Friends & Benefits

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘quake’? More of that later.

2BF5 turned 18 yesterday. And W turned 21 on Saturday the 2nd. Welcome to (the much vaunted but really quite ordinary) world of adults, 2BF5; don’t worry if the difference is the same. W, now you can drink legally in even more jurisdictions in the world. Bliss. And the world ages yet again ๐Ÿ™‚ Those two are some of the best friends a girl could ask for. But this post is (surprise! Surprise!) not about them. It’s about what happens when one girl lands a job that involves computers and cigarettes. And the stories that grow from that occurrence. Not necessarily in that order.

@ partners with various entities that support it in one way or another. On Wednesday of last week, I benefited from one of those arrangements. I got to attend an exclusive event that commemorated the awarding of $1million to a Kenyan tech firm for a mobile phone application (read the story here & learn more about the app here). It drew quite an interesting lot. Journalists, techies, dignitaries (yes, I said dignitaries. Like senior government officials & such) and the crowd that keeps Nairobi interesting (sometimes called bloggers) as well as twitterati (don’t I just love such words. In a few years, Oxford University Press shall publish it in an edition of its much-beloved Advanced Learners’ Dictionary. Poor learners.)… I was, quite honestly, just a lackey (with the quaint little title that is ‘usher’) but I earned ca$h moneยฅ and met all sorts of interesting people.

Speaking of interesting people, I joined a UN agency committee that seeks to improve the lot of youth in Kenya and influence national youth policy in the country. Our first meeting was on the same day as the aforementioned job. It proved to be quite a busy day. Now I know how those jet setters who work myriad jobs do it. Sheer planning and determination. I feel blessed. All these opportunities that have been made available to me are cause for celebration. Joy. Rumination.

I would never have got the job (and money) were it not for Lionel (who I spoke of in my last post) and a drinking event that occurred that involved him, our overall boss at our @ chapter and our workmate, a certain MarkTM (that’s tracking manager, not trademark, thanks for asking). He jocularly asked me if I wanted a paying job and next thing we all know, your woman is at an event that rocked. So thanks, Lionel; with friends like you ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ That drinking party resulted in my drinking KK(Kenya King), a Kenyan spirit with 39.5% alcohol content. This being me, the 14% (woohoo!!) wine drinker., it was an experience like no other. A sweetness in my mouth, burning sensation in my throat, and warmth all over my body. But I liked the taste, that I shall not deny. Once I stopped taking it neat and threw in some soda called Krest Bitter Lemon, I was on a roll.

KK made me hyper-active. X, Mo, Marie, and yes, you, Magaribina; stop raising your eyebrows. I am not hyperactive. I went back to my room and did a ton of laundry till 2am. You read right, 2am. Couldn’t sleep. Oh, well, it’s better than being stupid and drunk. So, I guess every so often it’s good to go out of my comfort zone and experience what happens on the other side.

I’m a geek, it seems. That’s the reason I use, and like, Linux. And is that fact, I was asked, a mark of class? I was quite amazed by that question. Class, you say? I think not. I miss my friend L (aka Best Friend). She was around for the summer and we had a sleepover and weekend-over while she was around. It was great seeing her again after so long. Either Canadians have no accent or she didn’t pick one up. I was so happy to hear her voice when she called me the day after she arrived. It was a great summer for me. And she likes Linux, too. My friend Z, whose family so kindly opened its door and heart to me, was also in Kenya. I didn’t get to see her but I spoke to her; too. Did I say earlier that I am blessed? I shall say it again here. These girls remind me of the power of love and friendship. Continents away from me and yet we know that if we pick the phone, the other shall be on the other end ready to speak. Now that is love.

I joined a Bible Study (BS) group last month. I went for the first few meetings with X. I’ve missed only one meeting so far. Which meeting I missed because E & X took me to the students’ clinic as I threw up and had a migraine. The GP thought I was pregnant (only the second time that has happened in less than one month), as had another GP when she saw me knitting. Yes, knitting; how folksy. I’ve tried to get X to let me ask his mum to tutor me but I sense some reticence & being as my BS leader warned me against having relations that were too warm with the mother of my boyfriend, I shall probably never receive any lessons from XM. Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men often come to nought (read Robert Burns’ poem here). The way that came out, my BS sounds like a cult (my leader said not to….) but we are just a motley collection of sinners. Some redeemed and some, such as yours truly, just doing what they can to be on the right side.

