The spelling bee who couldn’t e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e

My family didn’t have a TV till I lobbied for one successfully at the age of 6. @andywarhola could write tales about that, too. The distinct and utter lack of a TV. Or, going to the neighbour’s house to watch one. On the sly. That house, for me, was my friend Subira’s (her name means patience, goes to show) and that of a boy called Dan (who had three brothers-the beginning of my love affair with friendships with male people). That makes two houses… Yay me.

I taught myself to read at the age of 2. I read the same book -‘Kaka Sungura na Ndugu Mbweha’-over and over again till I could read effortlessly. If you are a Kenyan and you read that book; high five. My parents were the epitome of student poverty. Maybe I exaggerate but as I have grown older I have realised our charmed counter-cultural life (no help, no TV) was a response to the general absence of money. That and the accompanying surfeit of love. The egalitarian environment-father bathes child as mother labours over stove before father reads child book and mother tucks in child as father washes dinner dishes-was indicative of the fact that their reality did not allow my parents the privilege of traditional gender roles.

Did I just say ‘traditional gender roles’?

Fights with the being that has usurped her body & wrests control of her blog from it.

Phew! That was close! This post was inspired by @French_Freddy who urged me write a little something (is this little enough, Fred? May I stop now?) about why I read as my contribution to Kenya’s Reading Revolution (@readkenya on Twitter). Plus the encouragement of Juliet Maruru (@sheblossoms on Twitter) Aleya Jamel (@aleyajamel on Twitter) and tweeps such as @twezlie and @EdwinAbuga

“Quit stalling, lady!” a voice shouts from the gallery. All right my good people, these are my confessions:

I read because it’s an escape. At just about the point when the world has thrown all manner of things my way, it throws a book that rights my upside-down existence and evens the valleys. Then I walk through; barely looking up but safe in the knowledge that I shall survive and live to read another day. It’s an escape from the misery, the uncertainties of life. @veelangat and @kemikali can testify to that far-away, did-you-say-something, effect books have on me. And they know me well enough to be agents of the universe when I need a book thrown my way. The book cover as trapdoor. Escape.

I read because it’s what we do in my family. Reading as tradition. My brother T, now 11, used to read the paper upside down as a toddler. Read, in a manner of speaking. More like observe the text with a keen, intent look. Trying to piece together what it was that kept his pre-teen sister and parents so absorbed. And when he started to read, his enthusiasm couldn’t be curbed. Now that I’ve written that, I’ve remembered how I used to ask the butcher to wrap the meat in particular pages of the newspaper so that I could read the article on the paper when I got home. My mother knew I did this-I requested those very sheets of paper even when she was the one buying meat with me by her side-and she approved of it. That’s just, as the young would say, how we roll.

I read to be informed. The written word as teacher. My parents are of that in-between generation that had never talked about sex(uality) with their parents but was faced with the scourge that is AIDS at the time when their children were growing up. To talk or not to talk? Or in my parents case, to foist books on said child or not? Foist not, converse not; my parents decided. And being lovers of the spoken word, they would not choose to deny themselves the chance to have The Conversation. Many times. I read a plethora of Sex-Ed books. Christian ones, secular ones, NGO-funded ones….with some Kama Sutra thrown in at 11 or 12; for good measure. I couldn’t be bothered in those days; I actually thought they were being nags. These days, when I am with my age-mates and I am treated like an oversexed female person for all the knowledge I have, I see what motivated my parents. Knowledge is power. I am powerful. It’s not just about the birds and the bees that I read to be informed. The world, money, power, war and peace. Love, pain, pleasure; one knows so much more when one reads.

This will sound ridiculous but I read to learn to write. By which I mean spell. @kemikali (the man usually referred to as X) has made a comedy out of my inability to pronounce words. My constant rebuttal? I can spell them. I know, it’s lame, I should go for Toastmasters or something similar. But why, when I can spell, spell, spell? My brother, rearing himself on a steady diet of TV (how time flies! How things change!) can spell a word by the hearing; I can explain a word by the reading. I’m the spelling bee who can’t pronounce words, he is the champion born too many miles from the Big Apple. And so I continue to read. I may never get to say myriad words as they should be said (on what side of the Atlantic, ask I?) but at least I can write them. From the gallery, “Write on, sister! Write on!”. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

I read to experience the full gamut of human expression and feeling. The happy, the sad, the flights of fancy, the ideas that transform, heal, change. The Bible, the Qur’an, the inspired writings of Kahlil Gibran. Frost, Garcia Marquez, Soyinka, Ngugi, Mahfouz, Gordimer, Adichie, Arundhati Roy….Emily Dickinson (or My high school crush). Those ‘trashy’ romance novels (my dad encouraged me to read those as a teenager; so I could wrap up the fantasy bit of my life that much sooner, I guess), those bits of classic literature (I used to drive my mum to church and sit at the park outside reading ‘War and Peace’, heathen that I was; ha ha), contemporary literature. I may never be left on bridge by a lover, or have a lesbian one; but I can read the experiences of one who has. I have never been to Kathmandu and shall never go to apartheid South Africa though I have a sense of what it’s like to be in those places.

