The thing about ringtones

Is this…if your ringtone is John Mayer’s Heartbreak Warfare, I’m going to strike up a conversation with you. I am not declaring my weirdness, just the profound understanding of what that song means to me.

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I was meeting with a group out of town today. I had just strapped myself in when one of the guys in the back shouts to someone outside, “Weh! Ali, simu yako…”I could have cared less but then it was Heartbreak warfare and all I could think of was laying my weapons down and turning to get a good look at this Ali dude. Ali comes back, looks at the caller ID and then says “wacha tu ilie,” and at this point I’m thinking it’s a conversation he is not ready for.

I dig that. I get that.

Two magic words: Airplane Mode

When I’m not down for anything be it a text, call, notification or beep, I set my phone on airplane mode and read a book or two. Sometimes, at night, if I am unable to write, I would look up random policies on children and read them comparing what each government has to say about child protection. (I find Singapore’s policy quite refreshing; but Liberia does take the cake when it comes girl’s education and gender bias and merging it with their basic education policy, that’s kickass if you ask me. I’m yet to read Japan’s but I feel like South Korea could be worth a read some night.)

Ali comes back to the van. The driver steps in and introduces me to the team. At this point, I know two things: they are working on health and sexual reproduction in a community and they need me to help them plan out how to reach out to the women and young girls. I am introduced to; Anne (Sociology major, cute glasses), David (Masters in Community Development, Unapproachable facade), Ali (Communications, hence the John Mayer vibe and I tell him that I was once a Communications Assistant at my previous job), Stella (Project Manager, the one who reached out to me) and then Humphrey (the driver whom I like, but know he’s the senior field manager and he’s just too modest to admit that he’s the boss). Stella is keen on clarifying that this is me just giving me a guideline and that I wouldn’t be employed by the organization they work for. She hands me some liability documents and I take them and sign them. Ali asks “won’t you want to read those?”

“No, I know my way around them. The only document I ever read is anything that deals with photo and video consent and it’s not here. So, this means that any photos you take of me while we are working would not be shared without my consent. Is that so?”

“Eh, I have the consent forms but I thought I’d give them to you once we are in the field.”

“Why did you pick heartbreak warfare as your ringtone?”

“Ati what?”

“Your ringtone, that’s John Mayer’s song Heartbreak warfare off his Battle Studies album. Why did you pick it?”

“I like it. Do people have reasons behind the ringtones they assign?”

“Yes, you just said you like it. I love that song. It’s cool that you have it. Can I take a look at the consent forms you had in mind for me?”

“Sure, let me just get them for you.”

At this point, Humphrey looks at me and smiles, “You are not what I expected.”

“What did you expect?”

“Someone taller, older or let’s just say a bit different and serious like most consultants are, but you are…easy to talk to.”

“Why do you say so?”

“Ali does not talk to anyone while we are driving. He would have his earphones on and listen to music the whole way, but you come along and suddenly he’s talking. I don’t know what to make of that?”

I nodded and we talked about everything including why it was important to buy bananas at Kisian and not Ndori. They dropped me off at home an hour ago. I wished them well but Ali jumped out of the car and reach out to me just as I was opening the gate. He dipped his hands in his pockets and leaned closer and said “I really like you. I mean, I like how you talk, but don’t get any ideas, it’s just that few people can…you know, speak, yaani hawawezi kuongea vile unaongea and that’s dope. Na, juu ya hiyo ringtone, well, sometimes you like someone and she’s not yours and it’s like war every time. So, see you next time, I’d love to hear your suggestions on a success story I’m working on. We could do something together, I mean…nitanyamaza sasa, bye.”

“Sure, bye Ali.”

I knew he was cool from his ringtone because you’ve gotta have something in you to set heartbreak warfare as a ringtone.

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Slow Down

The world is running. I cannot catch up. I cannot hold my breath, sprint, run and watch it as it spirals into a dimension that is.

leaf sunlight sunshine summer grass nature outdoors yard lawn green

Slow down.

The world is running, but will it run out of breath?

I wonder, what world am I talking about? What do I mean by running, because as it stands, I am the one whose feet are in motion. They move faster than I can get my mind to sit still. They run away from…

They run and for a long time, I have endured and lived for the thrill of it. Running, or getting out of a situation because it was the easiest thing to do. Emotions are complicated, feelings can be summoned and then hurt and then what?

