Melancholy: The Album, 2

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Melancholy: The Album
Part 2: Thinking out loud

They say that there is light at the end, at the end of the tunnel
Yet, at my end, at my end of the tunnel, there is no light
And it feels as though my tunnel, my tunnel is a funnel
That sucks in more and more and more darkness
And I drown, and suffocate in this darkness
from which, from which there is no escaping.

And so I fall, clutching, clutching at straws
reaching, grasping, screaming in terror
but no voice, no voice comes from my mouth
and I keep on falling, falling deeper, and deeper
in this bottomless void, as the darkness closes in
a heavy darkness, crushing me, tearing at my essence
threatening to cut me loose, and lose me, forever.

In this darkness, there is no life, no laughter, no love,
no sun, no stars, no rainbows, no silver linings, no new beginnings
only a cold, putrid, clinging sadness that grips tight, sucking
at the soul, numbing out all feelings, erasing joy and all happy memories
in its trance, I am a zombie, passing – through, and passing – by
one day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time… tick-tock
counting down to a melt-down, if there be no rescue, if there be
no one, to reach out, to hold my hand, to guide me through
this darkness, through this blindness, to the light

And to the sun.

Nobody talks about a crazy relative, more so, a close relative. In other words, nobody talks about an immediate family member who is crazy. Or one who is blind or deaf or has HIV or that suicide that happened in the family. Cancer or diabetes is ok, it elicits sympathy and it does not reflect on the family. Let me tell you about African courting in the old days. A relative would be sent to scout out the family to establish if it was a suitable one to marry into – were there crazies in the family? Or strange illnesses? Then, no, you mustn’t marry into that family. Plus, I am told, the mother would seek out a kid from without the family as insurance. Genetic portfolio diversification if you will. Stigma. Discrimination. It smelt so.

We are in the middle of June and the weather is freezing cold. I am in the house, alone; in the background, muted piano soundtrack. All my phones are off. I am just from snubbing my neighbour. He wanted to talk about football, about Christiano Ronaldo, about Spain and Portugal, but I had just woken up and I am all grouchy and touchy in the morning. Thing is I was yet to indulge in my rituals to start the day. Perhaps, there is a bit of my father in me. He always insisted for his mornings not to be disturbed. Money issues or family business being a preserve of the evenings. Don’t give him bad luck in the morning, or something.

I am thinking about death. More to the point, suicide. I am thinking of a classmate, at one point, a deskie, who committed suicide. I am thinking of a neighbour who committed suicide. I am thinking of that student years ago who, coming for the mid-term break from school, hanged himself with his school’s tie. The other two were also males.

See, June is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death some two years ago (I had to look that up and she actually passed mid-May, but it was a freezing May and I tend to associate the cold with the month of June, and death, and darkness and sadness). Her death being one of those that shakes one to the core. Though I had lost a couple of relatives before – a grandfather here, a couple of cousins there, friends and neighbours, she really was special. In the African way of doing things, I was her ‘husband’ – that is, I was named after my grandfather, so I was favoured among her grandkids.

My grandmother, she died at the ripe old age of 102 years. That is, a bonus of 52 years going by the bible. She really had a full life, seeing her grandkids and their kids and grandkids after them. She died a happy person and her funeral was more of a celebration, going by the conventional wisdom in all the speeches that were uttered at her funeral. Still, when death comes, whether to the young or the old, there is always shock even when you can see it coming.

So, today I am also thinking of my classmate, my high school classmate, K, who committed suicide. His was not a full life as he had so much potential to actualise. He was a popular person, a favourite among the ladies when we went out for school outings. His father drunk like a fish. His father could have been a drunkard; things we gloss over. I remember him quipping that his father had been told by the doctor to slack on his drinking as he only had a quarter of his liver left from all that drinking.

K was also a happy-go-luck person and the only time I can remember him being sad, pensive even, wiping away at the corner of his eyes, was once. I think it was something to do with some English assignment which the whole class had neglected to do. A furious English teacher had fumed that everyone came to the school alone and would leave alone. She really did touch a raw nerve there with her implications. Sad thing is I never got to go to K’s funeral.

Now, the mobile phone was becoming affordable in our last year of high school, which meant that not many of us had access to the gadget. In fact, during the school holidays, our rendezvous would be the Kenya Cinema, with half an hour allowance for everyone to arrive before we went to wherever we had planned for the day. So, when we cleared high school, most of us lost contact with one another till Facebook happened where we could reconnect.

So here I am rushing through town on some errand when I happen to bump into B, another classmate. Long time, how are you? I am fine. And how is so and so? So and so is fine, I don’t know where so and so went… that kind of talk. How is K? An uncomfortable silence. You never heard? K passed on. What! For real? Yeah. What happened? Apparently, no one knows the whole story. K came back from college and they found him slumped in the bathroom where he had committed suicide. Those of us who heard about it went to his funeral. It really was hard on the family.

And for a week after that, all I could think of was K. And a guilt that I had not attended his funeral, nor made effort to keep in touch. What was going through his mind when he saw suicide as the only way out? Was there no one he could reach out to? Or better yet, was there no one who noticed a change in his behaviour, his mood, and reached out? Did his suicide catch everyone unawares? Apart from friends and family, where else could he have gotten help?

It would be another five years for me before I reached out.

adminMelancholy: The Album, 2
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Melancholy: The Album

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Part 1: I am not alright

I am sinking.

How do I know?

Purple mug. A spoon. Sugar; refined white sugar.

I am lazing on the sofa, watching the Madaraka Day celebrations. Specifically, I am waiting for Baba’s turn to speak. Not that I voted for him – I could have, and I wanted to, but tribalism got the better of me. Then again, I am Ruto’s man. I always root for him; his grit, his hustling mode, and I am not apologetic about it. I VOTED FOR RUTO! Period. In me, I see a little Ruto.

