YOU

My love for coffee is stronger than Museveni’s grip on power. You can’t separate us, ask the doctor in Pandya; he tried, but we will not let haters rain on our love parade. We are stuck together like chewing gum on hair.

A couple of days ago, I put some water on the cooker to boil some coffee. I didn’t want to stand there and watch it come to a boil. Do you know how boring that is; just standing there waiting for the endothermic reaction to complete? I decided to do other world-saving activities such as scrubbing toilets bowls and screaming at tiny humans to pick their toys from the floor.

My world-saving acts were very fruitful, but I forgot about the simmering pot of coffee as promptly as politicians forget their promises. The water evaporated, and my silver aluminum Kaluworks pot was now white.

Another minute and it’d have probably melted; I don’t know the melting point of metals. My mind blocked during the mole concepts class, and it hasn’t opened up.

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What shall we call her?

My name is Kambura. I was born on a rainy Friday in November in Nazareth Hospital. My dad couldn’t remember what it was called; he’d say he’s going to Jerusalem to see his newborn daughter. It still tickles Mom thirty-five years later.

My mother’s creativity had drained out in the labor that ended up being a Cesarean Section. Losing your creativity in delivery is no mean feat. The labor room is filled with uninhibited creativity —women who have never sang become choir soloists. Two-left feet swollen with edema break into dances, and the hapless husbands and nurses have to watch them do a naked Azonto. Peaceful women who can’t hurt a fly throw punches like boxers and insults like Mombasa touts. These sins are not recorded in God’s book; he did this to us.

So when the nurse asked, “what shall we call her?” Mom looked at the window, saw droplets of rain, and said, “Kambura.”

I got my second daughter three years ago, and Mr. K, a well-meaning Kikuyu who’s coming from a background where babies take all the names of their namesakes, said we’re calling my baby Ciakuthii. Ciakuthii is my mother.

I was mortified! I was still recovering from anesthesia, I still couldn’t feel my legs, but I wanted to go judo on his backside! No one is calling my daughter Ciakuthii in the 21st century! Cia … what now?

“But why not?” He asked.

My firstborn is named after his mother; it only made sense that this one named after my mother should take her native maiden name. Aiii, Ciakuthii wasn’t just cutting it. All the people from Chuka that I told le husbae wants to call my newborn daughter Ciakuthii were getting mini heart attacks. Even the original Ciakuthii herself wasn’t for the idea!

She was given a different, “more acceptable” name. Looking back, I wonder if I should have just called her Ciakuthii. Almost all Meru, newborn girls, are called Mukami, Mwende, Mwendwa, or Makena. All newborn boys are called Muthomi, Mutugi, or Mwenda. There are a few Munenes and Gatugis.

When did you last meet a three-year-old boy called Mũtegi? Or Mîcheni? Or Nkoru? Or a two-year-old girl called Ciambai or Mũkwanjerũ? The only people I forgive for not taking their ancestral names are the Tharaka. No one is holding a grudge against you for not calling your son Makambî or Makara or Kanyamba. We understand. Totally. No grudges there, kabisaaa.

‘Cia…, Mukwa…, Nya… and M’ names are extinct now. I had my Ciakuthii chance and wasted it. Or not. I’m not sure I’d use it if I’m given a second chance to call her Cia-anything.

Do other tribes have names they don’t use anymore? I’d love to know.

And does anyone know what Nkirote, Kanario, Naitore, or Ncabira means? Or Kinoti?

Smoothie

It has become a matter of national concern that people with more than one stomach are a threat to the national health agenda as stipulated in the millennium development goals.

As a result, I have found myself and my three stomachs isolated and threatened. I do not particularly have a problem with these recent findings; I have been trying to divorce from the said stomachs for a while now. But visceral fat and I are Siamese twins; someone needs to call Ben Carson asap.

I have tried Intermittent Fasting, which went as smoothly as passing a kidney stone. Enzymes would wake me up at 2 AM to make them Chapati, and as you know, chapati is enemy of flat-stomach development.

