Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Nairobi: Unfrozen by Love

Unfrozen by love

When I reminisce on high school days the bloodbath that used to precede examination periods comes top of the list. 
It used to be admirably crazy! 

People buried their foreheads in books. Some fell asleep next to books and some used them as pillows – well, I think, hoping osmosis would magically happen and they’d then wake up smarter than Einstein. Few renegades like me are the ones that found time to talk about girls and Chelsea – because both are great anyway. And don’t get me wrong here I lived for those days. The bloodbath days. This is when I because useful to everyone from cool kids to wanna-be cool kids and the comfortably and proudly dumberi kids. I would become like a ka-consultant explaining about moles and molar concepts, sines and cosines, why cold-hearted Odie never mourned his grandmother and why Wak was a prick for fleeing during war and how both lacked any Shreds of Tenderness, and things about ventricles and how Jesus heals the broken hearts. 

This was like meth to me or rather I got the vibe that Sherlock Holmes has when they tell him new dead bodies have been found. Invigorating!

But I never read much. I just knew those things because they were taught to me. Ok that’s a lie, I read my butt off just not as hard as most kids!

He’d ask, “Na wewe husoma lini?”

And I never had a definitive answer, “Mchana na sa zingine usiku”. Most of them were callous. Or sarcastic. 

“But si we hulala sana”. Erastus once told me.

Of course I used to sleep a little longer after the morning bell but hey a man needeth rest after those brain wrecking lessons about things I never asked to know about. Like who wants to know which ventricle pumps blood sijui to where? What if all I want in life is to be a fancy duck? Does a duck care about ventricles? Certainly not!

Those questions were from my form one mentee Erastus who I hope made it in life despite following my bad example. But I must reiterate that I wasn’t that bad. Ama what do you think? I mean I made it to the cream of the crop in my school, top in my village – standards were low there – and certainly almost top in the entire chain of villages two or three ridges away of where we lived –standards here were a little better than my village but again still low. And I sorta made it in life given I own some stuff here in Nairobi, about three sheep and a couple of cockerels in the village and the cashier at Equity Bank knows my name (I’ll edit this part when I make it for real).

Regardless, I was good in those things because I read them to pass and impress my old man and then go to college because they said there are pretty girls there and then to get money and wear #TMT hoods and wave to people from inside a V8 (then it was a Pajero but they aren’t fancy anymore) under my name. That’s pretty much it. 

PS: I have the TMT hood but not yet the V8. I’m taking donations. Ata I’ll take a used one if any of you want to upgrade to a Mercedez Maybach.

But there is one thing we had in common besides the pre-test bloodbaths – we rarely showered! (I can feel you’re already judging me but I’d wait if I were you). Why? You ask. Well because it was always freaking cold man. And I am determined to make a point and so I’ll say this, the only good thing about that place was the clean shots of happy trees under the morning fog that Mutua Matheka would consider orgasmic while pitching his photographic eye behind his heavyweight Canon camera. He’d have endless ‘In-the-wild’ shots that’d easily win you over as desktop wallpapers. (Ivy you need to check out this guy).

You know I have seen cold days in Nairobi. Today is particularly cold. And you should know this because you’ll hardly see those common belly buttons trotting down Moi Avenue or idling at Kenya Archives. They are hidden beneath impressive trench coats and meticulously knitted sweaters bought from ‘the guy’ at Ngara or Gikomba. Or Woolworths because not everyone cares about rational pricing nowadays. Talk of Kenya’s Yeezy collection! Actually at my financial state I can only buy a sweater at thao nne if it will also act as my PA on busy days and cuddle me on cold mornings.

I went to a high school in Kinangop. It gets as cold as twelve degrees there. That and the frozen water was more than enough reason to let the body clean itself naturally. See how you were wrong judging me? No? Okay try jump in the shower at 5 a.m. with water that spent the night outside and we’ll see if you’ll still remember your name after that. 

I was used to clenching teach beneath my boshori (Haha we used to wear those in form four – big baby style).

“What do you think of our school?” The principal asked me this one time I bumped into him behind the kitchen boiler. I was kinda new then.

“It sucks bigtime sir”. That’s what I thought of saying but instead I told him nice stuff he wanted to hear like how I loved (hated) waking up at 4.50 am to go read stuff I liked (hated) in the foggy weather.

Now Mr. Igogo if you’re reading this I have confessions to make. Firstly, that place direly needs heaters in classes, that’s why I lied when I said I enjoyed waking up early to go read. I mean nobody reads in such cold weather. Second those lunches are too heavy man! I haven’t forgotten those meditation sessions after lunch that almost made me a Buddha. Third, if you could be like Oprah Winfrey and get everyone a boshori that’d be awesome because someone stole mine this one time and I had to tie a kilemba for a whole week and you know I am not a mkorino. Never have been.
Now this article is beginning to suck because I loathe those imperfect memories.

