Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Bizarre 'Hotel'

Am Elizabeth Muthama. Daughter to two resilient individuals who have had a tremendous impact on the adult I have grown up to become. I have spent most of my time around my dad than my mother dear, and there is one indelible discipline he has instilled in me -time keeping. The man is such a great time keeper that I think it sucks the fun out of his life! But I can't talk much ill because I have pretty much followed in his footsteps. I love my time, I value it and sometimes am very selfish with it. In fact I have lost some relationships to it.

Last week an old great friend of mine was in town and he requested that we meet to catch up over a cup of coffee. That meant that I would spend most of my day in town. While planning for the day, I remembered all the errands I needed to run in town that I had heaped in procrastination. I swiftly decided lump all those errands on the day we were supposed to meet; in a typical time freak's fashion. The D-day was on a Tuesday.

Before you can presume am an awful friend, you need to know that I work from home and I have a habit of minimizing my trips to town: This has something to do with time, but mostly it's about my purse which is not so fat. The things that are happening to our economy these days have waken the slumbering economist in me. The sad story invariably begins with fuel. It's prices skyrocket and every household commodity expeditiously follows suit. The matatu operators hold press conferences to reveal hiked fare charges owing to the new fuel prices. Then manufacturers follow and explain solemnly why they will charge more for the goods they produce. The horrendous baggage is transferred to the donkey mwananchi. Being a donkey that walks on two legs is anything but easy, so you have to get creative to survive. You have to become a vivacious planner of your finances, lest you become a church mouse.

My friend and I had planned to meet at 11am; so to allow myself enough time for the items on my to do list, I left the house at 7am. God knows what had happened to the mammoth of drivers who flock Nairobi roads every morning because that morning they weren't there. With relatively smooth traffic I was in town at 8:30am (Please don't smirk at that time, it good for someone who leaves in Embakasi!). After grabbing breakfast at Bakers Inn, I paced from office to office, shop to shop to make sure that I was done by 10:30 just in time for my meet-up.

Everybody knows their friends well (at least this is a presumption of  friendship). I knew this friend of mine wasn't the type that would get a 'time keeper of the year' award! So I called him earlier to emphasize that I would be ready to meet him at exactly 11am. He promised that he would be also be ready. After the stern reminder, I began my walk from GPO; headed to Mfangano street to a hotel where he was staying. I trudged on past fast walking Nairobians and when at Mfangano, I took some time to ferret out the hotel. When I arrived there, I checked my watch and realized I was 15minutes early and was aware that I needed a way to kill time until 11am. I figured that would also give him ample time to prepare seeing as he had travelled over the night. At the ground floor of the hotel, there were business premises of all cadre. Some sold phones, others clothing and the rest were cyber cafes. It was so crammed with small business shops that I couldn't find my way to the hotel. One guy who was in the cyber ended the reign of confusion when he showed me the direction to take.

I climbed the staircase to a room on the left which had the name of the hotel written on the left and right walls at the entrance. 'This has to be the place', I thought even though I was hesitant to walk in! There was a problem. The room looked like it was the kitchen so I scrutinized the room for 'out of bounce' sign but there was none! The place was spooky and bizarre. There were eight tables  crammed in the room that made it look smaller; there were four on the left and right and each had four seats, two on each side. Before pulling a seat I asked a huge man with a scar on the left side of the face who sat at a table close to the door whether I was in a kitchen. "If you are looking for the 'XYZ' hotel then you are in the right place", he roared, drawing the attention of every soul in the room to me! There were two more people there; a well built woman with ill-matched clothes who worked on mrenda- I thought she must be Kisii cause of the speed she work with and her accent when she said halo. There was a guy who was stirring a huge sufuria, he donned a red and white Fly Emirates shirt and had a fairly bald head. All the tables were stuffed up with items. I pulled a seat at the table adjacent to goliath. It had four plastic jugs on it which I assumed contained drinking water.

