Monday, January 29, 2007

That's my mummy.

I'm back.

I had an interesting conversation with my baby sister yesterday. It seems forces of darkness are making a play at our humble abode. Anyone who has a relative of friend who 'believes' more than the average mwananchi will understand this. According to mummy, and her fellow believers, who include close relatives (usually aunties) these forces come riding on strange objects and images.

I remember the artifacts that my pops has brought home from his world travels over the years with a lot of sadness. If only they had stuck around long enough to find a loving home where they were appreciated. They never had a chance in our house. Mother, on seeing them, would light a fire and set them ablaze. If they were not the burning type, she would take a hammer to them and destroy them good. Then she would say a prayer and rid the house of any residual 'darkness'. That's my mummy.

My cousin was once given a beautiful reggae coloured ngepa by her good friend. She made it home in time to catch the prayers, but not to save it from the flames. That's her mummy. Together they make up what I sometimes call the Hallelujah Squad.

So apparently the house is on high alert right now. Two foreign pieces have found their way into the house and mother is on her toes. She wants them destroyed, or at least gone from her house. That would have been easy, ten years ago. However, something has happened in that time that has made it a little more tricky for her. Her babies have grown into big men and women who are just as stubborn as she is. The difference is this. We want the works or art (or receptacles of evil, depending on who you ask) to not only be preserved, but put up to hang in all their glory. Mother is having a moment. A big one.

So far the huge mask (probably West African) has made it to the first wall you see on entering the house. My siblings are good like that. The other piece is still in storage. According to baby sister, this one is unlikely to see the light of day. At least not in that house. I wonder why? Surely a wall hanging depicting the Egyptian sun god and worshipers of said god can be allocated a spot in the home of a founding member of the Hallelujah Squad!

My brother knows that is not going to happen so he has suggested that it hang in his keja. Mum will not hear of such. Its his keja, but its outside her house. Plan C has been proposed. Why not give it to other big brother to hang in HIS house. That's all the way across town. Surely that is far enough from mother? Even I thought that was a good option. Mother's reply, "he's my son, so NO!". LOL. I asked sister dearest to see if shipping it to Nyeuthi would even come close to being considered. She laughed.

Too bad. I would love to have it. It would make a good addition to my wall of masks. If mother came visiting now we would 'have a talk'. God would probably be invited to that conversation. Reference material, Holy Bible. That's my mummy.

I tried.

I have been away from this my box thinking about my social life. Something has to change. Soonest. If I'm not bumming at home growing old I'm dodging the bizarre antics of my African brothers or even more unfortunately,the occasional Kenyan kimonster.

I realised the other day that I have not documented the just as entertaining shenanigans of my fellow African sisters, but I am allowed. I am a girl. I have chosen to keep those in the dark and take one for the team. Hell, I am the team!

So in an attempt to change the course of my social life I decided to spend Friday night at the home of a fellow workmate. Nice girl. Not so nice night. The 'party' turned out to be 3 grown mzungus playing that dance video game, munching on chips and dip and entertaining the cats. I will admit it was a welcome break from the usual nonsense, but 1/2 hour into the 'bash' and I wanted my people. Badly. At least with them there is mental stimulation and mad entertainment. At some point the conversation turned to high school and its challenges. Yah. I suspect those three have changed their minds about how 'difficult' high school can be. Missing the bus, bad macaroni and cheese and not being popular are a walk in the park compared to some stories I know. Madam workmate is bound to share one of those stories in the office so if I get any strange looks I know what they are about.

Conclusion, I do need to spread my wings and enjoy new company, but jumping upon a mat at the instruction of 4 arrows and caressing the cats is not my cup of tea. This nyeuthi needs a beat, a square meal and more lively company. The quest continues.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Encounters with the African male (Kenya Edition)

It is with great sorrow (and a heavy heart to boot) that I add a Kenyan brother to my list of crazy miro men. It pains me to say that this chap also takes the cake for shocking behaviour. Here goes...

Exhibit 3.
So on Saturday my roommate and I are chilling at a downtown pub enjoying the music and chatting away when we are joined by some friends. These are the same gals whom I was with when I encountered the Burundi duo that are Exhibit 2. They are accompanied by two chaps. A youngster from some island (looking dashing and delicious, but also barely legal) and another more 'mature' fellow. This one is ours. I have met him once before so I know for sure, but if you saw him you would know too. Fellow looks like he jumped right out of River road.

Anyway, my roommate, who has known him longer than I have, ensures her own safety by speedily reintroducing me as her 'sister-in-law'. Damn she's good! He raises an eyebrow, throws his hands in the air as if in defeat and diverts his attention to Nyeuthi. Crap!

