Okwan

Everybody knows Okwan.

You’d be a fool not to when you reside in Kisumu for where else in this sunny city would you get the best pilau and beef stew? There are things about Okwan that the world does not know like how she had to leave her husband’s house at 2am for fear that her brains would be splattered all over their sitting room wall. Or how the neighbors, Mama Peace and her household kept their doors locked even as she wailed long into the night. They don’t know that in running to avert a blow, she had lost not one, or two but three unborn children all the while being taunted by her in-laws whose wives kept popping children out of their wombs like defecating goats.

However, there are things about Okwan that matter to people in Kisumu like opening the restaurant from Monday to Saturday as early as 6:30am. People also want her to pick up their calls and remember what they had for lunch two days ago, because the usual is not a guarantee in her restaurant.

One thing is certain this is not just about Okwan, but it begins with her.

“Would you hire me?”Okwan laughed.

She laughed so hard that the fat under her arms danced as her chest heaved up and down. The people around her turned to look but what they could see was Okwan and a young woman. The woman’s skin glowed like the darkest of nights and she had the kind of figure that fit in every piece of clothing. She was wearing blue jean trousers and a white chiffon blouse. Her face was as smooth and soothing as her smile. She stood until Okwan turned to her and said, “No.”

10 things I’m learning this month

I woke up at 9am.

Have you ever read a policy so much so that the first thing you utter when you wake up are policy statements? I stayed up all night working on the policy, drafting ‘what if’ scenarios that would help a Counselor implement the policy or use it in assessing a case. I also got derailed for an hour reading Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

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This week started off on a great tangent for me because I have no room to procrastinate and I’m feeling energetic because most of the things I wanted to do are falling into place. On the other hand I find myself accepting and learning some important life lessons:

  1. It is never to late for an apology. So, I am working on a clean slate, making amends as I press on.
  2. Admitting when I am wrong.
  3. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt. In fact my grey, white and black plain t-shirts collection is growing at an alarming rate.
  4. Make goals. It does not hurt to be clear and honest about what you want and how you’re going to get it.
  5. A drop of kindness never hurt anyone, people are dealing with major stuff and kindness is one way to show that they are awesome no matter what they are going through.
  6. It’s okay to be proud of your ancestry, but make it even better, live up to it. I come from a lineage of some strong women and after I shared this post, I learned that writing has always been somewhere in our family. I am not the only writer or literature buff, we’ve got Professors, Lecturers, Teachers and the works, but it turns out that whenever my Mom brags about my writing, she is not far off because Azenath Odaga was my grandma’s blood cousin. I rolled my eyes at this, but mom sat me down and pulled some old photographs pointing at people, spouting names and saying she was right. “It’s such a pity you never met her, but didn’t you ever ask yourself how come I had all her books?”
  7. When you marry, you do not just marry your spouse but his/her whole family and true to form, it can be a whole lot to handle. So, at the moment, I am sipping my tea and listening to Hillsong’s album Open Heaven/River Wild album and keeping my thoughts to myself. I love two of Hillsong’s albums: Open Heaven/ River Wild and Let there be Light. 🙂Image result for open heaven river wild hillsong
  8. I’m also learning to let go when it comes to keeping in touch with friends. This came about after trying to reach a friend three days in a row. I figured, if she wanted to get in touch she would and if I would still be available then I’d make it happen. It’s not worth the worry or concern.
  9. I learned this from Grumpy. It was his birthday and he made it all about his mom, so when I asked him why, he said, “It may seem like my birthday, but it’s her special day because every year she relives what she went through to get me here.” I’ll keep this in mind when I celebrate my birthday.
  10. The internet never forgets, but it also takes in what you feed it. 4,998 friends on Facebook, 279 likes on my page and I still know that when it gets thick, I have 10 people I can count on and that’s one person for every finger in my writing world!

When it comes to writing, I learned a long time ago that the delete button is the enemy incarnate! So, I covered it up using white masking tape so I do not press it whenever a story doesn’t go my way.

Ten lessons may seem like nothing but admitting that you don’t know it all, is something that I believe learning is all about. Have a great day world!

Ramblings of a Writer stuck between her pen and the paper

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn– is what popped into my head after I finished typing that title up there. Oh, what I’d give to see Scarlett O’Hara’s face when Rhett told her those eight words! They held such promise!

I should be writing the next part of Ushanga, but even getting a word out seems like torture. I won’t push my luck, no, I’ll let the gods of literature and minions of writing do their thing. I’m worn out. I took on so much this past week and today I was caught between finishing Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes and writing a report on the 2016 East African Community Child Rights Policy. I chose the former in between breaks.