There is something admirable in a man who has defied the odds, my odds, to be the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya. The hustlers of this nation and the down-trodden – the Silent Majority – will sooner vote for Ruto when the veneer of political correctness is cast away at the ballot box. The opinions contained herein are personal and do not necessarily represent the views of Company GHX… Rather, the opinions above are what most of my friends think and relate too, morals be damned!

Enough politics. I am watching the Madaraka Day celebrations, absent-mindedly, waiting for Baba to speak. I was once Baba’s man, but Ruto said we move. And when Ruto says jump, you ask how high. Ask Duale.

I am sinking.

The TV is on mute. I am listening to music off my phone as I wait for Baba to speak. Now, Ruto is speaking, so I unmute the TV as I know Baba is about to speak. There is a way Baba moves crowd. The raw sincerity in his voice when he speaks, the emotions he drums up in our hearts when he reminds us of the oppression we have borne all these years, his mastery of history. Most important, though, Baba is a fine storyteller and he knows how to tell a good tale when he sees one.

Now, Baba is talking. Is it me or his voice is a tad soft today? Could be a cold he is recovering from and attendant problems like a sore throat. Or could they have passed his voice through a polygraph to synthesise it so that it comes out softer and loses its magnificence? Like how those majuu artistes have their voices passed through some device to perfection. Only that, in Baba’s case, it is the opposite. Perhaps, I am reading too much into this. Then again, TIK. This is Kenya and everything has been possible.

Baba still speaking. Now, he is educating us on the history of this our Kenya. Of General Mwariama and how the philosophy of Harambee came about. He is now tugging at a song. Meanwhile, I keep dipping the spoon into the purple mug, into little crystals of diabetes and introducing them to my mouth. See, I have been chewing gum for the better part of the morning when I woke up and its sweetness ran out a long time ago. Hence the sugar. Story of my life.

I have switched off my line, the regular one that all sorts of people can reach me through. And believe me, they are legion as I have had the line for more than a dozen years now. I am low on life, low on energy right now and I need to peak up. Naturally, when you are low on energy, you tend to avoid people and speaking to them as you are most irritable then. And why do some people call when they could simply have texted? It is not like it is an emergency, or is it? People, just because we are related does not mean that I have to speak to you.

Let me tell you about my dreams. But before we delve into that that, let me tell you about my dream; my persistent and recurring dream. I am in my bed, fully awake. The house is now on fire, the flames creeping in the direction of my bed. I should get up and run, but no. Though fully aware of the all-consuming flames, my mind is unable to get my limbs to move. I struggle to will my mind to make my limbs move to no avail. Sometimes, it is one hand, a dead arm, and I take an eternity to will my mind to have my body turn the other way so that the dead arm can get some respite. When it is all the limbs involved, I think of replacing the Maasai sheet, the two blankets and the heavy duvet – covered – with something lighter else I end up suffocating in all that heaviness. But it is June and the cold is upon us.

Talking of June and cold, I wonder how I could possibly survive abroad. Abroad being the UK or George Washington’s county. About my dreams, my present dreams, the ideal would be to scripting movies and TV series for Hollywood. And should I fall short, writing bestsellers in the UK. But could I survive the cold and the snow and the dreary weather in those climes?

Now, when the cold comes with June, there is dead stillness in the air. The grey clouds then have a sense of impending doom. If I had all the riches in the world at times like these, I would lock myself up in the house, my glass house, sipping coffee and snacking on groundnuts as I wrote dark tales. Believe you me, if you were to research, Dracula and the first Harry Potter book and Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones must have been written during winter. And evolution too must have happened during winter. For in winter, one’s senses and faculties and organs are keen, survival mode.

Let me tell you about relationships. I have been cutting loose and I consider myself as something of a relationship expert. Or rather, the opposite of a relationship expert. Now, a relationship expert will tell you that you need to constantly communicate and reach out to people if you are to maintain good relationships. That you need to constantly visit them and bring them gifts and presents and remember their birthdays and such like. In short, that you need to be sentimental.

But what if you operate on logic mode? That a=b if such and such a constant are maintained? What if you get bored easily by mundane conversation? Take an example of a visit to my parents. Ok, make that a visit to my sister’s place as parents are an extreme example and ought to be sacred. So, we have greeted each other, enquired after one another’s health… now, an unhealthy silence lingers on as I wait for lunch to be ready so that I can take off. Now, if we could only discuss current affairs, spur on some word play, debate on the absence or presence of God, his manifestation or lack thereof, the sanctity of the bible or whether it is just a collection of Jewish folklore much like our Gikuyu and Mumbi and that there was nothing wrong with Egyptian ‘idol worship’… but some people operate with a close mind.

So, you see the girl and your heart does a somersault. She is brown, tall, beautiful and her dress carries her. While other mortals operate on fear at the prospect of approaching such an angelic creature, you operate on probability. That, if you approached fifty such girls, at least, two would give you half a chance despite your economic disadvantage. She is number 19. While your boys tremble at your imminent slaughter, you are merely increasing your chances. As expected, she resists at first. Still, she is not approached by that many potential mates as Jane, the plain cashier girl at the local supermarket, so, she might as well give you a chance to market yourself.

A month later and you two are an item, much to the envy of your boys. However, in a classic case of the insider looking out and the outsider looking in, you are already bored of the routine and the superficiality of the relationship. Perhaps, if only she read more books and less Facebook… but you are no believer in changing people to be what they are not. So, you become emotionally distance and unresponsive until she gets the hints. Ghosting. And at times, when you are in a foul mood, you shoot straight that it not working; rarely, though, as it makes it harder to repair burnt bridges. Eventually, everything heals when you submit yourself to the great healer that is time. She could have given you beautiful babies and kept your mother off your back about the small matter that is overdue grandkids.

But before you heal, though, you sink some more. You quickly pick up the phone when you get the text beep on Friday evening. In your mind, thinking of how you won’t respond immediately as that might be construed as being desperate. Then slowly working your magic on her – while time may be the greatest healer, laughter is undoubtedly the best medicine – and having her come to your place on Saturday. These past weeks, though, you have rather been unlucky. For it is just one more promotional text.

