NDUTHIS AND LEAFY SUBURBS

Running late sucks. Especially when you’re in a bus that keeps stopping at every stage, and the driver is so casual!! Then you calm down and realize that if you didn’t snooze your alarm three times, you’d have been on time, so you choose to fidget instead and take a motorbike when you get to the road leading to your destination. Maybe if you have to pay for the nduthi, then it will teach you a lesson on how being late is costly, and it’ll save you time.

 

If you haven’t taken a motorbike ride before, you will find the bargaining process interesting. The rider exaggerates the distances depending on how desperate your demeanor is, and you downplay the distance based on how slow business looks. In my case last Saturday, I was winning the price war because ‘it was just here’ and he would be ‘back in no time’. I like the wind in my hair when I’m on a bike,  ha! Wind in my hair, like I have Caucasian hair and it blows through my hair like a new blow drier would. My hair is kinky and coming to think of it, I just have the wind blowing through the sides of my face, not in my hair. Luckily for my kinky hair and I, we got to the place on time and I forgot how flustered I was a few minutes ago.

 

I was going to help set up a showcase event, at a golf club in one of the leafy parts of Nairobi. Why do they call posh places ‘leafy’ btw? I think it’s because you need abundance to keep certain things in your posession. Trees. Horses. Lugers. Water bodies. Fine china. Vaults with diamonds in them. Abundance, not just money in okay amounts, because when you’re in a fix and you have acres of land with trees, it’s hard to overcome the urge to bring down the trees and bring up apartments or stalls. And so I was in a place where people have things in abundance, and they weren’t afraid to show it. Mercedes Benzs in the parking lots. Piere Cardin cardigans to keep away the cold. Davidoff scents on their skin. Apple Inc on their palms. Generally, abundance on display.

 

I was upstairs, looking out into the course. People chasing little balls, dressed immaculately, club rules dictating what is allowed, and what isn’t. Caddies tugging at the golf clubs, choosing which club for sand, which for the rough part of the green, and which one for the part of the course that looks so well-done that you feel people shouldn’t walk on it, it should only go into making photo shoots.  Money is a goo thing, it brings you people to set up your décor, wakes them up at ungodly hours, haves them shower in cold water, then bargain with motor bike riders while wondering what makes your ‘local’ so posh and leafy. You sit in the sun, table set, tucking into a sumptuous meal, the sunshine in the distance, the scenery looking like something that would go into a postcard, slow, classical music playing in the background. Upstairs, a young man in a checked shirt with rolled-up sleeves gazes into the distance, wowed by the splendor of the estate, the sheer size, the tranquility, the beauty of it, the order. Unlike the chaos, the depravity, the smallness, the grotesqueness that he is used to. You don’t notice him, looking sharp in your white polo shirt, your black leather belt, khaki pants and black golf Nikes.

 

I looked out into the room and took a picture to show my friends what we can arrive at if we work for it. It broke me also to imagine how different it is outside these well-kept lawns, the hearty laughs, the flowing fountains, the beaming smiles. I didn’t take a nduthi back to the stage. I walked. Took in the smells. Freshly cut grass, newly-opened wine, real leather upholstery. I took in the sights. Tall trees swaying in the wind, bright orange tiles to keep the cacophony of rain away, sleek foreign engines in the parking lot. I took in the sounds. The joys of deals completed. The shrieks of friends just-reunited, the constant, assuring beep of live electric fences.

 

I still need to take in the value of waking up at first-call, until then I’ll keep bargaining for a nduthi.

 

GIZZARDS AND GOOD SEX

 

 

She walks in with a black paper bag and places it on the table. The tavble that is everything. Your chopping board and pantry at the top, your wardrobe in the drawer, your shoe rack at the bottom and occasional seat whenever company is over.  You look up from the movie on your laptop, she comes closer, she smells of Nivea lotion and a brisk walk. You don’t rise up to hug her because she collapses in your arms like a huge, fleshy teddy bear. Her plastic bra strap digs into your skin, but you don’t want her to move any inch from you so you shut it, take the discomfort like a man and sit there in silence. Your hands start wandering, feeling her up, feeling all her squishy, firm, flaunt-worthy and even her cringe-worthy and hidden areas, all these in silence, greetings are for kids, and this is big boy business.

