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Friday, December 30, 2011

Lost At Inception (and a thank you note)

The year has finally come to an end, the fat big boned lady has sung. The sands in the hourglass have…you get the drift. So many things I’d have wanted to write but time, she doesn’t give a rat’s behind. I tried to squeeze in some of them in this final post, enjoy.

He stood naked at the edge of the cliff.
Let's focus on the point...ladies.

I always wanted to start a post like that. It would be a story of this young man, standing, totally naked at the end of the precipice, the world hanging mercifully at his feet, the breeze coyly kissing his bareness. A descriptive piece of literature that in the end would turn out to be an allegory of my life, how I bared it all to a crowd of strangers turned friends, a group of people who every now and then visit this blog to get whatever it is they get from my writings. Oh, and he would totally jump.
The machine’s beep was consistent. Beep, beep, beep a constant rhythm to an endless dirge. He lay there on his bed all alone in the room, in the world. His vision was blurry. He looked at the mass of light emanating from the window. All he could see was the great whiteness that seemed to beckon. He stared intently, unceasingly. He stretched his hand just high enough not to yank out the needles stuck in it. He smiled at the whiteness; the uncertainty of it gave him hope. The beeping increased in tempo, the whiteness grew bigger. The door flung open, the beeping was no longer a consistent rhythm but the frantic bickering of a machine, then the beeping stopped, the whiteness engulfed everything.
There were times when the Ayn Rand in me would have wanted to start a post like this.  I would probably start off like this, write about the uncertainty that was when I moved out. How everything I clang on withered and died, well except my mum and God…the whiteness that was. He dies though…but in death, he finds life… you’ll get it.
Did you know that shotguns make you immune to zombie attacks?
Looks like he lost his mind.
When I started this blog I had this thing for zombies, I still do. I thought of starting off each post with a zombie fan fact. Then rumble on and on about how city council officers are like zombies, the dumb Shawn of the Dead ones that… I could go on and on…
John Wesley once said, the best of all is this, God is with us.
There are times when my faith compelled me to write about my beliefs, my faith and my relationship with God. Times like this I would think of writing about this 30 something year old man who like the baddest action hero (think Die Hard) died for me; who became my savior in one selfless act of sheer awesomeness. It wouldn’t be one of those preachy posts; I’d probably throw in some karate chops and an ‘I’ll be back!’ probably title it Die Hard for You. Oh yeah and he dies in the end… for you!
I want to kill Biko, eat his brain so that I can write like him….
...and then i'll write like you.

Okay, confession, all my posts start like that, then I just hit the backspace button and write about something else.

There are a myriad of other intros that like the above, either got killed off or just didn’t get the chance to be written. Ideas that once conceived died in the womb of processing. Others just got procrastinated off a cliff. Still, with so many things unwritten, 22 posts later I smile.
I smile because I am thankful. Thankful that I got time to write, thankful because I have an audience, thankful because in as much as some posts were just, well what’s the word, sh*t, you still had reason to come back every month wanting to give this idiot (read genius) another chance.
So this being the last post this year, like we have a choice…the year ends tomorrow, I’d like to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. This might get me into trouble but hey:
The production of this blog has been an amazing journey. From conception to actualization I felt like I was walking through a market, with a pen and a paper, and with no clothes. But this breezy walk of shame would not have lasted this long if it had not been for you guys. I would like to take this opportunity to mention some people who made me do this…it’s all your fault:
I would like to thank my mum and dad…not all parents are cool with their son wanting to be a writer, I mean how do they even make money to eat? I’d like to thank my close friend @Janetnyongesa for always reading, @wangeshe @mawazo_mengi @anyixbaby @twezlie @wiselar @edgicovi @felixmind for reading and sharing…and inspiring. @shiko_msa for creating the impression that the whole of Mombasa loves my blog, @truthslinger @bikozulu I want to be like you when I grow up, @iannjuguna @princcessnereah @sheda @loiawat @jixvix @mokeira @linalacrosse there is life outside the big blue gates, @shizmoe @lynnsheri @kandutsie for the comments…and love, @beury17 for the music, salute. @Almondia amazing pastor and writer, keep on @pastor_wa, man of God, thank you. @sirlotan @bush254 @muryokih @songiijay @macharia_m we have to make it. @Blogs_kenya for spreading the word, @missnaynay87 @nonzzle it’s just a matter of writing, @njerithande @ngendo87 @njeewy the spices of my life @warugzgachuhi mama twins… you are my hero, @lilianokado, best boss in the world, @justaband, best band in the world, @ericwainaina best album in the world, all my subscribers, thank you, Girlfriend, for letting me, and God who I believe sent his son Jesus Christ to die for me, so that I can write and worship Him. To all those I haven’t mentioned, thank you.
I always wanted to write an appreciation post like they always do on album covers. Happy holidays my friends, and a happy New Year!!! See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

University and The Girl


She is about 5’6, dark complexion and a pretty face on her. She has a head scarf and a white jumper which under normal circumstances would be a major no no. She has on a long denim skirt with a triangular patch of white material decked with an array of designs. Her nails are long, glassy and well kept. Two toes peek out of the tip of her sandals. She just stands there, staring into nothing probably thinking about her future, or last Friday’s reveling. I walk up to her, ignoring the people on the long winding queue. She is beautiful, no, stunning. Her simplicity emboldens her elegance, she might as well be clad in designer garments, heck she might as well be nude. I suck in some air, push up my chest and move in. Her name is Tina*.