And you are too proud to call or text first and break the ice though she has done so severally.

Which is to say, proportionally, men tend not to seek help for mental conditions as much as women. And they are worse off for it.

And just so you know, I intended to do you a great story but ended up rambling. Lately, this seems to be my norm where I often catch myself drifting off, finding it mighty hard to focus on the task at hand.


Sinking, melancholy, ramblings, relationship

adminMelancholy: The Album
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Friends and relatives

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Friends and relatives
It is Christmas; that time of the year devoted to friends and relatives. Memories galore: Boney M and them carols, Atta Mark and Cowboy chapatis, plums and sherries (the yellow plums), new clothes, slaughtering a cock… else, going to upcountry to catch up with relatives and the obligatory goat festival at grandpa’s place. But now, we are grown up, cousins have moved and there is Njaanuary to think of, so, I decide to skip shaggz. Plus, there is always that uncomfortable question of when I am bringing ‘my people’ – meaning wife and kids – to meet their extended family; rather, a very minor excuse.

So out of Nairobi
Really though, my shaggz is near Nairobi and I want to get as far away from Nairobi as possible. If I had the wherewithal, I would go down to Zanzibar or South Africa. See, there is the hangover toxicity of the electioneering period which, coupled with the pressure that is Nairobi living, is enough to kill one. My body is screaming to get out of Nairobi as soon as we close the office to a far-away place to rejuvenate and heal. That, and my bucket list to tour all the counties in Kenya and possibly, in future, tour all the countries of the world – expanding my horizons, so to speak. I am torn between Samburu, Isiolo or Turkana. Fact is, I have checked the routes, accommodations and attractions in all three but I am yet to settle on one. Ideally, my heart pines for Mandera, but there is the Al Shabaab to think of.

Unfortunately, I get a text from a friend who has lost his dad and all my plans change – family and friends come before anything else in my life as these are the people who always got our backs and help us ride out a rough patch. My friend is from Rongo, Migori, though I know him as a Kisii from Kisii when it comes to that as us Kenyans are tribal people in a kind away until elections come and politicians wedge us.

Thus, anywhere around the country, the question of where you come from will inadvertently arise, and not in a malicious way, and you will proudly pronounce your ethnic identity. Accordingly, the further you are removed from the host community, the more privileges will be accorded to you, with the host community going out of their way to accommodate you in terms of dietary or cultural considerations. And it is at this point that I curse politicians for being couth in using the tribe identifier as a political weapon in their quest for power!

Understandably, my grief-stricken friend gives me the sketchiest of ideas on how to get to their village in Rongo, namely, book a ticket at Afya Centre – Transline, or Easy Coach. Knowing how mad travel gets during Easter and Christmas holidays, I opt to book a ticket in advance. So, the day prior to my travel, I board a bus to town to book my ticket. At the Transline stage, things are hectic as the area is swarming with a sea of humanity and their luggage. The counters are squashy – much like a boys’ boarding high school canteen at tea break where only the strong survive. I get an official walking by and extract information from him: fare is this much, we have a bus going to where you are going, no need to book beforehand if you can make it very early tomorrow to be at the stage as buses and minibuses are aplenty…

Meanwhile, I am thinking of where the Easy Coach stage is and I am walking towards a petrol station attendant to ask for directions. I have that feeling that I know where the stage is, though I can’t quite remember. Then, it hits me. Railways. Where you always board a Kitengela bus for your many goat-meat sessions in Kitengela. The human traffic here is not as bad, considering that Easy Coach is considered as a premium operator. That said, theirs is only a marginal increase and their prices are constant as opposed to other operators who hike their prices wildly whenever there is an influx of travellers. Come tomorrow morning and you will get a bus, assures the customer desk. Really, I should book my ticket then, but not me.

There was a time I went to Eldoret and came back to the city with a bad case of malaria. You know, the kind of malaria where you get fatigued and think that it is a result of travel or all that farm-digging, then it gets so bad and you have to be rushed to hospital in the dead of night as you are near-death. Come to think of it, is the phrase ‘in the dead of night’ from that hour at night where people succumb to their illnesses or advanced age? It must be so.

Anyway, now that I live alone, I do not have someone to rush me to hospital should my malaria escalate at night. Plus, my immediate neighbour has odd shifts, so he may be at work when you need him to take you to hospital at night. So, in the spirit of ‘prevention is better than cure’ I decide not to contract malaria if I can help it (Just so you know, it is mosquito season and I am bitten daily. In fact, these bloody suckers must have already drained me of a litre or two of blood. The saving grace being that Nairobi mosquitoes have no malaria – if I can recall my biology correctly).

Me at the chemist’s counter: Do you have malaria prophylactics? Or I may have said prophylaxis. Then I follow up the question with an explanation that I am traveling to Kisumu and I do not want to contract malaria just to be sure that my big words – prophylactics/prophylaxis – do not mean that I get medicine to make my stomach run or bladder to freely flow. Falsar is the name and no, there no contraindications (which I again follow up to make sure the chemist understands it means what I think it means). So, yes, I can toss to the new year.

Rongo here I come
The alarm rings very early in the morning. I am tempted to nap an extra hour, optimistic that I will get a bus to my destination. But then again, the customer desk said to be at their terminus early in the morning. As such, I wake up and move sluggishly about for a shower and teeth brushing. I packed at night as I did mental crossing to ensure that I carry with me everything I need for my light travel. I do not take breakfast as I just finished my meds for a lung infection and which meds seemed to cause me urinary incontinence – the last of my big words, I swear. As a precaution, I pee a couple of times before leaving the house.

