Sunday, October 7, 2018

Old trees and Book spines

I like old trees
I like dry trees too
I like walking in between many high trees
I like to smile at dogs, and cats
I believe they understand
I like old people
They are more content in life
They see no need to hurry
They have seen too many people
They have been to many places
The know the limits of life.

I like to sing with my friends
I like to walk into my house and feel it embrace me
After a long day my house is my friend
I like to look at the sunset out of the kitchen window
I like to look at flowers growing outside my door
And watch the rain dripping at the corner of my house.

 I love the sound of the night
 When the moon is bright and the stars dance
I like to meet new people who smile
I like to watch shy people talk
I love when two people fall in love
And do not realise it.

I like to look at book spines
Because books are my friends
I love the sound of soft guitar
And the smell of brewing tea
I like listening to honeybees in the morning
Most of all I like to listen to people
When they share their hopes and fears, their dreams and histories.
well, almost.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Embracing Vulnerability

What is life?,
If help is gotten,
From the rear,
And oneself,
Sinks into a deep ocean,
Never to be recovered,
A rare commodity,
Bought by the fearless,
Sang by the high,
Mighty ones,
Dream it,
If pushed by inheritance,
Then I guess my heritage so poor,
For all I know,
When they seek to aid themselves,
I scheme to get the aid,
On my side,
If only walls could talk,
I'd let them know of my dire need,
To secure a place with strength,
If only windows could see,
I'd show them my vulnerability,
Standing up for myself,
I just cant,
Maybe my world is cursed,
The choice to be otherwise,
Is not an option in my book,
With the world in my case,
I am nothing but
If this is not perfect timing,
Frustrations coming in,
I dont understand,
When is,
If I go on,
In this way,
The battlefield maybe clear,
But the vineyard,
Just a saying,
By the successful,
Where there is a will
There is a way,
Where there is grumpiness,
There is a roadblock,
Where its gregarious,
There is a deep surface,
I need rescue,
For I know where I will it
I can have it,
The strength,
The power,
The courage,
To do my own,
Without owning,
Other soul's power

by MaryAnn Olalo

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Socializing the introvert: Hugging

My classmate in high-school had a big sister so she was already well socialized by form two. I wasn’t but before I decided to move seats and be a back-bencher (one term before I tried to quit the whole education business) she gave me two pieces of advice. She said:

“If ever a boy asks you out on a date, you must not order chicken no matter how tempting it might be. How will you work that chicken with a knife and fork you have never used before. My sister told me you only ask for a samosa. You can eat Samosa without getting it all over your face, but remember t take small bites.”

 The second piece of advice was;
“My sister told me, if a boy hugs you, you should bend forward so that his hands go on top of your shoulders and nowhere close to your boobs. Boys just wanna feel your boobs.”
I don’t come from a hugging family but when I got into high school I learned that people hugged their parents instead of the handshake I had grown up with.

When I wet home and tried to hug my shush she said;
“Aii.Ni kii?”
 And when I tried to hug my aunt who is very short she asked me ‘kai uratuikire wa idi?(Independent church of  Kenya)
But we made a shoulder dance out of it and she said  ‘tukundereza’.
My mother gave me a look that said- ata usijaribu.

 Back in school, we were given the lesbian lecture. Any closeness between two girls was thus uprooted from us who were ironically only just interested in Nyeri high school teenagers. So I really never got to practice hugging.
When I became a young  woman other young women started to peck my cheeks, I didn’t like it. I would submit to it thinking like the kid in….diary of a wimpy kid when his aunt kisses his cheek and all he can think of are the germs now spreading all over his face . Especially if someone with thick make up on.

 I developed a firm handshake
 But then again in college I met the sweet sweet Motswana people that take body contact a little too far but oh well it felt really good to be held for a few seconds by someone you like, both men and women.
“Come here you Kenyan girl, one classmate used to tell me when I tried to wriggle out of a hug by stretching out my hand and pretty soon I would be enveloped in a crushing hug.”

Years after this, I found out that I had actually changed the way I relate to people.  I was initiating highs and even expecting hugs from people I see every week. My workmate surprised me one day by asking can I have a hug please? I didn't know you could let yourself be as vulnerable as that, knowing and letting a third person know that you need a hug (cringe)
 In 2017, someone gave me a groping hug that left me feeling quite defiled like, well, it was like what next after all my senses are now awake?

