WHEN WE TRAVEL

One of our colleagues went to one of these Asian countries for a tour. He was on leave and decided one fine morning he will break the porcelain piggy bank and collect the little shillings he has, to get on a plane and travel east, some four thousand miles. His shillings were few but he was sure he will pull through an east trip and be back home without needing to wash dishes anywhere.

He wouldn’t sleep he said. It was his first time both on a plane and in a foreign country where his whitest teeth could be mistaken for ivory. Si you know those people?

So he woke up hyped that morning got to the airport as scheduled and waited for his flight. He had prepared everything from hotel bookings to taxis to airport transfers in his package. He wore new clothes, si you get how we Africans are, we have the normal clothes and the ones we put on when travelling. We cannot and will not wear old dingy clothes on our detours, just in case a white is reading this, take note. If you see an African on a plane to wherever and he wore some dingy looking coat and a tattered shirt, know that we as Africans have denounced him and our ancestors look down on not only him but his spirit as well.

Let’s move out of cultural talk. So this chap left airport to travel 50 minutes before seating for a layover of flights which was actually 7 hours. He sat until the sun went down. The evening news came and he read all the magazines against him, even the ones which were for expectant mothers. He whatsapps me a picture of an obese man trying to fit in a sofa too small for him, I would have uploaded it but it would need viewer discretion. He types, and types and types and goes offline for 2 minutes and then comes through a message,

“Boy! You should hear shirandula talking, he has a teen girl sound“ he puts a smiley at the end.

I send one back,

“I am on a prayer mat asking God, please lord let shirandula not see my brother snapping his stomach and sending his pictures across the globe.”

The message lingers for a few minutes before its blue ticked. He goes offline. Perhaps he caught feelings. That means I wouldn’t be getting that DSLR lense I ordered. The thing with people is that when you are travelling out of the country, even if it’s Uganda, they would send for unimaginable things. Like this poor chap has been asked ka-iphone, three fast chargers from one guy in office who apparently wants one for himself and two for selling within the office, Kenyans waah! , another lad asked for some funny looking shoes, the ones which cover even your ankles, I don’t know if he wants to pray in a mosque with them on. Ladies in the office asked for makeup among other things. He has a list in his bag. A list I don’t see making to Kenya again.

So this chap stays a few days in the country before his ivory is not nicked. He sends snaps of bullet trains, (like we won’t buy the un-roadworthy ones from Russia) He spends his little money and comes home in style. Nobody gets anything, the list was eaten by a hotel rat was the reason. Perhaps next time his piggy bank will be heavy then we shall order again. To pacify us he bought everyone ka-tshirt , you know those saying “I LOVE KENYA” type, the ones we end up wearing at night to sleep on with, yes those ones.

But I have observed that we, Kenyan travellers, can bear the discomforts and nuisances that come with travelling easier than other nationalities, because we are so used to the poor quality of life caused by heavy traffic, crowded transport system, noise, pickpockets, slow internet connections, pollution, hot weather, corrupt politicians, Airport strikes, teachers strikes, nurses strikes, students strikes, lecturers strikes, Doctors strike, we are yet to see politicians strike and that fine day we shall send them home, and the list goes on. Because of those, we become more stoic, and patient when we travel. Especially to the people we owe some billions.

Si you have a good week ahead without needing to break the piggy bank!

 

 

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GOD AT OUR DISPOSAL

Have you ever been to one of these bonfire nights on foot of pure virgin hills of Kenya with fog snacking up in space? Benevolent wives holding romance novels in one hand and bottles of lotion in the other, covered under the itchy checked maasai shawls. They don’t wear makeup because there is less of taking selfies and more of landscape photography with their professional cameras hanging from their slick necks.

Its almost sundown and we are rubbing our hands against the fire while we set up the tents. There are two ladies who are real book readers, they are mutual friends, they have a tiny lamp in their tents and the novels are not of romance genre. Our tour guide has a well built body and his junglee green coloured t shirt is written ” Professional bear handler” though we don’t have bears in kenya but i am inclined to believe he can handle anything of that stature and size.

