First lady half marathon: motherhood is a worthy cause.

 

From a young age, we are taught the signs of pregnancy. We are told of how exciting a journey it is. We are told that children are a blessing from God and that they are beautiful and precious and priceless. But, how do they become those things?

My mother tells me that she had a free sail from conception to delivery. Well, except for delivery where she gave herself a sore throat from crying and wailing so hard the wards of Ngong Medical Center almost inscribed her name in themselves.

My aunt had a rocky pregnancy. She spent 8/9 of her time in hospital trying to make her babies live. The doctors tried and she prayed. So did the rest of her family and friends. She was on constant pain, could barely move and required constant nursing care and doctor check-ups. The twins gave up on her at seven months: a boy and a girl.

For me,it is an entire novel, or not. I am normal. Like any girl my age should be. The only difference is that I am no longer hyper. I don’t yell at men who miss measurements because I don’t have the strength or the will to go out to the fields. I hate electricity, cocoa and anything sweaty. And the smell of chips. I don’t crave for anything and I alternate between eating and not eating at all.

I should be happy because I seem to be following the blue print for pregnant women, right? Wrong. Whoever called them blessings hadn’t heard about pregnancy. It is not just trying but it is that time when you learn that nature can be cruel. Literally.

When that nurse at your local clinic refers you to a gynaecologist, you drag yourself to Avenue healthcare. Dr. Jane tells you that you will be fine then proceeds to write you a referral letter to Kenyatta National Hospital that reads “urgent attention”. It dawns on you. Your pregnancy will be rocky, like you just dived into a Katrina willingly and now you are trying to survive. A certain doctor, a Sharma Singh, puts you under daily observation. They take your vitals daily: blood pressure, heart rates, temperature etc. and they prescribe water and milk (on a notepad like you are going to get those at a chemist near you). You are denied medication- even Ifas, those small red distasteful things they feed pregnant women with- are said to not be part of your diet. And you are pregnant.

With the request from Dr. Singh, you consult your family doctor. He looks at you for a long time without saying anything. He knows he can’t make you nervous but you are worried at what he knows that you don’t. Then he pulls out a very thick book from one of his shelves and opens a place with the tittle: Pregnancy Diseases and their Management. He is unnerving you but he seems oblivious.

“I think you should have brought your mother” he says.

“You know I am much stronger alone than with her” you answer.

So he continues to teach you about pre-eclempsia and eclempsia: signs, symptoms and management. You know you are bright but at that moment, nothing he says makes sense. Until he tells you that your dizzy spells, lack of vision and occasional unconsciousness are part of eclempsia. You panic. What will happen?

He becomes your second doctor. He works like your daddy to manage your condition. He wants to be called grandpa. Until one day he tells you to call your mother and a cab (he had advised you to have a cab number on speed dial). So you do. You find yourself at Karatina Maternity and Nursing Home with a doctor who has dyed his hair so dark it makes him look suspicious. But suspicions won’t save your baby, so you watch him work; bringing your baby back from barely breathing to kicking so hard it becomes distressing.

To you, being paged is not fun. You don’t have time for selfies, or Instagram or Facebook, or Kilimani moms. You only have time to sleep, exercise and be grateful. Your body has no energy. But a supportive family stands by you, loving you, encouraging you and cracking silly jokes to keep you happy and worry free.

At a point they start rationalizing why you are having too much drama: some think you are too old to be giving birth (at 28? Puliiiiizzz), some think your blood and that of baby daddy are incompatible, while some think that being a mother is something you should have left for others to do. But they still remain; happy, arrogant and distressingly present. They wash your cloths, buy what you feel like eating and talk about death and weddings and ruracio…things they think you should do. And you all laugh at how stupid they are. Internally, you thank your gods and the heavens for such a good family. And you know that your baby- priceless, beautiful and darkskinned as it will be- will have a loving environment to grow up in. And that makes all the pains and risks and episodes worth it.

Pause.

What about that mother going through the same without the support of friends and family and who is too poor to afford doctors who can walk with her through the stress and distresses of pregnancy? What about that mother who can’t afford to pay a gynaecologist to save her barely breathing baby? What about that mother whose child goes up to term but develops complications at birth? And how about that mother we could save from death during pregnancy because we can donate a pint of blood at a public hospital’s maternity wing?