I told my friend I had just been groped and the disgust in my face told her everything else I didn’t need to say. This catapulted me right back to the beginning, handshakes and waving people from afar and Faith’s word coming back in my subconscious… ‘boys just wanna feel your boobs’
So I googled types of hugs.

The London bridge
This is the awkward one when you guys didn’t know you are expected to hug so you just kinda lock arms

The dead lock

The rag doll
This is kinda cute, it’s a big brother giving a hug to his sister.

 The pat
I dread the pat. It’s the kind of hug someone gives you when you are at a funeral, which is alright but when someone gives me this in any other setting I start to wonder. Kwani how bad do I look today?

The pick pocket
This is for people who are very tight, like your boy bff that you grew up together but don’t have feelings  for each other?

The sneaky hug
This is on a different level of cuteness. But only ifnyou are very close to the other person.

And the floating hug
This is a Girlfriend boyfriend hug. The one on the left.

And I will add my own

The chest attack
Ever met someone you know but haven’t seen in a while and, speaking from a woman’s point of view, the next thing is you feel your chest has just crushed onto a man’s chest and you would like to scream and tell them off but this is supposed to be a happy reunion  so you just thank the heavens that you are wearing a padded bra? Yeah.
The opportunist
I think people who give this type of hug didn’t grow up hugging like myself. So now that the opportunity has arisen they take it in full force? Laying on your chest a few seconds too long..?
The facial approval
I’m not sure if this counts as a hug but many times people will grab me and put their cheeks too close to mine, then end up by putting my face in their palms and shaking me approvingly. I’m not six! But it’s ok

Friday, July 20, 2018

moving on and so on and so forth

I’m I here for the long run?

Before I give my opinion, I have an announcement to make: every human being should have an opinion, and if you don’t have one, make one up and run with it until it becomes yours.
But now I have a question. What keeps two people together, in a marriage, in a friendship, in a prison cell? What keeps three, or more in a family together, what maintains these ties. Is it love? Or something higher.
What could be higher than love?

What makes two human beings want to stay together after five, ten years? And if we said that is true love then what do you call family ties? Principled love or are we just being responsible and maintaining the family circle intact, in case raiders wanted to capture us we got strength in numbers? Or are we just putting up with each other until the children turn 16.

Drifting apart. How does it begin? How do you stop it in its tracks.

I remember after highschool. I went off to work, and my best friend from highschool went into Campus. And one day she had this thing going on, so I rang her for directions. I was leaving work at 6pm but that was the time she could pick me up from town, not the 7.30pm when I would have arrived into town.

‘My friends are taking me out to dinner.’ She said and didn’t say wanna come?
And I got the point.
She had moved on.

It was a blow. In my youthful life, I had not yet experienced that to a huge degree. Later on I would also move on from relationships, and friendships and even drift away from family members.
I am clingy I admit, but ironically I will gladly give a person that desires space as much space as they need.  
Do I love my family?
I come from an extended family of uncles, grandparents, aunts, cousins, mothers, family friends who are now family by right of years.  (I attended this family friend event and when they said cousins to stand up I almost stood up.)

They’ve known me and  I would say yes I Love all of them but then again to me love is an abstract concept. Love is the stuff that makes a grown up man find an excuse to lay on a shrink’s couch for many afternoons repeating phrases like- my parents don’t love me, I’ll  kill myself- dude grow up.
Love can be pretentiousness, I love my family so much I would die for them, so I’m going to send them 25k a month, za matumizi but only pass by for fifteen minutes every other half a year.
I donno,I could be wrong and people give and accept love in different ways.

Though I realized that I actually like my family. Like. No all of them, a few I like, the rest I love philosophically, like a good daughter should, a love buttered in exhausting politeness.
It could be that the family members I like are a bit like me. Free souls who don’t work too hard to conceal who they are, curious beings eager to learn and experience new things. They also stopped trying to change the strange person I am, they now accept that I am “different.”
They are people I would introduce to, say,(insert famous writer here)

And tell them, stay here, they won’t bother you.
Well, that’s after introducing the individuals, and then their teeth.
Gosh the story has escaped.
(One week later...)