"My friend is staying here, so am waiting for him", I volunteered to say in an effort to dissolve the stern glances they threw at me. "It's okay, pewa chai ukunywe as you wait", said the woman. I wanted to say no, but remembered it was not only impolite to sit in a hotel without ordering anything but it could also breed a fierce and embarrassing altercation. I gave her a friendly smile and said yes. Everything about the hotel was screaming at me to leave, but with my stubborn head I chose to stay!

For the few minutes I had been there, not a single customer walked in save from one woman who came in and spoke then left hurriedly. I was really curious as to why there were no customers walking in. There was something off about the place and my theory was about to be a proved law.

I sat there sipping the hot tea, careful not make a mess because the table was rocky and squeaky every time I put my cup on the table. Suddenly the guy in the kitchen who donned a Fly Emirates shirt shouted, "Karibu nieke chai chumvi!", believe it or not they all laughed. I simply painted a grin on my face to show them that my feeling about the salt/ sugar situation was mutual. Truth is it wasn't! And one week later I still don't get the joke. Perhaps this guy had a habit of substituting sugar with salt and salt with sugar. Maybe it was intentional and not an accident like he claimed. Whatever their reason for laughter was, I know the devil had orchestrated it. He is the only guy I know who would find such a thing amusing. Probably another reason my ribs were not cracked by the ordeal was the fact that I had a  darn cup of tea on my hands. The saddest thing was that none of them minded that their topic of discussion sparked a queasy feeling in my stomach. "Kama umeeka chumvi kidogo ongeza tu maji", the woman told him as she wiped tears from the edges of her eyes.
The scenario that the wise men had in mind when they talked about  birds of a feather had to be strikingly similar to what I was going through. I was the bird with an odd feather.

My cup was already half full. But if the tea I was drinking went through what I had just witnessed there was no chance in hot hell of taking another sip. The universe must have had a born to pick with me that day, because as I stared at the cup whose content was now cold I noticed something yellow on the wall of the cup. I couldn't make out whether it was a mere stain or just a foreign substance in my tea. But believe me there was no confusion on how I felt about the yellow thing! My mouth begun tasting funny and revolutions set off in my stomach. The room was suddenly chilly but sweat formed under my armpits and on my forehead. My stomach and my mouth begun to coordinate as the nausea welled up. I frantically called my friend with a tone that was laced with fear and anger- "nimekungojea hapa, uko wapi?"

"I have been waiting for you in the dining room, where are you?"


When I said that out loud, goliath behind me volunteered to show me where the dining was. I asked for a bill then he said, "pea ule fifty bob", pointing to the woman who was nearly done working on mrenda.
There was no written bill!! Guys there was no written bill!! That's when it dawned on me that I had just had a nightmare of a hotel experience. I hysterically searched through my purse, pulled out a fifty shillings note and handed it to the woman then followed goliath.
I thought I had seen it all in the bad hotel department while in Maseno University. Oh! How wrong I was! Very wrong!!
The dining was cloistered on the second floor. Safely tucked from the mad drama that was in kitchen. As I walked in I saw my friend in the farthest corner and went to him. I walked glancing at the customers that were scattered in the room, enjoying their meals unaware of the drama their food went through before it rested on their plates. My friend stood to hung me and I kept the hug as brief and soft as I could since my stomach was in a delicate state and any slight provocation may have led me to release toxic concoctions through my mouth and other places!
As I sat down, the terrible experience I had had in the place I believed was the hotel's kitchen replayed in my mind and this did not allow my stomach that was grumbling ample time to convalesce. My mind unsuccessfully tried to comprehend the yellow thing in the cup. Being a paranoid Nairobian, I begun to think those kitchen folks had drugged me.
I barely payed attention to my friend as he told me his life story. All I could see was the white cup and the yellow monster on its walls. All I thought of was how the tea was moving in my stomach as the poison was transported through my body. I was so alert waiting for the moment I would feel dizzy and black out. If that was going to happen, at least it would happen with my friend around. Then he would keep the vultures from pouncing on me! I pulled a trick from my sleeves and vowed to keep him for at least two hours. I stalled the conversation and asked thousands of questions even though my system did not give me the peace I needed to focus on the answers. The deities were graceful enough to give me some strength to keep the conversation going. After all, according to my mind it was either being strong to survive or becoming weak to be ravaged by 'imaginary' or not predators.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Never Lack...

