Tuesday, December 09, 2008

how to avoid getting robbed in nairobbery

i have been building up ample experience in avoiding getting robbed. i have had people attempt to rob me at least 7 times here in kenya, and not once have they succeeded. i learned alot of tricks during my time in eastern europe as they are total experts in pickpocketing and bag stealing. little did the street teams of eldoret and nairobi know that i am already on to them...

so i will share how not to get robbed in nairobbery...

do not walk around with your backpack on your back, admiring the skyline of nairobi (or the garbage dumps of eldoret), blissfully thinking about the fact that you are visiting or living in africa. wearing your "back"pack on your back is an invitation to have it sliced open with a razor blade and all the contents emptied while you are composing the next blog entry in your head. you must sling the bag on your side or even wear it on the front. i did that in eldoret and looked pretty stupid but i kept all my money and my phone.

do not be a polite canadian (or "westerner") and apologize when someone bumps into you on the street. you have just apologized to the person who was trying to rob you. i learned this trick in budapest. people "bump" you and your bag and while you are catching your balance they have emptied your bag. this happened to me 6 times on the streets of eldoret. they usually work in teams. one guy bumped my "back"pack (which was on my hip) on a fairly empty street. i whipped around to check the source and a guy quickly walked by holding a briefcase on his chest. i don't know about you, but generally businessmen do not hold their briefcase across their chest. i checked my bag, it was intact and started walking again. bumped again! and a second guy with a briefcase rapidly walking by. a little suspicious... this time, he had unzipped the outer pocket and had evidently gotten his hand in my bag, but all he found was an umbrella and a piece of paper. if they are not concealing their hands with a briefcase, they often have one arm out of the sleeve of their jacket and quickly conceal whatever they have stolen under their jacket when they are done. a rather scruffy looking guy in eldoret tried that on me. "bumped" me, then was surprised to see me whip around to look at him. he tried to non-chalantly walk across the street while i eyed him. he looked a little embarrassed to be caught by the white girl.

do not pack your wallet in an outside pocket of your bag or have it somewhere easily accessible. stick it deep down or sandwich it between other things. it is harder to get at if they are slicing the side of your bag.

do not wear those neck pouches that all the travel stores sell. one, they look dumb. even if they are under your shirt. the big bulky rectangle between your boobs is not exactly incognito. having a strap around your neck is also a little stupid. cause they can choke you with it, or as they are slicing the string, accidentally slice your neck. and i don't think mec or rei offers medical insurance with those pouches.

don't walk around with your lonely planet book out or unfold maps while walking down a street. is that explanation enough? if you need directions, ask one of the guards outside of a bank.

don't shout to your friend that you are going to run to the barclays atm. also watch who is around you as you walk up, keep your peripheral view open while withdrawing money, and don't help people who claim that their card "doesn't seem to be working." Scan the area as you walk away, and walk with purpose. Seems excessive, but do you want to part with the $150 you just took out?

do not allow the boys or men selling plastic bags on the street or near a market to distract you with conversation or even try to sell you a bag. if you want a bag, go and purposely pick someone out and have your 10 shillings ready. one guy waved a plastic bag in my face with one hand while he thought he was stealthily taking the phone out of my pocket with the other. i felt him take it and whipped around and shouted that he give it back. i was fortunate that it was not busy and the street wasn't crowded. he didn't have a chance to pass it off to another bag boy friend. he was so startled by the finger in his face and the crazy white chick demanding her phone back that he actually gave it back!

don't have your phone in a jacket pocket. i learned the hard way. keep it in your bag.

be aware on matatus. if people start changing seats in the middle of the ride and cause "commotions" inside the vehicle, they are busy stealing your phone. last week a guy with an "injured" knee asked my friend to move. when she refused he magically got in the very back with his "injured" knee. he and his friend started switching seats beside me before we even left. his friend had a big piece of posterboard in a plastic bag and tried to act like it was a rare art print that could not be bent. he was trying to hold it between me and my bag so that he could insert his hand into my bag while i politely allowed him to protect his art. unfortunately for him, i didn't care what was in his big bag and shoved it back onto his lap. they were kicked off the matatu within about a minute and everyone checked that they had their phones.

the other matatu tricks are your neighbour pretending to try to access his seat belt or offering to help you find yours. NO ONE in nairobi wears their seatbelt in a matatu or even tries to find it. an expat learned that last week but lost $150 out of his pocket in the process.
try not to open your bag if you are sitting next to an open window, especially in the back seats. a guy stole my friends phone right out her bag and took off running. she was stuck in the back of the matatu and helplessly watched him run off with her phone.

don't yell "thief" at someone unless you are willing to watch them get beaten to death in front of you by mob justice. i have witnessed it once and it was traumatizing enough that i never want to see it again. (i was not the once who yelled thief thank God)

and that, my friends, is some sage advice on how not to get robbed in nairobbery.


Anonymous said...

Hi...thanks for the sage advice.I had no idea!I'll apply your advice while doing Christmas shopping in Calgarobbery.I think you've made me a little paranoid!
I'll keep you posted..even if I get arrested for acting suspicious.LOL Pat

Beverly said...

wow! I think I'd be picked clean if I went there.

Programmer by choice said...

Haha welcome to Kenya.Thats our life every single day..I hope it changes for the better but with the unemployment rate and bad economy..things are bound to be a little crazy in the city of Robbery,Nairobi.

That aside Kenyans are warm people, so u welcome to visit anytime