The New York Marathon had just ended and Kenyans gathered at this bar in downtown Manhattan. They called it the ‘Lower East Side,” I believe. “Let’s meet in Donnybrook, Lower East Side.” That’s how Kenyans talk in New York. It’s an Irish bar, full to the rafters, a Kenyan flag against a window.
A bunch of Kenyans from the marathon viewing party had gotten here ahead just after Hellen Obiri’s chest had touched the ribbon. So they were loud and cheerful and generous. We sat outside with some media fellows, Alex Chamuda being one of them. When you sit with Mr Chamdwada you never have to reach for your wallet to get a drink because Kenyans are just crowding him, taking photos of him, and buying him and anyone he is with drinks.
Although New York is cripplingly expensive (I bought a 500ml of water at five dollars in Manhattan and almost fainted when I converted it to Kenya shilling), they don’t measure their whisky, they pour it.
Donnybrook, true to any Irish pub, was a rotating door of people with drinks in their hands. As dusk quickly chased light at 5.30pm and the cold whipped down the street, the Kenyans got happier.
A gentleman, a doctor of philosophy, told me, “Look, the thing with New York is that you have to be like water,” he slurred, “you have to take the shape of the vessel you find yourself in.” Before I could ask him a question about that, he touched my glass with his and said, “just drink, today we don’t ask questions”. Before patting me on the back and melting away.
Sitting under the shadow of Chamwada is like sitting under a tree with overripe mango, they keep falling on your head. I loved the energy of the Kenyans, the camaraderie, the sharing and gung-ho and the chutzpah of hanging our flag in an Irish bar. It was one of those nights that you don’t want to end quickly, but this is New York, people have lives to run to, children to go kiss goodnight, trains to catch...water in vessels.