Monday, August 29, 2011

Hi, my name is Renatta

I don’t believe that we have been properly introduced (Guys, this is one sober pick up line). I took some time over the weekend to work on this blog – the design, theme, font, the works. We are now doing a font called ‘Trebuchet’, and the headings are in a font called ‘coming soon’- I swear I did not make that up. You like?

Anyway, I realized that the closest thing that comes to a description of who I am is the one sentence in the “About Me” section -I can do bad all by myself - which is not saying much “about me” really. Come to think of it, I come of as a higher than life self-centered mama who holds herself up there awaiting a dramatic descent from sanctimonious glory. If this has been your perception of me, today I wish to remedy that. I am not that woman described by Everclear in the song “She’s so high above me” I am more of that woman Dolly Parton sings about in “She’s an eagle when she flies”. So that line in the ‘about me’ section has to go. But what will I replace it with?

That I am Shy? Fastidious? True to myself? I could dare say that I wear my skin quite comfortably. That I cherish silence- Especially when I wake up in the morning. I love falling asleep to soft music. I was a deep sleeper until I got kids; I think a ‘mother’ switch was turned on somewhere ‘pap!

I might just add that I love coffee. I however don’t like eggs; fried, boiled, scrambled, I hate them all. I love the Kebabs that are served in Eldoret restaurants (my hometown) -they have always tasted divine. Nairobi restaurants should borrow a leaf. Though I don’t junk much, I am not a fanatic of healthy eating. Food is food, I eat what I eat and my body takes care of the rest.

If you have to know, I never go out of my way to impress people, so I end up being the background music in most conversations. Sometimes I am noticed, sometimes I am not - It doesn’t bother me when I am not. Being a quiet person, my fanatical love for rock and hip-hop music is one part of me I don’t quite understand.

I know humans to be naturally selfish and therefore trust no one 100%. People tend to always look out for their own interest so I know that there is nothing like free lunch. I have made some exceptions, but I have ended up being disappointed- I hate disappointments.

I could mention that I believe in God. That I try to stay true to Him and He knows that I am not perfect – doesn’t He know everything? The God I believe in knows every dark secret in the core of my being so I know I can never pretend to be someone I am not. Not to Him at least. I know there are other gods that people look up to; gods that don’t mind hypocrisy. Why else would there be so many evangelical ministries whose main agenda is to con naïve people out of their little money? I do not associate God with wealth, power or religion. God is just God. I just might confess that sometimes I feel his presence more from the confines of my home, than from a church building.

I believe in love and friendship. Though I love the idea of romantic love and fairy tales, I am a realist. Is it appropriate to add that I don’t believe in marriage; straight or gay? Straight marriages because love fades and after that two people are left to screw each other up and make life a living hell until the day they die. Unless there is something I don’t know about marriage yet, I simply don’t understand why a great number of people (read women) go to great lengths to have a ring on their finger. I don’t think Gays are ‘Born that way’- Siamese twins are ‘born that way’. I do not believe that gay couples should raise children either. I know that I am not the only one who thinks that a gay couple raising children (a product of a male-female union)is oxymoronic if nothing else.

I won’t forget to add that I am a sucker for humor, so naturally I love comedies. I cannot stand Mexican soaps or Afrosinema ‘oga’ movies. My perfect weekend is spent indoors with a good movie or series. I am not a ‘party-loving’ person and so I don’t ‘heng’ out. You could call me a social drinker, if one drink in a couple of months qualifies me as such. I think that alcohol is overrated. I get my high from listening to music –my earphones are my best friend.

I might also volunteer that I have spent seven hours in a cell but due to no fault of mine. The matatu I was traveling in was impounded and we were all “arrested” for not wearing seat belts, never mind that the vehicle had none. And I use the word ‘arrested’ quite loosely.

