Hey, can I ask you something?

It’s 10:36A.M. as I start writing this. If you are in Kenya, chances are you are seated at home alone, or maybe with friends, or family simply watching a movie because the news on TV is either depressing or never-changing. You are not on Facebook because since August 8th, you’ve come to tap the unfollow and block icons on your smartphone so much so that you don’t even know what your threshold for isht is.

It is refreshing that Kenyans love to be the bearer of news. First, most of our politicians took up the roles criminals and comedians. We thrive on just how foolish they can get, and especially when they deny uttering statements in public even as they are watching a clip of it. Now, we all have smartphones and bundles! Lawd, what would we be without bundles and powerbanks! Wi-Fi ni ya watu wa Nairobi…some other cities are yet to have that stuff in their homes, oh mercy! I know not the future of journalism, but hey…if in one minute you can get ten million different updates on the same story, well… I digress.

So, this morning I was woken up by two texts. See, here’s the thing world, I am a morning person. Yes, I wake up at 2am and write till 4am then pray to the gods of slumber to allow me to enter their world until 6:30am where I exit their world for that of another dawn. So, receiving a text at half past four in the morning is like being summoned to the world of daybreak, and that my friends, is like trying to get a cat to have a bath!

Image result for cat memes
Google Images

I reach for my phone and then I see “would you please tell me if I am doing the right thing?” Of course, I’d read the second text first. So, I sat up and went to my messages and the first text was “hey, can I ask you something? How do u knw uv lk made the right dsn? I mean, how do u knw that sm1 the 1 4 u?”

I thought, “not with that kind of communication!” and sent her a text message “call me and tell me what’s up.” She called and somewhere between conversation I dozed off. I know I did because as I was going through my phone at seven in the morning, there were three missed calls from her and eight text messages. I could try and tell you what they were about, but given that she’s not the kind to use words while texting, we’d both be at a loss. My fingers for doing the typing and you for struggling to read what you’d consider a drunkard’s slur.

I’ve always known a couple of phrases to be conversation starters for people at a crossroads. When someone says “can I ask you something?”, “can we talk?”, “are you busy?”, “can you do me a favour?”, “listen…”, “I have this friend,” then know that it’s not going to be a declaration but rather a call for your full attention, because there’s a dilemma that needs a solution.

I happened to fall asleep in the middle of the discussion of one. It’s pretty obvious that I had to call and make amends, but it also reminded me of something I have been taking for granted for the past one month. My instinct.

I’ve been struggling with writing Ushanga and all the while there’s been the feeling of giving my characters room to grow and breathe life into the story. In a way, I am working on that, but I love control and no, I am not Mr. Grey who exercises control in all things…I am learning to let go and sometimes working with an outline can really stifle your writing.

Have a good day people!

TMI

Reading: 

Listening to: 4:44 by Jay Z

Drinking: Black coffee (my first cup of the day)

I need a drink

Two things ring true about Grumpy; he is grumpy in the morning and he is grumpy in the afternoon.

When he called at 9:00am, I looked around before answering my phone, because he always starts the conversation with “where are you?”

Today, he said “I need a drink, have one with me.”

“What kind of drink?”

“Something black, hot, frothy and if it comes with chocolate cake, I’m all in. What are you doing?”

“I am at work.”

“Wait, what? You work on Saturdays? Are you serious?”

“No, I am not but my employer is, so when do we have that drink that you seriously need?”

“I’ll call you in the afternoon or the evening.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes I am sure.”

“Okay, see you then.”

coffee latte art froth cappuccino drink espresso milk foam mug caffeine dark cup saucer table kitchenware
Spencer Selover took this awesome photo on stocksnap.io

 

Why I’ll never look at people’s walls again

Do you ever wonder why your eyes travel across the walls of people’s living rooms when you visit them?

You are ushered into the room and as soon as you sit, you start looking around seeing the pictures on the walls, the color of the wall, where they place the wall clock, and their calendar and you stop only you when you meet their eyes.

It’s odd what your eyes make you do.

I have been struggling with a throat infection partly due to my reluctance to give up anything sweet, so I went to visit a friend yesterday. She welcomed me into their house. It’s a big three bedroom house with a front porch that’s to die for-and tall glass windows that remind me of those penthouses you see in action packed films. Seriously, why do the fights involve someone being thrown through a glass door or window that had nothing to do with the fight in the first place? I digress.