So far so good as I get to Easy Coach in good time. I proceed to the booking ticketing only to be told that all the buses are fully booked and that I should have ticketed two or three days ago. Who is me though? (Lakini nani mimi?) I am all over the place pleading and causing a mini ruckus. I was here yesterday and was told this and now you are telling me that… Apparently, the staff have handled all sorts of passengers before. Anyway, they manage to ticket me and assign me a seat number. I board (first though, a quick dash to the pay-to-use washrooms) the bus I am directed to and move to the back as it seems that my seat is that way. I get to the back and find all the seats occupied. My seat is number 11D but the seats end at number 9. I am in the process of alighting the bus to complain, but instead, a staff who has just boarded the bus seats me at the door seat just next to the driver for such a wonderful view all the way to my destination. Kudos Easy Coach (and no, they have not paid me to endorse them, though I would certainly be happy and willing to do so for a consideration – ‘something small’).

A well-fed driver is a happy driver
Our tickets are confirmed, the Easy Coach mechanics do a quick check of the bus and we are on our way. Well aware of the daily reportage of road carnage on Kenyans roads at this festive season, I don my seatbelt. In fact, one of the reasons for settling on Easy Coach is that theirs is a safe-travel brand.

The driver is a well-rounded mound of a person – a person who has settled in life and who looks well-grounded and well-fed in terms of his family situation. In fact, as our tickets were being confirmed, he was conversing with what I presumed to be his daughter judging from what I could gather from the snatches of English and Swahili interspersed in his mainly Dholuo conversation.

‘Mwili haitengenezwi na mbao’ – human bodies are not made of timber as our driver constantly munches on this or that snack – a piece of sugarcane, mangoes, groundnuts, energy drink – for the duration of our journey. Which thing I find oddly fascinating knowing that the constant munching and sipping will definitely keep him awake for the course of the duration even shall all passengers fall asleep. He drives at a sure pace and the only quarrel I have with him is that he briefly slows almost to a stop at Keroka to buy himself some pieces of sugarcane. Ideally, he should have stopped for ten minutes or so and allowed us travellers to buy assorted farm produce as the market was teeming with fresh produce.

The Great Rift Valley View (Or how to get a heart attack)
Travel to Kisii and Migori is mostly hassle free. You exit Nairobi City by way of Uhuru Highway and joins Waiyaki way on to Kikuyu town and beyond. Here, you are joined by other vehicles plying this route as well as those travelling to Nakuru, Eldoret, Western, Nyanza and such other upcountry places. Only that, at some point, you have to take a detour from the Naivasha-Nakuru road by way of Narok. And which means that the road takes you via The Great Rift Valley View. The view is majestic alright, more so, if you are travelling by personal means and have the luxury to stop by and enjoy the unparalleled view. That is one way of describing it.

Another way of describing it is ‘The Great Heart Attack View’ for no matter how many times I use this route, I just can’t get used to it. Kindly google the world’s most dangerous roads or China’s glass bridge for a sample of what travellers via this route have to contend with. See, the road cuts across an escarpment and is a single road, meaning that it is divided into two lanes to accommodate traffic to and from both directions. It is a narrow road and it has no barriers on the edge.

Now, you would think that traffic would crawl to a halt on this stretch with the death view. No, it does not happen that way. As it has a bit of a steep both ways, the sluggish fully-loaded trucks cannot afford to slow down further as they would lose power and grind to a halt. Which, considering the stretch we are talking of, would be a most unfortunate incident.

Enter the personal car owner with a death-wish or the public service bus or minibus driver whose driving is guided by a schedule. Seeing that the trucks are sluggish, some are crazy enough to overtake or attempt to overtake –in my mind, plunging thousands of feet in free fall down the escarpment as they evade a head-on-collision. We are on this stretch and my stomach is in a knot in anxiety as I attempt to focus on the music I am listening to via headphones: an endeavour I simply can’t. At which point, the driver picks up his phone to check time; which means that I die a thousand times for the two seconds his eyes are off the road.

Then again, it is simply impossible to not glance at the Great Valley knowing that you are witnessing one of nature’s greatest marvels. Even focusing your eyes straight on the road does not help matters as the road has twists and turns. The second stretch with the view is a bit improved as it has barriers, the descent is not so sharp and it is shorter. Still, my vertigo kicks in, though I do not lean to my right on reflex as though to counter-balance the bus were it tittering to the right as though to fall of the escarpment. Plus, I can’t recall hearing of an accident here in the recent past as is the case with Salgaa on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, a very minor assurance, but an assurance nevertheless. We do a lunch stop-over in Narok town and proceed for tens of miles in flat roads that is the Narok plains.

Bottomline? We should petition the government to build an alternative for this nausea-inducing stretch, perhaps, a tunnel. Then, the stretch can be open to pedestrians, with protective barriers, of course, at the edge. A small amount can then be charged for this exclusive tourist view and which can be used for such noble causes as girl-child and women empowerment in the region? Anyone with the President’s/Deputy President’s personal number I text them the idea? Anyone? Alai?

Brendan Collections
In the course of our journey, the driver has to make a few brief stops where Easy Coach has offices – a schedule thing, is my guess. Then the mechanics do a quick check of the vehicle and we are on our way. Now, as we were leaving the plains of Narok for Bomet, the passenger behind me had placed an empty soda plastic bottle on the floor. Some light braking and it rolls to the front near the bus trash can. In my mind, it rolls over and tangles the brakes’ pedal a la Final Destination and you all know what happens next. Anyway, I manage to catch it, though I now look silly holding two soda plastics bottles – the other is mine. Now, it is a matter of timing when the driver will slow down so that I can put them inside the trash can.

At Kisii town, the driver makes a scheduled stop. As he is about to alight, the passenger behind me, the one careless with her soda bottle, calls to the driver. She is not loud enough, so I assist her. She tells the driver to call for her a female guard stationed there. The female guard shows up, they are known to each other, exchange pleasantries and gets my fellow traveller a bottle of water. Then the guard alights.

