I’m on a two week treat at Lamu Island,courtesy of one of my generous clients.
When I’m the one footing the hotel accommodation bill,I’m normally very fussy about the mini bar in th the hotel room.
Picture this,dear friends;
You check into a hotel for a short
If you are checking into a
Grand hotel like the ‘Nyumba Gereza’ guesthouse wonderfully situated in the center of Lamu Town, just behind the
market (incredible place!), a pleasant porter called Yusuf or Hussein, will grab your bags and lead you to your room while asking where you are from, (Malawi, you respond without blinking), and if it’s your first time in Lamu and he will tell you how to differentiate between a Lamu door inspired by the Arabs and
one inspired by Indians. (One is square
the other is dome-shaped….now you
He will slip a key attached to a wooden
holder into your lock and step aside for
you to walk in first (just in case there is a
Then he will place your luggage on a low side table and show you around: This lights come on from this switch.
(I can never find what switch
lights what bulb normally, by the way).
This is an AC just in case it gets too hot,
just press this red button to switch it off
This is the bathroom and amenities. (Oh brilliant, what’s the hotel’s policy on standing on toilet seat?); and that is your hairdryer if…wait,I don’t think you will be needing that Mister. Yusuf, stop!
He will continue: Here we have a bowl of
fruits courtesy of the hotel: (Are the
fruits real or plastic?).
This is the mini bar, you can have your soft drinks and alcohol from it, and this here is the price-list of the items. (Note to self: Do.Not.Touch. Minibar.)
Me: Do you mind removing the minibar
from the room, please?
Porter: Excuse me?
Me: Yes, like remove it, take it away.
Porter: You mean like the whole fridge?
Me: Yes, like the whole fridge.
Porter: I’m sorry, but we can’t.
Me: Why, is it too heavy? It’s only a mini-
fridge, I can help you carry it out if your
back is bad.
Porter: Haha. My back is fine. It’s not the weight, it’s just that we are not allowed.
Me: By who, hoteliers association?
Porter: Hehe. No, it’s… why don’t you want the mini-fridge in your room?
Me: Because I will be tempted to drink all the wine and Vodka in there.
No I’m serious. I will wake up at 2-am
and feel miserable and drink
everything.Don’t give me those eyes…
you know that feeling; when you wake
up in panic and all you want to do is sit
in front of the mini-bar in your
underwear and drink all the booze in
those small pretty bottles?
Porter: (with a self-concious supercilious laugh)Haha. No, Mister. That has never
happened to me.
Me: Not even once?!
Porter: No. I’m sorry.
Me: Oh, don’t be. I just thought we had a
Porter: Haha. Look, I don’t know, maybe I can remove all the drinks in there instead?
Me: Then you take them where? To
someone’s minibar and increase his
Me: No, the store….maybe. I don’t know. I
will ask housekeeping.
Me: Um, Look, on second thoughts, don’t
bother, leave the drinks there I need to
practice some self control. Do you have
Porter: A key?
Me: To the mini-bar!
Porter: Oh, no. Sorry, the minibars don’t come with keys.
Me: That’s odd, don’t you think?
Porter: That minibars don’t come with keys?
Me: No, that elephants can’t hiccup, yes, that minibars don’t have keys.
Porter: Uhm, yes, it’s…it’s a bit odd, yes. (Odd look).
Me: Next time you go shopping for a mini
bar please get one with a key.
Porter: Uhm, why, sir?
Me: So that you can lock all the drinks and all of my temptations in there.
Porter: (Offers a very concerned look) Certainly Mister.
Me: Did I tell you I’m SDA?
Porter: No. No. I don’t remember you
mentioning that part. So you don’t eat
Me: Why not?
Porter: Because SDAs don’t eat meat.
Me: Oh, I eat meat all right. I’m not that kind of SDA. I’m the kind of SDA that gets
tempted by the minibar.
Porter: Anyway, Uhm, so here is our safe. You can keep all your valuables here.
Now, I have a thing about safes.
