Case of The Sponsor

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I need to get something off my chest. I don’t share food. I mean, not that if I came across someone who needed food I wouldn’t give them, I would. But if we’re having a meal together, no you cannot taste my food. No you cannot have a bite or a piece or a sip. If it’s teargas though, be my guest. Or if it’s njahi, you can have the whole bowl. That’s where I draw the line.

Ladies have that thing for sharing food. Apparently it’s tastier if eaten communally. Now, I grew up in a family of boys, so communal eating usually meant someone would get disenfranchised. If it was a meal of chicken, you could end up with a wing and a neck. So, you had your food on your plate and that was it. No sharing. If you had a packet of crisps, or chips, it was yours. A chocolate, yours. A stick of gum, all yours.

And so the same happened to me when I took a female friend out for lunch. We ordered food and caught up on what was going on in our lives. She’s on one of those internet diets and so ordered the healthy stuff, caesar salad. And water. No carbs. Why? Because she needs to fit into ‘booty shorts by September’. I , on the other hand, was stressed that day, so my body was screaming for greasy fries and pork chops.

My dear, keeping eating those fries, you’ll grow an ass and get love handles.

I pointed at her with the toothpick I was playing with and remarked, Too late. You know what I say, if they can’t love my handles, they can’t handle my love

She laughed and said I was silly. I laughed and said, I know.

As we get to talking she tells me how she’s been through a crazy relationship lately and was considering getting a guy who could pay her bills, take her out of town or the country once in a while and shower her with gifts. In return, she could, you know, make him ‘happy’.

Ahaa. You mean like a sponsor?

Well, if that’s the term you want to use.

Well, I don’t want to use it. But it seems appropriate.

Whatever, she said as she rolled her eyes. I shrugged.

She has a pal who has a ‘sponsor’ and is living the life.

Ebu see the fun she was having in The Atlantis, Dubai last weekend? She shows me a series of narcissistic pictures of her friend. 

Wow, nice bikini.

Kwenda. Ebu focus. She gives me those friendly slap on the arms.

So, would you be my sponsor? she asks

I’m taken aback by the question. Plus our food has arrived.

Well, would you wear that bikini?

Maybe. So would you?

I’m trying to get the right combination of salt and chillie sauce on my fries as she drizzles her salad with a thousand island dressing.

Well, I don’t know. Dubai sounds expensive. And gifts. Eish. Oh, plus the little fact that I’m married.

Yeah. I know. The better. You won’t be all over me with emotions. I can have you to myself when I need to.

The nerve of this woman. I can barely negotiate getting a ‘visa’ from the missus on rugby weekends to meet the boys, how am I supposed to get time to off to undertake sponsor duties.

Can I taste your pork? It looks nice. And some fries?

I thought you were on a diet?

Yeah, but I just want to taste.

Ehh. I don’t share my food.

Haha. You’re so silly. Then she reaches over and with her fork, skewers a few fries and a piece of pork.

I whisper the serenity prayer.

You want to taste my salad?

No. I’m allergic greens. Besides, right now I’m like Brutus and don’t like your salad.

She didn’t get the joke. She just gnawed away at those leaves like a rabbit.

So, how would this sponsor thing work? What would I have to do?

Well, you’d just need to pay my rent. And my phone bill. Oh, and give me like twenty k for shopping and my hair.

Eh? Twenty K per month?

Yeah, of course, per month. Like duh.

Jeez. That’s crazy. Na I haven’t even organized that Dubai trip yet?

Yeah. But it’s not a lot even. Si you’re a banker?

Yeah. I’m not the bank itself. I just work there.

My palms were sweaty now. So was my brow. Mainly because of the amount of chillie sauce I had put on my food. But also at this prospective opportunity.

How do people do it? Taking care of a wife is work in itself. But adding a ‘side dish’ now. With a thousand island dressing to boot? This was going to be an expensive venture, the emotional turmoil notwithstanding. Then the sneaking around. Now I need to get one of those obnoxious dual sim phones. And install that app called Vault to hide those ‘booby pics’ stashed in my Whatsapp. Or maybe use Telegram private chat.

And the showers before I go home. With plain water. No soap, ladies can smell foreign soap. The separate hidden bank accounts. Then I’ll have to either have to get a raise or become very adept at Sportpesa. I’ll have to learn to hide condoms, and if found say they’re for my boy and that he left them in the car. And that he should really get married and stop picking up chicks using my car.

I’ll have to get off Facebook and Instagram and even that Snapchat thing, lest I’m tagged inadvertently on a beach in Cape Town when I was supposed to be on a work trip in Naivasha. Or, worse, get caught up in Machakos Sevens.

And before I could answer, she answered for me.

Anyway, you’re way too stingy. I don’t think you’d make a good sponsor. But si you hook me up with that hot colleague of yours? He looks like he has money to spend.

You crazy woman. Ebu finish you’re plants. I need to get back to the office.

 

 

 

 

What I Learnt From The Greatest

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A man needs a band of brothers around him. Positive brothers. You can call them ‘the boys’, ‘my bros’ whatever. But you need them around. I’m grateful I’ve got such, my actual brothers. They’re always there through the good and bad times. I’ve known them all my life and we’ve shared everything from clothes, books, sleeping quarters, drinks, advice and experiences. If I’m in a fix and need some help, I can reach out to my brothers. Anytime. Any day.

Growing up, my brothers and I loved Muhammad Ali. He was more than an American hero. More than a world hero. He was our hero.He had skill, he talked tough and meant it.We loved it.And so when we heard of the death of Ali, we were devastated. It was nice to reflect however, on the life of a man who called himself The Greatest, and became the greatest.

In my own tribute kind of way, I will share a few things about The Greatest that shaped my life.

Success begins in the mind.

