Its 3 am, your eyes are closed but your mind is working overdrive. Not even your nymphomaniac neighbor’s loud moaning can disrupt you train of thought. Earlier in the day, you received a call from a lady with a trace of British accent inviting you for a job interview the next day. For a moment you thought she was a con but when you checked your email and saw an invitation for the same, you felt happier than you have had in a long time.
A year after clearing campus, you haven’t landed a job. Your unemployment status has not been due to lack of initiative. You have applied for literally all jobs even those remotely related to what you pursued in college. Over hundred job applications sent yet only two firms invited you for an interview. The first job interview was a sham, from how the officials conducted themselves it was clear they had already picked their preferred candidates before the process began.
The second interview was full of drama. You arrived at the recruitment center in Westlands at 7 am only find about eighty candidates at the gate. The officials arrived two hours later, gathered you all at the parking lot where a man in his mid-forties addressed the crowd of Kenyans eager to land a job. He went on about the qualities they look for in a candidate and how great it is working with the NGO.
All this time, you stood there, reciting answers to questions frequently asked in job interviews, like where do you see yourself in five years? Seriously how do you answer that when you have no idea of where you will be in a week? Suddenly, everyone except you bolts for the main entrance to the building. Young, old, men and women, in suits carrying brown envelopes with impressive CVs and academic papers turned to savages, tearing at each other trying to be the first into the building. Are we under a terrorist attack? If so why are people running into the building and not away from it?
You decided to run along with the crowd. On getting into the building you meet a bunch of people, shirts ripped off, elbows grazed and a few missing a shoe. After inquiring for a while about whats happening, a lady about your age fills you in. Apparently while you were engrossed deep in thought, the recruitment manager explained to the crowd the first test. The test involved racing up the stairs to 5th floor. The first twenty to get to the fifth floor would sail through to the second phase of the interview while the rest would go home. You went home a dejected man, unable to understand how running up the stairs could make one a better employee.
Still lying in bed, you open your eyes. A beam of light from a nearby street light pours into the tiny room through a small window near the top. A huge dark cockroach crawls across the ceiling. Damn these roaches! I barely have enough food yet theses roaches look healthier than I do. You jump out of bed grab a slipper from the floor and aim at the roach, only to miss it by far. The bug scampers to a dark corner. You sit on the edge of the bed and scan the room. Will I ever get out of the slum and move to the other side of Nairobi?
You live deep in the heart of an informal settlement in Eastlands. The area is overcrowded, no sewage channels are available so raw effluents from toilets flow in open trenches, which characterize the area. When it rains, you are forced to wade through murky contaminated waters to get to the main road, it’s a miracle there hasn’t been a cholera outbreak otherwise you would all be dead. You stay on the ground floor of a one-storey mabati structure. Toilets and shower rooms are on the furthest. Tenants rarely use them at night when thugs are on the prowl so they relieve themselves just below the wooden staircase making the whole building stink. Your single room is dark, damp and cold, so cold that it permeates through your heaviest blanket.
Compared to most of your neighbors you are wealthy since you own a laptop. An old piece technology you bought from a colleague back in campus. Watching movies on the laptop helps you escape your immediate surround for a moment and take you across to the other side of town where streets are paved and houses have well-manicured lawns. Your other possessions include a kerosene stove and the bed. The bed serves as a seat for your guests, a desk and underneath is a storage area. An old bed sheet hanging on a sisal rope acts as a partition of the living area and bedroom.
Where did I go wrong? You did everything your teachers asked you: study hard, get good grades go to college, graduate top in your class and companies will come looking to hire you. You did your part and still job opportunities haven’t been forthcoming. Surprisingly, most classmates who weren’t serious with their studies landed plum jobs immediately after campus. Their parents might have pulled some strings to make it happen but who in this city cares about how you get ahead? It is all about who you know. Judging from the pictures you’ve seen on Facebook you are the only one in misery. Former classmates, have bought new cars, live in expensive apartments, frequent fine dining joints, and travel across the world yet you have never seen the inside of a plane!
You only powerful connection is a distant uncle who works at a government ministry. However, his wife hates your guts, actually, she hates everyone who is not wealthy. She believes the less fortunate are just lazy. She made it clear dirty and poor people (specifically your family) are not welcomed to her house.
Your wrist watch reads fifteen minutes to five. You get out of bed to grab a soap and basin under the bed and head to the showers. The good thing about taking a bath this early is that here is a short queue to the bathroom and water is available. You bath in record time, get back into the room, apply petroleum jelly on your body, don your only suit and black shoes, grab a transparent document wallet with your certificates and make for the matatus stage. There is little traffic headed to the city center at that time.
It is crystal clear that the first thing you will do should you clinch that junior managerial post is to take your mother to a specialist for treatment since the medical personnel at the village dispensary don’t seem to know what is ailing her, all they keep doing is prescribing to her more antibiotics. The second thing you would do is to take your sister to form one. She cleared KCPE a year ago but your family has not been able to raise the required school fees. You are afraid that if she continues to stay at home the boda boda riders will take advantage of her innocence and put her in the family way.
You ride to the city for your job interview unfazed that only a hundred bob is standing between you and starvation. Today you can feel it you will be lucky. You hope to get the job and move to the other side of the city where you won’t have to share toilets, hop over trenches full of raw sewage to get home or have to deal with marauding criminal gangs in your neighborhood. After all, Nairobi is the city where dreams come true.
Written By Mark Maish