Wednesday, January 25, 2012

December 29th, 2007

I am stifling a yawn every now and then, in vain. No, I am not hungry. I am not bored either, its 9am for crying out loud. I did not get enough sleep – that is the culprit. I have never been a morning person, for which I make up for by being a night owl. I can stay up to 3am and this bad habit has me shuffling through some days in a daze (did you see that?!)

The reason I stayed up late last night was in order to watch the documentary “Kenya’s Darkest Hour” which was showing on one of our local channels. This was a documentation of the events surrounding the post election violence worst political crisis in Kenya between December 2007 to February 2008. I had to watch it because of the hullabaloo surrounding the now infamous “Ocampo 4” who are proceeding to trial for crimes against humanity committed during that period.

The documentary was splendidly done. It brought back the ugliness of a nation that was hitherto a peaceful people. The contrast between the voting and the unrest that came afterwards was incredible astounding!

December 29th, 2007 is when the madness began. This date was pasted on the TV screen as the documentary went on, to show the unrest that ensued when the election results had not been announced 24 hours after voting. December 29th, 2007; Kenya’s darkest moments began on this day.

Seeing this date plastered up there on the screen made my stomach churn a notch and it was hard not to feel sad, offended and shortchanged all at once. I was taken 4years back when I lay in bed, sore, after eight hours of labor to bring forth our beautiful first born daughter. On this day December 29th, 2007- her birthday, she was born at 1035hrs, just when things were getting ugly in the streets of Nairobi, and all over the country. Great timing, huh?

With the onset of post-election violence, the perpetrators rained on my parade. It’s a baby girl! But did anyone care about that or their safety? We welcomed our baby to a world of violence, hatred and discrimination. I said, “Welcome to the world beautiful! This is Kenya, your home, your motherland” Some motherland indeed! I followed the news as people turned off their humanity and slashed each other to death. I read about the killings, the looting and gender based violence of rape and sexual assault as her father tried to find the safest way in and out of the hospital.

Hailey slept peacefully (She was a sight to behold!) oblivious of the chaos that tore the nation apart. She was oblivious of the men and women who were hacked to death by their neighbors because they belonged to the wrong tribe, not that they changed tribes just the other day but because someone influential conceited said so!

As she smiled in her sleep, she wasn’t aware of that woman who was gang raped and left for dead as the perpetrators used her body as a battlefield to celebrate conquest of the ‘enemy’. She did not even know that there were scores of women being used to humiliate their community and their husbands as they were sexually assaulted in public and their kin forced to watch. She was oblivious of that man who was too overcome by weakness and powerlessness to protect his wife and children.

She slept through it all, but I knew it would only be a matter of time before she became aware of her world. Soon, she would speak. She would learn and she would interact with the world. With the tribes. With the government. With Kenya. Is this the Kenya we want our children to be born to?

I pray for justice. I do not have time to smother the culprits responsible for this with political allegiance because they do not realize what is expected of them. Watching that documentary and witnessing a woman running for cover with her two children, one in each arm, was not a sight to behold. It was deplorable, unacceptable and it was not a joke! Lives were lost! It. Is. Criminal!

Four years on, I am still mad furious! I will therefore not take part in turning the “Ocampo4” to luminaries. All I want is for those responsible for the violence to be locked up and the keys thrown away. All I want; all I crave and cry for (believe me I do) is for justice to be done. For the sake of that child that was born on December 29th, 2007 who never got the ululation that she rightfully deserved, and for all the children of this motherland.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dads, Daughters & Distance

“I am your number one fan, and yet I have never graced your blog”, my ‘dancer’ complained to me over the phone the other day. I was surprised because he is not the type who enjoys drawing attention to himself - and that was my main reason for not bringing him all here. “But I have given you a few mentions here and there….” I tried to wiggle out of it.

“Where? I haven’t seen them”

“My previous posts… A-Ha! So you say you are my biggest fan, and yet you are not such a keen reader eey?” I tried to turn it around.

“Baibe, all I read about is Hailey & Heidi….” Did I sense some jealousy?

I realized that he was feeling ‘left out’, which was not fair. It’s tricky though, being in the life of someone who likes to pen down their thoughts and life happenings because chances are, you might bump into ‘yourself’ while reading one of their articles. I am sure no one is ever comfortable reading about themselves unless you have something good to say about them, or you write for the media in which case, it won’t matter. So where do you draw the line. Where do I draw the line, dear dancer of mine?

Being a private person, writing has challenged me to come out of my comfort (read private) zone because you cannot write unless you have a story to tell; you can tell other people’s stories for so long. When that is exhausted and you increasingly come close to becoming bedfellows with writer’s block, writing about yourself is something you cannot put off for a long time.

Through with the ‘pouting’ (ha!) we went on to talk about other more important issues. He wanted to find out how the kids were doing. How is Hailey? Does she ask about me? I really miss you guys. Is Heidi walking yet? Is she talking? To which I proudly, and selfishly-now that I think about it, say “Yeah, she finally said ‘Mummy’ the other day” Then the pouting starts all over again…”Mummy? What about Daddy? She hasn’t said ‘Daddy’ yet?” I then remind him that Hailey’s first words were ‘Daddy’ - you win some, you lose some.

