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Living in Eastlands, Nairobi
Living in Eastlands, Nairobi can be summed up as living on the edge of poverty, crime and insecurity as one survives from one day to the next. It is a life that spreads from slums to upper lower class estates. It is a daily story of the most daring and creative display of matatu driving. It is living in poorly planned houses that are built so fast too accommodate the growing population. It is living is a region of about 1 million Kenyans of the 3.2 million residents in Nairobi. Eastlands living is a combination of the better planned estates of Buruburu, Umoja, Eastleigh, Outering, Doonholm, Fedha, Komarock, Green fields, and Jacaranda, and the unplanned settlements of Dandora, Kayole, Ngomongo, Quarry, Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Lungalunga, Sinai, and Kiambiu. Eastlands is home of the Main Industrial Area of Nairobi and the stories of east land are diverse.
Sites to Eastland
A ride to Eastlands is a sight seeing experience. It starts from Landhies road with the first noticeable sight of Muthurwa Estate. These old single room houses that have lost all the glitter of paint that once defined their beauty, welcome one to Eastlands, Nairobi on one side. On the other side is the newly opened Muthurwa Matatu terminus. It is dusty and characterized by noisy hooting of matatus from the gateway to the east side residential quarters of Nairobi
Amusements of Commuting in and Out of Eastlands
Commuting is achieved through road or rail as one makes his/her way through Bahati, Makadara and Industrial area. The biggest amusement one gets to see is the passing train. What catches the eye isn’t the length of the train, but the commuters hanging dangerously on the doors or sittingg on top of the roof. You can imagine how much energy is expended in making sure one survives one more day as those hanging and on the top of the roof do this to reward themselves with a free ride.
The drama on the Jogoo Road keeps everyone awake and alert. Without defined traffic rules and the need to make money survival for the fittest and bravest is the game of drivers. The most celebrated drivers are those ones that drive matatus headed to Kayole estate. These matatus that belong to ‘forward Travelers’ Sacco group have drivers that are not only imaginative but are fearless and most daring, their passengers many a time breathless in thrillers only experienced in roller coaster theme park rides as they overlap or drive onto oncoming traffic. They have perfected the art of making extra trips in a congested road. It is a common joke with most Jogoo road users that if they want to cross the road and they spot a ‘Forward Travelers’ matatu approaching, even if it is a mile away, they would rather wait for it to come and pass even if it involves waiting for five minutes rather than risk their lives crossing in front of them. No one has ever ben knocked down by these Matatus. Other drivers with extraordinary skill include: No. 58 matatus of Buruburu and No. 9 matatus of Eastleigh.
A resident of Eastlands lives most of their evening hours in traffic and one form of entertainment is the music in a matatu if one does not mind the loud output. Matatus also put up pictures of dragons, tattooed people, hooded skeletons, scantily dressed musicians as form of art entertainment.
Houses and Environment
Once the ride is over, one gets to the estates of Eastlands either in the very poor unplanned slums or the working class estates. Even the working class estates that were built as planned are today becoming unplanned settlements. Umoja and Kayole are characterized by tall residential flats that go from 6th to 8th floor with no lifts, giving the residents of the top floors a daily good workout. The worst part of living in many parts of Eastlands is when it rains and the water mixes with sewage to make a sewage flood. Residents going to work will usually be forced to operate with gum boots or carry a change of shoes once they pass through the roads. Eastlands in general is overcrowded. The smell from this sewage leaves the area with no fresh air. This coupled with the many flats that house a lot of people lead to crowding and overstretching resources like: Sewer system, piped water not supplying everybody and connection of electricity in some house extensions fitted in illegal, dangerous ways.
About 25% of the people in Eastlands are small business owners who establish businesses to serve the other 75%. The most common kind of business that people engage in is that of selling food and clothes which are the primary basic necessities. In this area, one can operate without cooking in his/her house since readily cooked food is available for sale everywhere. The only problem is that in pursuit of business income one can find someone having set up a food business involving cooking chapatis, fries, and beans as well as roasting maize next to a smelly sewage line.
Eastlands and Industrial Area
Eastlands in general serves as the home of the Industrial Area in Nairobi which employs more than 300,000 workers.
Weekend in Eastlands
To forget the stress and pressure of life, there are bars almost at every corner. Illicit brews that are cheap are also a way to pass the weekend for many in the poor sections. Without regulations brewers in these parts will compete to make the drink that will knock out the person fastest. Using chemicals they do not understand has many a time led to people dying.
Insecurity is very high in Eastlands. With a lot of youths jobless and idle and needing a source of income so as to have food, they will resort to mugging and robbing people. Eastlands is notorious for development of hard core criminals in young adults who waste away their lives to crime. When questioned about their lifestyle, they are usually quick to blame the government for failing to provide jobs. Some with degrees say they have decided to put them to better use. It is common knowledge that for one to be a thief, he/she needs to be very intelligent in order to survive. They see rich people as their enemies and believe that if they suffers deprivation, then everybody else should also experience the same deprivation. They make many parts of the Eastlands very insecure after 11.00pm.
Living in Eastlands can be summarized as surviving from one day to the next with no hope of a better Eastlands. It is the story of struggle of living in unplanned settlements, surviving from hand to mouth. A story of hustle to get food that day and pray God will provide for the next day. It is a never ending worry about rent, electricity bills that are ever on the rise, bills at the shop for things taken on credit, matatu fare for the whole month and other worries. It is the story of dreaming one day you shall not drive toward Eastlands but shall be headed toward SouthLands of Nairobi with a goal to eventually get to Westlands before completing the life of living in Nairobi.