Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kenyan Initiation

I have now been inducted as a full Kenyan: robbed on a matatu. This has been quite a weekend. On Saturday, I went down to Nairobi to meet with Pastor Emmanuel to discuss my future church involvement. As I got out of the matatu once we had arrived downtown, I realized my phone and iPod were no longer in my pocket. I was the last to leave the matatu, and I assumed it had fallen out of my pocket, so I went back to check, but it was gone. I had been reading during most of the ride down Ngong road into town, ideal for maximizing my time, not quite so good for guarding against thieves. Thinking back, I remember when the guy next to me sat down, he stumbled, slipped against my leg, and apologized. At the time I thought nothing of it, but I’m sure that’s when he picked my pocket. Losing the iPod is pretty lame, but my phone is quite cheap, and I’m really glad they didn’t get my wallet. That would have been not cool. I have always been skeptical of the possibility of someone reaching into my jeans pocket and removing something without me noticing. These pockets are not loose! Half the time I can't even get something like an iPod out without the headphones getting all tangled in everything. But he was good, and I have a certain respect for someone who can do that without me noticing.

I waited for Emmanuel for an hour and a half, and was just about to leave when I walked into him. Our meeting place is “bomb blast,” the location of the American Embassy bombing in the 90s, and we had met there several times before. We had both been there the entire time, and I don’t know how we missed each other, but when he called me and I didn’t answer, he assumed I wasn’t there and waited in a restaurant. Frustrating. We went to Safaricom customer care, and were finally able to transfer my old number to a new sim card, although I didn’t have my passport with me, didn’t know the serial number of my phone (seriously!!), couldn’t come up with three numbers I normally call, and didn’t even know what my tariff was (the rate you’re charged for a call). Emmanuel provided his number, which I had called, otherwise I would have had nothing. I also found out that the guy who had stolen my phone transferred 980 shillings of credit to another account, which is traceable. I had put on 1000 shillings worth of credit half an hour before it was stolen, something I do about once every six weeks…

I filed a police report, which required going to the front desk, the waiting room next to it, room 5, then being told to go to room 4, going to get an abstract from this sketchy cafĂ© place behind the police station, then having to go upstairs to room 6, finding there was no one in room 6, and then going back to 4, and waiting for a stamp. I finally got it. I went back to Safaricom to track down my things, but was told I had to go to CID HQ, the Criminal Investigation Department. It’s like the Kenyan FBI. So on Monday, I went back to Nairobi, and after at least an hour of wandering around, finally found the bus station and a matatu on route # 100, and went to CID. I went in and was told at the front desk they could do nothing unless they have an official letter from the police station where I made the report. I was not pleased, and said that I had been told to go there, and was not returning with nothing. This eventually brought me to the next person, who explained the same thing, but I just sat there and kept looking at him, and refused to accept that. That brought to an agent, and she seemed pretty on top of things. She was from somewhere in the Middle East, and I don’t think I would want her tracing me. She took all my information, and called Safaricom, but they didn’t want to tell her anything without an official letter. While I was waiting in the waiting room, the other guys waiting with me pointed out that however transferred my credit must have known my pin number. I had not thought of that, so they said it must be an inside job, someone who knows me very very well, most likely my girlfriend. I told them that was actually rather unlikely. Another guy waiting next to me was this clearly rich business man, and he had received a death threat a few days ago. After threatening him, this person wanted to meet to arrange for a higher payment than whoever had hired him. The businessman decided to go to the police instead, and was trying to figure out who was trying to kill him. Since both him and his wife had been called, he thought it was someone close, and was suspicious of his driver.

I finally accepted that I would need to go back to the police station and have them send CID an official letter. So if I had known that, it would have taken about 5 more minutes on Saturday, to have them send that letter. Instead, it took me 8 hours to figure that out on Monday, but that’s Kenya. I figured I had the time and was curious to see how the Kenyan police system worked. We'll see if anything happens.

In other news, I finally took all my exams and finished all my papers, so I am now free. It's quite nice. I'm either going camping at Naivasha Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, and then taking a bus from Nakuru to Tanzania on Monday, or riding with Dr. Rasmussen to Tanzania on Saturday. The rains have started, so I'm a little skeptical about camping. We'll see how it works out.

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