Monday, 28 November 2011

I have learned...

I'm turning a year older in a week or so *Excitement*... Ok, not really, and it has nothing to do with my age. I'm not one of those ladies who fret about their age, maybe its because I have never had someone call me old. Plus I blend in well with just about any age group. I can be whoever you want me to be, or at least I try.

A couple of weeks back, one of the most gifted writers I know, Bikozulu, wrote a post "What I have learned." This was by far one of the best pieces I have ever read, not because it was him who wrote it (no offence) but because of the sincerity and wisdom that came from that post. I am a true believer on the saying: "Learn from other people's experiences." If it was upto me, I would derive all of life lessons from other people. The down side of that would be that I am not living my life thus have nothing to learn. My life would not have any mistakes, which means I would not have taken any risks. I would rid myself of the opportunity to experience immense pain, exciting moments, indescribable joy... My life would be such a bore. Last week, perhaps influenced/inspired by Biko's post, I had one of those moments where I somewhat questioned the purpose of living/ existing. Don't get me wrong... I was not suicidal or having sinister thoughts on how I should take my own life. Far from it. I was having a pre-quarter evaluation of my life and thinking to myself, so now... Where do I go from here... At some point I wondered, where I had come from, figuratively speaking anyway.

So the conclusions of my thoughts:

I have learned that life will deal you anything and everything, irrespective of your age... That strength to go through life's hurdles does not come with age or time, it is innate; you either have it or you don't. I have learned that you can write learned or you can write learnt and you will still be grammatically correct. I have learned that it is not that hard to stand your ground in the midst of peer pressure. I have also learned that peer pressure, never ends (my folks have taught me that). I have learned that people who think you are better than them will always have something negative to say about you or a reason to prevent you from shinning. I have learned, very recently, that just because someone is your boss/older than you, it doesn't mean they are smarter than you... and most of the time there is nothing you can do about it! I have learned to be a (wo)MAN and SUCK IT UP when things are not within my control... On that same note, I have also learned that you can only "SUCK IT UP" for so long. It is ok to be selfish and it is ok to want to be happy, even if it doesn't make the people around you happy... I can assure you, there shall never be a time in this world when all the 7 Billion people in the world will be happy at the same time; so quit trying to make others happy at your expense.

I have learned that friendships are as complicated as relationships. I have learned to let go of friends, the crap about friends for a reason & season is true! I have learned that blood is not always thicker than water. I have learned that when they say family will always be there for you, they mean immediate family... Aunties, Cousins, Uncles... will not always be there. I have learned the truth in quote by Martin Luther King Jnr:  In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. This has been the hardest and most painful lesson to learn. Nothing sucks more than that. I have learned the God is everything in this world. He will do it, whatever you want, for you... Exceedingly, beyond more than we can ask or imagine! He is IT!!!! He will get you through whatever, whenever. I have also learned that God likes it when we give thanks to Him... I have learned that people are not always what they seem... They show you the side they want you to see then when they demolish your house, :-) you know their true colors. Lol! The problem with two-faced people is that you don't know which side to slap when you actually know them. I have learned that the government's objective is not to make our lives better but worse. I have learned to HATE Nairobi City Council and Kasarani Police Station. *Screw them* I have learned that Kenya does have untouchables and that money talks!

My father has taught me what the true character of a man is about. He has taught me the value of education (No, it's not overrated). He has taught me that it is ok to have a golden heart. He has taught me that you cannot fail to trust people because someone else hurt you/screwed you over. He has taught me that it is ok to spoil your children, in their old age. He has also taught me that men are not perfect, but he is just the right amount of perfect and imperfect for me! :-) My mother has taught me what it means to be a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter and a mother. She has taught me what it means to be a WOMAN in a patriarchal society, how to keep your head up and your tears behind your eyelids and above how to always trust in God. My grandma, Esther, has taught me how I should love my children and grand-children, she has taught me to say much in few words (this post doesn't count).

Sandra has taught me that writing is the best thing that ever happened to me. Christine & my sister have taught me that it's never that serious and that parents will seldom approve of your relationship but at the end of the day, it's your choice.