At the end of the day, that manual about pregnancy you all read, was nowhere close to explaining the realities of pregnancy: its joys, pains, complications and uncertainties. And it never taught you to respect mothers and motherhood because if it did, you all would be attending the first lady half marathon and trying to reduce the rates of mother and child mortality. Because, motherhood is precious once you make it through pregnancy and postpartum, and your child makes it past five years.

If you can, please get yourself a pair of rubber shoes (or whatever shoe you can run a marathon in) and get joining the first lady of Kenya to save mothers and babies. It is a worthy cause: more worthy than betting and losing at sportspesa so they can buy jerseys for arsenal players or buying beer for your buddy coz it has been long since he came to Nairobi. Save a life instead. You and your buddy. And bring sportspesa along if you can.

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A FRIEND OF A FRIEND IS A FRIEND: OR MORE.

You wake up early. It is Sunday morning. Church is as boring as usual but you wait patiently for it to end. As you walk out, chatting heavily with your long time friend, one of your little goon cousin walks up to you with a friend in tow. You know most of their friends because somewhere along the way, you became like a subjugate mother to them. They tell you things. They ask you for stuff. You scold them like it is the last thing you will do before you die and after you are done, they give you a high five and laughter so deep and true that you can’t help but join in.
The friend you are introduced to is short, slim, brown and young. So young you start gambling with yourself about how old he is. A sweet boyish smile seems to be fixated on his face. He is funny, that much you can tell. Somewhere along the way, you (of course being the elder and more sensible) realize that you have no sense of direction. He studies at Sagana Technical Centre. You live some 8.5 kilometres away from there, but right now you are standing at the middle. Of course, you can’t be allowed in at the Technical Centre so you propose the only logical solution that you have: you welcome him to come home with you. He enthusiastically agrees.
He is a joker. He makes you laugh. He keeps the conversation going. He is a jovial man by nature. He is a little below or above nineteen. You settle home and he fits right in like he belongs. Your mum loves him; you can tell. All of you do. And then duty calls. You are the only person in that house without a duty so you get to stay with him. He is talkative but you are a researcher; more like a social investigator. So you get down to business. He is easy to question and even more forthcoming with information.
He is a brave little guy, tough for a person his age, focused and intelligent. He has a short temper paired with a very long thread of finality. He is a man in his own league. He makes decisions and sticks with them; something rare in most men today.
But he is not like most men of today: he grew up without a mother. She died when he was around eight. He grew up watching his father and missing his mother. He doesn’t know the love of a mother. He doesn’t know how to be pampered. He doesn’t know emotional attachment. He knows how to be bland and decisive and ruthless in decision making. He knows how to stand his ground and to get what he wants. He knows exactly what he wants with his life and he goes for it. His father is rarely involved but is always on the sideline watching his son evolve, grow, mature. From your conversation, you can’t tell whether or not he can feel his father’s love but from looking at him, and the fact that his father raised him single-handedly, you can imagine the magnitude of love he holds for his only son.
His body language betrays him. You can tell that he wants what you have with your mum but he is afraid to open up to her. She is a stranger to him after all, and you understand. You feel him, want to touch him, tell him that it is going to be okay. But you can’t because one lesson life has taught you is that pity doesn’t raise hope; advice and support do. So, you and your cheeky cousin do what you do best, you suck him into a life of carefree laughter, you make him feel at home and you let him know that he is appreciated. Your mother does the same too, albeit in her own way. All of you let him know that he is welcome to become a part off the family, to come fill the gaps, to come be a part of you; to build himself.
He leaves for school, as does the rest of the gang. You think about him long after he is gone. Years of psychology have taught you to let the other person contact you first but you feel like you want to make an exception. You want to give him a family he can rely on, a sister he can count on and a house of laughter and love that is always waiting for him. But from years of experience, you know that he won’t accept it. So you let go but you send him off with your love.
As you watch the hormone filled gang disappear around the corner, you go back home with a smile. You know you will see him again because James will be back again. Home is a place we always come back to. And you know he will be successful and happy and strong. That is what he is already. Happy-go-lucky, confident, ambitious and appreciative Martin.