But have you ever slept, and your stomach started talking in tongues? Have you? Have you ever felt the mitochondria and the spleen start singing “solidarity together” while you try to close your eyes? Have you ever felt the Loop of Henle strangle your intestines in hunger? I have, and I’m not planning to die that way.

I turned and tossed and even attempted to invite dreams about food so that I can feel a little better. Instead, I had dreams about being back in boarding school. It was the inter-boards exams day, and for the love of all things delicious, I couldn’t find my class or my pen! I woke up crying and even hungrier.

So today, after seeing before-and-after phorros of a mama-turned-teenager, I started feeling all green smoothies and broccoli. I decided, this is it – I’m going to make a smoothie.

I gathered up the things in my fridge that looked remotely healthy. I cut up some lettuce, a few grapes, and an apple. I knew it would taste like the vanity of vanities, so I threw in a ginger clove. I found some pumpkin seeds and threw that in too. The more, the merrier, right?

I gave it a good blitz for 5 minutes. When I was sure I would not be encountering entire lettuce leaves, I stopped blending and poured them into a cup.

The smoothie looked pale – like it had just received bad news. I know the thought of going into my several stomachs was terrible news, so I felt a little pity for the smoothie. I wasn’t too sure if the ginger would make things better, so I squeezed in a lemon.

Then I took my first sip.

My taste buds were so shocked they started to ribashakashikarubberrulernapencil. I haven’t recovered. I’m still slain.

I have just come here to tell you all that drink smoothies – you are legends! You deserve to be granted the Elder of the order of the Golden Heart. You should be awarded the Order of the Burning Spear and the other orders there are in the books. Whatever they gave Githeri man must be taken away right now and given to the smoothie drinkers! You are the real OGs. You are the GOATs. The only OG and GOAT greater than you is the black panther guy and DMX.

Hold my smoothie; I’m calling mama mahamri! Cheei. I’ll start dieting tomorrow.

PS: Please eat healthily; it may save your life. I’m in no way advocating for bad eating habits.

Majid

He was like fudge – sweet to the tongue but bad for your teeth. The only reason I remember him is that he once said very bad-mannered things to me when we met during music festivals, stuff I’d not repeat here because I’m a former Presbyterian – confirmed and irrigated. I keeled over in shock, which also sent the message that I was cool but not as cool as THAT. That relationship was as strong as boiled spaghetti; we didn’t go far.

I haven’t thought about Majid in years; he’s been in the same forgotten brain compartment with Agrarian Revolution, Mole Concept, and Matrices. I remembered him on Friday.

It all started with mopping floors and my hatred for the task. I’m a working-from-home mom who hates washing dishes as much as I hate mopping floors. I prefer cooking.

After years of mopping floors, I decided, even the cow that is not mooing has to be ‘thaurirwad.’ (For more information, contact a Meru near you).

I said, “this is the 21st century; I’m buying a vacuum cleaner!”

I drove to City Mall, straight to Carrefour, and saw the one I thought looked coolest. I couldn’t make jack of what it said it did, but it was written ‘Vacuum cleaner,’ and I was getting it. It was “dry only, bag-less, cyclones, motor, megawatts, blah blah blah, suctions and lots of physics.” I took it.  

When I got home and opened the box, I momentarily thought of making an “unboxing” video for Youtube. I then remembered my phone camera is as good as the Kenyan government. I perished the thought like it was a text message from Kamiti.

I tossed the box aside, and guess what? The vacuum box had a sticker on its side, written in large letters with a blue small-point BIC pen – Majid! I chuckled to myself at the memory.

Back then, I was trying to do bad all by myself, ‘dating’ (and I use that term very loosely) a Muslim boy, yet I was the Christian Union Praise and Worship leader. Once he gave me his watch, I gave him something as well – I don’t remember what. I wore that watch until it disintegrated. I highly doubt he’d remember me.  

I don’t remember Majid and I breaking up. A few weeks after Majid and I ‘stopped talking,’ I heard he was kicked out of school. He was stealing students’ Bibles and selling them to the lowest bidder.

