Monday, July 04, 2011


So yesterday I experienced a first. 

For the first time in all my years of traveling I was robbed!

I've been warned a million times about theft in Nairobi (a.k.a. "Nairobbery"), abut the endless string of thugs and tricksters and pickpockets roaming the streets, but apart from a few close calls, I've never fallen victim... until now.

Yesterday I boarded a 24 bus from the Kencom bus station downtown.  I sat next to the window, listening to This American Life and generally just tuning everything out. 

Then, a couple of pretty sketchy guys got on the bus and started looking for seats.  One of them sat next to me.  I was a bit cautious, but the bus was nearly full, so I didn't think much of it.

Once the bus started rolling, the guy sitting next to me "dropped" a few coins.  Like the nice guy I am, I helped to pick them up.  He seemed really concerned that there was another coin somewhere, so he asked to switch me seats.  I begrudgingly accepted.

By this point, I was getting really suspicious... This guy seemed a bit off for some reason.  I held my backpack on my lap and checked and re-checked that all the zippers were secured.

At one point, he said something about a police checkpoint and put on his seat belt.  Knowing that police used to really crack down on passengers not wearing seat belts, I put mine on as well.

A few minutes later, he and his friend got off the bus.  As they were walking to the front, I shook my head wondering what that was all about.  My backpack was totally fine, and there was no way they could have gotten into my pockets... I had jeans on.

Wait.  My pockets!  I felt my pockets and realized that my small local Nokia phone in my left pocket was completely gone.  My right pocket, which once held 100 shillings (about $1) was also empty.


Somehow in the midst of all the shuffling and seat belts and coin dropping, the trickster was able to get into both pockets, take the contents and walk away without me feeling a thing!

I immediately ran to the front of the bus and yelled that my phone had been stolen, but by the time I reached the door, the bus had already moved ahead about a quarter mile.  I jumped off and started running back to where the thieves alighted, but it was clear that they were long gone.

Thankfully, the phone was cheap and I had an almost identical backup in my suitcase that just needed a new battery.  I was even able to get my old number back on my new phone.  Apart from a few lost phone numbers, I'm back to where I was just one day ago.

I guess, apart from a valuable learning experience, I can take consolation in one thing... When the pickpockets finally looked at what they had stolen from the ignorant mzungu (white person), they must have been sorely disappointed.  After taking into account their fare for the bus and a matatu back to town, they made off with a $15 phone and about $0.23 in change. 

I hope it was worth it, jerkwads!  :)