Forget the head scarf...



Okay, fine.

I met her on January 8, 2007. It was a Monday afternoon, hot, dry; the best Athi River could offer. We had been grouped, the lot of us. Each group had its leader and I could hear them refer to us a ‘my children’, it sickened me. Here, I was nobody’s child. For all I cared I was my own man and I was not going to take anything from anyone, well except her. She stood in the finance and accounts queue with nothing but an orange paper folder in her hands. She held it magnificently, like a lady. I looked down at mine, already damp from clammy hands. What the heck, I thought…and moved in. I told her my name, my real name (I was not going to make her think I was one of those F2 jam session Rasta color clad obohos from Eastlands, so no, Ras would not suffice)

she told me hers. I told a joke, she smiled. I was in. We chatted, she was from Westlands (I later learnt she was from Kabete) She had two older brothers (I didn’t care much, soon after I learnt none of them was in the army or a trained licensed killer) and she wanted to become a teacher. I wasn’t surprised and you can’t blame me. Only a teacher would wear a headscarf, jumper and denim skirt on her first day in university.
We became best friends, inseparable. We shared jokes, classes, friends and enemies. We argued, made up, and at times… (I’ll leave that part out).

This went on for a year, and then it all went south.
It was a slow gradual drift. I started making new friends, she went back to her old friends. I changed my lifestyle (which means I reduced the number of days spent looking for the elusive hangover remedy), she wasn’t as motivated to change her life. But all these changes were nothing compared to what happened when I met Val*. In no time, Tina was gone, old news, MySpace. We tried everything: random meet ups, phone calls, texts, nothing. It was gone.

Val was nothing like Tina. She never wore a head scarf, she said it made her head look small, she had short finger nails and she never wore denim skirts. She didn’t play an instrument (Tina played the guitar, bass, recorder, flute, drums, piano, saxophone and she sang), she loved her iPod though. She wanted to join the corporate world. She loved the whole thing: suits, meetings, suits, pitches, strategy papers and suits. We were friends, good friends. We shared friends, she thought my jokes were silly and we even shared a few classes. I met her family (well part of it, her dad looked like a bigger version of Kojak so I avoided him like the plague…or Kojak) she met mine. We fought, we made up, we… (You know the drill). She became my first girlfriend in campus and Tina became the girl I once knew.

Pictured: Old news, in this case, Tina
Then it all changed. A year and some later I had my heart broken for the first time in campus. For a while, nothing made sense. Life was sh*t. She moved on, Val, graduated and moved to another town. Her life moved on, mine stopped.

Thank you Val, you evil *****

While my life was on pause, I met a few more. Now these are a bit interesting. While my life so far had been well padded by a close friendship and a romantic relationship, both taking up half of my campus life it is at this point in my life that I realized that I was prey, I always had been and it seemed that Tina and Val had formed a force-field around me that protected me from what I will call, for the sake of this post (and my security) The Other Girls. The Other Girls offered me comfort, solace in the emotional turmoil that had become my life. We ate together, laughed together and when it rained, I spent the night wherever the downpour got me. But The Other Girls were evil. They made me do things (said in a deranged whisper) and I realized I had to kill them…which would have been really awesome if they were zombies (and I suspect they were) but I stopped hanging out with them they crawled back into the darkness where such wenches lay.

Pictured: Pure Evil


This story should end here with me learning that women are crazy and clearly not good for me, but what fun would that be?
Later I went on to meet other ladies who would continue to make my life in university a collection of amazing memories that would need its own blog to narrate.
But this story is about Tina.
You see, university does a lot to people. People change. In fact, there is no greater show of the consistency of change than in the corridors of university. We join, we meet new people, learn new things, meet more people who teach us more things and before we know it our before-after photos are no different from Michael Jackson’s. Through this wave of change, Tina never, not even in her gait, changed. She was always the girl with the smile, glassy finger nails (though at some point she started biting them…why oh why) and long skirts. She always had a head scarf and always looked like she was thinking of her future or last week’s party at Koki’s*. She always treated me like her best friend, like she always had. Even when she went to the states on tour with a singing group she came back as the Tina who I met all those years ago.
I decided to write about her. Not because I realized that I’ve always been in love with her and this is some soppy Hollywood attempt at winning her heart (girlfriend would kill me) but because as I look at my hair, my dressing, my lifestyle and even my writing I notice one thing, through the various influences that came my way, ups and downs, fashion fads, writers who make me feel like I should rethink my career choice (ahem Biko) I still try to remember who I am and keep it that way. That I could only learn from her, the one person I know who all through campus, stayed true to herself.
I went to her graduation party a few months back and as her family was saying things about her childhood and her achievements and while her father proudly told us about ‘his little girl’, all I could see was the girl in the black head scarf, white jumper and long denim skirt; the girl who showed me how to get through university. And with a wry smile, staring at her father I wished away the memories of his little girl and I….
Beautiful, ain't she?