Meanwhile, the mechanic is checking the vehicle, the driver has gone for a pee and to fill up his water battle. Meanwhile, the smooth operator me is chatting Brenda up – in my mind, 2pac’s Brenda’s got a baby narration – I had stocked Tupac’s collection for listening along the way, but gave up as I could hardly hear the songs over the whirring of the bus via the KQ knock-off headphones.

Opposite Brenda and separated by the aisle is another girl. Next to her is another gentleman. Looking at the pair, you can see that they would have made a cute couple. Then again, none of them is wearing a wedding band so it really is a case of a wasted opportunity and for which I wholly blame the gentlemen. Bored, the girl slept three-quarters of the way. Now, the gentleman and the girl look at me with admiration tinged with jealousy as I chalk up her name and phone number – again, 2pac’s What’s ya phone number, smooth operator that I am.

Brenda. Brendan Collections on Facebook and IG. A lawyer-cum-businesslady. We promise to keep in touch. Later, I will text her and she will take her sweet time to reply and that is that. Meanwhile, I checked her collections and she got fine items of clothing. She recommends Treat House Resort for accommodation. A while later, we stop at Rongo Town. Las Jona complex.

Las Jona Complex
The Las Jona Complex houses an Easy Coach office, a school uniform distributor and a hotel. I alight here, in mind, in search of the Treat House Resort. A few steps and a ‘sukari nguru’ – jaggery – lady accosts me. Having some loose coins, I am obliged to buy some as I relieve fond memories of a charmed childhood that this treaty evokes. It is just as well as Brenda alights me and hands me my knock-off KQ headphones which I had left behind as I had wrapped them around my seat’s armrest. The bus departs and I wave Brenda off.

Now, a few metres away from Las Jona Complex, I am having a cold soda – you feel the heat immediately on landing to Kisumu. The stall is operated by a gentleman and they are discussing football from what I can tell as they code-switch from (mostly) Dholuo to English to Kisumu. I enquire where I can get accommodation without burning a hole in my pocket seeing that January looms large. Treat House for a touristic experience, Las Jona and Opaque if you just need a place to sleep and shower. I head off down the dimly-lit road towards Opaque but give up soon afterwards for fear of being attacked.

Then again, Treat House is out of my range and I need to be around the city centre where I am to be picked up in the morning to attend the funeral. So, Las Jonas it is. Perhaps, texting this to Brenda is what made our phone chat end even before it begins. For all I know, Treat House was a ploy to slay me – the jealous me talking.

Converting the unconvertible
Now, I am at my friend’s place. From Rongo Town, on the Kisii side, is where their home is situated. We pass by some Kikuyu and Borana traders on the Migori said – again, it is bad politicians who divide us as the traders blissfully do their trade despite Kenya coming off a turbulent electioneering period. They are comfortable conversing in their mother tongues – Kikuyu and Borana respectively – just like their Dholuo and Kisii counterparts in the two counties of Kisii and Migori.

We find the funeral programme well underway. And just like any other African funeral, neighbours, teachers, colleagues, friends, family and local leaders are given a chance to speak a few words about the deceased and an opportunity to view the body. The Catholic church is officiating and you can tell the father is also trying to convert the majority of the mourners from the region as they mostly proscribe to the Adventist faith. Judging by his ardour, he will get one or two people to cross over to Catholicism. I am able to follow the mass quite easily despite it being in another language as I am a practicing Catholic.

Well, the thing about death is that it hits hard and stings painfully. There is that moment where you receive the news of the demise and the world stands still. There is that moment of seeing their body and going through the motions of informing friends and relatives to come and share the grief. But where it hits hardest is when they are being lowered down the grave – when it hits you will are not going to see them again. It is at such moments that we realise just how fragile life is – that life and health are gifts, that family and friends is all we have in this world where all are sojourners.

To Kisumu
With the burial over, I travel to Kisumu. I am to check on a friend, a Facebook friend I have been meaning to meet for the last three or so years. That friend you feel connected to at a deeper level via insightful conversations though you have never meet physically.

I board a matatu just outside Las Jonas Complex. The fare is slightly exaggerated, which I found out why soon afterwards. For twenty minutes into our trip, the conductor sells us over to a matatu that is heading to Kisumu, his cut being what he overcharged us. Now, we are packed like sardines but we are content to reach Kisumu.

A lesson for Nairobi girls
I am seated right at the back. A gentleman to my left on the seat window, a lady to my left, and another lady to her right, carrying a kid on her lap. I comment on just how packed we are to the gentleman and soon a conversation ensues. Along the road, the lady with the child will alight and another gentleman will join us.

Now, I am seated to the left of the lady. She has on a leso, a bright blouse and her hair is cropped short, shorn near the scalp in a ‘back-to-school’ fashion. Most endearing is that hers is the very definition of natural beauty – a shy smile, no makeup and modesty. She is simply irresistible, and I have no recourse but to chat her up.

What happens when you chat up a Nairobi girl? She sizes you up and if you do not meet a set criteria – namely, that you are doing well in life, ready pickings, so to speak – she is very curt in her dismissal of you. And considered that men thrive on ego and their egos are easily shattered… then again, it takes gut to chat up a completely stranger of the opposite text.

She says hello to my hello and we engage in small talk before I move to the realm of asking for her number and a lunch date. Ever so politely, ever so cheerfully, ever so graciously, she turns down my overtures and we are soon discussing about other things before I even realise that I have been turned down. I will buy her a bottle of water and we will say goodbyes and my ego will still be intact. Over to you Nairobi ladies.


Devolution is working
Roads are smooth, trade is going on everywhere and houses are made of bricks. And in Kisumu town, hordes of youth operate as boda boda operators. At the Kisumu terminus, I alight near the fish market and enter one of the hotels for a soda as I wait for my friend to pick me up. Faces around me are well-fed and happy and a couple of Masaai men join me for lunch – all which I consider anecdotal evidence that devolution is working.

