Posted in A Skill. A Life

Edwin

When we gaze into the sky with that far away look, often we are asking God for an intercession or dreaming about a better future. Because we want it. More investments. Better relationships. Good health. Rain for the corn. Fulfilling careers, and what is wrong with wanting better?

But. There is this emery wheel of misfortunes that gyrates towards us periodically. Quietly and sluggishly, as if it makes stops at junctions to wait on its adversarial brothers. How else will joy be purloined out of your life if not by the hand of heaped problems. Subsequently, you wake up one morning and you can’t explain why problem and his clans courted you. Why you? And it all points to one event. One event that would change the course of your life.

“life wasn’t that bad when she was alive. He spun around after her departure and took it out on us.”

When his mother died of cancer, life shimmered on it’s axis. A seismic revolution that changed the course of his life forever. For one frequent meals were reduced to a toss-ups. Edwin’s father used his solomonic gift to make the discernment that all his money would be better spent on alcohol. Never on meals. It would take the older brother, James, to borrow food or engage in odd jobs to put a meal on the table.And wash and feed him. He tripled as a brother, mother, and father.

While his father was high as a kite on alcohol, his monstrosity unfurled. He would beat them up, call them names, and go to bed like it was nothing. He moved to new towns often but as it turns out, changing towns doesn’t exactly signify a change in character. Edwin’s father settled in Kiambu, but that wasn’t the end of road trips for the boys.

“While in Kiambu, we’d had enough, so my brother plotted an escape and took me with him. He has never left me.”

While he is narrating the ordeal of escape, a movie scene of hostages escaping comes to mind. Comes a time where a better life must be run after, sought after. To survive, they had realized, meant escaping the quagmire life created by their dad.

“I don’t know where James got the money, and I cared less about that. We hopped on a matatu that took us straight to Karatina. Our destination was Nyeri but we were short of money. So we walked all the way to Nyeri.”

He was young, at around 10 years, and he grew tired on the way. Occasionally his brother let him catch his breath but they continued. It was dark when they got to Nyeri, a good Samaritan took pity on them and gave them a place for the night. Morning came and he sent them on their way to Othaya.

” In Othaya, we went to Othaya police station. We told them our story and who we were looking for. A relative who would take us in. They put us in their range rover as we circumnavigated the town looking for them. They told us they would take us to children’s home, should we not find any of them.”

Finally they found their aunt after asking around. She however was displeased to see them. “Move on to another house,”she said.

“What are you selling in that bag pack?” my dad interrupts.

Edwin is door to door salesman. He stumbled into our compound selling detrex soaps and Colgate. I love how as Kenyans we have all normalized calling toothpaste -Colgate. You will hear someone ask ,”Uko na Colgate ya sensodyne?”. So the Colgate(toothpaste) that he is selling is called T-guard.

My dad then asks for a simplification of the said items. He says when you used the paste, your teeth will never ache or have cavities. And for the soap, it can lower your body temperature. Sales people, am telling you, they promote goods better than the mainstream advertisements.

“Are you sure when I use this Colgate my make teeth won’t fall off? (The young man says no). You brush first, I confirm.”

My dad goes on and on, adorning his statements with hilarity, making me and Edwin titter with laughter.

“On our way back to the station, we ran into a boy who recognized us. We asked him where we could find Uncle Kibaba, who is my father’s brother. He pointed us in the direction, we found and he took us in?” Edwin recounts soon as my dad had left with his bought items.

“Do you harbor any resentment for your dad?”

“I did. A deep insidious bitterness that made me angry. I lashed out at everyone. I whinged a lot about my dad for neglecting us. But, I have moved on. My aunt intervened and showed me the right way.”

I picture a disagreeable acidic taste when he describes the bitterness. Like a lemon. Lemons have a stinging after-feel. Like they don’t like their existence, like they have stress and they take it out on anyone who eats them.

“Did he ever look for the two of you? Your dad.” I inquire as he sips the tea that is sharing a stool between us.

“I don’t know if he did. But he never contacted any of us even using our relative’s phones.”

“How is life now? Any dating prospects? Dreams?”

“Better, I would say. But there are occasional mishaps. I have a cousin of mine who says I will die like my mother.”

His cousin is a pastor for the record. Members of the clergy have longed ceased to provide guidance and spiritual counsel by the teachings patterned in Christ. Their characters have become questionable with their community involvement being a tad too personal. The judgment and castigation by Christians too, begs the question- if God has no problem with imperfect people rejoicing his name, why does it bother you?

He has fallen in love once, with a woman who was one year older than him, and old-mama jokes were sprung on him. When that did not work, some of his relatives threw him under the bus by spreading wrong rumors about him to the girl. It worked and she left him.

For now he is focusing on his career. Wants to buy land and build a brick house. He has saved enough to rent an apartment because he feels that, in as much as his relatives took him and his brothers in, they are obscuring his prosperity.

