Wednesday, 22 June 2016


A fierce model wearing make-up

Anyone who has gone through the arduous 8-4-4 Kenyan education system successfully/ or not, has had go for a student's attachment. If you were unlucky, you ended up in a work environment where you were surrounded by a couple of mean adults who treated you with contempt on the presumption that you were one of the young turks who thought they could use their university education to overhaul status quo. And others wondered why you had to painfully go through higher education while they only had to pay 'Nairobi Aviation' a heavy visit and they had a degree at hand ready to present it to a god father in a public office.

But if you were lucky, you were surrounded by people who cared that you achieve what everyone should achieve while on attachment- some hands on experience on the job.

I was unlucky!

In November 2014, i was one of the forty plus students who like a prophet waiting for instructions from God eagerly stood outside the School of Strategic and Development Studies in Maseno University as we received our letters and ten commandments of student attachment. Of course right now i cannot remember what we were told but i can fumble some take away points. The bottom line was- 'be involved in your workplace, learn as much as you can and obey your superiors.' I had heard tales of how people stroke luck in the employment world thanks to an attachment, so i was determined to give my best.

After a two-month long search, i landed an opportunity in the government of the county that does it's things with flair and was deployed in the Department of Labour and IT- my job description was as vague as the title of the department!

In a warm Sunday night in 2015, i sat in the living room with my father and hunched as he gave me instructions on- how to excel in any job environment? I should let you know that every time someone in our family is about to make a a step in life, small as it may be; they have to seat for a two hour minimum lecture given by dad. In January 2002 when my sister and i were being shipped to a boarding school we received one. In January 2006, at the onset of my Secondary education i received one. But perhaps the most memorable one was the one i received in September 2011, when beginning my undergraduate degree journey-Boys were mentioned, drugs were emphasized on and laziness was cursed.
The most common element in all the lectures being chunks of history. Every life lessons was pegged to a historic event: From the reasons why German soldiers failed in the Second World War, to the meticulous Entebbe raid by Israel Defense Forces (you can see where am going with this!) I have however grown to value these life lessons.

Armed with my lesson and an attitude i reported to the County offices. Upon arrival, with the fanciest accent i could pull, i inquired about the Human Resource office from the front desk. I was led to an office where there were two ladies and a young man. The man was glued to something interesting in his laptop because he didn't seem bothered by my presence. The ladies were laughing at the top of their voices and hi-fiving (they must have been talking about the worst dressed person in the office that day!)

These were going to be my colleagues for the next 3-4 months, i knew i was screwed! The terms of engagement were already spelt out for me- "follow the guidelines of all employees and do not expect us to pay you" One of the ladies who seemed like the boss repeated them any way and send the young man who clearly looked pissed off that he had been distracted from his binge to fetch the Labour and IT head of department.

A few minutes later another young man walked in with anxiety oozing from his face (may be he was told that his ex-girlfriend was in the HR office claiming that he had impregnated her!) Immediately he was told i would be on attachment  in his department he sighed in relief and asked me to follow him so he could show me the office i would be working from.

The office had three desks, one was occupied by a lady who by the piercings on her face looked like she was a singer in a rock band. When she stood to shake my hand, she revealed her tight and short skirt and frighteningly high heeled shoes. (Dad had told me that i ought to dress decently, and what was in front of me that moment was his textbook definition of- indecent!) After working with her for a couple of days i learned her knowledge for IT was similar to her skirts, never mind the fact that she was second in command in the department's pecking order! The other desk was occupied by an old man who was dozing with his head swinging from side to side, he quickly jerked to attention on hearing our conversation. I would later learn of his IT-phobia (don't be so shocked! that office was for jacks of all trades', and he was handling accounts only) being a mother Theresa of sorts, i would become his go to IT person. The last desk was unoccupied and it would be my zone.

After working for a few days, i learned in dismay that either my job description was so vague or i didn't have one at all. Because i also became a jack of all trades. All my perceptions were gradually and crisply proved to be misconceptions, but i was prepared to make some lemonade.
Work environments can change a person, for better or worse!

