Happy Birthday, Cumin!

Today was a lovely day. Fantastic birthday 🙂

I’ve made a big song and dance on Twitter about it; complete with wishlist ten days ago. It’s not like me to put myself out there (self-deprecating humour and self-effacing behaviour are pretty standard) but it didn’t kill me to say, “Hey, I’d like this.”

Today, I had a wonderful time and this in the context of a great day with one of my best friends yesterday and another lined up for tomorrow. One’s birthday is one of the few times a year when they are allowed to have the spotlight on them. It was a nice to be treated specially but not to be the centre of attention.

Here’s to a lovely year ahead; may it be memorable.

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Let’s talk about $3x

Wanjeri Gakuru wrote about having honest conversations about sex over at Brainstorm today. She manages to capture the sex talk landscape in Kenya, or lack thereof.

I’m hopeful that this sparks a conversation about the things we do in the dark of night, in public, in random places.

Who knows? Wanjeri could start a podcast like Death, Sex & Money. Thank you for this, Wanjeri!

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at readability.com/cuminwrites/

Questions, comments, suggestions or sex tips? Send them to cuminwrites@gmail.com 🙂

Longer than your average

Even your friendly under-the-rock dweller has seen a few of the #FeesMustFall tweets and has an idea of the demands of SA students. A tweet from Ndinda reminded me today of the place of history in protests; the way the past, the present and the future meet every so often to fortify.

Once in a (long, thankfully) while, I post something personal on the internets. This is one of those moments. Not so much the feels as a minor explainer about the way I feel about politics and history.

My parents had me quite young and in a sense, I grew up with them. When this happens, your parent is learning lessons, navigating life, with you by their side. So it was that in the 90s, my father left our little home to go to Kamukunji, to take part in the Saba Saba protests. So it was that our household, led by a woman because her partner was in school, almost saw the chance of a brighter future taken away because that partner had been visited by state functionaries. His crime: writing and editing an incendiary magazine at his college, chumming about with Wafula Buke and the lot.

For many years, before I understood how women can be eliminated from the narratives of the revolution, I considered my father the revolutionary . My mother, well, she was Mummy. Bread and broth on a Saturday morning, love, the one who spoke my first language. Not a revolutionary. Yes, the student of history (one of the only 2 As I scored in KCSE) thought that being lobbed with teargas was the measure.

Women hold the planet up, women sustain the revolution. For this reason, I am terribly excited about the fact that the protests are being led by young women. Listen, my maternal grandmother was a news junkie (I know where that comes from) and when Nelson Mandela was released and went on to spurn Winnie, she reminded my mother who it was of the two of them that had kept the struggle alive; who it was that had continued to risk their life.

Women have been written out of revolutions for so long, it’s refreshing to see them front and centre now. African women, black women, outspoken women who will not be silenced like their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunties. Women like my grandmother who, over 10 years after Kenya gained independence, still had no photo ID that was just hers. Women like my mother, who had to be issued a passport on a man’s file, my father’s.

I have been paying attention to history for a while; what option do I have with a family like mine? And yet, I absorbed the falsehoods that are wrapped up in a product created by the oppressor. What I know is that 12 years of studying History in Kenya had me believing that Jomo Kenyatta was a hero, that the land question was answered when the White Men left power, that the oppression of the Black person ended when the White Men left, that the face of freedom and progress is a man’s. These women stand the real risk of being erased, being forgotten, and the girls of the future believing what I too believed for so long; women are not revolutionaries.

Teach your children these truths: the Mau Mau had women among their ranks, say the names of the women who fought oppressors (Mekatilili wa Menza, Wangari Maathai, Winnie Madikizela Mandela), teach them that women fuel the revolution, they feed it, they strengthen it, they instruct it, they lead it. Teach them what the revolution looks like.

And to my mother: Thank you for keeping my father and I alive with food, love and support during those years. Thank you for telling me the stories of the women in our family who fought against the forces that tried to keep us down, thank you for keeping my grandmother’s memory alive these 20 years. Thank you for doing the valuable, unappreciated, undervalued work that is care. Thank you for those stories about the past that are really glimpses of the past, history primers. Thank you for saying the names of those people and those places that this country would rather forget. May I never again forget.

Asante, asante, asante.