So being the polite one I engage this father of four looking, oversize jacket wearing, 'please stop touching my thighs' fellow in loose conversation. Soon enough it becomes about having another drink, visiting his place and exchanging phone numbers. Naturally, I decline all offers. This is one rough conversation. The chap keeps slapping my back and shoulder like I'm Baba nani his life long buddy. I am thinking I need to save myself from the impending whiplash when the kimonster puts me in a head lock. People! Before I can react to that little assault, he gives me a ngoto! Who the hell gives a mama a ngoto?! People! I was so shocked I froze. Mouth agape, both eyebrows raised, eyes daggerizing the kimonster, froze! What the F***?

Eventually I snap out of it and take my ringing headache, disbelief and wounded spirit a safe distance away. Now there is an awkward silence in the group. Fellow is unaware that he has made a booboo and thinks we are still cool. He wants to resume chatting me up. Kubaff! I opt to dance off my concussion (a ngoto from a pillar of salt is no joke I tell you). Soon enough the night is over and I escape without additional physical injury, just a burning desire to sing Kumbaya.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I know it is not the 'African way", but sometimes I cringe when I look out of the window and see visitors approach. Some of them have developed reputations for unleashing mad nonsense when they visit.

I grew up in a house with an open door policy. All are welcome. Come in, have a seat, drink some tea. My mother always reminded us to be the best hosts we could be. Being the first daughter in the house, a lot of those hosting duties ultimately fell upon me. I can think of guests whom I love to have around, then there are the others.....

* There is the cousin of Mama nani who came visiting one time and proceeded to establish a secondary residence. She would come and stay up to 3 weeks! She occupied a prime spot in the house, consequently forcing us to move out of our rooms to accommodate subsequent visitors. I hate it when guests overlap!

* Then there was Baba nani who would stretch out on the primary sofa (big cushy one) and then get trigger happy with the remote control. We would be subjected to slide shows of all our favourite programmes until he finally found something he recognised and could enjoy. This was usually along the lines of Professional View or Dunia Wiki Hii.

* There are the countless visitors who we proposed should call ahead and warn us of their time of arrival and culinary preferences. You all know them. These are the ones who wait until the food is on the table and prayers have been said before they unleash their "ndiriaga/sikulangi/I don't eat" list of condiments. Some of the undesirable ingredients are, Roiko, Tea leaves, milk, spices (in all shapes and forms), Blue Band, jam, curry powder, Kimbo etc etc etc.

* I cannot count the ones who chose to arrive in the evening, thus ensuring their overnight stay (pampered and spoiled by dear mother and by extension, her offspring). These ones, if you ask me, are a better breed than the ones who would arrive late morning and proceed to be a nuisance the whole day. Putting their feet up and upsetting the balance (especially during the holidays).

* I have little to say about those ones with the habit of visiting with an entourage of like 8 people. Especially if they then proceed to embrace the traits outlined above. No comment.

* There was Auntie nani who always wanted to know "why can't you be number 1 in school?", another Auntie nani who wished we would pray more and watch less TV, while yet another one who couldn't hide her disapproval at the liberties granted to us by our parents.

Is it just me or does our culture allow ample room for a lot of hospitality abuse? I mean, is it uncultured to expect that guests follow your house rules when they visit? Or that they tell you in advance that they do not eat Kimbo so that you can plan their meals? Was it rude to inquire as to the reasons Mama nani, whom I left at home when I opened school, was still with us when I came home on holiday? And for Mama nani, she didn't think it was weired that her family was visiting her in our house? Surely.

These are not ideas gathered after my stay in the US. Oh no. These are questions my siblings and I have asked our parents since we were teenagers. My parents agree. Some of these practices are annoying at best. They just wouldn't dare change the way things are done.

I would.

Monday, January 15, 2007

OK, let us together chambua these songs...

Now that we cannot seem to agree on ARINGA RINGA ROSES , lets look at these other songs we sang as children. What the.....

Sabina Sabina nampenda Sabina....
Mapera mapera
Natumbo nauma
Na mtoto alia
Nyeeee nyeeee
Kadenge na mpira shuti GOAL!
Aeeh mama
Sitaki Big G nataka biscuit community
Uncle uncle, when I go to Nairobi
Another woman fat fat fat kibiriti
Mzee Kipara tumpeleka nyumbani kwa
Akileta fujo tumpige matako tuff!

Ok, if you think that one makes no sense....

By short/shot I love you baby
The baby to the sun/son
The sun/son to the owner
The owner to the men
The men to the bush baby
Sere 1 2 3 and 4
Sere 1 2 3 and 4
Tata bona
Sere 1 2 3.......... etc

(some words that neither I nor my anonymous guest can remember), then....
Zero point zero is a round
around and around
i am a
(enter appropriate missing word) dressed in black
these are the actions i must to do:
-salute for the king
-bow for the queen
-close my eyes and count fifteen

If you know the real words to these songs, or what they are all about, feel free to share.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Encounters with the African male

I love to spend time with my fellow Africans. I do. When I am in the presence of my African brothers and sisters I feel at ease. I dont need to explain, justify or interpret things to them. We are basically the same.

Or are we? Women of Africa, what has been your experience with your own men compared to those from other African countries? Now, I have not lived long enough in the village to claim expertise on the male-female relations there (which I am sure further differ depending on where you are and what community you're looking at), but based on my experience as an urban Kenyan woman, even though things can be improved, I believe I have it breezy compared to some of my counterparts around the continent.

Exhibit 1.
I used to have a friend from Nigeria. The reason I say 'used to' is because we broke off the friendship. He would get so angry every time I disagreed with him about random stuff. I on the other hand would be so tickled I couldn't wait for the next thing to "defy" him about.

One time he asked me to accompany him to his company christmas party. He was without a date. I was game. On the day of the party I called him to ask for directions to the hotel. He told me to stay put, he would pick me up. I explained that I might need to leave early (plan with the girls) and I did not want him to have to leave too. His words, "Woman, what is the matter with you? Why can't you behave and do as you're told?" I hang up to shangaa. When he called back he was seething with anger. "How dare you hang up on a man! Who do you think you are?" I hang up to shangaa some more. He called back, and I could tell he was trying hard not to insult me. He composed himself long enough to explain that my actions were unacceptable. Apparently I needed to be put straight. "African women follow instructions, they dont ask questions.....". I hang up to look for that all important memo that I had clearly misplaced. That memo about the DOs and DONTs of an African woman's behaviour.

After kedo 1/2 an hour he called back. Me thinks he was unable to find a plan B date. Anyway, I told him I was not feeling in a Christmassy mood anymore. Silence. Then mumblings that souded like an apology. Some loose negotiations later, I had my directions and had laid down my rules of engagement. Oga! Unleash one more sexist remark and watch me walk. I guess he decided to deal with my insubordination at a later date.

Later that night I did walk. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and proceeded to leave and go join my girls at the Kenyan bash.

Exhibit 2.
On Sato I went to an African hanye. It has been a while since we have had one of those in my town so I was syked. As soon I walked in I was in The Zone. The DJ was bouncing around every corner of the continent with his music and the dance floor was full of delighted Africans. That always puts me in The Zone.

So I'm chilling with the girls and this fellow catches my eye. He can dance, he looks good. So far so good. Finally he says wasup, tells me he's from Burundi and proceeds to offer to buy me a drink. "No thank you". He asks why. I give him the whole, "I'm driving back home alone so really I'm good. Thank you." The chap flips. Ati I'm ringaing to take his drink. "Kunywa bia! Kunywa ndio tuongee." I step away from the crazy person. He continues, "Mwanamke mwenye matatizo huyu! Eti hanywi bia? Kwani kuna nini? Wanawake wa Kenya wana kasoro hawa."

The night finally comes to an end. The psycho is still lamenting at my declining to have his drink. I grab my jacket and begin to make my way out when someone grabs me. When I turn around, there is a rather large black man holding my arm real tight. I kindly ask for my arm back. He lets go and begins to explain that he is the promoter. I wonder what he promotes and why I should care. I guess the blank look on my face was prompting enough so he explains further. He's from Burundi and he organises this party and the ones at the other spot (no idea where it is btw). Ahhhhh! I pat his shoulder and tell him how greatful we all are for his good work, then turn to walk away.

Someone grabs my arm. Its the same big black man. This time he shoves a cell phone in my face. I tell him it's not mine. "I know. Its mine". I'm very confused. "Put your number!" I raise my eyebrow. He takes my hand, shoves his phone into it and says impatiently, "put your name and your number!" Then he continues to talk to his boys. I'm stunned. After a while, he turns around, takes his phone back and proceeds to look for my number. My girls pull me out of the door before I can apologise for being too busy luxuriating in his self-importance to punch in the numbers. I wonder what names he called me after that. Or what will happen the next time I run into him (looking like this Sato btw). Ah well...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What I have learned so far.