Incase I disappear mysteriously, girlfriend read this post... I'm just saying.... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome Back

Maybe I should rent a purple suit. A pimp stick would go well with a Dalmatian mink scarf and gold teeth to seal the deal. A pair of gators, white, and a fedora complete with a feather. Next I’ll go to a recording house, a chilled out one not one of these yappy record labels that add a beat to Avril’s an annoying teenage deprived adult’s shrieks, then call it a club banger. A label seemingly nondescript, but knows that the difference between Quincy Jones and Indiana Jones, somewhere like Madafu Records. A few days worth of recording time then a few more for a video shoot and bam! My hit comeback single titled Welcome Back would rock the charts and soon the whole world will notice my coming back to the scene and soon I’ll be in breakfast shows and…. Wait, this sounds a bit too familiar, like it’s happened before, only to someone else…



Anyway, I am back.

It’s been almost three months and boy have I missed you. I am compelled to speak to the whole lot of you who regularly tweeted me asking what happened to the blog, some asking if I am alive (ignoring the fact that their timeline is filled with my mundane tweets) while some texting me, all seeking their dose of well, whatever you people get off this blog. But since I graduated (yes, a lot has happened since I last wrote) with a degree in communication, the radio presenter in me knows that I should speak to you, yes you dear reader and not be a presumptuous ass and assume that you and your whole office are reading this. Never mind that I graduated in Print Media and English, I know you like the attention.

So yes, dear reader; first, I am sorry. See there are plenty of reasons as to why I never wrote. They vary from being kidnapped by zombies, to escaping this concrete, life sucking me-wanting-to-push-a-pencil-through-my-eyeball city life and the realization that this city owns me and thus I needed to get back and face my worst fear…not zombies, you. Dear reader you have to understand that I too have voices in my head and while you may have developed the skill of controlling these voices, I am under their every whim. Every time these voices become too much, I run and well, this kind of running isn’t really effective; it’s like being handcuffed to a bouncer, think Izzo of Q’s, then poking him in the eye and running.




You, dear reader, have to understand that in this analogy, you are Izzo, all burly and killer-fisted. I, on the other hand, am just plain me (and have you seen me, I weigh the same as a bag of cement, a small goat and a packet of maize flour. Izzo weighs the same as a medium size cow, a small house and three packets of maize flour). While your fists are packed with expectation and choice, I only have my pen.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not suffer from low self esteem, heck I almost have an ego problem but even the toughest writers have their weaknesses and you, dear reader, are mine. So two months ago I wrote something about my favorite things and a thought crossed my mind: maybe I should start a site, gather all my writings together and kind of run it like my personal site and portfolio.

It was a good idea, at first; then my lack of skill in web design left me confused, lost and with about 5 new blogs that I wanted nothing to do with. I had created a blog making monster who could not control himself…and all he wanted was to have a site where you, dear reader would come, enjoy, maybe even bring a friend. So I gave up and decided to re-launch the blog, maybe change the banner and background color, then I wondered what you would think and I stopped in my tracks. Then another thought, you liked the post on the kids from Burundi, should I focus my writing on people or should I just keep writing about spiders, zombies and powder flavored drinks. Then another thought, and another and soon, I was so confused, I couldn’t even remember the blog’s URL.








So I had to stay away, hidden from you before another thought on how to impress you came up. You dear reader, are like that girl I liked back when I was doing my diploma. I was fresh out of high school and girls ‘in the real world’ were something else. So all my attempts to impress her including the time I followed Philo’s advice and ended up freaking her out by my incessant staring while attempting to do what he called ‘Eye Contact’, ended up with me looking like an idiot and not impressing her at all. Am pretty sure she would have blocked my calls, that is if she would have given me her number, probably under the influence of some banned substance.




But that is who you have become, that girl. So I went away, grew a pair and came back and this is all I have to say: Let me be. Let me write whatever comes to mind. Let my background be dark because that is the only way I can keep the voices hidden. Let me hide in my analogies, let me run away from the zombies, heck let me write about zombies and when you get tired, let me know. In fact, let me know how I can do this and still stay me, you know that guy who still thinks Izzo of Q’s is one of the biggest asses Nairobi has ever experienced but is still kind enough to feature him on his blog…he he he….
Yap, I am back.

