One of those ubiquitous white 4x4s cut across my path on the way to work this morning, pulling up in front of me. The driver didn’t say “hello sister” or “hey mzungu”, just a polite “excuse me?”, so I stopped. He was a mzungu too: maybe he needed directions.
“You are aware that there’ve been a lot of bag snatchings on this road,” he says, a statement more than a question.
On this main road, at 8am, with a constant stream of jeeps and bajajis and pedestrians all on their way to work? I sigh: “Yeah I know… it’s usually ok in the mornings though…”
Poor naïve girl, says the look he gives me. I notice he’s driving a jeep branded with the logo of the charity Concern. “Well, you should probably be carrying your bag on the other side”, he points out. Like a parent. “Do you need a lift somewhere?”
His concern grates. Why does he assume that I’m not walking out of choice?
“No, I’m fine, it’s not far.” The stubborn teenager walks on, and it’s only afterwards I realise I barely thanked him for his good intentions.
He’s right to a certain extent, and that annoys me more than the feeling of being told off. His is one of several warnings I’ve heard in past weeks: in our wealthy neighbourhood, trading mugging stories is currently all the fashion. It goes in phases, say some: the thieves will soon move to another neighbourhood. It’s getting worse, say others: rising inequality and useless policemen.
Living here is flitting in an instant from carefree and – well, normal, to being overaware of where you are and who you are when you are here. Being just a bit on edge, locking car doors. And then back again, of course.