A meet-up
I am sipping a soda as I observe how the different fish presentations are eaten. I always get embarrassed whenever I order fish as my fellow diners can always tell that I am not an expert at that department considering the amount of fish I waste. In short, the only fish presentation I can do comfortably is the fish fillet seeing to it that I get entangled with my fish bones and flesh. My community embraced fish-eating rather late, with the small fishes being equated to tadpoles, hence my dilemma. Now, we even do fish farming upcountry.

Opposite me is a gentleman expertly tackling his whole fish – from head to tail. Almost absentmindedly. As I continue admiring him, I get a call informing me that my Facebook friend has arrived. I gulp down my soda and ask for directions to where she says we meet.

Now, there is a way we perceive things – mental imagery of how we see those we are yet to meet face-to-face. There is the imagination, then the anticipation and then the reality when you do a blind-date. In my mind, she is short, slim, shy and soft-spoken. Today, we spoke for the first time and she has a rich baritone. Anyway, we meet, she is taller and chubbier than I imagined and down-to-earth, the last of which I attribute to her Eastlands upbringing, another revelation. Which fact makes her Nairobi, and I did not come all the way to Kisumu to meet Nairobi people.

But before that, we go to a certain hotel that deals in meat delicacies as practiced in the region. We order brown ugali made of millet and maize flour and which she tells me its preparation is an artform by itself. The accompanying stew is ‘chuks’ (I may have misheard the name) and which is meat grilled then fried. After lunch, she helps me look for accommodation before we agree to meet up the next day. In my mind, though, she is Nairobi people and I am now not that interested. To be fair, though, judging by her body language, I also did not meet her expectations.

My little observations
During my short stint in Kisumu, I observe quite a few things. That Mirukas hotel need not nip their slippers as they cheapen the hotel to a lodging, otherwise, it is a nice and affordable hotel. The weather is hot and you need to drink plenty of water (the advice to drink eight glasses of water in a day must have originated from a doctor who had a practice in Kisumu) and sleep with the windows open. Pesky mosquitoes abound. People are more hospitable than Nairobi people. Equity agents are hard to come by and you are best advised to do M-Pesa. Standard newspaper was the default setting in hotels and restaurants, perhaps, due to the recent political boycott. That they have Choppies, Tuskys and Khetias for our Uchumis and Nakumatts. That there is an Eastleigh (Garissa) sections for things clothing and electronics. That prostitution is not the kind of in-your-face-thighs-Koinange-like, etc, etc.

Man Useless
So now, I am imbibing on something bitter as I watch the Manu-Southampton match. We are so lacklustre that I find myself tuning out of the match and into the ohangla and rhumba that informs the background. I am in the corner of some club that has four screens placed on corners. Where I am, we are around four fellow and the match is being broadcast in Spanish. We could move to the other corners where the match is in English, but then, why bother considered we are playing like amateurs.

The match ends in a goalless draw and I am thinking that I should move to Man City as a fan with the coming January transfer season. Still, with the drabbing of Everton later on in the New Year, I will opt to sign a new deal with the club as a fan till the end of the season. If things will have not haved improved, then…

National Museums of Kenya
I am at the National Museums of Kenya-Kisumu, which is located on the fringes of the upmarket Milimani Estate. A hundred shillings, the entrance fee. At the entrance, I announce to the gatekeeper and his friend that I am here to learn about the Luo and about Gor Mahia and Lwanda Magere – high time we also promoted our indigenous heroes the way America pushes her comic heroes and Scandinavian and Greek gods dominate the big screen, etc, etc. Says the friend of the gatekeeper to see him at the Luo homestead that is part of the Museum at the back.

The Museum is as you would except of any Kenyan Museum – stuffed and petrified fauna from around the region, an aquarium and a snake park. Plus, notes on Luo origins, culture and mythology. At the back of the museum, there is a ‘dala’ – a traditional Luo homestead. It is here that the African Genres Shield is located; a traditional dance and theatre troupe that is worth checking out. In the course of my visit to the dala, they are gracious enough to do a short traditional dance in my honour.

New year resolutions
I had travelled with a notebook and a pen, intending to sit down in a secluded spot and chart my year. However, the notebook and pen will remain throughout my room at the small table. That said, I have a slight idea of how to run my 2018 – content and commitment, and pray for life and health, and be in a relationship with a marriage at the end of the tunnel. So, if you are potential wife-material, feel free to contact me. Terms and conditions apply.

Sad news
I am supping alfresco on a makeshift hotel. Behind us are a couple of Nairobi-Bound Bus. Opposite me, an agitated gentleman is lamenting about a driver recently deceased. Then, they start reminiscing about the old man who insisted that they simply had to get space for his family to travel. Another gentleman is now cursing NTSA – National Transport and Safety Authority – for their night-travel ban. It is the fast time I hear of the ban and on following up the matter with the gentlemen, I learn that one of their buses had an accident in which 37 people perished. As I leave the makeshift hotel, a drunkard is pounding at one of their buses, shouting that they are murderers. I resolve not to travel with their buses though I am getting desperate as all buses back to Nairobi are booked four-days ahead. I reflect that if I was in Nairobi, I would have tweeted about how Prado-driven-government-fuelled-self-important-transport-officials removed from local realities are in charge of the transport ministry. From the next day’s papers, the buzz word is ‘knee-jerk reaction’ from the concerned officials.

Ahoy captain!
Suffice to say, a visit to Kisumu is not complete without a pilgrimage to L. Victoria. Which sees me in a large boat, clad in a life-vest, being motored about. Well, the big boat has to anchor for the night in the lake, which means that a small boat comes to collect us. At first, I think we are about to collide with the small boat and capsize, but my mind is quickly put to rest by the explanation above. The highlight? The sun dipping into the lake for the night. Unfortunately, my phone camera is unable to capture the grandeur as well as my eyes. At night, we move around and around as we usher in the New Year. I have an early morn and so I avoid liquor as I have an early start.