Okay before I go, I have been listening to Ghetto Radio, something I am not exactly proud of and well, there is this guy, Mbusi, I won’t even go there…but you know the part of his show where he whips people who misbehave in society (Nyahunyo Nhyahu Nyahu…) well, just this one time I will use this blog to whip someone I think has been misbehaving… dear reader, grab a whip… Nairobi City Council officers, especially you who harass women, touch your toes…

Oh, Madafu Records does exist and goodness do they know what music is all about! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Favourite Things (As Inspired By Oprah)

It’s like no one expected Oprah to end her weekly talk show, either that or no one believed the one hour emotional circus ride would end. Clearly, no one had a clear picture of what the world would look like, kind of a post-Oprah apocalyptic phase. Business owners couldn’t see a future without Oprah’s touch (Midas touch still sounds better), authors lost all will to write, after all what’s the point of writing a book if Oprah won’t endorse it in her magical book club. Heck, Oprahfication is now a word. Glad my auto-correct thinks it’s a load of bull. Due to the increased number of Oprahcondriacs (another word that is coming soon, you wait and see) I decided to do what any normal capitalistic cynic bastard would do: take advantage.
In an attempt to keep with the mood, since Oprah had a ‘My Favorite Things’ list which she shared with people and often went the extra mile by giving her audience whatever was on her list, I will give you my version of Ras Mengesha’s Favorite Things but, as one comic put it, due to the shortcomings of HTML you won’t be able to go home with a gift basket of probably rubbish things. Here goes:

Nestea Iced Tea

ignore the fact that the first time I drank this I felt like I was giving birth to my kidneys. It probably wasn’t a good idea to substitute water for flavored chemicals on that rock climbing trip, but if you’ve ever drank the 90’s equivalent, Super Dip, a more concentrated chemical mix that am sure was not supposed to be drank by expectant women for obvious reasons, then you will appreciate the lighter, less-likely-to-send-you-into-a-coma taste of Nestea iced tea. One sachet of Nestea goes for 20 shillings and will make a liter of fruit flavored death punch.
Aahh, the refreshing taste of death

Super Dip was 10 shillings and made 2 liters of extra lethal fruity death punch. I don’t usually subscribe to that less is expensive load of croak, but I’ll go with it on this one. Hospital bills are not cheap, not in this economy.

NOKIA
A few weeks ago some idiots were having fun on Twitter with the idea of Nokia manufacturing condoms instead of phones. I told you they were idiots. Of course there was the minor issue of Nokia slogans not making it hard for people with nothing to do, to make fan of them and so we had gems like: Nokia Condoms, Connecting People and Nokia Condoms, Play It Loud.
Still, Nokia remains to be one of my favorite brands. The Nokia 3310 my first ‘cool’ phone had voice tag technology that was way ahead of its time. You could even compose your own ring tone. Right now I own a Nokia 5530 XpressMusic.
What we would all be using if Steve Jobs was not from Planet Ukuloid in the 16th galaxy

Decent gadget, I can call, text, tweet, send emails, watch movies, listen to music, and my baby Neema (yap that’s what I call her) sounds really good. There is only one thing that would make me cheat on my baby:

iANYTHING
This includes the iPhone, MacBookPro, iPad and basically anything that runs on iOS including my iDEAS (don’t even act like that’s not funny). Okay, I know a few of you are waiting for me to say something about the Black Berry. BB is Wesley Snipes in Blade 2 and iAnything is Priest in The Priest. While these two are badass and would probably kick each other’s butts while kicking major vampire ass, The Priest is way cooler, and even rides a badass-er bike.
Pictured: Buffy the vampire slayer

 iAnything, I am convinced, runs on alien technology. If iOS was a dancer, she would be those hot black chicks who rock Adidas and do some wicked Hip Hop B-Boy moves while BB would be those dudes who mix Hip Hop and ballet and end up pulling moves like Cabo Snoop in his Windek video. Okay, that’s enough.

NALGENE
Thank global warming for having extra hot summers and warm winters and just generally screwed up weather. While you are at it, thank peculiar Kenyans for making water bottles a fashion accessory. I have no problem with chicks wanting to match everything from their nail polish to their hair bands to their water bottle. I actually have no problem with you buying a cheap, I mean, affordable water bottle for those hot July days, but dudes, I will not let you off easy on this one. If you do not have a Nalgene bottle, then you have a sissy juice bottle. If Nalgene was a sport, it would be extreme rock climbing, the kind they do without ropes. Your normal Seefar bottle would be under 17 girls’ gymnastics, and that’s because I can’t think of a girlier sport off the top of my head.
Drink me now...FOOL!

I once stabbed a friend’s glossy supermarket water bottle with a trekking pole on Mount Kenya. I didn’t care if he would have died of dehydration or whatever you die from for abrupt withdrawal from sissy juice bottles, but I felt like I had done him a favor.

