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Kawangware on a Tuesday night in 2016

Kawangware on a Tuesday night in 2016


Omorisia Hotel.

Clearly a Kisii name whose meaning I should look for.

The hotel is two roomed. One area the hoggers sit. The other room a kitchen.

I find a round man plumped beside a young woman on the far left as I enter. Her lips smeared with what I see is brownish lipstick. The fluorescent bulb is dim white. The walls malnourished from long hours of enduring steam and smoke.

She’s dark as tar.

He is having ugali and eggs. She is staring blankly at the air, and at him once in a while. Not eating. A black dress on showing shy thighs.

Just across, a well fed mid 20s lady scrolls through her Tecno. She makes a loud call to some man. They flirt. We can hear everything they’re saying. The room is intimate.

I sit on the next table.

“Kuna matumbo?” I ask.

“Imeisha. Nyama tu ndio iko.”

Two women run this place. The one at the counter (situated in the same room as where people are served) and the other is the cook. They both collect money, they both serve. But only one takes the orders.

A man with a tired brown leather jacket comes in. He must have had a long day. He asks for tea – impatiently. He has carried two huge mandazis from outside.

He just wants tea. I notice he’s a regular by how he talks to the waitress.

Even the round man sitting with a lady at a corner is familiar here. They tease him about his company. They’re asking why the lady is not eating.

She looks what Eminem termed in his 2002 rocking hit “Lose Yourself” – “calm and ready on the surface”.

He replies with a chuckle, “Huyu si wa gharama mingi. Siku hizi tunataka wenye si wa gharama.”


Another man gushes in. He stands at the entrance.

“Kuna maziwa?”

“Eeehh” He’s told.



“Nipee nionje”

I laugh inside. In this world people taste food before they buy it? Or this omera just feels entitled.

So strange.

The lady looks at him; half bewildered, half amused. She goes for milk.

The huge guy is done. His company leaves him behind to pay. Then a guy who had come in and sat beside me moments ago blabs,

“Na leo umeweza”, with a boyish grin on his beaming face.

“Mimi ni mtu wa ku-socialize. Sibagui. Naongea na kila mtu.”

He’s smiling.

One of the waitresses asks, “Unampeleka pale juu?” Which I assume is code for “bang her in that dingy lodging”.

He’s quick to refute, “Leo sina maneno mengi.” which I translate as “Today I’m not in the mood.”

The tea man makes the sign of the cross. He mumbles a prayer.

The ladies mock him with soft laughs.

When he finishes he says, “Mtu mpaka uombe. Lazima ushukuru Mungu kwa kila kitu unacho. Hata ukiamka asubuhi, si kupenda kwako. Kabla uanze kula, omba. Siku moja utakula chakula mbaya juu ya tamaa.”


They’re looking for words to get back at him.

I want to crack but nobody knows me here so I can’t laugh carelessly.

I’m getting done with my managu, ugali and beef. The meat was really measured. But it’s organic food. I enjoyed it.

I walk out to wash my hands, but with a washed spirit too. To be among people who are just having a great evening. A normal evening. Talking.

I text Awuor. She must know what my supper felt like.

2041 hrs.

Arsenal play Reading in just over an hour.

I head home humming in that breezy chill.

Kawangware on a Tuesday night in 2016.

Onyango Otieno

Onyango Otieno is a cultural designer ardent in maximizing the power of storytelling for healing and connection. Onyango believes in the potent spirit of humanity collectively creating safe spaces for interaction, development, business and movement, for a more cohesive world.

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