A Night Out in Kenya on the “kinyanya”
MY HUSBAND ARRIVES home and shuffles into the bedroom while his friend gets comfortable on the couch. I am summoned to the bedroom where my husband shuts the door behind me. Anxiously, he explains to me that a friend had given him a large amount of money, a fueled car, and strict orders to take me out. Hesitant, I ask where his friend got all this money and the car. “His kinyanya, of course,” my husband replies.
We arrive at Casaurina, arguably the most popular disco in Mtwapa. My eyes scan the room for an empty table while my husband pays cover. Low tables are covered with plastic tablecloths advertising Kenya’s beloved brew, Tusker. My knees knock the table as I sit down.
I quickly become aware that I am severely over dressed. My grey, lululemon gauchos definitely don’t give off the “I am sexy and I know it” vibe that they other women seem to have. It doesn’t bother me; I am a happily married woman after all. Although, I am horrified to discover that the black light is displaying every small piece of lint that is attached to my black t-shirt. I frantically try and pick it all off but it’s hopeless.
Once we are settled with our drinks on the table, I begin to ask my husband about how the whole kinyanya relationship works. It is a term (directly translated, it means “little grandmother”) that refers to an older, European woman who finds a young, Kenyan man to take care of. While she takes care of him financially, he makes sure her ‘other’ needs are met. In the case of our friend, my husband suspects that he has several kinyanyas who all come to Kenya at different times of the year.
During their retreats to Kenya, our friend arranges a sweet crib somewhere near the beach, a small car so they can bounce from beach bar to beach bar, and any other services that the lady may request. He becomes her companion, her lover, her play toy, her shoulder to lean on, her eye candy, her tour guide, and her dancing partner. For the time that she is here, he gives up eating ugali and sukuma wiki and only divulges in Italian pizza, spaghetti bolognaise, and endless cold tuskers.
Once she goes back to her home country, he returns to a small house that him and some buddies rent out as they wait for their kinyanya’s to return. In the meantime, she sends him money so he can maintain the lifestyle that he has when she is here. He rents cars at $70 a day, he buys news clothes, he eats whatever he desires, he drinks Tuskers all day, he sends a little money home to his family, he dabbles in small business deals, and he generously entertains his friends.
It’s not only white women who come to Mombasa and find themselves a cute Kenyan. White men far outnumber the women.
In this weekend’s newspaper, The Standard, there was a feature article on Mombasa’s child-sex tourism industry highlighting this phenomenon. Tourists are now heading to Mombasa as local authorities and international human rights groups are now carefully watching other sex tourism hot spots, such as Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. Mombasa is still flying under the radar when it comes to sex tourism. In the article, it mentions a recent poll which found that one third of tourists who come to Mombasa have sex with a local during their stay.
I peek over at the bar and watch a white man caress the waist of a tiny, Kenyan girl, his hands coming dangerously close to her girly bits. She turns around and gently taps his packaged goods. He seductively pushes her hand away and waves his finger at her with a goofy grin on his face. She takes this opportunity to lick his finger in a manner that suggests that she can do far more than this to his manhood.
Disgusted, I turn away and decide that I need a toilet break. As I emerge from the bathroom stall, I am forced to share a sink with a budding kinyanya. I can tell that she is new at this; she is trying too hard. I scoot around her as she admires herself in the mirror. She makes sure her mild fat rolls aren’t spilling over her studded leather belt. She turns sideways to make sure that her small breasts still look perky in her lacy, white bra.
A few wrinkles here and there, but her make up is still holding up. Once she is satisfied with her looks, she leaves and lets me have full access to the sink. I glance up at the mirror only to find my mascara smudged, my hair fuzzy, and my gaucho pants still hiding my square shaped curves. Satisfied, I head back.
I get to the table eager to tell my hubby of the kinyanya I encountered in the toilet. As I tell him the story, he looks up and points. “Is that her?” She is dancing with her Kenyan cutie, his hands making their way across her butt cheeks. They gyrate back and forth, struggling to find the rhythm. She glances over at her friend, also snuggled close to a young man. They share a smile and a giggle as if agreeing, “What happens in Mombasa, stays in Mombasa.”
My large plate of grilled chicken arrives and I order another Coke. My husband is happy to see that I am enjoying myself. I am just content knowing that I am not footing the bill. I glance up at the ladies and wonder if they know that one day, someone will be enjoying a night out at their expense. [Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]