Monday, March 20, 2017

Songa Songa: The Tight Fit

Image result for overloaded kenya matatu
CO/Standard Media
There is a proverb in my mother tongue that says, “giikaro kimwe kiri ndaa” and that loosely translates to, “if you don’t travel you will die of boredom”. 

It doesn’t matter how you travel but I guess you just have to move around. Take a cruise ship and sail to the Bahamas and go bask naked on the pink sandy beaches. Take a flight to India and go see Bombay and come back with pepper for us. Take a Jambo Jet flight and to costo and go swim under the salty sea water and fly back with a shaky Swahili accent. Take a bus to western Kenya and go find out how jehovah Wanyonyi’s lads are doing. Even take a boda boda ride and go around your hood waving at people for no apparent reason. Travel and feed your soul my ‘fren’. We only got so long be around. 

Just maybe don’t do the last one. 

And while at it do it for you. It doesn’t matter if we hate on your selfies and the thousand hashtags you use. After all we could simply be the jealous type repulsing that you are over there having all the fun while the rest of us are trying to beat the scorching sun with watermelon pieces and wearing boxers around the house. (I should actually mention here that there is nothing more liberating about bachelorhood than walking around with only a vest, boxers and happy socks. It is a lifestyle of the gods). But I again, for men, a selfie a month is enough. And no this is not debatable Siloma. (Although photographers like Siloma can be excused because they live and die for the cameras).

So, do I travel as much as I want? Nyet. Why, you ask? I think my bank account has a ka-hole. If it had enough chums in there y’all would probably never see me again. But if it is any consolation I do a lot of planning on travelling. I am in this man group that has grown to be a professional planning committee for road trips that never happen. Just sad you guys (Trump’s voice). We plan things and get excited and say we will go sijui to Naivasha for camping but then we muffle such plans, let the idea dwindle like a bad dream and then plan for something else all over again after some time. 

Terrible travellers I have as friends.

You might be wondering where I travel to now that I am poorer than a millionaire to cruise across the oceans and I can’t get akina Chris to go on local road trips. Well, I go home. Counting trees and, occasionally, taking pictures of Zebras and baboons from Nairobi to Nakuru and back can be surprisingly refreshing. But its torturous too. 

Here’s why.

On Friday morning I garnered all the luck I could get, I had to run errands and still be in town in time just before the upcountry rush hour. People travel a lot Fridays and Sundays between Nairobi and Nakuru and that road becomes jam-packed with traffic, regular traffic, and ambitious Subaru drivers who race with everything and anything that moves on the road. So, to beat time I needed luck.
By 3 pm, I was running to my last stop, Cooperative House. At the front entrance, I met this dark lanky soldier who was deep soldierly with his female counterpart. Of course, oblivious of my hurry.

“Habari mkubwa, fungua bag nione”.

I opened the bag.

“Unaenda kuona nani?”


I don’t think he knew who that was. He was just making sure I wasn’t there to bomb them or anything of the sort. Of course, I would gladly disclose to him if I had such intentions.

“Aiya. Ingia” (I think that’s how he says ‘haya’).

I hurriedly zipped my bag and trotted off.

“Na umetoa chasho sana”, he shouted as I swung the glass door open.

“Kuna jua sana uko nje boss”, I shouted back laying the stale conversation to rest.

By 4 pm I was at the stage. As murphy’s law, would have it, I was late and it got worse. First, my sweet seating spot in a jav is the middle row on either side, just not in the centre seat. I never got that either of the seats. A certain baba had booked one with a newspaper and one had a dysfunctional seat belt. I settled for the seat just behind the driver but near the door because there’s enough leg room, little did I know my seat partners would be the worst human beings. 

I wish they could read this blog because I am about to hate on them big time.

“Unaweza songa songa niweke bag hapa katikati?”.

That was the lady next to me asking for space for her handbag. She wanted a damn seating position for her bag! For me to move for a freaking bag! I almost asked why she couldn’t just pay a seat for herself, her ignorance and her dear bag but instead;

“Hapa haiwezi toshea na hakuna space huku mwisho”.

“Uko sure?”

I slid my sunglasses up.

Apparently, she wanted to get rid of the bag so she could read her newspaper in peace. She actually ended up elbowing both us sideways to get more space to read her paper. 

She finished reading.

She then ate oranges and slept. (By the way she had so many oranges).

Sleeping in a jav is okay but then know your sleeping habits. If you snore, drool, shout, chew on air, have bad dreams, lie on others or fart, it is advisable to stay awake throughout your journey. She snored and lay on others – others being me and the loud caller fellow on her right side. This was the cycle; 

Her sleeping, then snoring, chocking for lack of air, waking up and coughing on our faces, her sleeping again, laying on me, me moving, her realising her mistake, waking up and staying awake just for a minute, her sleeping again and laying on the other dude and on and on. She must be a heavy sleeper than one.

