Friday, May 30, 2008

The Other Side

How come, we hear the drum?
How come our hips are full of rhythm?
How come, the king of the jungle lives right here.

How come the trees blossom,
The flowers bloom,
The fruits ripen,
And the roots thicken?

How come there’s laughter,
And our stomachs don’t always rumble?

We cry at weddings,
Weep at funerals-

How come we see beautiful sunsets?
And have Nyahururu falls, The Nile,
Kilimanjaro, right here?

We dig the ground and gather gold,
We set our nets and fish come in.
Cocoa farms, coffee fields, tea estates,
Plantain, rice, sukuma-wiki, arrowroots,
Herbs, carrots, mangoes,
How come they grow?

Athletes, artists, swimmers.
Honey ,milk, muratina, the sea,
The ostrich, the weaver bird,
The bee, water, air, moon and stars?

Language, love and feelings?
Rich chocolate skins, black shiny foreheads,
Locks, white teeth, strong build.
Actually, it also rains on the other side.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Now,if there was a subject I didn’t begin to understand until my last year of studying it,it was Music.I remember once.Mr.Jakubu,he was our music teacher and very practical at it.
The first lesson in class 6,he beat out a tune on his desk with a ruler and told us to write down the note.We!Life had never been harder.Even my two deskmates,Elijah and Amos could not help.We were all looking at him open mouthed,tutururiirwo.Elijah was the the funny one,but Amos was the funnier one because at such an instance,he’d have started to speak in his mother tongue despite knowing very well that would put him into further trouble.I remember after much struggle,I scribbled something like-tuu…kakaka….tttt. and then drew a crotchet along the line.Mr.Jakubu looked at me once,looked at my book,back at me again,,then hurled his famous string of insults,asking me whether I had ever gone mad,and announced how he was going to land 7 canes across all our armpits.He was fond of saying-wee kihii giki ngugwikira thanju mugwanja cia njegeke ungurane,I’ll cane you 7 strokes across in your armpits until you recognize me.He spoke in kikuyu,always,at the parade,in class…When he explained how to draw a semiquiver,it was,D nini njeke,ina matu meri.A small letter D with two ears.
After two lessons in class,he decided to make us real musicians.He asked us to bring bottles,flutes,tins,plastics,,and when we had the fortnightly music lesson,we’d perform for the teachers, or for the villagers in their shambas around the school.
During assembly, if he realized someone was not paying attention,he would wait until he was finished and he’d call out the person’s name and ask them to translate his speech, first into Kiswahili,then English,and leave out not a single word.
Mr Jakubu held a wedding,and we attended,just to see the bride.She was pregnant,people said that was bad,I was puzzled because,it was widely known they were living together and raising other children for more than a decade.
I later caught up on music,not the singing,but recognizing the notes,the latin words,and the musical instruments in Kenya which had a whole text book dedicated to them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Salesman No.1

customers having their pick.above,Maskanyore holding an evening wear{ya kwenda ndina},below
This is maskanyore.I posted his story a few months ago{Mic Troubles}.
Everyday he's at his stall calling out to his customers to come and please buy his wares,his wears,rather.Every day,morning to evening,he's shouting,singing and
laughing-maskanyore,ma andawater,mkono moja,ya kajunior,ya kusimamia arusi,ya best maid,yote,,fefte!His table pilled high with a mix of blouses,sweaters,three quarter pants,
spaghetti tops,his customers swarm in and they have their pick.Then he'll say-leo tunasema,funga inne inne kama orbit{that's what I'm talking about,wrap them in four pieces like orbit}
He can be heard from one end of the market to the other.When school children passby,they call out-maskanyooore.
He says: hakuna haja ya kufua nguo usiku,ama kutembe na viraka,ngua ni fefte,maskanyore anawashughulika wote leo
{no need for you to wash your clothes at night,or walk around in tattered clothes,cheap clothes for everyone,maskanyore knows and caters for your problems!
I will make you shine until your neighbours start wondering,did you get a job with Kenya Airways?}
Utang'ara mpaka jirani ang'ethie,watu kwa plot watakua wakiuliza,kwani nani,,,anafanya kas na kampuni gani,ama aliandikwa na Kenya Airways?
eeee,ndiyo maana nasema,bei ni fefte!
His real name is Kiarie.He makes my day I must say.
If we all worked with half the spirit this man applies to his job,we'd all be very happy people.No longer people arriving home with more wrinkles on their faces than
when they left the house.I am sure Maskanyore must be a very happy fellow.It's like spending your day at the karaoke singing songs you like.That would
lift anyone's mood anyday.
I am sure he earns more in a day than a Mr.Ngash or Mr.Patel selling Garissa lodge skirts in River Road will earn in 3.All the best Maskanyore.