Last weekend, the arguably fearless commotion sparking Njoki Chege took on a prominent lawyer on her column for showing of his wealth on social media. According to Njoki the behaviour was unbecoming for a man fast approaching his fifties. Paragraph after paragraph she undressed this man's conduct leaving him exposed to the ravenous KOT. Some members of the KOT movement took no issue with the lawyer's opulent lifestyle painted all over his social media pages while the rest added onto Njoki's condemnation.

As I read the soul piercing words published in the Nairobian, I asked myself: "Who doesn't want to be rich?" - At least I know I do. I want to be rich. I want to have a mini show room of vehicles that I don't even use in my backyard and call them 'my toys'. I want profuse shopping holidays in the goddamn Dubai malls that I have only seen on Google and on socialites Instagram photos, because at that time Kenyan malls won't have the capacity to satiate my need to spend. And maybe when I have all these, I will flaunt them a little on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. I will caption photos telling my followers how good of a life am living. Then I I don't know what I will do next! Perhaps I will end up on Njoki Chege's column!!

But hey, I have lived for two and quarter decades in this world. And if there is any lesson I have learned in these years is that folks don't always get what they want! I used to have faith in good academic papers. I have seen people acquire them at a simple cost and those who have godfathers, don't need the darned papers to get their dream jobs.
Am a grown ass adult who has seen wretched public officials open the public purse and draw billions of money as if it's a freaking personal account and still have the nerve to seek re-election in the name of kutumikia wananchi!  
I have seen atrocious murder propagated the very agents who have sworn to protect citizens and their property. So it's a crazy world and a crazier country and what one wants may/ may not get: the two can be profoundly disturbing antonyms, different sides of very different coins!

Key thing is, things are not always what they ought to be or even what we want  them to be.

This means that there are people of God in this world who will never be Donald Kipkorirs'. In the sense of behemoth wealth...not being bashed in a column! There are early birds, God fearing and devil condemning birds who will never catch the fat tasty worm! People who will never have a vehicle yard in their own homes and never get to refer exquisite car models as toys. I may or may not be in this category. If I am that's great, if am not isorait- I have a big ass mansion waiting for me in heaven!!

The idea of becoming filthy rich does not raffle me so much. But I don't want to be poor either. I have a standard and there is a rung I hope to never go below.

I just never want to lack.

You see I have lacked before. I have stayed without electricity for months because we were disconnected by Kenya Power for defaulting payment for several months- this was before pre-paid electricity was a conceived vision! I have had to eat githeri with nothing but salt because that's all my dear parents could afford. I have cried myself to sleep because I was out of school for weeks owing to fee arrears. My friend I know what it means to lack! And I absolutely abhor the feeling it brings with it, because it is anything but ennobling!

Here's the deal! I may never post a photo on Instagram leaning on a Lamborghini donning an overpriced Gucci dress. I may never own a fleet of exquisite cars that I don't need, but I sure as death never want to lack. If I ever have kids, I want to give them the best education and fund some fun. I want to be more today than I was yesterday and be better tomorrow than I was today. I need to be better than my parents because they have opened for me opportunities they never had. I want to see progress in my life!

Have you ever lacked? And I don't mean lacking sausage in the morning because mum forgot to buy them, or they were out of stock in the nearby shop. I mean elaborate lacking! The kind that draws your tears from their store. The kind where you are in a quandary over cooking your food because you ran out of paraffin and literally have no coin to replenish the empty bottle. Leaving you to wait till all the customers have left the local kiosk then you dart there to get some on credit. Adding more items on a growing list of items you have taken on credit!
Am talking about the kind of lack where you have to cut down your expenditure in campus and rely on the icky food provided by the varsity mess because you are quickly approaching the broke line! But no! Not that you had a drinking spree over the weekend, it's because you had to send some of your HELB upkeep money home to send your baby who is a form four candidate back to school!