There is no telling when the wheel of atrocity and awfulness will find its way to you. Nonetheless, if it’s any consolation one of noble truths of Buddhism claim that suffering is universal . You are not alone in suffering, don’t quit on life, fight for a better tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized

Am from the house of Mumbi

I am a mixed breed. A pointee if you like the slang. “Mixed breed wa saa ngapi?” some hater will petition, not with the way she loves mukimo, only one tribe would proffess this kinda love publicly-people from the house of Mumbi.

I lay not a claim to being inter-racial or inter-tribe, my hybrid-ness is centred on metropolitans. Tao and shags. I have experienced the cesspool of both rural and urban life. Am mannerism rich- I know what cards to play, what slangs to use, the inner talks. Think of me as a migratory bird which sometimes lives in the grass woven nest situated on the macadamia tree in Othaya, and when I have enough of pecking the ngandania fruit, I leave for the city to live at Dstv aerial.

If my cross-breed-ness had hair, it would be uniformly black,fashionably messy and thick, doubly short, after a wash and long, after blowdrying. It would be curly and still plentiful. It would forever be at the crossfires of salonists who can’t decide what works for it because it is neither kinky nor gleamingly soft. And when people have had it upto here, it will worry and wonder, “why am I not like the rest?” Identity issues will then set in. After a long talking facing the mirror it will have self love. And live happily ever after.

Suffice to say one does not escape this tourism lifestyle without spotting a language crisis. One too many times, I caught my caught myself speaking Kikuyu to non-tribes. Most times am far too gone in a story to switch back.Innately, I will think to myself, “choma kabisa. Cheza kiwewe. Ongea lugha ya mama. Wasikutishie, wewe ni mtoto wa Gikuyu na Mumbi, kweni iko nini?”. And after this self consolation I will point blank speak unwavering kikuyu.

Before I burn the whole photo, let me say am not one of those Kikuyus who speak almost kiswahili. Ati tulikuwa mto gwithambira.Or, nafeel thiurura.I either spit the green cub of Kikuyu whole or I dont at all. We have got to be the only tribe in kenya that incorporates kikuyu, kiswahi and English in the same sentence. And should we wake up day with french imprinted in our minds, we will add to to the mix. Mixing things is our forte. Just imagine even in planting, we put maize and beans seedlings in the same hole. And in the same acre of land we will plant potatoes and cassava. Just imagine we have no shame.

Of our many transgressions, here’a an entanglement in our complexities you may not know. Kikuyus love they cattle. When people think of cattle love, Maasais’ come to mind. I contend not for the top position of cattle love, Maasai’s win hands down, but we still make the list.

Kikuyus are tethered to animal husbandry. They frown on school meeting, barazas, get togethers, the rain for petesake. Even in hospitals, patients will go back and forth with doctors over admission.

“Daktari,” the utterance begins, “I can’t sleep here doing nothing for a week. Not while my cows have no-one back home.”

“First, its not really sleeping. It’s an admission,” the doc snaps,” It’s an admission. On the other matter why not request your son that you’ve written down in the next of kin.”

“Wooii niwatangatha mahiu makwa mone uuru. My son is a drunk, can’t find his way back most nights. I can’t rely on him.”

There is nothing in a class book that will teach you responses people can give. With nothing to compel the patient, the doctor pulls his final card-if you don’t get imediate treatment, your life will hang in a balance.

At this point the patient will slouch in her chair in defeat but mustering enough caurage to say ,”Fine, but talk to the management see if they can let me bring my cows here to graze. The grass here is luscious.”

Let me add to the claim that there is tea overflow in shags. Yes, there is and the ration of litres water to milk is 3:1. (And yes, I have relocated from the Dstv aerial to the nest. Thanks corona. There is a welcome mat somewhere). Tea in shags never runs out. You are gifted tea at the birth of a new calf (baby shawls are are overated anyway). Tea in shags in not like the tea in Tao, the one in shags is sweeter. Most morning here tea is accompanied by mukimo. And dont even think of giving me crap about bland food. Try as you might, you wont hurt me with your comments, am bulletproof.

I love that am a hybrid. I love that I now the inner organs of towns and my rural home. Speaking my mother tongue is such a gift and I wish every child would speak theirs. Of what salience is it to know only English? Or Swahili? What is so wrong about visiting your shags?There are people from the school of thought that claim shags people are poor and primitive. That living in town means you have class. No, it doesn’t.

Penda your shags. And invest in it if you can. Go to children homes in your shags, visit the sick in your shags. Suport the talent in you shags. Love where you come from.

Posted in A Skill. A Life

Custodian of all jobs

You dream about it, don’t ya? The perfect land. Utopia. There are no creaking doors, no getting mugged, the terrain is enchanting, the government of the day is honest and accountable, there are golden walls stacked with book shelves, a plethora of jobs waiting for recent graduates, you can walk around without a mask. And a V.I.P pass to movies.

