Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Born to Sapphire


September is a special month. For starters, it is the ninth month of the year even though its name comes from the word ‘Septem’ which is latin for ‘seven’. It is the month whose birthstone is Sapphire, which symbolises wisdom and purity, and whose birth flowers are forget-me-not, morning glory and aster. They say people who are born in this month are orderly, modest, diligent, analytical and self-sufficient; I don’t know about that.

Did you know that September begins on the same day of the week as December every year? Wikipedia explains that this happens because there are 91 days separating September and December, and 91 is a multiple of seven (the number of days in the week) so voila! September not only has 30 days - ok that is nothing really because April, June & November can boast of the same - but get this, no other month ends on the same day of the week as September in any year! Go ahead, check your calendars. I know you will not take my word for it. I am offended though; you don’t trust me? When have I ever lied to you? :-)

Having clarified that last year 2010, September ended on a Thursday and no other month ended on a Thursday, and that this year it ends on a Friday and no other month gets the privilege of ending on the same day can we now move on?

The two instants when the Sun is directly overhead the Equator are called the Equinoxes. These happen in the months of March and September every year. This year, the September Equinox will be experienced on September 23rd where the night and day will have approximately equal lengths.

Come September 23rd, I hope to be woken up by my alarm at 6am as always. I will get ready for work as sleepy and grumpy Hailey is prepared for school. I will take Hailey to school and then go to work, as my morning routine dictates.

Before Hailey and I leave the house, we will kiss Heidi goodbye and we will not forget to wave. She will wave back and say something close to ‘Byeee” in baby language. With her two pairs of front teeth, she will bless our day with a wide grin and keep waving and waving since this is a new ‘discovery’ she made the other day. If we are not careful to disentangle ourselves from her ‘spell’, we will be late.

Maybe on the way to school, Hailey will point out the moon that disrespectfully refuses to hide even in the overbearing presence of the sun. For three days now, Hailey has spotted the presence of the moon as I walk her to school and today she almost missed it. We stopped walking just to search for it to confirm that it had finally submitted to hiding, but there it was! Inconspicuous but very much around. I pointed it out to her and satisfied, we walked on. I saw two men look up trying to see what we were staring at.

Maybe on that day Hailey will be cheery and playful. Maybe she will run a distance ahead of me only to wait for me to catch up with her then run ahead of me again and again until we reach school or until she gets tired, whichever comes first. Maybe she will sing as she sometimes does or maybe she will be quiet the whole time. She might drag her feet forcing me to keep saying “Walk faster mum, we are late” as I hold her hand. Maybe she will ignore my plea like she sometimes does, walking slowly as if I don’t exist. If she will be in a very lousy mood, she might pull every antic tucked up her sleeve until I agree to carry her on my back.

I will tell her “I love you” when I kiss her goodbye at her classroom door. She will say “I love you” back (Thank God there is no ‘maybe’ to that) Maybe her teacher - Teacher Elizabeth will see me and wave at me like she sometimes does. Or maybe she will be too busy getting ready to start her lessons.

On this day, I will be happy in spite of all the tragedies that our Country has seen happen this September. I will forget the Sinai fuel explosions, the lethal brews that have killed and left others blind and the heinous road accidents. As I write this, news is breaking of another fuel spill in Busia – Western Kenya. But I will not dwell on that. I will not dwell on any mood dampeners.

In fact, I will call my mom and remind her that it is my birthday (if you had 8 kids, you would forget too) and we will talk on the phone for as long as she wants. Don’t joke now, my mother can stay on the phone for a whole hour if you don’t cut her short, she is an incredible woman.

On this day, I will sing to my favourite band - Daughtry’s song, September. Part of it goes;


Of all the things I still remember
Summer’s never looked the same
The years go by and time just seems to fly
But the memories remain

In the middle of September, We’d still play out in the rain
Nothing to lose but everything to gain
Reflecting now on how things could’ve been
It was worth it in the end

This coming Friday, the 23rd of September, I will thank God for that Saturday that saw me make an entry into this world as a little baby. Yes. I was born on a Saturday; my two daughters were born on a Saturday too. Heidi should have been born on a Thursday but she said ‘No thank you’ and waited till Saturday. So you can safely say we are ‘Saturday people’. Hihi.

God willing, should I see the morning of September 23rd, I will celebrate a heart that keeps beating to keep me alive and a body that has not failed me in over 3 decades.

