn. These guys showed a unity on stage that was admirable. They made you fall in love with a culture that you did not even understand. Plus the cheers they got was overwhelming. I am sure half of it had to do with the beauties they paraded on stage but who cares right? After all culture is 98% women. Oh did I also mention at the end the Somali ladies, in traditional regalia, went all out and twerked? Kind of like a friendly fuck all of you who thought we were uptight. You cannot be uptight if you twerk. That is like the SI unit for liberal.
Then there were the Nigerians. These guys do not know subtle. When a Nigerian is in the building you will all know. Also they don’t make noise. They let the money they pour make people make noise for them. Picture yourself, deep in recession, contemplating on taking a jav (let me say jav because well… USIU manenoz) home to pocket the Uber cash; and then these chaps in overflowing white gowns throwing bill around the stage like it was nothing. Not even their depreciated Naira, these guys were throwing dollars. Looking princely and shit. I hear they do it for their weddings to. Which makes me think if life keeps being this bad I will just end up being a Nigerian bride. Have six weddings. Fly back to Kenya and be a motivational speaker on how to make it.
Have you ever heard someone mention a country and it hits you that these guys actually exist? It does not matter where your mind goes you will never think about them. They are just a nondescript idea. For instance Gambia. The name itself sounds strange rolling out my tongue. But they were there, represented, doing their thing. Which to be honest, was boring. Maybe why they do not make any noise on the global map. I would like to know what being friends with a Gambian would be like. Me the noisy Kenyan, boisterous and obnoxious. I would always introduce them to people like “guess what country this guy is from.” Then I would watch as people guess anything from Nigeria to Kuala Lumpur, which I don’t think is even a country but hey. Then look as their faces drop when I say Gambia. What do you mean Gambia, they will ask. Is that even a country? But the chap won’t be offended he will just laugh as off as jokers. But seriously where is Gambia even on the map?
Side note; what is it with USIU and tattoos? Everyone wears them like some sort of passport. A badge of honor. Do you need one to access the library or dining hall? Or is it some sort of rite of passage? I could not understand.
The Tanzanian’s. These brothers of ours with their biryani Swahili just came on stage and auditioned for a Diamond video. Girls in white booty shorts; shaking, flipping, twirling, vibrating, and even cooking mandazi with their butts. It was exciting; just underwhelming. They would have done much better if they were on Nairobi (Dar-es-salaam?) diaries. I mean when the Somali’s did it; it was electric. Mainly because it was more like the icing to the cake. Not the whole damn cake.
At some point in the event I switched off. It was too much. Too much noise. Too much flashing lights. Too much energy. Too many people even. I just wanted it to end. There was also this one thing where the whole school is a drug free zone. This meant no alcohol. My only chances of grabbing a cold one was if I bundled myself and joined the young revelers to an after party at a club in Westlands. Which is a bad idea for a Thursday and that point in time of the month. So I just sat at a corner and pretended to be interested.
Quick one though the US in USIU is United States right? Just thought I would see a performance from Obama or something.