Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Housekeeper diaries: A visit from my mother

Since one year and six month after my birth, my mother has been a housekeeper.
What that means is, she is very particular about neat bed corners, clean water to wash the floor and which colors are right for a bedroom and which ones aren't.

Many times I think she is British.

 It also means that she has 101 hilarious stories about guests that have passed through her hands.
My favourite is one of the Japanese expatriate who decided to make a best friend out of my mother.
My mother lived with two of her younger sisters behind railways, so no matter how many times the Japanese woman tried, she was never going to be invited home.
One Christmas season, my mother discovered a bundle of gifts the woman was planning to distribute to people.

'I saw a small basket (kondo) and prayed to God that she wasn't planning to give that to me.'

When people visit Kenya, they are quite fascinated by Ciondo. Now, to a daughter of a basket maker, giving her a kondo is like going to rich people's houses and being served Gĩtheri. Not that there is something wrong with Gĩtheri, or a small basket. It's just well, if a Japanese is giving you a gift, a fan or a nice notebook would be more appreciated, coz that's what they do best. If you go to rich people’s houses, you have your fingers crossed for lasagna.

So the day came and my mother got her kondo, and as she swung it around and enabled her to buy.  Try sell the bag and get  back the 800 bob it was valued at? Who would buy a tiny sisal basket, while yarn baskets were all the range in 1994?

Her friend Kahĩhia suggested they start a church and use the basket for collections. Kahĩhia was my aunt's friend, but when my aunt died she continued being a friend. She has the funniest point of view for things.

So, a visit from my mother feels like inspection day in high school. I need to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally. Though it doesn't mean I still don't remain in a panic one day before and one day after.

To say the least, my house most times looks like a public office where files often get lost under the pile of books, papers and dried flowers.
If my house would be lit, it would burn in minutes.


other times
My preparations started early. On Friday night I folded and hug up clothes by color scheme and put away my not high heeled shoes- my mother has something against flat shoes.
On Saturday morning I dusted and wiped and shone the windows then bleached my cups, cleaned the floor and cereal containers then left a deo container open somewhere. I then pulled out weeds and trimmed the grass outside my house.
I put away my novels and other unpleasant eyesores like my water containers that make my house like a plastic recycling plant.
Sunday morning I scrubbed the bathroom, with fragrant soap, ironed my clothes twice, clipped my nails, and then had a proper bath.

It felt like those Tuesday dormitory checks in high school. I would wake up with a panic. My mother had bought me a white towel. It had light blue flower prints but still, the borders were white and that is what the home science teachers checked.

She arrived at 6:45pm.
I stood aside as she inspected the room.
-Why don't you have a carpet?-
Then she turned did a walk around, came back and sat. Then she said why was one of my curtains hanging loose? And your bed is too close to the window she said.

‘Oh yeah?’
-Yes, and get hooks for your curtain-
I started to fry things
-I will only have tea-
‘But I was going to make food, it won't take time.’
-I have to leave by 7-
15 minutes inspection, update on the family, that is, mainly my grandmother, and the cat, then politics
-You should get a TV.  You don't get bored?-
 ‘Hardly. I read, and watch movies.’
‘And news?’
‘ I listen to radio sometimes.’
-Na Gathimũ?-
 ‘Yes, on the phone.’
-It's not a bad place, just too far from the road. Who are your neighbours?-
‘Families, we don't interact much.’
-No kids visit you?-
‘Just  three teenagers, Mũnyeki and irũngũ's age, nice kids.’

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Chic: The needy unsatisfied nut that I am.

I have the need to love. I think a lot about love. I love people, but only those who understand my expressions of love benefit from it
Some assume I am just a mellow brown dog that is eager to please and thus should be just be given a head rub and asked to run along
and get a stick or something.

I sometimes think my need to love exceeds my need to be loved.
Or the kind of love this century provides is dilute. For me at least, people are falling in love left right centre and below.

I keep thinking that perhaps we have lost it. In the hustle of advancing technology and the insurgence of a rapid response generation, some of the richness that that love
 consists of has been slowly fading out and will eventually disappear.
If love in the earlier centuries was a deep red, the color or red Cabernet Sauvignon
What we prefer

but man, this is all we gonna get

Then the love of the millennium is a second cup of hibiscus tea, brewed from the same buds.

For me, love, if it is to be true must embrace the other three needs that I have. Need for time, space and contemplation.

Need for time
I constantly need more time. Time to read, mend stockings, look at pictures, art, do garden work, hang out with friends, family.
I need time, to observe where the ants, after invading my
cooking oil, go. How they drag the now solid, powdery mush into a tiny crack on the floor.
But time alone is not enough. It is a package.

