Friday, May 18, 2012

Give a Nini

Let's travel back in time six or seven years to the the Peace Corps office in Nairobi. Some volunteers had started a communal giving box called "Give a Nini, Take a Nini." The idea was that you could put anything into the nini box that you didn't want but deemed fit for inheritance by another volunteer or Peace Corps staff, and anyone was welcome to rifle through the ninis and take any treasures they discovered. One American's trash, as the saying goes.

Nini in proper Swahili means "what," but is often used by Kenyans as a stutter word when they're trying to think of what to say next, or as a filler word that essentially means "whatchamacallit."

As in, "Mzungu, you will give me your nini when you leave Kenya."

Which translates to, "Mzungu, if you're so inclined, I would be deeply grateful if you would leave me your laptop when you leave Kenya."

Music, clothes, food, terrible movies, old meds, flip flops, tampons -- anything was fair game for the nini box. Including P-MATES, the portable, disposable pee-anywhere-standing-up cups for women. Finders keepers.

It turns out that my current office also has a Give a Nini box, but you might guess it's not called that.  It probably yields about the same proportion of actual treasures as the Peace Corps nini box. About half an hour before I took this photo, there was a burnt, moldy, half-English muffin sitting on top of the Sports Illustrated. Someone must have wanted that.

The sign says: Free Things Table. Here you may leave useable items, books
and other freebies for anyone to take. Similar items left on the kitchen
table will be moved here as well. Please note that any unclaimed treasures
will be discarded or recycled, usually after a week or so. Thanks.

I'm still pretty excited about the huge unopened bag of loose leaf Earl Grey tea that I scored a couple months ago from this box. You can see from the packaging that it was from a different season. Mokka, it turns out, is a coffee shop in Berkeley that sells what else but fair trade, organic coffee beans and teas. I can't speak for anything else they have, but the Earl Grey is pretty good stuff. This bag will surely last me until next Christmas.

I've only had one brand of Earl Grey that's better, the Mighty Leaf that usually costs anywhere from $10 to $13 for a box of 15 teabags. Amazingly, I found it for $7 a box at a Chinese grocery store on Clement Street. I snapped a photo of the display with the price tag, but seem to have deleted it, so here's a photo from their website:

I think a lot of the yuppie tea drinkers in the neighborhood have gotten wind of this secret, because I after grabbing one box and walking away, I decided to go back and get more. Only 15 minutes had passed and there was only one box left.

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