A story: Once I was at a supermarket and an autistic child (thank you, Reader’s Digest) walked up to me and held my hand as he looked into my eyes with a piercing look. I was, quite honestly, enchanted (I was 19 and sans lover; not a lot of people were lining up to look at me like that) and held his hand as I greeted him and asked him his name (he told me) before his mum came and took him away. Greetings, transfer of child, best wishes. Then we met again at a the pharmacy in the very mall. A repeat of what had happened earlier and a fresh round ofgoodbyes.

I may never have a child, let alone an autistic one, but I felt like I had met that child before. In a book. Not this specific one but the different, the unusual, the outcast, the misunderstood. I had met him in his world and in those of others and I felt like I was meeting an old friend when I met that lad. My empathy was informed by my knowledge of that child from the wealth of books read. The world is full of experiences, situations, feelings, that we may never chance upon. Yet, in a book, we get to experience all these. And so much more.

I read because it’s a cheap means to wealth. No, I’m not talking about all those motivational books. I am talking about a wealth of knowledge, of expressions, of feeling, of twists and turns; and of money, too. The book that costs one less than 50 US cents that transports you to a whole new world (cue Aladdin on the magic carpet), the fantasy worlds explored. I realised, as an adult, that bar ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’, I read all the other fairy tales in their unabridged form. That is to say, as The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen first presented them (thank you, Penguin Popular Classics). The student poverty mentioned earlier was the chief cause but looking back, I can honestly say I grew up rich. I got a slice of history and it was a gift that kept giving. I went to 19th century England, and walked with Mowgli through the jungle. I learnt why things fell apart and pieced together the reason behind all the strange animals in those Australian cartoons (Australia was a bit of an obsession at age 5) as I ran away from the Amazonian creatures on my way to the ruins of ancient civilisations. All this while I admired the Sphinx and cried over the beloved country. All this knowledge, all this history for the girl who was rich because she read.

So much for my ‘few words about why I read’, huh? But these and so many more are the reasons why I read. I could go on and on but as I conclude I would like to say that nothing opens the mind more than books read, nothing whets the appetite for knowledge better than the written word, nothing quenches the thirst for answers more than that which comes to you through reading.

I am a Kenyan who reads and I support the Reading Revolution. Why do you read?

Tagged: All the tweeps mentioned herein who love to read and haven’t written about why they read

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Let the men come to you

The young man and his crew step onto the yard and bust moves. They are terrific and intriguing. Understandably, the girls pay attention. Who wouldn’t? And what do men who capture the attention of people also do? They arouse the desire of women… As does the man who leads this crew. One girl, at the end of their performance, looks at the leader with that look of suggestion also sometimes referred to as a ‘come-hither’ look. Well, good on her. The young man declines-he has chosen to abstain-with the aid of a V-for-victory (or is it V-for-virginity?) sign. Good on him, I say. The other girls in the yard laugh at her for having her offer rebuffed by the young (and may I say desirable now?) man . The scene ends with the principal or some such adult in the otherwise teenage situation trying to master the V sign. Scene pans out.

The other girls laugh at her because she desires a guy?? What am I missing here? I believe adverts are a commentary on society and for me this one says two-no, make that three-things. It’s not 1980 any more; women are liberated and feel empowered enough to ask for what they want. Love, sex, magic; they’ll ask for it. Whether or not they’ll get it is another matter.

Also, that it’s OK for young men to say no to the advances of women. As the first thing above so clearly shows, it’s not just men that want to get some. So do women, and they’ll go after the man of their choice. Which man could resist her advances, if he was so inclined. Kudos, young man!

Lastly; the first thing, while true, does not have the approval of society. So you want to go after the man you want (shall I say, the man you find too sexually appealing to resist)? Go after him, why don’t you; just don’t expect us to cheer you on. Harlot. Wait for that man to come after you! Oh, and cue the laughter of your fellow womenfolk here.

May this ad be a lesson to young women of the world & especially those domiciled in the Republic of Kenya. Let the men come to you.

 

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 🙂 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 mone¥ 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 🙂 🙂 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 🙂 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, “I wish I had that.” 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 🙂 <<Such a Rotaract thing to say (I got inducted last week, yay!) but so true, too.

