When my sister – a true out and out Kenyan read my first blog in this series – she was incensed! Being very protective about Kenya, she questioned how I, a visitor, could write such negative comments about Nairobi– and she was upset at the thought of me putting these comments into the public domain.
So, this really got me thinking about two things – firstly, were my negative first impressions justified – and what right did I have to make these comments – and secondly, was I right to publish them online for all to see.
First impressions – are just that. You see something – and you make a judgement about it – good or bad. Sometimes that impression is changed. Perhaps you meet someone and take an instant disliking to them, but as you get to know them better – they become a good friend – I know – it has happened to me! Conversely, you become instant friends with someone and over time realise that the things keeping you friends are fairly superficial.
So, when I first landed in Nairobi and we drove from the airport to my parents suburbian home, I was making judgements on what I saw. I was also comparing it to what I remember Nairobi to be when I was growing up here.
Nairobi, like all metropolitan cities is a breathing, living, growing entity – and I understand that it, and the people who live here, will have certain sensibilities and be sensitive to comments especially of a personal nature.
However, when I wrote “Nairobi seems to be expanding from all sides – like a big, hungry, greedy, giant who doesn’t know where – or how – to stop” (the line that particularly upset my sister) – I was of course speaking metaphorically. There is no getting away from this –Nairobi is an ugly city – at least the parts I saw on the drive are. But then, I think London– or at least parts of London are ugly. But, like all places, there will also be beautiful parts of the city. My parents are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of Nairobi. London has some beautiful parts too.
I think the reason I made the observations was not so much to just call it ugly – but to highlight the sadness that I had felt seeing the changes – to the untrained eye – this looks like unplanned growth with no thought or sensitivity given to where buildings go up. It feels like the Kenyan government will give planning permission wherever someone asks for it – as long as the price is right. I don’t think that is sad – I think that is outrageous. And, so, I make no apologies for what I wrote! In fact, I hope a Kenyan government official reads this and challenges my observations! And, I challenge my sister to say that I am not justified in making the above comments.
The second thing that really annoyed her was why she felt I thought I was an authority on Nairobi and justified to put my comments on a blog for the world to read. Which I suppose brings me to the question of what a blog is and who should write it?
Let’s face it, we all think we are writers! And for some people the internet has been a fabulous outlet to write about this and that, little and lots. And blogs are a great vehicle for people to impart knowledge, opinions, information – and perhaps on a more negative footing – propaganda, gossip and misinformation. This is what freedom of speech – one of our most precious human rights is. And, in that I take great comfort that I live in a country where I can write what I want. I think it is up to a person’s individual morality and conscience as to what they write and publish. I do, of course, draw the line at racist, discriminatory or abusive commentary. But, just like I have the freedom to write this blog, you the reader have the freedom to read – or as in my sister’s case – not to read my blog. Aren’t we lucky to have this freedom? And so, if I want to write an opinion about something, give my first impressions on something or impart knowledge I will! Chances are, no one will read it!
And if you are reading this – then equally important is the opportunity for you to respond. (hint hint!). The great thing about blogs is that you can comment – instantly. So, please do.
Finally, I won’t be back-pedalling or apologising for what I write if someone is upset by it. I will write what I feel and what I think and share it if I think it is appropriate. Yes, I may change my opinions – as I say first impressions do change – stay tuned to see what I think about Nairobi in a week. In the meantime I look forward to hearing what you think…..