Allow me to sway my hips just a tad and to add a sashay to my walk. Allow me to acquire imaginary wings and fly. Allow me to smile and laugh and get consumed in living my life like its golden. Allow me to sing and dance because on September 23rd, mama Hailey turns 33. Yikes!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lady luck is in love with the urban Kenyan man

Urban Kenyan men are so lucky; I think the luckiest in the world. Look at the typical urban bachelor. He has a job, a car, a good house and he has money- you know what this means right? Women! Yep. Scores of women abound in his life. And not just women, but women who will take his crap and allow him to treat them as he pleases. Isn’t that something!

With every woman he meets, though he will say ‘hello’ with a handshake, his demeanor will say “You're in love with me. I'm well-off, but not into money; I'm smart, but not a know-it-all; I'm funny, I love animals (and whatever else you want me to love) but bottom line - I'm a catch. If you can wrap your head around my humongous ego, you adore me!” Most times his assumption will be absolutely correct!

Every Kenyan man can play out the above script quite impressively because they know it by heart. They have dissected the urban Kenyan woman (the hippie) and they know what sings to her heart. They know what makes them go ‘aaaah!’ and ‘aaargh!’ and so they stick to perfecting the art of churning out more of the former than the latter reactions.

These men have women trying to hold onto them like a drowning man on a straw. Set this man out and ask him to walk into any bar or whatever social gathering. Unless his breath stinks of last night’s boiled eggs and he emits a pungent smell that makes him comparable to a walking sewage system, that man will not go home alone. Even then, you can’t be sure that one or two ladies won’t take his number and call him up the next day in the hope that he would have, by some divine intervention, cleaned himself up.

Flip the coin and take a look at the urban Kenyan woman. First of all if she cannot and will not conform to being a soft whore, she is invisible. The mantra in this day and age is; he buys you drinks, and you go home with him; just like you feed coins into a vending machine and it ‘vomits’ snacks, beverages, cigarettes…whatever you choose. So if he takes you out, buys you good stuff; clothes, jewelry, even pizza (and other trendy cuisines) then he has his way with you. End of story. You don’t like it? Well, go fly a kite! Or eat glass! Or… something…

This means that the woman who is not willing to get knee-deep dirty and scramble for this man might as well disappear into oblivion and no one will notice. The soft whore is queen. All she does is wear her ‘uniform’ which is, according to Chris Rock, a pair of high heels, very short skirt, fishnet stockings, tube top, leather jacket (or not. ‘Freeze and shine’ works wonders too) not forgetting the excessive make up and overdone hair. The ‘urban law’ states that if a woman is dressed like that she is not allowed to cause physical or verbal harm to a man that approaches her with the assumption that she is ‘good to go’.

A male acquaintance, who is relatively young in age and experience, once told me “Kenyan women are so easy. If you want them to stay with you, all you have to do is impregnate them. After the baby comes she is all yours - you will treat her like shit, but she will cling to you like a tick.” I was tempted to agree with him, but asked him to be careful. “Make sure you know who you’re dealing with because not all women are the same.” He disagreed vehemently and swore that all women live to have a man by their side by all means. I had to fight the urge to pinch his cheeks and go “Coo-chi-coo! You na├»ve sweet little thing youuuu…!” in the same tone I use to persuade Heidi to eat her food.

Blanket statements aside, the truth is lady luck is always smiling at the urban man, making things work out for him. She threw him a bone recently in the name of Pastor Chris Ojigbani who claims that dating is witchcraft, ergo it is a sin. Forgive me but I do not understand why the men are not throwing a jamboree yet! Women who form part of Pastor Chris’ congregation might as well get married to this shallow, money-wielding, egoistic, chauvinistic, blinker-wearing example of an urban Kenyan man with eyes wide shut. God forbid that you should practice witchcraft! God forbid that you should take some time to date him and try to find out whether your future spouse is at least God-fearing!

Of course I give credence to the other men who look for the unadulterated woman to love and who gives all his heart to his sweetheart while ignoring the urban ‘whorish’ trend. As I applaud them I have to add that they are as few as the women who refuse to conform to this urban frivolity. Some men will try to ignore the uniform and opt instead for the ‘stuck up’ non-conforming woman who wears stockings-not on her legs but on her head- and a t-shirt to bed (beauty is skin deep anyone? No? Ok) Sometimes he succeeds in this ‘noble’ cause. Other times the uniform looks so attractive and it beckons at him obsessively. If he succumbs, his woman might still insist on sticking by him like a tick, or she could choose to pick up her dignity and head to the exit.

At the end of the day, there are more soft whores than there are good men and so however contemptible a man is, there is always a woman ready to put up with his BS. Lucky bastards!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weep not, 'child'

"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." Mark Twain

Politics is a dirty game. I hate dirt. Therefore it follows that I hate politics. But once in a while, I roll in the ‘mad’ just to confuse my enemies. Just like at times I watch Tom & Jerry cartoon or other times I sit through ninety minutes of football not only to see grown men cry (Arse ‘n all), but mostly to confuse my enemies.