Note: I have undertaken to write a post a day for a year. I’m collating all the posts (spanning 3 blogs) using the hashtag #CuminWrites366. If you have questions,compliments, or want to find out where the bodies are hidden, the address is kenyanwithattitude@gmail.com

I am a Nairobian | I choose to write

Yesterday I went for a public reading organised by the Young Writers Project in Nairobi & met lots of awesome people who I only knew from Twitter…good times.

And on Saturday & Sunday, I was going through a phase. It was called, “My body is mine…it’s my choice, ergo I want to lose my virginity…” can’t find a taker, though. Being as I can’t walk up to a guy Madonna-style (I’m nowhere near the Material Girl in very many senses…) and express this desire. That sort of leaves one person, X.

About the reading….I went because of a wonderful AIESECer called Lionel Oduol who was going to read an excerpt of his work (read the full version here) who told me about it at the AIESEC (from this point onwards referred to by the symbol @) office at my school (yes, I joined @, don’t ask…). Going to the event page on the Facebook revealed that an high school mate of mine would also be reading some of her work (read it here) & gave me that much more motivation to go to the event. I guess my conversation with this girl who was in my year at my school who claimed that we are inarguably the most disloyal bunch of ex-school mates…so I was going against the grain…with much enjoyment on my part. Good times…

My body is my own, I decided over the weekend. All those people in my life who have an opinion on it that I factor so greatly in my body-related decisions? They count only as much as I let them…and I choose to have myself as the #1 body decision-maker in my life. So my body is my own. To treat well, to share with a person or people, to have all to myself. So I decided that I want to lose my virginity. Because my body is my own & I want to get rid of the thing around my neck the thing that…ah, you know what I mean.

Little problem: one needs an accomplice & to keep quiet when one makes a decision of that sort. I failed on both counts. I told my twin, and E & L….get a grip, sister. Take it easy…you are LIBERATED. The lines I have not used on myself. To think that guys try to convince girls to go to bed with them; this girl was doing quite a job all by her lonesome… I talked to all these people because I wanted to make a safe, smart decision…..but I failed to consider the implications of this question I was asked by my friend L on telling her I wanted to lose my virginity:

“And who do you want to lose it to?”

What?? I was stupefied by her question. The one and only, I said. Talk is cheap, and so is your body if not much thought is being put into the actions you plan. My biggest issue….that I may get pregnant….so  how to stay un-pregnant.

Continued weeks later:

Not how to stay un-hurt. Or how to act when I was reeling in shock at X’s response: NO.

I went to Mathare Valley (a slum in Nairobi) almost 2 weeks ago. I am a changed woman. It is good to be an @er…..but I am not an @er. I know, I flummox myself, too, and I’m the one speaking. Mathare changed me & made me realise a few things. Such as what, you may ask?

I am a RICH GIRL. So what my bank balance was once 11KES? At least I have never looked around me and seen misery everywhere. I had to use a bathroom and so was led to the lone one at one end of the slum. To say I was traumatised would be the understatement of the year. My first thought when I left the facility was, “I would never give birth to a daughter in this environment.” The irony that is life, twisted and ugly; a lady that didn’t know me gave me water with which to wash my hands. Her child’s sex? Female.

Africa shall never develop as long as we think some white man will come to sort us out….yet the said white man is the only one that dares venture into the slums. If it hadn’t been for these 3 @er interns, I would probably never have ventured into the valley (which is, quite honestly, an abandoned quarry). 10KES away on a matatu, a world of differences away. The white man has a colourful story of African poverty to tell on his return home and what do I, a Kenyan, have? I thank them, though, for opening my eyes to my city. And I want to say here: Jan, thanks a mil 🙂

The generosity of the poor. Here’s a cup, offers the girl’s mother, clean your hands with this water and soap. You may be a stranger but I shall help you. The chances that that would have happened in my old neighbourhood, right. What spurs these people who have so little to give? Lessons to learn, I guess.

Amazing graffiti. On the walls around Mathare that were not made of mud. It put a lot of the things I have seen on the side of town in which I live to shame. The vibrance of the colours, the artistic voice of the young people who had pointed those walls. These people the city has cast aside are alive, and well…..and creative. And they are telling their stories on their walls.