The science of human psychology has explained the potential impacts of feeling insufficient on a person, this effects are not standard to all men. Having come face to face with it, you understand that it is not an imaginary monster that lurks in the dark corners of closets waiting to come out in the night: you know it's as real as cold death and scary taxes. With irony the weight of an anvil, insufficiency can mold you to become a butt kicking individual.

You grow up to hate lacking: In fact it is your second fear after snakes! A mere thought about it torments you like a crazy vindictive ghost. So you set out on a nearly sacred odyssey to create a life where insufficiency stays thousands of miles from you. There are tons of distractions along the way and the possibility of things going awfully raw lie in every darn corner. Some failure is always looming over your horizon. You have confidence in your plans, and you have memorized the quote that 'if you don't plan you plan to fail'. The quote, however crazy it sounds pumps some courage in your maze of a life. Cause even the best laid plans come face to face with unprecedented obstacles and the product of the collision becomes the textbook definition of failure! There are no guarantees, but anything is better than living a life of insufficiency!

We all admire success. And we want everybody to grin at our success story. The definition of success in our digital society is completed by the biggest spender, the one who has most cars, the one with flashy photos captured from exotic locations across the world and the one with the keys to the executive bathrooms. The ones whose stories are told in a few Facebook photos highlighted with surplus and luxury! Photos mainly meant to incite envy and admiration. But these stories are redacted, the definitions leave out an integral part of the stories- failure, at least for those who had to build the life from scratch.

When you set out on a journey to achieve something in life, there is usually one guarantee- of failure. Failure is not fan, but in irony it does bring the best out of us. Failure allows us to see things we couldn't in its absence, opening for us new possibilities and appreciation. Moving on past failure leads us to discover ourselves, that we are strong willed, wiser and stronger than we think: And this is power to press on.

Every success emblem printed on the Forbes cover page or published on some millionaire's Facebook page often has a few paragraphs of advice on what everyone yearning to be successful should do to hit the bull's eye. The other paragraphs celebrate the aura of this demigod who can buy air if they want to. Those who didn't inherit the money from dad or grandpa a story longer story. A story that when you take a closer look you will see lack behind it and a struggle to better. A story that cannot fit in few pages. A story that is rarely told!

Finally; to you, butt kicking individual who is struggling to keep lack at bay. You who are throwing punches at life but you seem o have more failures than wins. Keep running. Keep doing. And when you fail remember that it's an inevitable means to an end, it's not the end. Don't relent otherwise you will lack, completely. You won't be able to buy your kids sausage and ice cream and keep them in a great private school. Press on life won't fail to reward you. This is not a story about a destination, it's about a journey and you are well on track.

May you never lack. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Dreamers Wanted..

A couple of weeks ago I found myself at the nucleus of an argument. 'How is that even you ask?' It is very possible and the thing is it does not happen when you are in slumber land, rather when you are awake as a night owl. The most common way of 'finding yourself' in one, is engaging in a good debate, on a simple subject with nice people and then when you are in too deep the subject changes and the participants gang up on you! And that's when you ask like I did- "How the hell did I get here?"

Even when Nairobi is very hot, somehow our house remains cold; it must be the price of living on the fourth floor. So when room temperature threaten to freeze my creative mind I normally bask outside in the sun in the balcony. On this particular day I decided, not to bask from the balcony but went right outside the apartment gate and sat on some stones in a corner that was associated with jobless graduates and macho men who whistled at girls passing by. They were never there in the morning cause I guess when you are jobless and sly, you don't need to wake up early; you have your breakfast at midday leave your house  to your sad corner where you attempt to make girls passing by as sad as you are.