I love the circus and comic relief that politicians provide once in a while and so I try to milk it dry. Kenyan politicians are full of theatrics. Some will speak horrible sheng in the spirit of connecting with the youth and post a video on youtube. Then you ask yourself, who is their target audience because most people who have internet access can indeed understand, even speak English! Others punch walls in 'anger' or spill maize flour in full view of fellow hungry Kenyans. We laugh at them only because we don’t want to cry.

Yesterday, as I flipped through the channels to sample the news headlines one story caught my eye. “27 year old joins bid for presidency” – this I had to watch.
“My name is Kingwa Kamencu, a 27year old Kenyan studying at Oxford University….” That’s all I got from the response she gave when one journalist asked who Kingwa Kamencu was. She talked fast like in a bid to prove something-maybe the fact that she could speak without thinking twice. I hoped that she would talk slow, sift through her words. Pause once in a while. I was disappointed.

Ok. Then she is asked what party she would be affiliated with. “I am not affiliated to any party. I am running as an independent individual” THAT’S IT, I didn’t finish reading the constitution when it was still in draft but correct me if I am wrong; shouldn’t someone who vies for presidency be affiliated to a political party?

In desperation (yes, I could sense some desperation) she was asked what she had done so far to champion development in Kenya “I have always blablablabla…” (who is chasing this girl, why is she talking so hurriedly) Then I caught this “We were involved in a clean up exercise in Eastleigh in....was it...20..03?” I look around. Who is she asking? She can’t remember? A CLEAN UP exercise? What am I doing? I should be running for presidency too!

The channel I was watching never showed her shed tears but had I seen that, I would have joined her in crying. WHAT WAS THAT?!

This morning Capital Fm hosted her in the morning show and Chris asked where they would get funding for campaigns. She digressed totally not answering the question. Janice raised the same question and Kamencu went round and round on how money was not important…then she finally settled on “We have enough money to see us through at the moment” Pocket money? Savings? WHAT? It has to come from somewhere, innit?

Coincidentally, I had watched Martha Karua being interviewed barely two days ago by Debarl on NTV’s morning show. I caught the show while it was just winding up and it appeared that they had over run it and were therefore cutting short the calls that were coming in. But when the host tried to hurriedly wind up Martha goes, “Wait. You haven’t’ asked me about my presidential bid. I was waiting for you to ask me about that” Debarl mumbled about lack of time etc etc. Martha goes ahead to make her plea “I would just like to briefly tell Kenyans that ....” And she goes ahead to say why she should be voted in as the next president! Debarl could not stop her and she took up a few more minutes of his time to plead her case.

In those few stolen minutes, she actually pleaded for votes. In fact she almost groveled which made me feel so powerful. I never got to listen to the whole plea but she took a tone that I had never associated with her before. A tone that seemed to say “Renee, I need you so much. I need your vote. Please let me help you make this country what it has never been. I can do it. Others have stolen from you and used and abused you without caring how you will make it through this tough life. But I can do all that and more. If you let me, I will make things OK again. I am capable of turning things around. Please?”

If I had to pick the appropriate tone used by Kingwa Kamencu, this would fit her bill “Hi (scratches her head for a name), I think I can be your next president. I really don’t know how we will hack it but WhatsHisName insists that I can do it; after all I am in Oxford University. At 27years old I am mature enough and willing to push my way to the top. In fact, I…eeh...WE once did a clean up exercise in Eastleigh, was it? That was in….in…2003 was it? Yeah. That’s how much we care about our country. We need change from bad leadership. Where we get funding for our campaigns is not important.”

I did not know a thing about Kamencu until yesterday, so I consulted my BFF google for more about this very gutsy individual. From what I found, I respected her more for what she has been doing as opposed to what she wants to do. I respect the fact that she has written a book “To grasp at a star” – I hope to read it soon too. I am impressed that it won the youth category of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s most prestigious literary prize. Being an only girl in a family of boys, I believe Kamencu has had to prove herself quite a lot and that could possibly be the reason behind her resilience. You have to commend her for that.

But she cried. Why? Weep not Kamencu. Because when you do that, you try to grasp at a straw and therefore, you don’t do yourself or your book, any justice. Don’t do that because it automatically makes you a side show and not a serious contender (unless that is what you really are). Don’t weep because when you do, you insult our intelligence. Don’t weep because your tears will not fetch you the votes you need. They instead make you fit perfectly into the stereotype of a young woman – weak, emotional and inexperienced.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

She shall be called Woman

A female human being, an adult female person. Aristotle called her an incomplete or mutilated man – “The female is as it were, a defective male”, he wrote. Idiot!