“This is the first set of dentures granny got,, as you can see they are a size larger than the second pair. This is the second pair, the bottom got lost. We suspect a rat carried it away to nibble on the bits of food stuck between. Damn the blasted rat, may he choke on fake enamel..this is my uncle’s set of teeth, they are, well, the few left can still chew soft food, yes, yeah, well never mind what shade they are. These here are my cousin’s set of teeth, they don’t like to be compressed to grow in the old direction. These are my aunt’s set of teeth, she did try to sip a bit of a battery acid in Chemistry class, well, I donno, she was curious. Yeah it was a long time ago. These here are, oh well never mind let’ s just sit here and watch the fog rise from the Aberdares OK?”

Back to couples, I sometimes wonder, had I accepted the first marriage proposal I got, would I still be enthusiastic about the person.
I guess for marriage it’s a bit harder in comparison to friendships. If a friend decided to move on, there is no signed document to remind you of commitment. The commitment you made to this human being now standing by the stove frying himself two eggs at 10.00pm because the book his wife is reading is too unputdownable, to make him fried pork rice but all she has done is stare at two pages back and forth wondering why can’t he get into bed so she can find an excuse to sleep on the couch?
My opinion thus espoused, I think we must make allowances for the unpredictability of the human species.
Be prepared for change. If the glue that stuck you together no longer works, try selotape, if that doesn’t work then..I donno I’m not an expert in human behavior.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Plot Diaries: I think I don’t like people

Bae and bibi ya Bae
My neighbor on the right has a five year old  daughter who sings things like- bacas bacas this gal you wan-

But would you expect less from a house that plays Vybez Cartel in the morning? They have exactly three dj mixes that they play every single day of the week. One is a gospel mix that the wife will put on on Sunday morning. 
The other two, a rough 105 matatu mix that is just someone shouting obscenities in dancehall lingua franca, and a bongo mix which the man of the house plays when he is cleaning his Probox, doors to his house open wide while I’m trying to respond to facebook comments on a client’s page without being rude, or smug like Safaricom.

My house vibrates when this music is playing. The mirrors on the door make a crackling sound you would hear if there was an earthquake  happening in Moshi Tanzania. I get a drumming in my ears, and my heart beat rate increases. I have  had a peep at this family. Vybez Cartel, the husband has a head that has a shape, that explains a lot. The wife calls him bae in a slay queen's voice. I’ve had a look at her too and my opinion is she doesn’t qualify to be calling her husband bae, maybe baba Shanaya or baba Tamara. But if that’s ‘what rocks their boat’- I hate that phrase but I need to use a phrase like that to spell out my disgust.

Bae’s wife has a clothes’ line that goes across my door.

She hardly hangs clothes on it but her neighbor does. This neighbor has an obsession with clothes washing.  She has two women that come to help her with washing every week. Two women that have marital problems so they go for church prayer meetings every day. The washing is then hang everywhere, the wet shoes go on top of my shoe rack, and the rags too, but I remove them when I am feeling like a warrior.

So last week the line was really sagging and it got to me and I decided I am done, I cannot watch this and do nothing about it. I know Biko Zulu said to be a good writer, don’t be part of the story but whatever, I climbed on a stool and redirected the annoying Kamba. It was Madaraka day.

Anyway, Sunday morning I woke up to various sounds. Vybez cartel and his wife and the laundry obsessor. They had gathered to put back the line across my door. They talked about how they were gonna buy a washing machine that washes as it dries..'you don’t even have to keep checking, it rinses the clothes out itself’ says he. I roll my eyes. The wife is singing loudly to the song playing from their dj mix mp4.

I’m smiling, thinking of all the confrontational scenes I could make.
Me, a single woman
A single woman who they probably suppose is in her 20s.
Me, a single woman that lives with a cat.
She, the town wise sharp tongued woman in her twenties with a bae for a husband. A bae that drives a Probox and listens to dj mixes at night.

Me, the infp whose body produces tears instead of words in confrontations.
Me, the recovering anger management strata.
I have managed to stay out of Langata women’s for this long.
But I had to do something about it.

After a whole day of deep thought I knock at her door and tell her the obvious. 
'Your line sags too much, find a way of raising it up from my door.'
-Oh okay, the clothes are not mine but that’s a good idea- and she squints her eyes like she likes my suggestion but I know and she knows she will do nothing of the sort.