I have always been a moderate person. In fact since i started growing my hair in 2007, i have never chemically straightened it, i have a total of four piercings (two on the left ear and the other two on the right one. I got the first pair when i was 18 and the other at 19) and for the longest time i never wore a string of make-up. The latter changed during my industrial attachment.

Let me tell you about it!

Even the pressure from fierce classmates wearing make-up in campus did not bulge me into using make-up in my first and second year in campus. By the way i should let you know my natural look did score me a boyfriend and a hot one for that matter. But little did i know that change imminently loomed in the time ahead.

In my work place i was surrounded by people of all kinds of demeanor and an inadvertent change begun to place. I begun to really admire the look on ladies who used make-up and at the end of my fourth week, i had already made up my mind that i would dive into the world of make-up.

On one Saturday, i put together some savings and off i went to town to pay one of the prolific make-up stalls a visit. As i sat in the vehicle my mind veered off to reveries of what i would look like with my make-up on! "Oh yeah! i would look like the fierce Tyra Banks", i thought.

The sun was darn hot in town and the streets were crowded but i was ready to go through whatever hell to make sure i went back home while buckled up in the make-up bandwagon. I went past the Meru bound matatus boarding point in Tea Room with my eyes set on a shop that was nearby. When one of the touts taunted me to board a matatu i jerked as if his request was mordacious, vigorously shook my head in an attempt to crisply communicate that i was not traveling and paced past him. When he grabbed my hand i should have pinched his nose and told him- "you should differentiate between a person hyped up to buy a good new look and one travelling to Meru" But we all know that those guys are not to be messed with, they have full potential of making your day a really bad one. So i politely requested him to release my hand (of course i didn't do that! I did what you normally do too!)

The shop i walked into was flocked by ladies some older than me and others younger. The crowd was a little consolation that i chose the right shop. Honestly nobody wants to buy anything in a deserted shop for obvious innate human reasons. There were fair skinned ladies with tonnes of make-up (given their line of work, i understood) behind the counters each attending to a client. Most of them seemed to get their make-up right except one who had either overdone or underdone it or the make had just refused her! Her eyebrows seemed like they were so angry and just wanted to run and attack her hairline, her eyes were just sad and looked like they were screaming "Haki yetu!" and the lips, they just suffocated under a thick layer of lipstick which had stained one of her tooth. This lady did not have any client, i prayed to God that she would not be the one to attend to me. It's true, God answers our prayers with a- no, yes or wait.

The answer to mine was no. So you will understand when i tell you that when she seemed to signal me to go to her, i felt a quick urge to run out of the shop (btw with the make-up on her face it was hard to interpret her facial expressions). When i hesitated she raised her hand to urge me on. I was in a quandary- how in world could a person who clearly did not get her make-up right help me shop for make-up? And as i strode towards her, i made another prayer "Jesus please don't allow her to make me look like her!"

"Nikusaitieche?" she asked

In that moment, i think i literally felt my legs pace towards the wide opened door- turns out it was all in my mind! I already had an attitude towards her, i didn't think she would serve me well. And here comes a lesson dear reader, when you want someone to help you don't undermine them! If you do they might punish you, and because you are an ass for despising them all the deities and the whole universe will help them serve their punishment.

After explaining what i needed she threw me some advice , and darn she was convincing. When i raised my doubts she explained that she had done the job for a long time and was a connoisseur of sorts in matching products with their designated skin types and colours. I paid for my goods, packed them in my bag and walked out.

As i walked out i had a nagging feeling that i had made a bad choice with my make-up and in trusting that lady and i could almost hear her intestines tremble at her loud laughter on the inside! I dismissed my instincts as mere paranoia and left for home ready to flaunt my new look at the office.

That Monday, i doned up purple peep toe wedges and a little black dress. My eyebrows were smoked with black eye shadow and my lips were purple. When i stepped out of the house i did not feel as confident as i wanted to, even my reflection spoke volumes but didn't speak of Tyra. I encouraged myself  that the bad feeling was just cold feet on my first day with make-up on. On arrival to work i started to receive weird gazes. Even from the gatekeeper, who by the way always said hi to me, but that day he hesitated as if he did not quite recognize me in my new look. Now here is lesson number two, if something inside you tells you that your make-up is wrong, listen to it: even if the cost is getting to work late!