The Three Musketeers
Things are thick – chaos, actually – in regard to matters travel. Buses and shuttles are fully booked and for those where you book habeas corpus, the fare is increasing by the minute. It peaks at Kshs 3000 and I am thinking of getting to the airport and taking a flight back to Nairobi. In my mind, I have a figure for Kshs 4500 as airfare.

I am now stuck at the booking desk of one of the brand of shuttles that operate in the area. To my left is a dejected lady. Soon enough, another gentleman joins us and us we lament the situation, he suggests a solution. That we connect to Kericho. Then, from Kericho, we do Nakuru, then onwards to Nairobi. His suggestion seems sensible considering that we will be unable to get any transport past 11 or 12 o’clock as bus operators close early, wary to spend the night by the roadside should curfew time befall them before they reach they destination. And that, my friends, is how we reach a wet and cool Nairobi.

Apparently, I have not missed Nairobi at all. Not an iota.





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3E vs 3S: Petty Nairobi politics

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As we count down to August 8th, 2017 when Kenyans vote en masse, Nairobi is split right down in the middle. On the red corner is the youthful and flashy Mike Sonko and his troops, while on the blue corner (more of orange, really) is the stoic Evans Kidero and his brigade. In short, 3E vs 3S – Sonko, Sakaja, Shebesh vs Evans, Edwin, Esther. But this post is not about Nairobi politics. Rather, it is about my friend Edu.

Now, Edu, a school mate in high school, can get pretty petty when it comes to politics. Whereas the average Nairobian will be voting along tribal lines, party affiliation, ideology (SMH) or candidate’s performance (gubernatorial debates, work, perception) or such other consideration that guides or misguides our politics, Edu is above (or below) such. He is voting for the 3S: Sonko, Sakaja and Shebesh.

Now, back in high school, we were Northerners – 1North, 2North 3North and so on. Now, us Northerners and Westerners were just regular guys (the Hufflepuffs and the Ravenclaws, supporting cast if you will). Not so for the Southerners and the Easterners. While the Southerners were the troublemakers – strikes’ ringleaders, instigators, drug abusers, book thieves and metal boxes’ breakers – the ‘defectors’ were mostly Easterners. Which is to say that the Easterners were the school’s administration’s spies, selling out their fellow students for prefects-ship. In summary, the Easterners were the Slytherins of our high school days while the Southerners were the Gryffindors.

And it is for this reason that my friend Edu is rooting for Team 3S: Sonko, Sakaja, Shebesh. Talk about pettiness!

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Superdad (to the tune of ‘Superdad’, 2 ½ Men)

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Dad, on weed, high as a kite
Thought he was superman, picked a fight
Got a black eye dark as night
50 miles per hour, was his flight.

On that night, he gave us such a fright
With sleight of hand, became a knight
His step sprite, his alibi airtight
Such a sight to see him fight and bite.

When it was daylight
We thought it was a bombsite
Egg white, frost bite and leaf blight
Lesson, ‘never bring knives to a gunfight!’

My dad thought he was a superdad
My bad; such a dog beatin’ he had
Now sad, now mad, he sings in a band
He now wants to be a grand dad.

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Shake It Up Combo manenos

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What is your weekend plan? If you are a typical Kenyan, then you live for the weekend. Know the drill? Monday blues. Tuesday catching up on work. Wednesday crush things. Thursday throwbacks… on to Saturday.  The plan: nyama choma with lots of kachumbari, football, a cold frothy beverage…

Well, Steers is now pumping a little weekend into every weekday, Monday included. This is courtesy of their Shake It Up Combo- beef kachumbari, burger, medium chips and a large shake (my fav is strawberry, finger licking yumminess!).

What is good about this combo? Let me break it down for you. For someone raised on combos (combi- if you will, high school lingo, and no funny memes while we are on the subject), this offer is godsend.

  • Primo: githeri, avocado, BB
  • Seco: Disc (chapo) that has swallowed a samosa; else, mandazi pregnant with a slice of avocado…
  • Beyond seco: nyama choma, kachumbari, chapos…

See how Steers were missing out on a large niche market of ‘combo’  (Psss… ‘Kombo’ means crooked in Swahili) people? Well, yippee! We finally have been recognised.

And the highlight of this story? Meeting Mwalimu Rachel124 live-live (mwarimu witu tisha, niweka wega good…) and the HBR 103.5 FM Crew at Steers, Uchumi Ngong Road, a combo of deliciousness in music and food.  Enyewe, she is more beautiful in real life than in billboards, but do I say!

Anyhu, hurry there and grab your Shake It Up Combo while the kachumbari lasts. And big up to the skates guy for the coupon. For thee unlucky fellow, the combo is affordable. 600 Kenyan shillings.


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Men, women and friendships

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The scenario: Imagine you are the fifth chap to board a matatu. Inside it, randomly located, are three ladies and two gentlemen. The matatu sits 33 people. Where will you seat? If you are a guy, you will probably look for the two or three adjacent seats which are unoccupied and sit on one. If you are a girl, most likely you will sit next to one of the three ladies and pretty soon be chatting about her hairstyle or other girlish stuff.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what differentiates men and women, and by extension, how they form friendships. Whereas a man likes his space, a woman likes to feel included; to feel as though she is part of the conversation. Thus ladies are able to form friendships easily; true friends and false friends; hairstyle friends and ‘chama’ friends. Men, on the other hand, are a different breed.

Friendships among men: A man just doesn’t form random friendships; acquaintances yes, friendships no. Every friendship is deliberate, calibrated and cultivated. Does he have the same interests as me? Social standing? Values? Is he likely to hit on my woman? These and others questions have to be answered before a friendship can be let to flourish.

That said, there are some social norms that guide friendships across the sexes. Follow them and you are guaranteed of lifelong and firm friendships.

1.Know each other’s boundaries: There are areas that are a ‘No-No’ in our lives. Areas that can only be accessed by special permission. Know these areas and do not infringe on them.