The massage parlour

You walk in. The place is elegantly decorated: sensually and sexually. CLASS-is what its mere existence seems to represent. The receptionist calls to you before you sit. You had not seen her. As usual, you take your time to respond-or sit. Looking. Everyone can tell you have never been here before. What they don’t have to know is that it is your first time inside of a massage parlour -virginity is something we all keep to ourselves. So, you take your time to familiarize yourself with your environment. The receptionist, an impatient little crown, calls to you again. You walk up to her. She plasters a fake smile- which you don’t bother to return- and asks with forced politeness of how she can be of help to you. Like it is not obvious. Just to spite her, you ask for a cup of iced tea. It takes two to play chess. She is annoyed at your answer. She asks of you to take a seat with a more plastic face than you thought possible. Of course, she was your worst enemy at primary school. And of course, such things are hard to let go when she sleeps with your boyfriend just to get back at you because you read hard and paid attention while she sexed hard and got paged.
You don’t care. You had booked in advance. You sit. You are a Mugikuyu: you can afford time if it means learning something you can turn into a business. The sofa screams, “lay on me”: soft, comfy and accommodating. It takes in the shape of your ass and you wonder about the number of ass it accommodates in a day without complaining. Before you can get too comfortable, a nice looking girl with a genuine smile and fake hair approaches you. She has the body of a two penny model and a nice attitude. You smile back, say a “how are you” and hand her your ticket.
“Tantric”, she says looking around. You are pretty sure that she did not find what she was looking for because she has this shocked expression on her face before she asks where your partner is. With a smile and a wink, you inform her that he bailed out last minute. Truth is, you never had one in the first place: you just wanted a wild, unique and out of this world experience. You wanted a Shanghai in Kenya.
She leads you to an empty room and instructs you to undress. You are not used to undressing in front of strangers but you figure out she is a girl, with the same anatomy as you and after all, you went to a boarding school which meant a lot of nude exposure. So you undress. She gives you a once over and gently orders you into a bathroom. She stands just outside of the shower and asks, “Lay or straight?” When you answer “Bi”, she smiles, throws her fake hair back and shouts, “I knew you were interesting”.
Ten minutes later, you are ushered into another room full of scented candles: jasmine, lavender and rose. It reminds you of the forms you filled online. Apparently, somebody read. Someone reads -in a massage parlour- someone does read.
You are shown to a bed and advised to lie on your front. Butt naked. Two pairs of hands fall on you: not roughly but with enough weight to know that you are going to need sometime to recover. Soft velvety hands work on your toes upwards while huge calloused hands work on your shoulders downwards. Silence. Concentration, you were taught, is a point you should never depart from. However, this is one area where concentration is not that zone you can never depart from. You are lost. You no longer know who is doing what, how. You are trying to put out a fire that is burning deep within, threatening to consume all of you and leave with the evidence. A fire you are sure you will not be able to drench. Somewhere, slow music plays out soft. Sooner than you were ready for, you are helped to turn around. You are sure that the fire you are trying (and failing miserably) to contain is burning her hands as well. Her hands slip in to America and back to Atlantis in well calculated moves. They spell EXPERIENCE- the moves. His walk all over Antarctica, through to the Middle East before returning home to Antigua, in random yet well placed moves. Bliss. You open your eyes. He is looking at you. She is staring at a particular spot as though asking for permission.
“May i?” he asks at the same time as she says, “Shall we?”
What you get is his voice: baritone, deep and erotic. Cognition gives room to pleasure. You open your mouth but realize you have no idea what they said.
“I …”
I will just drop this article here.
I wish you all happy festivals. Remember, to give to those who truly deserve for in giving without expecting or glorifying yourself lies the utmost joy of fulfilment.

A MAN OF QUEER BEHAVIOURS

Brown, tall, and struggling: That was my first perception of the reserved man seated behind his phone at Comfy Inn: Kahawa Sukari. He was sporting khaki pants, white t-shirt and an expensively maintained afro. He wasn’t what I call an eye candy. He was delicate in a manly way: a trait I hate because we, (ME, MYSELF AND I) don’t know how to handle ‘delicate’.
He held conversation but not eye contact. He isn’t shy; he eyed the waiters and I was thankful for that. Truth is, we met through social media and it was a blind date. I didn’t want a situation where I would have to tell him that I don’t date men I meet from online. He paid for our half kg goat ‘choma’ and two sodas. He paid my fare from Engen to Githurai (10 bob) because he wouldn’t let me because he is a Kenyan man with an ego the size of Mt. Everest.
“Is he really a guy Uchumi would want to hire?” I heard cassia, the annoying second me who pops up when uncalled for to question things that are far from concerning us, ask.
He transferred. He transferred. And then he transferred. In the midst of all this transferring and shifting and adapting and moving again, we lost touch. He was at Eldoret, pathetically self-obsessed and growing humiliatingly ugly by the day. He was a man bitter at life. One who, to people without patience, would be considered garbage.
Flash forward 2015.
“Hello there?”
I say “hello back at ya” but cassia is there airing her non minced comments to me “boss, this is Facebook. Hello isn’t an exactly accepted way of starting a conversation with someone you last heard from in 2012”.
Like people with nothing much to do, we keep up a healthy internet conversation. Facebook becomes whatsapp and an occasional call at office hours (because you know, we wouldn’t want her Excellency to be suspicious, would we?). We met at Jambo Grill, Thika Road. He drunk tusker at 2 pm, I opted for water.
He is married. He wants to be Christian grey (rem the 50 shades of sin?). He is now a manager at an economically malnourished Uchumi. He is FAT, shaved bald and sporting badly fitting material trousers. Did I say he is married? (Am not making conclusions) He is still brown and still sports an ego the age of Mt. Kenya.
New management at Uchumi means the closure of Uchumi Meru branch. A FAT, bald and badly dressed man with a nativised version of English-Meru becomes the new TL of Uchumi Karatina. And thus, a heavy set man sets camp at Karatina: a town where shapeless men are sneered at. Either you are fat with a bank account that can shame Pattni’s or you are fit sexually, physically and emotionally.
We met at Karatina; Karatina Uchumi to be precise. Shape is taking place, because, you know, no one is immune to Karatina and its traffic demands. We happen to have a heavy, bizarre sexual desire and so we have to fit in or grow out. Fitting in seems like a better option than Safaricom. He is smart; donning a well-fitting black material trouser, a red Uchumi uniform shirt and a black half sweater. Am surprised because smartness is a trait we had left at 2011, so was decency and self-esteem. He is slim and handsome again; the power of employment related stress, pressure and a fifteen hour shift not to mention the lack of wife cooked meals, home comfort and not using Kimeru as the language of transaction and interaction. Let’s throw in there the fitting in coin and the Christian Grey dream too. His sense of humour is back and so is the afro, though at its infantry stage. But the most important bit of it, is that I have my friend back: with all his idiocy, sarcasm and upside down humour.
Ladies and gentlemen please meet Senior Thamwero: a guy of bizarre and depressing habits but who is hard to pass by.

THIS FRIEND

Friendship is hard to define, hard to point out and much harder to maintain. It is hard to know when you find a true friend and when you land on clothed trouble. Nevertheless, with time, true friends stand out. They are there for you when you need a shoulder to lean on. They are there when you need a day out or when you need a plus one. They are there when you shout at them, throw things at them and insult them. They are there when you are in a good mood and you feel like being a priest is your calling. They always stand by you.
Vincent Kiprono: this tall, dark and soft spoken guy from Kisii is what we can call a relationship that guided itself. He is kind, considerate and caring. Always calling to ask how I am or where we are going or how life is at the moment (mostly it sucks and when it is not sucking, it is f***** me or someone else. It has to be busy after all, right?). He never fails to bridge the gap when he feels like I am pulling away. He never puts his ego or pride before our relationship.
Most people don’t understand how two people of opposite sex can maintain a non-sexual relationship for this long. Eight years is how long it has been. I have seen him hook up and dump numerous girlfriends. And I have seen him sulk numerous times for being dumped (who is that shouting equality?)
But above all, I have watched him selflessly run to my side for my aide and become overprotective of me whenever other men show interest of me. Sometimes I have to keep him in line: reminding him that he is the one who swivels chairs all day long while I do the digging and shoving. I can take care of myself just fine.
So, today I woke up thinking about people I keep pushing away but they still remain. Life shoves me around because it knows it will never break me no matter what and when I am at the breaking point, it has given me a boulder which holds me together. Friends.
For me, Vincent is that boulder, my constant.

THAT SCARED LITTLE GIRL

My cousin passed on a few days ago. And she got me thinking of how one time we have people we care for in our lives and the next time we don’t. I tried to think of how much we take for granted our social capital, the people we meet, the relationships we build then frustrate, the people who truly care about us. I decided to be honouring every relationship I build, every person I meet, every activity I participate in. I called this “the friendship series”. And it starts here.

THAT SCARED LITTLE GIRL

You are a new student at a remote school somewhere along the windy plains of Kajiado west constituency. You are used to traveling for over seven hours to get to school. That transitions to walking three hours to get to school. You are uncomfortable because someone saw it fit to spread a rumor about this prestigious high school you came from before joining their secondary school. Everyone is saying a sarcastic hello because they think you won’t fit in. Your habitat doesn’t make it easier. You are in a cubical infested with bad smell from this expired nasty cream made from milk. You are the only person who seems to be bothered by the smell: the result of you being the only person who is not in touch with their culture. That is not true. You are in touch with your culture; the one that your mother chose for you to identify with not the one that your father grew up in.
In the neighboring cubical, a new student is brought in. From the confusion in her eyes and the submissiveness in her posture, you can tell that she is a form one. She is scared. She looks about to cry. Her box is as stocked as a form one’s can get with two pairs of socks, one shirt, one skirt, a pair of bed sheets and a blanket. The four o’clock bell rings. The flock of girls high with oestrone leave the dormitories to go flood the dining room. The other new girl seats down on her bed mate’s perfectly spread bed. “Girl, you are in trouble” you think to yourself. You watch her for a while least pretending to be busy putting up your own bed. The two of you are alone. You walk over to her. You help her spread her bed. You show her how to polish her shoes. You hold her hand and lead her towards the dining room. Both of you don’t have sugar so you go to the canteen and purchase some for the two of you. You walk to class (500m from the dining room) in silence. You still don’t know her name.
Class ends at 9.30 pm. You find her standing along the corridor separating your cubicle from hers. Her bed mate made it clear that she cannot sit on her bed. Your bed mate is pretty cool. But then, you are her senior. And you are the famous new girl. You call her over, help her make tea, watch her hold back her tears. After you are done with the night’s routine, you tell her to go to bed. She does. You tack her in; like you would your scared little sister. She tells you goodnight in a soft voice.
You wake her up in the morning so she won’t be late for classes. She does not have anything to read but school routine is school routine. The two of you walk to class. Somewhere along the way, she holds your hand. That sets your life on its path for the next two years. You become her school mother. You protect her from being bullied. She fights for you. You watch her confidence grow. She joins the basketball team. She does your washing when you are sick or reading for your mocks. Sometimes you take up her chores and let her rest. You become a team. And then the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations come. Your parents and a bunch of cousins come for you. She cries and refuses to say goodbye. She watches from a far as you leave. You wave at her, she refuses to wave back. She is in her second year of secondary school. And she, like you is heartbroken.
You leave thinking of how you are going to come back and visit her. You dream of buying her things you wanted when inside so she won’t dream of them like you did. But then you learn how much of a bitch life can be. You start playing cat and mouse with your own confused personality. You join campus to do things you are not sure you want to do. You lose touch with her. Four years later, you text her through the only number you have; her dad’s. She respond with hers in a nasty “I got my own phone” and you can hear the omitted “bitch” at the end of the sentence echo in your mind over and over again. You start saying “hi” every now and then until she breaks the news that she is now in med school. She wants to become a nurse. She visits you in a shack where you are living for your undergraduate. She seems high class and busy. She is at her prime. You are still a tomboy. You still have people who refer to you by number like you lost your name somewhere along the way to hell. You snake through life unnoticed and you have a Muslim boyfriend named Abdul that your mother hates. The next time you hear from her, she is working at Kajiado AIC dispensary and she wants you to attend her graduation. You are sure you cannot make it because you work for this asshole who thinks they own you but you work your way to be there. Then your graduation comes and she is there with all her beauty and glory, amidst your family drama and car miseries and stupid celebrations having fun and being one of you. And that sets a life where the two of you continuously check on each other. Too busy with an extensive distance between the two of you, it becomes hard for physical hook ups. Yet you are there for each other. You stand by each other. You still call her your daughter and she still calls you her school mom. You remain friends.

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Judy Njeri Maina is that scared, confused, little form one who held my hand in gratitude. And she had to start off the series.

Life, Rules , Purpose and Betty.

