22 September 2013


What makes me feel strange as an expat, especially one who has lived in Africa and visited Nairobi, is that there was a higher chance someone I knew was going to be at that mall then at any of the locations of any of the shootings that have happened in the United States recently. To my knowledge no one I knew was there; but I haven't heard much from Nairobi on Facebook. Has the government locked down on Internet usage?

I'm glad it didn't happen at the mall I've been to in Nairobi because I didn't want to have too clear of a picture in my mind of people running through the food court and Nakumatt store; images of those places have jumped to the forefront of my mind in the last twenty-four hours.

When you go into malls in Nairobi, Hyderabad, Bangkok, Singapore, there are security guards and metal detectors. But there's also sort of a vacant stare in the eyes of the security guards. The metal detectors offer a false sense of security. And they can't stop a hand grenade that gets thrown before the bad guys even enter the mall.

Sunny at Fabling said some of the things I've been trying to articulate today. Malls are the safe havens for expats overseas. It's where you may find the most Starbucks-like cup of coffee and Western fashions. It's where you'll see an English-language movie. It's where you'll bump into just about everyone you know on a Sunday afternoon. In the summer it's where you go to escape the heat. In Hyderabad, since the parks were closed during the day, the mall was where I took a Muffin who was just learning to walk so she could wander around; I took her as soon as it opened in the morning before there were too many people and she ran up and down the halls freely. As much as I avoid malls when I'm in the United States, overseas they are the place to be when you feel a little homesick.

I mentioned to Mike yesterday that I'm ready to head back overseas. Life is almost too easy in the United States, not counting the tragedies that have happened here recently and in other parts of the world. I'm trying to relax and enjoy the conveniences of American life. But there's a void. A void that exploding malls isn't going to cure me of. I've been working on this post on and off for several hours, watching the news from Nairobi worsen by the hour. Nairobi was never a place I wanted to live but I enjoyed visiting there; even the terrible airport started to feel homey after so many layovers there. After several months of nonstop living in Burundi, landing in a country where English is spoken is always refreshing. I still want to get back overseas somewhere.


Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy said...

I'm saddened by the news out of Nairobi. I'm more sad by the lack of attention given it on FB. Why aren't more people outraged like me? I've never been to Nairobi or Kenya for that matter, but I hope to visit someday. Anyhow, great blog post. I found you via the "I Don't Like Mondays" Link up.

Linda Roy said...

So horrible to see so much tragedy unfolding seemingly everywhere. Where to go to escape it? Sadly, nowhere. I'm hoping that none of the people you know were affected by the tragedy in Nairobi. Something needs to be done...but what? The escalation of terrorism which impacts so many innocent lives is devastating. Thank you for sharing your perspective as someone who has lived overseas and experienced life outside the US.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for your comments, Jayhawk Mommy and Linda.

Malebo said...

Hallo Stephanie,

As a Kenyan reading your blog, I wish you were more tactful in expressing your thoughts about our 'terrible' airport and our government, which supposedly could control social-media reaction about the Westgate attack.