I could add that I cry more when I am moved emotionally (like when watching a touching movie) than when I am hurt physically. When I am pissed, I write; when I am hurt, I cry. I am a secretive person and so naturally I don't kiss and tell. I don’t talk much about my life either so consider this a real treat. Hehe…

I suffer a powerful conscience making it hard for me to screw people over even when I would like to dish it out to people who really deserve it. I however have an evil side which involves not reminding the matatu conductor to pick my fare and paying for stuff in one shilling coins only. Now the latter, I seriously enjoy! I only subject certain people like matatu conductors to this inconvenience – No. I don’t hate them. I only love seeing their faces when I pay my fare with twenty one-shilling coins then I go “Sina pesa ingine”, while I am thinking “Uta do?” Most of them never even bother to count the many tu-coins; they just toss it irritably into their pockets. Is it even normal that I enjoy doing that so much?

I believe that a woman can do anything that a man can so long as it does not involve siring children or using their muscles. I believe that men act silly most of the time- they are capable of love, greatness and amazing insights but most of the time they are idiots and that is why we (women) are here – to keep the idiocy and the egos at manageable levels. I know that no man can do without a woman, the reverse is however not true. Men know this to be a fact but very few dare to admit it.

I am not a morning (or moaning) person. I hate formality. I love children. I hate drama. I am strict (this I'm told, so I can’t verify) House helps are allergic to me (or is it the other way round?) and I have therefore had a very high turnover of house helps so far, and counting…

What else would you like to know? My favorite colour is purple. I am a Virgo. Erm... that basically sums it all up.

Well, now you know ABOUT ME. Hopefully, my arguments henceforth will not suffer from ad hominem tu quoque fallacies - after all I did not hold up my bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truth is still out there…

One final hurdle, how do I summarize all this information to fit into the ‘About me’ section?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A smiling face in High Dependency

HDU stands for High Dependency Unit. But you already knew that no? This is one of the sections of a hospital that makes one to really think hard about so many things; Life, Death, God, Health, People, Friends, Enemies, Frenemies, Family, Cars, Politicians, Fuel… (Ok, I am kidding about the last three)

I spent 3 nights in this unit early this month from the night of July 30th till the morning of August 2nd. These were the most trying moments for me as a human being and mostly as a mother.

Heidi fell sick in the wee hours of Tuesday, 26th July. I first noticed that she was not ok when she became very irritable at around 2 am. Then it started- That noisy breathing that was to make me a walking zombie for the next one and a half weeks. We walked into hospital hoping to get treatment and go back to living our lives. Little did I know that from the pediatric casualty of Aga Khan Hospital, we were to be admitted to the children’s wards. Upon admission I thought, well they should indeed watch her overnight just to make sure that she is breathing fine. Little did I know that one night would turn into nine days!

Nine nights during which I barely slept. Nine days during which I showered not just to clean myself, but mostly to feel the almost scalding water run through my aching body. Nine days during which, I sometimes forgot to brush my teeth (something I am very particular about) Nine days during which I sneaked in a few minutes for myself to have a good cry - in my sleep and in the shower, but never in public; I had to be strong. Nine days that I depended so much on my family that I could not even dare to imagine what a mess I would be without them. Nine very long days; very tiring and trying days. Nine days of looking up to God and the doctors to make my girl well again.

During those days, I cried, I prayed, I gave up, I hoped. I sat with Heidi, slept with Heidi, played and prayed with Heidi. I even tried to negotiate with God at some point.

This was the night Heidi went to distress and had to be transferred from the general wards to HDU. I could barely think. I held her in my arms the whole night. Even when those codes that are connected to a monitor were strapped to her chest, I held her even when a mask for nebulization (look, I learnt a new medical term!) was put over her face. She cried, and I spoke to her the whole time. Soothing her, telling her that she would be fine. That I was there with her, not to be afraid. I was scared. My feet were cold and my arms were aching.