MOTOR BIKES
I know writers have this habit of occasionally saying things that are, well, not true. As I write this, the most awesome thing has happened. My boy left the house, back pack, jacket, helmet and his daily dose of I-cut-the-hell-though-traffic swag. Moments later as I typed the last sentence of the previous paragraph, he walked in, stood at the door for some seconds, I wasn’t paying attention. I turned to look at him and his clothes had a red coat of dust on his right side and his hands, all covered in dust, were bleeding. Just as I was thinking of telling you how awesome motor bikes are, my boy was having his butt scraped in a minor motor bike accident. I kid you not.
Ouch

I am not a superstitious guy so, tough luck, heck, I promise to be more careful. He, he, he. But I need to add this, if you are going to buy a motor bike, buy a real motor bike, not a glorified lawn mower. It just might mow the lawn with your ass.
Pictured: Not a motor bike


TROPICAL HEAT CHEESE AND ONION FLAVORED POTATO CRISPS
I didn’t arrange this list in any order, but if I did, crisps would be at the top, or bottom depending on where number one is. Basically, crisps are my favorite thing on this list. Don’t get smart asking if I was given a choice between a MacBookPro and a pack of crisps…it’s situational!
Potato crisps are the Mitsubishi Evolution X of the snack world. I had to throw in that car somewhere in this list because it is awesome and deserves to be in the oh-my-lord-what-was-this-genius-on-when-he-came-up-with-this-car list.
If snacks were mythical creatures, pop corn would be Leprechauns or Gnomes while crisps would be the god of war.
Crisps about to excite your taste buds

Cheese puffs would be Pegasus the flying horse just because while they are awesome, they are just gay.
Cheese Puffs