I sat there, enjoying the free glorious warmth of the sun as I tweeted, re-tweeted and liked photos on Facebook; then two women joined me. They were from the apartment opposite ours and we were only acquaintances. They said hi to me and sat, one on my right and the other on the left. Our common goal dissolved the unfamiliarity between us and soon we begun a conversation. By the way Kenya is not so much the place where people don't talk to strangers, how many times have you made a friend in a matatu with your seatmate after being stuck in the traffic jam for hours? A couple? A lot? Yeah me too.
The situation there was pretty much the same. We begun conversing about the weather. Each of us opened up about- how we deal with the cold? And I learned two things- a)Hot beverages can only do so much in relieving cold and b)I was so darn unlucky for not having a boyfriend: Cause in cold times they come in handy ( I mean literally). We also complained about the weather, hating on both the hot and cold and throwing in our shallow meteorological knowledge (the Kenyan know it all fashion!)-if God wanted to help us then he wouldn't because am sure we left Him very confused!
Somehow we started discussing; women, family and career. I honestly have no idea who cued these sticky issue into a simple discussion about weather (you will find out how sticky they can get in a moment). But am certain it wasn't me, simply because combined with politics they have never been my favorite topics. Bearing in mind how the debate went down though, I would have preferred to talk about the chances of Eugene Wamalwa being the next Governor in Nairobi, or what exactly will happen to all the money lost in the NYS scandal! Anything would do but family, women, marriage and career.
Both ladies were mothers, I wasn't (am still not!). They had jobs which guaranteed a regular pay check every month end, I didn't (I still don't!). The one on my right was married. Well it depends on what definition of marriage works for you! Marriage here means- after her boyfriend knocked her up, they moved in together, she changed her Facebook marital status to 'married' and every photo she posted on Facebook of him and the child was accompanied by hash tags; #hubbytings #happywife #bestfriendsforlife. She was a Mrs. Someone!
The other lady was well on her way to marriage land. She had already set plans in motion to move in with her baby daddy. For a variety of reasons you have seen, i was the odd bean in the pod and anything I said or did had the potential of coming home to roost!

I sat there and quietly listened to them profess their pride of being mothers and wives. I was genuinely happy for them and congratulated them- it's the best anyone in my shoes would do. And they were happy that I thought they were good mothers. But that didn't last long! I mentioned that I wanted to postpone motherhood until my career left the runway and soared to the sky. Big mistake! Very big mistake! Well you can even say mistakes, because 1)I shouldn't have opened my heart to acquaintances who the line that separated them from being strangers was pretty thin and 2)I should just have stopped at the warm congratulations, instead of insinuating motherhood would slow my career down. The two women read mockery in my statement (I assure you there was none!) They believed I perceived myself to be better than them because I was not a young mother or even a wife like they were and just like that the good mood the weather debate had created disappeared, swallowed up by the heavy air of a sticky issue. The sun stopped being warm and I felt a cold shill run through my body.

They condemned my attitude to consciously postpone motherhood labeling it un-African. Embracing motherhood, they explained was an imperative indicator of how proud I was to be an African and Kenyan for that matter. They even quoted swahili proverbs- "Mwacha mila ni mtumwa". I was the mwacha mila and the mtumwa, at the same darn time! Too much to carry on two shoulders, hey? They were so fired up and persistently pointed their arsenals at me! I attempted to explain that mine was a choice just like any other, but they couldn't let me finish a sentence; and sitted on my right hand and left it was so easy for them to do it.
My readiness to sacrifice family at the career alter nearly made them go gaga. They profusely explained that they had careers and families and they lived notably comfortable lives, financially, emotionally and basically everything-ally. That with their income however small, added to their husbands'/ boyfriends' was just about enough! They at that moment (at least) from their chant, were perfect emblems of proud African women.

Had there been a moderator, I would have been declared the loser.