Then, you get out there. Balloon meets needle- pop.

Things are not as advertised. No, you don’t get a job simply because you passed your K.C.S.E. Matter of fact because you have amassed a degree, or diploma, or certificate. There is no manual for what happens out here and you will soon realize to comport with the flow. Perfect land is for movies, out here it’s survival for the fittest/ or those who know important people. For those with heart they dig for bronze in the fields, or at least that’s what Francis Maina tells me.

He stockpiles used goods like plastic cups or gumboots from homes and takes the main warehouse where they are weighed and he gets his dividend. He hopes to make a difference in his life with this job his brother got him into.

“Don’t ever pick any items from a kid in the field,” he starts off ,”Kids own nothing. Everything they have belongs to their parents. You could pick something from them, their parent catches up with you and you are labelled a thief.”

We chat alittle about that and I then ask him about his worst experience in the field. He hesitates, (probably thinking of them good times and contemplating on which to give).

“This one time in Murang’a, a mob of villagers surrounded me in a homestead. I had just stumbled in their compound, there was no-one there, in a whim, this woman appears and starts screaming , -mwizi! mwizi!.”

He froze. People in Murang’a are famed for their avocados and riotous crowds. Anarchic bands ready to eat up new faces who are in the wrong end. Now here he was in their scoop, his mother in Nakuru couldn’t save him. As the mob snowballed, one volunteer called the cops, and they were better hands than the mob that had plunged on him. At the back of the police range rover, he explained to the cops his nature of work and his intentions. There being no evidence of a stolen item, he was let go.

“Some of my best and worst moments are in the field,” he says as he unpacks his collected items from one sack and situates them in another, “In the field you will find something or find something, get it?”

I can tell he is proud of his philosophical moment, so I dive in and ask: What does that mean?

“I will either find an item on the field or a good lesson. Each is just as valuable.”

Am a lass who is intrigued by the controversy of human nature. Try as I might, I can never pass up the chance to ask: what do you think of humans? their natures?

“There are good people just as there are bad people. I’ve met some pretty good people, people who treat you like a human. Then there are those who lock doors and peep in their windows when they see you coming. They see you like a beggar who they would rather not deal with.”

Francis, this young man hovering around thirty, has had a lot of jobs before he got to this one. Immediately after high school he became a shamba boy, getting a monthly stipend of two thousand Kenyan shillings. Has baked cakes to pay rent. Life in the bakery wasn’t ivory and gold. They toiled for hours (5:30- 11 pm) for meager wages. He then quit that, left his hometown for Tanzania, succored by his friends. “Jeshi ni kindu kia bata, “(Friends are important), he keeps telling me. In Tanzania, he undertook a course, sales and marketing. Tanzania years were his best years- customers hardly bargained, they were polite, beautiful accents, the whole package. He had an en route of deporting goods from Kenya to Tanzania, macadamia and avocados. He abandoned that , never said why.

He was part of the S.G.R construction. Has worked in a car wash in Nairobi. Has been a hawker. At this point an thinking, damn, what job hasn’t he had? Well most of them, except the one he went to school for.

He seems almost done with piling his collected items, so I point to a measuring unit and he is quick to remind me that he can’t forget it. I let him catch his breath in between the stock piling. Once in a while , he lifts a metal up and gushes about it like you would a new shoe.

“See this, this is bronze, a kilo goes for 100 shillings. This was a good day,”

When he is not showing me his field valuables, he spews wisdom.

“You have to leave the field in the field. Don’t enter a new homestead with whatever attitude you got in a previous one. And when the day is over, I get on the motorbike, I leave people I have found there.”

“You told me, you would to make a difference in your life? What does that entail? Which is the future you seek?” I ask him.

I know I sound like one of those people who ask kids, who do you want to be when you grow up? At some point in life I wanted to be a surgeon, then a psychiatrist, then end up a news desk. Now all I want be is un-depressed. My young self would be disappointed in me, kwanza when I tell her I ventured into blogging and am the only active reader of my own blogs. Wahala!

“First, a clean bill of health is all I ask for. Then a piece of mind. If I could have my own warehouse where all these things are bulked, that would be great too. Because there is no greater freedom than being self-employed. I refuse to have a master. “

You tube motivation has taught me the concept of seizing the morning, the 5 am club, being the early bird and so fueled by that I ask how he seizes his mornings and he says, ” I begin my job at around 10’00 am, that way I give ample time to the villagers to milk their cows, take it to the dairy, tend to their cows and organize themselves a little.”

Just so you know, for the times I have woken up late, I was giving people ample time to take their milk to the dairy. But you cynical people won’t believe, your gonna be like , not with her late night you tube watching.