As Morpheus tells Neo in The Matrix, ‘Don’t think you are, know you are’. And so did Muhamad Ali live his life. I mean this is a guy who would predict what round he would win. He would taunt his opponents. He calling Sonny Liston a ‘the big ugly bear’. He said of Liston before their first fight, ‘I’m gonna put that ugly bear on the floor, and after the fight i’m gona build myself a pretty home and use him as a bearskin rug….’ He won that fight. He called Joe Frazier ‘the Gorilla’ and George Foreman ‘the mummy’. Heck, he’d even make up rhymes one of the most famous being ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see’ ,in reference to George Foreman’s slow pace. He wouldn’t be able to keep up with Ali. Many people think Ali said these things to his opponents to rile them up, get them irritated and unfocused. Maybe he did. But I think he also said these things to himself. To get himself thinking he’s the best, he’s the greatest ever. And once he thought it, he became it. The Greatest.

Hard work

For all his tough talking, Ali wasn’t a slouch. He worked hard. Trained hard. Before the Rumble in the Jungle against Foreman everyone said he was too fat. That Foreman would destroy him. But he trained, hard. He made sure he was fitter and faster than before. Even before the Thriller in Manila against Joe Frazier, Ali trained in the sweltering Philippine heat while Joe Frazier opted for isolation and an air conditioned gym. As for the fight itself, it was a grueling 14 rounds and only ended when Frazier’s coach, seeing the damage to Frazier, called the fight and the victory went to Ali. Ali later admitted that fight was the closest he felt to death, but yet he hang on till he was declared the victor.

Have fun as you do what you do

Ali changed the sport of boxing. He bobbed and weaved, and danced as he fought. I’ve always thought of boxing as a tough sport, and it is. But Ali made it look fun. He enjoyed taunting his opponents, wearing them out and hitting them with quick punches. He loved it. As a poet, he made up rhymes depicting what he would do to his opponents.

‘But if I ever was to get in the ring with Joe, here’s what you might see. Ali comes out to meet Frazier, but Frazier starts to retreat. If Joe back up an inch farther, he’ll wind up in a ringside seat. Ali swings with his left. Ali swings with his right. Just look at the kid carry the fight. Frazier keeps backin’, but there’s not enough room. It’s only a matter of time before Ali lowers the boom. Ali swings with his right. What a beautiful swing. But the punch lifts Frazier clean out of the ring. Frazier still rising, and the referee wears a frown ’cause he can’t start countin’ till Frazier comes down. Frazier’s disappeared from view. The crowd is getting frantic. But our radar stations done picked him up. He’s somewheres over the Atlantic. Now, who would’ve thought, when they came to the fight, they was gonna witness the launching of a black satellite? But don’t wait for that fight. It ain’t never gonna happen. The onliest thing you can do is wonder and imagine.’

Or one of my favourites, ‘Joe comes out smokin’, and I gonna be jokin’. I be packin’ and pokin’, pouring water on his smokin’. This might shock and amaze ya, but I will destroy Joe Frazier..’

Lot’s can be said about Muhammad Ali, both good and bad. The fact of the matter is that he was a role model to millions in the world. I was not much of a boxing guy, I’m lover not a fighter, but Ali was inspirational to my brothers and I.

He did his bit for boxing, racial discourse in the States and the world and most importantly teaching us all that you can be the best if you put your mind to it.

Farewell Champ.

 

 

 

On Life and Growing Up

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‘One day my friend’. That was the chief’s favourite phrase. It often resulted in short lived hope that whatever you had asked for, you would get. For instance, I remember when growing up,my brother’s and I asked the chief for a dalmatian. That ka-spotted dog. Of course the answer was ‘One day my friends’. Needless to say we never got that dalmatian. Though now that I think of it, I’m not sure why four boys would ask for a dalmatian. Very questionable.

As we got older though, we would question what he meant by ‘one day’. I mean, give us some deadlines. In a week? a month? a year? When? He soon saw that we had become smarter and so he started qualifying the phrase, ‘One day when you have your own money’

And so it became. Whatever we asked for that was beyond the budget of a civil servant, that’s what the response would be.

Could I get a Sega Mega drive like my cousin?

One day my friend, when you have your own money you can get one’

I saw a nice motorbike for kids, could I have one?

One day my friend, when you have your own money

Then adolescence and teenage kicked in and the requests became grander.

My friend has some nice high tops and MC Hammer pants. Could I get some?

What are those? Get them when you have your own money. And get your own pants, leave that Hammer fellows alone.

What about an earing? Can I get one?

Well if you want to be a girl, that’s fine. Do it when you have your own money.

I’m old enough to drive now, can I get a license?

Well I was not aware you owned a car?

I thought I could drive yours?

Haha. You’re very funny. When you get your own money, you will get your own license and your own car. Then you can drive to KBC and audition for Vioja Mahakamani because you’ve got good jokes.

The only thing the chief would not compromise on was books and school. Anything you asked for related to those two, he would finance. No questions asked. So we read lots of books and went to decent schools. Did we wear the latest fashion? Not so much. Karl Kani, Fubu and Enyce were just labels we’d draw in the margins of our exercise books.

And so it went on. Anything ‘fun’ and ‘interesting’ for a young boy was met with the same response.

Then I got a job. And money.

My ‘one day’ had finally come. I cannot speak for my brothers, but I’m sure they did exactly what I did. Or worse. I spent that money like it was going to expire.

I once bought a corduroy jacket from Enkarasha (whatever happened to that store?). I wore that jacket but once. I’m not even sure what became of it. Five thousand good ones were spent. Why? I had money.

The chief had no idea what he had done. He’d created a monster. No consumerist centre was beyond me. Fast food joints, clothing stores, bars and restaurants. Spending was my middle name.

Then there was the girls. That song ‘Mo money Mo Problems’ should have been more money, more girls, more problems. I was on my way to getting my diploma in being a ‘Sponsor’.

Ati you need airtime? Here’s a thousand bob.

Waiter, these girls are having wine. Bring two bottles, na ice bucket tafadhali. It must be chilled, yawa!

I remember once an ex girlfriend used to say that I couldn’t even afford to take her to Tamasha while in college. She had stirred the hornets nest. Now I had money. I took her and her friends to Tamasha. She was not ready for this jaluo. Never has a card been swiped with so much frequency. I even bought multi-coloured shots of drinks I could not pronounce.

Kwani what?

Then she mentioned that Westie is the kicking place. Of course, I said we should go. And off to Sohos it was. And that is when I encountered unscrupulous barmen. The one’s who inflate your bill by adding strange sounding expensive cocktails to your bill. But because you’re an Omera like me, swiping your debit card at will like a samurai on a revenge mission, you accept. Si you have money? How can you start analysing your bill like you can’t afford anything?

I soon learnt that money is finite. That the smiles of some girls are directly proportional to the size of your wallet. That life has bills. Lots of them. That debt is real. I also learnt that I’d been lied to. Sometimes there’s no such thing as ‘one day’. MC Hammer pants were not in fashion anymore. I couldn’t find Karl Kani jeans in any store. Timbaland boots were too heavy for me, and had stopped being cool.

Growing up and having freedom sucked. Well played chief, well played. I started becoming like him. I started using that phrase on people.

If a girl asked something ridiculous, Aki si you buy me a new phone?

 One day my dear. One day.

But then at some point it all started making sense. I had to live life, to plan and budget for things. I had to start living that dream life I had envisioned. ‘One day’, with a plan in place of course,actually made sense. I could achieve all my dreams, ‘one day’. Why didn’t the chief just say that? These old men and teaching through experience and cryptic messages. I’ll never understand. The message was received though. Loud and clear. Yes, I had to make mistakes, go through costly ‘sponsor’ duties but that’s life I guess.

Lessons are learnt a day at a time. And those lessons are supposed to make you better I guess. That’s why I have never set foot in Sohos again. Learning.

Life is a journey. And I’m still trying to figure out what the destination is. But I’ll get there. One day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into The Circle

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I got a nasty cold last week. A sore throat too. I even lost my voice. I had that hoarse, whispering Batman voice. And there was pain when I spoke. Alot. I thus had to learn how to gesticulate. Oh yes. Big word. I remembered how The Chief communicates, and I thought, this can’t be too bad. So I didn’t wait any longer. I was now grunting and muttering things, and people understood what I meant. I even learnt how to do that point with your lips thing that Kikuyu ladies do. You know that thing. It’s like a duck face, but less silly looking. I learnt to use my eyes too. To give menacing looks. To give orders. To silence people. Speaking is overrated.

If my mom knew I had a cold I’m sure her reaction would have been the same as it’s always been for the past thirty odd years.

You must not have been wearing a sweater. Now look at you.

Only in Africa do sweaters prevent colds.

So yes, despite wearing a sweater,I actually picked this cold from partaking of choice chilled beverages. Not out of any fault of mine. I didn’t go seeking these choice chilled beverages. I have a solid defence. Bear with me, I will explain.

So on the weekend preceding my cold infection, I was to meet some rather crazy but fun group of people I know. They were off on a road trip to Loitoktok. Yes, It’s a place that people take road trips to. I hoped to be part of what was billed to be an epic weekend but somehow I had a pre-planned shindig with the in-laws. Shindig. I like that word.

So as these entertaining people were off to Loitoktok, I was stuck headed to my sister in laws ruracio (bride price negotiationceremony. Not too bad, considering my in-laws are actually a rocking bunch. (No, I was not threatened to write that). There was also going to be food, lots of it. And of course nyama choma. There’s no meal complete in that household without nyama choma.

The missus wanted us to leave early to head to my father in law’s digs, but I pretended to have some random morning errands so that I could sneak in an hour or 2 of sleep. Don’t judge me, It was a Saturday. I’ll be so busted when she reads this.

I eventually made my way to my father in laws place,my belly sufficiently prepared for the indulgence that was going to go down. I took an Uber there so as not to injure Halle Berry (my German machine) on that treacherous South C road. Or rather those craters that masquerade as a road. As in there are craters there that I’m sure can be seen from the moon. I peeped into one as we drove by and I saw the free and fair elections that Cord are protesting over, right next to responsible journalism. Right there, in that crater. Those craters are so many and conjoined, you can get into one and appear on the other side of the road out of another. For real, I saw a probox to that. Those craters…I’ve run out of words. They’re probably in those South C craters.

End of rant. Where was I?

Oh yes. I finally made it to the in laws. The ceremony was great. Lots of food. Songs sung off key. Awkward smiling and waving when people spoke to me in Kikuyu. Reprimands to the missus why I still don’t know Kikuyu. The usual stuff.

The negotiators went into a room to discuss the dowry stuff. The rest of us hung about, chatting, drinking sodas, laughing and making fun of each other. All this as we awaited the ‘white smoke’ that would signal successful negotiations. As we milled about, I kept thinking what it must be to be in that room. What is discussed? Who has that master list of honey, fifty two goats, one hundred cows, blankets, sufurias and lesos? And how do they arrive at those items and there accompanying figures? Will we do the same for our kids? Me I won’t want goats and cows. I want parts for my Land Rover Defender. Or tickets to the Grand Prix in Qatar. Or maybe season tickets to the IRB World Sevens Series. Those ungulates you can keep.

Then the air was pierced by shrill voices of women. White smoke. The deal was done. The family of my new brother in law must have been parted from copious sums of legal tender. Hehe. Now the party could begin. I could hear the crates of beers. Bottles of choice single malt drinks clinked together to indicate they would not be left out of the party. There was even tea and uji for those with softer palates. And sodas, to placate the children.

As the children ran about, one of them, my nephew, came to me and said he had a message for me. I was summoned to partake of some choice chilled beverage. Or as he innocently put it:

Guka says you go and take pombe.

Now, my father in law is the chief derailer. I knew that as soon as I join those wazees the night would go downhill. Besides, I’d had a heavy evening the previous day and so needed not shock my body with more alcohol. I’m a light weight these days. So I didn’t go immediately. My nephew was sent to me a second and third time. The fourth time it was my father in law himself. That was bad. I now had no choice in the matter.

Young man, kwani umekuwa mtoto? Hautaki kakitu?

I have learnt that the father in law loves rhetorical questions. Questions meant to spark action rather than to provide answers.

Ah. Hapana. I was on my way.

Lord forgive me for lying to the old man.

So I joined the wazees. Since he had honoured guests, the single malt whiskeys were for them. I would have the beers instead. As many as required. Without hesitation he asked pointed towards the crate of White Cap Lager and told me to ‘work on it’. Now, if you’ve had a drink with anyone over fifty you know that those guys sip beer like water. I knew this. Out of experience. So I made a wise decision. I told him that I would sit with the other younger guys outside but would come for re-fills of my beer. He begrudgingly agreed, but told me not to be too slow on refilling. One cannot let down the father in law.

And so that’s how I got a cold. Plenty of beer and sitting out in the cold. With a sweater.

I enjoyed it though. It felt nice to be included. To be thought of as one of the men. Part of the wazees. To willy nilly, join their circle, reach into a crate and pull out a lager. And to get that nod of approval. You are one of us.

 

What Will They Say

On a flight to Johannesburg, I’m reading this book about Africa. The State of Africa by Martin Meredith . It’s quite an intriguing read of the history of the continent from colonial times to modern day Africa. It’s packed with stories of despair, hope and disappointments. I thought to myself (as if I could think to anyone else), what kind of legacy did all these leaders intend to leave and why has it gotten to this point? But this is not a political blog and my mind is not built for politics, so that was the end of my question.

Now, whenever I fly I prefer aisle seats and empty planes. Not crowds. I like crowds as much as I like mukimo. I don’t like mukimo.

The problem with aisle seats though, is the lack of privacy. This particular trip I’m watching a movie, earphones plugged in, drink in hand when lo and behold a sex scene comes up. At that very moment the captain of the plane decides to make an announcement about weather or altitude. I forget which. So, my screen freezes and displayed on it is this lady with petite breasts riding the protagonist of the movie. To my left, one row behind, this child starts wailing and i turn around, forgetting I have my earphones on i almost strangle myself, yelp, pour beer on my lap and everyone around me looks at me and there’s my screen displaying porn like scenes. The mother of the child frowned at me unapprovingly.

Thankfully, the young chap from South Africa seated next to me was not as judgemental. Maybe because we were having the same brand of brew. Nothing like a beer to bring together strangers. So we get to talking. (Alas I just had to get the talkative neighbour. Just my luck.) It was a good distraction from judgemental mom behind me though. He spots my book and the conversation moves from beer to politics. African politics. So we trade sob stories of the disappointing political state of our countries.

But you guys are alright. I mean what is Zuma’s folly? Having multiple wive’s?

He laughs. I laugh back.

Well, there’s also the matter of him using public funds to ‘renovate’ his home. He said this drawing inverted commas in the air with his fingers as he said ‘renovate’

Aaah. But that’s normal in Africa. Worse things have happened.

Of course, I didn’t want to go into details of the mind numbing corruption scandals we get faced with in Kenya everyday.

I just wonder what kind of legacy these leaders of ours want to leave us. We have so much potential and just waste it. Eish. 

He could actually mentioned legacy and leadership in the same sentence as African leaders.

But don’t we vote in these people? I felt the need to play devil’s advocate

Yes. Because we’re not empowered as a people. We think that if our person is in power that our live’s will change. It only changes for the person elected and his cronies. Not for the common man.

Ahaaa. I see.

I had nothing to add. Partly because political arguments numb my mind, but mostly because I had to pee and this chap seemed so deep into this argument.

I excuse myself and head to the lavatory. Not before judgemental mom gives me the side eye.

As I get down to handling my business (See what I did there?), I think about judgemental mom. Frowning at me for my choice of cinematic entertainment. Kwani how did she get that wailing kid anyway? Then I think about the African leaders discussion. Why do people discuss politics? For me it’s like when I stub my little toe on some furniture. There’s like 72 seconds of pain, cursing, more pain and more cursing. Then I hobble away. Then I start wondering who put the furniture there, or if I should cut off my toe and never stub it on anything again. Or whether furniture should have protective coverings in case it should so happen to run into a hapless toe. Should there be a commission of enquiry formed? Then when the pain subsides, and all is forgotten. And I move on with life. That’s what I think about political discussions.

Relieved, I leave the lavatory and head back to my seat. Smiling sarcastically at previously wailing child and judgmental mom as I walk by. I take my seat, pop open another beer can and take a sip. My South African neighbour has calmed down and is now thumbing through the duty free magazine.

Maybe it was the sip of beer. Or the unexpected silence now that my neighbour did not continue his rant. I started thinking about the chief, and a discussion we had had the weekend prior to my travel. He had talked about how he was proud that he had educated all his four sons and that they were now all out in the world living their own lives. He’s been getting mushy of late. Which is strange.

As a man, you have to do the basics. Take care of your family and yourself. Leave a mark on the world and leave it better than you found it. Think about what they’ll say when you’re gone. What will your legacy be?

Those words he said had stuck. And kept playing in my head. What will they say indeed.

I wonder if our leaders think of those words. I said that out aloud. Chirpy neighbour looked at me.

I wonder if we have leaders who think about a legacy and what they want to leave for the country or the world.

I said this out loud, consciously this time.

Ei. Ma man. I dont know. But I guess we should just do our bit eh.

We sighed. Together. I put my earphones back on, took a sip of my beer and continued watching my movie.

Soon I nodded off. 1 hour to land. All that talk on legacy and leadership was too much to digest in one flight.

Mama

I detest family gatherings. Let me rephrase, I detest family gatherings that involve extended family. Not for anything, apart from the fact that my mind can only handle so many conversations and personalities.

Family gatherings that involve extended family remind me of being kicked out of my room to make room for an uncle or aunt. At 11 in the night. They remind me of chapatis and lots of Ugali and chicken, but also the need to wash all the soiled dishes. Traumatizing for a child. It’s so bad that if I now do the dishes in my home, the missus knows that I must have been up to some mischief.

And so, when my mother called me from her farm to say she would be in Nairobi and that she will be hosting a family gathering at her Nairobi home to celebrate her retirement, I was as enthused as white paint. Besides, this lady retired like 5 years ago. Anyway, there’s no time like African timing I guess.

Needless to say I made up things to do when the day for the gathering came round. You don’t want to arrive too early, lest you get sent on errands. To buy sodas, salt or maybe cooking oil. You also don’t want to go too late and miss out on the awesome chapatis but yet have to say hello to all those uncles and aunts who you’ve been avoiding. The one’s who send you those text messages asking you to hook one of the village folk a job. 

He’s just finished college and is ready for the world. Si umtafutie kitu hapo ‘Narobi’? 

Surely, I too am looking for ‘something’, heck a lot of things, in this ‘Narobi’.

But of course you feign ignorance and offer those usual excuses.

Aaaaah. Anko! I’ve been so busy. Nimeshikana sana na job. Si you know how Narobi is. Kupambana kila siku.

Why we’re always battling and pushing in this city, I’ll never know. Kupambana, Kuskumana. Never just living and enjoying life. But I guess that’s a post for another day.

Relatives can also be unbearable at times. Another reason I’m not a fan of family gatherings. There’s always that buxom aunt who will look at you, smile and declare that your wife is doing a good job, obviously in reference to that Tusker t-shirt that hugs you like its life depended on it. Seams barely holding the garment together. 

No. That’s not health. I’m fat. Overweight. In fact at my age, according to Google, in danger of many lifestyle diseases. 

This same aunt will then say hello to the missus and give her that quizzical look, poking her tummy. 

Ehe? Bado? Kwani what are you guys waiting for? We need grandchildren. We’re not getting any younger.

Then you have to have that awkward smile and pinch the missus arm before she says something unsavoury. 

Pole pole auntie. We’re still on honeymoon; you’ll quip, trying to dilute the tension.

Of course, you realise you’re better off playing with you’re young nephews and nieces. At least they don’t judge. Except for that one niece who points at what you call a chest and laughs out loud saying ‘Haha. Anko has nyonyo’. Those nieces aren’t cool. Yet you’ll still buy them Queen Elsa and Princess Anna dolls and such like.

Don’t ask how I know these things. Frozen is a cool cartoon.

Family gatherings aren’t too bad though, there’s some reprieve. There’s that one cool uncle who will hang out with you and your cousins. The one who will say he has a bottle of Johnnie Walker in the car (or his suit) and you’re all invited for a sip or four. The one who’ll say the family gathering is boring and that we should leave for a nearby nyama choma joint or bar or both.

Then of course there are the cousins. And the divide; the cousins from up country and the cousins from Nairobi. The fun cousins. The quiet cousins. The cousin who says Wesley Snips instead of Wesley Snipes. The cousin who just got off drugs. The cousin who’s the same age as you but got married at 19 and has 4 kids, the youngest who made a quip about your man boobs. You don’t like that cousin. He seems to know everything. Then there’s your cousin who was young and awkward last you met and now she’s blossomed into a curvy lady. You bumped into her and her pals in the club a few weeks ago and ‘turned up a good one.’ 

This family gathering was different though. It was in her honour anyway. But that wasn’t it. It was when her siblings got up to speak. And said all these amazing things she did for them. How she sacrificed going to college (despite getting good grades), to join secretarial school so that she could get a job and put her siblings through school. And she did, take them through school.

How she housed, clothed and fed her younger siblings as they went to school. How she used the money that she and her young husband had saved for a baby cot for their first born child to pay school fees for her brother. 

How she was and continues to be the big sister that they cherish and adore. The glue that keeps the family together. Slow to anger and quick to assist where she can. Her needs put aside until everyone is well catered for.

I knew my mom was awesome. I mean, who doesn’t think their mom is awesome. But I was taken aback with tribute after tribute. I almost shed a tear. But the chief spotted me, and that tear crawled right back where it came from.

When it came to her turn to speak she, characteristically, said few words. She thanked God. She thanked her siblings, her parents, her children. And her husband. The chief himself. I think I spotted a blush, from him. Ok, he grunted. But it was a blush grunt. If ever there’s such a thing. She said that above all, she wouldn’t be the person everyone said she is, without him. Without his support. His love. More blush grunts.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day. So the Chief is capable of love. And support. And all those mushy things. No wonder mom was awesome. Is awesome. 

Happy mother’s day to mom; wife of the Chief. And may the Chief and I and other men support these wonderful, strong women in our lives to be the best they can be.

 

No Longer The Hunter

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I’m getting spectacles. Yes. I’ve joined the four eyes club. It’s partly the reason I haven’t been able to post anything lately. I can’t stare at a computer screen for more that fifteen minutes without tearing. I’ve been in denial. Which isn’t a surprise, considering I carry the gene of being extremely stubborn, thanks to the Chief.

But I swallowed my pride and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. An eye doctor. Who knew. Thankfully, because of the organization I slave away for, I have medical insurance and of the four ophthalmologists I had at my disposal, I chose Dr Onyango. No particular bias, but he was the first on the list and was based in the city centre. And since the Missus had commandeered the chariot for the weekend. I needed a clinic easily accessible via public transport. Ergo, Dr Onyango’s clinic.

When I first stepped into his clinic, I was unimpressed. Sad looking waiting benches lined the walls, random magazines some almost 10 years old displayed on an old, wooden coffee table and family pictures along the wall. It looked like my grandfather’s living room. The family photos had smiling people donning graduation gowns and holding up degrees on display.

Typical, I thought. These Luos and their love for education and achievements therein.

Reminded me of one of the Chief’s friends introducing me to his children one fine day.

Yessss. This is my son Dr Castro. Recently graduated from John Hopkinsss. And this is his sister, Nyangi, a second year at Havard Law School. Do you know who else studied law at Havard?

I shook my head.

Obama. Yesss. Potus himself. 

He said it, like potus was an actual name. Like he was referring to an old schoolmate.

Anyway, back to Dr Onyango. After filling redundant forms, I finally went in to see him. An old man met me. Probably in his late sixties. A classic Luo old man. The one’s that stress words that end with the letter ‘s’. He had a wrinkly face, not from worry but rather a happy life. With lots of laughter. He had high, shiny cheekbones. Definitely, those of a man who liked to laugh. He also had those deep set eyes, that possess wisdom. His  lab coat was a dull white and slightly worn, indicative of many years of practice. Forty, I later gathered.

So how are we today?

Clearly an old school doctor. They ask such questions. They use the word ‘we’, to show solidarity in whatever medical predicament has befallen you.

I explain to him that I was diagnosed two years ago with astigmatism. (Yes. Big word. I am also very educated.) For those not in the know, astigmatism basically means blurred vision. It’s hard to distinguish between an ‘O’ and a ‘Q’ and a ‘D’. Basically, I’d make a terrible eye witness if I was asked to give out a license plate number. I’d however know that it was a Probox.

I added that I was given a weak prescription but in my opinion I could see relatively well.

He glanced at me. With those wisdom filled eyes. He then smirked and looked down at his writing pad and jotted something down. Probably the word ‘Idiot’.

He then ushered me to a chair. Across from it was a white board with letters in varying sizes. A Snellen Chart. I know this because I went to a good school, that taught me how to use Google.

He asked me to read the largest of the letters on the chart. I couldn’t make them out. I could tell there were big, bold letters. But they could have been O’s or Q’s. Who knew.

He then blurted out. Catching me so off guard I almost fell out of my seat.

My friend. You say you can see? You’re blind! You’re living dangerously. This is Nairobi. You need to be able to see.

He had a heavy Luo accent.

I did what I do in nervous situations. I laughed. Some people fart. I laugh when nervous.

You young men. You need to be able to see danger approaching. It may be mungiki. Or even a girl that you think is pretty but looks more like you. You can make a big mistake.

He barely finished the word as he let out a snigger, exposing a pristine row of white teeth. Eyes closed as he slapped his thigh in laughter. Why do old people laugh at their own jokes?

These young women these days are different from my time, they’re educated. They have their own money. They don’t want to deal with academic dwarves!

Haha. Academic what?

Yesss! That’s what one of them told me here. In this office. She said that she’s married but her husband doesn’t know the children are not his. He’s way too inferior intellectually, and she cannot let her children start life at a disadvantage. They tell me things. These women.

I laughed again.

Daktari you’re joking.

This is not a joke young man. It is happening. This your generation is doomed omera.

But that’s just one example. Far from rendering us condemned, I responded.

Young man you have no idea. Some of these single one’s are terrible. They will have your baby without your knowledge.

Really? How?

Yes. They carry their own condoms, for you to use. But they pierce them. You think you’re safe….You’re not! You’re doomed!

All the while as he spoke he half-whispered. Looking around as if someone would hear him. Those deep set eyes darting left to right. And he laughed as he spoke. As if he revelled in the fact that ‘we were doomed’

‘Others will insist on disposing of the condom herself. She will say it’s her house and she disposes of the condoms. Then she freezes the thing with it’s contents. For use later. Doomed! Surely, which man doesn’t dispose of his own condom?’

I don’t know. I haven’t particularly carried out a survey on men and their prophylactic disposal patterns.

He continued checking my eyes. Switching between various lenses, asking me to read the letters on the Snellen Chart.

But you know why all this is happening? Why the young ladies are becoming bolder? And the young men like yourselves become weaker?

Urrm. Beijing perhaps?

Beijing? No. It’s diet

Huh. I’m confused. So their dieting is making them bolder?

He shook his head.

No. It’s what you young men are eating these days. Stay away from junk food. These chickens and chips and pizza. They’re full of hormones. Female hormones. For commercial purposes. That’s why men are becoming like women now.

I instinctively hid my nails.

Really? Like women? How?

Yesss. Imagine one man came to my office the other day. Ati, doctor I wan’t my eyes to be whitened. I told him whyyy? A man should be happy even if his eyes look like copper.

I didn’t even know you could whiten eyes.

Eat healthy young man. Those chicken and chips will lower your libido and your sperm count. Then you’ll start looking for the blue pills. Then you will die!

He laughed again. This guy was clearly off his rocker.

He was now writing my prescription. Shaking his head and sniggering.

Young man. I know you’re married. But be careful. They’re out there. These women, trying to trap you. To seduce you with their breasts and their buttocks. Like they normally do.

I don’t even know who says buttocks anymore. Sounds like something from a Charles Dickens novel. It’s so devoid of sensuality. Like a pear. I miss pears. It’s been long since I ate a pear. When are they in season I wonder.

And for sure no breasts and buttocks have been used to seduce me recently. ‘Like they normally do’? I want the doctor’s life.

So what do I do Daktari? , I asked. It looks like it’s all doom and gloom for me and my generation.

He handed me my prescription. And smiled.

Run. Run away. They’re too smart and rich these days.  Avoid situations that will trap you. But keep running. Before they catch you.

I took my prescription, thanked the old doctor, and slowly walked away. I could hear his snigger as I closed the door.

Crazy old man I thought. As I left to head to the optician,prescription in hand, I passed by a McFrys fast food outlet. That chips smell was so inviting. Those golden brown chicken spinning away in the display, seducing me.

Then I looked down and walked on. No. Not today. I won’t be leaving this earth because I popped a blue pill.

 

 

 

Handle Your Business

 

So, in my quest to find a decent barber, I walk into this place off Westlands Road that doubles up as a pub, barbershop, hair salon, restaurant, real estate agent and car wash. I think the only business they didn’t dabble in was organ harvesting. Or maybe they did.

At the barbershop/hair salon, there’s this talk chick in a short dress, terrible weave and lots of makeup. And long fingers. I have a thing for hands, so I notice these things. She was the barber. Or barberess, a term I was recently introduced to.

The haircut was actually one of the best I’ve had. She took her time. Ensured every follicle was the right size. She even cut my hair down to a good length, concealing my aggressively developing bald spot. That devious bald spot. And it’s at the back of my head too, so everyone sees it except me. But I can feel it, smooth and conniving. Like a politician.

But Ms Barberess had a good word for that bald spot. She told me it was sign of wealth. That I’ll run into money, if I haven’t already. I looked at her through the mirror and she smiled and winked. I’m waiting on that loot I’m to run into. I’ve gotten a few texts with the news that I’ve won some millions in various competitions I haven’t entered. Maybe she’s right. Of course I have to send some money via M-pesa to a particular number before I can claim my prize. Nothing comes for free I guess.

Then came head massage time. Yes. It was one of those barber shops. The experience though; pitiful. That massage was as disappointing as a vegetable samosa. Or worse, a minji samosa. Especially if you’re expecting a meat samosa. I felt so cheated. Like I had bought one of those packets of crisps, that when you open is half air, half crisps. Or when you order that quarter kilo of meat, and the quantity displayed raw doesn’t compare to that of the end product. I really thought those long fingers would do it. But clearly, they’re probably only good for picking noses or ears. Hers, not mine.

