Monday, May 26, 2014

The Wall

I finally witnessed firsthand what Mutahi Ngunyi was saying the other day about the tyranny of numbers. He said it unapologetically, with a hint of arrogance; that Jubilee had a better chance of winning the last general elections because well, they had the tyranny of numbers in their favor.

We were disappointed at his audaciousness. How dare he? We were trying to move away from such backward politics, we lamented. We don’t vote along tribal lines anymore. We know better. But do we really?

I walked into a Butchery in Sotik the other day and a light bulb moment happened. Md is done babysitting me now and I am getting to know Sotik all on my own. He did a good job of showing us around. Not that Sotik is a big town or anything. You can walk around the whole town from end to end in what? 20mins? The town is small but the babysitting was good while it lasted.  He showed me the supermarket, the grocery market place, the ATM, the chemist. He also showed me a restaurant where they make the most delicious fried chicken a girl could ever crave for. A girl has to know such a place because there comes a time when the craving for fatty foods far outweighs your determination to maintain a trim waistline. When that time comes, you have no choice but to indulge, calories be damned!  Ladies, can I get an Amen?!

So I walked into this butchery to buy meat. There was nothing extraordinary about the shop; there were two attendants with blood stained white coats, big pangas cutting through stubborn bones. There was matumbo – fresh matumbo - so you can imagine the ‘stench’. Blood. Fresh blood. Smell of blood. Why do I eat meat again? I took in the scene. Tried to picture what had happened to make a live cow a piece of meat. The merciless act of butchering. Gutting. Spilling of blood. I tried to pay attention to any feelings of repulsion. Nada. I truly have no ounce of vegetarianism in me. Not an ounce. I proceeded to buy meat.

I noticed that one of the butcher men who had been pounding on stubborn bones was now looking at me impatiently, waiting for my order.

“Kilo Moja ni how much?” I asked.

“Three hundreth” Yeah. That is how ‘hundred’ is pronounced in Kalenjinese!

I requested for a kilo and a half, all packed in halves for refrigeration purposes.
At the far side of the counter the other guy was trying to do something to the matumbo; was he cleaning it, cutting it? I did not look long enough to see what he was doing because something else caught my attention.

The wall.

There were newspaper cuttings pasted all over the wall. The focus was on none other than the Vice President of Kenya, William Samoei Ruto. The wall was covered with newspaper picture cuttings of Ruto. There was Ruto with Uhuru Kenyatta in that photo where they did the campaign advert standing side by side against a red background with their backs to each other. Another picture was of Ruto with his wife and other members of a church congregation when he cried and cried and cried at a church service after Jubilee’s victory. Boy, didn’t he cry! I even got to notice that he knelt down in the process and wept thoroughly– I had missed that! I think every picture ever taken of Ruto with his wife, alone, in a press conference, in a rally, in a funeral, wedding…was there on that wall.

I noticed Rachel Ruto’s shoes in the picture where her husband was weeping in church. That shoe is so good! I took a great length of time to study that shoe. It was multicolored, had a great heel…the shoe was to die for! But I guess the shoe was the last thing on her mind when her husband was kneeling down weeping and she had one arm on his shoulder seeming lost on how to react. Ruto had both his hands on the floor. He seriously wept! Can I just ask, emotions aside, why exactly did he cry so much? I know he was happy, grateful and you know…all emotional about that victory. But seriously, the weeping was ….why did he cry that much? Coz he really cried. Aki alilia! Get that clip and watch again if you can. Dude can cry.

Done with the weeping reverie, I finally spotted it. The newspaper clippings were nothing compared to this particular picture. Right there in front of me, above me, I saw it. I don’t know how I missed it before. A framed picture of the president was there, which was expected. BUT next to the framed picture of the president of the republic of Kenya, stood the framed picture of the vice president of the republic of Kenya. There was something about that picture. I could tell that it was framed with a little more care. A little more precision. I imagine that whoever framed it did so with a smile on his face. He must have caressed the frame a bit before putting it up on the wall. A thousand shillings says that the glass is cleaned every week or every fortnight just so that it does not accumulate any dust. Dust on that picture frame would be an abomination.

After looking at the wall, you realize that the framed picture of the president holds no candle to the vice president’s picture, regardless of superiority. It was put there with pride. It was a conquest of sort. A battle that was fought and won. A trophy? Arsenal fans now know what I am talking about, huh?