Thursday, May 15, 2008



A breeze in a park bench

Birds singing,

Columns of sun rays sprinkled with tiny insects trying to climb.

Fallen leaves

Grass stains, damp grass and falling leaves

You can’t eat, you can’t cough

In case you miss a second of;

The sound of wind in leaves.

Sunset through a gap between trees

This is home

This is my home

A bench in a park

{Picture by Ciss,RiverSide}

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tunes in 5 East

When I was I primary school,I reached the height of mischief,I look back now and I wonder how I got out trouble.If you found people being beaten, I’d be among them.If some people were kneeling outside,the staff rooms,I was in among them.If someone was caught reading a novel during the maths lesson,it’d have to be Gathoni wa kina Gitonga.Gitonga was my neighbor.He was two classes ahead of me,tall and burly, he played in the volleyball team,it didn’t matter we were not related,to everyone,he was my big bro and scared off everyone that tried anything on me or his twin sister,a class ahead of me.In the morning,he whistled twice,to alert me to get ready,then once more if I hadn’t appeared,to tell me,ukaga{we are going on ahead}.

One time,in class five,I had been singing very loudly,my cousin had visited us during the holidays and had taught me some songs in the Luo language and I had been entertaining my classmates during the lunch hour.After the bell rang for classes to begin,I continued to sing for about 5 minutes,we had a music lesson but our music teacher, Mr.Jakubu, who was also the headmaster, showed up once in two weeks, when we had a morning lesson.

The prefect had gone for some shairi competition and the assistant was my deskmate; we were good buddies,he liked to draw,I liked to praise his drawings.I always wonder where he ended up.So anyhow,he wasn’t the least bothered by my singing.Suddenly everyone was turning to their seats,and pretending to read their homescience books.

-Can the musician please come to the office.-

The discipline master’s voice barked.I got a tongue lashing from all the teachers who:

-knew my gran and thought she was a respectable woman who shouldn’t be wasting her time coming to hear about my bad behavior and can I start to behave or else they might have to summon her.-

Wo! Apart from being sent out to get the wash basin at night,my number 2 fear was gran. Her stern look was enough to have me confessing even my friends’ sins.

So I was ordered to kneel outside the headmaster’s office and wait for him.I knelt,the entire 40 minutes,until the lesson was over,but as I said before, Mr.Jakubu was a no show man when the clock hit midday .

Our Kiswahili teacher rescued me, he was going in for his lesson and had the notion I was his best student, even though I couldn’t string three words before dropping a shrub so prominent no one would laugh, they just looked on with pity. ..but my written work was perfect.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

short story

Chocolate and Honey


‘Hajal marries choc.’

The wall at the conference hall had been spray painted. Obviously, the artist who had chosen this particular wall as his canvas had not done it in daylight, for when Hajal’s brother, Mo had checked last night everything had been alright .The fresh flowers would be brought in the morning, but the sitting arrangement, the microphone and music system were all in place. A night walker. Some one who knew us very well.

As Mo stood there trying to calm his brother. I cringed. I was peeping from the next room. Hajal had dropped in to check if I was okay and still willing to marry him.

I had held his face in my palms, looking into the slits of his Asian eyes and assured him I loved him and would continue to when I became his wife.

Despite the looks my girlfriends and sister were giving us, we sat for close to and hour, talking, but not about anything in particular. Just enjoying each other’s company like we always did.

Then my sister pulled me away and told Hajal to clear off.

‘You shouldn’t be here when we dress her,’ she had said and pulled me to the next room.

Hajal still hang about.

While Kala was trimming my eye brows, Mo Had come in and announced the news.

He has a loud voice, Mo, and he doesn’t realize it. He is like one of those very short people who try to walk in such a way that they may look taller, but only to themselves.

When Mo talks, even what was meant for a particular pair of ears ends up in a couple of others.

Rispa, my sister, was fussing with a clip on my white dress, the other three girls were shuffling around getting ready the stockings, the flowers, the lip balm-I had told them under no circumstances was I going to have lipstick on me .

I don’t know, they probably heard Mo’s news, they probably didn’t. They went on with their self assigned duties. I stood to peep from the door.

‘Hey, where do you think you are going?’Kala asked

‘You are going to be with that man every day after today, relax.’ Joyce was saying, slipping a black kamisi over my head

‘Shouldn’t this be white?’I asked still peeping into the other room.

‘No, white will make you knickers visible to all .’

‘Shouldn’t all eyes be on the bride?’I asked off the head.They thought it was funny.

Hajal was pacing around the room. I was almost sure what he was thinking, worrying that I don’t get to hear about it, that I’d not freak out.

I looked back and Karla and Joyce were arguing over what they should dress me underneath all else. They had black, laced black, cotton red and white silk, laid out on Jigna’s Bed. This was her bedroom.