Okay, so, their house is one of those destination homes that are the kryptonite to travelers like me. Once inside, I found myself doing what I’ve always done since I was four and that’s looking around. You can tell a lot about people, like in campus I knew my crush was an Arsenal fan because of the pictures of Arsenal players and not the mat or the duvet, but it was enough to warrant a ‘let’s be friends,’ conversation. You can guess how many people are there in that family, or how many graduated if they have endless pictures of graduation photos, and if they love art or not. But, what I was not prepared for was a painting next to the picture of Jesus – you know the blue eyed, slicked back long black hair, red robe, red lips, and a heart surrounded by thorns.

This was a painting of an African man sitting on a three legged stool, smoking from a pipe. His hair was white, way beyond grey, and he had his genitalia and scrotum hanging out as he sat on that stool- and I was tempted to ask, ‘Lord are you seeing this?’

But, my friend came back with soda and she found me staring and I was forced to ask about the painting. “It’s my dad’s painting, he used to paint years ago before he joined the Ministry, he calls it, ‘Man.’ Everyone who comes here is always shocked by it.”

“Yeah, they would, the man is displaying his goods right beside Jesus!”

“And Jesus is displaying his heart, it is weird indeed, but I always tell people not to look.”

“How can they do that when the painting has already left an impression?”

“I mean people should not look around, they might be disappointed by what they see in people’s homes.”

I took a sip of my soda but for the next four hours my eyes kept going back to the Man and Jesus, back and forth, like a sniper training her eyes on a target, and when I left there, I ran into an old man by the road with white hair, sitting on a bench, and God help me, I swore never to look at people’s walls.

Fashion, Drama, Hangovers, Food and Grief at a Funeral.

My great-grandmother was laid to rest this past Saturday, in what might have seemed more like a play or let’s say many acts in one scene. We left the house at eight with my sister and nephew and headed for the bus stop where we boarded “Nyangoye Senior.” It’s this big blue forty eight seater bus that plies that route. There was a big placard on the dashboard that read “Kisumu- Uyoma-Luanda/Ferry.”

Our destination was Uyoma, and “Kilo/Chianda,” to be precise.

We let my nephew pick the seats and just like the five year old adventurer in him, he chose the seats next to the driver. The bus took ten minutes at the stage then took off for the petrol station. A woman seated right behind me got into an argument with the driver and tout because the vehicle was taking too long to leave the stage. She kept telling them that she had a funeral to attend, and did not want to be late. The tout shouted back at her, “Was I the one who killed the one you are going to bury? If you wanted to arrive there early you should have traveled yesterday! You can get off and board another vehicle if you are in such a hurry.” It took another ten minutes as the attendants filled the tank and we moved to the next station because they needed some air for the wheels. I have never operated those, but if they work like bicycle pumps, then ours took forever to get done! I kept my eye on the pressure indicated in the machine but all I could see were numbers that did not resonate with me.

We took off and I leaned in my seat glad because the road was smooth. I even had this feeling that we’d be home by noon. But, I had gotten ahead of myself like I always do and forgotten that this was public transportation. They stopped wherever they could and passengers only alighted at the bus stop. It took us a while but we got home safe.

But, it was finally stepping on the ground and watching the bus drive away that I was reminded of where I was. I was home. I was finally at my Father’s home. I rarely visit home, but I knew every turn and how to get to my ancestral home and my feet led the way.

When we got home, we looked for our mom for we had bought some supplies for her: Juice and Ice Cold water mostly, yeah and a tab of yoghurt.

But as we made our way around the tents I could not help but wonder how much of a festivity funerals had become. I have only attended one funeral that sucked the life out of me and that was eighteen years ago when we laid our dad to rest. I remember choking on my grief and the worst part was looking at the homestead after he’d been buried. What was left standing were the chairs and tents, and it’s been just me, my mom and sister since then.

My great-grandmother was famous for one thing,  she loved cigarettes. She would scold us for buying her sugar and forgetting to buy at least a cigarette for her. She’d lived long enough to see 86 grandchildren, 200 great grandchildren and 100 great great grandchildren. I remember her crying out to God to take her life the last time I saw her because her peers and siblings had died and left her.

But the highlight of the funeral to me was the people. You see all kinds of people at the funeral, it’s more like a market but strictly like a classroom. There are the people who sit quietly and follow the programme. They listen to the sermon, eulogies, testimonies and sing along to the hymns. They stand when they are told and sit when they should.

There are also the watchers. Yes, these are the people who come from nearby places and they just come to watch how many cars and people showed up for the funeral. In most cases, these include children who collect the water bottles in between seats and who chase the dogs away while they nibble on pieces of meat. They always have so much stories to tell of the family and the people who are bereaved, if only you’d listen to them.

There are the people from diaspora. I’ll split this category into two; the family and the entourage.