There you have it, that’s my list. You know what dear Oprahcondriac (yes, I love you so much I even came up with a special name for you), Oprah abandoned you, but I am here for you. Do you have a book, brand, a sappy story about your childhood? Come on, make me a billionaire, I mean, let’s share it with the world, your world.
 Am sure the guys at Super Dip won’t be so thrilled when they read this, but then again, they all probably work for Nestea, so win-win.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Last year I visited Burundi. If as you read this you are thinking, “Oh, really this guy is so cool...” read about it here and find out how I was arrested for not being a soldier. Anyway, I visited Burundi and it was awesome. At first I did not know what to write about the trip and God knows my blog was not going to be one of those travel blogs which tell you where to sleep and for how much (it’s interesting how I ‘erroneously’ typed who to sleep…; thank you backspace). Even so, I still have photos I took in Bujumbura gathering digital dust in my computer and I am convinced that is how computer viruses are created.
Anyway, I was going through some of the photos and I came across some which I had taken at a children’s home. I know what you are thinking: how very cliché it was to have visited a children’s home, well I wasn’t there for a holiday trip and yes, I have a soft spot for kids; alert the authorities if you will. So as I was going through these photos that almost look like those Jungu photos of kids with swollen tummies and flies in their mouths, an insult to the African child, a thought, no, a brilliant thought came to mind. If I had been smart enough to interview these kids, what kind of stories would they give me? Since the only French word I can comfortably pronounce is ‘Ratatouille’, an interview probably would have been as simple as flying an Apache fighter helicopter using an instruction manual written in Japanese. So in this case photos would suffice. Anyway, the brilliant idea, since they didn’t actually tell me any stories, how about I tell their stories for them?
Don’t give me that how-dare-you-judge-innocent-Burundian-kids look; if you ever watched the show, Kids Say The Darndest Things hosted by Bill Cosby and some other old guy…probably dead…of natural causes…or… I digress. If you ever watched that show, you will realize that kids, given a chance, will say some remarkable things.
This post is about these kids, their stories, what they feel, what they dream, what they want to be. It’s not about me giving you some pretentious jib about faith or dreaming big…at least most of it is.
Nissan Van
(Fine so this is not a kid, good job Sherlock now if you would let me tell my story) If this van could speak, it could tell of how it had survived the civil war. How it had travelled for miles and seen it all. It wouldn’t have told us of how it ferried rebel soldiers from one check point to the other, and it will definitely not tell you how weapons were smuggled through boarders under its seats. No. those things did not happen. It will however tell you of how it ferried people between check points. How scared mothers would clutch to their children as the brakes screetched to a halt at the sight of a soldier or rebel. How the gun wielding officer would raise one hand as the gun pointed down, or how at times the gun would be pointed at its headlights causing the people in the van much anguish. Amid all these stories, the van would also tell us of how it carried in it a hopeful people, a people with a vision for a better Burundi. It would also tell us of how, after the war, after some development, after homes were built for the orphans, it would be hired out to transport a certain group of kids transferred from one home to another, a new one and while on the road they would sing, fight, sleep, talk and the Nissan van would feel the newness it once felt as it rolled from the port in Dar Es Salaam, to start a new life in the tiny landlocked country, before the war.
Nannette
Hi, I’m Nannette. That’s me in the picture, the pretty one with the striped top. The guy with the dumb look on his face is my brother Christoph; always stealing my thunder. He is a bit older than me. Probably three years older…I would know if my parents were around to tell me. Actually, I am not really sure how old I am. Sister Ann, our mother, tells me I am still not old enough to ask such questions. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, that’s why I’m always hurting my brother, just to get a chance to heal him. I didn’t do so well on the healing when I stabbed him in the arm with a pencil. Sister Ann says I was seeking for attention, I say I was seeking for some action. This place can get really boring. I’m really glad we are together though, my brother and I, he’s the silliest clown I have ever seen, but even clowns need doctors right?
Claudinne
Do you know how a geothermal portable turbine generator works? No? Neither do I. But I know how rainbows are formed. You see when it rains…oh, sorry I’m Claudinne and I’m a scientist. I’ve read all the books in the study…at least all the science books. I don’t like the silly ones which ask you to color inside the lines, they are stupid…anyone can color inside lines, except for Nannette’s brother, Christoph, he doesn’t pay much attention to instructions; but I do. Instructions are key. When I grow up, I will have my own room with all my chemicals and experiments and I can experiment on real specimens and not Christoph anymore. I will make medicine to heal all the people of Burundi and if I work hard I might become famous like the man with the fuzzy hair whose picture I saw in one of my books. I think he’s called Albert.
Ella and Cynthia
Why do you have such long hair? You know men shouldn’t keep such long hair. Is that thing on your arm for rasta people? Sister Ann does not allow us to wear anything with those colors, she says its for rasta people. Are you one of them? Do you know how to write? I can write my name… C…Y…N…T…H…I…A…Cynthia and this is E…L…L…A. Ella! She doesn’t talk much. She never really talks, all she does is write. She writes her name over and over, then mine, then everyone elses. She writes a lot. I don’t write much, I just like giving stories. People like listening to me though most of the time they shush me. Sister Ann says I talk a lot, just like my mum. I didn’t know her but she must have been really interesting. When I grow up, I will be like the lady in the radio, then the whole world will listen to my stories.
(I ask Ella what she wants to be when she grows up, she takes a crampled paper from her pocket and shows it to me, it looks like a story and the title reads: Pierre and the River Monster, then she immediately pulls it away and puts it back in her pocket. I ask her if I could read her story, she blushes. I smile, then I turn away, kids shouldn’t see tears in men’s eyes…)
Joelle
(She first stares at me then darts her eyes looking for Sister Ann) I am not allowed to talk to strangers. (I wave at Sister Ann and she waves back. Then Joelle looks at me and smiles, with a sparkle in her eye she lets me in) My name is Joelle. I like flowers and sweets. No I don’t like sweets, Sister Ann says bad people cheat little girls with sweets. I don’t like bad people, they are bad. Bad people came to our village and they did bad things. (She seems to wander off in thought) one day when I was sleeping, I had a dream. Bad people had attacked us, but they were shocked when we didn’t run, instead, we fought them. We didn’t use guns. Gus are bad. We danced and they ran. We danced again ad they ran faster. When I woke up, I asked Sister Ann to teach me how to dance but she told me to read a book, dancing was for bad girls. I don’t believe her. Dancing will make bad people stop being bad one day. Everytime we hear music playing in the radio, we run outside and hide from Sister Ann then we dance; Christoph is a good dancer, everyone makes fun of him but not me. One day we will dance for the president, then he will know how dancing can make bad people stop.
Rukundu
I wanted to play with the guitar, but Sister Ann wouldn’t let me. She never lets me do anything. Every time I bang on the plastic containers she says I am making noise. One time she hit me just because I touched a visitor’s guitar. I really do not understand why she hit me, he was a mzungu he probably had 100 guitars. My name is Rukundu, it means love. There is even a song called Rukundu, it’s my favorite. One day I will write a song called Amahoro, that means peace; then I will sing it all over Burundi then everyone will love it and maybe one day the whole world will hear it and then people will stop fighting. Maybe I should sing one day for the Mzungus who visit us and then they might give me a guitar. When I grow up, I will sing for kings and presidents…you wait and see. (I ask him to sing for me maybe I could give him a guitar) No, you look like you need a guitar too, probably more than I do.
Didn’t I tell you? Kids say the darndest things!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Of Kids, Food Poisoning and Spiders (I freaking hate them!)

As I write this, I am suffering from food poisoning, I am weak, cranky and on rehydration medication that tastes like diluted pee. At the same time, 70-something kids are seeking my attention and in a few minutes 70-something more will be arriving. Oh, great! They are here already. Now I have to stop writing go usher in the new kids and hope to goodness that I will not lose my train of thought and more importantly, I will not have to leave 70-something kids unattended,