Anyway, I returned Majid to Carrefour on Saturday. He wasn’t what I needed; I should have concentrated in my physics class. I’m getting a new box today with suitable cyclones and megawatts. I hope it doesn’t come with a sticker that says, “Erasmus.”

I’ll never tell you that story, even if it does.

Karma is a child

My mother was (is?) a teacher. Teachers don’t retire; they just change the venue from the classroom to your everyday life. Have you seen older people who used to be teachers? They exude the same authority they did when they were teachers. You meet them as you drive home to greet your folks with your kids in the backseat, and you start wondering if you have finished your art and craft homework yet. You still feel like you want to duck into a bush until they pass

Everyone still calls them ‘Mwalimu,’ and they hold your hand with both of theirs when they greet you. They still remind you that these fingers that are now signing deals and contracts with abandon trained them to hold a pencil.  

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She looks Chinese

I know it’s none of your business, and you’d rather be eating avocado, cursing Jayden for the lockdown or sanitizing your vegetables, but I’m interrupting your Tuesday to tell you that I’m seriously contemplating not getting another baby. I’m only telling you this because … I actually don’t know why I’m telling you this. But it’s about a Kisii.

As it is, I don’t understand how God thought it was wise to let me have kids. I mean, me, who’s always in-over-my head and can barely control my cravings for licking the sufuria that made fried meat, me who still misses patco, goodygoody and dextrosol, me who hasn’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up and who hates adulting – has children. Two! There’s a God in heaven.

The world is overpopulated, there’s a virus roaming the earth like the devil looking for someone to devour, we have debt we will never be able to finish, and the ozone layer is thinning – yet I brought two humans into this world. God is still working his miracles.

I do not have an economic or even environmental reason why I will not get another baby. My excuse is very simple. It’s a Kisii man. Specifically, the Kisii man who was my anesthesiologist when I delivered my second baby.

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Priorities

My duvet is ruined. I mean, a duvet I bought for a song in Kasarani hunters where they sold everything on the streets – from ugly burned chapatis, mandazi, fish to all species of cereals, suitcases, clothes, witchcraft paraphernalia, and drugs.

I didn’t see the last two; I’m a Christian, saved and immersed in many waters, struggling and failing terribly at praying and fasting and waiting for angel Gabby to do his thing with the trumpets. But I’m pretty sure someone was selling those on that stretch between the first street and tenth street. Hunters is not an estate; it’s a market where people never leave.

One of my greatest hopes is that there will be grapes in heaven; my love for grapes is on an illegal bar by now! Haki, if there are no grapes in heaven, I’ll have to see Noah aside and tell him we start a kitchen garden just outside Elijah’s mansion. Elijah is our best bet; we’ll need to appease him so that he doesn’t go all Ahab on us. We need the rain – if it rains there.

As much as the heavenly grapes are a cosmic tourist attraction for me, I don’t want to see them soon. I’m just fine with waiting for the Naivas offers for me to hoard grapes. I love heaven, I want to be there someday, but that day is not today. And when I woke up this morning, I almost felt like it was, which was not a very comforting thought, especially because I was to burn my way there.

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Bottomless Pit

Suicide is a grave matter, and that guy you admire so much, the one who is life-goals and looks like he never gets irritated by slow WiFi and has attained nirvana — he was probably thinking of it last evening as he marked his son’s homework. I know of a loved one who has consistently said that he cannot attend the funeral of a person who dies by suicide; that it’s selfish and cowardly. I have my own theory dotted with horrifying personal experiences that I don’t think I’m ready to open to the world yet. Me, who write stories about my past boyfriends and embarrassing life struggles, still has things she can’t talk about. Life is a bottomless pit.

I have seen a loved one attempt suicide, and it wasn’t once. Witnessing a loved one attempt suicide and living with the thought that they were at a place when even you couldn’t help gives your heart a fever so high that medication can’t help. This memory has remained stuck at the back of my mind like chewed gum under a desk, decades later.

