Before, I begin my story. In brief, permit me to describe why I felt motivated to write this story. Over the week, I have been frequent at the immigration office, Nyayo House Nairobi. And if there are places I dislike visiting that should be Immigration offices, Embassies and High Consulates. Whenever, I think of these places, I felt depress not because of the bureaucratic nature but the repetition of the same questions or complain every blessed day. As much as I dislike having engaging myself with these agencies, I still find fun each time I am there. The people I encounter are always having very unique characters. My experience this week at the immigration office (Nyayo House) really presented a perfect example.
Nyayo House represents a very important building in Kenya. The building is quite big. And every week days, it is always very populated. With people either rushing up-and-down due to one immigration matter to the other, I supposed. It is very common to seeing people on long queue around the counters or involve into very serious dialogue with the immigration officers at the counter. Despite all these, it usual to spot some people quietly sited and or devastated standing around one corner in the waiting hall. Nyayo house is a busy palace on its own.
At my little corner on that particular day, as I occupied my own quiet space, and observing almost everything that drew my attention. To some extent, it had seemed to me like a live un-filmed reality show. Not until when some 2 women and a young boy maybe in his early 20s or less got in the office where I was sited. Having sat in that office for roughly 30-45 minutes, with people entering, re-entering and leaving I began to develop the feeling that maybe my long stayed in the office was due to the Nigeria-Cameroon effects. Since, there is this assumption which in most situations it isn’t an assumption per se but a fact that immigration matters or visa applications processes…regarding these two nationals must be extremely scrutinised. Which I think it is a myth. For, if there are a few mischievous Cameroonians/Nigerians, it automatically doesn’t make every Nigerian/Cameroonian the same. Anyway, that was my feeling. And thanks, the superintendent was not mean to me.
So, the 2 women and this young boy got in the office. They were also non-immigrants like me though I couldn’t understand whether they were Somalis or British Arab nationals. Anyway, their nationality wasn’t my concern at that moment. I was more concerned with my own issue. Somehow, following their discussion with the superintendent in charge of permits and visas, I began to develop some interest thought not in their status but in their family linkage. The minute one of the ladies presented the documents to the officer to be cross-checked he asked the lady who presented the documents; ‘when did your mum enter in the country?’ it was at that moment I realised that one of the two ladies is the mother while the other is (maybe) the daughter and then who is the boy; the grandson or the son/brother to the daughter. That was the question I began to ask myself.
All the same, I didn’t stop observing the officer and the lady conversing, with the supposedly mama sited down and very impassive in the discussion between her daughter and the superintendent. Meanwhile, the boy was very attentive and engaged in all the activities. He was neither sitting but standing closed to this woman. The entire scene was very interesting. After the officer had finished cross-checking the documents, he signed on it and asked the woman to go pay the fees and then come back with the receipt for the next document to be signed. The lady left and the boy followed her. Mama was asked to remain and wait for them to come back. And after a couple of minutes, the lady returned, got in the office with the boy step-by-step with her. I tried to figure out what was the reason this boy was going after this woman instead of him putting his ass on one of the seats just like myself and the Ma. Before I could finish thinking about it, the officer loudly asked “woman, you are here for your mum? And this is your mum? Young boy, I don’t think you have any business in this office. Go out and wait for them there”. Wao! That was exactly was I was thinking, officer! How did you know that – speaking to myself?
At this moment, something funny happened and my interest also changed. I became more interested in knowing the role of the boy than his relation in with the women. I started to recall my long-time conversation with some Arabic female friends, and they told me that in their culture when it concerns monetary transactions, a man handles, even if it means to give a 2 year-old child the money and let that child accompanies the woman and be the one to pay the money wherever it is supposed to pay. So, as he asked the boy to leave, things started to become very clear why he was so active at all stages. Before the boy left, I saw him extended his left hand to the woman and gave the woman the money he held in his hand. ooops! I said to myself, things are getting more and more interesting. I felt unstable on my seat with my mouth so itching to speak, or ask questions. Then I realized that the space where I was sitting was no ground for discussion. The only conversation which I believed was welcome is surely when the officer asked you a question. I couldn’t even have the guts to generate a gossip or laughing-chat with anybody. Somehow, it was at that moment my passport was brought to the superintendent to be stamped. After he did it, he turned to me and said – “I am done with you, you are free to go”.
Out of the office, I couldn’t stop thinking about the show between the boy and the woman. Immediately, an idea came to mind that it would be nice if I waited for the ladies to come out of the superintendent’s office so I can ask them if truly my thought about this culture is wrong. Still thinking whether to wait and ask these women or not, I spotted the ladies coming out of the office. Quickly, I approached them and politely begged for a minute of their time. I told them my intention and why I was eager to know if what my thinking were is true. Without any agitation, the daughter in a very tender way responded, as we walked down the stairs leading outside to the main road—‘oh no no no…you see, our dresses don’t have pockets so we asked him to hold the money for us’. Her one sentence statement was very rich and a call for more questions but I could not. However, I thanked them for their time and also told them that I would have loved to ask another question but due to our circumstance, I couldn’t, I do hope we meet next time. May be we will be chance to continue our conversation from where we ended.
Honestly, the reason I didn’t go ahead to ask as many questions was because I felt my questions may be very sensitive. And I don’t think that was the right moment to talk about it. After all, what I wanted to know was the boy giving money and that they responded. Any other question is just a supplement.
Therefore I pose the question- “A Reality or Myth: Monetary Transaction a Male Responsibility in most Arab Societies”