There is a young couple seated at a distance on a mat enjoying the evening breeze. Viny and I are setting up the ood to start on the barbeque. We have the meat and oil handy. There is some soft music playing from a tiny bluetooth speaker. The evening has just begun and the clouds are just appearing thick. The chilly weather snicks in as we roast.

I pick up ribs because i love them. We stack the chunks of meat and bone meats against the grill. We sit in a neat circle and serve the food, eating in noisy sounds. Not to invite trouble but to eat wholly. We talk about politics, climate, business and everything else.

I whatsapp a picture of this ‘ka-gathering’ in the bush and a scenery picture to a friend who could not make it due to deadlines. I type

“See what you are missing”

We keep on having conversations on how Trump made it past a couple of candidates to become the Charlie one, how well fed all our ministers are.  We grow closer to the bonfire every hour i guess which produced popping sounds each time looking behind and across the space watching out for the wild animals.

We love ourselves very much but we don’t realize with all those instagram quotes until you are sleeping alone in a camping net with your toes popping out in the wild with nothing but GOD at your disposal.

 

LILY

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I am in Kilifi, a house close to the beach, no house in Kilifi is not close to the beach. I came here to get rid off the tussles of 2018. To gaze at the sea at sundown, eat some smoked garlic prawns and crash over my cousins to mark a good start for this year. My cousin is a soft spoken person. His religion is priority. The kind of pray before you eat, sleep and drink. He keeps off people who speak of ungodly things like Instagram, twitter end year parties and half cooked steak. We eat our steak charred.

Anyways, he gets a call from an acquaintance that his friend has passed on in an accident not far from the highway, prayers were held, condolences passed and food was served in big ‘sinias’. We go to the deceased’s old man’s house on the following day.

He sat there on a rocking chair. The sun is hot outside and there lay a weekend silence. An old couple comes visiting to offer their condolences . He doesn’t look sad, just tired. I guess when you are old and you lose a son, it makes no difference after a time. Its either of you will see off the other and that is how life has been carved out for us. Or perhaps it does make a difference, I don’t know!

I saw a gramophone in the house, this retired army officer has a soft spot too. I didn’t know he was in the army until i saw a picture of him, sitting on a rock somewhere in the bush. All uniformed men have that one picture of them squatting on a rock in the wild. You’d know if there is anyone who has served from you’re close circles, but you wouldn’t know these kind of things if your uncles had been throwing tomatoes and stale eggs to underperforming artists in dingy shows.

I asked casually,

“Do you remember the first time you enrolled, how was it like?”

He chuckled in a thick voice

“It was painful”

“Oh , okay what happened?”

My cousin all this time looking at me questioning a man about  his profession while he just lost a son, i narrowed my eyes showing him am just making the moment light here, or at least that was my thinking.

“We were told to run 200 meters, i ran with a couple of boys, at the end of line i was smacked so hard by another ka koplo there, he said

“Kijana unakimbia kama mwizi (you’re running like a thief) and you are trying to enroll for a uniformed post.”

We all laughed well, he says those were the good old days.

He sips his chardonnay and sits in the rocking chair listening to the smooth whistling of her. It sits on the edge of the sideboard,eloquently, against the wall.  Its cleaned everyday with a dry fabric. Fabrics bought specifically for the pavillion of the gramophone, not the pieces of tattered bank promotional t shirts. It is also polished every week and stays clean than the pets in the house. It has a name. It is called Lily.

Lily doesnt like if  a stranger touches her indecisively. She stares at you. If you wish to hear her sing, it has to be backed by a smooth loving voice. Not a raspy one of a drunkard chap whos larynx is burnt by the repeated spirits exposure.

The owner has more wrinkles on his face than a his age. His wife died of tumour some years back . He hasn’t been so well since and his only support was the late son. Lily here has been with him every evening. Singing him operas from eras of 70’s and 80’s. Through thick and thin. Lily has seen all sides of this old guard. She has seen him dwiddle along the room to his bed and has seen him dance merrily on his last anniversary.

He leans forward to pour himself another glass.

“Please help yourselves,” Mzee continues.

We both refrain. He smirks.