If I, as a person who likes to sit back and contemplate the big world that surrounds me.
The universe that is constantly expanding, the fact that I am quite tiny in the scheme of things
though that doesn't stop me from making plans. If I find myself stuck at a wedding, trying to keep alert while re-introducing myself to
relatives I know quite well but who never seem to remember who I am.
Shall I be happy that I had this time? Or shall I be zooming in and out of conversations, looking forward to an evening alone where I might doodle,
sit in the kitchen and fry not so great food,  to some not so great music on the radio? The promise of such an evening will be the only thing keeping me from bolting.

The need for space

I once lived in a tiny room I could clean up in under an hour. Me and my cat Mooze. I worked in a shop and in the afternoons
 I came home and slept on my mattress, Mooze slept on his pillow, we left much space around us and we were quite content.
I didn't have a smartphone to distract me.
 So I read books, and stitched.
Now I have a smartphone.
I have barely unlocked my door, I'm already reaching out to see if any new messages have come in between the car and my door.
I'm not dying to buy another dress or gadget, but I am dying to find space. Space to dream in, to let  my mind go unbriddled by the day to day clutter.

A balcony, a backyard, a rooftop, a window or a hole to crawl into.

Then again how do you separate the need for personal space from a dislike for loneliness?
How do you tell a person, see, see this inviscible line here, don't cross it until I am ready to socialise.
Does that make me a needy unsatisfied nut?
You too have your wars.

The need to contemplate

What is this need inside me? This need to analyse everything, every emotion, every conversation, every subtle interaction I get involved in?
I should tire but I don't. I sit back and contemplate human interactions in relation to my own emotions and at times forced pretense,
while I should be doing something useful like finding out what is bit coin and finding cheap tickets to some place.

Other people just get on with life like life was a sunny picnic or a night in some crazy club where everyone is high on whisky and in a good mood.
Get up, wash your face and live.

Why is it that some people seem to get it right the first time(In life I mean, life's affairs), and does this put them at a disadvantage should a crisis arise.
and does this mean that I am second guessing myself too much, all the time?

And how much should a human being need. I need too much I suppose. More than this entire earth can give me. The reason for the wondering
Do I need too much, is the question, of How happy am I? To some extent.
And what things bring me happiness?
Which things can I live without?

I have read two good books this half of the year. Great books.
Born a Crime- that south African Comedian,,,whats is his name Trevour Noah.I really loved that book, I have quotes from here to Soweto from it.
The Samurai's Garden- Gail Tsukiyama   

I finished The Samurai's Garden and what came out was the above wanderings. There is a servant in the book, taking care of a summer beach house in a Japanese Village,
and a young Chinese university boy, a grandson to the former owner of the house is sent to stay in the house as he recovers. Matsu, the servant doesn't talk much.

One day Stephen, the boy is observing him. He switches off the radio after news about the war going on in China, pulls out some magazines his sister sends him and he goes on to read as though the boy was not standing infront of him dying for conversation. So the boy walks away amazed that Matsu doesn't seem to need so much.

This is the second book I have read that has a servant who turns out to be more than he is letting on. In East of Eden, there was a servant who only spoke pidgin, but one time, a curious girl discovered kumbe it was a mask, he spoke perfect english, read books and knew practically everything from raising babies to economics. Anyway, I am now reading only light material nothing heavy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Middle Age: Owning up to my shortcomings

When I turned 30 I promptly sat down and typed an enthusiastic article about turning 30.  And how to have it all figured out. I honestly expected it to be a breezy ride. Well, yeah ….

I had goals.  And plans. Like how to graduate from melamine and plastic cups to House of Leather mugs. And to drinking wine out of real glasses, not disposable cups recycled the whole year.

I was also going to start dressing like a lady, not the tramp that I am, and to remember to shave my armpits.  So I had one dress made. Then it was too much to get into it I had it made into a skirt.  And my ladyship project stalled after that.

Being a lady is more complicated than we think. You know it means for you to be a little light-headed, which I am not. I am a bag lady. I carry umbrellas, coats, shoe polish, scarves and chargers. All that in a big bag or two. And two pairs of shoes. A rough-road pair and a normal road one. And socks, and a sandwich, in case I get hungry later.

If the roads were smooth I'd probably need one of those pushcarts I see homeless people pushing in movies.

It is 2017, and I still cannot cook to save my life. I know people go for cooking lessons, I have had a few, but  I seem to forget what goes where when. But I admit it now, I can't cook. Maybe I should try another form of cooking. Coz boiling doesn't work- I burn my pasta when I boil it. Frying doesn't work- my soup is always too watery or with clods of corn flour in an effort to thicken it, deep frying is a health hazard, I might turn anytime and the hot oil will come down on my feet.

I also assumed I'd stop being affected by people's actions, worries and oddities. I guess that is part of me now. Mother Teresa. Just give me a story.