I have learned to count up to 10 when I am angry. I have learned to think before I talk. I have learned that no experience in life comes without a lesson. I have learned how to love even when I am still angry... I have learned not to be fooled by a kiss or words from a man. I have learned that a man who wants to be with you will do or say just about anything to get you. I have learned that, though uncongenial, it is ok to date a guy your friend dated - at least if it's genuine and not out of malice.

I have learned to control my alcohol. I have learned that just because I am not where I want to be, at this point in my life, it doesn't mean I will never get there. I have learned to judge people by how the treat people less superior to them. I have learned that the jokes I laugh at reflect on my character- if you want to know the true character of a man, look at the jokes they laugh at. I have learned that I am stubborn and proper :-)

I have learned that sexual abusers should not define who you turn out to be. And this post has taught me: I still have a lot to learn from this thing called life!

A toast to: Love, True Friendships, Family and Life! :-)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Conclusion

The sight of Macharia disgusted me; it literally made me sick. My stomach hurt a little, my feet grew weak and my mind came up with 1001 ways to kill him. I wished death on him. I prayed that God would cause him as much pain as he had caused us. It was natural to feel this way anyway; so I let myself bask in my anger, my hatred and contempt for him and his entire family. 

The day was far from over. Minutes after I got home, my sister told me that Police Officers from Kasarani Police Station had come to stop the construction workers whom had been hired to put up a temporary fence from going on with their work. The Police Officers said they had received information that the construction workers were ARMED Mungiki youths. It really was unbelievable at the time that all this was happening! When we put the officers to task to produce the alleged weapons the construction workers had, they dismissed us. It was obvious who was responsible for this. What irked us more was the fact that the same Police Officers had been called by my cousin before the demolition began requesting for help because our property was about to be demolished illegally - we had not been served any notice by the court or City Council. That call had been made at midday. It was now 1600hrs. We live no more than seven minutes from Kasarani Police Station yet they showed up five hours later and NOT to help us but to attack us as the idiot who had lied and/or paid his way through City Council to have our homes demolished stood by watching.

The back and forth with the Police Officers turned into a heated argument. One officer, Mr. Abdi Elmoge thought we were being too emotional about the house being demolished. He was of the opinion that indulging us in a conversation was only making their throats dry. At some point, he roughed up and cuffed my brother for calling Macharia a fool... WOW!!! Was the bastard a god of sorts? Since when did Police Officers beat up and arrest someone for calling another person a fool? Effing fools! *Sigh* The sight of watching my brother getting cuffed drained all the strength I had left and I went to the house and broke down in front of my 2 year old nephew. I cried uncontrollably until he asked me: "Aunty ni nini mbaya?" *Sigh* I cried some more.

Finally, at around 1800hrs, the Police Officers left. The news of the demolition had reached most of our family and friends. They would begin arriving in a few minutes to console us... Tell us SORRY, again as though death had befallen our family... Fact is, ours was a loss, a loss which did not come with the finality of death.

It was 1900hrs when I saw a Police car driving towards our home. The vehicle parked outside my aunt's property. Armed Police Officers walked out of the vehicles. I was excited because I thought, in all my naivety, that they had come to help us (read arrest Macharia)... After all, the demolition was illegal right? WRONG! The next thing I heard was my brother (oh yeah, he wasn’t arrested after all… Abdi was all talk, hence a fool) on the phone asking a friend for help. Most of the guests rushed outside. All of a sudden, there were loud banging noises coming from the demolished area. It turns out the damage was not as bad as I had expected because the demolition was far from over... it was five hours from over.