2.Respect: Each one of us has multiple personas that guide our actions and behaviours as determined by the particular role we are playing at any given time. These include being a father, a friend, a neighbour, a mentor, an employer and so on. Sometimes though, these lines do cross; and when they do, it calls for wisdom to manoeuvre them. For example, there are certain things you do with your friends and which are not acceptable when your family is present. In this case, family comes first, then the friendship.

3.Be your brother’s keeper: Being a true friend calls for looking out for each other. When a friend is down, you pool resources and rescue him; not scorn at his mistakes. That is the sign of genuine friendships.

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Our electricity supply was cut off yesterday and so; today I had to do with a cold shower. Now, we are in the middle of the cold June weather and it was freezing; so you can feel my apprehension at having to take a cold shower. I had timed my alarm clock to wake me at the usual hour, which it did. Well, it was dark and I was afraid to stumble around in the darkness and break something valuable. Plus the small matter of reflecting on how a cold shower in the middle of the cold June season was likely to affect my health and my life; possibly for the worse. So I snoozed in for another half an hour; only to be woken up by the sun’s rays two hours later.

I brushed my teeth and then showered- usually, it is the other way round. Then I rearranged the house and did the dishes. Then I darned a torn sock. Eventually though, I ran out of excuses and had to take the shower and go to work. When we have power and I wake up to some jazzy music or news from CNN or Al Jazeera, I take a long, leisurely and refreshing shower; nothing under fifteen minutes. However, today was different. In less than three minutes, I was squeaky clean, fully alert and daring to go. I promised myself to be taking more cold showers, more so on week days to improve my productivity.

And so it is with life. The warm, snuggly shower represents our comfort zones. That phase we get stuck in when we are lulled that our lives are secure or just perfect. That phase when we let ourselves go- our bodies, our spirituality, our goals … that phase when we stop dreaming and start dying. The cold shower, on the other hand, represents discomfort; discomfort at having to take the icy plunge and move forward. Ultimately though, only the cold shower can make us grow and purify our bodies and souls and enrich our lives.

So, today friend, what is it going to be? The warm, deceptive shower or the cleansing cold shower? Only you have the answer.

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Reflections on the road

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What is the worth of a human being? A dollar? Two dollars? A million dollars? A billion dollars, perhaps? Nothing? Those were the questions that were running in my mind on my home. We were in Ngong Road, almost near Motherland Motors when we came to the scene of the accident. A young man, probably in his mid-twenties- had been knocked down. Clad in jeans, a t-shirt and office shoes, he lay in a pool of blood. From the colour of his blood, it was apparent that he had been dead for ten or so minutes. The impact of the hit had dislodged his left shoe which lay some ten metres away.

Nearby, a crowd had gathered and I couldn’t help but wonder how death is eerily fascinating, drawing us closer as a species. At that moment, I am sure no had a thought as to the possible tribe of the young man, his political affiliations, his religion, his assets or the other artificial concepts we create daily to divide us. What the gathered crowd had was pity, anger and remorse. Pity at his shameful death and pity for his kin, wherever they were. Anger at death for robbing a life full of promise and anger at the over-speeding, hit-and-run matatu driver. Remorse at their powerlessness from the finality of death. The mood was depressing; accentuated by the grey skies ushering in the cold July weather. The crowd would keep vigil until he was taken away to the morgue- for you do not desert your own.

As we proceeded with our journey, the matatu was silent. The driver too was reflective- no overlapping, driving on the pedestrian lane or over-speeding as is normally the case during the evening traffic rush. This behaviour was generally duplicated by the matatu drivers; as though to atone for the heinous deed of their colleague and revere the fallen young man. Silently, I muttered for his soul to rest in peace.

So, I resolved to pursue my dreams and live a fulfilling life. I resolved to love more and to critic less. I resolved to see more of the people that matter most in my lives- my parents, siblings and friends. I resolved to be a good neighbour. I resolved to take more risks in the pursuit of my dreams. I resolved to be less complicated and share my real emotions. For when death visits, there is no running away. So, here is my ode to the young man.

Like a vase of flowers

Like a vase of flowers freshens the morning
Fades in the evening
I’ve been here, I’ve been waiting for the end
To come
I don’t know how much longer
But I am going just to wait, for the end.

Could I be the one, knocking on heaven’s gates
Could I be the one singing with the angels
Lord I wanna be among the numbers
That is marching on your ways.

Like the sunrise, glorifies the morning
As the sun sets, rubies in the evening
I’ve been here, I’ve been waiting for the end
To come
I don’t know how much longer
But I am going just to wait, for the end.


adminReflections on the road
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Moving houses

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Two weeks ago, I moved houses. I moved houses not because I was in rent arrears or had fallen out with the landlord or my neighbours; I just felt I needed a change. I had dwelled in that house for five years and knew all its nooks and crannies. Further, the neighbours had come to know what to expect from me- namely small and humorous talk to brighten a dull day, an easy source of credit, connections, and loud music. This last bit tolerated because of my other redeeming virtues.

However, I felt I had become too comfortable; too complacent; stuck right in the middle of the comfort zone; stuck in routine… That is when I knew I needed to move. Now, moving houses is not the easiest of things to do. Firstly, you have to hunt for a house (the phrase ‘hunt for a house’ being literally true), then convince a landlord or agent to let you the house- a rather hard task if you happen to be a bachelor. Then, you have to get acquainted with new neighbours- some of whom may feel as though you are encroaching on their space. Then there is the actual moving- my bones still ache a fortnight later.

And so it is with our lives. There are times we become too complacent, too familiar with ourselves, our jobs, our relationships. At these times, something in us dies. The drive, the energy, the passion gets lost somewhere in between. Life loses its lustre. Days become blank canvases fading away under the glare of a harsh light. The moon loses its song…

Then we have a choice. We have to cast the die. We have to cross the Rubicon. We have to shake things up, do things differently, alter routine. It doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as moving houses, changing jobs or cutting off relationships, it merely means reinvigorating by doing things differently and reclaiming that lost glow back into our lives.

adminMoving houses
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