The job mentioned above. Myself, the Queen (so named by J because of the stunts he pulls) & a guy whose @ name is Member (who, I have realised, can do quite a good job of excluding one from @ activities and creating a members-only feeling) & D. We all, excluding Member, stood together after the job and smoked D’s cigarettes. What bliss; to be able to partake of cancer sticks among friends. The Queen & I had a chance to speak as the event wound down. He is a most interesting character….and a friend’s friend. Which is always a compliment. And the rest; I got to see new sides to them. Interesting, likeable sides. If @ continues like this-friendship, opportunities and,yes, money-I’ll enjoy the ride. Opportunities, I said. Because of another ushering job, I got to attend an amazing event (granted, I had planned on attending either way<<<‘granted’ is such an X word ๐Ÿ™‚ There goes Miss Girlfriend) where I got to learn all sorts of intriguing things that will help me influence my family and community.

I might get to be a witness at the officiating of my friend’s union sometime next month. I say might because it’s an Islamic ceremony and I might be disqualified by my non-Muslimness. I’m excited for her. It takes guts for someone to make that sort of commitment. And the fact that she’s chosen to make it is a source of hope for me. It is possible to be happy in a marriage even if you are a member of our jaded generation. And I say jaded under advisement. We have seen the marriages of our parents and loved ones descend into chaos or be revealed to be shams and yet we take that risk ourselves. My brother was delighted to hear the news (being as Miss Lady is his big sister’s big sister) and, during our last conversation; asked after her and how the wedding preparations were going.

My brother. He is part of the reason I disappeared from the blogosphere. He had a stack of drama at school. And being like a child of mine, it threw me off-balance. He was out of school for a month during which I spoke to all sorts of people in an effort to reinstate him in school. Do these things only happen in Kenya or are they the scourge of developing countries? A month out of school because of a few teachers’ vendetta against one’s parent is enough to demoralise even the strongest child. But my brother is not just strong. He is the child of my parents. And my father and mother have not surmounted all those odds for their child to be beaten down by injustice. He still maintains his enthusiasm for education (thankfully, he’s known education and school to be divorced for a while) and now that he is back in school, he looks forward to high school with renewed dedication. Alliance High School; here comes The Shaboozle’s brother, T.

My brother. A delightful child who once drew X aside to advise him to treat me well, with respect, and not to cheat on me. T at 9. Indeed. I reminded X of that the other day. That infidelity would mean the end of whatever we have at the time at which it happened. He said, later, that my statement sounded like a dare. To cheat, to leave, to whatever. Honestly. I thought it was just a statement of fact. And after Tuesday of this week, I think it’s stretching it a bit to not want me to make such a statement. Tuesday, when I went to this opening where my friend J was showing one of her pieces. Before I lose focus, please go see it if you can. Tuesday, when X stood me up. Tuesday, when I [stupidly] called him to fish out an apology (sometimes I behave like an abused woman). Tuesday when he told me a story where all he kept doing was digging his own grave. He & my friend had taken over his cousin’s Facebook status update. This is a common happening, something I have done in the past myself. Then they had proceeded to talk of something he owed her with him explaining to his cousin (remember him?) that he knew her through ‘a friend’ (that would be yours truly). Ahem. I was explaining to 2BF5 today what really irritated me about that incident. In the conversation where he gives me an apology that the Swahili would describe as ‘shingo upande’ (literally; from the side of the neck to mean done grudgingly), he describes how he charms a girl in a public forum in which I am referred to as a ‘friend’. I have seen, in my life, the way a cheating spouse usually doesn’t lie from day 1. He may tell you all the story but as the story grows elements are removed to protect one or whatever notion crosses his mind. He has it in him to perpetuate a conversation with the friend of his ‘friend’ in a public forum where he sometimes does not deign to speak to the said ‘friend’. He repeats this story to me after telling me the reason why he didn’t even think to call me to cancel was because he had been derailed by his @ team. Well, thanks for making me see how the land lies; Mr Man. As I have said before; part of the reason I’m in college is because I’m smart. I get it.

I was bought a wonderful book by 2BF5 called ‘Notes from an Exhibition‘ last week. Hence the question at the beginning of this post. The story revolves around the loves, lives and losses of a group of people who are all influenced by a woman who dies at the beginning of the book who has bipolar disorder. It hit really close to home because my maternal grandmother was put in a mental institution several times in her lifetime before her death when I was 6. Like the central character in the book, she was quite a character. And strong. I laughed and cried in equal measure as I read that book. Never before has the content of a book spoken my truth so clearly. And it showed what I have always believed-that the human experience is universal. The differences are just those of location, names, race. But fundamentally, we are all the same. And I want to thank X for giving me the courage to say the words I have just said. In this post, he speaks his truth and in this one I speak mine. A lady in the book expresses her fear of pregnancy because her child may be mentally unstable. But the lady’s death gives her courage. Pregnancy, childbirth, rearing a human being; these are acts of courage. And the book also affirmed my admiration for my grandparents. My grandmother for living with a disease that has none of the glamour of most chronic diseases and raising well-balanced children who are adults anyone would be proud of and my grandfather for being a great dad and having the courage to live with her and stick by her side.

