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January 23, 2019

Is This Racism Or Are We Kenyans Plain Stupid?

VIBRANT: A professional shot of birds inside the setting sun.
VIBRANT: A professional shot of birds inside the setting sun.

Over time, I have come to envy the working systems of the people coming from the Far East. These are mainly the Japanese. I have had a working relationship with some of them for a long time. One of my Japanese business partners has been here for more than 25 years.

In the beginning, when she used to give contracts to the company that I was working for, my boss used to request the transport department to put me on the file of the Japanese woman.

I would silently curse the day I joined the company, but I had very little to do to change the feelings of the boss. Bosses are always right, or so they say. I was never happy working for this lady. She had a habit of shouting at the drivers and the guides as well.

But the worst that came from the Japanese woman, was when she commented that we were just stupid Kenyans who are always dependent on outsiders to decide for us what we should do in relation to our own problems, or problems we happily help to develop.

I hated her with passion when she mentioned that. I Considered myself learned enough to perform my duties without supervision. But that was not the case as far as she was concerned. I still had to be supervised, because I was still a stupid African Kenyan, like all the others.

But I went ahead and performed all her requests as she wanted them. When there was difficulty in discharging her requests, I made her know the challenges I was facing, and recommended changes that would make her clients happier and make my work easier.

Although most of the times she would reject my proposals just because they were not fronted by another Japanese or herself, there were those rare occasions that she accepted my advice and changed either the itinerary, or the hotel which her clients were to use.

With a lot of difficulties and tribulations, we have worked together with the Japanese woman. She sources the clients, identifies their needs and lets me identify the hotels or lodges the clients are most likely to benefit from, depending on their interests.

Most of them are retired senior citizens who took up photography as a hobby to while away their sunset years, while others are serious commercial photographers who are normally accompanied by their teachers.

Because of my not-overly-combative nature, I have been able to withstand such negative racial comments, and survived her abuses for more than 20 years. Not because I became immune to the insults.

But because it began to dawn on me that the Japanese woman was not out of line in accusing us of being lazy and dependent as a people. Although she was harsh in the way she said it, the inference was not way out of order.

As much as I am patriotic, I cannot but agree with her that the majority of us, right from the children we expect to take the mantle of leadership in the near future, to the Uhuru generation, few can claim to be completely independent in thought and actions, as our grandparents were.

Through this lady, I have met the richest and most famous Japanese wildlife photographers. When they come to the country, the first thing one will notice is the fact that they are extremely passionate with their work.

They treat their equipment with so much care that they will not allow the lodge porters to touch their luggage. While the locals and some foreign tourists shout and get very upset when the porters are not around to carry the luggage, the Japanese are happy dragging their suitcases to the reception to be allocated their rooms.

When they start preparing for the game drives, they begin by cleaning their tools of trade carefully and comparing their camera settings. At that point, one is hard put to distinguish between the leaders and the general clients.

They all work together and help each other regardless of their status in life. The best among the group will chose the worst spot to sit while giving up the best places to the novices.

While some of our local tourists are shouting at the top of their voices to sermon the manager because the food was cold, or the porter did not pick their bags, or the wakeup call was not respected and the driver did not tell them what they were supposed to do, the Japanese had their own alarms, carried their luggage, knew their itinerary, way from home, and did what they had to do, with gusto. I now reluctantly agree with my Japanese contact. Most times, we are just simply, stupid Kenyans.

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