Then she was all about, “funga kioo”, “fungua kioo”, “funga kidogo”, “fungua kabisa”. I felt like her air conditioner.

Then there is the other dude. The loud caller. 

“Eee, enda hapo kwa fundi mwambie nimekutuma akupe cardboard”.

“Ningoje hapo Tuskys tununue vitu. Na usitoke hapo…. niko karibu sana. 15 minutes” 

(Loud laugh). Actually, we were at the Gilgil weighbridge as he made that call.

“Usitume pesa hadi nifike, I give the authority hapo”.

“Apana, my worried is huyo mtu ananichezea” (I know! He actually said ‘my worried’ twice).

He made us slaves to his noise until the driver turned up the radio so he couldn’t make ‘important’ calls anymore. He started killing time displaying his feet for us by placing them conspicuously high and whistling indistinctive songs. A naturally annoying fella.
That was up to Nakuru.

By 8 pm I was on a jav to my village. Those ones are hell. People seat four per row on the lower side (children aren’t people in this case) while the conductor and his, about a million, assistants stand at the door butts sticking out to the wind and heads perched inside the same way ostriches bury theirs in sand. Is that the worst part? No! the worst part is that there is someone alighting after every 100 metres and that person usually is the one on the back seat on the far end right corner so sixty people have to come out to pave way and then crowd back in and repeat at every stage. It takes years to get home in these and when I do, my entire body aches from all the pushing and the “songea huyu kidogo brathe”, and the “nitwendanei hau thutha” and the “kama husongi shuka”. 

They are rude AF.

I got there at 9ish, tired for three people. Slept like a log.

If I narrate the journey back it will take another 1,500 words which could as well be a story for another day. I wouldn’t fail to mention though that I held two stranger’s babies before I got to Nakuru from home. I couldn’t refuse because it was on Sunday and the babies we going to church and weren’t dirty. I think that was enough community service for this year. Oh, and the guy who bought bottled water on the way to Nairobi and you could hear him drink the water from the moon; the violet squishing of the bottle and the smacking of lips. He also lied he was near Naivasha whereas he was barely out of Freearea.

Maybe it’s time I get me a car.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Yellow lights.

It’s hard to pee with a guy watching you, especially if you don’t know that guy and he weirdly resembles Indiana Jones but without the hat and the shady outfit. Would you pee in front of Indiana Jones? No? I didn’t think so either. Why am I realizing this now? Here is the story.

Image result for yellow street lightsIt had never occurred to me that peeing with someone watching is hard for me because, one, obviously, I would make no effort to pee in public with peeping toms all over if I had an option and second, we don’t go to washrooms to stare at people! Do we? Well, I wouldn’t do that unless I am super-duper pressed – the pee in public thing. Knees together pressed. 

But again, don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind of guy who whips out his dong in the middle of a bustling city and leans in on a lonesome back wall then walks away with a chest jutting out and whistling that annoyingly famous Bazokizo song. And what does, ‘Ilibidi niokoke ndio niwashe jiko’ mean? Anyone? 

Anyway, Nah, I don’t roll like that. I have decorum and because I’ll be a public figure someday – like and MCA; you know, one of those guys that fight with county assembly chairs, curse and call other members stupid pigs and steal our money –  and I wouldn’t want my son to read a story about me pissing on a wall in town. 

(I wouldn’t become an MCA though. Really). 

I have seen men and women do it, in public, but me? Nyet. Never. Ever. Ok, maybe once but it was kitambo and it was in the village and we can all agree that peeing in a shamba is like adding DAP fertilizer to the soil making the maize flap their wings with relish.

Childhood for me was riveted by a lot of idle time. we had too much time on our hands – our means every other tiny person in the village except Kevin because he had to grow up faster than his age to take care of his siblings – and because we never had PS4 consoles and FIFA or guts to throw tantrums at dad just to get the latest Mortal Combat; he’d skin you alive for tantrums just like any African dad solves kid issues, we found other hobbies. 

So, with the inestimable measure of time, we took up new activities every so often and those now make great memories. One of those was what I just said, taking a leak in the shamba because shambas were very far away from home and our tiny bladders could only hold in so much pee during the long trips back and forth. Sometimes we’d also defecate in the nearby forest just to help out the Nyayo government with global warming manenos by making trees grow alilo faster. Kuungana. Kufanya. Kusaidia. Kenya. And it felt good. Pooping with soft winds brushing against your butt cheeks and birds cheering you on. Magical. And Mzee Moi rewarded us with maziwa ya nyayo.

The story.