 

Later, spent and exhausted, you lay in bed. Her hair is matted on her face in lumps because of all the sweating, only one eye open and there is the telling smell of thirty minutes of foreplay, and consequent hard-core sex, in the air. Hard-core because you feel nothing in your thighs, your lips are numb and the old bed is gently shaking from all the trembling in her legs. You pull up to the headboard, and she takes the cue and lays on your chest. She hears your stomach rumbling from hunger, the sounds that would be embarrassing to someone else, but are not in this naked space.

 

She walks out of bed, her behind shaking involuntary as she walks, you smack it and you both laugh. She chops the onions as she moves the mug of cold coffee that you didn’t finish yesterday. The tiny room soon fills with the smell of frying stew, and then you inhale that unmistakable smell of chicken, and you thank God for the naked woman stirring  such tasty stew in your house. The ugali cooks slower, although it’s probably because you’re hungry, and you’re staring at each of the turns the cooking stick is making, as it turns the raw maize flour into a meal. You push the laptop away as you imagine the taste of ugali and chicken in your mouth, hand-fed by a woman whose skin is more tender and smooth than the chicken in the bowls she is emptying the stew into.

 

She dips a fistful of ugali into the stew and feeds you. The taste is heavenly, your taste buds feel alive, like they had been parched and now they are drinking Keringet. She plucks a piece of chicken and feeds you, and you contort you face in disgust. GIZZARD! WTF?? You spit the offending piece of meat in your hand and throw it into the black paper bag that serves as a bin. She looks at you appalled. Her mouth the shape of a purple-line O. Shocked that when you didn’t even have lunch, you scoffed at the option of gizzard and well-cooked ugali, after mind-blowing sex where she contorted her body in positions she couldn’t breathe for seconds at a time. You look at her defiantly, yes the stew is tasty, but you hate the taste of gizzards, and you’d rather starve than have them in your stomach. She walks up to the table and empties the stew into a dish, says she can’t spend her hard-earned money to feed an ungrateful brat. She dresses in awkard silence, and you have to help her find her underwear. The elastic band of her panties smacks her thighs, and you gulp in realization that she’s indeed mad. She doesn’t even close the door, and you have to use a bedsheet to cover yourself as you close it. You scoop the rest of the stew with the ugali. It’s tasty and you wolf it down until the sauce pan is gleaming.

 

Later, she’ll call to ask if you ate, you’ll shrug and say no, and she’ll say she’s coming to fix you collard greens and avocado. You pause the movie and launch a word document, the world needs to hear about ungrateful boyfriends, the horror show that is cooked gizzard and the power of good sex and rejection attraction.

 

 

 

TO RECYCLE A TEA BAG

You’ve used the teabag for the fourth time now. What was once produced a sweet, delicious taste of strawberry with the luscious colour of pink tea leaves has been diluted into a bland, colourless cup of hot, sugared water. Hot water with a faraway hint of fruit that you’ll have with mandazis that were fried in too much oil, and they leave you at the mercy of nausea. You clench your jaw, and check on the water that’s boiling in the sauce pan, the bubbles forming on the sides of the metallic bowl, and you switch off the gas because you refuse to imagine what would happen if those extra seconds you keep the flames licking the pan, led it to finish earlier than scheduled. Coldplay is playing on the laptop, and Chris Martin, the lead, is singing in that nasal, heavily-accented voice that has brought them so much success, about apples and shooting them off his head. You think about apples and the last time you had one. You change the song to DJ Khalid and his band of singing mercenaries.

 

Later, you cry in the shower. It was your last intention, but you’re naked and tears are lost in between the steady stream of hot water flowing down your face and down your body. You went there to use your friend’s wifi, and the thought of saving an extra five litres of water by showering at his place was too strong to resist. After you check your Instagram, bet on a few games and download video mixes, you strep into the shower. The warm water feels nice, and you let it roll down your skin as you lather yourself, you think about sending your girl a teasing picture, of you clutching your genitals, and all wet and soapy. You stop because she’ll know that’s not your place. That you don’t have a shower in your house. That you can’t afford a house with a shower. You feel the anger rising inside you. You’re angry at everyone. God. Uhuru Kenyatta. Your father. Your KCSE examiner. Why can’t you have something nice for once? She says you have a nice body, and a nice ‘v’ line around your crotch area, but a man should bring more than a toned body to a relationship..you think about how long you have left until she can say that she really tried to be with you until you couldn’t give her what she wanted the most. A white wedding. Her father would only meet you once if she even had the guts to introduce you to him. Your friend asks if you’re okay, laughingly asks if you’re crying, you compose yourself and laugh back, you say you were checking your balls for prostate cancer, you both laugh. You because you needed to stop crying, him because he thinks you’re dumb and don’t know how prostate examinations are conducted.