I hand the phone over to Hailey and for the next couple of minutes, I somewhat cease to exist in her world. I lose her for a while as she converses with her father with all her senses. Her mouth smiles, “I am so HAPPY to hear your voice”, her eyes say “I miss you Daddy” and with her words, she actually says “I love you too”

I can make out the whole conversation from her responses; how is school, to which she answers fine. What did teacher say? To which she answers, she said to do my homework. Ok…how is Heidi? Heidi is fine. Give Heidi a kiss for me. She goes to find Heidi, wherever she is, and forcefully plants a kiss on her cheek as she goes “Mmmmwwwaaa….!” Heidi screams. She always thinks that Hailey is out to get her! “Si daddy amesema nimfanyie Mwwwaaaa!” she tells me defensively. I tell her it’s ok.

Mission accomplished, she gets back on the phone. Her father is laughing on the other end. As I am trying to convince Heidi that her older sister meant well, Hailey is singing on the phone with her father. It’s always either ‘Baby Jesus’ or ‘Kamares’. Today the song of choice is Kamares which has her wriggling her waist as she goes “Na Hailey siku hizi, ana ringa ringa ringa….anatoa waist kamares….” Who comes up with these songs!?

She gets a high from these phone conversations with her father. Sometimes, she will hand the phone to Heidi saying “Ongea na daddy” I guess she wants her to experience the same feeling of closeness she gets after talking to him. When Heidi learns to talk, I think the fact that she is also tired of being ‘left out’ of those conversations will be a motivating factor.

When I get the phone back, he asks again; how is she doing really? Fine, I say. His voice is heavy with emotion, and I sense it. You can tell that working miles away kills him sometimes. He misses his girls - He misses them like crazy.

I envy him because with all that goes on around us, the girls will always love him. Unlike motherhood, Fatherhood is not complicated. You only have to be there and the love you get back, ENORMOUS! You just have to be there, distance notwithstanding.

Keep at it baibe. Keep doing what you do best. Mwwwwaaaaaa!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Y-you!

“Your heart is not open, so I must go. The spell has been broken, I loved you so. Freedom comes when you learn to let go, creation comes when you learn to say no….”

You’ve heard the song “Power of Goodbye” by Madonna, right? If not, please ‘you-tube’ it or something because it is the soundtrack to today’s post. Will you do that for me? *batting eyelids* pretty please?

The lyrics to this song make so much sense to me, especially now when we are ushering in a brand new year and saying adios to 2011. We are wishing everyone we meet for the first time this year a cheery “Happy New Year!” and forwarding those unimaginative messages full of cheer and good wishes for prosperity and posterity.

Here’s the challenge though; each time you chime the Happy New Year! chorus, do you think about what is actually new, aside from the calendar dates? What are you leaving behind? If you are confidently strolling into the New Year with the same baggage you had last year then the parable of “New wine in old wineskins” was directed towards you! For Pete’s sake, don’t abuse this brand new year by lading it with your old self! Yeah, I said it! (There is ALWAYS room for improvement, tehihii!) It is only a new year if you go into it a ‘new’ person! As my ingenious brother, Jack put it so eloquently; just like swag, the New Year is in YOU!

Madonna sings about the power of goodbye. Saying goodbye to something or someone you are used to and forging into the unknown has never been easy. 2012 is here…still young, still fresh, still smelling so damn good and ever so promising. It is untainted, pure and yet to be corrupted (it is an election year, remember?) With novelty comes hope, second chances and righting of wrongs. So will you go into this brand new year feeling hopeless, not willing to let go of the things that bring you down, and refusing to learn from the mistakes made in 2011? Huh, Will you?

2011 is over and done with! “There’s nothing left to try, there’s no place left to hide, there’s no greater power than the power of goodbye…” The smart thing to do is to let go and move on to become a better, happier person this New Year. Walk away from bad relationships, bad jobs (if you dare), unhealthy lifestyles, unnecessary fears, bad eating habits…did I say bad relationships? Saying goodbye means making a choice to leave behind whatever hinders your progress, and forging a better future. But how many of us have the courage to say goodbye? How many have learnt to say ‘NO’?

Have you learnt from your mistakes? Madonna puts it thus; “…You were my lesson, I had to learn…” can you let go of your heartaches “…I was your fortress, you had to burn…” and painful experiences that you had to endure in 2011? “… Pain is a warning that something’s wrong, I pray to God that it won’t be long…”

“Do you wanna go higher?” she asks

The year is brand new; you have another chance, a do-over. Here is your chance at healthier, better, more fulfilling relationships, a new home, a brand new baby, an overhaul of your 80’s wardrobe and that jaded hairstyle. A new, free, made-over, happier you!

“There’s nothing left to lose, there’s no more heart to bruise, There’s no greater power than the power of goodbye…”

Goodbye 2011, t’was great being with you. We gave you our best, we now have to part ways and take with us the lessons we learnt from you. For what we failed to accomplish, we hope to make up for it this year. You broke our hearts sometimes but we choose to let go of the bruises, the hurt, and the disappointments. Our memories are filled with the joy, the laughter and the good moments we shared together. We have lived and by God, we have grown!

2011 is our past, and the past is the past. If you try to squeeze it into the present, it is labeled as baggage; heavy, unnecessary, obstructive, unattractive baggage. Who wants that?!

“Learn to say goodbye, I yearn to say goodbye… Madonna answers me with finality. Atta girl!:-)

This New Year you will falter BUT you will hang on; you will fall BUT you will rise up; you will cry BUT you will laugh. Through God’s grace you will live and hopefully, come the end of the year, you will gladly will this year away and impatiently usher in the new one and with it new hope, new dreams new goals and a new you all over again.

Happy New Year, better still, Happy New YOU!