The butcher man could be a local man with no more ambition than to run his business and make a decent living. Feed his children, educate them and put a roof on their heads. But every five years, he wields some power. He goes out to war. He gets to play a part in determining whose picture he will hang on the wall of his butchery. He pitifully believes that Ruto’s win is his win, irrespective of whether Ruto does the work assigned to him by Kenyans or not.

This man, just like Ngunyi, knows about the tyranny of numbers only too well. Maybe better than us ‘educated’ lot. It is sad that it is the only language he knows though. Maybe we should educate him about the ‘tyranny’ of a good development record, the ‘tyranny’ of security, the ‘tyranny’ of corrupt-free government. Until he is educated about other important aspects of government, then his voting will only be informed by that tyranny of numbers. It is the only language he understands after all.

The butcher man let the wall speak for him. We barely said two words and yet I got a glimpse of his heart through the hangings on his wall. He is a man proud of Ruto. Ruto’s win, was his win.

How about you? What do you proudly hang on your wall? What is it that speaks for you even before you say a single word?

 What is your Ruto?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Coloring within the lines

My daughters have answers to every question asked. Check out our conversations recently:

Hailey: (Makes a sound; half-belch, half-hiccup, half-cough)
Me: (Teasingly) Did you just belch?
Hailey: No! I don’t belch.
Me: You don’t?
Hailey: Yes. I am not a boy!
Me: (Rolls eyes in defeat)

Me: (Offering Hailey her 4 o'clock tea) Do  you want bread or pancakes to go with that?
Hailey: (Thinks for a moment) My heart tells me to go with pancakes
Me: (Does a quick double take) YOUR HEART tells you?
Hailey: Yes. (Smiles sweetly) My heart tells me to eat pancakes.
Me: Ok then. Let’s follow what your heart says, shall we? (Hands her pancakes)

Me: Heidi, have you done your homework?
Heidi: (Absentmindedly) No
Me: Why?
Heidi: (Ever so innocently!) Coz I have not done my homework.

Me: Heidi, did you finish your food?
Heidi: No
Me: Why?
Heidi: Coz I did not finish my food

Hailey surprises you with very unconventional answers (My heart tells me? I am yet to get over that statement. She is barely six for chrissake!), while Heidi never gives a reason for anything she does! She is in love with the word ‘coz’ and it has to punctuate her every statement.

You tell her not to remove her sweater, and she asks “Coz…?”
“Coz if you do, I will spank your bottom, that’s coz!” I am tempted to respond.
Incidentally, ‘bottom’ is an anatomy she is fascinated with too!
“Mum, you’re washing my bottom?” She asks laughingly when I am giving her a bath.
“Muuuum! Hailey slapped me on my bottom!”
“Muuum! Hailey touched my bottom!”
I am left wondering if her bottom is that sensitive or she just loves to use the word.

After giving me the ‘coz I have not done my homework’ response in one of the interrogations above, I asked Heidi to bring her book so that I could help with homework. She had been asked to color a car drawn by her teacher. The idea is to color within the lines. So she takes the crayon and starts coloring. She really tries. But she is not perfect yet and so some colors cross the outline. Which gets me thinking...

How many adults are still doing what Heidi was asked to do? Still coloring within the lines? Someone drew some invisible lines for us and we subconsciously try to keep within the boundary. Afraid to try anything out of the norm. Who said we all have to be good in sciences? Get married and have children by the age of thirty? Have a skinny body and light skinned complexion? We kill our uniqueness every single day as we try to live like everyone else. And when we cannot live up to those standards, we beat ourselves up, become depressed and unhappy with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. So many problems while we could just be content with being ourselves and consequently live a happy, fulfilling life by being who we are meant to be! Haven’t we humans perfected the art of complicating life?! Think about it really.

How about drawing the line wherever you want and not letting anyone else show you where the coloring should stop. Know what you want and make it your personal goal to achieve that which your heart desires. Isn’t life better that way? Aren’t we happier when we conquer the fear of exploring (coloring) outside that box?

Asking a child to color within the lines stifles their creativity. Why not give them a blank page instead? See how far their imagination goes. Heidi did her homework all right. She colored the car and tried as much as possible to stick within the boundaries. But I vowed to teach her how to get the most out of life. To go over and beyond. Explore the unexplored. Seek the undiscovered. Once she was through with her homework, I gave her another option. I gave her a blank piece of paper and asked her to color anywhere with whichever colors she fancied. Take a risk. Make a mess. Go where your imagination takes you.

You never know; coloring outside the lines might produce an even better picture. Out of that mess, could come something insanely spectacular.