Let’s talk something else. How are you guys fighting off the cold? Someone said such weather is survived in pairs. Like when one is making tea the other runs to get bread (this is a joke that has passed through all Kenyan WhatsApp groups including the one group I am in whose job is to notify us of developments in other groups that probably you’re in; yeah we are watching you guys). Or you’re using the usual method;

“Sasa”. The dude goes.

“Poa asana…niambie *smiley*”. The chic responds.

“Niko fiti. Ni baridi tu ndio mob *wink*”. The dude texts back.

I’m not sure how the script goes past that but you get it. 

CO - Words of Whimsy
And then there is the single’s battalion which I chair that has do to with lots of coffee and tea and trousers made from duvet materials. The number of clothes I wear to work nowadays can be used to start a ka-clothing stall downtown. If say I get kidnapped and end up in Zaire I will have enough stock on me to still make it big in life. Then you’ll see me in the papers or on the ‘daring abroad’ show having become a mtumba mogul by starting with a clothing stall and I will be married to a Zaire chic and you’ll say I am speaking with a funny accent because ata you don’t know the accent that Zaire people have. In short I carry a big part of my wardrobe with me nowadays. 

This is a good thing – the coffee part not the wardrobe – because I have ended up on a lot of ‘dates’ given there is no way I am drinking coffee alone there at Moca Loca with everyone staring pitifully. Now, I will marry you if you give me a call for a coffee date before July ends! There is this one I received on Wednesday;

Her: “Are you free we go for coffee in the afternoon?”

Me: (Wipes tear from check and stares in the sky and respond in a crackly voice) “I am always free”

Her: Are you crying?

Me: (Firmly) No. Ushai ona nikilia kweli? Niko na homa.

The date was heavenly.

(If you’re my friend and a random chic asks you if nilipona homa just say yes for me please).
Oh and if you’re a guy just hit me up we will go take calabash Uji at Highlands hotel and chat over football.

And before I go on, you people who go to places with sitting booths (which are a lot) and then sit alone in a booth and deny us who come in pairs space to chat peacefully your whip is being smeared with pepper by the devil. The whiplash will be heard by small boys all the way in Timbuktu and those grazing cattle in Morogoro.

Back to our story.

And I am not alone in the quandary of cold weather, I can count on all my fingers the people that I know are surviving on coffee and more coffee. Good thing is that over that Java double shot mug a flickering friendship is rekindled, over the Café Deli Dawa mug ending love is extended and over Uji in calabashes at Highlands business ideas are inspired. As we all chew on shiny sausages and crunchy samosas we extend more of ourselves to those around us. To the world. We are sharing the love and beating the cold.

We are being unfrozen by the love.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fire away; Ricochet is Life!

Ricochet is life!

A man can only stand so much. There is that kapoint at which all guys will break. It matter not if they are at the ‘mama-I-made-it’ level or the ‘started-at-the-bottom-and-now-just-a-little-bit-from-the-bottom’ level. They all break. Shouldn’t I be saying we? Yeah, there is the point at which we all break. This is a point where a tailspin ensues. Its odds of happening are low but just like hitting your toe against the table where you’re barefoot, it does. I have seen it happen to many even those that claim to be lion-hearted nsht.

A rent-money bet goes south because Arsenal is lame and a bitter Arsenal fan snaps. A loan-car is overturns during one of those wild nights and someone sobers up and snaps. A dream-job is lost and someone yells at their boss then snaps. A small toe is hit against the table and someone snaps (Okay ignore that one). A fiancé walks away and someone swears they’re okay then they snap. Well I think it’ll get boring if I write any more ‘snaps’ so I’ll just hope you get the point.

I think you could feel his fingers trembling. Like hear the little microbaroms as they race through the air past your ear. He was awfully nervous. From watching too many CSI episodes I could tell his pupils were dilated. *Hey Felly dilated pupils just mean the nervous system is beginning to suck at being a nervous system. Seems unbelievable much, yes? Well, this is a true story. I actually used my phone’s screen to get a reflection of the guy seated behind me and I could see his eyes. And this was kedo one month ago when I was *cues in Nameless, I’m coming hoooome! Home where I beloooong! Narudi Nyumbani! Nyumbani! Yeeeah!, Get it? C’mmon I was going home. I was pretty excited to go see my folks after bursting my butt in the city for couple of weeks without showing up home. My cue for going home is when mum calls ‘just to say’ "Umetutupa sana”.

I was using one of those Northrift Shuttles. Just so you know these are the next best travel alternative to owning a moti if you’re going to my Ushago. If word gets to the village that you use them then you’ll be classified in the same ‘whos n whos’ list as the Chief, the MCA, the priest, the one guy with more than 10 cows and the corky guy at the water pump who decides when everyone gets their water. Those Shuttles (I know this is a strong word for a mathree but hey we’re in Kenya) carry only 11 of you at a time and don’t stop there at sijui Giciengo for people to pee only for all of you to get pick pocketed. They stop at fancy places and some smoky places with heavenly roast meat – Kikopey that is. Well not that Kikopey is fancy and all but at least no one will ‘beat you’ Ngeta there. Then they have this mouth-watering Choma that you should only eat in manageable quantities and with pilipili or else have to make too many ‘very urgent’ stops afterwards. I don’t want to say that you’ll have to be constantly looking for bushes where you can do some ‘quick business’ and that people will see you and that one of those people will be a blogger and that the blogger will fail to resist the urge to not write about it in their blog and that you will be embarrassed when the story finally comes out about the guy in a suit doing it in the bush there near Gilgil.