Slow down

Listen, laugh, love, live.

Live.

Slow down.

So, here I am, taking a break; staying when all I want to do is call things off and walk away. I am giving myself a chance. I am reminding myself that I too can take a break because there is no fun in running into a wall.

Rapid Fire Book Tag

Hello, it’s Friday the Thirteenth and it is a wet morning here in Kisumu. I’m on my third cup of instant black coffee and I fear I’ve run out of Nescafe. I came across this book tag on Abigail’s Books blog and it was created by Kate at Girl Reading. It’s the second book tag that fascinates me and so I thought, eh, why not? Let’s do this:

E-book or physical book?

Physical books any time or day, but I do prefer e-books when I am traveling.

Paperback or hardback?

Paperback🙂.

Online or in-store book shopping?

I ❤ online book shopping because of the many recommendations that pop up which always introduces me to a new writer. I am also known to wander off in book stores.

Trilogies or series?

Can we stick to two books? I’ve written a series so here’s the pot calling the kettle black!

Heroes or villains?

Villains (psst! Don’t tell Peaches, he reckons I’m a good girl).

A book I want everyone to read.

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Recommend an underrated book

In the Kitchen by Monica Ali🙂

The last book I finished.

The Platinum Dragon by Vance Pumphrey

The Last book I bought.

The Kitchen God’s Wife  by Amy Tan

Weirdest thing I’ve used as a bookmark

Lollipop wrapper.

Used books- yes or no?

Yes, well, as long as all the pages are there.

Top three favorite genres

Literary fiction

Women’s fiction

Romance

Borrow or buy?

Buy.

Characters or plot?

Characters.

Long or short books?

Both? 🙂

Long or short chapters?

Surprise me!

The first three books I can think of

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K.Rowling

Books that made you laugh or cry?

Rain Falls on Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Land Without Thunder by Grace Ogot

Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe

The Abyssinian Chronicles by Moses Issegawa

Our world or fictional worlds?

Fictional!

Audiobooks- yes or no?

No, thanks.

Ever judge a book by it’s cover?

Yes…like seriously who hasn’t?

Book to movie or book to TV adaptations?

No, what’s in print should stay there…but Marvel has me thinking differently.

A movie or TV show I preferred to its book

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Let’s just say that I never finished reading the book 😦

Series or standalones?

Standalones.

Shadow in the light

There is a part of me that demands an audience. It is a dripping tap in an enclosed space. Each drop summons my conscience to utter words to an unavailable audience.

“It’s like running into a wall every second and I am tired. I will not call or remind him of what he needs to do for his son because I am tired.”

She sank back into the chair and reached out for my hand. I held her hand and waited because a dripping tap will not stop until you fasten it. Sometimes, it will give you the illusion that it has, only to drip again when unfastened.

“How much pain can a person take? Is there a limit to what one endures, where they say okay, no more pain and that’s it?”

I desire to tell her that she will feel the pain but it won’t be an everyday nightmare. She will take care of her son and he will get the best in life. She will also have to deal with unexpected invites from the son’s father because even the most irresponsible people do ask themselves “what if?”

“I changed my phone number because I want to start afresh. If my son ever wants to meet his father, then I will organize a meeting but that’s it.”

I nod and look at the little boy. He’s got his legs in the air and he is waving his hands and drooling as he smiles at me.

His father is a fool. He is one among many but who is to pull his ear and tell him that he is going to regret this? Who can beat some sense into him when he is out with his boys bragging about a son he has never laid eyes on. Or how he says that his baby mama is driving him insane and the guys nod in assent because they only have his version to go by.

It is the ultimate turnaround.

She smiles and wipes away her tears then reaches for the son and breastfeeds him. He is suckling with his feet up in the air. I need such flexibility in my life.

“I don’t know what the future holds but so help me God, my son won’t be a bailout. If he at some point gets his girlfriend pregnant, I will make him take responsibility and even go a step ahead and care for the girl because it is not easy. Sometimes I wonder did his dad really mean to marry me? How can you get your fiancee pregnant and then say ‘I’m out’ when she tells you that she is pregnant?”