“It’s good you avoid these things, I once had a fling with a chocolate lady in South Africa, I was just a visitor. We spent five lazy days shopping for her and little for me, long walks on the beach and we drank strong cocktails at nights. One morning I woke up & my hotel room clean as if I had just checked in. Everything gone my cash, passport, cards; everything.  She robbed me off even my confidence to get of bed.”

He chuckles again and mops off sweat on his forehead.

“Hell! for a moment i had thought I would move to South. These things kill us in one way or the other.”

He puts down his glass. Looks in empty space for a moment and says, looking at my cousin

“You know what killed him right?”

I am out of picture here. My cousin nods. The old man nods back. He tells him not to follow the same tracks. My cousin stands up, holds his hand gives him a hug while the old man is seated, i do the same.

He whispers, “go in peace”

I want to say something back but i’m tongue tied so i just nod and leave. Outside the sun is still hot, a church nearby just ended its service. Women in bright silk skirts and children walk in the sun. I pat this cousins back and we walk to his home.

“What was that about?”

I ask impatiently, my cousin plays dumb

“What do you mean”

“You think you want to share how the boy died”

He looks at me pensively. Puffs off wind and tells me,

“The boy was an addict, a hardcore one in. People got him to his home after the mother died. He agreed to come stay with the old man. But he would sneak out every night to do the same things all over. Even if it wasn’t for that accident, he would have died sooner or later.”

Putting and edge to his voice

I stood there and blew a warm air in my cheeks, the atmosphere was just too thick to swallow anything.

Perhaps one day this drug menace would leave this city. Until then let us keep spreading the word and say ‘NO TO DRUGS.’

 

TED TALK

There is a sign in of the loos of Toyota Kenya which shows as in the picture. Apparently a man came from somewhere in the country side on a fine morning with dusty shoes and a sack full of money to buy a sSlightly used Silver Probox. A silver one specifically. But then he was told he was in the wrong place so he asked if he could rush for a call of nature and he rushed to the wrong loo at first. A lady with fresh weave sneered at him on the door. Then a Wycliff came and showed him the right place for men, the one with urinals. This sign was not up yet because this scenario hadn’t happened.

But it is our civic duty to put the writing on the wall, literally, so that for those of you who do it with your dusty shoes sitting on the wrong side of the ninii should sit up well. When the people who deal with keeping that area clean came they saw what they shouldn’t have. Apart from his business there this gentleman sautéed it with some water, the place looked watery and dirty.

Perhaps a pile of dirty business which almost took them a business day to clean it up completely and three more working days to get rid of the smell with all kinds of fresheners.

If you are found of doing this in any local or international outlet of any organization they shall crucify you, with a new brush and some clean water. Kindly do your business as shown below to avoid unforeseeable circumstances because on that day you shall learn that famous Swahili saying ‘mjini akili…’

Si you have a responsible week ahead!

ESSENTIALS

fog

My colleague and I had to travel. Somewhere near the potato farms of Ruiru, where there is more fog than the sugar in the tea. Where the tea is served in huge mugs, huge display mugs are used as tea cups. Ruiru is beautiful. It has a great landscape, cold weather and warm hearted people who sadly have to wear more than two pairs of clothes. A real man in these suburbs has to go a day or two without shower. Kinuthia tells me, a local farmer, that if you shower every day here then you could miss a wife. Maybe you will stick your spear in the ground in front of a hut and get in there to ask for a hand of a beautiful chocolate tanned woman, but then they will smell the freshness on you. You will have the scent of a daisy, women will sneer and leave the place, the old man in the boma will ask you hard questions.

Questions like how many cows and bulls are you willing to pledge or how many do you own. You will sit upright with a friend, both of you not from that hood, you will dangle your ‘belta’ keys in front of him. Only then you would realize why they never served you a fancy mugged tea with ka snack.

The old man will escort you out, telling you they have to let you leave in a polite manner even though you wronged them in front of the gods. You will have to leave the country side on a sad note because you were fresh enough to miss a wife, a male cousin of the wife to be will smile like a Siamese cat and whisper,

“You are fresher than a wife eh?”