I have amazing strength. I can haul timber as well as any boy. I can speak Kikuyu, inarguably the language of business in Kenya, to the benefit of those I’m with. I went to Mathare with an @ intern I had picked alone at the airport. He has opened my eyes to myself. I, it turns out, know lots of people-this is something I can harness. I am capable of so much… Thank you Mathare 🙂

Clarity. I place X on a pedestal. But there are things that are more important. Friends, family, love. And not the sort of love I have for him, the sort that my brother feels for me…. X has a life of his own, why don’t I? Why do I find it hard to say, “This far is enough”? “This is what I want”? Why do we go back and forth and say things in a convoluted fashion? Why do I agree so easily to be beaten down about my body? Part of it came from me mis-hearing his ‘mentor meeting’ as ‘Mensa meeting’… Thinking to myself, “I’m smart, too..” had crazy results.

I met someone on the night of the day I went to Mathare. Smart, interesting, not X. I projected all the things I want on him, then I remembered I have X. Except I realised I want to be with X because there is so much to gain being with him, than to lose without him. Sometimes he feels so inaccessible. And yet…. So what are these things I projected? Desire (yes, I said the D word, so shoot me), openness…this guy I had just met, he was telling me so much, expressiveness…the feeling that I didn’t have to push him to a corner to hear his voice ring clear and true.

I am a Nairobian. I shall return to Mathare. I choose to write. I shall post an entry at least once a week. I choose to write; I have no plans of letting all those who habour this or that opinion of me rule my life. I am a Nairobian who chooses to write…

Functional Dysfunction

(Or ‘How to stay chaste in an oversexed world’)

So I’ve realised I’m a nag. Really, I am. I have the ability to talk about, and pursue, one topic past the point where anyone is interested. I’m turning into my mother…not a source of mirth but hey, it’s better than turning into say, a troll (amongst other things) Scratch that, my mum’s pretty awesome so…..but I digress.

Now, my favourite nagopic (nag meets topic to create) is communication. I can talk about it forever with Mr Man, aka X. The poor guy has heard so many versions of the same thing till he probably recites what I say (my repertoire of lines is that limited) but I found a new one over the weekend. It’s not going to be good for him…especially considering what I’m going on about… [Edit 24.3.10 I spoke to X yesterday and promised him I’d stop with the nagging…a long-term birthday gift, if you will, being as it was his big day]

Now, to stay chaste in an oversexed world, I recommend:

#1 Staying away from your preferred gender (I’m being inclusive here): Em, once you start, you can’t stop… Not that I would know but humour me..

#2 Running (yes, I know I said running) away from erotic dancers. Here I can speak with authority… On Saturday I had the pleasure of spending time with a friend I’ll call 2BF5 (ask not..OK, ask later) who is one raunchy dancer. But, as I have a little, umm, shall we say, ‘situation’, the dancing was terribly unsettling. A girl has urges….don’t stoke them!! I should have run, but he’s so much fun (woop! woop! we had us a rhyme there) so I stayed through the torture, the pain, the agony, and the shaking pelvis (grinding is more like it but let’s not even go there) Torture!!!

#3 Not talking about ‘It’ in any form. Really, it works. As long as you don’t discuss how your boyfriend is the last person that would be your baby’s father were you to fall pregnant (this is not to say I have had this conversation with anyone….) you’re almost home dry. It’s as easy as it sounds, except for the exclusion. The exclusion only succeeds at making the said boyfriend sound umm, incapable 😉

#4 Read the Bible or similar religious book (but let’s speak of the Bible for the purpose of this post):  Really!! Think of all the punishment that awaits you, ignore any offers of forgiveness from God and keep your legs clamped. It may take some effort (reading the Bible in my case) and you might end up like Shoshannah (not real name, to protect the privacy of the (now) long dead) but TOUGH! Man up! Or the female equivalent of manning up…

It’s been long, my next post will be longer…

I hope…but take my advice 😀

Nishike pole pole mimi ni bibi ya wenyewe

Which loosely translates to: Hold me slowly, I am the wife of others

I turned 21 on Saturday, 30th January.