When she managed to fall asleep, I turned to God and had a very long conversation with him. It went something like;

“I have been good, haven’t I? Is it just me or am I actually a good person: I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm… I consult you every single day before I get out of bed. I remember to say thank you for my meals that are consistent and for the good health I have enjoyed since forever. I turn back to you at night before I hit the sack just to check in and to keep thanking you. There is nothing I take for granted, nothing. Neither the air that I breathe nor the perfect functionality of my five senses. I remember to thank you for not getting hit by a random vehicle while I crossed the road, that the driver whose matatu I boarded to work was sane and sober, for not running into armed thugs on my way from work. I thank you that I have an education, a job and I never forget to thank you for the person that I am; that I can speak for myself and that I have the confidence to follow what I deem right and to object to anything that I feel is not right. I thank you for my mother, my father, my children’s father, my brothers and sister , everyone in my life– some who know me like the back of their hand, others who barely know me. I keep thanking you for Hailey & Heidi; the two most important people in my life. Every single day I thank you that Heidi can have milk, food to eat, clothes and even diapers to wear. I thank you when Hailey does not break a leg when she jumps from furniture to furniture. I thank you when she does not come into contact with dangerous appliances that could cause her harm. I thank you when she is dropped home from school in one piece. Every single day I remember to thank you when I get home from work and Hailey runs into my arms to promptly demand for chocolate and yoghurt even before I am through hugging her. I never forget to thank you for Heidi’s smiling face when she sees me walk through the door…..So where have I gone wrong? Why is my little girl helpless and sick and weak and where is that smile Lord? Why is my daughter not smiling tonight?”

Then suddenly I went blank. Words failed me and I had nothing else to say. I eventually managed to plead “Please make my girl well again Lord. Please heal my little girl”, and I promptly fell asleep.

Heidi was smiling the next day. And even then, I didn’t forget to thank God.

Motherhood! What a load we take up, huh?! For the nine days in hospital, when Heidi made the slightest movement I was on my feet to check on her. I checked the machine that monitored her vitals for the heart rate, blood oxygen and respiration levels every waking minute (I learned a thing or two about this "MD" jargon too) I asked the doctors all the questions I could think of. I insisted on knowing what medicine they were giving her and what it was for. I refused to take any chances. At some point, my colleagues from work who had come to visit remarked that I had lost weight. “Damn! There goes my chance to grace LMK’s slimpossible program!” I lamented. They could only shake their heads.

In all these, I knew that God had the powerful card. The Ace. And I trusted Him to use it on us.

He did. We were out of hospital on August 4th.

Sometimes I have to ask myself, do my girls have the slightest idea how much power they wield over me? That smile from Heidi, and the laughter from Hailey cannot be compared to ANYTHING that walks the face of this planet. Nothing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Embarrassing conversations caused by drooling

For the last couple of weeks, I have not had the pleasure of ignoring unwanted phone calls. This is because of Heidi; my beautiful ever-smiling 8month old daughter. See, she messed up my mobile phone by drooling all over it. She is at an age where everything she holds has to pass through her mouth for validation. My phone went from her playful hands and with joyful coos swiftly made its way to her mouth. By the time I realized that my phone was being gnawed at, it was swimming in drool!

I however did not think much of it. Wiping it clean I proceeded to do what I should have done before she got her hands on it; keep it out of reach. Boy did she make a fuss! She cried and gave me that look. You know the look; that which seems to beseech you to stop harassing the life out of her? “Why do you do such mean things to me?” Is what she was saying with her beautiful eyes. If I lived in the USA and someone happened to walk in at that moment to find her wailing like that, I am positive that she would be shipped to a children’s home if only to get her away from mean mothers like me. Woishe?!

Wiping the phone clean on the outside, I never bothered to open it and check on the battery and all. I was once advised by her father that should my phone ever get in contact with water, the first step I was to do was dismantle it and leave it that way for a couple of hours -that was sorta like a ‘first aid’ tip for mobile phones. In retrospect, I really have to ask why he felt the need to share this information with me. Like I have a ‘reputation’ or something…?

