Monthly Archives: October 2012

Too Much Information


 

I walk into the PK supermarket, off 26th Street.  There’s only one other large supermarket on this road, it’s called Hajis- it’s too crowded though slightly cheaper.

I nod at the rockstar cashier, he looks like a cool dude, but we’ve never talked. I enter autopilot when I stoop to pick up the red plastic basket with its black handle; and stand up to pick a packet of  Olpers milk. It’s shoulder-level, and I know the distinctive red packet so I merely glance at it as I throw it into the basket.

I continue walking down this aisle, picking up canned tuna. Sometimes there’s a new brand, or one that I have never tried, so I compare prices quickly, make a choice and move on. I walk to the back of the store and round into the other aisle. This is where I will find my rice, I pick anything that says basmati, there’s only 1 or 2 brands anyway. Sometimes I will pick raisins as well, on the same aisle and next to all the spices.

I have money this week, so I walk up towards the meat section, past the breakfast cereals and Walker’s Oats that I love. I order half a kg of beef from the perpetually bored butcher. I leave him dicing and take the stairs to the bottom level. I said I have money this week, so I can indulge in tetra pack juice.

Enroute to the Nestle juice, I open the fridge on my left, fiddle around for some yoghurt (Nestle as well) making sure it’s not ‘natural’. I will usually pick banana or vanilla. It goes well with diced up apples and bananas, good snack after the gym and before dinner or if I am still awake at 2am.

I pick either apple or orange juice, 360 degree turn and now I’m at the ice-cream freezer. I usually pick a cornetto or 2 so I don’t feel awkward in front of my roomate. I go back upstairs, pick up my meat, and head to the right- where the fridge with blue-band/cheese etc is. Blue band over here, is packed in blue rectangular tins.

I walk towards the cashier, instinctively reaching out for the bread on the way there. Oh and I forgot I need some eggs, so I’m back at the shelf with the milk. I squat to the lowest shelf, pick a tray of 6 eggs and walk back to the  cashier.

Total shopping time max 30minutes. This includes walking to and from home,  and getting a greasy calorie-laden-tastiest-thing-ever chicken-mayo roll from Ambala (where you will occasionally spot some roaches). Add maybe another 10 minutes of brief negotiation for fruits from the same big-moustache vendor every week. It’s usually 6 bananas and 4 of whatever fruit is in season. That was Pakistan.

Enter the UK. I walk to Tescos, pick up my basket and googlemap my way to the milk. I stop and stare. Do I want skimmed milk? Do I want branded milk? Do I want skimmed and branded milk? Do I want whole milk, organic milk, ‘whatever kind of milk that is?’ And be careful to read, lest you make the amateur mistake of picking the ‘blue’ pack. Because there are different blue packs with different tastes and more importantly different prices.

Time for the meat. Do I want chicken, or pieces of chicken? Legs only perhaps? Do I want the deal for 3 for 2 or the deal for 5 for 3? And what’s this? Bacon? Is it honey glazed or plain? Why is it on offer, is it about to expire?  I take 10 minutes, comparing, calculating and wondering. I walk away, breaking down all this information,  I will pick something ‘simple’ like eggs as I make a choice of what I will pick.

Oh, good old eggs, this should be an easy one. Do I want free-range eggs? Among these 10 brands of eggs, which one tickles my fancy? By the time I get back to the meat, I already forgot what I wanted, so again I stare, calculate and get irritated.

And how about the bread? I avoid the distracting baugettes, croissants, other bread-like things, and pick the one to the extreme left. I have no idea what brand it is, all I know is that is 47pence. I avoid looking at the bright yellow tags trying to tell me something about buying 2 pieces for the price of 3 and what not.

It takes me almost an hour to finish shopping and this is a relatively small store.

I conclude that the UK simply offers too much information about too many things and at every turn.

To me, it makes sense then, that people don’t know much about their surroundings. Picture you’re from Buruburu and you don’t know where the Tuskys is? You will ask 5 people before you find one with a vague idea.  I thought it odd, but now I think it’s understandable considering how much information everyone has to process over here. I think living everyday in this information avalanche, your mind automatically retains only what concerns you as an individual.

From day 1, I have been assaulted with free chocolate samples on the street and energy drinks as  that I have never heard of. I have seen people singing opera on the street corner with their hats out for tips, right next to the teenager breakdancing behind the carousel and next to the guy on the stilts and the other guy drawing attention to KFC. Even on a weekday, if I want I can pick 10 different flyers on the 2km walk to school. Even at 12am (I was walking around lost in the city centre), there were still people handing out information on fliers. Fliers about  different parties, different restaurants, different clubs and I even got one from a church trouncing the theory of evolution.( It was handed to me by a Nigerian, and you ask why I like stereotyping. Nigerians are spiritual beings, as evidenced by their JUJU stuff and my aggressive tiny classmate who thinks Don Moen is still the shit.)

