Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kenyan TV

The nights have been pretty long here, as it gets dark early, so there is little more I can do than stay in my apartment and read, fiddle with the computer, and watch TV. I am very fortunate in that I have a color TV with satellite reception and get about a dozen channels. What’s funny is that each night when I turn the TV on, the channels are different. Sometimes, the movie channel is on Channel 7, other times it’s on Channel 5. Each evening I run the auto programming function and see what comes up.

There are lots of American, British and Australian TV shows, as well as a few local African ones. Series seem to be a year or so behind the US, but pretty much everything you would find in the US is on here. There’s lots of Tyra and Oprah, as well as dramas and sit coms. I can’t get used to the times, though. Shows don’t always start on the hour or half-hour, clocks are set to military time and the TV listing book notes that it is off by an hour.

There is a local morning show that is quickly becoming a favorite by which to eat breakfast. Each day, a reporter is sent to a location to do a live shot. The first day, this well-dressed young gentleman was sent to a Nairobi slum to interview tuk-tuk drivers. These are men, often the poorest of the poor, who carry rickshaw-like vehicles filled with people or heavy goods from one side of the city to the other. There are frequent accidents and fatalities are not uncommon. The reporter didn’t have much to say, and he was clearly uncomfortable among these men who were equally uncomfortable around him. In order to fill time, the newscaster started talking about how he felt the government should get involved in training and insuring these drivers. It was very unusual to hear a reporter give his own thoughts, rather than an unbiased, journalistic account.

The following day, the same reporter was sent to a luxury hotel in the center of the city to eat breakfast. I think the basis for the story was about the importance of eating healthy food in the morning, but this seemed so unattainable to the average Kenyan, it was surreal. First, the chef walked the reporter through the bountiful buffet where he taught the newscaster how to eat a bowl of cereal (just add milk.) Then, an omelet was prepared and we watched while he was served at his table, ate it with gusto and washed it down with a latte.

Today, my newscaster-on-the-spot was at a local driving school. The driving instructor was explaining various traffic symbols on something similar to a Monopoly board, when he pointed out a pedestrian crossing. The interviewer asked if that could also be called a zebra crossing to which the instructor said defiantly, “Absolutely not. That is British. When Kenya won its independence, these became pedestrian crossings.” It was a very heartfelt statement to which the reporter rolled his eyes directly into the camera. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Gotta go - time to watch The Simpsons!

By the way, here's a picture of the construction site outside my office. You can see the wall that they are building on the far side, and the "piles" that were dug in by hand.

No comments: