Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Embracing Vulnerability: Crooked Teeth

I grew up being made fun of my brown teeth. I had white teeth once, then they fell out and what grew out next were big rugged uneven teeth that started to turn color the minute they got out of the gum.

People told me a there is nothing beautiful about a girl with brown teeth.
One teacher, when she found me kneeling next to the headteacher's office(coz I had been caught singing in class during prep.
I was probably just showing off or bored or having adolescent issues) The teacher asked why I kneeling.
I didn't feel like telling her.
She wasn't in my class
So I just smiled
And she said
How dare you smile at me with such rotten teeth?

I stopped smiling, she went her way, I shrugged but then I started smiling again coz she didn't get her answer to her nosiness anyway.

 My first day of high school

I had just met some new girls and we were happily talking then a girl who had been in my primary school but now a class ahead paused in front of us and instead of saying hi.

She exclaimed

Gosh Shishilia those are such ugly teeth!
I didn't smile much after that.

But I did some figuring
My uncle, the first man I ever loved had brown teeth. But he was funny, he worked hard and he took good care of me and granny. So you could have brown teeth and still be a human being.

I also realized my teeth didn't pain . And when I had my first dental appointment he said my teeth were quite clean.

I had been brushing my teeth furiously all my life.

My mother supplied me with a toothbrush three times a year as well as a bag of sweets to last me until her next visit.

I would brush, carefully every morning and every night
Then I would tuck in two large pieces of candy into my mouth and get into bed. Mwana no mwana.

Anyhow. I also learnt that I loved other part of me. I loved my fingers, and my hair when I washed it and it came out in dark brown curls.

I also loved my nose because it was large and not tiny or flat.

And I was happy with that
As long as everything worked why stress so much about it and in any case I wasn't trying to win a beauty contest.

Then one day a girl in my class said
Wow Cecilia you have such a beautiful smile.
I said
Really? Thanks.
And I went to have a look in the mirror and sort of believed her. So I started to smile more.

She set me free.

Years later I read a book that had a teenager in it who was worried about something in her body and someone told her- you cannot have it all dear, but one thing is sure, if one thing is not right then everything else is perfect.

And I see that in many instances.
Someone might have terrible skin but they've got hips from here to Moyale.

Or another will have bad eyesight but gal those nails!

(I write something about guys here but I'm not sure I wanna say it)

Because we are not just one thing.

We are a whole lot of other things.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Pink hippos on the shores of Lake Victoria



I swear I saw two large Pink hippos on the shores of Lake Victoria.
They crossed the road and got into the city-
It was Saturday night after all.

Perhaps they were going out to tea.
Or to the disco I cannot tell,
But I could tell they were in a hurry.
And as we braked and sighed and were totally flummoxed
They went their way.

But now I am not  so sure if they were hippos Or pink elephants coz
They were were
Quite big.

Could they have been flamingoes
Walking in hippo formation?


If flamingoes do go out at night.

Perhaps they do
When the circus is in town
And when the Flamenco dancers put on a show.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Socializing the introvert: Tiny Shorts





My poem is entitled
*I just wanna wear tiny shorts*
I am a confident girl
But I am a scary chicken
I am quiet
But can talk non stop
I love the great outdoors
But I am a hermit
I love to blend in
But I have distinct hair
I am nice
But curt and sarcastic
I love music
But I hate your music
I am easy going
But very stubborn 
I am law abiding
But a rebel, for any cause
I can be productive
But Can be very lazy
I can be focused
But utterly and mostly distracted
I am basically a bag of contradictions
But all I want to do is wear my tiny red shorts
Because it's very hot.
But I have legs up to my neck

Friday, February 1, 2019

Adulting 101: Loosing my Brothers, and sister

I remember feeling like someone thrust a blunt knife in my abdomen and turned it. Then it felt like  the knife scooped out my abdomen and left a big gaping hole between my neck and waist.

There were parallel emotions too demanding to be felt. Anger, grief, confusion, sadness, fear and a hopeless sense of loss.
The kind of loss you feel when you come to your house after a break in and you feel violated.

'They had no right. They had no right to come into my house and take my things.'

Death has no right to come into my family again and take one of us.
What are we gonna do now.

The week my brother died, I burned every single thing I tried to cook and spilled every pot of milk I tried to boil.
When I went home, the intensity of sorrow that had fallen on my family was like a thick woolen blanket that would suffocate a fire.
What is worse:
Loosing a child or loosing a sibling?
Loosing a friend or a parent?
I don't know.
But I know my mothers aged ten years in the week Waithaka died.

My aunts cried, my uncles cried, Shushu cried, we cried.
We cried everyday
We were dazzed
It was a physical pain.

And on Thursday night someone realized we had been surviving on tea. So at midnight we started to cook Mandazi.
I have handled many impromptu issues in my life but there is nothing like death.

Death is different. Death is the definition of tragedy.
You receive comfort and accept comfort but there is a burning sensation that continues weeks after, in your heart, and you are standing by the sink and you start to feel quite weak.

Two months later  I still get a shock when I see the words RIP Casper. It doesn't sound right. It makes me feel so light like I'm just gonna fade into the air like dust.

I mean, if Casper the strong one is dead, what chance does a coward like me have in this life. If the smart boy Karuma is dead what does a Dunder head like me gonna do with this life.


2018 was a hard year, and by August I was done with the year but as my friend put it, it seems like someone snuck in a whole twelve months more between August and December.

When Karuma died, it hurt like a million sharp needles in raw skin.
He was a boy I grew up with, his mother has always been my other mother and whenever we met, he was always kind to me.
Not just polite but kind, like a real Big brother .
In school he would score everything but he wasn't proud or smug. I really liked his smile. I guess if we had crossed paths at 23 and he asked me to marry him I would have coz I trusted him but recently he had been rather quiet.

At his funeral they said he was respectful. He was a gentleman.

When he found out we worked in the same building and that I write content for web, he hired me to write content for his online directory kendir.co.ke.

We buried him, and we came back smarting from the huge pain we were feeling. And we decided we would check on each other.

So when three weeks after,  I got a call saying Waithaka had an accident and didn't make it. I didn't understand what I had been told and I refused to accept that kind of news.
You know it's true but how can he be dead.

And you want to stop the next person and ask them
'Have you heard? Waithaka witū ndarī ho.
 Can that be true?'

We have buried four people in our homestead. Our fathers and mothers a fifth one now?
It seems wrong
It seems even illegal to talk about burying Waithaka. He shouldn't be dead.

So here we are, making plans and trying to organise things and my small bro says,
' It's like we are all waiting for Waithaka to come and tell us what to do.'
Coz that's what he did. He pangad everything. He was the connector in the family. He brought people together, and we expected him to.

Now here we are, looking lost and not knowing what to do.
We don't even know who will say a prayer for us. He always said the prayers.

Which is worse?
Loosing a son or loosing a daughter?

My sister died this week
She was engaged to be married at the end of the year. She had had a heart surgery.
When a relative sent me a document with Clare's picture  I thought 'wow what award has Clare won?'
Kumbe it was the funeral programme. Why!! Why now! Why again? I've hardly healed from the two wounds Karuma and Waithaka's death caused.

Ok, so I'm an only child but  at 22 I met my biological father and he informed me he had a daughter and two sons. A sister! That's basically what I heard. I had always wanted my very own sister.

He said , when I said it would be lovely to meet her, that we wouldn't get a long probably. She is a starbucks kind of girl ....' ' and "I'm a ghetto chic" I finished his sentence.




Anyway. Anyhow. We stalked each other online.

I guess I was looking for similarities. We, the fatherless race have many unaswered questions and we  try to recognise bits of ourselves in things and people we can relate to.
She was beautiful, stylish and loved her God.

I always Imagined we would meet sometime in the future, in a quiet cafe and trade stories. I imagined I would ask her to come for my wedding and bring her brothers.