Coloring within the lines is good. Neat. Perfect. But when you think about it, what is so great about perfect?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Greetings from Sotik!

Walking between the raindrops,
Riding the aftershock beside you,
Off into the sunset
Living like there’s nothing left to lose
Chasing after goldmines,
Crossing the fine lines we knew
Hold on and take a breath,
I’ll be here every step,
Walking between the raindrops with you.
-Between the Raindrops by Lifehouse & Natasha Bedingfield

If ever you are to move house, make sure you pack your stuff in labeled boxes. Or something. Anything that will make it easy for you to find stuff when you need…stuff. Since chances are high that you will not be able to unpack everything at once, you might have to live off boxes and suitcases for a few days. Labeled boxes will make life easier for you. You’re so welcome!

Or maybe it’s just me?

Well, we moved.  From Nairobi all the way to the South Rift region. For you who have no clue where this is, think Bomet County. Think Isaac Ruto - We need devolution to work by the way. Na sio tafadhali. Ha! Look at me going all ‘County Development talk’ on you guys!

Forgive my digression: We upped and left like it was no big deal. Like we are used to this kind of thing; Living in one town then moving to a totally different region when we get the itch to do so. Md and I uprooted our kids from a home they have known for a while, a school they have known since they started school, and friends they have known since they started socializing. We bundled our earthly belongings in a big Lorry and said Adios to Nairobi. 

Destination Sotik constituency. It is indeed a whole new scene. Where the grass is green, and it meets you at your doorstep. You don’t have to go looking for it in a park or in the leafy suburbs of Runda. It’s right there. Anywhere. Everywhere. It sticks with you, keeps you company, wades off the dust while at it.

Nature is in your face. Making no apologies for its presence. The vegetation refuses to be tamed; obstinately wild. Tall trees. Fertile land. Land that feeds you-and don’t you forget it. The wind blows, nay, howls like a boss. The sun shines on cue every morning. It comes up quite early. The sun doesn’t just rise. It makes a grand entrance. Bright and yellow and oh-so-warm!  You look forward to its warmth because the nights, the nights are something else. Freezing cold. It’s as if the sun gathers all the remaining warmth when it sets in the evening. Leaving nothing to get us through the night. And when it rises in the morning, it does so majestically like a god. To deliver you from your misery.

I now understand why some communities (Ahem!) worshipped the sun. It knows that earthlings wait for it all night long. That they endure the cold night just so they can enjoy the sunrise. It is not blind to the fact that the world longs for its warm caress. Make no mistake now, you are privileged to be touched by the sun.  It is beautiful. And I don’t worship the sun. It is awesome!

Sunrise in Sotik

Yet even with its grandiosity, the sun respectfully gives way to the rains. It rains whenever it dang feels like. Morning, noon or night. The sun tucks itself under the clouds and bam! Rain. Without warning. Well, it owes you zilch after all!

You learn the lesson pretty fast when you come here: Nature owes you nothing! You submit to it. You recognize it. You acknowledge it. You have no choice but to appreciate it. Respect it.

Our big move has been all we hoped it would be and more. And we are grateful for that. Kids are adjusting well to the weather, the new environment, the new home, the new school (It’s been three days of school so I am still keeping my fingers crossed on this one).

One major problem though: Connecting to ‘le Internet’.  Safaricom is like that lover you were crazy about at some point in the past, then you grow apart and you wonder what you ever saw in them in the first place. They just don’t love you the way you want to be loved. A few years into the relationship, they became complacent and arrogant. They grew fat, acquired a potbelly, and became quite unattractive. You therefore look for something more workable. You forge a new relationship-Airtel has a dazzling smile, abs to die for. He is the perfect gentleman. He treats you right. You fall deeply in love. Airtel knows the essence of your relationship: Reliability.

Other than the internet hiccups, let me just report back that Sotik is treating us well so far. The kids thankfully adjusted so fast it’s like we never moved! The upside of uprooting anything is that you get to plant it in a place with high chances of good yields. What’s more, our stuff has slowly made its way from the suitcases to the closets. We are not jumping over boxes to get around anymore.

Do I miss Nairobi? Well…let me just say that I miss the people I left behind. On the other hand, I don’t miss the noise, pollution, thuggery, high level of insecurity, bad roads…you get my point. Since the people I left behind know where to find me, it all works out perfectly in the end. 

I send you warm greetings from Sotik.

PS: I wrote this while listening to the song Between The Raindrops by Lifehouse ft Natasha Bedingfield. It is a beautiful song, no?