At TRM, there’s a cleaning guy that stands really close to the urinal because I guess his boss told him to because then if he were just trying to study people’s faces when they are doing their thing that would be really creepy of him. This particular day I was coming from town. A bit later than usual so my evening pee time had passed already. I was pressed. I made that walk cum run that pressed people do while squashing shoulders with mechanics sprawling the left-side walkway outside the mall’s gate, trying not to step over the laid-out merchandise that suspiciously good looking guys sell to USIU chics. Such a short distance can be astonishingly far when you need to go. I remember I literary run directly from the mathree to the washrooms. 

Thinking back, I was somehow all good while seated. Kwanza I found the first nose-ring that looked interesting to me. it somehow got the point home of why those things are supposed to be cool. There was this chile who sat beside me; hotter than Nairobi’s sun. She wore the nose ring and maybe that doesn’t matter much but just thought you should know it looked good on her. The ka-nose ring kinda intrigued me in that sense. Although I can’t marry someone with a nose ring ata kama I hear they breathe in more air than the rest of us and that could be a good thing. 

Yeah. So, I was good all the way but then as soon as my feet hit the ground I felt like I had no other choice than to let go right there and then. I chose to run.

I found the cleaning guy. He’s always there and I know this because I use TRM as my backyard. If you google random pics of that mall you’d sure see me in one. The guy stared as I did my thing and I looked right ahead distinctly; avoiding eye contact. Is it legal to even do that? To stare in that situation? I had to like look ahead for the nini to come flowing out. I like doing it privately. We all do, and hence my little rant. That’s where I had my epiphany sort of about peeing in front of an active onlooker. The guy eye-tailed me to the sinks and so just to annoy him I stayed extra-long at the hand dryer and made enough noise to annoy him. No regrets. 

End of pee manenos.

You could see the relief in my face as I walked out, not even walk, more like bounce out. Almost that feeling when you are driving – not a car – then you find a toilet or a bush. Nothing tops the deep breathe that surrounds the relief besides my imaginary tete-a-tete with a lover on a patio or balcony over a sundowner watching the sun disappear. 

Then I stepped out into the clear night sky of Nairobi. At this time of the year clouds usually hide and let the sun burn our foreheads with the valour of Zulu warriors or freshly cut Maasai men.
The nights are however better because stars are visible and it is just the right amount of cold to sit outside and watch miles of darkness without waking up with a croaky voice and a congested chest. 

Now, you have to understand that being a writer there are two things that keep me awake; the whizzing sounds of deadlines as they approach and the rush to taste life in the minute and in retrospect as I type words away. 

As I ambled out, I was stunned at the beauty in the skies; the lights fighting off the darkness and interlocking patterns of bright and dark patches made by the yellowish street lights. In that moment, I wanted to write. Words that stealth in on such occasions would take hours of staring at the wall to find. (Staring at the wall is a ‘fire’ move for writers).

The lights stared down at me as I went by, lost in thoughts and words throttling crazily in my head. I could hear my steps in the dark as my shoes fluffed and brushed off against the dusty pavements. I had happy thoughts. About the stars. Asking why they never use mutura on pizza but dare to use pineapples instead. Wondering if indeed mermaids are real? (I googled this later and they are actually not real). About girls. Good manly thoughts you know. I kept playing with the lights by stepping on and off the alternating dark patches and bright patches. I stepped over the bright ones and avoided the dark ones. Just in case the dark ones hid scary monsters beneath them. (I know what you’re thinking. No, I am not superstitious. A little paranoid maybe).

Few steps over and I got bored and reverted to walking like a normal person. Then in a dark corner, with a dwindled malfunctioning light, there was giggling, muffed out laughter, and coughing and the chocking smell of cigarettes. 

I wouldn’t have been bothered if it was a middle-aged man from an apartment in the vicinity blowing off steam whilst hiding from a nagging wife. I was bothered because the smokers were a pack of girls barely sixteen, or so I thought based on my degree in age determination and guessing. That’s my definition of a gore image. Small drunk people in crop tops (I finally know the name of those tiny things that leave the stomach out), pants that barely fit and big shoes smoking cigarettes. Gore not for the dressing but for the vanity in their behavior. The emptiness in their actions.

I swallowed hard at the thought of my daughter turning up that wicked. I could feel my heart in my shoes; it sank so deep. I know I am an irresponsible – considerably – young adult but then shit like that isn’t – shouldn’t be – funny to anyone. Nonetheless, I just did one more of those ‘wtf’ moments and like a domestic duck in an eerie forest river, I waded on. 

“Who watches over them?”, I kept probing in my head. As they puff the smoke into the darkness does it ride off with a part of their dreams? Do they have dreams?

At least I knew the lights would make it easy for them to find their way home. Their dark lungs would get to see another day. 

The lights definitely get everyone home in this big city.

Those big yellow lights.