Who knows, you may even get chased by those Zebras idling around the Delamere farm. And just be aware that if we see you being chased by a Zebra from a bush where you went to do it with your pants down we will take the pictures and use them to educate our kids about places not to do it. Alright! Enough of that.

So this guy was fidgeting a lot with his phone. He started calling. He called Lenard who I think was his client. Then he called another dude and I know this because Infinix (and Tecno) phones have no privacy. A heartfelt apology to the Tecno-Infinix gang I mean well you knowJ. And the dude I kinda figured out was a loan guy. He called more people for what seemed like an hour. Then viola he snapped. He was all over the place. He sounded bitterer than the barefoot guy who has hit his toe against the edge of the table. You could feel the tension strangling the air in the mathree as he fiddled with the phone, cursed slowly, then loudly, then said a lot of f's! He forced conversation with those two chaps seated beside him. 

“Maisha ni ngumu nanii…” he said at one point. “Yaani mimi sijui ata ni kisirani gani hii….” 

Nobody talked. 

Then this guy on the right says “vitu hukua hivo” and I think that was the cue for our guy. He profusely protested about his business sucking at being a good business, his lorry being tied to a loan and him wanting to sell it secretly and the loan agency discovering this and refusing with it and him being broke and everything crumbling on top of him. At least that is the much I got from his rant which is impressive since I was also listening to Gilad and akina Zidi the Band through earphones. And either way I am not a particularly nosy person.

I should also let you know that shuttles have an unspoken code of conduct. Like the part where you mind your own business and not disturb your neighbor by humming or singing or coughing suggestively or smelling bad (this one mostly) or staring or making loud phone calls and pretending to be really important. The exception is if you’re humming the Game of Thrones’ theme song, that or the national anthem. These are very important codes since shuttle people pay kedo 200 bob above those regular mathree fares. They pay for such luxuries. So see how the snapping dude was violating all of them? I mean who gives a hoot if you’re broke and having a breakdown in a public vehicle and shouting out fucks? Shady right? A big boo to you if you thought of yes. Why you ask? Well because he is a guy who has seen the naked wrath of the evil breaking point for guys! Ladies you may not understand this but just picture your equivalent of a man’s sweatiness, agility and ruggedness which are supposed to help you withstand such primal tides being trodden upon like they don’t exist.  

And talking of smelling bad I beseech ye brothers of mine to wear cologne. I honestly don’t know why you’d be comfortable smelling like you were the one getting goats into Noah’s ark whereas you have a white collar job The exception is the beloved Kenyans that work in the mjengo industry.

So that feeling of powerlessness foaming up after these tailspin moments twists guys and renders them insanely unstable. Here, I found a better example for you ladies – just imagine what happens in the few seconds of sleep paralysis happen to you for a day – a year – a decade. It is scary as hell. More like spending your whole life rigor-mortised. That’s how men feel when they cannot influence anything.

I don’t know how things turned out for our nameless guy but I am sure he’s somewhere savoring life right now. Unlike the guy who hit his toe against the edge of the table.

Okay allow me to say this first. I hit my toe against the edge of my table. The pain was excruciating yaani hadi I had to take a nap. So I am repeating the phrase all over as part of the psychological path to recovery. (*Kay this is the part where I stand in that ka-therapy room and say “My name is Wesh” | Audience: slow wave – Hey Wesh! | “and I am afraid of my table:)”).

Haya moving on.

You know what happens when people snap? They get their head back in line. I know some give in but most of us finally apply those breath-in-breath-out P.E. lessons and get our composures back. Trust me I have been at that point where I wanted to pack my bags and go back to the slopes of Menengai and become a farmer who lives alone in a ramshackle hut in a very big farm that I’ll till until kingdom come. But here I am still in the city.

Reason? Well, it’s simply because (I) we’re hopeful of better days. We become resilient after our breaking points. I can imagine that nameless guy who was ranting in the shuttle updating his twitter feed with “I survived #Teamthickskin #Unbroken #LionHeart” and a couple of emojis. I am also not sure if he knows that Titanium song but he’d be jamming to it all night long and being a not very good singer murder it when he screams “I am titaniuuuuuum!” from beneath his shower because having lost his income-generating lorry he can’t surely afford to be in a Jaccuzi ama?

Why also do you think Lunjes move a lot? Like move with their furniture nsht upcountry but then realize life sucks even more over there and so come back with their beloved furniture again? It is because of resilience. Refusing to be bowed by life. Being thick skinned.

It is because for me, for them and all the resilient gang out there ricochet is life.