‘I say red,’ Rispa said

‘These? They are so plain,’ Joyce said

‘They are comfortable. She’s going to be nervous all day, why add discomfort on top?’

Jigna had been very quiet, packing me a light bag.

‘Nyambura, she spoke up now. You know whatever some insane racist thinks doesn’t matter, yeah?’

‘Yes, I just wish whoever they are, they would spare me this one time.’

‘Look around, Nyambura.’

I did and got her point. The only other dark skinned person in the room was my sister and even her, she lived in another country, and spoke a different mother tongue. Jigna was Pakistani, Joyce was from Australia and Karla was Chinese.All this time I never stopped to think how diverse we were.

‘Thanks Jigna,’ I hugged her ,my eyes wet, ruining the eye shadow Kala had been trying to apply. I stood to peep at the door but the two men had left.

‘Whatever it is, they’ll take care of it. They are the men.’ Rispa said.

The girls fussed over me.My usual routine is simply, a bit of lotion, hair gel, and a tube of lip balm. Then I throw over some jeans and a top. I wasn’t very certain the eye shadow and eyeliner and mascara would stay in place, unless, which was highly unlikely, I didn’t get emotional and had to brush off a quick tear.

Jigna and her husband would be the best couple, she was the only one married in my circle of friends, and Aneel, her husband got along well with Hajal, they were both into computers, programming, and were even thinking of doing something together.

I remembered my first day at the university. In my timetable ,It had read-H2 1 F5,History of Photography. When I got to the fifth floor, there were several doors labeled 2 1,I’d later come to learn it was 2 and 1 not twenty one. Meaning, Ist and 2nd units. The first door I entered, the students were as quiet as in a library. I’d have said hallo guys but all eyes turned towards me and I lost my tongue. About 50 faces. I talked to a girl in the first desk. She simply looked at me, then turned to her fellow student, said something in the language of the Island,and they all laughed out loud. I thought perhaps it would be the obvious reasoning-stupid black skin can’t even find her class, and I at that point physically ached for inchi yetu. I couldn’t help noticing I was the most chocolate .She then pointed to the door opposite, H 2 1.

‘Unit 1,’ She said.

The laughter would have been the kind of laughter a form two will give when a form one says something which is obvious or silly according to the former. That must have been one of the Unit 2 halls, and I a first year, a bomu, a mono.

In my class there were three other dark skins; three from Sudan, one from Angola and his mother white, one from the Solomon Islands, and a South African. We automatically formed a gang minus the guy from Angola, whose place was taken by a girl named Joyce from Australia. She was white to look at but said her father was as black as a Dinka.

To supplement my pocket money, I did freelance editing and a bit of research. I had major commissions from a small private company that dealt with computers. I mainly did research for this one, and business letters. They were about three guys, the one that dealt with research was called Hajal and he’d thank me after each job. He’d e-mail me and tell me they appreciated my job, I was irreplaceable. He wondered if I’d consider working for them in future.

‘Two things I can’t keep in my life, I said,’ a full time job and a potted plant.’ He had laughed and it’s funny that I kept remembering he had a chipped canine tooth, which was really cute.

When we were courting, it always made us laugh to see the horror in people’s faces when we stood too close, as any one dating would. One, it was Muslim country, two, mixed race couple were very rare.

Many times we met at the pizza inn with our friends. Hajal’s parents were not so pleased. Well, his mother, but I could swear I saw his father wink at him one time we paid him a visit and I wore a nice kitenge, and Hajal’s shirt had a slight trimming on the collar, with the same material. His father also would as a lot of questions about my country, not offensively but with interest.

Hajal is soft spoken, funny and very hardworking. He’s also very calm and never gets too excited over anything-good or bad. Me, I like to laugh, and since I am a worrier, his calmness dissolves any anxieties. When he asked if I’d be his wife, I had no doubt. In any case, nothing would stop him from his chocolate bride. Not even an insane nightwalker with a spray paint can.

At the reception, the DJ played the song-Spray Paint, by Gorillaz as a first request and everyone had a good laugh, after which, an African and Indian drumming group started their drumming.

We danced, we laughed, me, Hajal, Choc'late and Honey.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Self conscious

Write me letters,

To remind me I was pretty,when I’m gray and wrinkled

Write me letters

To remind me I once smiled nice,when the old

Woman smell checks in.

Write me letters

To keep me company when sleep don’t come easy

Write me letters

To remind me of your humour when you no longer smile

Write me letters

To read to our children and praise you to them

Write me letters

To keep in my memory box, to read at dusk,

When the candle flickers in the wind

Write me a letter, now,

And tell me again why you stay with me

A letter,

To fill in the silence that builds up over the years

When we share, spoons, taps and perfumes

Write a letter.

Efficiency, why we must learn to be.

 There are no schools that you will sign up to to learn how to be efficient. Most will teach you a profession or a skill and it's up to ...