It is one thing to wake up and another to wake up with a purpose. But when your parents are a hindrance to your purpose, then why do you even wake up? Personally, I would wake up to slap each of them twice in the face; then sleep forever.
Betty is an acquaintance. She likes to tell people that she prays to god that I become her sister in another world. It is not a bad idea. However, I would rather have a nice, not-controlling dead dad than a ridiculously controlling one alive. But I won’t tell her that.
So, she gets a letter to Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and good old daddy says yes as long as she stays with her cousin who stays near the university failure to which she registers to Nairobi aviation or that other ka college in Githurai (I think Githurai school of management or something) so she can be living at home. At this time and age, who the hell tells their child to not go to university because she is a girl and they go to Sabbath religiously and god does not want corrupt university girls in heaven? Betty’s father does. So, in another world, seeing that education and me are very good friends, I will not accept to be Betty’s sister. I will be my mother’s daughter; because I have a mother who fights for me even now that I am too old to be having parents stand up for my case.
The bottom line is, people who are closed in don’t learn to be innovative. They fear to go against the rules. They shy away from being their own persons in lieu of becoming what their parents want them to become. But what our parents want us to be is not necessarily what we should become. Take Betty for example, a nice girl just turned nineteen. I met her at a mutual friend’s party two months ago. She was quiet; very quiet for someone who was in a party. She kept looking at her watch and then at the host. Eventually, she gathered courage and came up to where I was.
I am that girl who carries a book to a party just in case I get bored or the party becomes too intense for my liking. So, curled in a sofa at the main room, away from the party at the garden, I was lost in a world only the author and I could understand…unless someone else was reading Candide by Voltaire at the time too. Classic literature is stimulating.
Anyway, she came and sat at my feet looking lost and unsure. I watched her count, recount and count her fingers again. Then she looked at me. Her eyes were fearful, almost sorrowful. She had this look of a person lost to her own self.  I knew she was in trouble. But people don’t go asking, “Hey? Are you in trouble miss?” This is not a movie and we certainly don’t live in America.
I watched her gather her courage, laboriously collect her words together. The silence in that room could be heard from miles away, yet fifty miters away from us was a party: as loud and obnoxious as Nairobi parties can get, with a DJ making the worst noise anyone can be forced to endure and drunk half naked women screaming too loudly with hoarse annoying voices.
Eventually she did. One word at a time, she told her story. Trying hard not to cry and failing miserably. I let her talk. I took notes. I watched her cry. I learnt that I am blessed to have a mother who would die for me. I am blessed to have cousins who will tease and make fun of me but who will come to my aid in a spit of a second when I raise the slightest sign of distress and laugh while at it. I learnt that I have a great family who will never make me cry willingly but who can be as mean as filthy brothel B****. Hers make her cry even when they are not within vicinity.
She had lied that she was coming to cook for a girl friend who was graduating. Had she said it was a party she was attending, she would not have left home. Parties are a devils harvesting ground. She had come wearing a very 1770’s looking dress, because being trendy is a sin. She is not allowed to have boyfriends because that will spoil her till she is unmarriageable etc. and I sat there thinking how unfortunate she is.
She is just nineteen. She is allowed to have fun, drink till she becomes a distillery, mingle and attend Masaku 7’s. She is allowed to attend any karaoke, mugithii, jam…and any other event she can get to: after all, when you are beautiful, you don’t need money to attend events. She is allowed to kiss any man and to buy condoms in wholesale if she so wishes. She can go to church every Saturday if she wants to and to school because she has to. She is allowed to make mistakes and with guidance, to learn to be responsible for their consequences. She is allowed to be happy without limitations or prohibitions. She needs a parent who will guide her lovingly, a parent capable of being a friend and a pillar for when she comes home with a broken heart and a damaged body. She needs a home she can be proud to go back to.
Only, Betty doesn’t have that home. She has being broken by the institution from whence she is supposed to find hope, trust and love. She lives each day because of friends, People who see the good in her and love her for it: strangers to whom she feels pulled to because she thinks that we can help her unshackle herself. She has lost her purpose and her dreams. She floats in life with this big chain that shackles her to misery. She is nursing ulcers at an age where life should be fun and games with very little to care about.
So, next time you think about a life without a purpose, and you don’t live in Mwihoko with overly religious and extremely suffocating parents, remember that you didn’t go to brilliance college in Githurai with a grade of A- because your parents said so and that you are not too closed in to go against the rules.

THE GRACE OF FATHER FIGURES

Father’s day is several days into yesterday stale. I read a lot of good dads, happy dads, lucky dads, drunkard dads, lazy dads, absent dads…and a whole other list in between. I don’t have a problem with all this mainly because I tend to think that I was born out of a one night stand seeing as thinking about dead fathers and their insensitive families is too much work. See? One night stands are easy. No one knows the dad. You cannot contact them. They just did some nice charity job of donating a sperm that turned out to be bright you. And they are the ones standing on the losing end by missing out on events other find exciting but which bore you to death like graduation ceremonies and your mom’s tea parties. But when they are busy missing out, some other men brave enough to be men are busy being there on their behalf. Celebrating like you are their blood kids and hugging you like there is no one else they should be hugging. They drive you crazy with those overprotective fits they keep throwing every time you show up home with a guy donning earrings and claiming to be in love or a girl barely dressed claiming to be your ‘friends forever’.