This is how the demolition exercise was completed:
Macharia hired about 50-60 young men (Mungiki) to come and finish the demolition… As we sat in the house! I don’t know how to explain those five hours... The agony, the cries, the shock, the pain, the fear; it was a rollercoaster of emotions. For five hours, we sat in the house and listening to the walls of one end of the house crumble down with loud noises. We listened helplessly as the men hit stone by stone. We listened as our house was demolished. For five hours, everyone in the house was on their phone calling everyone and anyone… Media houses, Police Offices etc for help. Any kind of help would have been like a drop of water for someone burning in hell. For five hours we called for help and no one in Kenya could help us. It was by far the worst thing I have ever had to go through… It was the worst thing we went through. We were helplessly yet our house was full of help. We were desperate and we called strangers too. At some point, we stopped calling and sat in silence… The silence amplified the noise of our falling house... Our home for over two decades! 
The armed police officers, 8 of them, had not come to help us but to make sure that we do not interfere with the demolition at such ridiculous hours of the night. Eight armed police officers from Kasarani – one of them Abdi the fool! I cried at some point that night when I called a friend who works at a media house. I cried because I was scared, because I was angry, because I was hurting. I cried for my dad, for my mum and for my brother, because they seemed to be the most affected. I remember at some point my mum grew so weak, when she tried to stand up, her legs gave in and she fell back. A friend supported her. She couldn't seat. She couldn't stand. She held her chin and the sadness in her eyes was heart-breaking. I eventually holed myself up in my mom’s room with my sister to cry. My sister was stronger than I. I never saw her cry although I know she did – her eyes gave her away. She prayed when I was crying.
Eventually I "accepted" that we were helpless and that Macharia had won… He had had his way! But there are some things that you can never really accept. I hated Macharia and I cursed him. How would we live with this man as our next door neighbor? Love thy neighbor as you love yourself; the good book commands. How? Is it humanly possible?
One and a half weeks later, a lawyer, A.N. Ngunjiri (God rest his soul) was murdered – police say - shot dead (“mistaken identity”) as he tried to serve a court order to Mr. Macharia refraining him from using or trespassing on the land (read drive way) he had unlawfully acquired. The death of Ngunjiri was the coffee that woke us up. Was this ever about the land? Who was this man? A man who attended my graduation, who came home on more than one occasion and broke bread with the family? Why had he caused us so much pain? Why had he spent so much money to cause us so much grief?
Later that night, when my dad returned home I told him: “I can’t believe this has happened. I especially can’t believe that tomorrow the world will go on as if nothing happened…” I expected the world to stop. A part of me expected Obama to speak up against the level of impunity in this country. I laughed in my head for having such thoughts, but I was so desperate for help, any kind of help. *Sigh*
What happened to us was unbelievable, to say the very least. Writing about it doesn’t liberate me from the pain as I thought it would, it only opens wounds that are bandaged because they are far from healing. September 9th 2011. It was such a painful experience… one I cannot wait for time to heal!

I suppose what is left of my patriotic juices hopes that the court will ensure justice is served to Mr. Macharia, Nairobi City Council and Kasarani Police Station… I used to be so proud to be Kenya but I was in a bubble and experience burst my bubble.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

My 9/11

Nothing about the events of August 5th 2011 made sense; and I hate it when things don't make sense. I hate grey areas and uncertainty. It was a long weekend that one. One that came with many lessons. You see, after the unraveling events of 1 a.m. I constantly wondered how someone with a wife could behave in such a manner. Why wasn't she his voice of reason? I concluded that she was one to be seen and not to be heard... That was before I met her. I met her the following day... Actually I encountered her. Meet sounds like it was a pleasant scenario.  Far from it. The encounter was something like this: "This is our land (read drive way)! We are going to gain possession of it even if it means shedding blood. Death is not a big deal....... “ Those were the first words I ever heard her utter. She was talking AT my mother and I. In my head I thought vitisho vya penny mbili. Her utterances got personal... We walked away.

The 9th day of the 9th Month of the Year 2011.

Before I indulge you on the events of the 9th, note that at least every week, my mum and I spoke about our crazy neighbors. That week however, we spoke of him every day, without fail. I guess that was God's way of revealing something to us.

1232hrs (Midday) 

I recieved a phone call. It was my sister-from-another-mother. I was in a meeting of sorts. I disconnected the call. In less than thirty seconds, she had called back. I disconnected. She called back again. I knew something was wrong.... I knew what was wrong and the only reason why I picked up was to confirm that which I was already suspecting... Her words: "They have come back to demolish the house."

I know I said I knew what was wrong when I picked up, but if there is something I have learned, you can never really prepare yourself for bad news. I actually asked who had come back... Her response: "Macharia, Nairobi City Council and the police are even here, they have guns. What will I do?"

What should I have said? What? All I said was, "Let me call you back, I'll tell you what to do."  I didn't know what to do. If the same events played out today, I'd still not know what to do.