Here is the thing: When you find yourself  in a discussion that every sense the good God has given you tells you isn't going anywhere, the best option is to walk away. But there is always a part of every mortal that is appealed by ego that tempts you to stay and stick it up. That part I guess is normally under old Lucifer's rule cause it is always wrong! For a while my ego took the best of me and I sat there sandwiched trying to raise my voice only to be overcome by my opponents; but when the penny dropped, I made a decision to leave and I left. I was upset that these women were so judgmental of my choices, that they did not leave room for an opinion contrary to theirs. But i was more furious that my quiet basking time, turned out to be an ideological battlefield. To be fair, I also played a role in adding diesel to the debate.

As I climbed up the stairs to the house, my armpits sweaty and my pulse rate faster than normal; I wondered why they did not understand me. I wished they would take a closer look at the society at the time I was a young adult, and see that this is what I learned from everything that was going on then. And there I had an epiphany- 'This could be a blog post!'  

But this is not about me, it's about my generation!

At the time of our birth, our mothers had limited access to opportunities just by the virtue of being women. Just like other mothers across Africa and the world, their progress was  unfairly clipped by patriarchal structures in the society. Our mothers grew up at a time when the boy child had relentless support from the society on everything they dream of doing. Boys were free to go wild  while they (our mothers) on the other hand did not get much invested in their ambitions. They were viewed as caregivers who remained at home to care for younger siblings, ailing family members and the old. This role was given priority, and not their education. Those who went to high school were lucky, those who went and finished were luckier and for most primary school was the end of the road for education. This meant that the men had little competition for resources for further education.

Seeing as their wasn't much for them; while still young they left their homes to begin their families with their husbands. But they soon found out that what was on the marriage table wasn't very different from what they had left behind in their parents' homes. They became depended on their husbands and when honeymoon was over and the candles of the fresh marriage begun to burn out, disrespect and violence set in. They were for a second time betrayed by the society. Dreams they had for themselves were suffocated before they could flourish.

They had almost given up all hope, but then we were born. They were told they must have more and more sons, but they had us. And they knew fate was cooking something that would bring joy to their lives! So when we came out crying, they quickly counted our fingers and toes-we were whole! And for once the seemingly eternally dark tunnel had a ray of hope, for they saw little angels who would build the legacy they didn't.

Lady luck favored them; for at the same time, other women trailblazers were already challenging status quo. Becoming a voice for all women oppressed by patriarchal systems. And we grew up at a time when they made meaningful gains in their fight. Organized patriarchy started to give way to gender equality rules and laws that were embedded in National constitutions and international conventions.

This is when a generation of young women became, Alpha females! A generation am part of. Raised with a feminist credo that; we could do as much as men and more! That we had a responsibility to go off the script. Our mothers also sat us down to give us secrets that were not found in the testosterone book, they dissected their lives for us to see who exactly they were, their failures, ambitions and achievements and told us:

"My daughter I once had dreams, but I did not achieve them. I will not make excuses, and I need you to learn that making excuses does not solve anything. What happened to me doesn't matter right now, what you will do about achieving your ambitions however does! So get out there and strive to achieve like the men and even be. Step over rungs that I didn't. Be greater than I was. The dreams I thought had died, have found fresh expression in you my daughter"

With these words they passed the baton to us. So we set out to be daughters that our mothers would be proud of. As our understanding of the world grew deeper and as we looked up to the women at the vanguard of female empowerment we created more definitions of success. We stopped believing in marriage before personal stability especially in the financial space. We believed that postponing motherhood until we were ready for it increased our chances of success, so that we would pass something better to the next generation. Our world became one of choices and motherhood became an option not a prerequisite for fulfilling adulthood.

Yes, we take responsibility of the choices we have made; but we are also products of a manufacturing system that taught us to be more and do more. We have made mistakes and chances are we will make more. Please cut us some slack when we make some of these 'radical' decisions. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

A Place Called Home

Image Credit:

Here is the story of a lost soul trying to find hope and meaning, in a place called home. Because sometimes hope is found in the place where the story began!

