In a bookshop on Kenyatta Avenue, in the heart of downtown Nairobi, I was talking to an old woman named Patricia who was working there. I mentioned how much Nairobi had changed since the last time I visited, more than a decade ago. There were more cars now. More people. There were so many huge stores these days full of goods to buy.
“But the cost of living,” she added.
“You mean the food prices?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “That was when life began to change for us. The cost of living keeps going up. There are some people who can’t even feed themselves. Can you imagine not being able to feed yourself?”
I nodded. “Yes,” I said. “I can imagine.”
It seemed like the right answer. But later, as I thought about it, I realized that in fact it is very hard to imagine. I can imagine it in my head, but I can’t really imagine what that would feel like. Maybe the mind doesn’t let one imagine those kinds of things. Maybe when your belly is full, the possibility simply vanishes. There is no way to know how you would react.