Sunday, February 19, 2017

Beating the stigma: 5 facts about epilepsy/kifafa

I was walking out from a lecture one afternoon in college when the boy in front of me fell to the ground, unconscious. I got very frightened, there had been several cases of black students dying mysteriously and I thought, woi, another one bites the dust,,,

I bent down to look at him, he was very still. I looked about me and everyone was going about their business, some Persian and Chinese students passed by, giving me the- what’s up with your boyfriend?-look, so I beckoned another black student, a Sudanese who called to his friend in Arabic to come  and help. I carried his bag and things, and when we got to the school gate, the guards rang the nurse and said a negro was sick. 

A  Ugandan girl from my neighbourhood saw me and came to ask what was the matter, we found out the boy was a Motswana so she ran to call their country representative. He came quick, from the forth floor, in block 5. The nurse had not come, she was in first floor in the administration block.
Anyway. The representative came and drove the boy off to a clinic somewhere. I looked for him another day and introduced myself, we became friends. I wanted to ask, why did you drop on the hard tarmac like that, but I  never did.

Over 5 years later, I found myself writing stories  from questionnaires about kids with epilepsy, and when I was done I thought.
 Am I ignorant or just a typical lower middle class member of the herd?

I decided to read about epilepsy, talk to people with epilepsy, consult doctors and now I knew what this kifafa is. And the more I talked to people the more I remembered people I have met who have epilepsy.

Monday 13th February 2017 was International Epilepsy day. This year’s theme was putting epilepsy in the picture. What that means simply put is there is a need for people to learn about epilepsy, talk about epilepsy. That way, the stigma  that shrouds this condition can be reduced. So here are five facts about epilepsy.

ü  Epilepsy/ Kifafa is a brain condition that occurs when there is an injury to the brain
What can injure the brain?
Difficult births
Cerebral Malaria

ü  Anyone can get Epilepsy
Anyone? Even me?
Yes even me, and you because like in the first point, anything that injures or poisons the brain can lead to epilepsy. So wear a helmet on that boda boda okay?

ü  Epilepsy is treatable
So do you mean If I go to the clinic they will give me drugs and I’ll be fine next week?
No. What that means is, when it is discovered that you have epilepsy, a medical practitioner will give you anti-epileptic medication which helps to reduce seizures. Seizures don’t have to overtake your life.

ü  Epilepsy is not contagious
So if someone has a fit, don’t be afraid that touching them , their saliva, their urine or being close when they fart can cause you get epilepsy. Be ready to assist people with epilepsy.

ü  Not all seizures are the same
People associate epilepsy with jerking movements, sudden falls and biting one’s tongue.
Some people just seem blank or confused for  few minutes, then they continue with whatever task they were involved in.
Read more here:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Milk Dairy Mumblings- How to stop the forest fires

I dreamt a baboon was chasing me. I ran and tripped on the loose soil of the potato trenches and woke up very frightened. I don't like baboons, they scare me and it doesn't help I had to see them every other day growing up.
When my uncle called me -nugu ino- I told his girlfriend then, please tell my uncle not to call me a baboon.  He took it very seriously and called me other names instead: wakahare(squirrel), gitoore(not sure what it is in english), ngware(spotted wild chicken).

When the baboons came to eat the maize planted near the house, I pretended to chase them away, but all I did was call chui, my dog to bark at them. But, I also felt sorry for the ugly things, especially the ones that had little baboonlets on their backs.

I didn't call them out until I thought they each had something to take back home. It was the same when the vulture tried to carry off one of grandmother's little lambs, I thought he must be really hungry to try get one, right in front of the house. We had eight of those, there was enough to go around.

cucu's lambs: my little cousin Chriswell's photo collection

The Aberdare forest is on fire, and I have a splitting headache. I know, I should be worrying about a retirement plan, health insurance and another pair of neat shoes, since my daily one wore out. Those are things that can get fixed, like rent and food, they always get taken care off, somehow, but how do you stop a forest fire?

Last time they brought in men. Truckloads of them to cut grass and quench the raging fire.They said they,  'would set fire on the opposite side, and when the two fires met, they would burn themselves out.'
I remember wondering, to myself, in my heart why they didn't ask the local met to assist. Not for free of course, give them 200bob, and mkate na soda madiaba for lunch. Involve them.

I grew up 500 meters from the Aberdare National Park fence.I went to Aberdare Academy.
The fires were constant. At night the  orange flames succeeded sunset and I would be afraid to sleep in case, like they said, a strong wind came and blew the fire all about. We would be massacred(sic).

There were many theories about the said forest fires:

Poachers who dropped a cigarette butt
Woodcutters who lit a fire to boil tea and forgot to urinate on the fire
Honey harvesters who spiked too much fire for the smoke.

Nobody was very sure.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time looking into that forest. I was awed by the big trees. The occasional nguyo jumping from tree to tree. I would have liked to take a stroll in that bush.

At night, the mighty River Honi gushed like floods. My uncle would tell me how big the river was, how buffaloes swam right across and if you got the right fishing equipment you could get a big fish out, but if they caught you, you served time.

Why? I would wonder. It's just a fish. I had never eaten a fish.
In my mind the waterfall was a big as Victoria  Falls.

For a longtime, there were two elephants living  just near the fence. They grazed near the fence, I took a picture, 2010 but my desktop monitor won't start  I'll share the picture another time.