The family from diaspora are those who live in the cities and who make rare appearances. In other words they only come home when they have to, and you’ll walk around wondering where your cousin Henry went to- thinking you’ll see the skinny boy who could climb mango trees or outrun the neighbors whenever he stole mandazis from their tables or guavas from their farms. Instead you will see a tall, dark and well built man with a light skinned woman by his side and a kid hugging his right leg. He’ll tell you she’s his girlfriend and the kid is his son who has turned four. You’ll step back and shift your weight from one leg to the other and only manage to say, “long time! How’ve you been, lakini?”

Then there’s the entourage from diaspora, these are the friends of some of the family members who come home in cars. They are self sufficient holding their own Keringet Water bottles and wearing the best sunglasses that mask either their hangovers or their fabulosity! Pick one. They are the life of the party, and the villagers would look at them wondering, “magi to oya kanye?” (Where are these clowns from?) But, they don’t care, they take wonderful selfies with their Samsung Tablets and fill Instagram with #funeralthings #life #ochamanenos #friendsforlife. But, before you dismiss them, know that they drove for twelve hours and they kept sharing jokes and drinks and doing their best to cheer up their friend.

Then, my favorite are the women and the shoes. I am more of a tee-shirt and jeans kinda girl when it comes to a funeral, but most people now wear black.

I love my black and wear it to work or when I’m doing my favorite things: buying stationery, buying novels and hanging out at Java. Most people seem to wear it to funerals, but for me I do not like to mix my grief with discomfort especially given the crazy heat that’s experienced this side of the world.

Going back to what I was saying, you realize that people wear shoes and the old women are taking to doll shoes and leaving the Ngoma’s to the young and restless youth who flaunt their pouts for selfies. But as you notice these things, you cannot help but be reminded of how fickle life is, for what is there will be taken and you cannot help but wonder why your mind is making you feel such deep stuff and you suddenly say to yourself, “Where’s the food? I’m hungry.”

And…the story continues tomorrow

You know Steve, right?

Okay.

So, you have that lunch that you’ve been talking about with your friends for years. You pick a restaurant that has free WiFi, yes- it is important to share those pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

You notice that someone has lost weight, another has gained some (but you won’t speak of it, if she asks, you say she is beautiful) and another is growing this bump that she cannot stop talking about. She is the mother to be and then all eyes settle on you, “So when are you getting married?”

And you shrug off your shoulders like, “God’s timing is best,” even though you know that you have had some suitors but are just not interested. So they  look at you like you are crazy but say, “yeah, but no worries, you will meet the right guy at the appointed time.”

And you immediately say “Amen!” and look at the menu like an English teacher would mark an essay. They giggle a little and you do not bother to ask because that’s an inside joke among the engaged and married people. The waiter approaches your table and you say, “I will have the mango juice and chips masala.” The one with the bump looks at you and asks, “how do you keep fit with all that junk?”

You smile and say, “I do not eat chips during the week, so why not treat myself today, besides I hear their masala chips is to die for.” She nods and orders the same. The others place their orders and the waiter leaves you in the company of three lovely women whom you’ve drawn apart from and free WiFi. Which one would you pick?

Yes, so you go through your emails and check your Facebook wall for those updates and that’s when you see it:

“At __ restaurant with so and so, having a blast!” And you look up with your eye asking, “really?” But you say nothing because that’s the irony of it all. The person who cannot afford bamba 20 is always posting pictures of Jameson, Smirnoff Black Ice, Jack Daniels or standing beside a Range Rover with the hashtag #turntup #lifeisgood

So, you stop being so judgmental and switch off that new android phone you got with an impressive five inch captive screen and turn to the girls for a conversation. You start talking and listening and you realize that the one who has lost weight is Sharon. She used to sit behind you in class. She was index ten and she is frustrated at work because all the policies she creates are accredited to her boss. She knows so much about investments and even gives you a formula for saving and invites you to this chama she’s in.

The one with the bump is Martha. She is staying at home now, while her husband is working. She loves it because she had been in the banking industry for two years and she hated it. She wants to go back to school but they cannot afford it. She is scared that her second baby won’t be an easy pregnancy. She almost had a miscarriage last week.

And finally the one who has put on weight, well, she just got a job two years after graduating from the university. She had been stressed by her family and relatives desire to get her to move out and settle down. She is not dating anyone because her boyfriend had been sleeping around with the other women in her  block. She says that whole “boy next door thing” is so wrong! Those type of guys have a constant supply of women and you all burst laughing. You realize that she is Michelle, and you always chat on twitter even though she goes by a different handle.

They turn to you and you say, you are figuring things out and all will be well. You have had jobs and you have traveled a lot, and most of all you are proud of your family’s support. Then Martha asks you if you are dating anyone. You sigh and say that you were dating this great guy, but you got tired of waiting on him and so now you are single, but not so single…and they laugh.