"I can see how startled you are by my arrival; i can only hope that my surprise is welcome. Am sorry i didn't tell you i would be coming, for it was kind of an emergency! Am losing hope, am crying too much and i need this brokenness inside me to heal: Am at the precipice dystopia and in desperate need of inspiration, a somewhat physical evidence of the person I used to be and the first humble steps of my life. I promise am not using you. I need you and i need all the memories you hold of me. Please hold out your hands and receive me!

Am sorry about the way i left you in 1998. Darn! i remember that day vividly i was leaving for Nairobi in search  for a opportunities to be better and may be best. I tried to teach you the pronunciation- "NA-I-RO-BI", i told you. But you kept saying- I-LO-VI! We laughed even though you were clearly sad. Nairobi... (Oh shoot! i will work with your pronunciation!). Ilovi was brutal to me; on our first minute there we lost all the money we had. It was very cold and could not give me the warmth you gave. Ilovi has given me the opportunities of my adult life. I have made friends here and got a mentor who has been helping me learn the ropes around the blogging space. She has a place in my heart, but can never replace you!

Ilovi does not care when i cry. But you care! My sadness i have come to learn makes you uneasy. So many times you have taken away my tears. You've always dried them so fast as if you don't want anybody else to see me cry, then you allow me to lay my head on your strong shoulders. I have seen you try to siphon my sadness, take my burdens so i never have to carry them again and how much failing tore you apart.
Ilovi doesn't know me like you do. She thinks my heart is made of iron and steel, you know it's not. I have my beautiful legs, she says, but you can see scars that she cannot see. She says i don't worry, you know how long i stay awake worried about the future. So allow me to be here and sock in the inspiration and say a proper thank you for everything you have done for me.

I learned that Google doesn't know much about you. How can he know me and not know you? I told him your name- 'Kitheuni'. Then he tried to correct me! Some of my friends have refused to learn to pronounce your name. "KI-TH-E-U-NI!” i ask them to say, only for them to ridicule your name; Kitheni, Ketheni- they say amid laughter. Am planning to let them go if they go on like that!
Because in you is where it all began. I want to be with you even if it's for a day. For here is where i learnt to take my first step, learnt to say- a, b, c..., though with a ridiculously heavy kao accent oblivious that decades later i would be a master of sorts in the language.

I want to stand on that road that fiercely cuts through your skin, where i had my first fight! Honestly, am a little envious of the road. Even though she tears through your skin, you have stuck with her for centuries. Many a politician have made her promises, to make her better. Make sure she is no longer muddy in the rains and dusty in the dry season. But they have all broken their promises. There is this new one called 'Governor', i wonder whether he will break her heart like the rest of them! We'll have to wait to find out. You have never left her like they did. I need you to teach me to be hopeful, perseverant and patient just like you.

Then i want to stand on that defiant tiny ridge next to the road, the one that has withstood fierce waters and hot sun. For from there i will see six year old me stopping on her way to school to look at the lazy yet powerful sun rising, proudly and gently stretching it's rays, to take away the cold in the morning air. I want to see me so happy at the knowledge that the sun woke up to walk me to school. I want to see me hold tight to my Kimbo tin full of 'githeri' for lunch, and scoop a few spoons on the way. I know it will remind me of my humble beginnings. While on the ridge, i will see my friends Mutune and Mwende waiting for my sister and i to join them for a kilometer walk to school. They were always early but never complained about it. On our way, we used to kick a polythene bag ball that Mutune made; it was so much fun. Mutune nowadays works in Mombasa. Life came between us and eroded our friendship. I have no idea where Mwende is, after form four she just disappeared into Nairobi. Some people say she married a Meru guy and went to live there. Whatever her secret life is, her mother has managed to keep it so because not even prying village women have not been able to get the truth out of her. But still i will be reminded of loyal friendship. Friendship that transcends weaknesses.

After that i will go home and join my mother in doing some farm work. While walking to the farm, i will remember the day she found my sister and i hiding in a ridge having skipped school. I will stare at that ground where it used to lay and remember how she pulled us out with furious love (literally!) and gave us a beating that resonated for a decade! This memory will warm my heart and remind me of my mother's love that has been steady for years- love that has made me a stronger woman. I will smile and know the healing has begun.