I still spell very badly and cannot pronounce some English words but what am I? The grammer police? No I'm just a regular Kenyan juggling four languages in every sentence, trying to make sense.
I do, sometimes.
Sometime I donno who is the person sitting down lost in thought.

Monday, July 3, 2017

8-4-4, how it almost ruined our lives had we let it, and the school trips that made it worthwhile​.

First, in Form One, I realised this was high school and I had not the slightest chance of being popular. This was when I tried for the debate club. The debate club was set up in the Physics lab, every Wednesday, and me, being a good English student according to my standard eight English teacher, a conclusion based on my composition writing skills, thought I should fit right inside with the debate club. And I marched in in my green form one skirt, long to the ankles, with my long sleeved sweater and big shoes, the ones that had a clasp on the side.

To be in the debate club, you had to go through a test of tongue twisters. I failed the first one. I didn’t get into the snobs club, so I tried for drama. The drama instructor, some college guy asked me to act like a drunkard. He didn’t specify which kind of drunk. I did the village one, the- I-have-herds-of-goats-,and-many-wives version and failed. He wanted the town drunkard that gets blinded by cheap alcohol kind of drunkard.

I could have joined the badminton or table tennis club, but it was a rich kids affair and who could buy me a racket?

Is it for Maths?


Is it for Chemistry?


What is it for?

For games.

Iĩ? Because they are going to grade you in games? Wee…chunga sana, ebu take your Chemistry books and revise… you have seen a money tree growing behind the house..?

Time was running out, you had to be in some club of sorts, and read Gifted hands all in the one year. There was the wildlife club, boring, Agriculture club, boring, Rangers, boring, the school magazine, snobs, Math club, Hockey, Basket Ball. And then the free for all clubs. C U and C A. I

Joined C.U, on the basis of , maybe drawing close to Jesus will help me get through this high school business. C.U had enough trips to keep one occupied, they also brought young ruddy preachers who drove us all into a dancing frenzy you would be counting the days until Sunday. The next term we had a trip to Alliance boys. Boys!

When I came back, my deskmate, who had an ongoing crush on Sisco and Eric Wainana before I knew you could have a crush on a celebrity wanted all the details, so she and the two girls behind us drew in close to hear all the details.

‘We were very blessed.” I said, righteously.

-Mh! Ciss you should be hang- Edith said.

-How about the boys?- Emma asked.

‘We met one boy, the brother to Peaches in form 3.’

-All of you?-

-You all met one boy?! Get serious-

So my popularity scale scaled down some more. What was the point of going to a boys school and not meeting any boys?

I decided to join CA. CA had an attraction. This was a Catholic school, so Catholic Action club had some freedoms, they could make mandazi’s on Saturdays to raise money for a new white fabric for the priest’s table or something like that. It also had the cool kids who could ‘borrow’ Usher and P Diddy’s tune to sing the Psalms during morning mass. A break from the routine, We knew there was a new song by Joe or TLC by attending morning mass.

C A was also lenient on boys matters. When there was a big mass and other catholic boys were around, we could chat them up.

Then I decided to take it to another level. I decided well, C U and CA is good enough to introduce me to other people, but that is just a small cluster of those in the religious scene.

Science Congress

There was a ‘call for papers’ for chemistry projects, and my holiday tuition teacher, a young man a few years older than me gave me an idea, which I passed of as a very original idea and me and Georgina presented it to the chemistry teacher.

The chemistry teacher was a very interesting human being.

He stood very close to you and looked at you directly the eyes. You would move back a step because you would be standing outside the staffroom, with the entire Form Two Pluto peeping to see how close you and the Chem teacher were standing.

We took turns to discuss the project with him, to avoid being overwhelmed. Now that I think about it I wonder might he have been hard of hearing?

For your project to be presented outside the school, it had to impress the school teachers first. So they held an inter stream competition. The first school we went to was a girls school. And we realized Science Congress was not quite a hit like we had been hyped to believe. When we finally made it to another level and went to a boys school, it occurred to me that I was better off frying mandazi back in school.

Let me put it this way. A science congress is the difference between a College of Design and A College of Accounting. For a teenager with blood running through the body, when you think of a tour outside school to a boys school, discussing titration with a short boy in a baggy school sweater and a Chelsea belt clasp is not really how you plan to spend a day.
It also occurred to us that science congress had very few girls, meaning the teachers just hang around and hovered around us to avoid -misconduct- and by the time the sessions would be all over, we would have got one name and school address, between us.

Anyway, we survived. We got certificates. Maybe I should attach them to my CV next time I go job hunting.

By form three, I had resigned to the fact that the one Geography tour and two outside excursions to fetch water from the stream when the water system broke down were the only trips I would experience in high school.

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 ...