This apparently important piece of advice slipped my mind and a day or two later, my phone wouldn’t light up. It was working all right, but the screen went black. By the time I remembered to dismantle it, it was too late. So I cannot read nor write and send messages. I can only blindly dial a number to make a phone call since I cannot access my phonebook. Being one of those people who think that ‘caller ID’ is the best thing to ever happen to mobile phones, the most irritating part about this messy situation is that when my phone rings, I am obligated to pick up every single phone call, lest I miss an important one. Don’t look at me like that; I exercise my right to pick or not to pick phone calls. I know my landlord is not reading this. Or is he? The most embarrassing part though is, having to ask who is calling if for one reason or another I cannot recognize the other person’s voice. I could just assume that I know all the people calling me by their voice but that would also present another more embarrassing situation like the one I had this morning.

My phone rings -”Go girl, girl it’s your birthday…” (Trey Song’s song “Say aah” is my ringtone if you’re wondering) Hehe, I am gangster like that.

I was already late for work so I hurriedly picked up the phone;

Me: Hallo?!

Other Person: Hallo! Sasa…..

Me: (Instantly assuming that it’s Heidi’s dad) Hey, I’m just heading to the bathroom si you call me after…what? 20mins? Feel free to tease me about how long I take in the shower!

Other Person: eeeh….ok. (Silence)

Me: Hallo…?!

Other Person: Renee, eeer.. I only wanted to inform you that I will be coming to the office a bit late this morning. So take care of things...?
My supervisor! It dawns on me…

Me: (embarrassed) ooh…o-ok.

So here I was, late for work and I just informed my supervisor that I take long in the shower. This was the mother of all TMIs. My previous excuses of being stuck in “this notorious traffic jam along Thika road” (with the construction of the superhighway and all) at that moment became NULL & VOID!

Yeah, I seriously need a new phone!

Let's talk about DILDOS

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the song “Let’s talk about Sex” by salt n’ pepa. The young…eer..VERY young (ahem!), naïve and shy girl in me used to think “What a BOLD song!” I swear I would blush from hearing the song play on radio. Coming out and talking or singing about ‘stuff’ like that was taboo.

Once upon a month ago one of our local dailies ‘The Standard Newspaper’ decided to tread where angels wouldn’t dare yet (Give it time, am sure such articles will make their way to our tabloids again soon) The paper didn’t just write about sex, which is nothing these days; they carried an article on sex toys! I hear you ask “Kwani they rebranded their publication from ‘The Standard Newspaper’ to Cosmo-Standard magazine?” It came as no surprise when people complained that they had crossed the line and the paper had to follow with an apology. Ouch!

How things have changed! We don’t whisper when talking about sex anymore. We just say it. There is a program in one of our local TV channels that talks about sex and relationships. Though the hosts try to veil everything in ‘euphemisms’ like Miss Victoria, and Mr. Victor for the female and male genitalia respectively, or ‘Mombasa Raha’ for the act of intercourse, they try to talk about this very (pun alert) touchy subject in a candid way not tried before. Forgive my digression; back to matters at hand.

Before you cross yourself and recite a round of Hail Marys for The Standards’ benefit, ask yourself did the paper have an audience? I think sex toys have nothing to do with one’s morality-But that is just me. Was The Standard wrong to carry such an ‘adults-only’ kind of article in their daily paper? You bet your civil African behind it was!

HOWEVER, having read people’s reaction to the article, I got a little bit confused. It’s true that the paper crossed the line in even considering carrying the article in a daily paper which is read by all and sundry. Even school children peruse through newspapers fyi. You don’t know which kid will be sent to the butcher’s for a kilo of meat only for it to be wrapped in an old newspaper that just happens to have an article on dildos! See? Who wants their 5yr old catching a glimpse at a dildo and asking what it is. We are still trying to find the words to explain to them what a Condom is. Each time the ‘Nakufeel Mpenzi wangu’ advert comes up I curl my toes and hope that my Hailey, who is 3 going on 6, will not ask me what it is. She once went “Mum hiyo ni nini, Sabuni?” I promptly responded “ sabuni” Never mind that it was a pack of Always Sanitary pads being advertised. She loves that Always “check, check” song and can almost sing the whole of it word for freaking word! Sigh, I honestly think someone out there gets paid to make parents’ lives more difficult than it already is. But I digress. Again – so yes, I totally agree that the paper should not have published that article.