I have always wondered about this safe
biashara by the way. I have used the
hotel safe about zero times in all my
travels. Who uses the safe? Are there
guys who travel with shitloads of cash,
like 2 meter – and stuff it in the safe
because where they come from they
haven’t heard of VIsa?
Or those very old wealthy women
from some unknown oligarchy in
Eastern Europe who come with
expensive jewellery which they place
there as one just doesn’t wear expensive
baubles while one snorkels.
Or maybe you travelled with your title deed for that newly bought plot in Kitengela. You figured you have worked so hard to buy that plot of land
the title deed deserves a holiday too, so
you bring it to Lamu and as you sip your
cognac with ice (horror!), you get it out
of the safe and you stare at it as you sit
on your balcony because it makes life so
much better. (By the way I predict that
should the madness on social media
hold for much longer, people will start
Instagramming their title deeds very
The lovely porter,Yussuf, is saying: And this complimentary bottle of wine is from
the manager to welcome you to our fine
You pick the bottle of wine and weigh it in your hands and pretend to read the label, nodding appreciatively.
You know nothing about wine
but you pretend to know by taking ages
reading the label as he looks outside at
the sea and thinks how he will not miss
this part of his job when he retires.
Talking of wine, don’t you hate those
people who take 20 hours reading the
label when the waiter brings a bottle of
wine swathed in a white napkin at
The poor waiter stands there holding the bottle tilted with one hand behind his back as they nod and then comes the pretentious question to try and prove how much they know about wine: So was this a late harvest? Like you
lived in France for 12-years.
You reluctantly place your complimentary wine back on the table as the the porter says, Breakfast is from 7.30am to 10.30am, dinner is from 7.30pm to 10pm, please enjoy your stay with us, Mister and don’t hesitate to call us in case you need any assistance.
Caution!; Dear Nairobian middle-class, the decent thing to do at this point is to tip the guy. Give him 500 bob, I’m sure it
won’t create a crater in your budget. And
it will mean a lot to him.
After he is gone, you will remove your
shirt and pants and pick the envelope
with the letter from the manager and
you will instantly know the lazy hotels
from the real deals.
Lazy hotels will always address you as, “Dear Guest” and then print out this template letter that they have used since the hotel opened.
The real hotels who actually care about
you will take time off their very busy
schedules to write your full names and
even have the manager sign the letter at
the bottom using a pen. Nyumba Gereza Guest house always writes my name.
Then the manager will sign it at the bottom in ink, and basically what that says is that this guy sat down and signed a few dozen of those letters because it matters to the hotel, because it’s important!
The details are indeed where the devil lives.
Read that letter. It introduces you to the
It tells you what you might want to do if you are at a beach or a bush property.
The letter might say, Dear Sir, after dark please don’t leave your room to go to the restaurant without an escort because there are buffaloes roaming around .
If you don’t read the darned letter you won’t know about the buffaloes and when you leave your room after dark and you pass by a thicket and hear something cough and you assume it’s a Maasai and you tell it, “ero, sasa?” and the buffalo takes offense for being mistaken for Maasai and it charges, you will wish you read the letter. So read the damn letter, it’s like 200 words maximum,after all.
After reading the letter you will walk to
your balcony in your underwear and
look out at sea. (I love beach properties,
safaris are too ‘mzungu'(Snobbish) for me.)
There, you will think of something deep and unworldly which might unlock a nirvana of sorts.
You will go back in, pass by the mini-fridge without making eye contact,
and grab a bottle of water which you will
open and take to your chair, back on the
balcony, and watch saggy tourists amble
by the beach, followed by dark ribbed
chaps with darker nipples trying to sell
them beads or a glass-boat excursion
(oh wow, look, I can see the corals!) or
sex or maybe if they’re lucky, weed.
It’s a capitalist economy, whatever he is
selling someone will buy.
You will open your book and read or if you have some female company, you will stare at her lovely thighs and pretend you aren’t in a real hurry to get her to bed.
You must attempt to be a gentleman.
I don’t even know why I wrote that
whole lengthy introduction to this post.
Hotel room boredom,I suppose.
But here is what I wanted to say in the first place.