'Coz you know, it might break one day,' I say.
( I will snip it with scissors or light it up one evening when my pms is not tolerating crap is what I mean)

She has a good singing voice, is what I was thinking. She could get into Tusker Project Fame and be a second runners up or something.

The Mrs.

The laundry obsessor has baseline beauty. Beauty that you could draw.
The kind you would use as a model checklist for a model sheet when auditioning for cooking fat models.

Nose: Tick
Eyes: Tick
Pigment: Tick
Teeth: Tick
She has a no nonsense aura but her voice betrays her. It undulates and has a gaagaa undertone to it. She would win an argument but he would not win Who’s smarter now?

With a teenage daughter and an adolescent boy, I kinda pity her.

But her boy is alright, he has a cat too and when I moved in and was doing my best to ignore everyone, he smiled at me and said sasa?Are you the one moving into that house?
Have you brought your things?
So I open my door and my cat peeps out.
Oh you have a cat? What’s his name? I have a cat too.
He runs into his house and drags out a fat cat.
The father says in a sullen voice- shut that door-
You cat is very beautiful. I tell the boy.

So of course, line or no line I cannot start fights with the mother of such a pleasant kid, because he reminds me of my kid cousin.

But Happy doesn’t like their cat.

He has become bffs with this pure white rogue of a cat. It belongs to my neighbours on my left.  I call the cat George, he has a long spout and looks like a George.

He used to come and eat and then go. But now he checks in for a meal, uses the litter, humors Happy with a bit of horseplay then falls asleep on my bed.

He is not well mannered though. He will climb walls to bring down the bag of omena, breaking glasses in the process, but if Happy likes him who I’m I to refuse them a friendship?
And I like George’s family though I wouldn’t recognize them on the street. They are very quiet and prefer to be unheard.

The Maids

I have always felt it was unfair to give Househelps names like Mboch and Maid but I now understand the derision. There are two such beings in this plot. They live on the second floor. Boisterous beings that bring the house down with their noise and gimmicks. When they have done their washing in the morning, they pour down the water down the stairs and it comes cascading down like Victoria falls followed by the kid one of them looks after.I think she is always trying to run away.

After washing they lean on the balcony railings to gossip in screechy loud sounds. Then one will realise the child has ran away and will come down calling on the child, stopping by Vybez Cartel to flirt and complement him on his wonderful music collection.

When they sun comes out, they go outside the gate with the radio singing from their kabambe phone and make everyone coming in uncomfortable with their staring.

The cat

There is  a cat too. It lives under the stairs where the communal bin is and sleeps on one of the motorbikes packed close by at night. He is a brownish color, long fur with half a tail that was either bitten off by another animal or nipped by a human. It twitches unorthodoxly.

But he is alright. Has a very tiny voice and runs away from people, Happy invites him and trys to play with him but he’s too old. If this wasn’t July already I would try shave off his fur, but I will brush him someday if he’ll let me.
He’s a sight, which makes me wonder why Happy doesn’t like the laundry obsessor’s cat which is well taken care of.
So I’m holding up, until I snap.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

8-4-4 How it nearly ruined us had we let it, and the teachers who made it worth the while.

Mr. Karimi

All I remember of Mr. Karimi was that he wore a clean shirt every day, and a tie I think. I don’t remember his face, but I remember his voice.

He was a self made comedian during parade, making us in lower class laugh but the class eight gimlet eyed teenagers would be very silent when he cracked jokes. I guess they weren’t really jokes.

He said one day; ‘If you don’t pass your KCPE this time, don’t think you can come in January
next year and expect to be taken back. No, We shall just give you a bowl to cry in. You can fill it with your tears but we’ll give you another one, then you can go home after that.’ The school had some faded cream and yellow bowls to eat Githeri from.

There was an episode when girls in the school started to get pregnant immediately after  class eight and other such scandals because one Monday he came and said.

‘Sooo, Sundays are your outing days eh? Someone brings you Mũtungo(boiled maize) and Tropical (mints) and you walk hand in hand up the hill kwa Amos -Kwa Amos was some hilly woods that were think with cedars and cypress, with thick ferns covering the underground. There was also a very clear stream running between the hills-

‘He says “I love you.”
You say, “Too much.”
It becomes a song I love you, too much, I love you, too much’

And Mr.Karimi was swinging his backside from side to side. It was hilarious.

