Informal Economy

One of the things I miss most about Nairobi, is its entrepreneurial character that drives people to sell all manner of products and offer a wide range of services, on just about any street of the sprawling city. I could, for instance, get anything I wanted to buy, virtually outside my doorstep, unlike in this formal town that is Stellenbosch, where businesses are still rigidly confined to designated areas such as shops and malls and supermarkets.

I was reminded of this stack contrast between the two towns the other day, when one of my slippers got cut, rendering the entire pair unwearable. If I was in Nairobi, I would have hastened towards a corner just outside my block, where a cobbler* sits and appears to always be very busy, and yet he never repairs anything on time. A customer of my disposition will not be angered by this, but some other more irascible ones, are wont to complain bitterly at the poor customer service, going as far as to threaten the sagacious looking cobbler, that they will take their money elsewhere.

So now as I look at my slippers, which are not just any slippers but white ones with a Brazilian flag, I become very sad indeed and miss my home, Nairobi; where nothing works correctly but everything organically moves and adjusts to fit into a wonderful web of beautiful chaos. I was born and bred in Nairobi, and you my faithful reader, can draw a lot of similarity between my life and my town, if you had the patience to read a good number of my articles contained herein.

 (*For those of you not from Nairobi, a cobbler is a middle-aged man, sitting preferably on a low stool, surrounded by a multitude of very old shoes, all necessarily one side of a pair. This cobbler, always has with him, a magnificent amount of implements accomodated within a decrepit wooden toolbox.  Among his plethora of requirements, is of course glue, which when business is low, he sells to street urchins, who sniff it to keep themselves in sync with the madness that is Nairobi).

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