I like to think life prepares us for just about anything. Earthquake - you know you are supposed to stand in an open field, you can scream too. Death - you know you are supposed to cry. Sickness - go see a doctor. Accident - go see a doctor, insurance company and life moves on. Drought - donate food stuffs. Loss of a job - cry a little then pick yourself up and get another one or create one. Demolition of a friends property: Oh, no! I'm so sorry, you should go to court! Demolition of your home for 23 years.....*Sigh* How is one expected to react to such news?!? Should I cry? Scream? Kill someone? Life didn't prepare us for this. It doesn't prepare you for some things.

I decided to start making phone calls to everyone but my folks and my sister. So, I called my cousin, he didn't pick up. Called my brother, didn't pick up. Called my brother-in-law, didn't pick up. Called my cousin again, didn't pick up. Called my brother, didn't pick up. By this time I was shaking uncontrollably. I wondered if my phone was lying to me that it was connecting my calls... So I restarted it! With little options left, I called my dad. "Dad, the house is being demolished." The line went dead. How did I expect him to react? I think I was hoping he would curse the son-of-a-gun who was responsible for this whole drama to his grave. But the phone just went dead! I called my sister... Told her in the exact same words. Everyone else I called, I said it to them in the exact same words... A stranger could have easily thought I had been programmed... or was a broken record... or a parrot.

My phone rang. It was my sister-from-another-mother: "What should I do? They have already finished your bedroom?" Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn't have an answer. I hate not having answers... *Sigh* "Just leave them alone, I said."  I didn't cry. I went back into the meeting, excused myself and left. On my way to town, I tried to prepare my mind on what to expect once I got home - or what was left of it. I knew I couldn't face it alone, so I called my cousin for moral support. On the way home, I tried to imagine how my father was handling the news. I was worried sick about my mother.

The walk to the house was shorter than usual. My stomach was in pain and my eyes wet with tears - but they wouldn't fall from my eyes. I saw my dad from a distance. Even as I write this, the feeling I felt on that day when I saw him still engulfs me. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. His eyes were bloodshot red from anger. His first words to me: "He has finally done it. I'm sorry you don't have a bedroom." All I could say was "I'm so so sorry dad." We broke eye contact at the same time. I walked away first. I HATED Macharia; hated that he had done this to my parents.  I wanted to throw the demolished stones at his tile/glass house... I especially wanted to throw one at his big round head. A small crowd had gathered, most of them family and close friends... Everyone said "SORRY." It was as though death had befallen our family... But at the time, it felt worse than death. I HATED Macharia some more!

I got home at 1500hrs. Macharia was standing where my bedroom  previously was. He was in a black and white checked shirt, beige khaki-like pants. He was smiling. I wanted to spit on the bastards face then throw one of the demolished stones at him! I was DISGUSTED at the sight of him.

The damage was not as bad as I had expected. I also forgot the day was far from over... 


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Prelude

August 4th 2011.

It was a day that came with many thoughts... Far too many. Some good, some bad but on the most part, they were all good thoughts... I was looking forward to a night out with the girls that weekend. However, this thought was occasionally interrupted by  thoughts of my grandma. She had just come from undergoing a second heart operation due to clotted veins... Would she be OK?

The day wore on and by nightfall I had shelved thoughts of my grandma... more like left her to God. That would perhaps explain why I didn't care to ask my mum why she looked so distressed that night when I got home. I figured she was worried about her mom, naturally so. So, when I got home and she was not interested in conversation, I hurriedly went to bed. In retrospect, I should have asked her what was wrong.

After what seemed to me like a few minutes, maybe an hour tops, I heard her shouting my name.... Again, I made an assumption; that she wanted me to go and open the gate for my dad. I refused to answer and she called out to my sister-from-another-mother... She too ignored. Then I heard my dad's voice calling out my name. I got up - confused, thinking I was dreaming. 

I checked the time on my phone. 1:23 a.m. It was not a few minutes later, not even an hour after I went to bed... It was four hours later and it was not August 4th 2011 anymore. 

It was August 5th 2011.  This time I had my mum screaming... "Woooooiiiiii! Girls, can you wake up and get out of the house or else you will be killed... GET OUT! They are coming to demolish the house. Remove your things."