This men will attend every school event you- or your friend- happen to participate in; they will take you out for a late night dinner and dance -despite you being twenty five; they will buy you a teddy bear and a Nancy Drew for your 35th birthday; and they will drive suitors away with mean looks and handy car jerks for looking at you the wrong way. This men will help your mum pay your school fees, shelter you from the wrath of an angry woman when your mom feels much more like a devil than a mother and will buy you sanitary towels because you need them and your mother is somewhere in Haiti trying to save the world from the hurricane.
These men are not our dads, fathers or anything close by. They are father figures. People we are blessed enough to have in our lives and to whom no amount of gratitude can ever be enough to express how we feel. I figured we can’t tell them happy father’s day without sounding possessive. So, acknowledging them may be all we can ever do to let them know how grateful we are.
I grew up without a dad. My mother was everything in that house and I was the mischievous daughter who was so headstrong not a day went by without us having to buy a new rolling pin. Mum broke them daily trying to get me to be submissive until she got the memo: changing was not an option. She took me to her parents and my grandfather became my dad. I listened to him. He only punished me if someone hit me and I was unable to hit back. He would then force me and my assailant to fight and whoever lost got a good a** whipping. He loved me. He guided me. He took me to church every Sunday with him and sat me next to him. He bought me ice cream even when mum said no. He came to watch me run during athletic games and he watched me play netball and got heartbroken when I switched to basketball (who did not want to look cool then, even if it broke a few hearts?).
Amidst all this grandpa-granddaughter relationship was always Uncle Charles; always there waiting for grandpa to look the other side so he can steal me away. He never went to church so he took us to bars and places similar. He asked for a crate of beer for himself and Fanta “madiaba” for me and any other cousin who was lucky that day. He was filthy rich by then, driving big cars and talking big money but drinking all of it *smh*. Still I loved him. He stood out for me against other people (and the world). He beat a teacher once for calling me “kibiriti ngoma” (I still don’t know what that means but am sure she never called anybody else that), he got a teacher fired for sending me home for a book I had lost and got another one to prison for beating me till I had my hand broken. He had his own family, yet he was always there when I needed him. And when I did not. He tucked me to bed every day when grandpa was down with diabetes and cooked dinner for me when grandma was out looking after grandpa. I can’t remember him attending any of my school events but I remember him cheering me on as a champion even when I lost. He bought my first drawing when I was just ten and taught me how to craft things with wood. Simple things like combs, cooking sticks, rolling pins and stools. But mum used them to beat me so I stopped making them. Christmas after his death has never been the same. He used to bring his family and a goat home. Then he would spend the day teaching us how to roast meat, what parts made what food and what parts were eaten by who (but I ate all parts anyway. I was liberal like that.).
So, when they said happy father’s day, I carried two candles to church and thanked God for two amazing people who loved me unconditionally then continued on with life like they taught me how to (thanking God for small miracles like father figures and their unconditional love every step of the way).

I love you pops and Uncle Charles. May your souls rest in peace till we meet again.

