Winny shared a photo of her and her Dad taking a walk to celebrate World Mental Health Day. She said she vowed to celebrate with him, even if it meant ‘kuokota makaratasi pamoja.’ I love such people, such stories. We had a zoom interview for me to get her story, but the network was so bad; it sounded like the radio chewing the tape back in 1990. So I sent her questions and requested that she writes something.
The interview came back in sheng and with 17 emojis. This is my attempt to decode millennial speak.
Everyone knew a mad man in the village; for Winny, this man was her Dad.
One day, I came home from a school trip and went to look for my mom; I had bought her some yogurt as a gift. She was away at a neighbor, sharing the latest breaking news in the village. After a few words, she told me, ‘dad nacungire kiariki.’ That was the code word for, “He’s lost it again.” This is my earliest memory of my Dad’s illness.
I’m no Mike Ross, but I have the memory of a dolphin. Did you know dolphins can remember their friends even after 20 years? There are things that infant amnesia hasn’t touched, stuff from my childhood that seem like they just happened yesterday. I have these snippets of my childhood that just got superglued to my hippocampus. They sit there like a rock in a stream, never moving, never getting erased, getting smoother and harder as I grow older.
My favourite part of the movie ‘In pursuit of Happyness’ is when Will Smith — playing Chris Gardener — is walking down the streets in his baggy suit and he meets this gentleman in a red Ferrari, who’s just stopped getting ready to go to his office. Will stops him and says, “I have two questions for you: what do you do and how do you do it?”
He’s born in 1972 while Kenyatta is president. They are poor, the kind of poverty that doesn’t need an adjective to describe. But poverty was a common denominator in the village then, the rich were the odd ones out. His Mom is a dynamite. She’s the reason “when mama prays’ was written.
Soon, he’s supposed to start school. It’s the 20th century, there’s no kindergarten and sijui baby class and pre-primary. You just arc your hand over your head and touch the other ear. If your fingers don’t reach the ears, you’re not old enough to go draw on the sand and make chapati with mud. When his tiny chubby fingers touch his ears, he’s enrolled into nursery school. School is fun because it’s all play, dance and making pick-up trucks from wires and spectacle frames from maize stalks. There’s no homework and they go home at midday. He likes it.
Remember that photograph of a child on the brink of death from malnutrition and a vulture standing by like a chef who has just garnished their meal waiting for the feast? That photo still breaks my heart, probably because I’m a mom now and motherhood turns your heart into a dollop of emotions.
Do you sometimes write something and when you read it aloud, it just feels malnourished? Chances are there’s a heap of articles in your draft box that you haven’t dared post because you’re scared of the vulture. Every time you want to click ‘Publish’, you see the vulture, sinister, waiting to devour your little writing even before the netizens read. You even wish they’d troll you, since it’d mean someone took time to read your work. You close your laptop and go cut onions instead.
One of life’s greatest errors is to look at a child and imagine that they will amount to nothing – especially a child submerged in poverty. Poverty is one of the most convincing costumes; when a person is dressed in poverty, it masks any other attribute that they may have. You can’t even be wise and poor, it’s assumed that if you don’t have a mind to make money, you simply don’t have a mind. But a child is like a dormant volcano, you should expect anything.
You see a man, maybe a lawyer, sharp like a brand new razor and feisty like Bongo, the honey badger. He cuts his hair in those classy barbershops, which have got women hyperventilating every time their husbands go for a shave. But they are so good with the razor, he emerges from under their hot towels and silky hands looking like Michelangelo himself sculpted him.
He’s eloquent, shoots straight, and his life is straight like type 2A hair. He has already removed all the kinks from his life. He’s the kind of guy you’d think has no cares in the world. Even such a man, with his Armani suits, struggles with the imposter syndrome.
There’s a writer in you, buried in there somewhere. If you rearrange the furniture in your head, throw out the low-esteem couch, shake up the laziness carpet, and sort through the box of inconsistency and self-doubt, you’ll find them. They are probably buried right beneath the writer’s block pillow, suffocating, and getting mouldy.
They met at a prayer center. She always loved breaking her fasts at prayer centers, it felt like they had a higher concentration of heaven. We’ll call her Jojo.
Peter* was the kind of person who greeted people with “Praise the Lord!” He’d just exclaim ‘Hallelujah’ in a normal conversation. He was among the dying breed of people who don’t say “shit!” after every sentence. His showers always turned into full-blown Pentecost moments when he started singing.
She was dating a seminarian. Yes, those guys you see in the pulpit giving little holy communion in flowing robes, pious eyes, and lips that look like they only kiss the rosary, well, sometimes they kiss girls called Gigi.
The seminarian had his eyes set on the priesthood. A few years into the training, he got his reverse Damascus moment and abandoned the rosary. I think having one foot in the seminary and another one occasionally inside a beautiful girl was a tough balance. He chose the streets.