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The Mud on My Chest

Several centuries ago, I bagged myself a nice Bukusu boyfriend. It was quite weird because growing up on the mountainside, we had always been told that Bukusus are man-eaters, and I was always hoping his cannibalistic traits don’t show up when I’m around. Well, I lived to tell the tale – and they are amazing people.

This Bukusu boyfriend once asked me what I was most insecure about myself. I thought for a nano-second and then answered, “My hairline.”

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Grey Ticks

A coupe of eye-glasses ago, little Miss T turned my spectacles into double amputees. She came holding the severed arms on the one hand and the ‘eyes’ on the other, feeling very accomplished. Her orthopedics dreams are very valid; she did a pretty clean job amputating the spectacles. I had to shop for new ones.

I roamed the online streets, looking for something that will not cost me many zeros — and we all know eyeglasses frames cost a little more than a Suzuki Alto Engine in these streets. I scrolled up and down Facebook haphazardly, like you do when you’re at the supermarket with plenty of money to burn. When your pockets or bank account is bursting at the seams, you don’t check prices; you don’t check brands, you don’t check for offers and budget packs; you just pick and drop things in your trolley like you’re cleaning out the shelves. You look at Geisha and Rexona soaps the way you look at the beggars on your car window; today, you’re only buying Dettol. Later, you thrust the ATM card into the PDQ machine without missing a heartbeat.

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Oh, to be a Spoon!

Do you know how hard it is to be a christian girl in the days of the Duke of Hastings? It’s like being a catholic in Palestine. Or a non-weed smoker in Amsterdam.

He is the reason why some of us are not getting healed even after elders have come with tanks of anointing oil and laid their sanitized hands on our coconut-oiled twist-outs? Even after the said elders with their silver beards and safari boots have erased all the grease from our hairs and tangled it afresh, requiring us to buy a wider-toothed comb and more conditioner to detangle the prayer knots, they leave us with our infirmities and go away shaking their heads. Do you want to know why? It’s the Duke of Hastings.

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Of Neighbors and Feelings

Feelings, like people and dogs, have names. That feeling like your head is swelling like a dam in the long rains; when you can feel your skin harden and your eyes redden like you’re about to become The Thing from the fantastic four and go smashing through walls and breaking glasses with your fingertips; you can almost feel the smoke coming from your ears and veins the size of baobab tree trunk appear on your temple – that feeling is called rage.

Or when your intestines are in knots like a yarn a cat played with; you get an instant urge to pee and in extreme cases, the muscles in your bowels get a brain of their own and open without consultation. Goosebumps appear on your upper arms like you missed your measles vaccination; your hands and feet are vibrating like a Richter scale in an earthquake, your heart pumps on your throat and you’re breathing like a dog in summer – that feeling is called terror.

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Ka’Fuu

Moving towns feels like getting an amputation. When you leave a town (or a country, but that is above my paygrade for now. I’ll let you know in a few years 🙂 ), you’re not just leaving your landlord that you probably hate and have been tolerating the parasitic relationship between the two of you — where each of you believe the other is the parasite.

You’re leaving the memories and the familiar – the mama mboga who you send a text when you’re stuck in traffic and you find your spinach well shredded into wormlike threads that are impossible to stir, they intertwine like overcooked spaghetti. When you eat them, one end arrives in the duodenum while the other one is still on the plate. But she’s your mama Shiro, you can’t trade her for any other Sukuma wiki shredder.

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People Forget

While going up the marriage building, somewhere between some floors, I stopped reading marriage books. There was nothing new happening inside those pages, and they all seemed to sing the same song. They also seemed to have been written by writers seated in the clouds and when I read them while wading through a swamp and when I was swimming upstream, they were as helpful as a plastic spoon in hot oil.

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He has lost it again

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.

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Be Nice

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. 

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How to decide what to blog about

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?”

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Confetti

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.

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4 Ways to deal with your malnourished writing

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.

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The richest of stories

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.

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