Just then the waiter comes pushing a trolly and serves you your food and you dig in like the hungry beautiful women that you are! Then Michelle asks Martha how Steve is doing, and she starts, “You know Steve, right? He is working and I do not spend as much time with him as I did before…”

Then you say you have never seen this Steve guy and Martha pulls out her phone. She types in a pin and goes to her Gallery and swipes left for a while until she gets to the picture she wants and then holds the phone in your face, “that’s my Steve!”

“Are you okay?”

“Um…”

“Hey, you look like you have seen him before, do you know him?”

“Um, yes…I think we have met at a training or something…does he work for a CSO?”

“Yes, oh my! It’s a small world!”

You look at your food and feel like someone is out to get you. You keep stuffing your mouth with fries. You know it should not bother you that Steve is the guy! You know?

A friend, a football match, café and a newspaper.

My friend is in town and I cannot stop talking about his presence because there’s always so much we can do that involves coffee and a good time.

So, we met at Java yesterday, and he bought a copy of my book, and asked me what I was working on and how it was going on. I tend to leave this to the comfort of ‘tomorrow’ so much so that it took me weeks to map my new domain. Yes, now I am on http://www.nilichoandika.co.ke and it is my next move in going into full time writing, and marketing the ‘Currents’ series that I am writing.

I opted for a mocha, while he wanted his iced, and I had a raisin cake with it.
On our way home we took a picture of a part of the town:

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And we proceeded to the bus stop where I bought green wellies to wear to work due to the heavy rains that make most of the schools I visit inaccessible.

But, the crux of the day, or shall I say, the highlight of our time out was when he convinced me to accompany him to a football match. Yes, I would stick around for ninety minutes.
I was hesitant because the team that was playing is known to have some radical if not a few rogue fans who do not hesitate to cause a riot  if they either lose or win! I did not want to be in the middle of a stone throwing battle field.
I know King David, in the Bible, was famous for his sling shot, but have you ever been in a field where stones are airborne?

I rest my case.

So, we met today at 2pm at a mall and my first question was, ‘Did you get the tickets?’
I was dressed in black except for my ankle boots which were brown. So, he laughs and his friend takes a sip of water from his bottle and gives me the ‘don’t ask’ look!

There were chaos outside the stadium, and all they heard were four gun shots into the air, and they thought, “Dora, would not be here!”
So, we got into a tuk tuk and went to Java for some fresh juice:

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And you see the guy holding a paper, well, he was not so pleased about the chaos, but he does have the capacity to persuade a person to become a fan of Arsenal.
Where did that newspaper come from?
I don’t know but I would be lying if I said that I did not ask myself the same question, but the only answer I came up with was – half time.

My friend took this and many other cool shots as we drank our juice. On our way out, I bought a copy of Couture Magazine.

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It has been a great weekend.
I have had so much coffee, walked a lot, worn my boots, and got my proof copy of Water, but the greatest highlight of my week is the ability to laugh and appreciate life and friendship.
We missed out on a game, but we still hang out and had a great laugh.
I mean, where do you get two guys who ask you to name some Arsenal players?
PS: If any one asks you, (and you have no clue) remember; SOG – Sanchez, Ozil, and Giroud. It’s Ozil has big teddy bear eyes, and Giroud has great hair while Sanchez is Ozil’s friend!

In my room

Everyone carries a room around.

It waits to have the walls painted, windows open, floor cleaned and then furnished. Sometimes it takes the shape of a toilet where all that’s done is release of the waste. Sometimes it takes the shape of a living room where everyone is welcomed and served a drink or a meal, and people watch TV and their laughter fills the room.

When it seems like the world is closing in on me, sometimes, this room takes the form of a store room. I pile up all the stuff that I cannot handle and lock the door and throw the keys under my bed. This store has no lighting or windows, and I pass it as though it was one with the wall. This wall is melon green.

I love water melons.

They are big, juicy and sweet. I love to spit out the seeds like a machine gun, and sometimes when I forget and swallow even one seed, it feels as though I’ve lost the chance to aim at a target.

Everyone carries a room around.

This blank space that we fill with stuff.

Sometimes it is like your bedroom where when you lie on that bed, you can dream of yellow flowers or black never ending holes. Sometimes we forget to clean this room and the dust piles up…and we get an infection, because we have overworked our nostrils.

Sometimes, we focus too much on taking in stuff that the room becomes nothing but a container that is meant to take in everything that you throw at it.

Everyone carries a room around.

Question is, what room are you carrying now?