It was 1992 and I still strongly believed boys were disgusting. I walked around without a petticoat and didn’t know it, until one Saturday morning  cũcũ asked me to put on that orange dress that was my Sunday best and said we were going to Endarasha.

We walked into a shop and she asked for tũmithi twa tũirĩtu. The woman behind the counter took a long pole with a hook on its end and pulled down a black cotton petticoat from the school uniforms section.

This shop looks like Garissa Lodge, Bata,Kalu works and Twiga textiles had a collision, apart from the fact  that it’s only one small room with a tiny window, very tiny window that is mostly a peep hole.
My cũcũ is a regular customer here. Her women’s chama also buys house ware from here. The woman then pulls down a green half petticoat.

‘These are popular for their big zigzag lace.’ She informs us.
Cũcũ is not about to cater for such fancies. She settles for a black full body one with just a slither of lace.
On our way home we pass by a tailor’s house and cũcũ shows her the petticoat and orders a similar one from the woman. This one will be cheaper; this tailor makes all my dresses, even my underwear from the bits that remain from the dress fabrics, even though it’s kinda rough.

Kumbe Mr. Karĩmi had sent word to cũcũ  that the girl needs a kamisi. The following year, he is also sees to it that my little cousin has been bought tũraba (Ngoma Bata canvas shoes). I suppose she might have been wearing gumboots or pumps to school.

I remembered him today as I stood beside my clothes’ closet trying to decide if to wear a kamisi or just stockings. I am prudish. I always wear one imagining I might bump into  Mr Karimi in town and he might discover I am not wearing a kamisi and he might call up cũcũ  to say I’ve become a bad girl, walking around kamisiless, and cũcũ  fearing any more recriminations from the head master might send me one of hers by 2NK Matatus, or have one made for me.

In primary school ,some teachers relished in embarrassing kids
-come here, you silly boy and tell your mother to stop shaving your head using scissors, a haircut is five shillings only-
Mr. Karĩmi was different, he was not out to embarrass anybody.
I saw  Mr. Karĩmi at my best friend’s brother’s burial. He remembered me and said I had really grown up,I was in form 1.

I wonder if he still teaches.

Monday, March 26, 2018

embracing vulnerability- Phase 1

Few days ago I had a full minute of clear vision where it occurred to me in such distinct clarity that I am no longer a child needing to please every breathing thing on a 10,000km radius. I have grown into a human being that actually can make decisions and stick by them regardless of who thinks it's another mad idea. Grieving clears vision.

 It's when you are feeling lost and when your bottom falls that you know exactly who matters. And it's mostly people who call you up and immediately tell you they are coming over coz you are you sure you are okay? And sit with you listening to winding tales of- how you feel like you never catch a break- but they remind you that you have actually caught many breaks in your life, it's just that now they fade in the magnitude of the floods of feelings that overwhelm you but once all is over you will be okay but it's okay cry if you want to. And what do you mean you ate a banana this morning!!!!

Gosh I fear such punctuation, it send me right out of the house for groceries. And go to sleep now, Cecilia you need to be alert tomorrow.
People who remind you that life is not as we expect it to be  but it's no reason not to eat good food, go out dancing and wear a mini skirt if that's what you want to wear.
And then I gave up the fear of letting to. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the 1001 unmade decisions and what ifs that would be affected by that one decision you haven't made.
I crumbled. I think.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

no complications

I want to love
Not like our perfectionist working class parents
But like our primary school drop out cousins to our mothers
who gently cared and cheered us on,
Who dabbed our tear stained cheeks with warmed face towels
 as they sang nursery rhymes in their language.

I want to love,
not like our sophisticated older sisters
but like our class seven classmates from a small town
They shared their combs and brushes took us out of homesickness
listened to our heartbreak and gave comfort

I want to love
Not like the mean spirited sod I've been
I guess I want to love unselfishly
I guess I can love with less emotion
to be depended upon and not run away at will.