Having said that, we are a generation whose teenagers attend concerts half naked and get dry-humped in full view of the world, amen? We are a society that cannot stay faithful to one partner and make a joke of Jimmy Gathu’s “fanya hesabu’ campaign of discouraging ‘mipango ya kando”, right? Aren’t we the same people who complacently sit back as the ‘bend-over’ generation takes over? Ah-HA! The Muliro Gardens “brothel” comes to mind now. In all honesty, we are not perfect. Far from it. I therefore understand why the paper thought that we were ready for that article. Come on, look at us!

We shouldn’t try to veil our disgust at the publication as coming from a moral point of view because our morals and self-respect went to the dogs a long time ago. Putting this holier-than-thou façade does not make us angels any more than not acknowledging the problem makes the problem disappear. We are failing as a society as our values go under faster than quicksand. This ‘filth’ - as most are tempted to call it, which was published by our local newspaper, is but a negligible part of the bigger problem that makes us stink as a society.

As we rebuked the article and all it stood for, we missed the lesson; A wake up call to put our house in order. We are so two-faced that we don’t even know which face to wear when. We shut our eyes to the fact that our kids have internet access; how many teenagers make part of our social media networks – please close your mouth and stop pretending that you had no clue that your sweet ‘Junior’ is on Facebook! Aren’t we the same parents who buy our children very expensive phones with internet access? How many cyber cafes give restrictions to the underage kids on what sites they should access and which ones not to?

A child is raised by the society. So either we have our heads buried deep in the sand or we are selective on which garbage to feed to our children; and garbage by any other name still stinks, right? We are not doing our job very well. The cyber attendant is not, the TV stations are not, that musician who should know better than to “bend over” a girl who is barely legal has no clue what his/her significance as a role model is, and the radio stations (read Maina & King’ang’i – Lord have mercy!) are most definitely not doing their job!

Lamenting about the article in The Standard is like asking a person with bad breath not to open their mouth. As long that they don’t speak, their breath won’t stink.

So we go “How dare you? What is the world coming to? Dildos? Where are the men? We are proudly African – show some respect! We demand an apology!” All along, our sons and daughters access any adult sites they wish, we live with child molesters in our homes and refuse to oust them, and we encourage promiscuity by refusing to stay faithfully married to one partner.

For a mature woman old enough to have sex I believe that the choice on whether to use dildos or not is personal just like her choice of underwear and she should not be judged for that. Why do men become so insecure when women take matters that the same men have neglected, in their own hands?

Should you ask me whether The Standard Newspaper went too far in publishing an article on dildos I would reply thus:

A young teenage girl is feeling depressed. She had come to Nairobi to look for employment but nothing was forthcoming. She lived with her sister in Eastlands who was also struggling to eke out a living and pay for her siblings’ education. They could barely get by with her sisters meager earnings and so hoping to ease her sister’s burden, she asked her friends’ advice on where she could make money to assist her sister in paying the bills. One friend advised her to go to the city centre - there were some generous men roaming the street at night. “Just dress well and look good, that’s all”, the friend advised. She even offered to lend her some of her own clothes and make her hair. “We can go together if you like”

The friend took her that night to Koinange Street and when she waved at a vehicle and it stopped, she asked her to go with the man in the car. She went with him and when she asked him if he could give her some money, he said of course. They reached their destination (a hotel room) and once inside, the guy was all over her. He kissed her, she kissed back. He fondled her and went ahead to undressed her; she was slightly puzzled but then raised no objection. When they were both nude and the man wanted to have sex with her, she was shocked, utterly offended and disgusted! Angry, she asked him, “What made you think that I wanted to have sex with you!?”

Where do you begin to answer such a question?