The book spurred me to attend a meeting of The Religious Society of Friends. Sometimes called Quakers. A group of people who, in the book, were calm and loving and welcoming. Sitting together in silence, contemplating God. No creeds, no chants, no hard and fast rules. I spoke to 2BF5 about the group and we ended up going for the meeting together this last Sunday, bless his multicoloured socks. Both our mothers were quite flummoxed by our choice of experimental religious group. His, especially. In Kenya, each church assumes a tribal profile, and that of Quakers in Kenya is a Luhya one. My mother, married to a Luhya, was quite aware of the Friends Church. Awareness doesn’t mean she took the decision to attend lightly; I have been known to have attended a church that, it later emerged, was a cult. 2BF5’s mother, on the other hand, was concerned but her concerns were similar to my mother’s: What draws you there? And our answers were similar: This group seems to have what we, as young people, so greatly desire. At this point, I want to thank my friend L for helping me know meeting times so 2BF5 & I could attend and 2BF5 for coming along with me. X was not impressed by 2BF5’s presence; saying he’d go with me to the next meeting. This is to be seen. Though in this one instance, I can’t be said to be choosing 2BF5 over X who has always declared his allegiance to his preferred church…

I was attacked last week but one. The only people I have told bar you are X, 2BF5, E & my Twin. E was the first I told as I went to her room after the occurrence to regroup. The Twin was not impressed by the fact that I didn’t tell her till the next day (religion and varied interests have pulled us apart, you can’t blame me…) The man was walking towards me one minute and the next thing I knew, there I was, on the ground with your woman being muzzled. Wrong move, buster…. I screamed my heart out. I had these thoughts running through my mind during that time: >I am being attacked >>I shall be raped by this man. These thoughts coalesced into >This man attacking me shall rape me<. Which made me scream so loudly that the cars that were on the road next to the scene (this was a major junction, close to midnight) stopped and my assailant fled. A man opened his door, asked if I had been robbed (no), hurt (no, again) and advised me to run home. Which admonition I obeyed readily. I have never been so afraid of the sight of a man that when one asked me if I had been the one screaming, I couldn’t get the voice to say; yes. I have become fearless; but maybe I need to be afraid. Had I not been fearless, I would not have been in that situation. Isn’t this what always happens? The victim blaming herself? I did not ask for it; I am stronger than the coward who tried to scare me into fearfulness.

X lost his grandfather less than a month ago. He spoke of his sorrow and his loss. And wrote about it (read his reaction here) and showed me new sides of himself. Such as the fact that he thinks of loss as a private thing. That he acknowledged my attempts to be there for him, stand by him at the funeral but politely declined. The fact that he wants to speak and yet your woman is always talking, talking, talking. If I just, well, shut up; he’d say his truth. The fact that he takes his role as the strong man seriously. That family really does mean a lot to him (this is nothing new but he reaffirmed his devotion to family); his love for his mother. What his grandfather meant to him and how men mourn. Differently from women; privately. That I count for something. Yes, I know what I said up there. But the fact that he spoke of his loss said something about how he feels for me. I remember how I pushed him away when my uncle passed away earlier this year. And yet the one person I wanted to hug me, to touch me, to tell me we would all survive….was him. I looked at my parents and how my father comforted my mother and I thought to myself, โ€œI wish I had that.โ€ And yet I did-he had offered to be there for me and I had said no. Because that is how I mourn; almost like self-flagellation. And so seeing him reach out to me said he loved and trusted me enough to believe I would be there for him. I care about him, I admit. And while, as I said, I may sometimes act like an abused woman; I have seen sides to this man that remind me why I stay with him…

Benefits: my assailant thought I was male. This happens to me a lot. I don’t wear gender-defining clothes and don’t have a very shall we say, female body. So I, in a sense, disarmed him when I started screaming like a girl (ha!) when he attacked me. It’s always been unnerving to be thought of as a boy. But because he was confused, I took advantage of the situation to defend myself. I don’t want to think about what would have happened to me if I had been visibly female. Rape? Death? I don’t want to fear walking the streets, being alive. I want to not have to think of my womanhood all the time; factoring it into every decision I make. I want to think of myself first and foremost as a person and secondly as a female person. Why, I wonder, did I think of rape so fast? Maybe all those messages I have received growing up (never from my parents) about how my husband will ‘wonder where my virginity went’ on our nuptial night have gone to my head. My hymen has risen so high in my list of important things that it has acquired a life all of its own and floated to a place where it has lodged itself in the part of my brain that reacts to danger.