Aside from these scholarly definitions, what does it really mean to be a woman?

It means that you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That you will always need vindication if what you stand for is not co-signed by a man. It means that you will be jeered when you try something new. What? You think you have the ‘balls’ for it? In order to be heard, you will have to speak louder, maybe even shout. You will have to hold in your tears when you feel overwhelmed, crybaby!

It means that for you, dumb is good. ‘Dumb’ women are nice. They are sweet and appreciative - grateful for being granted the honor to share in this ‘man’s world’. The so called ‘smart’ women are full of it! Full of what? I don’t know, maybe they mean ‘it’ preceded with ‘s’ and ‘h’? These smart ones are arrogant, bitter, loud, demanding, unreasonable and unlikeable. In fact, they are stupid. Isn’t Ignorance bliss? “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead”, said Aristotle. Smartass!

As a woman, you will be misunderstood, appreciated, loved, despised, admired, abused, cherished, chastised, adorned, tainted, glorified and embarrassed in equal measures. One man will exalt his mother while abusing his wife. Another man will support his wife’s career in the corporate world and frown at the female politician who wants the top seat. You will be expected to work and help bring home the bacon, while at the same time you will have to be the stereotypical ‘bare foot and pregnant’ woman when called upon to tend to the home.

You are allowed to scale the ladder but not to go all the way to the top-you simply don’t belong there; huko kuna wenyewe. If you dare sing to the tunes of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent woman’, you warrant the middle name ‘Bitch’ for daring to forget who runs the world.

The other day, a male colleague sought my assistance in gluing together a torn 500 shilling note. On this slow Monday morning I am feeling uninspired. The excuse that it is a Monday would normally suffice but not today-the weather has mood swings. It’s a gloomy cold Monday. Insult to injury - I am suffering a headache and a sore throat; call it a hang over if you will. I don’t know if it’s the drinking or the chattering the previous evening that earned me these ailments but it’s not a great day by any standards. I tried coffee but wapi?

I am seated at my desk trying to work. I start looking at some photos I had saved in one of my folders where I come across a full length photo taken with Hailey. I analyze it; Hailey’s pose is so ‘America’s-Next-Top-Model’-ish. She has her right arm folded to her side, the wind is blowing at her ‘Cinderella-inspired’ dress and she is wearing this smile, coy and sweet. Even at her tender age you can already tell she is a ‘woman’ in the making. I know every mother thinks that their kids are the most beautiful on the planet. Shamelessly, I am no exception. Aristotle has an explanation for everything; He says “Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own”. Tsk, the nerve of that guy!


My analysis of the photo is interrupted by my colleague, who has a roll of cello tape in his hand, he mumbles some greetings even though we’d been through that when we met in the morning. Seeing that he has my attention, he goes on to produce a 500 shilling note from his pocket. “Si you glue this money for me?” It is torn in half.

I ask why he wouldn’t do it himself. If I was to do it, he had to ask really nicely. After all, What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do - yeah, Aristotle once again. He (my colleague, not the smartass) had tried piecing the torn note together but was unable to do it right, he pleaded. Since I had a headache and couldn’t get into a testimony on stereotypes - as badly as I wanted to- I agreed to help the poor ‘dude’ in distress. “Give it back when you’re through, will you?” he says, tongue in cheek. “Very funny!” I retort.

I placed the 500 shilling note on the table, brought the two pieces together and with the utmost precision of a surgeon, passed the cello tape over it to make a classic merge of the two pieces. Former President Moi’s (or is it Jomo’s) picture was perfect, not even the contour of his shoulders was crooked. Had I been doing this job in my previous life? No. I am a woman. But do I say?

I know I make it sound like I just performed brain surgery but you must understand that as a woman you sew, you clean, you cook, you love, you nurture, and you hurt and rejoice with your heart. You piece together torn notes, torn relationships, torn children and even torn men to make them whole again. You find an inner strength inside of you that you never knew you had until you needed it. You hold together those minute details that to the outside world seem so negligible but are in essence the integral part of the whole. It’s what we do.

Woman - Does this one word do justice to who she is and the role she plays? Maybe. Maybe not. Because to some, she is shit while to others she is THE shit. We should however never forget that regardless of how others see us, Happiness depends upon ourselves. Aristotle said that too. What a genius huh?

Cheers to all you wonderful women out there! I would drink to that but I promised myself not to touch alcohol for a while. Nevertheless, be proud of who you are woman!