The reflection i saw in the washrooms at work was bad, i mean not even the recycled motivational speech that i had given myself earlier that morning could convince me otherwise. So there i was, with a face that looked like or worse than the one of the lady who sold me the make-up and i could not wash my face! I could see her laughing behind my reflection- " got what you deserved you clueless person!"  I was scared to go to the washrooms that day, i didn't want to see me in the mirror looking like a scarecrow! That was definitely the hardest day throughout my three month attachment, but it marked the beginning of make-up in my life. I was off to a rocky start but am much wiser and aware when using make-up.

I have become so good that nowadays i go to bed with onion squeezing on my eyebrows, (i have my father's eyebrows, the kind that you have to beg for them to grow) the tears and discomfort that accompany this procedure is just a small price to pay for beauty! I just googled- how to increase the volume of my eyebrows? and followed the instructions! I have done this for a couple of weeks now and i think it's working. My sister thinks it's only in my head! i think she's just jealous. Honestly the onions better work coz am not ready to spend more money on the little guys!!

Soon i will share with you before and after photos, then you can tell me whether it's working.

Monday, 13 June 2016


Uhuru Park- Nairobi


Ask your Kamba friend to help you pronounce this term. (Are you done?, Do you now know how to pronounce 'Ilovi' well? Then you are ready for the story.

Ilovi is the Kamba version of the word Nairobi. The city in the sun. The city whose name originated from a Maasai phrase 'Enkare Nairobi'- 'cool water'. Our brothers whose love for chicken can only be marched with the need to breath call it- Nalopi while the fervent ambassadors of miraa call it- Narombi. These two versions do not stray from the popular and arguably correct pronunciation. But what we Kao's have done to that word is just murder and the result is beyond any kind of redemption.

Ilovi is the place where serious hustle happens; it is where people are perpetually busy as they chase the proverbial good life. Where i come from, students who fail their national examinations and those who cannot afford further education, soon after the deities reveal their fate, they pack up and leave for the city to make a life for themselves.

Most of them are housed by a relative until they learn the ropes around city life, needless to say, being housed by a relative comes with its own challenges. Soon they are employed by a mhindi in industrial area, and move out to a single room in Pipeline and begin to grind the city life the best way a kao knows how.

I was not born in Nairobi. And i know the same goes for some of you. So we all have our 'first time in Nairobi' story.

I was born some one hundred and sixty Kilometers from Nairobi. But was raised in the county that does its things with flair (youknow it!), at least for the five years of my life. I attended a school that was a thirty-minute walk from home. When we didn't want to attend school, my sister and i would hide in a furrow, munching our food as we watch the hours pass by while waiting to join other kids leaving school for home, as though we had attended school. Do not think this happened several times, we tried it once and we failed horribly.

We were five years old then, i didn't want to attend school, so i shared my lazy thoughts with my twin sister who suggested we hide in furrow. As we sat their chuckling excited that we missed school, a shadow of someone standing on the edge of the furrow was cast in the furrow. It was mother dear!! Our excitement immediately fizzled out and fear of the imminent beating we would face overtook us. We were shit scared, we wished that somehow we would be small enough to be invisible, but it was not going to happen. (Till to date i have never figured out how she found us, she must have smelt us or read my mind earlier that morning! Because we enjoyed ourselves with the stealth of a cat, i made sure of that).

"What are you doing here?", she asked in consternation.
I did what i always do when am shit scared- my face turned red, i became dumb and my brain shut down. Then my sister did what she always does best- explained her way out the mess, well at least that day she was gracious enough to weave me in her lie! I remember it was a shady lie that was a mix up of my stomach ache and her innate mother Theresa need to help me out. Of course mother dear saw crisply through her weak lie.

She pulled us out and silently walked us home. My friend, hell has no fury like a woman who has paid school fee for her children to learn only to find them wasting time in a furrow!- once we got home we received a beating enough to last forever made worse by the laughter of our neigbour's nosy kids.