I want to catch a glimpse of a timid me one more time, so i will wake up early on Sunday and watch kids pace to church. Behold i will see five year old me walking to Sunday school on a chilly Sunday morning, wearing a dress exactly like my sister's. I will remember how much she hated it when mama bought us similar clothes. She complained we looked like twins! But that's what we were (and still are)! But i loved it when we matched our clothes, because it told everyone i was a sister to the bravest girl in the village (at least i thought so!). That thought gave me incredible courage. I will watch myself quietly dissolve in the bevy of tiny loud girls. My refreshed memory will remind me that i have not always been courageous, that there were days when nobody knew my name and i was just- "sister ya Janet". I loved it but a time came to grow out of my sister's shadow, even though i was shit scared i made it. And at that moment, i will pause to appreciate every brave step i have taken in my life (by this time i will feel healing practically flowing through my veins)

Am dying to peek at myself on Christmas day in 2001. Excited that i was wearing a new dress but freaked out as hell over the memory verse i was going to recite before the congregation. The Sunday school teacher conspired with my mother to make sure i had a memory verse. I think she just wanted the church to see her other daughter. At least i got the shortest verse and the most common one (John3:16). Thanks to this memory, i will stop to take for granted the fact that i can speak in front of a crowd of any size today: And choose to be more grateful and happier!

I also want to sit under the old tree outside our gate. There i will see fourteen year old me. Tired after a long sunny day at the farm, yet zealous enough to spare some reading time. I used to sit there as i quietly read through the lines of an old newspaper. The excitement of the thought that one day i would be a journalist was my only distraction from the newspaper; so oblivious of the twists and turns life would take me through before hitting bull's eye. Or even the fact that fate had a whole different idea in mind for me. This vivid memory will rejuvenate me and help me understand that dreaming never grows old. My energies will be replenished so i can face the obstacles at hand.

There is a stone that stands between my parents’ bedroom and the kitchen. It majestically sits on the spot where we used to put a three legged stool to sit on as mama shaved us. She shaved us with a gadget we simply referred to as- 'ka-machine'. The gadget had a small slit at the front where a sharp razor blade (Nacet) would be firmly fit. I was always shaved last cause i was afraid, so mama took more time with me. As the razor blade made fierce trips on my head tears would roll down my cheeks; it was profoundly uncomfortable and i would fidget making it difficult for mama to work effectively and she would respond with a stinging pinch that left my ear hot. My emotions would run over seeing my sisters and my brother laughing at me. I will relive that moment and it will be a good reminder that part of my heart is made of fragile material. And it's okay to fear, to cry, and to be frail when my expectations are not met. Because that fragile part combined with the iron part make me whole.

When am done i will probably be physically exhausted but my heart will be the walls of Jericho! So i will go to lie on my bed. I will be excited so before falling asleep i will stare at the strong blue iron sheets. They will stare back prejudicially, with absolute knowledge of the role they play. But they don't know my story. They don't know i can do without them; simply because once upon a time i did. I will remember when i was sixteen. The day when i lay on a bed in the same room as typhoid sucked away all my strength and a snake fell through the tired worn out sheets. I will see the days we had to wake up in cold rainy nights to shift the position of our beds to escape the angry raindrops that fell through the old rusty sheets. I will smile at that memory, for it will be a gentle reminder of where i have come from; of a day that i had less yet i was happy. I will learn to be grateful for everything i have and works towards what i don't have without complaining.

My heart will beam with happiness. The purpose i traveled for will be fulfilled. I will be stronger, wiser, happier and more grateful. And i will fall asleep like a baby. Because that's all i came here to be-a baby. For the few days i will be here i will not be an adult. I will simply be a baby of A place called Home! When am done i will go back to the city, i won't promise not to be back. I will visit often for you give me the strength i need to face the world."

 "Thank you for choosing me to be born here."

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