But that is just a thought. Let’s get back to the real plot here. The thing is men don’t apply a lot of things. Men’s Huda beauty or whatever is a barber. Sometimes I wonder who shaves the best of the barbers in town, but again that is story of another day. So here is the thing, men have their own barbers. Barbers who know the geography of your head. I have one such too. The one who knows my head inside out. The one we all are loyal to more than the confession box pastors.

Before we went out for this trip here, I had to have a shave. Unfortunately when I stepped in the place, ‘my barber’ was massaging another head. A huge head, a head with a little hair. I sat on the couch reading an old newspaper. It showed the old men shaking hands somewhere in Nairobi. Now the tricky part is when the other barber in the same shop has finished up with his client and yours has just started. The other barber looks at you convincingly. With watery eyes, politely asking you to come sit so that he can make you a dapper chap than you walked in.

You don’t know how to decline so you avoid eye contact, you sit there, he brushes of hairs left in him while looking at you from the mirror, still thinking you would sit there and share with him your days story, but you won’t. Finally you would have to look him in the eye and point in the other guy’s direction and mouth

‘I’ll wait for that one.’

That day passes, you get shaved the way you want and even share stories with your barber. But then comes a day, when you walk in and barber number 2 is there with a long line and your barber has called in sick, you try to call him and a lady speaks in an apologetic tone on the phone. You sulk. You are ashamed. Today you will face his blade, and my god you will know why some men look like chicken when they step out there.

POOR YOU!

red goat

He is whistling, slowly whistling a funny afro tune in the wee hours of working hours of the morning. The sun has been upon us like every other day. He is wearing a dirty khaki color trouser rolled from the bottom, the shags braced up look. He has also applied some mafuta (perfume), strong scented . I ask him,

“Did you visit the doctor or the doctor visited you… or was it GOD who illuminated your house with a 100 watt bulb?”

He stammers a bit, he has this problem from before. You could call Nassib when he is out on an errand and he would exhaust a 100 bob credit before the message has gone home, (may god bless him to have a smooth speech) anyways he stammers and when he stammers his eyes twitch in agreement,

“I visited him.”

With a 100 bob smile he says.

“Well I am happy that you look happy, tell me about your secret meeting and what you took to him, both the nail and the red goat?”

His smile fades away, gradually. He stands holding a rug in his hand and rests his back against the wall. He says he didn’t get the nail, neither the goat.

“Why? Didn’t the warden come through?”

“He was a fat chap, when I met him on the evening ‘chama cha wazee’, drinking ‘mnazi’ in the locality, I called him a side asking for help, he said no. Flatly. Emotionless. I thought he might be a bit too tipsy and so I went to his workplace the next morning, he didn’t turn up till late afternoon. He was furious when he saw me and chased me away.”

Nassib describes him as a fat chap, I feel dismayed he didn’t have an athletic body as I thought. He wasn’t tall either. The offices back there as described where in much a sorry state.

Anyways back to the doctor, when he went to him and told him about his unaccomplished task, the medicine man said he will have an alternative method just like Gmail, when you lose a password, Gmail gives you countless chances before letting a loyal customer go away. But that wouldn’t be immediately, he would have to wait, perhaps 2 to 3 ‘medicine man business days’. Basically the medicine man was trying to be a ‘mitch’ (a man bitch)

So he burnt some leaves to look at his luck, maybe somebody would have unearthed it by mistake , maybe the kids in the backyard were planting a cassava tree and dug up Nassib’s luck, who knows.

After burning some leaves, he saw a ray of hope. A way he could make the luck afloat. He asked for kshs 2800/- for the red goat (see where the Mexican business is taking a hit) which Nassib gave hurriedly. He asked him a further Kshs 1500/- to slaughter a white dove and a black one, right in front of him. He was given a black cloth. He stripped naked, took a bath in a shanty shower. In a grass thatched shower, water in a small basin. The water was boiled with some leaves. The leaves which cures 40 diseases. He came out clean and sat wrapped in a plain black cloth.

The medicine man ‘treated’ him, read some words from his tattered book in the voice of divine knowledge best known to him only in the best way possible and then slaughtered the two doves. He then told him to lick the blood and applied some to his chest, a little on his head and a little on his palms. He further asked him to go home in that cloth still wrapped across his chest, like a war hero (he had put his pants on) and told Nassib to sleep on his stomach the whole night. No tilting, no turning and no funny business.