Benefits: the strength of women. E was there to listen to me as I told the story of my attack and as I reacted to the book by going to a Quaker meeting. My twin was glad to allow me to join her BS to be able to claim a fellowship of friends and like-minded people. L aka Best Friend allowed me to see parts of my country I had never seen and to meet her sister. I am blessed. L going the extra mile to let 2BF5 & I know when the Quaker meetings were. My aunt L who has been there for me. And especially my mum who taught me the virtue of drawing from the strength of women; a lesson so well learnt from her mother. I am a stronger person for all the women whose presence has been felt in my life.

For all these and much more, may I always be grateful ๐Ÿ™‚ <<Such a Rotaract thing to say (I got inducted last week, yay!) but so true, too.

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The year that was…

I don’t like retrospective posts…..and yet here I am….

This is more thanksgiving than anything else………Thank you God/Gaia/Mother Nature for:

(Disclaimer: Not in order of importance)

J: That life saver. She made 2009 so much more worth it…helping me get a hostel, taking me to hospital, resurrecting my love of karaoke ๐Ÿ™‚ Being a friend’s friend xx

Mo: He is such a clown!!! A great friend to have, a walking social network… He is very much the big brother I’d have crafted for myself………and so much more. And to Mo: You’re Kenyan, you can stop now ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for being awesome…..awesomeness becomes you…

B: Her and J, salala!! There should be a fine for being great friends…..those two should pay through the nose!! Thank you, you two, for being tops!

My twin: Eh, those cocoas and talks and walks &…..randomness, fun times. She gave me the courage to seek religion…and accepted me even when I was lost in so many senses….My study buddy, my confidante, I love her ๐Ÿ™‚

My ma: She and I have been through a ton of things this year; the heartbreak, the triumphs, the dreams… She helps me remember my greatness….and to reach for the stars…..I am one of them, after all

Marie: He he, I’m European too, if she insists….. That girl is a chunk of fun. Fullstop. And that all-nighter we pulled on the 1st of 2010? Well worth it ๐Ÿ™‚

My aunt L: She has been such a revelation for me this year. Where would I be without the hot meals, showers, warm bed? Let me not think about it *shudders*

My dad: We have our moments of non-bliss but 2009 was a year of discovery. I have learnt to forgive myself because I know him…

My dad’s friend H: For giving meย  a place to bum, have a cocoa, enjoy myself. Questioning me when I smoked…… I am grateful

My friend E: I felt so cheap, dirty, when I had a moment of stupidity with a guy I don’t like……but she pulled me out of the morass I had started making of my life. Every girl needs a friend like her; I am blessed

My twin’s friend M: If it hadn’t been for her, I’d have struggled moving through the maze that is living in school accommodation…..ย  God bless her ๐Ÿ™‚

W: Shopping buddy, fun times mate, person that embraces all of me. He was there for the ups and downs and the randomness in between….. 2010 will be fun with him around..

Mama M: She has become like a mother to me….finally I can say I have lots of family to count on

T: That boy is wise beyond his years…. I’m proud to be his sister

My friend C: Finding her after almost 3 years was an epiphany…. It’s good to find her grown, changed and yet still my friend ๐Ÿ™‚

N, my best friend: She’s been thousands of kilometres away and I’ve been lacklustre in my communication but I look forward to a good year….

P: Lawd, what was that??!!! I’m grateful that my moment of idiocy was with a person with discretion…it’s so easy, when you do something silly, to disregard the goodness in the other person. He is a good guy, and I hope he’s happy with someone.

Jay S: I found a freshman to befriend ๐Ÿ˜‰ inย  my second year of school… I’m grateful for all those times when he listened to me, hugged me, bugged me, dined with me……

Josh: My library buddy, my friend…..the one who made sure I always got home safe………

Inno: I know where to go if I need a place to crash…..thanks to her

Z: Without her, I’d never have experienced Lamu. I’m going to Russia v v soon to get her!!!!