Today, our guest writer is Mary Nyawira. She will kill me for saying this, but Mary was the girl every person remembers from our High School class. If someone doesn’t remember you, we just tell them, “Oh, I was in Mary’s class.” And they’ll go, ooh!
For some reason, she was in the naughty corner most of the time. But I don’t think Mary looked for trouble, trouble just found her. Today, she lets us in on a snippet of her life as she grew up — the losses and the gains.
Guess who else found her? Jesus!
Olive sat across the gynecologist’s chair as he gave her the results of her ultra-sound. Like all gyna’s offices, his was predominantly white. Various diagrams of the human reproductive system hang on the wall. She sat there, recounting the torturous periods she had been enduring since she was a teenager.
“One day, I decided to have THE sex talk with my teenage son. I got him alone and said, “I’d like us to talk about sex.” He looked at me straight in the eye and asked, “What do you want to know about sex, dad?””
Photo credits: Dainis Graveris
That’s a story a motivational speaker told us when we were in high school. His name was Prof. Kadoka. He told us that he was a neurosurgeon. He was the closest thing to Ben Carson that we encountered.
If I was a Bible character, I’d probably be a pre-Red Sea Moses. Oh, that’s too far. I’d be the Moses at the burning bush. The one who gave God all the reasons why he was the wrong guy for the job. Moses did such a perfect job talking God down that the big guy got him a mouthpiece.
I relate to that story like the guys in Kondele relate to the riots in Minneapolis. The Kondele peeps may seem calm, but deep down they want to be chanting “Haki Yetu” down East 38th Street in Powderhorn Park.
There was an owl hooting that night. And I hated hearing an owl hoot. I was convinced someone I love is going to die if the owl hoots too close home. But I wasn’t home.
A couple of weeks ago, I stopped telling my husband that I loved him. After almost 9 years of saying ‘I love you’ every day and sometimes several times in a day, I just stopped.
It’d be nice to tell you that I visited Rogi Yaman and spent a couple of months with the Sages of Sivana in the Himalayas. I’d like to tell you that I went through a serious phase of soul searching, yoga and mental detox.
I’d like to be a real hero and take you through my journey of self-discovery and the ’15 steps to Renewing Yourself and Your Marriage’ seminar that I attended. That the seminar was hosted by the renowned Mark Gungor of ‘Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage’ seminars.
All that would be nice to say, if it were true.
I have been working from home, writing, editing, wiping little bums and snorty noses for almost four years now. While I’ve had a tremendously fulfilling time — my payment has been lots of tiny baby bear hugs and the sweetest ‘love yous’ — I’ve also experienced some hair-pulling emotional and mental distress.
There are days when I’d just drive to Java just to see other grow-ups and not have to speak baby-language for an hour. There were days when my ‘office’ walls were beginning to talk back to my thoughts. You know you need a break when you start to miss the lizard that passes by on its way from State House.
I haven’t pulled my hair out (yet). After a couple of years, I can tell you a few things that have made me productive and sane working from home.
Understanding yours and your spouse’s differences in temperament is a major key to establishing happiness, peace and stability in your marriage.
Jackie and Musau might not be enjoying marital bliss today if they had not decided to take a personality test together. When they first started dating, the music was never too loud; the sky was just the right shade of blue and their love burned bright like a beach sunset. If Musau was the knight in shining armour, then Jackie was Queen Elizabeth herself. Neither of them could do any wrong.
And then they got married.
I had a glass table once. I smashed it to pieces with a cup full of tea.
For a long time, I struggled with anger that would strike like a thunderclap headache. I lost many cups and plates to these fits of anger. But the day I lost the table is the day I knew horse-manure had hit the fan. Something had to give.
I searched for outlets. I joined a women’s study in the church, Wisdom for Mothers. This study exposed my heart and helped me grow. But it also gave me wonderful women who became my closest confidants. There’s very little I can’t tell this crazy bunch of wonderful women.
Before the anger outbursts, I had grown increasingly uncomfortable in my ‘situation’. I was a stay at home mom. Each day when Mr K went to work, I was left feeling like I made the wrong choice. Like all I’ll ever be is “Mom.”
He lies on the cold Sao Paulo ground in the park outside the cathedral. It’s cold. I’m used to the sweltering heat in Mombasa, anything below 25 degrees is cold for me. But I’m told it’s summer here. These people have not seen the summer, I muse.
He has a blanket. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look very dirty. My host, a catholic seminarian informs me that they are supplied with blankets and food by well-meaning Brazilians. Mostly Christians because they somehow see the face of Jesus on those once clean and handsome faces.
He’s not alone, but I note with interest that most of his ‘roommates’ are men.