as I frantically try to locate the nearest bathroom. You are probably wondering how I got this, supposed, food poisoning and why on earth they entrusted this crazy man with 70-something innocent souls.
If you read my previous post, you will realize that I had an epiphany (read the voices in my head staged a revolt) and it hit me, crap! I almost joined the corporate slave ship. It must have been the desks, the mahogany wall that made me feel like I was in a coffin, the soul wringing fluorescent lights, the girls in short skirts (okay that they didn’t mind too much) or the boss man. Anyway, four days into camp and I felt like the corporate Che Guevara. I had just left the office gig, I was having fun with kids, doing outdoor things that make you spit adrenaline, I was a story teller, I could write about it, heck I was a corporate pirate. With all these thoughts and revelations, the last thing on my mind was what I ate. I couldn’t care less. It was buffet. Every time I got to the serving point the voices would shout, choosing is for office sissy fairies and I would put everything on my plate. Then I would look for a faucet and again, washing hands is for girlie tie-hugging adrenaline intolerant sissy fairies. The sissy fairies part got to me. Fairy was bad enough. Sissy, let’s not even go there; but sissy fairy? I wasn’t going to be a sissy fairy! The last thing I remember was dipping a piece of chapatti into a bowl of custard and wondering what that peculiar taste was; and being that I was facilitating a high ropes (think fear factor, poles and wires) the taste must have been from something I touched earlier and trust me, it wasn’t apple pie.
Somewhere between me running towards the bathroom and the excruciating pain in my gut that felt like I was giving birth to a rhinoceros through my belly button, a thought crossed my mind: Who the heck are all these kids and where did they come from? Then, darkness.
When I was in high school, our classes looked like a model representation of Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum.  A normal sized classroom usually had in it 60 students, each with a locker built differently from the next. Some desks looked like they were built in the 80’s some looked like they were built on older desks and looked like a two story wooden structure, some were new, others were colored. The desks only were enough to make you feel like you were staring at a slum from a bird’s point of view. Then there were the books littered everywhere, some in green ‘Marlboro’ plastic bags, some with covers, some without; and they were everywhere: on the floor, in between desks, under seats that rarely matched their desks, in the corners and on the rafters. Walking into a class room was daunting enough; looking up, was another experience all together. Old metal boxes filled with books, old Uchumi, Nakumatt and Ukwala polythene bags barely tied at the handles, filled with books and past papers. It was beyond slum like.
It hadn’t occurred to me that all this clatter would make a great home for all sorts of creatures. Never mind the fact that our class room had been a home for bats, mice and even stray puppies. You looked up while seated and you thought it was one of those Inception scenes where the world folds and another one forms right above your head. I hadn’t noticed the silky white stuff flowing from one of the metal boxes to my seat’s backrest. I hadn’t realized the eerie silence when a great part of the class noticed what was going on. I hadn’t realized that at that moment I would be confronted by my greatest fear, multiplied a million times.
It started with a strange brush on the neck. I must have thought it was Robert, he had weird touchy habits, but I ignored. I couldn’t ignore it the eighth time or the ninth and so I looked back ready to give him one of my ineffective sura ya kazi fight faces only to find him gawking at my neck in horror. He might as well have taken a pen, stabbed himself in the eye running in a panic stricken fit of terror. Instead, he whispered, “Don’t move.” Don’t move? Don’t freaking move? Of course I will move thank you very much! I jumped, pushing my desk in front (not that there was any space to move anywhere except up) in the process taking the not so thin spider web with me, and with the millions of baby spiders. Yes millions, yes spiders. Let’s get one thing straight. I always write about zombies, vampires, voices, freaky stuff. I never write about spiders because spiders, spiders are in their own category. It goes something like: things that give you a scare,
things that will scare the freckles off your skin,
things that will kill you if you are scared,

things that will kill you even if you are not scared,

things that will kill you period,
then spiders.
Spiders are God’s way of telling me not to mess with Him.
So I stood there covered in little eight legged cretins all of them walking around practically calling me momma. God knows where their mom was…probably watching me waiting for me to make the wrong move. Ever seen a man drowning? (Actually I almost drowned last week, but that is another story), every attempt at grasping the air is met with a great feeling of disappointment as you realize this is it, you are going to die. So as I tried frenziedly to remove the invisible web of death surrounding me, I felt nothing but air and the feeling of imminent death. Spiders are scary.
Eventually I managed to take off my sweater and after rolling on the ground while screaming and making like a drowning man, I managed to get all those little sons of…okay (breathing), I managed to get every spider…what do you call a baby spider? Anyway, I got rid of the damned things. I couldn’t use that sweater again. It was now polluted, it probably was now a colony of angry man-eating spiderlings (you can put three red lines I do not care, Word!) anybody who wore that sweater would be wrapped in spider web and taken back to the old rusty box full of books where the mother nest was, along with certain death. That evening I saw Robert wearing my sweater, I said a prayer for him. Now I feel like such a tool.
The next day I made a decision; to rid this world of this eight legged plague and to accomplish this, I would need an army. A devoted, strong willed, spirited army and since I didn’t have the money to buy such an army (is it me or is there a lot of rhyme going on), I would build one from scratch. On one of those holidays where the first week at home you feel like you escaped from Alcatraz then a week later your folks decide you are going for camp and a few days in it and it dawns on you that you just got transferred to Guantanamo Bay, I had an epiphany. Here we were, away from home, away from school taking in whatever rubbish the camp counselors fed us and it hit me, this was the perfect place to start my army.