I had an interesting day….Or rather, an interesting 3 days 🙂

January 29th: I begged a phone off my friend E, saw a Facebook post by my friend that’s usually referred to as SSS (Sole Soul Sister) and called her. Yes, I would have wine and chocolate with her (yes, my non-drinking self would have wine and chocolate, stop staring 🙂 ) and yes, she could sleep in my room as part of that ritual called ‘The Sleepover’. Signpost in my head: This Way To Fun Times. I met her and her friend Charles, an amiable guy, after her boyfriend of 2 years (time is important, just keep reading) left her in my care. We went to the food court at the mall we were at, I told them a funny X-related story, and we bought wine after unsuccessfully trying to buy soda. Translation: We left the soda in the trolley for so long, the guys at the supermarket (wisely) decided we didn’t want it 😀 We met Jay & Co, went back to the supermarket….and the 2 of us ended up in my room 😉 he he he

It was interesting… Around her I am not reticent…at all. I didn’t need the tongue-loosening powers of wine to get me talking. About how down I had been in the 1.5 years we had been apart. About X. I’ve known her for the last 7 years and in a sense she is me…I can trust her. That, for me, counts for a lot. And she let me speak about how the absence of [intense] physical displays of affection in my relationship with X had got me confused, should we say bewildered. That >6 months into it, all we had done is hold hands…And here was a person saying that which I had wanted so badly to hear: Let it be…don’t rush it and look back and think to yourself: This, not that, is the right moment [though I momentarily forgot her advice the next day]. Everyone around me, minus my twin, has created the impression that the absence of a make-out session up to this point signals the presence of a malfunction in my sentiments for this boy, a quirk on his part….[not that my virginity pledge doesn’t complicate issues]… I was happy to know she has been happy. Because as the person I could always trust to pull me out of the doldrums, I wanted; need, actually; her happy. And she is. I’m not playing catch-up again 🙂

January 30th: I woke up on the morning of the birthday to the presence of SSS, A gift I have not received since she transferred schools when she was 16 & I 15. It was a better gift than any I could have asked for. Having X call me to meet him close to my hall of residence [“Meet me Halfway”]

and meeting him… E and SSS had met the day before [during the time at the mall] so when E came, they had time to bond after SSS had had time to speak to X. X & I were left in my room, I snoozed, E & SSS waited for almost an hour and IT happened.

IT: My roommate’s best friend walking in on me sleeping with X lying next to me. We looked so chaste; almost like 6 year old cousins having their Sunday nap on the same bed. My 4 year old cousin & I have had scenes like that, my 9 year old brother…no biggie. I had my eyes closed [not least because I was asleep], he didn’t…no cause for her reaction. Effusive apologies, almost like she had found us doing SOMETHING [your mind is now allowed to wander…] and the humour of the situation not being lost 🙂  SSS & E called me post-bonding and I went off to the city (all of 10 minutes away) to get drinks for my party-let as well as meet Marie & our mutual friend I.

Marie, X, I & I all headed to the Nairobi National Museum [a great place to have any sort of event…] where J, her boyfriend K [no jokes], her friend S, and our friend B were waiting for us…Getting high on soda is a plan; as X and my previous run-ins with Coca Cola products have shown.  We drank litres of the stuff, played random games, got to know each other, talked, made fun of each other & made up for lost (friendship) time. I was told, by J, how after a series of arguments she had urged K to ‘court her’ a romantic notion that included chasing her like the past months hadn’t happened. X & I clocked 7 months on my birthday and J was tired 2 months into her relationship & SSS had logged 2 years in one relationship. Time is so fleeting and yet we attach so much to it…

We all walked (I joke not, past 1800) to the city centre-ish with Marie & I walking in front of us. J asked me for more than a year if X and I were going out and the answer never changed: No. But our body language, mirrored so clearly in my friends’, said it all. We liked each other….a lot 😉 J had asked me what the deal was but being as I had asked the girl half and it had said pretty much nothing,  I wasn’t pushing it. Oh, but after we had walked into the city & were about to order dinner, they decided to leave. There’s never been a moment, surrounded by friends, as awkward as J asking them if they were dating…and them saying yes….*cue jaw drop*

How now? when I had tried subtly? But being as the guys (X & I) had hit it off at an earlier meeting, I got to pry [If J can, why can’t I…J/K] and asked the question that had such heat in my  brain  I could almost feel its searing effect: When did this happen? Or was I always blind (Yes)? X & I walked them to the corner, dinner was had & we went to a club. This after Jay, happily gay, had come over and had conversation & strangeness with J & K (who X & I have beaten at the awesomeness that is ‘vogueing’, thank you very much) being all over each other. Jay was hard-pressed to understand how our straight selves were going to go to a club that attracts the gay crowd sans him… But go we did.

