Of Pancakes, Bunnies and Returnees

How do you fuck up pancakes? That is what is what my boy shouted to their house help after she made pancakes in a way he did not like. The poor house help was mortified while my boy’s brothers could not get what their brother was fussing about.

My boy – B – was born and brought up in the hood. He studied Hotel Management at Kenya Poly and briefly worked at a hotel in Mombasa. Unsatisfied with this job, he quit and started selling second-hand ladies clothes. He would go to Gikomba at the break of dawn, get ‘camera’, and then move from office to office satisfying his clientele’s needs. B was a dandy who also spent most of his evenings at the estate make-shift gym lifting stones to get that six-pack and broad shoulders. Unsure if these were geared to aid his business.

Back then, going to America was the fad. The fabled land of milk and honey and unending dollars was the place to go. After several trials at the unforgiving American embassy in Nairobi, B finally got the much sought after student visa.

Nine years later, B has done what needs to be done and he is the proud holder of an American passport. He can come ‘home’ as often as he pleases and the pancake incident was during his latest visit.

America has happened to B. Apart from demanding pancakes be done in an American way, he also complains of the dust  of Nairobi, talks of Kenya having a smell that he cannot quite figure out what it is and thinks the estate that he lived in contently for twenty three years before moving to America is a slum.

His American accent is pronounced and Kenyan food does not taste as great so take away is what he survives on. His impatience and brashness so normal to Americans is alien to most Kenyans who thus look at him in awe or disgust. His demands of excellence and constant measuring everything to America are vexing to say the least.

B got me thinking about Kenyans in the Diaspora and those who return to Kenya or at least visit. They are the subject of this post. Those who went and got swallowed by the West will be the subject of another blog post.

Bunnies (those who visit either in May – Aug (Summer) – or in December (Winter) briefly) and Returnees (those who have relocated back home permanently) are interesting.

The Bunnies show up into town with their accents and dollars and work at causing a stir. They are loud, flashy spenders out to prove a point. Never mind that they have to hold down three jobs in the States to save the money they blow in less than a month. Kenyan women love them and flings with the bunnies are the norm.

Given the global financial meltdown a reverse migration is happening. Guys are flocking back to Kenya after spending over a decade in the West. These are the returnees. The Returnees are slightly different from the Bunnies.

There is the focussed returnee who had gotten a job before relocating and settles back really fast. Using their made-in-America perspective and confidence they are quick to spot opportunities in Kenya and exploit them. The unfocussed returnee acts like a bunny for a while and as long as they got money, they are assured a passé of hangers on who disappear immediately the money runs out. This returnee then has to adapt to an entirely new environment of real Kenya and I have seeing some descend into alcoholism and depression.

It is the norm to look at these guys as Kenyan in or from the Diaspora and most of the time be perplexed or be put off by their behaviour and mannerisms. However I wonder if as a country we are not looking at this issue the wrong way.

Yes, they can be maddeningly irritating but how about we take the best from them? They have lived and worked in first world countries and thus have a different perspectives and expectations. Can we tap into this?

Imagine if all Kenyans boldly demanded excellent service from everyone instead of meekly accepting crap then complaining? Imagine if Kenyans did not settle for less in matters governance? Imagine if they shared the best practices from the West and Kenya adopted them? Would we not accelerate achievement of Vision 2030?

At the very least we would at least learn how to make ‘American’ pancakes :)!

This is just me thinking aloud.





2 responses to “Of Pancakes, Bunnies and Returnees

  • Shiroh

    I had hosted one of those in my house and i almost got chocked by their complaints. Things that we are used to like dirt were a constant irritation. that said i no longer keep in touch with them.

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