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. 

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