I only bring this up, in case you’re wondering from my previous post if I found a barber. I haven’t. Just like finding out who killed Tupac, the search continues.

Now on to why I started writing this post. I recently moved house. From the leafy suburbs of Kiambu County, which was more leaf than suburb, to the concrete jungle of Kileleshwa? Now this was a decision made in my home based on changing dynamics concerning transport to my workplace and the missus who had just changed jobs. The decision was made jointly, which means she suggested it and I said ‘Yes’.

I didn’t bother looking for a house to move to because any decision I made would be shot down. Even if the price was right and the location perfect, the home would have too many windows and thus there’d be the need to get new curtains, and the old one’s would not complement the walls. Or the kitchen would not have enough cabinets for the missus new set of pots and pans. As a man, I would not win that fight. So, I delegated. And the missus came upon a house she fancied. With the right number of kitchen cabinets. The price tag though, my bank account didn’t fancy.

It just so happened I was meeting up with the chief and I had a discussion with him on my impending decision. As soon as I described the situation to him, he looked away from his newspaper, put on his glasses and sighed.

‘You “men” these days. You’re so weak. Maybe it’s because you paint your nails and know things like cuticle’

‘Surely. It was one time only, and it was because I was in a wedding line up,’ I tried to defend myself

He grunted. An ox like grunt. Then he went on.

‘Oh baby, let me cook for you. Oh baby, let me rub your feet. Oh baby, akiang’owa’

He made a terrible impression of us ‘new age men’. The mockery run deep.

‘Here’s the thing my friend. You’re married now. You have to provide for your family. Physically, emotionally and materially. I don’t care how much your wife earns or if she earns anything at all. And neither should you. In fact, be happy if she earns something, because now you don’t have to pay for her hair, or her clothes. Or her nails…. Clearly you already have yours to think about’

He let out a guffaw and slapped his thigh as only old men do when they laugh at their own jokes.

‘Do everything within your power to provide my friend. There are no limits. Don’t buy into this new age thinking. This 50/50 concept you people have of relationships. Handle your business and handle it well’

Those words cut deep.

‘But….but the house is expensive,’ I whined

‘Money is not everything my friend. You say the new house is close to your offices? Meaning you save on time and fuel. Time is the only thing that’s universal to all men. Wise men know how to use it to better themselves, and their situations. Time is money.’

He then sat back in his couch, proud of his words. I think he shocked even himself. I know because he rubbed his head. As if to confirm it belonged to him.

It seemed this old African chief possessed some wisdom. I thought all he did was communicate through gestures and grunts and that emotionless face.

He was right though. The new house would cut my daily commute time by 80 minutes. Enough time to write and edit this post.

‘Life is too short to think of why not to do things, rather think about how to do them. And then do them….Except paint your nails’.

He really wasn’t letting that manicure incident go.

Life is unfair. It only starts making sense the less of it that remains. But I guess there’s no time to sit around trying to figure out why, but to forge on ahead and make that new-found sense make cents. Or whatever makes you happy.

So after that scolding, I made the decision to move. To the new house. And to move too, my thinking. From that of a boy to that of a man. A real man. One who handles his business.

 

I’m Still A Man…

 

 

It’s a new year, 2016. As with all New Year’s, it comes with hope and dreams of new beginnings, a new slate on which to right the wrongs of the previous year. Most people have resolutions, go to the gym, eat healthy, take out the trash. I’m in a similar boat, though mine are less glamorous.

The chief says a man must have three things: a good pair of shoes, a reliable mechanic and a regular barber; barber not shave. Those are my 2016 goals.

Now when it comes to shoes, I’m yet to get a decent pair. Only because the last pair I thought half decent cost me 2 weeks’ pay, a kidney and an unpaid cell phone bill. The quest continues.

This year for sure though, I need a new barber. A regular old school one. My current barber, Shiro is alright, but I need a change. My 2015 experience was one to behold. There was a time the barber experience for a man was a 30 minute shave, and rub down with methylated spirit. Lots of methylated spirit. Smokers had to beware, because you could not light a match right after a shave.

This doesn’t happen anymore though. The barber experience takes no less than one hour these days. They have head massages. Proffered by a female with an ample bosom if you’re lucky. If not, the bosom will not be so ample. Shiro’s bosom is halfway there. She, like many other head massagers at all barber shops these days, went to the same school of hair science. I’m not sure who taught them to massage heads, but that person should be shot.

Let me break it down. Shiro usually starts off slow. Standing behind you, she’ll unbutton your shirt till just above your belly button. Or, if you’ve run into money, just above the start of your bulging pot. She’ll then wrap a questionable towel around your neck, tucking it in to ‘protect’ your shirt for what will come next. Observing her in the mirror you will see her pour a dollop of massage oil into her palm. OK, maybe not massage oil. Most places can only afford baby oil.

She’ll then approach you, baby oil, cupped in her hand and then gently commence the massage. She’ll start at your now shaven head, and slowly work that baby oil into your scalp. Her fingers doing a dance on your head like members of a synchronized dance troupe. Then you close your eyes. Everyone closes their eyes. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s rude to keep them open. Like kissing with your eyes open.

The finger dance on your head continues, and then she moves to your neck. First on the sides. Slippery fingers getting rid of all that tension. Really? Tension? Because a haircut is very stressful and your neck is tense from the loss of beloved follicles. Then Shiro will do something strange. She’ll start ‘massaging’ your neck bone. I mean the vertebrae. You know those little bones at the back of your neck? Those ones.

Meanwhile she’ll say something like, ‘Aki una knots mingi’

Lady, those are not knots! Those so called knots keep my head from falling off my shoulders.

That’s what you’ll think to yourself but not tell her. As you wince, she’ll proceed with reckless abandon.

As she continues battering your poor neck, trying to un-knot it, you’ll be in half pleasure and half pain. Mostly pain. The ‘half’ is for illustrative purposes.

As if you thought that wasn’t enough torture, wait until you get the temple crush. Yes, at the end of the head massage session, Shiro will use her fingers to perform a clockwise-anticlockwise rubbing motion on your temples. That’s only to distract you from what shall come next. Without warning, she shall press against your temples with her fingers. Like she wants her fingers to meet in the middle of your skull. She’ll only stop once she can feel your brain. If you had nodded off, that shall surely wake you up.