RUTTING THE KABAD BY FORCE

I sit here unsure of why I am writing this. I have been a voluntary rape victim therapist for a while now so it is not unusual to have a male victim every now and then. Maybe the difference this time is because the guy in question is a close friend of mine who knocked at my door at 2.00 pm Friday last week. I was getting final touches on my house with my backpack on my back ready to get out. I opened the door irritated. I hate this idea where my flat mates feel chatty when I have matters to attend to. But this time, the face that greeted me was one of resignation, hurt and disgust. The face of a man irritated by his own skin. The face of a man who loathes himself. I know that face too well. I have seen it one too many times; only from the other gender.
He is my flat mate. Three doors from me. He was chatty, happy and very gutter minded before then so it hurt me to see him like that. Those are the times you ask a god you don’t talk to often enough to give you strength and wisdom and a know-how of how to handle the situation. He had been raped two hours prior. He had not bathed. He had gone to the police station at Githurai and they laughed at him for reporting “free” sex. I was distraught. I am equipped to deal with the aftermaths of sexual abuse but that is a bit hard to do when it is one of my friends.
I talked to my friends at school and they told me to tell him to go to the gender desk at the police post nearest to the crime scene. He was there, I told them. They shrugged and that was that. End of that “disgusting” discussion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I counseled him. But like most of us, I know that justice is something he will never get. He just got another personality that society will always judge him with long before they know his name. He got initiated to a community that lives at the shadows of the shadows of the “mainstream” society. A community that can love him but cannot shield him from the harshness of a society that will always judge him as immoral for being the victim of a crime to which he did not chose to be a victim to.
The story on TV today about a sodomized 14 year boy at a national school (Maseno) over three days away from his home (in Kware county) made me feel the pain of that boy. After watching my 27 years old friend brood for days, deem himself a lesser man, break up with his girlfriend of 3 years because she could not understand how a grown man like him could be sexually immoralized by another grown man, I could understand the pain of that boy. To KTN, it was another rating piece, a money slate, a story for prime time. To me, it was the pain of that boy, the fact that he did not have immediate help and the school keeps shielding the perpetrators of this highly sensitive crime.
It made me think: he was in a school with protected sodomites, how many more kids are sodomized in silence because they are not brave enough to rut out? How many boys will loath themselves in silence maybe till death? Parents take their children to school to become better people, to add knowledge or to wait to grow up. Whichever the case, no parent takes their child to school, more so a national school, to be sodomized or to become sexually frustrated.
But our society is bipolar. We are up singing about how we will fight against rape against our girls and assuming that sodomy is not rape because men are the strongest sex/gender. We forget that sexual violence is not a plate of spiced tea. We forget that even the strong fall. We forget that some actions do not choose gender. If it is wrong in one way, it is wrong in another. It’s not about the person on the receiving/ perpetrating end: it is about the consequences.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the feminist. I was one until I got my first male client: mercilessly violated, lost, troubled, incoherent, inaudible and scared shitless. Until it took me over a year to get them to open up, to accept what they had gone through and to learn from the rest of us who had collected their lives together and moved on. I became a gender specialist, fighting for the rights of both genders.
I think it is time that society realizes that it is no longer about the girl child alone. Life doesn’t end with women woes. What about these helpless boys, “weaker” men, non-muscular men who are abused by both men and women? Are they less of human beings because they are weak in a gender considered dominant? I think not. They need us, as a society, to embrace them, to stand with them, to fight with/for them.
It is time that the government and NGO’s (is maendeleo ya wananume an NGO? What do they do?) embrace reality and stop being gender biased. It is time to accept that women are as strong as men and men are as weak as women. It all depends with the perspective you are looking at it from. Only then will our security gender desk understand the difference between rape, sodomy and consensual and coerced sex.
Until, then, keep out of trouble if you can.

Breath Pollution

For starters, Noel Onyango is not allowed to read this, and if you do, please reserve your comments. You can use my mom’s freezer for that! Secondly, I am blogging at church, so maybe we can close one eye on those inevitable grammatical curves that will most likely appear after blogging via phone with a subdivided attention (and the African god will bless you for that while the European god will most probably sneer at you)
The worst thing that can happen on a Sunday morning (am not a morning person so every day I wake up earlier than 10 am is dull n fucked up) is when the priest keeps telling people to talk to other people and the guy seated in front of you feels the need to keep talking to you. He is in front of you for Christ sake! Doesn’t his neck and back complain? I wish I could make them do. But he talking to me is not a problem because, obviously, he is doing the talking for both of us. Most of the time, I am clueless of what we are being told to say. See I have a short concentration span and a longer reading patience. So when you start blabbering about things I can figure out for myself and you are not quiet enough to not assault my hearing senses, I zone out. Quiet conversations are a good way of protecting the world from noise pollution (yet preachers keep finding the need to save the world and doing so by shouting their guts out. I think NEMA should stop fueling graft and talk sense into this men of god. or talk to god about pollution. He created the world in six days, no? So he can flip their heads upside down and cramp some sense in there, no?). Plus they ensure you keep your bad life threatening breath to yourself.
Anyhow, this guy keeps talking, talking, talking and talking. And his breath smells worse than a dirty pit latrine. Yet he finds it necessary to keep talking to me. Cant he talk to his neighbor? Oh god! Why me? Aren’t you supposed to protect me from things that harm me? Or did the devil pass on an email that asked for permission to test me? Am not Job from the bible caves, remember? And am far too impolite, too aggressive, too loud for him to bother with me. He knows am trouble enough to not want me in his fold.
So, I don’t get why this guy keeps wanting to talk to me. And god and his answering machine both seem to be out of service!