 So every school holiday when your child, nephew, niece or cousin is away at camp, know that they are undergoing secret military training in the war against spiders. I made a vow to eliminate this scary scourge and so every time I have a chance to interact 70-something kids, I take it as an opportunity to impart some life skills in them just to make sure they grow up to be better than we are and on the side turn them into little spider hating soldiers, all in an attempt to make the world a better place.
P.S. last night while…never mind I was in the bathroom and this huge spider appears from nowhere. Thankfully I was on my way out, but it was around 3 a.m. so I had to make a racket so that my house mate (for some reason I find it weird to use ‘my boy’ and 3 a.m. in the same sentence) could wake up and conveniently ask what’s wrong. The thing died at around 3.40 a.m. and coincidentally my post today is about spiders…it’s a sign I tell you – the invasion is near!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stories That Change Lives... (Especially this one)


Design is fun, only when you are designing something you believe in. I told myself these words a couple of weeks ago while I was seated behind an unnecessarily big desk staring at some design work I had been working on. It was a sad time. It was at a time when it hit me that I really do not want to keep on doing what I had been doing for close to two months. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t worth it, not because I was some spoilt kid who felt like the world wasn’t revolving around me, but simply because I no longer believed in what I was doing, there was no purpose to it, no life.

I need to emphasize this, I spent two months of my life doing something I did not believe in. It takes 2 months for two cells to do whatever they do and form something close to a human being, it takes 2 months for a man to determine whether the chick he likes is a dude or is just a chick with a penchant for muscle cars and leather jackets and it takes 2 months to learn how to tango. Okay, the last one I made up since everyone says it takes 2 to tango so I thought who really knows how long it takes these two to tango? See what I’m getting at here? Two months is a long time. Two months later I have decided not to continue with that job. So what is a young writer supposed to do in this economy (and blogging sure does not pay…). 

The reason I have kept from posting a new post for such a long time is because for the longest time all I could think of was how frustrating it was waking up every day to go to the office and go back home having done nothing but convince myself that I needed it, I needed the experience, the pay. For that, a part of my soul died…every day.

As I write this post, I am all by myself in a huge hall full of empty seats. The cold evening Limuru breeze keeps reminding me that I need to get my sweater and the voices outside make me warm inside. These are the voices of joy, freedom, naivety, potential, discovery, innocence, the future, kids. Yes kids. Somewhere several kilometres from the city I write this post having done the most fulfilling task this year, giving stories to kids, and not just any ‘did you hear about’ story, a purposeful story, an educative story, an entertaining story, a life changing story. What more would a writer want? What more would a person who values his beliefs want? This is the story I gave these kids. Pay attention for it has a lesson to it:

In the mean streets of Jamaica, where I come from (hyperbole helps), lived this chap named Hussein Bolt. Hussein was your average guy. He was educated, hardworking, talented, handsome and well built. He loved watching sports, reading books, listening to music and had a crazy love for fishing.

Not only did he love fishing, he also had a love for hip hop, the rhymes, the beats, the game. He could spit more rhymes than Nas and Pac held up in a bind.

The only problem was like you and me, Hussein wasn’t sure of himself and so he sort affirmation elsewhere.
One day while having lunch,

Hussein saw his cousin Usain Bolt on the 1 pm news.


Apparently Usain was now this big athletics hot shot. Hussein was crushed. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he was jealous, he just couldn’t understand how someone who they’d grown up with, who envied how he rapped was now a world acclaimed superstar. He was vexed. At that moment everything he loved, everything he was good at and everything he believed in didn’t matter.

He had to outdo his cousin and so he sort professional advice.
He tried hard to do what his cousin had done, running every day, going to the gym, dieting, all those things his little buddy had told him. 

A few days later it worked.

Of course it didn’t! he was frustrated, he went home feeling like a larger pile of pooh than he ever was.

He went home having learnt one thing, he couldn’t be his cousin; then who was he?

A few days later while having lunch, he had an epiphany. He saw two giant scrolls appear in the…nah, he just took two sheets of paper, on one he wrote his strengths and on the other his weaknesses. He discovered he could do things that no one, not even Usain could do. He had his life line, his passion, his art.

He worked hard, stopped listening to the little voices with huge loads of crock and focus on his art. Soon he was doing tours,

making it on the news and soon, like his cousin, he had made his metamorphosis into a superstar.


I told some class 6 kids, 39 to be exact, this story and they looked at me bewildered at this kinky haired dude telling them a silly story with an even sillier slideshow. The beauty is they got it. Every part of this narrative entered their tiny skulls and made cosy somewhere in their heads, somewhere where it mattered. My only worry is for most of them this won’t make sense by next Wednesday. The up side, you won’t. You in your dead end job reading this, you doing things you do not believe in for whatever reason (money makes it second on the list under fear). Why? Because deep down, you know what makes you happy, you know what makes you tick, what gives meaning to your life…and it sure as heck isn’t that boss who always gives you reasons to staple things on your eyeballs or the people who keep telling you why doing this or that won’t work for you.

For now, this is my job; to tell stories; stories that educate, stories that entertain, stories that tell the truth, stories I believe in and sure as heck stories that make you come back for more every time. 

BONUS
No offense..., but then again, bah!