Posted in A Skill. A Life

Feather, talons, and a beak

Let’s start this with a request. Me, asking you to think of me as your mother. Play with the idea, go to the extent of thinking I have sheathed a leso around my waist, that is adorned with well-timbered proverbial writings. I also have red t-shirt that has a picture of the MCA-elect on its back . Don’t forget the head wrap that entombs my neglected hair. I lay claim to the ‘mother’ title on the basis that I have fed my nephew porridge, clean his kissers while at it and abraded his tiny feet with socks and gumboots. I also pine for the title because am convinced that some of you, am not saying Lilian Wanjere, will only read something when coerced by a parent.

So here we go:

Have you ever searched for something? A coin, perhaps?Maybe your house keys in that massive brown hand bag. Foraging for keys in a handbag calls for only one trick – closed eyes. That way you heighten your touch sense. Otherwise you will look directly into the bag and still see nothing. Except the supermarket receipt.

A couple years back, I searched high and low for answers to a pandemonium. Life had become hue and cry. The hand I had been dealt by life- sickness- had managed to dig out every root of hope in my life. So there I was, at the shore of fractured health, most offals in my system giving up on me, their defense reason: I wasn’t keen on the quality of thoughts I entertained and neither at managing my emotive side. I think, it didn’t have to come to this, but who stops the wind blowing your way?

There is an axiom that goes- life is what you make it. Well, I hoped so. Given the turbulence, I would have molded life into a small child and I, a huge African mama. I would spend my waking days cooking and fattening it, then on one cold night, while life is sleeping on the lower bed bunk, I would conjure up a magical cane and whoop it. After my era, it would nurse bigger sores than those it has grievously inflicted others. Well if wishes were horses…

As fate would have it, I tottered into you tube motivation like any normal millennial. Don’t even give me crap about it, I know the visceros of it. The good and the bad. You tube self help motivation became my cheerleader. My guiding light in the matters society neglected to mention. This contrivance got better of me, and I thought of taking it a notch higher. So I scouted for a place that teaches meditation and mind mastery.(Still don’t know if there is a place in Kenya). Prosperously, I went on this retreat and while there, I heard a story that I have carried in my heart since.

You have probably heard it before. I have. But this time round, there was new spice to it. And maybe it was because life had become insufferable. It is the story of the rebirth of an eagle.

An eagle is the CEO of all birds. The madiba of the feathered creatures nation. It towers over skylines and sometimes by the dumpster (the Kenyan breed is hood. In Spanish that is, Kienyeji). Even so, as it hangs out in the dumpster you can see confidence oozing out of it, like it’s doing something of greater value.

For those not familiar with the personal data of an eagle, I will stoop low and gossip, for you. Look at the things am doing as your mother aki, si I really care? An eagle is adorned with black feathers that cover it’s nudity and a scoop of white on it’s chest and back. It almost seems like a white maasai necklace. An eagle looks like the kind of bird that would be a goal keeper in a tournament, no goal walks past it’s majestic flying.(See what am doing here, Arsenal). It looks like the kind of bird that distances itself from controversy and snap chat filters because it’s already black and white.

On the eagles 40th birthday havoc sets in (Well, I skipped to forty years that’s where our story takes a tangent. Prior to that, an eagles life is okay). It’s a mare’s nest. The feathers have become heavy and puffy, making flying difficult. It can’t fly to blow it’s birthday candle. The talons have also grown longer and can no more catch prey. The beak also looses it’s might for ripping. Basically , the glory days of the bird are over. It’s reduced to a walking class bird like the hens. Thank heavens there’s no face book for birds, because the eagle would document all this trauma online with cynical quotes such as: Not loving the bird I’m becoming.

In this pandemonium, the bird must make a decision – starve to death or go to the mountains. In the mountain is where the birth pain exists. The pain of rebirth. Here, the eagle will find a hard surface where it will continually hit with the beak until it comes off. Then wait for it to grow back. With its newly found beak, it will pull out the talons made of keratin, same stuff as human nails. Then wait for them to grow back. With the talons and beak, it will scrape off its old feathers, pulling them out each at a time. And also wait for them to grow back because nobody wants to see a bird flying around naked. Eagles are decent birds.

This whole process takes approximately 150 days and after it, the eagle takes on a mighty flight. It has been re-birthed and could live for the next thirty years.

This was the question the man telling the story posed: what feathers are weighing you down that won’t let you fly? What old talons that no longer serve you need to go?

And when you cut all things off- the self deprecating talk, the bad thoughts, the unhealthy habits, the self doubt and wait for better patterns to blossom, you will recreate yourself.

I haven’t got all answers to question I have asked while furiously shaking the tree of life. Once in a while, a fruit falls and I munch it. Though what is clear is that some problems come to put us on the path of our purpose.

Good luck with your rebirth, if that’s where you are as of now.