Chapter Twelve: Maureen

“You can take the children for a while and spend time with them,” said Maureen.

“I live in a one bedroom apartment. You’ve seen it and it is not the kind of place they would enjoy playing around and all that.”

“They are kids. They only care about the attention you give them besides, you will get this job and that means you’ll have a better place if you so wish.”

“Maybe…”

“Belinda, can I ask you something?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Have you thought of going back to your house?”

“You mean the house?”

“Yes, I am talking about the house where Jeff and your kids live in. It’s the house you left and haven’t been sleeping in for the past one month. It’s the house that your kids call home and where their school bus knows to stop every morning and evening. Do you need me to clarify some more?”

“No, I know what you are talking about. I am not ready to go there.”

“What about Jeff?”

“I am not ready to talk to him. I know I was hard on you at first about Michelle, but there are many more women like her out there. It’s Michelle this time but there have been others and the more I act like a fool, the more I feel hurt. Look, if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s more to life than playing the perfect wife. I always thought that if I took care of everything at home then it will be great. It was for a while and then he started acting different and I started asking myself questions. I got what I was looking for and now…just don’t get into something and forget yourself Mesh, no one’s ever worth all that loss and pain.”

“You need to sort things out with Jeff.”

“Wait, are you telling me that I should forgive and forget?”

Ehe! Yes, that’s what I am saying. Before you start lecturing me again, hear me out. Listen, you need to iron things out with your husband. You chose to stay away from him and it’s reminded you that you can always get up when you fall down. You did not take his money or live under his shelter but you managed and he knows that, in fact, it probably scares him that you could walk away. All, I am saying is that you need to talk to him, yell at him or something, just to get everything off your chest and after that, you can decide what course of action to take.”

“Where is this sudden enlightenment coming from?”

“I have been reading this book by some woman in America. You know the divorce rate is pretty high there and their courts make more money settling divorce cases and all that. She talks about ‘the hurt you give’ in one of her many chapters about healing. I just tried it out on you and it seems to have worked.”

“Can I read the book once you’re done?”

“I can send it to you via whatsapp!”

“It’s a pirated book! Mesh, now you are hurting the woman’s efforts, just give me the title of the book and I will go and look for it.”

“I forgot I was talking to Saint Belinda. You need to go out, get drunk and wake up with a hangover or something.”

“There’s no way I’m going out with you Mesh. I’m too old for the club scene.”

“I know this rich friend of mine who knows how to have a good time. I’ll call her and make plans this Friday, and while we are talking about going out. Okwan is not invited. I like her, but she’s way too off in my squad.”

“You’re mean. How about we invite her and let her decide whether she’d love to come or not?”

“If she comes, she’s your headache, not mine.”

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.

Image result for heartbreak warfare gif

Travel diary; Bungoma 

I recently shared my experience in Chavakali and an interesting turn of events at The Crying stone in Mukhonje.

My trip to Western Kenya saw me visit Bungoma county today and I was so excited to be back that the team we were traveling with thought I was high on my own expectations. I love Bungoma. I love Kakamega. Honestly, I love where I can get some good milk tea and a whole cob of well roasted maize at twenty shillings. Please don’t remind me of Kapsabet, Kitale, Eldoret and Londiani…we are talking about Bungoma and Kakamega here.

So, we made our way through Kakamega to this place and arrived at around 3pm. We drove around looking for someplace to stay, with a limited budget, I kept reminding people in the car that any hotel behind Barclay’s Bank was out. During my previous stay I had no sleep because of the loud music played from the pubs around and in more than one occasion, I found myself listening in on more than I could handle. 

We drove along Moi Avenue (yes,there is a Moi Avenue in Bungoma) and we came to The County Comfort Hotel. I stepped out and asked for the rates and a chance to scout the room to see if it appealed to me. 

When I saw the room, I settled in, picking the most spacious of them all. It did not come with an awesome view because it overlooks the Shariff Centre which is a pit stop for Easy Coach buses. 

I did however love the tiny electric kettle they set up on the table. 

The receptionist told us we could prepare some instant coffee or tea with what they had provided. When she said this everyone turned to see me light up. The Driver however asked if his room had a mini fridge and Tusker, and when she said no, he walked back into the hallway. 

I am looking forward to visiting Chwele and though my stay is a short one, I hope it goes well and I can’t wait to visit more places.

Out and about in Bungoma

What’s not to love about Bungoma with:

  • Boda boda rides (you can go for the motorbikes or the pedaled ones)
  • The way the people talk with gestures, it’s like the words are forced out of their system, something my friend calls “They emphasize,” and can be great action movie commentators.
  • The hotels never run out of tea and mandazi. I have had so much tea here, I think my body will demand more of it when I leave.
  • It has six sub-counties: I’ve been to Sirisia, Khanduyi, Kabuchai, Webuye West and I am still looking forward to going as far as Mt. Elgon. I think I have two sub-counties to visit: Tongaren and Webuye East!
  • There’s Webuye, a small town after my own heart- wouldn’t you love seeing this!
  • The infant mortality and morbidity rates in Bungoma have been a concern for the Ministry of Health, and with this the county has had help from the First Lady’s “Beyond Zero” Campaign, where I came across this mobile clinic which is essentially a theatre on wheels!

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It’s been a great place to be in and I learned that Chwele is the second largest open-air market in Kenya, the onions, pineapples and potatoes sold here could make my Mother believe in Heaven!

Who can leave Bungoma without taking at least a picture of the big stones you see? Here’s one!

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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?