Sunday, February 17, 2013

House Helps 101

When it comes to house helps, I have seen it all: clean slovenly, young old, saints and sinners. When one therefore comes knocking at your door for employment, be forewarned that you might be welcoming one of the following into your abode;

1. The Soap Opera addict - She will wake up early to do her chores shoddily chapchap, in a rush to finish before her favorite Oga or la mujer movie goes on air. A household with children suffers because her attention is shared disproportionately between the young ones and the Television, with the former getting the short end of the stick of course.

2. The Gossip – With the gift of the gab, she is always itching to hear or dish out some gossip. When a chance presents itself for her to call a kamukunji among her fellow house helps, she will grab it with both hands. If that chance further allows, the venue moves to your living room. Your privacy will be invaded in cahoots with her friends; your clothes may be tried on as hilarious anecdotes about your bad habits are exchanged. Soon, the whole neighborhood will know so much about you.

3. The husband-searcher - She is on a mission to end her single status by all means. She chats up the caretaker, the shopkeeper, the garbage guy, anyone. She leaves no prisoners, so if your husband has a wandering eye, why not? It’s not her fault that he can’t resist her is it? Even though she suspects that she could never replace you, a girl can only dream, can’t she?

4. The pilferer - This girl will pinch anything within her reach. One after the other, she will tuck away outfits and other valuables which you seem not too keen on. Children’s clothes are always a target. Problem is, by the time you notice that some of your stuff is missing, it most probably will be too late!

5. The religious fanatic - ‘Dini ya Musambwa’ or ‘Legio Maria’ are the most notorious denominations for the girls in this category. She swears by very long dresses and a head band. You will always hear her singing christian hymns as she goes about her business. She is not a problem until your child falls sick and instead of calling to notify you immediately she sprinkles ‘holy’ water on her, performs a ritual and sits it out as she does not believe in healing through medicine.

6. The ‘Lazy bones’ - It beats logic why a lazy girl would want to be a house help, right? Irony is a girl seeking employment but refusing to work. They do exist nonetheless. This is the kind that will clean shoddily; literally sweeping dust under the carpet - dusty furniture and a messy house do not bother her one bit. She’s into lounging like a tourist on holiday. If you dare ask her to pull up her socks, she gives you the “You’re not the boss of me” look. You will always wonder who employed who.

7. The shagzmodo - You will think you have seen it all, until you meet this primitive girl fresh from the farm. She will not know how to use the flushing toilets, she will not eat ‘strange’ foods like macaroni, sausages, or pizza. She will marvel at the television and other electrical gadgets, and you will have to patiently teach her everything! Enjoy this comic relief because this shell will be shed as soon as the village in her is replaced with a know-it-all city girl.

8. The dream house help – This is just THE one. She will clean, cook and tend to your house just the way you like it. She will do her job responsibly and respect your boundaries. Oh, she is a dream alright, but also hard to find. If your stars align just right and by a stroke of luck, you manage to land her, pay her well and treat her right. Keep her by all means!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love via Skype

“You cannot govern the country through skype!” the Kenyan PM retorted to his opponent recently during the first ever Presidential Debate in Kenya. Interesting I thought. How about love. Can you love via Skype?

LDR (Long Distance Relationships) Is it a venture for the brave? The trusting? The patient? I read an article the other day where some guy was trying to convince his readers that a LDR could actually work. Then he went on to say that he had been in one, and it worked just fine. But only for three years. Three years he said.

Md and I are on our third year in a LDR. Should we therefore assemble on a round table and enjoy our passover meal this year?(Lent started yesterday fyi)Truth is, it is not the easiest thing to do but we are trying to make it work.

This morning, my phone rings to wake me up from slumber. Caller ID informs me that its him.

“Hallo” I growl. I am sleepy as anyone would be at 4am in the morning
“Hallo” I am awake now and I don’t have the patience for a bad connection!
“Happy Valentine’s day baibe”, he says (He stopped apologizing for waking me up at odd hours of the night a long time ago.)
Yeah, Valentine’s day! I remind myself.

“Oh, Happy Valentine’s day to you too love. You actually remembered its Valentine’s day?!” I ask.
He laughs. “Of course I did (Pause) I love you so much”
“I love you too” Then we both pause as we go to that zone lovers normally go to when they pour their hearts out to each other.
“Hey, I have to rush to work, will call you later.” He recovered faster than me. “ Pass my love to the kids and have a good day ok?” he says
“Have a good day too love. Bye”
We hang up, I pull the covers over my head and resume sleep from where I left it. With a phone call from my Valentine the day is essentially taken care of.

That is what LDRs are all about; Phone calls, texts and good old Skype. A surprise gift finds its way to me once in a while. The other day he had to carry his birthday gift with a promise that he would not open it until his actual birthday. Lucky we had skype to ensure that it was left unopened until the specific day. I did the inspection with the help of Hailey & Heidi;

Ebu turn it I see if you broke the seal.”
He complied
“Is that tape unsealed? Bring it closer to the webcab” I said peering into the pc
“Its fine” he replied, showing the parcel to me from all angles.
“Fine. Go ahead. Open it” I gave the green light.
He loved it. I got a thank you and a kiss blown my way via good old skype.
What would we do without technology?