I got out of my bedroom, the same time as my sister-from-another-mother - got out of hers. She asked me what was going on. I could hear the  Nairobi City Council bulldozer demolishing the far end of the wall. They were coming to demolish the house at 1:23 a.m. I didn't know what was going on. My dad made phone calls hoping to get help. My mum made phone calls. I ran for my phone and started making phone calls. It seemed unbelievable to everyone that something like this was happening at such an ungodly hour. The bulldozer was still at the far end, moving closer with every passing minute. I asked my mum what was going on... She said it was "Macharia - the next door neighbor." I tried to put the pieces together... Why? How? At this time? Nothing made sense. Nothing at all.

My dad ran back to the house... Told me to pull the alarms. In a fraction of a minute, the alarms went off. In less than two minutes, the demolition had stopped and the bulldozer sped off. My dad tried to catch up with it... No luck. It was now  around 1:35 a.m. My feet were wobbly, my hands shaking and my  heart was racing. I asked my mum what was going on.... "Its a land dispute" she said. It still didn't make sense to me.... We had lived here for 23 years, the next door neighbor for less than 2 years.  How could it be a land dispute? The timing of the demolition made no sense either.... Nothing made sense.... But one thing was for sure, we were in for a painful experience with this guy.


Friday, 26 August 2011

Of Male Hairdressers...

I have extremely tough and sensitive hair. The kind that can wash your greasy sufuria clean and the kind that can easily fall out if not handled with care. As a result, I have had very few hair-dressers constant in my life. In fact I have only had three... One was my auntie. She discovered that my hair had to be "hot-combed" and not blow-dried because the latter did not work. The Second is Maggie. She has done my hair since I was ten; which means she has done my hair for over ten years although at some point our relationship was on a break - a break that cost me my hair - all of it. Enters Njagi. He took care of my hair when all I had was short hair - extremely short hair. He gave me a punk kinda look. He was good at it and good looking as well. I was young then so I thrilled at the idea of going to get my hair done. He had a tattoo on the left side of his chest. Yes, I was young and fascinated by him (it was not love or even a crush), it was fascination. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. These three hair dressers were never "local hairdressers." Two things: One, as a child, I was paranoid that local hairdressers would chop off my long thick black beautiful hair. Two, They never got it right -My hair was never as good when done in local salons. Sadly, my aunt passed away. I got tired of short hair thus ended my relationship (strictly professional :p) with Njagi thus Maggie and I re-united and I have never looked back, not yet anyway.

There is a saying about necessity and desperate times... No? Oh well! Anyhow, recently I had to visit a local salon (don't get me wrong, I have nothing against them) because I was broke, didn't have time to go far and wide to Maggie and didn't care much how I'd look. So I walked to the nearest  neighborhood salon. I was firstly beyond myself in shock to find a salon ran by men in my neighborhood. I have heard all manner of stories about male hair-dressers... all good, if I may add. Besides, I had experienced Njagi. :)

The gentleman to whom I was assigned to had long relaxed hair... I have a problem with that look on men. I think its gross and wanting! Anyhow, he began to "work his magic." Allow me to say the following, Njagi never washed my hair, he combed it and styled it. This guy - I have forgotten his name - washed my hair! Hmmmmm.... I must have fallen asleep at some point. He was gentle and thorough. He massaged my head and I relaxed wholly. I must have deluded myself into thinking I was at a spa of sorts. I did mention at some point I have extremely tough hair... He must have gotten carried away, or noticed how thrilled I was because he did not notice my hair tangling and I... well, I was too relaxed to pay attention to my tangled hair. I was snapped out of my pleasant delusion by the pain I experienced while he tried to comb my hair. It was temporary pain though, because as I said, he was gentle and he untangled strand by strand. He was patient.

Fast forward to the highlight of my experience there. Apparently as he noticed I was stiff (LOL!) and gladly offered me a massage... Neck and shoulder massage - so that he could comb me well. Again, I drifted to a mini-heavenly place. He took it a step further and massaged my temples and ears. Need I say that I was, super excited - too much to hide it. :) When I opened my eyes, he was starring at me through the mirror and smiling. I have heard stories about male hairdressers. I barely returned the smile - yes! yes! I know it costs nothing, but I would get a good hairdo anyway because I was paying for it. :-D He gave me another massage. Sadly, this time it was interrupted by a high-pitched voice. 
"Jose*, wewe kazi yako ni ku-seduce customer wako na massage hizo zako nilizokufundisha?"