So I'm sitting wondering what feeling I feel exactly.
True, we never met but  the much we knew about each other was a gift to me.

I know her parents loved her as an only daughter and a first born. Her brothers must feel terrible at her the death. Her fiancé, her friends, her workmates, her relatives.
It is not well when a young life is cut short.


When reality starts coming at you it comes like a broken dam. You get some news that hit you so hard you reel backwards, fall and even collapse sometimes.

 I have had something specific to make me sad each week since August 2018.

I've been irritable
Confused
Extremely sad
Afraid
Weak

I have come to hate these question. How are you? How are things? How is everything ? From random people. Just wave me a hi and move along. Please.
Tafadhali.

Or the other question that is actually a statement to absolve the inquirer of guilt. After you explain you are not okay but you are not too bad. The person pats your hand and says.
'But you're okay?' 'Lakini uko poa....eh?'
How else can I answer that?
Yes I'm fine, never been better.
Now move over you're blocking my view.


At first I felt I could not handle all that was coming at me but after I had recovered from a few of these hits. I made a conscious decision to have something specific to counter the negativity coming at me.

I talked to people I respect for suggestions.
One of my friends diagnosed the first issue as a burn out. I was doing too much and getting frustrated when I lost balance.

He suggested I try a few things like  taking it easy, resting and surrounding myself with things I love.

I love beauty. That wasn't so hard to collect, I started to create beautiful things to place around the house, I visited Karura forest and spent a day chasing butterflies.

I realized I had stopped listening to music so I made a few playlists.

I had also stopped writing.
Writing requires a lot of mental exertion for writers.
We go over and over a draft befor we decide yeah we are doing this.

I was writing in my journal but as any writer will tell you. Any writing is incomplete until it has been shared. And as much as we cringe almost all the time at the thought of being criticized this delaying the sharing for as long as we can, we still need someone to look at our work.

I also started to sketch. I have always drawn and sketched but this time I decided to sketch things I like.

After almost three months of continuous sketching I have come to love it and I am getting better.
It is harder than writing so I don't put so much pressure on myself and I am ready to accept criticism.

I also decided to only sketch things I can finish in less than an hour.
It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Writing can really work on someone's insecurities. When you have a story in your head and it's not coming out as you have it in the head.

When I started the embracing vulnerability series, I did not realize how much more vulnerable I would need to be in the following period of total exposure to people and to the elements.

Death exposes you to both.
And when I accepted that fact I just let my friends know.
"Guys by the way I am weak and I am accepting all the help I can get ."
And that is exactly what I have got.
One of my friends drugged me out of the house before seven, made me breakfast, listened to me talk about death until 2pm, made me lunch, took me swimming, then took me back home.
Another friend is ready to listen anytime of the day. I text her about 1000 words per week and she replies to each single one.
She is the one that told me when my sister died
'If we tried to understand our parent's reasoning we'll grow old still trying."
So she said I must do the right thing, the kind thing. And I got the    Courage to say pole to those directly related to the girl.
Jehovah might not come down and tell me 'pole Ciss' but I have seen how he comforts me by using my fellow human beings.

I know people won't stop asking the  hybrid question.
How are you how are things how is everything?
I need to work on my face though, and my responses.
Unless you want to hear how I felt my heart fall into my stomach last night or how I cannot find my breath at times.
I have to stop taking things personally too.

These five things have been helpful to me, maybe they can help you too:

1.Read encouraging material and the Bible
2.Listen to uplifting music, Ted talks.
3.Pray
4. Write in a journal
5.Talk to a friend who has the mental energy to hear you bla blah blah

It's been two weeks now. Sometimes I'm fine, other times I'm crying so much inside and I'm not even sure for whom. Karuma, Waithaka, Milly, Clare.
My heart feel wounded and raw like someone pulled it out and turned it over on an open fire. Yeah like that.
But I'm determined to giver his life I got my best shot.
I know some wounds cannot heal right now but I have hope.
That one time no one will have to suffer the pain of death.
And our loved ones will rise from the dust.

Life without end at last.

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 ...