Dear Expressway Contractor,

I hope you are well. I am writing this letter to you in reminiscence of an experience I had 2 months ago, back when it was still raining. On that particular day, I was walking in town on my way to State House Road, but, of course, not to State House itself. Besides, what reason would I have to visit a residence whose owner is never around?

Once I got to the University Way roundabout at the junction with Uhuru Highway, just past the KEMU Towers’ entrance, I immediately found myself between Scylla & Charybdis. You see, while constructing the expressway above, you ended up ruining the walkways below, leaving them in a mess. That, I’m sure you’re aware of, since it’s a normal occurrence in almost all construction works. Well, last time I checked, Ksh 9 billion had been allocated for the repair of the road below, though nothing has seemingly happened since then. Since it had just rained, the place had become so muddy. Very muddy, that, as a Bukusu, I’d be forgiven to think of this being the exact spot where our Almighty Lord Were Khakaba created Mwambu & Sela, the first Bukusu man and woman, and then breathed life into their nostrils.

Even though I was just going to State House Road, but not to State House itself, I had to get there while both alive and clean. However, presented to me here was an ‘either-or’ situation. I had to choose either of these two options in order to pass this level:

i. Walk on the road and risk the cars and nduthis hitting me from the back.

ii. Walk through the muddy area and risk falling.

Well, it is in moments like this that I usually thank my mom for signing me up to ballet classes when I was a kid. There, we learnt how to balance on a single foot, and not only that, but also to balance on a single toe of that single foot, and if that’s not enough, we even learnt how to balance on one corner of the nail of the single toe of that single foot. Therefore, I applied my ballet skills and balanced, alternating between my left and my right foot, till I got to the end of the muddy area without falling, even when the winds of change tried to blow against me. All along, Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet composition, The Nutcracker Op. 71, Act II: No 13, “Waltz of the Flowers,” was playing in my head, and I even pictured myself back at the Braeburn Auditorium. What a way to re-ignite my childhood memories.

Such privileges as this, I believe, are what make the urban middle-class – sorry, the middle-income-earners become the subject of hate from members of other classes. Simply because not everyone had the ability to pay for their kids’ ballet and salsa dance classes, and now, faced with adversity, we’re the only ones having an easy time. To those who were stuck at that muddy area, then, I directed them to visit Nairobi Sports House where they could buy swimming flippers and use them while crossing that muddy area, as ducks use their webbed feet. Trust me, it worked.

As if to make the situation more poetic, right above the muddy spot was a billboard advertisement by Fly Emirates, with the tagline, ‘Fly better to the wonders of Dubai’ and with an image of a couple walking barefoot in the sandy beach, smiling. I mean, if you had partnered with Fly Emirates to make us go to Dubai by force, then you shouldn’t have had to chase us this way. We have enough reasons to leave the country, only that the Immigration Department at Nyayo House has delayed in processing our passports. Once that is done, we’ll all happily fly out to each of those countries where the President had successfully managed to negotiate 250,000 jobs for us.

I am also reminded about another day when my friend Zawadi and I had gone to Panari Hotel along Mombasa Road for an ice-skating activity; another middle-income-earners activity, you might say. After having a good time for an hour in the cold area, we finally left the premises and were ready to get home. In case you have no bearings about the exact position of Panari Hotel, then may I inform you that it’s on the left side of the road as you’re headed to Mombasa. Seeing that we intended to head back to the Nairobi CBD, we had to find a way to cross to the other side. Between us and the other side were 8 lanes.

In an ordinary circumstance, Zawadi and I, like any other fellow Nairobian who has been disengaged by the poor infrastructure in the city, would run across the road to the other side. Isn’t that what people do on Outering Road at Mutindwa market, despite there being a footbridge? Or even at the Pangani interchange on Thika Road (just outside the Jubilee House HQ), despite there being a footbridge too? Whoever said “Rules are meant to be broken” must have been a Nairobian, because, looking around, that clearly is the modus operandi of the city.

You, however, must be a visitor to the city. Because you don’t seem to believe in our way of life, and instead, want to change our culture. Why do I say so? Simply because you installed a wire mesh on both sides of the expressway. So now, Zawadi and I, as well as other law-bye-bye-ing citizens, cannot run across the road to get to the other side.

In that case, therefore, we tried to look as far as possible on both directions for any sign of a footbridge, but we couldn’t get any. It was then that we recalled that you were brought here on a mission to help the Upper-Class, not us middle-income-earners, to move around the city with ease. Therefore, if anything, there could only be flyovers for cars. The two closest ones that we could think of were at Cabanas and at Ole Sereni.

Ole Sereni, being the nearest, thence became our destination. Under the toiling sun, we started The Great Trek from Panari Hotel, all the way to Airtel, where we would then cross the flyover as if we’re joining the Southern Bypass. Being regular hikers, we are only used to walking in the wild, so this trek on the tarmac proved to be a challenge to us. If you can recall the Southern-Bypass flyover well, the entrance/exits form a perfect clover-leaf, hence we had to follow it as if we were also cars. After half an hour, gladly, we got to Nextgen Mall where we were to board a matatu to town.

Just then, our fitness health trackers started beeping to notify us that we had clocked the day’s step targets. Wow. Whoever said, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” didn’t lie because, despite grumbling about having to walk for 5 km just so that we can cross the road, we ended up burning a lot of calories; a problem I believe you know faces us middle-income-earners.

In my extensive survey of the expressway, I noticed that you only maintained four footbridges; the one at General Motors, the one at Bellevue the one at Nyayo Stadium and the one at Westlands. I fail to understand why you don’t care about the fitness of the people in those areas, as much as you do ours, so I would encourage you to take them down. The one at General Motors could be preserved, since it once had a huge spherical ball that made it an engineering artefact. As for the rest, they should be demolished since they desecrate the beautiful expressway you bequeathed us. Let Nairobi be a walking nation. Otherwise, didn’t we walk all the way to the polling station to elect our God-chosen leaders?

Speaking of our God-chosen leaders, I saw that you also installed noise-proof glass panels on the expressway just next to parliament, in order to shield them from noise from vehicles passing by, but most importantly, to shield them from any possible security attacks. That was commendable. For anyone who might say that you are biased towards the politicians and not to citizens, please remind them that, also just outside Parliament, you erected the expressway pillars smack right in the middle of the pavement. Therefore, idle pedestrians, who would otherwise pose a security risk to the users of the road below, can no longer walk on the side of the road, saving motorists from any threats.

As I finish off my letter, I’d encourage you to fret not, for I, together with my fellow ballet classmates and hikers, are having fun finding our way around the expressway with the slightest summoning of inner strength. May God bless you with more construction tenders.

I’ll leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us…”
(Shylock, Act 3 Scene 1)


Yours Truly,
Ballerina Keith Ang’ana








Photo by Joseph Ndungu on Unsplash