*That was a really rude interruption if you ask me*

His response: "Mambo sweetie, nilikuwa namalizia nikuje home"

Crazy woman: "Kwani hufikii? Tangu juzi umekuwa wapi?"

His response (as he continues to massage me and I struggle to hide my relax-induced excitement): "Nakuja home"

Crazy woman (to me): "wewe, ulikuja huku lini? Unajua hivi ndivyo hufanyiwa wasichana... Anawa-massage alafu wanaenda home na yeye?"

*Hard Blink* & Jose* walks away and brings me coffee.

The woman walks away in a huff hurling insults at him.

Shortly after, a woman walked in and came straight to Jose* and told him she missed him last night and says she will be expecting him later on!

Jose* was not the least bit embarrassed as he finished doing my hair. Not the least bit. He asked me to leave  him my number and to make sure I go back another day. 

I smiled, paid and walked my relaxed-self out of there. 

I have never been a fan of neighborhood salons... That experience reminded me why... All the same, there is something about male hairdressers and how easily they have their way with female clients. Maybe the next time I'm broke and in a hurry, I will go back to Jose* - for the massage, if nothing else.

Monday, 15 August 2011

"Their" Vagina Monologue...

I think Feminism cannot and will never exist in its purest form. Nothing exists in its purest form. Not democracy nor dictatorship, not capitalism nor communism, not love nor hate. Few things in this world exist in their purest, or are clear cut; black or white. One of those things is life and death. But feminism is not pure nor is it black and white. It cannot be pure because Man, the male species, was created to be the Head; to be "superior" to the woman. But let us not dare confuse superiority for domination and/or oppression.

The feminist in me believes that every woman should be given a chance; a chance to exercise Free Will - rightfully given to her by her Maker. A chance to prove her self as a successful mother, career woman, friend, foe, whore (if you like), angel or devil. A chance to enjoy life and the things that come with it. A choice to enjoy SEX; because it is a GOD-GIVEN right. Sex because it was God's invention/creation... and all that was created by God is perfect and good.

Perhaps this explains my contempt towards the men in Igembe, Meru. The  men who will fail to marry a girl because she has not been "cut". The men who impregnate a girl at the age of 15 and refuse to marry her because she is not "cut" (took you long enough to figure that out! Mister!?!). The men who discriminate against uncircumcised women at this day and age! Talk about narcissist and barbarous beings. 

The feminist in me doesn't feel obliged to believe that God was out of His element when He created a woman as she is... With her clitoris. My heart bleeds for the young girls in Igembe who have been deprived of much; formal education, free will and the right to enjoy sex... All in the name of seeking for acceptance. I suppose given an opportunity, the vagina monologue of the girls would be as follows:

"My vagina swimming river water, clean spilling water over sun-baked stones over stone clit, clit stones over and over. Not since I heard the skin tear and made lemon screeching sounds, not since a piece of my vagina came off in my hand, a part of the lip, now one side of the lip is completely gone." (Excerpt from  The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler). 

Female genital mutilation is torture, not a culture. ~Alice Walker~

  1. Genital mutilation has been inflicted on 80 [million] to 100 million girls and young women. In countries where it is practiced,mostly African, about 2 million youngsters a year can expect the knife—or the razor or a glass shard—to cut their clitoris or remove it altogether, [and] to have part or all of the labia . . . sewn together with catgut or thorns.
  2. The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure. The clitoris is simply a bundle of nerves: 8,000 nerve fibers, to be precise. That's a higher concentration of nerve fibers than is found anywhere else in the body, including the fingertips, lips, and tongue, and it is twice the number in the penis.
My heart bleeds for the dominated and oppressed girls in Igembe... It bleeds even more for how primitive the men who advocate for Female Genital Mutilation are in their thoughts. 

Parting quote to these men: I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. ~Galileo Galilei~

Have a non-primitive week!