With such a cheeky behaviour, no wonder i didn't produce much in school. What do you expect anyway when for our teachers, teaching was a side hustle? They had to deliver their milk to the local dairy, then hastily come to class and leave one hour later to till their land.

My dismal performance that included copying an entire exam prompted my parents to transfer us to a city school. Just like many other parents, they wanted to give us the best shot at life (I wonder whether today they look back and say it was worth the hustle; i hope they do).

We were excited, our peers envied us. Moving to the city then was considered cool and prestigious. We would learn swahili faster than our peers who would continue learning a, b, kikamba. After the new year celebrations in 1996, we were early on the road (it was rugged and dusty then, and it still is today; my flair county is not so flair after all!) We had packed muthokoi, beans, and a host of other foods. We had to be ready for city life! No jokes. One would think that we were in a migration of sorts. We boarded a bus to Matuu, our final jump off point to the city.

The town was crowded by passengers as many families were living the rural home after the holidays going back to their life in the city. This was to be our first test on our preparedness to city life. Due to a mammoth of passengers who were travelling that day, fare charges were hiked. We were a little low on cash so we had to wait for a cheaper vehicle. But we were not the only ones! Again there were thousands of other families who applied the same strategy as us. The trick was simple- when a vehicle came and the conductor shouted 150/= Nairobi, beat everyone, get into the car and preserve seats for the rest. Simple right? Yet not so simple when you are carrying copious luggage. And most importantly when you have no experience in struggling for something as mundane as boarding a vehicle.

Vehicle one came, we missed it. None of us managed to get in. Vehicle number two came you'd think now that we had a little experience we would get in, well only my brother managed to get in and wasn't able to save us all seats, when i saw him disembark the vehicle he was so furious at us you would think he was literally on fire inside. Two hours had passed and our fear of arriving in the city at dusk begun to look like an imminent reality. So we had to resrategize. We gathered around my brother, who was the master planner and hunched listen to him keenly.

"Use your elbow to prevent someone from moving forward", he explained.

"Do not waste time feeling sorry or apologizing, because you surely won't make it", he continued.

I rubbed my elbow as if to sharpen it, in preparation for the arduous task that lay ahead of me. Believe it or not the strategy worked, any way it had to. It was either that or going back home and none of us would have that. The idea of our neighbors' grinning at us because of our aborted journey gave us motivation to elbow most passengers out of the way (You should have seen tiny me, tough as a nail pricking people as i charged to my destiny!)

The journey that marked a significant change in our lives lasted for two hours. Throughout the journey i envisioned what life in the city would be like, they were all great thoughts. And they never prepared me for my first encounter with a robber in the city.

When we arrived, the sun had just began to set, darkness was closing in and the city was crowded. And that is when a robber stroke. We hustled through the crowd to catch bus thirty three #33 which would take us to Embakasi our new home. Just before we boarded the bus, mother dear ran a quick check through her bag to confirm she had our fare.

To our profound astonishment there was nothing! The place of a few thousand shillings was taken by a disgusting 'kitambaa' which looked like it was used to wipe all the shit in Nairobi (and you know there is lots of that!) The few seconds that followed our discovery were quiet, lonely, cold and dark (i could go on with the adjectives- because it was just horrible).

This is when having relatives in Nairobi comes in handy...the God of Abraham had sent one who helped us out of our quandary. Am telling you till today, the story of how we lost that money never makes sense: we have gone through it in double digit times and we have also laughed about it. The only plausible explanation is that- the robbers smelt our new ukambani blood and knew we were new in the city and thanked the deities for a belated Christmas gift! If it is not that then- Nairobi robbers can smell money or they are just so freaking experienced!

While in the city, we had so many firsts- we visited the monumental Uhuru Park and had our first Television experience which came a few months after our arrival.

On these now #tbt moments, we built more memories and experiences and we still continue to do so.

A few weeks ago, I hunched on my bed while reading Adolf Hitler by James Bunting. (Reading books about Hitler takes you to dark and horrific places that scare you and annoy you. ) So I was alarmed when i heard screams and noises outside my window. And there was drama! A robber had snatched a young lady's handbag and was now facing the hot wrath of the mob.