The whole thing sucks though, to be honest. It does. The Valentine’s days without him, the School Parent’s days without him, the birthdays without him, the flu days without him. Don’t even get me started on the nights!

Other than that, I’m happy to report that our relationship is pretty normal. We argue (over the phone)like ya’ll do. I sometimes get frustrated as I wonder, does he really know how angry I am - he should SEE how furious he’s made me! Then I pout for days without texting him. He stubbornly refuses to call for a while. Then tempers go down. Then he texts an “I love you” I reply with an “I miss you” he goes ahead with “Plse tell the kids that daddy loves them very much - will call later” then tears well up my eyes and when we talk again, we wonder what we were arguing about.

Then there are the countdowns to the day when he is coming home. Then his arrival and the kids can barely sit still, their excitement palpable. The unfamiliarity between me and him lasts a few minutes - he always takes care that - don’t ask how. Then we have to keep familiarising with each other for a couple of days. Sometimes I wake up and wonder to myself who the handsome man sleeping next to me is. Then it all comes back to me...and I’m in seventh heaven for weeks.

Then he has to go again. And the cycle continues.

This LDR has taught me two things though: No matter the distance, you can never stop someone from hurting you - if they intend to, they will. AND you should never make your happiness someone else’s responsibility.

What md and I will do is ride it out for as long as it will go; three years, five years, forever maybe? We both hope to go all the way.

Happy Valentine’s day to my Valentine - 1AWE4G!

LDR or not, do have a Happy Valentine’s day dear lovers!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sights and Sounds of Nairobbery

The only seat available was the one at the back. Both seats next to the windows on either side were occupied and I was left to sit in the middle of two ‘Gentlemen’ - or so i thought. As the matatu I had boarded joined the rest of the Nairobi traffic, music blared off its speakers and the conductor whistled to the reggae beats. He shared his small seat with a lady who was evidently quite uncomfortable. I wished she would have had the patience to wait for another vehicle instead of subjecting herself to such discomfort.

A few minutes later, the man sitted to my right quickly asked the conductor to stop the vehicle as he had to alight. The conductor dutifully banged the sides of the matatu with a coin, to signal the driver to stop. ‘My guy’ then hurriedly got up and while stepping on me as he jumped over my legs, he squeezed himself through the spaces between the seats as if his bum was on fire. I moved to take the seat he had occupied next to the window. When he was out and we were back on the road, I reached inside my pocket to get out my phone in order to contact the person I was to meet in town. Lo and behold, my mobile phone was gone! Now it made sense why he had to alight so fast - that goodfornothing had taken my phone!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I lost the first phone I ever owned; a humble Motorola. I was a student at the time, and mobile phones were all the rage. I felt the loss. How dare he steal from me? How dare he take what didn’t belong to him? 

Then there was this other time I was pickpocketed. It had rained and getting a matatu from town was close to impossible. The stage was full of people anxious to get home and when a vehicle came I tried to get in with everyone else. I should have known better not to put money in my pocket after the phone incident, but no. As I clambered to get in, I could feel someone putting their hand inside my pocket. There were so many people around me, my hands were suspended in the air and as much as I tried to get them down to stop the thief from roving inside my jeans, I couldn't. I came to realise later that as one guy was picking from me, another’s job was to ensure my hands would stay up! 

I finally got a seat in the matatu of course, escaped the pouring rain even, but a pocket less eight hundred shillings was the price I had to pay. If I had learnt a lesson the first time, it was driven home this time round. NEVER put your valuables in your pocket, capisce?

That is the face of Nairobi now, innit? System ya majambazi, Mashifta called it. Everybody has a tale to tell as far as robbery on the streets of Nairobi is concerned. If you are still in denial, the movie Nairobi Half Life tries to smack your senses to this reality. 

To walk the streets of Nairobi without incident, every woman’s got to have some thuggish senses. These senses are instilled in you after years of walking the streets and having your handbag jerked away from your arms, your phone yanked from your ears in the middle of a conversation and all your valuables solicited from you with the threat of a smear of fresh human waste should you prove to be stubborn.

The years I have lived in Nairobi have opened my eyes and I strive to always be aware of the goings on around me. I witnessed two phony characters trying to rob people just recently. When a vehicle arrived on stage, they rushed as if to board it, only to withdraw when a crowd gathered around the entrance and in the process, their hands found themselves in people’s handbags and pockets. To imagine that a few years back, I did not have this third eye to notice such. 

It is a disconcerting feeling when your security is threatened. As a lady, what do you do; challenge the brawny male robbers to a fight? Scream your lungs out and hope that the ever-increasingly aloof Nairobi population will give a rat’s ass? What?

You could try not answering your phone in a matatu, or on the streets. Don’t shake hands with people you don’t know - whether they look familiar or not. Avoid the alleys - be it day or night. Always be on the look out for the Mwas’ and Oti’s of Nairobi; you can spot them after a while for even if they don suits, their body language will betray them. 

Ladies, I know it goes without saying that while out clubbing, you should never leave your drinks unattended. Follow your instincts and should you find yourself in any setting that makes you feel unsafe, leave immediately! It also wouldn’t hurt to have each other’s back every once in a while. Really.

It’s indeed a jungle out there, stay safe and enjoy your weekend.