You walk in the London subway, with its neat posters advertisings different plays and movies. The problem is there are thousands! By the time I was out of the subway, I couldn’t remember any single one. How the Hell are you meant to remember anything? Brand loyalty really does mean everything here. Your information, whether about condoms,  shampoo, parties, beer, shoes, sales prices etc has a high chance of being lost in all the noise. Every day I see things that I plan to investigate, but by the time I get some free time, I already forgot what website it was, or where I saw it and I have already seen hundreds of other things worth investigating.

Too much information.

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I want to go back


This post has nothing to do with location.

Today I turned 25…quarter century. Mid-twenties. I used to laugh at people in their mid-twenties, it sounded so far away. An 18-year old I know laughed out loud when I told her my age. Karma.  It’s an unreal feeling if I linger on it. I suddenly see the conventional leering at me with its girlfriends, weddings and family. Anyway, those are details.

Today I wish I could go back, to when it was simple.

To when we used to watch this guy and his iconic eye bugs. He since passed away.

Courtesy of http://www.dw.de

And when we used to go fiddle with the TV aerial on Friday to watch Lois and Clark; learning that spectacles are a fantastic disguise, what a simple lie. Simple lies for simple times.

The past was so simple. I used to be entertained by this woman:

That’s Supergran, in case you don’t remember. I’l give you another try just in case your TV used to be locked even on weekends:

I wish I could go back to when the only care I had in the world is that my mum wouldn’t find me sitting with the mandazi lady on the road home from school, keeping her company and getting mandazi in return. It was so simple.

Today, I would wonder why the mandazi lady is taking such interest in my 3 year old nephew, I would warn him against strangers. There is unmentionable perversion to worry about these days, you don’t let random strangers hold your kid in the matatu, the way random strangers used to let us sit in their laps when the 14-seater matatu was packed with 20 people.My mum did eventually expose my sordid affair of roadside pastry and cooking fat with the mandazi vixen, and that was the my first LEGENDARY ICONIC beating. I cried so much, I had sniffles, I think they’re called….you know how as a kid in tears, you could only stammer and gasp for breath because you were wailing.

Mum: Ati what will you do from now on? (raising the mwiko)

Me: I’ll go st-st-st straight h-hooome

This memory still cracks my sisters up because they were glued to their front seats for the whole performance.

Life was so simple. I remember how I would run off to the railway lines, something else I wasn’t allowed to do. I used to run there with my neighbors  the 3 brothers, Jimmy, Mkanzi and Joseph. They had another brother Shikoli, but he used to be a loner. He never joined us, and he never spoke either. I dont’ think he was let very far from home because he was ‘strange’, in retrospect, he was mentally disabled. I remember as a kid wondering why he never used to talk yet he was bigger than all of us. And on Sunday, I used to sit in their sitting room watching Ramayan. I still remember the guy that looked like a monkey. He was scary. Consult your local Hindu for a refresher on the stories of these gods.

I remember Wakesho walking me home, she was in standard 2, and an only child. She lived with her mum in a very neat house, and she didn’t seem to have a dad. I really wonder what happened to her, because even now I remember how nice she was, such a kind heart. An 8-year old walking me home, walking me and my 5 year old massive head. I only outgrew it when I was 13. I would love to meet Wakesho now. If you know Wakesho that used to live/lives in Satellite, please seriously let me know. I was only 5, I didn’t know people had 2nd names.

I wish I could go back to when disease and sickness was a foreign concept. When comas were on TV. When you would be left in the carpark at Kenyatta or Nairobi Hospital because kids weren’t allowed into hospitals. (Are they now?)

I wish I could go back to when I didn’t understand chivalry. When this guy with brand new boots came to see my sister with flowers. I remember her throwing the flowers away after he left. Marvin, that’s what happened to your flowers, just in case your mid 30-year-old self reads this.

I wish I could go back to the first time I bought someone flowers, and how the waiter at Java gave them to the wrong person – it was meant to be a surprise. I guess someone got surprised, I always think maybe whoever it was really needed flowers.

I wish I could go back to the time I didn’t know what it meant to break a heart and worse to break trust and to experience the same.

I wish I could go back to the first time I felt intimidated by the person who saved me from my early 20/21 year old self. I shudder when I think about the mess our meeting helped me avoid. I still remember the wittiest thing that she ever said ‘ Blue band is one molecule away from plastic’ I think that’s the funniest thing someone has ever said to me.

I’m a quarter century, I don’t know why I am considering going back to wearing my loop, and get a piercing or 3 and maybe a tattoo.

You only live once.

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