Post K having a talk with me about ‘taking care of J’ before he left, we went to the club. On our way there it was revealed that one of X’s friends [a member of AIESEC, the organisation that he is-I did not stutter] tended bar there. Before I forget, X became President of his AIESEC chapter (coincidentally, the code for the organisation within the organisation is the letter X) and I almost died-of pride. Seriously…Which some people would say is a good thing 🙂 She was so happy to meet me, his friend, saying that it felt good to finally meet me post-X’s conversations about me. And she was pleasantly surprised to realised he has friends outside AIESEC [remember, earlier, I did not stutter?] and we had an interesting time that included me getting a call from my mum & jokily telling her I was out with X getting drunk (“take care of yourself”) [that was the night before :D]. This didn’t last long as the crowd sought by J & B was elsewhere & so J’s friend K, her boyfriend J & the rest of us left.

X left us at the entrance of the 2nd club [we would later sing ‘Another one bites the dust” when Kate’s J left]  and we went and had unbelievable fun. Which included guys hitting on K after her boyfriend left & not single B. Which was an improvement on the joke that was the last time we had gone out together when, with my relationship with X now declared to J, she had repeatedly fended off the men that tried hitting on me by insisting that I had a boyfriend [though stated as, “Yeye ana bwana”-she has a husband :D]. We left that club because of J’s insistence.

The one we went to had an age limit that the lady at the door imagined up at the sight of us [23 & over-who ever heard of that?] and we ended up at the club we had gone to for B’s 22nd on the night of the 8th/9th. We-J & I- (you have to believe this) fell asleep & in the end J went to her hostel (my & B’s former residence) & I put B up for the night. Thankfully, my roommate hadn’t been in on those 2 days, sparing all the parties involved the awkwardness of a shared bed…

Sunday January 31st: I woke up to lock the door after B left, lay on my bed and showered & ate in time to look calm when X came to watch Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, the first of his films we are (were?-English is confusing…) to watch together. We were originally meant to watch ‘Sherlock Holmes’ at the theatre but a conglomeration of factors meant that we started on our list… The twin & X had an awkward moment when I left him to get VCB & she went to my room to pick her book without my informing her of his presence. But it was OK in the end…with X remarking on the film’s ‘European’ qualities…

This past weekend rocked…the CAT I had today, that I aced, couldn’t cast a shadow on it… The small moments (my uncle-who calls me his ‘niece & friend’-calling me, my friend & I planning a post-birthday lunch in lieu of her presence) the ones that made the day what it was, the time spent with X (so hard to get since I became a First Lady 😉 )….I had a great time…

And about X & I not being physical…I couldn’t have said it better than SSS did… I want something to happen,  I’d like for something to happen…but I have the sense to know that rushing matters won’t make for a great ride and so while I wait [need I say ‘hopefully’?], I shall enjoy all the beauty of my life & the joy of my love 🙂

PS Mo, I wish you’d been around…it would have been like the Ribena ad with the blackcurrant that can no longer contain itself…its goodness just overwhelms it… We miss you…

You can call me Joseph

That’s what my mum calls me when I speak about my dreams…after the character in the Bible…no, not Jesus’ dad…the other one…

Dreams that keep getting repeated:

I’m sitting at a restaurant (a specific one…down to the table we’re at…) and I play X a Keyshia Cole song.

It says all the things I want to say…or that I wanted when I was having the dream a lot. Now I have moved to another song….I’ve changed my mind…I don’t love him any more. Long compensatory phone call notwithstanding.W has given me the strength to realise that what my friend C told me was true.

Don’t settle

Look where settling got me…sad and angry. Why…when there are so many other people I could go out with? When I could talk of relationships happily?I used to want the boyfriend who didn’t call/text daily. Now I have him… Be careful what you wish for  is all I can say…

Dream 2 involves me working at said restaurant and finding X seated at different table (not ‘ours’) with a girl being in love… while I am going out with him. I’m all polite and cordial & act nonchalant about it… This dream is accompanied with a sense of peace… Like  losing what you never had is no loss anyway.

I think he’s tired of me…and afraid to say it…

So once I finish this post I shall dispatch a message directly that says

if this is working why does it feel so sad and dysfunctional/why do I have to prod you to get anything/ I want you more, so much more, than you seem to want me…. and that sucks

I’ll tell you how that goes…