L: She and I have come from far….and she always aids me to believe in myself that much more…

My roommate V: She’s quite something…

And finally…..

X: I will that this bit is short….. He has taught me something that I never thought I would learn: Grace. To be undeserving and yet receive. I have felt confused, amazed, angry…the whole gamut of emotions really….because of this one person.Evenย  though I’ve practically vowed not to tell him I love him (The Rules ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€ ), I do. I love the way he makes conversation from little things, his taste in music, his forthrightness, his intelligence, his courage……his ability to make me happy….those letters, the .1 child….all the things the future has in store for us. He is the Dr Burke to my Cristina Yang, accepting my idiosyncrasies and myย  inability to appreciate the religious side of things…. I just hope no one’s ditching anyone at any altar any time soon………

I’m grateful for all these people and all those who were a blessing along the way……2010, bring it on!

Sunny’s back!

That’s me, Sunny ๐Ÿ™‚

The last post gave ‘a break from the usual’ a whole new meaning….

OK…where do I begin?

I have acquired an obsession. Last time I used that word was in relation to a boy. Who constantly proclaims his love for me (gave me the best birthday gift this year *love you, hun, wherever you are*) and, it turns out, is gay. But he’ll always be something special…. Anyway, my latest obsession is ciggies….. I know…unhealthy, but I have moments where I am frustrated and all I can think about is this urge I have to smoke. Odd….considering the last time I smoked, I was 6…sneaking a puff of one of my uncles’ cigarette butts. I suck on a lollipop and end up holding the stick like a ciggie. My mum the psychologist links it to the fact that I barely breastfed. But that is conjecture, really… So I’ve been focusing my thoughts on that Benson & Hedges stick I shall have each week when school resumes (oh, my summer holiday…) which will be the holder of each week’s frustrations. I shall smoke when my roommate next semester goes to church… Told my brother about it and he was pretty intrigued… sad…

My summer holiday has been spent re-discovering myself, my causes, and figuring out my feelings for X… I have found out that the 6 children I once dreamt of having are just that… a dream. Remember the move? Well, it was to theย bundu (love that word) ie the rural areas…in this case, western Kenya. Where women get so many children their bodies get tired of it all…and children go without shoes because they are too many for their parents to buy enough pairs. My mum jokes that our village is where hers was in the 70’s…birth control-wise.

Have taught at the local primary school…enlightening. Made me really count my blessings…parents who care for me and helped me learn to read and write. I could read at 3…some of the kids I taught this last term (Kenya has 3 terms…appropriately called 1st, 2nd & 3rd term… You have to love Kenya) can’t read at 7/8. Sad… I was brought up with a keen awareness of human rights (Proud Amnesty International international member) and this… this inability to read, reproductive health issues….. They gnaw at me…

Now I’m at the townhouse….searching for documents that I’ve looked for n times before… OK, Bruce… what do you do? And making dinner. Hot, spicy, veggy…and the baby liked it ๐Ÿ™‚ The townhouse…so close to the post office. I went there today to post a letter to X. Oh, X, he makes me happy with the way he’s re-ignited my love for snail mail. Och, X, wherever you are ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

People are falling in love. That is to say W and myself. Oh, W…I’m so happy for him. And he’s had progress…I on the other hand really have to wait for October ie. the end of my summer holiday…to see my boyfriend… W sees his every week and misses him everyday. Me? I’ve imposed an injuction on saying ‘I miss you’ on Facebook messages. It makes the feeling too keen. So I’m not saying it, or listening to those long distance love etc songs/blogs/you get my drift…

X… is so interesting. That’s putting it lightly. I found a link to a fresh blog of his…long story which I shall not tell here… He fell in love, it turns out…and got arrested with the girl he loved (at the time of the entry)… Now, I happen to have been arested with him…and to have gotten a declaration of like from him (yes, like…not love) but that entry? It made me happy in a strange way. Part *aww, I love you too; babe* and part *say it to me, hun* OK, so now it’s strange…the happiness. But it goes to prove I should give X a chance; because I have less need to be pessimistic…or positively, I have more causes for happiness…

Oh, W, you’ve influenced me far too much. Look at me going all lovey dovey…

To wrap it up, here’s my back to school list:

1.Ciggies…/2.Storage stuff for when I move into my college hall (I’m green so I’m getting crafts baskets instead of plastic ones…)/3.Materials for a vision board…/4.Ball pens (have been using fountain pens…can’t take it any more…)…/

5.highly anticipated…seeing X again ๐Ÿ™‚ …such clean fun ๐Ÿ˜‰