Shiro is smart though. That ‘massage’ is a ploy. To get you to succumb to further torture.

Yes. In that dazed state, she will ask you, ‘Nikufanyie mani-pedi?’

Say No. It’s a trap. But you’ll probably agree. Because it’s 2016. And men have mani-pedis. Which i gathered is short for manicure and pedicure. Yes. You pay someone to cut your nails. Instead of using your teeth. Like the chief does.

Shiro will do this for you. She’ll pull out her implements for the job. You’ll sit there with a towel on your lap and your feet in a bucket of water. To soften your cuticles. I don’t know what cuticles are. The position you’ll be in shall not allow for quick evasive manoeuvres in the event of an emergency. Should armed thugs attack at the barbershop, all you’ll have to defend yourself is a nail file. And even then, you’ll be guarded, because you don’t want to smudge your clear nail polish. And you can’t run after them, because you’re feet are wet. Maybe you can blind them with your shiny nails.

After all is said and done, you will pretend to feel good. More confident. Modern even. You’ll proudly display your pristine nails as you hold your whisky glass aloft in the pub. To catch the eye of that pretty girl across the table.

It happened to me, but those nails caught the eye of the chief. Not some yellow as a sweet potato dame.  As we talked about politics, corruption and land purchase opportunities. The normal topics. He caught the shine off my nails and frowned. I tried to hide them, but it was too late. I knew I had to start defending myself once again. Despite my shiny nails, I’m still a man.

And I’m still looking for a new barber.

Of Men and Babies

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Babies. They’re the next natural step after marriage, right? I mean, why else do people get married? Apart from the need to get on each other’s nerves and trying to learn how to live with each other after twenty odd years of not knowing them.

Yes, amidst arguments on which way the toilet paper should roll out to learning to put socks in a basket much as the corner of the room works just fine. In the midst of all that, let’s bring another being into the world and care for them, even though we have no prior experience.

I’m meeting Braxto, a friend I’ve known for over 17 years. He had mentioned he wanted to meet up to discuss a matter of concern. A blessing his call was, as I had the need to leave the house after a fight with my Fair Lady on why I hadn’t cleaned off the breadcrumbs from the kitchen counter. Thirteen breadcrumbs got her all livid. Thirteen tiny breadcrumbs.

Anyway, I met up with Braxto at your typical Nairobi bar. The ones with plastic seats and those plastic Tusker covers draped over a table with one leg shorter than the other (the remedy to the resulting instability is a bottle top carefully placed under the defective leg). There’s some 80s music playing in the background.Soul. The smell of roasting meat and the chatter of Nairobians awaiting the next English Premier League fixture to be displayed on the various well positioned screens completes the picture. Yes, your typical Nairobi bar.

This was the location Braxto chose to lay out his ‘matter of concern’.  He wanted babies.

Now Braxto got married two years ago. I remember. I was his best man, naturally. He has the loveliest wife, who has the sweetest smile and most honest heart I’d ever known. He has a good wife. She loves children too. Always one to give that teary look and utter that sound when she sees children. You know that sound; ‘Awwwwwww’.

So, two years later and still no children.

From what I learnt from my father, The African Chief, that was cause for concern. Then again my father is from a different era, when women were to be seen and not heard. When their sole role was to bear children and cook and clean and bear more children. So when Braxto told me why two years later there were no children to his name, I was taken aback.

“We can’t have kids. Not automatically at least”, Braxto said staring into his whiskey  as if somehow there were answers at the bottom of the glass. I peered into my glass too, for a response to pull out. These was an awkward conversations. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Braxto was looking for help. His wife had just learnt that she had a condition that didn’t allow her to have children. Something about her not having a consistent ovulation process. She’d need tests, drugs and more tests.

They’d discussed it and Braxto didn’t know what to do. He of course told her it’d be OK. That everything would be fine. The model husband. But of course he needed time to process this new development. He needed a sounding board, thus here we were. Sipping whiskey and seeking answers. I’m not sure what he wanted me to do though, I got a D+ in biology. I couldn’t tell the difference between a zygote and mitochondria.

I thought to myself how that was such heavy conversation to have. Not just babies, but the possibility of not having them. What would The Chief say if I told him I was in such a situation. That after dragging him all the way to icy cold Kinangop to ask for Fair Lady’s hand in marriage, now I have nothing to show for it. He accepted Fair Lady as his daughter-in-law, and now his livestock roam the lush lands of Kinangop. Chewing cud and defecating at will. (Those were his words). And now I cannot bring him home grand children. Unacceptable. He’d probably tell me that if I don’t visit him next with a bundle of joy, he can get me a girl from the village who’d be willing and able to bear me a whole brood. I could still keep Fair Lady or Nyar-Kinangop as he called her, but I could have the village girl on the side. My own personal baby factory.

“Have you thought of getting a second wife?” The words flew out of my mouth with reckless abandon. They caught me off guard. And seemingly Braxto too. He curled his eyebrows and gave me that look that said “What!?”

“Oh, Never mind me,” I shrugged, “Carry on”

Braxto shook his head and continued explaining his situation. He wants children as much as his wife does, but he doesn’t know how to handle her. He has to be ‘the man’ in the relationship. He has to try and hold everything together. Not only does he have to provide materially but he has to withstand his wife’s sudden burst of tears when her attempt at baking that carrot cake back-fires. Or when she desires to stay home with the curtains drawn on a Saturday afternoon and make him watch The Good Wife. Or the lack of intimacy. “Imagine, sometimes in bed she just wants me to hold her”

I know Braxto, he’s not the holding type. Neither am I. We both take a sip of our whiskey. Him to numb the thought of his frustration borne from lack of physical intimacy, me to fill the awkward silence.

As I sip, I can’t help but admire Braxto. Supporting his wife through this difficult time. I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same. Then again I’m the son of an African Chief, stuck in the wrong era.

The football is about to come on, and Arsenal take to the pitch. I order another round of whiskey as we focus on the game.

To think I have thirteen breadcrumbs to clean up when I get home. I hope all goes well for Braxto.