There is a part of me that demands an audience and when I close my eyes I can name twenty single mothers I know. I can also name the fathers who spend their time and money on everything but their children and sometimes I too do wonder just how much pain a person can take.

On Writing

I have been held captive for years in my writing. There is always this burning desire to achieve literary merit. I want to write a storm, to unravel a mystery using twenty six letters of an alphabet that I was taught for sixteen years. Fifty thousand words, a cover image, immense praise and mega sales of a bunch of twenty six letters.

I have been here long enough.

I do not hold a candle to Mandela but all these years have me coming back to the same place that torments me; constantly telling me that I am not good enough or African enough.

Isn’t it sad that humans struggle to be enough when they are more than enough?

Maybe I could relocate to another country, write about my experience there and then it’d be this African author in a foreign country, but I am too proud to attempt that. I’ll miss royco, trips to Kibuye market, matatu rides and being around people of the same skin color as me. I’d give a lot for great and fast internet connection, no pot-holes, concerts but then I’d miss out on never having to be the object of stares, and frankly speaking, Fanta Orange tastes awesome only in Kenya. I tried that and it back fired so I’ll build a fortress here and use the words I know, the lyrics that come close to my heart to keep these prison walls from closing in.

I am half in, half out.

Every time a story unravels in me, I return to this prison, these walls choke me into either misery or bliss depending on which path I choose. They close in and when I come up for air. A star is enough to send me back under, five stars, a mile high up.

I am half out today. I need to see the world beyond these walls that I’ve built for myself and in so doing, I’ll admit that I am a repeat offender because come dusk, I’ll be back within these walls wondering if my stories are African enough…and the best part is knowing that I am both the prisoner, the warden and the law…I only have to embrace one role.

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Writing, reading and updates on this week

I did not get a good night’s rest because I took my worries to bed. They got so comfortable that I found myself sitting on the cold floor listening to Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour album. How’s your week been? What did you learn, fret about or simply put enjoy this week? On writing: I am still working on Ushanga. I have got a few chapters and phrases to work on. On reading: I have read some awesome books and right now my attention is on Ice Homme (Book 3, Valdaar’s Fist Series) by Vance Pumphrey. I also tend to read two or more books at a time when I am faced with an intense work of fiction. Sometimes the kind of breather I take from such intensity comes from reading a romance novel or short story. I have covered a chapter or two into these three books, but it’s safe to say that I look forward to reading these three to the end.

Other updates:

  1. I tried a detox plan this week and failed the first day by taking a cup of coffee.
  2. It seems as though my kinky hair will be free from braids for another week. 🙂 I don’t know what I’d do without conditioner. I took to my friend’s advice, got an avocado and some natural yoghurt to make some treatment paste.
  3. I ate the avocado.
  4. I will use the yoghurt to make a chilli paste because today is bhajia Saturday!
  5. Started out my Monday by visiting a close friend, babysitting and running back home to avoid clashing with demonstrators on the streets.
  6. Received news from YALI stating that the program I was looking forward to had been postponed to June next year. I sank in my chair, reached out for some tea and just sat there wondering why of all that is good and evil, such a thing could come to pass!
  7. It’s taking me a while to get better for I’d struck a nerve when I stepped on Bonnie’s bone and so I have days when I can walk with ease and those days when I have to set an ice pack on the sole of my foot for ten minutes and follow it up with pain killers.

Have a lovely weekend.

Books for Aurora

I came across a post I’d published on April 28, 2014 on Jodie titled “A Girl’s Got to Dream, Right?’ I had bought over a 100 books that year and had my sister, Jackie, take this cheesy photo of me. PS: I still fit into those black shorts.

Back then I was so in love with 11 books that I believed if ever I had kids, they’d have to read them, and the eleven were:

  1. Of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas
  2. In the Kitchen by Monica Ali
  3. The Poet by Michael Connelly
  4. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
  5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  6. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
  7. A French Affair by Susan Lewis
  8. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
  9. Dreams of Rivers and Seas by Tim Parks
  10. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

And lastly…”A Father’s Portrait.”

It’s been three years and I’ve bought and read many more books that I have safely stored in my collection hoping that someday, I’ll have the chance to pick one and say “you should read this,” because who knows what would be popular then.

I’d probably shove my whole collection into her face but only time will tell. So, here goes something and I am glad that Sharon Maas is still on that list!

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