Being African / Kenya


Part 2: Re-learning the value of Money

You never realize how easy it is to spend money you don’t understand until you’re a young student in their first college semester abroad.  When you’re at home you always hear of the dollar, pound, euros and they seem so foreign and sound too far away to wrap your head around. So when you receive maybe $300 (dollars) as pocket money to help cushion your expenses till you get a decent job on-campus it feels like you have become an instant millionaire. Why? Because at the back of our minds the internal calculator is multiplying the average exchange rate with the amount you have and putting it in context with the Kenyan economy.

Which is a grave mistake.

So here you are thinking you have almost 25K ,you think you’re balling pretty hard, you’re 18-19 years and the most you’ve held in your hand 5K. You’ve never seen so much money in your young life that you can now spend it anyway you would like and still have some left over for matumizi.


So you land at the airport and while you’re still waiting for your connecting flight you decide that you need a bottle of water and maybe a newspaper to keep you company at the airport. You shell out about $5. In your mind umeshacalculate and lamenting about how you’ve just spent 400 KES on gazeti and maji ya kunywa; where it would only be less than 100 KES. But what can you do? By the way chewing gum is at least $2 a pack, almost 150 KES. Many times during this period I almost went without because I felt like I was “overspending”…


I get so embarrassed when I think about how my mind worked those days.

I know..Naivete is a cruel mistress. So there you are with all this money and no idea how money is valued in this totally different part of the world. So you always calculate..ok ” hiyo nyanya moja ni $ 0.89 so if I buy 2 it will be $1.78 so that when you convert means  spent almost 200 bob on two tomatoes (!!!) and so on and so on…

Until you come to the realization that you will never buy anything ever, or you will squander all your money in 1 week if you continue with that line of thinking. Sometimes you are lucky enough to realize that the value of money is tied to the country that uses it most and hopefully you can use it wisely before you find yourself with cobwebs in your pocket.

Or that you have become an accidental miser because you will never find clothes or items as “cheap” as how you will find them in Nairobi. 


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