Kenyans are very polite; not just with foreigners, they are very polite among themselves. They are very calm and patient.
So I was going to open a bank account in a famous international bank but the locals told me they were thieves. So they showed me the bank they used and recommended I opened an account there. It was the cheapest they said: I would only pay this much for withdrawal at the bank, this much at the ATM, this much for the card, this much for this….and that…. Well, I told the counselor, in my country I pay nothing for all these services. And he replied “ How do the banks make a living!” Well because of interests and loans, don’t worry about them, I said ! He seemed puzzled. He replied that here, they were safeguarding my money so that’s why I was supposed to pay. Of course! If they put it that way…. This is after all Nairob(er)y so safeguarding should be indeed rewarded!….
I had to fill in an application form where they asked for my postal address. So I wrote down my address but didn’t know the postal code. The very polite counselor asked me many times if this was where I lived and I replied that it was, indeed. Ok but do you have a postal address? –Yes this is my postal address, and this is my email address. I don’t know the postal code, but this is definitely the address. But I’d rather have you not send me the statements at all I’ll manage everything through the internet banking. – Fine she insisted but what is your postal address? Again I indicated my address and repeated that I’d rather use the internet banking. Then she said “I’m afraid that without your postal address I can’t open your account”. She seemed apologetic. “I understand, I said smiling, it’s obvious in my country it’s pretty much the same thing. So I’ll manage everything through the internet but this is where I live”. “ Ok Madam I understand but what about your postal address”. The Kenyans are polite people so I needed to be equally polite. “This is my email address, and this is my postal address, you can send the stuff here, but I will manage everything through internet banking”.
She explained that she had understood that I lived out of town that she knew the place, that she understood that I was going to use the internet banking but still what she wanted was my postal address. Finally I asked her : “ So what’s a postal address?” – A place where we’ll send your mail. I laughed of course so what was the issue??? “ Ok you can send it here, it will reach me! ” I said. Then she said : Are you settled in Kenya? – Yes! I sighed, thinking that would be it! I work for the Army! . “So mm, what’s your address at home then?”. – “ My address in Paris?? Well if you send the mail to Paris while I’m in Kenya I’m sure I won’t be getting it!” I said laughing.
She seemed to be facing an unsolvable issue. She replied that indeed it was a problem, but as I didn’t have a postal address… I agree, I said, so I suggested she sent the mail to the address I had given her. She explained once more that this was my residence address. And I told her that it was indeed and that she should forget about Paris and send the mail there even though I would manage everything by internet banking because soon enough I would have my own connection.
She said she would send it to a post box and I would go and collect if from there. I said it was far too complicated and as I was a whitie we should keep it simple and send it to my home. Then I thought of sending it to the Barracks, and I gave her the address of the Army Barracks….She still didn’t seem happy with that. I thought of having it sent to the Embassy itself, but this would force me to go to town and I definitely didn’t like traffic jams, pollution and robbery….. Then she considered sending it to the Kenyan guy’s postal address which was 120 km away… After a ten minute conversation I finally understood, that in Kenya there was no such thing as a postman delivering the mail at your home. Every day people went to collect their mail to their postbox located somewhere around: this was the postal address; the residence address was what I called a Postal address or ” adresse postale” in French as opposed to the email address.
I said to her laughing: Oh at home the postman drops it at my place. Haven’t you ever seen anything like that?
I have, she said, in the movies!
That’s how I started thinking of myself as of a movie character!