Just pull the trigger

That video is characteristic of this blog sometimes….so way off topic that it’s sensible [maybe]

I went to my uncle’s funeral on the 30th of last month. Hence the title…as it was a police funeral…

My trigger is Psalm 23…the priest [my (maternal) family is Anglican] read it out and all my sadness came spilling out. All the tears I hadn’t cried since the ones I had cried when I called my mum across the country on the day he died (March 24) and cried as I walked in a mall…

Psalm 23 (New King James Version)

A Psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
Forever.

Loss, ag. Loss is hard, it’s painful, it’s like that itch you can’t scratch but you can’t stop thinking of. Loss is listening to words of condolence & not hearing them. Loss. Loss is wanting the person you love to call you so you have someone to cry to and not being able to call them yourself because you don’t know what to say when they pick the phone.

I told X these things on Saturday (the 10th) but I’ll say them here:

My uncle was my mum’s older brother and he was there for me from the time I was little…including listening to my advice as a 2 year old: ‘Mama — wendo wa cash money ni hatari'<<Kikuyu phrase I’d picked up on radio that roughly translates to ‘The love of cash money is dangerous’, ‘Mama’ being the Kikuyu word for Uncle, specifically maternal uncle, as a paternal one is called ‘Baba'(father)  like you would call your own. The things I didn’t listen to as a child…. 😀 Or believing in my ability to be a great driver…and praising my skills to anyone who’d care to listen…even when I needed his help to go up a hill in my manual transmission car…

My uncle…who let his children drift away from him for ages till my mum practically strong-armed his ex-wife into suing for child support…and who, surprisingly, took up the task like he had been waiting to be prodded. My uncle who had big dreams for his sons. My cousin who was informed of his father’s death by a motorcycle taxi rider because his mother, my uncle’s first wife, was waiting for him at home….waiting to tell him face to face. My cousin who’s now fatherless, bereft of the father that was my uncle.

The man who was HIV+ (I shall not sweep matters under the carpet for a second longer) and told no-one. NO-one….when we would have been here to support him. He died from menengitis, an almost-always definite killer for those with the virus. Oh, what for lack of telling we suffer. The man who my uncle, his last born brother, was scared to tell, “Go get tested,” because he was always larger than life….even when he was ravaged by the virus.

This man who went back to Police College to get promoted, who made an idiot of all those who stereotype the Kenya Police. He read books (‘The Constant Gardener’ at his death), he never stole (and trust me, not for lack of opportunity)… This man who put family first even though he faltered sometimes.

My uncle who I thought I knew yet who made me realise that in death your not-knowing is that much greater. My uncle who sacrificed to make sure his siblings went to school at a time when my grandfather was going through a rough patch. He that looked, and acted, so much like his father, my grandfather. A man of honour, a resilient man, a man of quiet strength.

The man who, even though it would have been easy to resent my mother for her child-support machinations, always treated her with respect. So much respect that he was one of the first of my mother’s people to embrace my father; a man from another tribe who had put his sister in the family way…because he saw my father’s honour would not allow him to let me grow up fatherless.

My uncle who saw the end coming and called his first and second wives to his bedside-to make peace. My uncle whose first wife used to peel my cousin (his first son) and I plums during plum season & pears during pear season when I lived at my grandfather’s place as a child. My aunt, his first wife, who was the first person who was an aunt to me; my mother having been brought up, like me, sisterless. My aunt who made me a doll with buttons and cloth that I swiftly discarded at the birth of her first son…because I preferred a real baby 🙂 My aunt who has always loved me like her own…who would never have come into my life without my uncle.

My uncle who showed me and my mother how much he loved us in his distinctly African way. With actions, actions, actions. Who looked out for my aunt L & her family even though they were not his kin (by blood, or choice-as they are mine), who looked out for us during post-election violence; who spirited his sons to safety during that period.

I could go on forever….but this is my tribute to a great man. I hope no uncle of mine dies on me in this fashion again…with me having been silent on him…not letting him know I love him in words; not knowing all the dimensions to him. My uncle who showed me how fleeting life is…who didn’t live to be 50, or see his son go to college. Who made me rethink the way I treat the people I love [Ah, you know I love you], who made me realise how isolating death and loss are. My uncle whose death has made me more forgiving of others (like my friend whose father died on the 5th of this month and was buried today, who had not told me he was dying of cancer….before my uncle’s death, I’d have been wounded by her not-telling….but when I think back to MY not-talking about his illness…..) who died to make me love people more fiercely.

My first police funeral was of a man I deeply respected. As I leave you with this song by The Script, all I can say is….as the song says…..the truth of these words is terribly immense:

When your heart breaks, it doesn’t break even

There are all these little bits to put together….but we shall survive.

