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.”

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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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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.

Visiting Mbita

It’s great to get out of Kisumu and visit other towns and so the visit to Mbita came at a much needed time.

A view of the Lake Victoria and of the hotel makes for a great stay- let’s not talk about the heat, I thought Kisumu was hot…well, the hotel rooms have pre-installed fans!

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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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