Because I am Ngugi wa Thiong’o or I have become Chinua Achebe? Or maybe I have risen in ranks to become the millennial version of Barbara Kimenye without knowing.
On further deep retrospect and many days of self appraisal, I have come to a conclusion that no one should be expected to write a grieving manual. Not for Kyuks, nor for Germans. Just leave grieve alone and let everybody do as they wish. If anyone needs help let them speak to a psychiatrist or to their local priest.

If that is not enough, run along and read this post by BikoZulu. It’s the closest one can get to understanding how Kuyks grieve and why I initially thought I could create a manual for them and weeks upon weeks as I watered the plants, played with the cat, crushed garlic to sooth the never ending 2018 flu, the story ran through my mind in different angles. 

I had my bullet points, a.k.a vidokezo below. But like in school when the Kiswahili teacher would go round the room checking each one’s insha paper to see that you spent five minutes writing down, vidokezo, the story died before it began.

1. Acknowledge the sorrow death brings with it.
2. Allow yourself to grief, stoicism is overrated, Jesus wept. 
3.Sit down and stop planning the tea, cabbage, mikate, mukimo.
4.Why do you need to dig up those old pictures of when I was a girl with snot in my face, scan them and create a brochure?
5. Give comfort to those who mourn, stop telling them wiyumiririe, wiyumiririe kitu gani. I want to roll on the floor and loose my decency if that will get the sad out of my chest.
 oh and No.6. No one owns grief. If I'm sobbing at my neighbour's cousin's funeral, let me be. 

So for now I don’t have anything. The task was too huge. Let me be satisfied writing about women and men, plants and cats and once in a while I might get a real brilliant shot of genius and write a how to article.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Grieving 101

I’ve been feeling like crap.

But that is not something you go round telling people. You smile and cheer at the good things and then go home and wonder where you got the energy to work, to talk, to even tell funny stories to people coz all you want to do now is knock yourself out and not think about all the things that are bugging you. And then you realise that actually there is a high power holding up your spine, keeping your person from collapsing into a pile of manure.

My friend texted me to ask- how are you, sorry I don’t ask but are you okay?-  I explained that  between experiencing three deaths in two weeks and catching a bacteria infection, I’m derailed but not too bad. She said that would put her out too.
 When I looked at the conversation it became clear that I have been grieving. Grieving the Kikuyu way. Stoically, tight lipped and dry eyed. 

There are people on this earth that get under your skin a few minutes after you meet them. Genuine people that wear no masks. Simple people that are not trying to be something they are not. Hard working people that haven’t figured out life yet, but are happy to share the few lessons they’ve learned with you.

I will not talk about all three people, they all had one thing in common-  struggling with a health condition – but that didn’t stop them from living life the best way they could. Dominic, my colleague and an artist, and Mama Shiru, the woman that has been looking after my grandmother for the last two years. The woman that helped restore our dog Tom’s leg after our insane neighbor slashed it. I will talk about my friend Millie.

Millie, when we first met I thought, ‘what a sophisticated woman, I wish we could be friends.’  She was a friend of my close friend. So when she actually sort me out and made friends, I was very happy.
Two things I remember about her is how one time she called me and explained a disappointment she had experienced. We talked for hours, then she said ‘I really appreciate how your patiently listened to me.’ All I did was listen, but I came to respect her very much because I am the complete opposite. I don’t talk about my disappointments. They just eat me up and make me lose trust in people.

Whenever  I met Millie with her friends, she would parade me in front of her very accomplished and fine friends and tell them, ‘this girl is doing this and that and she is so amazing in many ways.’ I would feel like I didn’t deserve all the praise and attention. But now when I think about it, how many people, better than you in many ways will stoop down to you level and see the little bits of positive things in you? I can count them in one hand , and two of them are not human.

The last time I visited her, she had found me, told me, ‘you are coming home with me.’ We bought drinks, warmed food and talked for hours. In the morning after I had my bath she told me, ‘I want to tell you something, don’t take it the wrong way please. When you share wash basins, remember always to clean them out before pouring in your bath water. Coz, really you can’t be sure if the person before you cleaned it out.’ I appreciated that lesson, simple but practical.

I was sad, but I also know that God is not unrighteous to forget the things these people did with their lives. I hope to see them again in future.

Next: A grieving manual for Kyuks, before Stoicism kills us all.

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 ...