Just when I thought that my day would get better, I received a reminder that there’s a strategic plan that I had written and shared with a few colleagues that needed reviewing. I sent out texts to everyone of them calling for a meeting. Three out of the seven responded. I am waiting to hear from the remaining four and it is killing me!

So, I went to the kitchen and made a cup of black tea. I took two mandazis and sat before the computer ready to type at least a sentence into Ushanga, but when I opened the document, nothing…not even the urge to repeatedly type “ushanga” just to get this moving.

I played one round of Solitaire and couldn’t even stack up one pile of cards, so I exited that and reached out for my phone. Before I could even type the pin to unlock the screen, I remembered that I’d just bought 4 black dresses at the market today and went to take them down from the hanging line. As I was making my way back to the house, my younger sister asks, “what are we cooking for supper?”

I want to say “fried chicken and vegetable rice” but do not because as sure as the sun rises, we both know there ain’t no chicken in the fridge. I tell her ugali, sukumawiki and we can fry some eggs. She looks at me the way she always does; half smiling, half frowning and then says “sawa,” and walks to the sitting room to watch Double Kara- some Philippine soap opera that I can’t stand, and now that I’ve rambled my words off here, I’d better go back and try to keep working on Ushanga.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

NetGalley has been good to me. I was hesitant when I first received the recommendation from Goodreads to sign up and get to read books in exchange for a review. I thought, “why ask for books just to review them?”

Then the gods of literature struck and I was working in Kisumu and couldn’t find alternative sources of buying books. I was in a literal dry spell and my mind was asking to be nourished by something, so I signed up and since then I’ve read 47 books off NetGalley. I’ve come to know of authors whom I’ll always keep an eye out for like Clar Ni Chonghaile, Timothy Ogene, and now Akwaeke Emezi.

So, my NG experience aside, let me tell you about Akwaeke’s book called Freshwater!

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

This book held me captive till the very end.
The story follows Ada, a child who upon birth is believed to possess two spirits inside her. As she grows, she’s both sweet and volatile, something that is not known to everyone for her spirits take charge each seeking to meet their own selfish needs.
The author molds a story that is both candid and incomplete for she uses mysticism to weave an understanding of mental illness. You feel as though you are the spirits inside Ada, and you are also an outsider observing Ada which made this book irresistible.
When Ada struggles to come to terms with what’s happening inside her mind, they remind her that she is them and they are her.
Sectioning the Ada gave her isolated pockets of memory, each containing a different version of her. There were versions to whom bad things had happened and, therefore, there were versions of her to whom these things had not happened. This terrified her, because if there were so many of her,then which one was she?
I love how the voice of each of the gods within Ada was firm. There was a certain dominance and certainty to them that made me await the awakening of Ada. I was reading this and when I got to Chapter Twenty, all I could keep saying was “come on Ada, get up Ada!”
It is at exactly that moment that I read this When you break something, you must study the pattern of the shattering before you can piece it back together. So it was with the Ada. She was a question wrapped up in breath: How do you survive when they place a god inside your body?

There is a phrase in the book that goes First feed your gods which I found to be remarkable simple but the weight of it stayed with me. If there’s anything that I learned from this book is that people are as unique as they come and no matter how many voices speak up or demand attention in your head, in that shattering moment, you are still the one who counts. Finding out how to make it count is what matters.

Check out her website for more at: http://www.akwaeke.com/

Her story “Who is like God?” clinched the 2017 Commonwealth Short story Prize from Africa: read it here

I’d like to thank Grove Atlantic, Grove Press and NetGalley for the advance copy, for it’s been a refreshing read.

TMI:

Drinking: Tea (my second cup of the day)

Listening to: Lust for Life by Lana Del Ray

Hooked to: Elevation Church sermons (I listen to a sermon every night before I sleep)

Currently reading: Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes

Are you headed in the right direction?

I should add…”and other questions I’ve been asking myself lately.”

It’s forty six minutes past eight and we’ve just had supper. I prepared spaghetti and I am now looking forward to having a cup of black tea before I sleep. Have you noticed that I tend to specify the time I write these posts? Like here, here and here?

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Okay, well, maybe not so much but I seem to be drawn to time and this is partly due to the fact that my writing hours have changed. It is also largely due to the fact that I underestimated my writing and ability to set a scene that’s closer to home.

Have you ever sat down with friends or family and right when you are having a laugh at something funny one person just asks you some deep stuff?