For the first few seconds i experienced a rush of excitement, because i was finally going to witness mob justice. Well! not that it was an item on my bucket list but because i would not have to get a second or even third hand story!

As the people kicked and threw stones at the young man, they asked him a series of questions

"Unatoka wapi"?

"Soweto", he replied

"Hapana! Kwenu ni wapi?" They retorted as they hit him harder
"Makueni" he replied

That moment got me thinking... I have called Nairobi home for twenty plus years now. I have travelled to Nakuru and Kisumu to study and when school closed i would say "am going home- to Nairobi": So when people ask me- where am from what should i say?
Do i say Machakos or Matuu or Nairobi?  Honestly i use all of them, depending on the forum? And, who are the "Nairobians?" What qualifies one to be called a "Nairobian?" Is Nairobi really anyone's home? I have been here for two decades, even though every now and then i have to visit my rural home (you see that?), i would still call me an "Ilovian" (hahaha...)

Thursday, 2 June 2016


A Wrapped Gift

Have you ever held on to something that you crisply knew would slide off, no matter how tight a grip you had? Ever held on to a relationship that every instinct in your mundane human body and every annoying relationship expert on radio and newspaper has told you is already doomed to fail? (Yes...). You see you find reasons to stay in that relationship, when you are just about to lose grip you adjust yourself and hold tighter. And one day the imminent happens- the suns completely sets.

You organize a lunch date (more of break up lunch). You agree to meet in a not so fancy place. On the material day, both of you are miserably late for the lunch, but anyway you proceed as earlier arranged. You both know what is about to go down, so you order sad cold drinks- no food, the stomach cannot take anything solid at that moment. You sip your drinks as you exchange sad and sorry glances. Even though you knew this day would come your wounded hearts creep to the brinks of wishful thinking, wishing that things turned out differently. This thing the heart!

At some point both of you are so quiet that you can almost hear the drinks flowing down the esophagus. Then one of you masters enough courage to begin a conversation that is laced with - how did we, we could have, wish we were not... As you finish you drinks the final nail is on the table and you finally hammer it in. You walk out and walk to different directions. Everything is gone and it's just blinding darkness left. Now everything around you reminds you of him/ her, every song is a sad song and everybody around you seems happier.  

The crazy thing is one still feels terrible even though they are not surprised by the outcome. You have promised each other that if things work out some miles down break-upville you will rekindle the flame. Then you get home and begin to really question your decision and immediately a heavy cloud of sadness starts to hover around your head. It's so heavy, you feel like you are running short of breath... and...and...warm tears fall down your cheeks. And they fall continuously and uncontrollably. You try lying on the couch, but it does not give you much comfort, you walk to the bedroom and since you cannot see clearly you hit a wall on your way (saitan!). Darn! the physical pain is crazy but it is inadvertently subdued by the pain you feel in your heart.

You lay on the bed, legs dripping down, face tucked in the pillow and cry the shit out of you. Minutes later you have a blocked nose, scary red swollen eyes and face. You mumble things and sit up. You are two decades and five years old. You are 25, you are alone in the house so you slowly lift yourself up and look around. The house is quiet and every single shit you are supposed to do is just lying there waiting for you to finish your 'madness' and attend to it.

Dear reader, i found myself in a similar predicament a couple of weeks ago. When i snapped out of the seemingly perpetual sobbing, i still had a whole lot of life ahead of me to live. I had to wash up the dishes, i had to prepare a meal for my family, i had to mail back couple of people and i had readers expecting a story on my blog.

So i blew my nose to the kitchen (with my eyes wide open- i didn't want a wall and face situation. With swollen eyes my face was ugly enough, didn't want a swollen forehead).

But isn't that just the thing about being 25? Unless you want to wake up when you are 30, and jaded, when your talent has caught dust and rust, your dreams have long sunk and they seem to pull you with them. Unless you want to be thirty and you are sick worried that you are getting old faster than your dreams are getting accomplished, you gotta show up for every event in life. The good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, when you are broke and when you have plenty- you  just have to show up!

Save for a few peculiar cases, 25 is precarious, its fast and crazy, it may even be lonely and full of disappointments in every sphere of life and it's annoyingly broke.