When you visit a hotel you spend time in
two places, the restaurant and the
swimming pool…wait, by the way, I think
us, Nairobians, have the worst
swimming shorts in Eastern and Central
Have you seen the dreadful fabric
comedy by the swimming pools when
you go on holiday?
The level of chitzy swimwear men rock up with by the pool?
I can write 5,000 words on Kenyan
men’s choice of swimwear. (note to self)
I can understand why you would wear a
swim trunk with a cartoon on it, or of
swan or geese (what’s the difference?) or
a picture of Mount Kenya, I really can,
but I can’t understand why anyone
would wear swimming shorts that go
past their knees!
Or those chaps who wear swimming shorts with side-pockets;
what are you carrying in there, your
laminated driver’s licence?
However, I think it’s the fault of the
women in their lives.
Yes. You can’t lie there in a your hot two-piece while your man frolics in the baby pool with these ghastly shorts, scaring those poor kids and ruining them for life.
It turns out that normally it’s these chaps who can’t swim; grown ass men in their late 30’s, elbowing kids in the baby pool with their Alibaba And The Forty Thieves shorts!
Men who have floaters attached to their
arms, coughing in the pool! Come on,
guy, get out of that pool…and then get
out of them shorts!
Where was I? Yeah, so in your time at a
hotel, in all these places and during the
time you interact with the waiters and
waitresses and the barmen and the front
desk guys and the porters and the towel
guys and the people selling shit in the
curio shops, you practically talk to
But have you noticed that nobody ever
talks to the guy who cleans the pool?
Has anyone ever wondered how the pool
guy feels about that?
You see him late in the evening after 6pm, putting up the “pool closed” board (as he patiently waits for the grown men who can’t swim to come out of the shallow end) and he soundlessly pours his chemicals into the pool and stands there until dusk.
The next morning, if you wake up really early to book a pool-bed, you will spot a
shadowy figure, using that long-ass
squeegee to clean the floor of the pool,
and that machine to suck the dirt and
the net to get the leaves floating on the
But you won’t see this because you will still be sleeping and by the time you finish with your breakfast and slip into your Geese-shorts, he will be gone,
maybe taking on the different task of
pruning the flower gardens.
You will spend five days in a resort and you will never say hello to this guy.
Nobody tips him.
Nobody knows his name.
He’s a shadow.
Next time you are on holiday, walk up to
a pool guy and ask them their name.
Then watch how they beam when you
ask them about their work; How does
this pump work? How long have you
been doing this? Oh you were a
gardener before here? Do you enjoy it?
Do you have kids, Abdalla? That’s a cool
name. How do you Muslims name you
kids? I have a boy too. Does yours climb
everything? Has he hit his head so loudly
you heard it through a closed door? No?
Then your boy is a girl. Hahaha.
Spend five minutes with him. He will
never forget you because people love
talking about what they do and who they
If he sees you the next day he will
say hello with a big smile like you are
buddies for life.
He will reserve the best pool bed for you the next day and everyday after that until your holiday ends. When you meet him the next morning, you will address him by name because people love when you don’t forget their name: Hey Musa, how did you sleep? How is Abdalla, has be bumped his head yet? No? Shameful,
just shameful! The pool looks dirty
today, doesn’t it? By the way, Musa, I
have wondered about this for so long;
who do you think pees most in
swimming pools? Men or ladies?
Me: No, really, who?
Abdallah: I don’t know, really. Haha.
Me: I’m sure you know, you just don’t want to tell me.
Abdallah: I don’t know, Sir, that’s a crazy
Me: Is it? I imagine you get asked that a lot by your pals.
I honestly still don’t know what this post that I’ve written today is all about: Maybe it is about Yussuf, or Abdallah, or the Mini bar, or about my treat in Lamu.
I really don’t have an appropriate headline for it,but bear with me and my rambling thoughts!
Bernard Wainaina is an Independent Agribusiness Advisor and CEO at Profarms Consultants®,Nairobi,Kenya.
He mainly works with Agribusiness Youth Groups in Eastern African Region.
Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….©Profarms’ Random Thoughts®
Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….©Profarms’ Random Thoughts®