Hear me out world, it’s been years since my aunts got on my case about getting married. I do get the occasional product launch at functions and church. “Meet my daughter, she’s a great Counselor and did I tell you that she’s a Writer? Yes, we lost Margaret Ogolla, Azenath Odaga and Grace Ogot, but God’s always gracious, we believe He’ll bless the work of her hands.”

“Yes, how’s our son doing? I hope he is well. Tell him to come visit me or call me.”

So, there I was seated on the floor with my back leaning against the front door. It was four in the evening. The muezzin had just summoned Allah’s faithful servants to the Mosque near our home, so that “Allah hu Wakbar” was my cue to get black tea and mandazi. I was getting ready to feast when my friend calls and starts by saying “we need to meet up like now!”

I told her, “it’s four and NASA were to make a statement so there’s no way I am making my way to your place because that means going past Kondele where we both know GSU trucks are parked by the road.”

“It’s quite safe, you should come,” she responded.

“No thanks. I love you but I am in no position to run for my life when I haven’t committed a crime, so tell me, what’s up?”

“You know how things have been with that guy I told you about? Well, let’s just say that I am over it, because I got this great job and it means I’ll be moving to Naks and sitaki drama! It’s just, how do you know you are headed in the right direction?”

I did what I always do when I find myself cornered to provide a solution or to justify someone’s actions. I asked her, “tell me what happened?”

She hang up ten minutes later after our chat and by then my tea had gone cold. I looked out just in time to see a police patrol truck drive past our house. Her question still rang in my mind as I went to heat up my tea, “how do you know you are headed in the right direction?”

In what aspect? Is it life as a whole, a project, a goal? What exactly are we talking about here? I struggled with this and though I’ve often mentioned that I tend to worry, I also do overthink and it wears me down. It wears me down even though I know what it’s doing to me. So, how do I know where I am headed to and if it’s the right way? If it’s a location I use Google Maps or ask for directions until I get there.

If it’s about a goal, I take my time and reflect on what I’ve done and weight the pros and cons to ascertain whether I’ve made progress or not. So, it’s got to be progress. The results tell me if I am headed in the right direction.

I was so pleased with this kind of understanding until something dawned on me, “what if you can’t see results yet you’ve been working hard?” Now, I have to think about that, but here’s the thing how do you tell that you are headed in the right direction? What works for you in relation to this?

 

 

My writing space

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My writing space has always been neat. It’s got a keyboard, stick notes, highlighters, writing pads, blue and black ink pens and never without pencils and erasers.

I have written some of the stories I never thought would find their way into print.

Here, on this table in my mom’s room, surrounded by heaps of books on African literature is where I first came up with Ulioko. He’s the only character who resonates with most of the people who have read the Currents Series. With utterances like:

“You cannot dip raw cassava in hot water and remove it expecting to eat it.”

“Even the baboons do not like to stare at their children’s buttocks.”

I have drafted some of the stories that are neatly tucked away in my journals, gifts that some day, someone will treasure knowing that I wrote something every day.

My writing space has always been neat because I like my things in order. I like an essence of space and when everything is piled up, my mind wanders like a child digging through a chest of family secrets.

I thought that every word I wrote would be as crisp as my writing space, but this picture serves to show that inspiration does not trickle down a straight path.

Have a lovely week Writers!

11 answers to 11 questions

I was going through my reader page yesterday at 2:56PM when I came across this post by this awesome blogger.

Congratulations, you penguin and thank you for coming up with some awesome questions that I could try to answer, so, let’s do this!

1. What’s a current food trend that you’re interested in trying?

None. I’m not big on food or trends.

2. On the same subject of food, can you recommend me a local dish of your hometown?

Chapobeans any day any time! Well, let me break that down: chapati and beans.

3. Where’s the first place you would like to visit next?

Kitale

4. If you could get something for free, would you choose a first-class airplane seat or a high-scale restaurant?

A high-scale restaurant any day any time! Did I mention that flying freaks me out?

5. Hot or cold weather?

Hot! Hot! Hot!

6. What annoys you?

A lot of things but mostly short form texting that makes me wonder if I should distribute dictionaries to anyone who sends me a text like “hw u?ms u?”

7. If you could learn any new language, which one would it be and why?

Russian.  I’d love to yell at Peaches in Russian.

8. What’s the first thing you think of when you think of the word “white.”

Paper. 🙂

9. Fill in the blank: “French ___fries____.” State your reason.

Ketchup and some chilli sauce and that stuff is bae!

10. Books that you would like to read?

11. Name one weird habit/thing you do.

I drink water while sitting on the floor at 2am.

Head on to The Finicky Cynic’s post about #TheLiebsterAward if you’d love to answer the questions: right here