Honestly, i thought, prayed and hoped that at 25, i would be more (looking back i didn't how i defined more, except more money). I thought my Bachelor's Degree would have scored me a fancy job in a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). I thought i would be running around in a good car (well not necessarily mine!), creating solutions for pertinent issues causing stunted development of third world countries. After all that's what i worked so hard for in University. That's what my interesting and sometimes arduous classes in campus were mostly about. (I told you about that HERE).

But no! at 25 am sitting in a room in the house, its next to dusty road in Tassia. I just finished reading Frederick Forsyth's 'THE ODESSA FILE'. I will resume creating stories for my wonderful readers. I started the blog six months ago and my worst moment was when a story had only eighteen views. Do not mistake this for a complaining rant (am getting to my point, fast!).

Couple of months ago my dad was unwell (i told you about that too, remember? HERE- whaaaat! si i tell you so many things). I wondered how mother dear did it? How did she manage to keep a straight face every morning? Day in day out, she knocked on our bedroom door at dawn to pray with us. 'She must be a superwoman', i thought. Because at that time, i never wanted to face the morning, i wished the sun would not come out, that it would just stay hidden in its secret place to make sure morning never came. Of course my wishes could not stop time. Looking back i think i operated on mother dear's strength.

Slowly though, am beginning to understand: That as an adult showing up in life is a the golden rule. You show up at the table even if what is on the menu freaks the hell out you, you draw a sit and face it dead on.

So at 25,i have a blog. And my worst time is when i have eighteen views in total, honestly the journey has been somewhat rewarding thus far. I was exhilarated that eighteen people read my work. Well! that was until that dangerous bug called comparison bit me. And my mind explained to me how other bloggers were hitting five thousand views a day. And this gave way to the stinking scarcity mentality. 'Five thousand people are already reading nani's blog, i don't think there will be enough for you, i thought.

This bug is dangerous and it is highly attracted to 25's especially those create good breeding conditions.

Hoping from Facebook, to Twitter to Instagram then to reality television (Keeping up with the Kardashians- where half the time they tell you how amazing their lives are and the other half make you feel bad about your sorry life). Everything you see in these destinations, tells you one thing- Everyone is doing better than you, everybody is already making more money than you are. Cut yourself some slack, everybody on social media always looks merrier and so does every character on reality television. (You don't believe?- take a photo run it through one of the image editing applications, make it lighter, make it flawless, put it on Instagram and Facebook and caption... #spathings #YOLO #whereiammeanttobe; and watch people fall in love with your 'perfection'). My point, don't be so raffled by everything that is sold on social media. Instead visit the magunga book store purchase a book and read as you take breaks from grinding your life. Because it is your race.

At 25, my Bachelor's degree is carefully tucked in a drawer (of course there are copies being shredded by an angry secretary somewhere and others being deleted from a company's inbox), i have no fancy office, no monthly check to cash in. Instead i have a blog and i now more than ever fully comprehend that i need to show up. I gotta be here to create a new post every week, i need to be here to see the number of my readers soar. It's never obvious what will happen after a new post, but a post after another am beginning to love my relationship with you. I love it that you come back to read, so i will keep on keeping on.

Because i love it and also at 25, that's what one does. You are in and only in, there is no room to half-ass. Even when you hit a bump, you buckle up and ride on. The days of, 'Kwani jana kuliendaje?'  like dew on a sunny morning are gone.

(Yeah), It's called adulthood. No one sends an application to ask for it. But a time comes, application or no application one is shortlisted and receives a package signed by yours sincerely, life. This is the one package that can never be returned to the sender, it stays with you and waits for you to open it.

Don't chicken out, because if you do life accompanied by the devil will stare at you couple of years down the line. Life will mock you but the devil will cold heartedly laugh at you, with that deep dark laughter that stings worse than a desert scorpion (Trust me! I have seen that dude- i know what he can do!). You will wish you steered on your 'stupid' hobby or talent. You will wonder what would have happened if  you did not shy away from doing the scary uncertain thing, but you won't know because you... you(you know what!)

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