It is a new year so HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. I hope this one brings you countless goodies and then some (gosh I'm kasumbarized). Anyway, may you all be blessed this year and those to come.

I have been away from home exactly 4 years now. It was this week in 2003 that I hopped on a jet plane and made my way to sunny California. Ati for further studies. I have studied further alright, but most of my learning has happened outside the classroom. Everyday away from home has been like a double lesson in the school of life. Some lessons have been easy, fun even, but most have been tough. Some have been cold and painful, and even though I am glad I managed to salvage a moral from those stories, I wish they hadn't been so harsh. Lakini that's life, and it must go on.

Allow me to share some of the things I have learned so far.

1. A man is a man is a man. It does not matter where he comes from, what colour his skin is, what language he speaks. If he is kind and caring and considerate, good for him. If he is a 'not so good' one, he would have been even if he was born in Masawa, Katichini sub-location, Oyugis division, Rachuonyo district, Nyanza Province. Kenya. I am a believer in the power of nurture over nature, but I also know bad parenting abounds worldwide. The same applies to women.

2. People treat me the way I allow them to treat me. If I am known to take a lot of crap, I will receive a lot of crap. So I feel free to let those around me know that respect for me is a requirement, not a suggestion.

3. No amount of "good life" can ever replace home. Freeways, super malls, nice cars and High Speed Internet are nice to have around. Family, friends, community and perks like 'mahindi choma', 'nyama choma', 'auntie saloon', 'kuku pono', na kadhalika are kidogo cool too.

4. Talking badly about home and its problems does not make them go away, does not help those on the ground and is ill advised since I left my family and friends there.

5. I know a lot of people. Only a handful of those are my true friends. The rest are merely acquaintances that serve the purpose of company and good laughs once in a while. When things are thick, I can only count on myself, my family and those 4 or so people who I can say truly care. This does not make me sad any more. In any case, in the eyes of others, I can only guess where I fall if the same criteria were applied to me.

6. Fast food is an express lane to an early grave. Eating healthy is not rocket science. A fruit, a mboga here and there and spending some time in the kitchen is not as difficult as many make it seem. It's my body, my health.

7. I need to do more exercise. I will try.

8. Sales people, fine print, awards programmes and silly contests all have one thing in common. They want to take my money. I must resist their attempts at all costs.

9. I have a home. I realise that the natives of my current dwelling place do not believe this and think I am here to stay. They have no idea. I came from somewhere. Should I feel weary and in need of some comfort in the form of familiar faces, places and customs, I have memorised the airport code of my desired destination.

10. I have a responsibility to myself and my family. The same applies to my community and even my country. Others worked hard to get me where I am today, I must do the same for somebody else.

11. Maize and corn are two very different crops. I can work with corn for now, but in my ideal world I would have maize. It has more bite.

12. Miros who say "pass me the salsa" do not deserve the kachumbari served to them to accompany their nyama. Those who think it is progressive to call a Chapati a Tortilla should have their passports confiscated.

13. I should spend less time in front of the TV, more time outside the house and no time stroking the egos of people who do not deserve my airtime.

14. Contrary to what many think, engaging in intellectual debate about world affairs is NOT a waste of time. It is good and should be encouraged in all circles.

15. Times have changed. The recent hanging of one Saddam Hussein should be eye opener for all mankind.

16. An accent is only as good as the location its owner. Should the silly mama who keeps commenting about mine visit my home town, SHE would have an accent. When I attend a Genge party, there are no accents. Well, there are those disturbing miros who insist on twenging when they talk to the rest of us. Wisdom is a gift. Not all are bestowed such.

Friday, December 15, 2006

No they don't!!

Today I was singing on my way to work. I had a homesick moment so I started to sing those sunday school songs from my childhood. One of them really puzzled me. If you know it, sing along....

I got a shoe
You got a shoe
All God's children gotta shoooooooe
When I go to heaven gonna put on my shoe
Gonna walk all over God's heaven, heaveeeeen, heaveeeeeeen

(repeat as desired)

Now, why would anybody teach children such a song? We all know that not all of God's children gotta shooooooooe.

I know that it is supposed to be in reference to some sort of heavenly shoes that are waiting for all God's children to wear on arrival, but nobody told me that when they taught me the song. I figured this out with age. I had classmates who had nicer shoes than mine. Some barely had shoes to speak off. All of us have seen, or know children (God's children?) without shoes. I wonder if they were also taught this song.

What is the purpose of this song anyway? Maybe I'm just being sceptical. I'll just sing another song...

Aringa ringa roses.................