A few of my favorite things

I got this cover of the original song from ‘Sound of Music’ and I couldn’t resist 🙂

So here’s a list (for when I forget 🙂 )

  1. Music: Well, who doesn’t? There’s always that song that captures your mood, lifts your spirit, expresses what you can’t put into words…ah, music
  2. Silly stuff…: Wouldn’t measure up to randomness if all I did was the serious stuff, now would I? Would I??? *wearing maniacal ‘ANSWER ME!’ look* I thought not!
  3. Punctuality: Am I the only one who doesn’t enjoy waiting? It really gets my goat [I love that expression]
  4. Affirmation: Anyone who’s been tuning in for episodes might have noticed this but there, I said it. I think we all like that someone to (sort of) vindicate us [I used to love that word when I was 16…I wonder why…]
  5. Hugs: I’m a sucker for those…as is one Mo…who I have not heard from for yonks. He’s great with hugs…him & X (most times, sometimes they feel cursory-I *do not* like cursory hugs) & 2BF5 & Jay (his are really awesome, they involve spinning me round and round-usually in malls…fun times)
  6. Communication: I talked about this in my last post. How I’ll stop nagging X about that topic but I’ll state it here for the record: I try to communicate with people but a reticence on your part really won’t earn you any favours. It turns out being in a relationship with the non-communicator makes me tetchy. Enough said. I find that it’s so easy you simply have no reason not to (other than you don’t want to, pure and simple in which case I get a hint!) reply to e-mail, texts, messages…pick the phone (Quite passive, you see) but what I really cherish is the active communicator. The one who sends the e-mail/text/message…the one who calls. One of the many reasons why I love 2BF5…
  7. The world & all in it: I really love this planet. It’s so tiny and yet so large in terms of the diversity you find in it. Aah, I love you Mother Earth & I love you World 🙂
  8. A person who gets along with my friends: As you might have gathered, my friends are pretty all-sorts (Understatement of the Century) so I quite like folks who can get along with most of my friends. I can assure you, ALL is pushing it quite a tad…
  9. Kisses: I love me a good smooch, I do. Those ones that take you away…especially in my dreams where I’ve had lots of those as opposed to real life where I’m saving all my love [cue Whitney Houston pre-drugs singing ‘Saving All My Love’] (and my kisses, too, apparently) for The One [capitalisation is of utmost importance-this is not an issue one can toy with :D]. I think all the Latin men I have watched have raised the bar-I better not be disappointed 🙂 Couldn’t help throwing in this video for entertainment’s sake:
  10. Touch: I speak a language called Touch. What it means is that if you want to communicate how you feel about me, touching me is a good option. Also, I only touch people I like. If I have had physical contact with you, be assured, I like you. Though of course anyone who thinks of a hug as touch had latched on this 🙂
  11. Honesty: No matter how bad the truth is, Just Say It! It’ll be that much worse when I discover it. It really grinds my gears when I practically have to drag information out of someone. Really, if you’d told me we’d have moved that much faster…
  12. Transparency: No, not TI, that body those of us in some parts of Africa associate with damning corruption reports but rather saying it as it is. Obfuscation is so irritating… Yes, I can hear you saying I said honesty above but how else was I going to throw in ‘obfuscation’? 😀
  13. A good listener: Who doesn’t love a good listener? Also the person who doesn’t tune out (yes, it’s you I’m talking to, you know yourself..) They’re so hard to find…but also so valuable once you do…
  14. Compliments: Just not about my hair…J/K I loooove compliments so I give them quite freely. I know more than one girl who has been left wondering about my orientation but I love compliments so if you see me, you know what to do 🙂
  15. A love of family: My family means a lot to me so institutions, people, who respect family count for a lot to me…Viva la familia!
  16. Food: I love food, really I do. I plan meals in advance, I walk halfway across town for food offers, I explore a new culture through its food. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a gourmand like one Mo has, but hey 🙂

Part of the reason I wrote this is because I lost my uncle yesterday and I thought about how loss occurs so easily and how forgetting is something that we are all susceptible to. My next post will be listless [no, not in the ‘she looked listless’ sense :D] but this is for memories’ sake.

Also, this blog sometimes veers into ‘Love Jude‘ territory-that being the title of a book where the blogger/diarist is obsessed with her boyfriend Oren & every post is about him. I saw that in myself when I re-read it the other day. Hilarious though it is, I spend a lot of time talking about X and maybe, as a book called ‘Sex & Sensibility’ by some Christian bloke called Steve Ayers suggests, my other relationships suffer as a result.

Situation shall be rectified.

🙂

To round it all off, here’s Makmende, the Kenyan phenomenon spun by an experimental Kenyan group (too funny, *they* describe themselves as such), Just  A Band, that has supposedly gone viral. Enjoy & I’ll catch you later 🙂

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 😀

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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 me  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…..  God bless her 🙂

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 🙂

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 😉 in  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.Even  though I’ve practically vowed not to tell him I love him (The Rules 😉 😀 ), 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 my  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!