On Sundays,when an elephant was sighted, someone would whistle and yell- Njogu!- soon people would stream into our fields to look at the elephant. We would be quiet.

Elephants hate noise, they said
We looked, and smiled and sighed.

Half an hour later, the small gathering would hang around for tea. The women sat on the grass. The men hang about the cowshed. I was sent to bring out mukimo, and warm the tea.

-Hey, u nyamu iyo ti nene-- one woman would exclaim.
iwee, iyo mungitungana nayo, kwisha maneno-

and the men would argue facts:
- do you know an elephant must die in the same place it was born?
- and it must be escorted by two mature elephants-
- but now,,,, people have settled everywhere, where would they pass?-
-why can't they ask as to go into that forest, o mundu na kiondo kia mbembe-we plant maize and plums for those baboons. no tukiremwo?-

we would not even ask for seeds
and we can do a variety

-But I think baboons just come here to socialize, not that they are hungry matunda maria mari githaka kiria itinginina-

Recently I heard a few people in my village had been killed for  pouching and cutting down trees. At first I Yaaaayed! Take that, stupid poachers, then I looked around and thought.
Ok.When the people of Endarasha were settled next to that forest, did anyone ever sit them down and tell them:

Guys, you know, this forest is a very important asset. These trees are the reason you can plant all year round. And the animals in this forest, they bring in some money for the country.

What we saw, and see, are tourists driving into the forest in Land-cruisers. We would wonder why a mzungu would come all the way from Europe kuona Nugu. At times they stopped, ran behind a tree to take a picture of us herding  the cows to the river- ehm, honestly? No wonder they  are paying to look at baboons. Craaaaass.

I know the two elephants are no more, and the big trees have been re-placed by stumps and climbers.

In primary school the teachers arranged for tours into the forest. We saw some baboons and buffalos.

At night. the lights are bright at the Treetop Hotel and The Ark.

But, how about the adults? I am an adult now and starting to  see their view point. So, if all I know about this big extensive forest is that it is the reason I harvested two bags of maize instead of ten; what will stop me from grabbing an axe, marching into that forest and swing off a couple of branches to sell for firewood?

I hate poaching I'm sure but not sure if I hate poachers

The locals can be blamed for killing elephants and  felling  trees, but have they been educated about wildlife? I've listened to people say:

-If I was given, just 5k to kill all the manugu in this forest, I would use it to buy poison, and a gun-

Because it's all we know the forest to be about. A breeding ground for baboons to come and eat our maize.

My headache blew up into a migraine.
But I'm fine now.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi
Teacher teacher teacher, my teacher
Wherever we shall meet,  just know I shall give you a kiss.

You did not lie to me when you told me five plus five becomes 10
You told me Mt.Kenya has Snow

And the waters of River Sagana and Athi River do not mix
I did my research carefully and found out you did not lie to me.

My teacher you told me the heart of a snake is in the head
And it is true because when we want to kill a snake we aim for the head.

You said the heart must beat 72 times and it’s true because I check mine and it has never stopped.

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi
Teacher teacher teacher, my teacher
Wherever we shall meet,  just know I shall give you a kiss.

You used to tell me K and K in English is double K and it’s true because 
When people call me Kamande wa Kioi I respond.

You told me fish in kimonimoni( English)is called Fish
And every good looking girl is called beautiful
And every good looking man is called Handsome.

Zacchaeus is the name for everyone who is short,
All tall people are called Cain,
 And big people like me are called Bouncer.

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi
Teacher teacher teacher, my teacher
Wherever we shall meet,  just know I shall give you a kiss.

You told me Vasco da Gama was born in Karatina
 And you told me Simon Makonde was a Turkana.

 All the disciples  of Jesus were born in Oljororock
 And it’s true because the chief of Jororoko is called Judas

 Hitler, the one who was King you told me was from Kibicoi
 And you didn’t lie to me when you told me he was a classmate of Paul.

 That is why Paul is untouchable
If you step on him he slaps you

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi
Teacher teacher teacher, my teacher
Wherever we shall meet,  just know I shall give you a kiss.

A hungry person you told me is said to be hungry
 An ugly person is ugly like a warthog (ngiri)
An angry person is called angry

 I don’t know if I am normally hungry, ugly or angry

(This last stanza is sang twice)

Teacher Teacher- Kamande wa Kioi
Teacher teacher teacher, my teacher
Wherever we shall meet,  just know I shall give you a kiss.


I must give you a kiss
 And if you ran I’ll run after you
 Yes teacher
 You never lied to me
 My teacher
 That is why I shall give you a kiss.

I like Kamande wa Kioi because he knows the main reason why  people make songs, which is to entertain. He sings carelessly which makes his songs fun to listen to, when you think too much about your art, it starts to become a science and the fun goes out of it(note to self).

Apart from the political songs  that got him in the courts sometime, I enjoy when he sings about  getting compensation for his cat that was run over by a boda boda, how he shall not join the obsession about quills and instead invest in magogo(crows) and how one day he belched in church. He also plays a trumpet which is one of my favourite instruments.

Next on translations
Niunguaga wana- You make a fool of me
We were beaten- Reke turimwo
Gathoni, I want you to be my legal wife- Gathoni, nigwenda utuike wakwa wa mburi
Wayuni let me pass with someone- Reke hetuke na mundu
I prefer Maths to Love- Kaba Mathabu
Shiru's Contact- Namba ya Shiru
Beautiful bride- Kihiki Beauty 

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