A lot of people look at me askew when I say that I live in Kenya, mostly because the Western Media really has made sure that everyone knows that Kenya is Full of Terrorists™.
But, having been someone actually in New York City for 9/11, I learned that really bad things can happen anywhere and there isn’t any predicting or preventing events like this one. They’re horrible, and traumatic, and they don’t get any better if you inflate them and obsess about them.
It riled me so badly to be in the USA right after Westgate and have people ask me if I knew anyone who was impacted (I do) and then somehow imply it was inevitable, because we all live in Kenya.
When there were rumors that the US Embassy was closing preemptively on the two days prior to my return to Nairobi, and I called the State Department for confirmation, I was basically told by a clearly Western-minded (and snarky) employee that there’d been a travel advisory in place for Kenya for several years and that my going back to my job was somehow foolish and dumb.
The funny thing is, any Western concepts of Nairobi, or Kenya, or “the country of Africa,” were blown away by the footage from Westgate because no one expected the mall to be so NICE. And it was, really, the nicest mall in Nairobi, an indication of a thriving economy that is not at all related to any potential terrorism or genocide or whatever else it is that terrifies people about Africa.
I spent Saturday of this past weekend at the Village Market, a mall comparable to Westgate in niceness, and usually JAM PACKED on the weekends. It felt strangely empty, and idle chatter in the hall was full of Westgate snippets. There were many more security guards than normal, and everyone looked nervous and on edge.
I shopped in Tribeca after 9/11, determined not to let tragedy also tank the local businesses there, and similarly, I am glad to have gone and patronized the stores at Village Market last Saturday. Perpetuating terror needlessly, in my mind, is as much a form of terrorism as anything else.
Life in Nairobi was copacetic before the attack. I planted a variety of flowers in my garden, and I sit on the patio in the sunshine, listening to my windchimes, admiring my roses, and writing this blog post.
These complacent, happy moments are the ones that the Western media won’t show. So many people left Kenya in a fear, continuing the terror and confusion. Many new hires at the UN cancelled their appointments.
Many of my friends here in Nairobi were injured, physically and emotionally, by Westgate and the ensuing terror and despair of having our calm Kenyan lives disturbed.
But, like my sad wilting hydrangeas, with the sun and the calm of Kenya, we will recover together.