After 3 business days nassib has seen differences. His children can gulp more than two bowls of porridge and walk to school. His wife has been loving him more than ever and his luck is looking like it’s unearthing.

I tell him a kasin of mine is finding a hard time finding a ripe woman to marry fir himself. He wishes to sire kids. Maybe the ‘dove man’ he can help, he hurriedly retrieves a milk packet, a KCC one in which lays the secret of unknown the world not seen. He has the number of this medicine man who can treat everything he says, maybe even being an arsenal fan.  I will try to ring this man from across the sea, si you can ask me for his number and maybe your luck is buried too but because you can’t find a damn red goat you will never succeed in life, poor you!

 

 

 

 

AN EMBATTLED PATIENT

Nassib is one of our messengers. He has been sulking, doing his rounds and chores like an old man who has lost his wife recently to a stupid disease, maybe constipation.

He has grown frail, his cheek bones popping. Yesterday we had lunch at work. So my colleague and I were seated as he did his chores, I asked Nassib the reason behind this sadness which has made him lose weight.

He says somebody has tried to bury his luck. His medicine man told him back in his village. He has not been at peace since then. He says he even noticed his children are getting sick frequently. He speaks in a chagrined tone looking through the window into a Bank’s garden, finely trimmed. One of these days I will fish for a job which has a good garden against the offices so that when situations arise, I can stare at the garden while I address my wife on the phone on how I loathe meat balls smothered in onions.

The solution to all his problems is “Kucha ya Simba” and a red goat. I am perplexed. My colleague leans his head back in his seat and whistles in disbelief.

“Do you mean the nail of a lion?”

He nods sadly

“And what of a red goat?”

“They are available. It is not as hard as the kucha.”

I am sat at my desk pensively thinking, here I am, a man of god, who got scratched last week by a baby cat who tore a little skin and it pained so bad that I had to do extra prayers until I tore the prayer rug and swore to keep off these tiny creatures. And speaking of the red goats, it is like the medicine men smuggled a ton of them somewhere from south Mexico and told these suppliers over satellite phones

“We have a good market here, don’t worry (woriii) we would sell everything.”

I ask him maybe he can use an alternative method and bring the witch doctor a fake nail ,maybe the nail of some other animal. He declines he says it’s like burying his luck farther down the drain. I ask him how he plans to get the nail because poaching would have him buried in gallows. Perhaps there would be no luck at all left for sinking or floating.

He says he would ask politely, maybe to a warden to allow them to clip a lions nail who has died recently.

“How would you know if a lion died in the recent past?”

“The warden will help”

I am imagining Naseeb riding his bicycle through narrow, grassy patched roads carrying the retired chief who would identify himself as Naseeb’s uncle to the warden. The warden a strong headed lad who will not see through Nassib’s luck problem. I imagine a tanned chap with an athletic body seating on a pine wood chair, one which saw vanish in its prime years only. It got cushioned the last time it was in a workshop and it has more nails now, more than the wood itself. The warden’s name pinned on his chest above his pilot pocket, his hat across his sweaty forehead. He sits there sipping black coffee and chuckling at the idea that a man wants to clip the nails of a national property.

He would say in a thick accent,

“Kijana you think you are here to take a walk in the park, you Kenyans know only how to kata and nyoa the state eh?”

Nassib would be standing at the edge of the desk cautiously, hands behind his back, head dropped like it is the judgment day. The retired chief would plead with the warden, perhaps even identify past wardens and their uncles who took milk from his goats as their evening pleasantries. He would identify himself as the red mabati house owner which sits on a small hill across the road. The only brick ‘mabatied’ house in the locality. But still the warden would not budge.

Nassib and the chief would go home, contemplating the idea of greasing his palm or maybe adding goat milk to his black coffee, anything that would entice him.

Nassib’s phone rings in a piercing tone, and then stops. He says the medicine man has flashed him. He leaves the room to call him. The medicine man is set out to clear Nassibs embattled luck but he has only funds to flash his potential client.

Allow me to google how a red goat looks like while I sip my milked coffee sawa?