 

You’ll be in the market later, with exactly Kes 105 in your pocket. A debate will be raging in your head. Beans to eat with rice at home or githeri to fry and eat with avocado. Githeri leaves you with an extra fifty to buy sugar to feed the morning coffee addiction, beans with gas and two cups less of rice. As you fry the githeri, no tomatoes, just half an onion, a bunch of tired-looking coriander leaves and the least amount of cooking oil you can, you feel like crying again. Why you? Of all the people in your primary class, you’d probably be the only one to walk to an impromptu reunion, the only one without a child, but living like he has ten..but you decide you won’t cry anymore. There are people who have it worse, people who would be glad to be jobless but with your health, your teeth, your functioning heart, your sane faculties, your body that cleans itself without an expensive Phillips medical equipment humming and making beeping sounds.

 

You get a fresh tea bag. You play gospel. You let the flames on the gas cooker lick the top of the sauce pan. You get Supa Loaf, the sweet one in a purple wrapper. You get the peanut butter out. You set a whole avocado to yourself.  You use the tea bag for the first, and hopefully, last time.

 

 

QUAVO’S VERSE

I like a song called ‘Guwop’ by Young Thug featuring Quavo and Offset from Migos and Young Scooter. It’s nothing you will listen to if you like content and take-home messages from your music, just a bunch of 20-something year olds flowing over a beat that to be honest, is really, really good. It’s largely a homage to Gucci Mane, the Atlanta rapper who only recently left his troubled past behind, a figure that is synonymous with the explosion of trap music as a means of artistic expression for America’s most tough and deprived ghettos.

 

The song’s lyrics are a storyline that explains in detail the four young men’s business acumen, street credibility, attractiveness to the female population and ability to withstand large doses of drugs and scenes of violence, the typical content of new-age rap. Rap legend and recent social-critic Snoop Dogg, he of the ‘gin and tonic’ fame and one of rap’s most revered figures, has recently come out to mock the lack of authenticity and generic method of delivery the new generation musicians have adopted. Yet it’s the seemingly emptiness of their lyrics, that seems to endear them to the large swathes of their fanbases. With catchy beats, a simplistic rap style and a no holds barred approach to topics, the new generation rappers are disappointing, even annoying, older rappers but they are setting trends, smashing show attendance records  and turning online presence into millions, and they’d pick that any day over deep lyrics and reduced fame and income.

 

I like Quavo’s verse the most in the song. He says nothing memorable, nothing special that’d make you wake up and feel like you should do more with your life, BUT its in how he says nothing that is how he hip hop’s hottest property right now. With an assured cockiness, he raps about “I took your hoe, ya dig? I told her hold the sig, had big bales, midget, now you can say I got millions” translation being that he can take your woman, and ask her to do what he wants and that he’s a Young Rich Nation aficionado, a label off their wildly popular brand. Yet for all my anticiapation, I rarely get to listen to his verse whenever the song is on, and I always have to keep repeating the song to hear him rap about getting money every morning like a syndicated breakfast show host attends to his job. I saw a while ago that the reason you see a lot of your favourite car is because what you focus on, you see more of. I don’t know why it doesn’t work with Quavo’s verse. It always hits me at Offset’s verse, rapping about having so much ‘ice’ on his wrist, it looks like a faucet, or at Young Scooter’s, talking about cooking dope with no stove.

 

Maybe I strain too hard, and I am looking forward too much, that when he starts his verse with his distinct ‘Atlanta-nese’ accent, I forget to live in the moment and hear him do what he is paid so much to do. I think I’ll not put too much thought into listening to his verse, as I will enjoying the rest of the other rappers verses. Then maybe I’ll finally get to see what makes Quavious Keyate Marshall, and his ilk, so good at what they do

 

 

NO LONGER SLAVES

NO LONGER SLAVES

 

 

I don’t know what they call the rubber thing on your earphone that goes into your ear. All I know is that I lost it today, and it was frustrating. You know how you try to retrace your steps and see where you might have dropped it? I tried it, but it didn’t work, and I really wanted to listen to music, so I was really irritated by that and the queue at Madaraka Estate’s Huduma Centre. I had gone there to file nil on my KRA tax returns so that I don’t get into problems with the taxman when the June 30th deadline is with us.

 

Madaraka’s Huduma Centre is located along Jogoo Road, in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, at a stop called Hamza. The population of Eastlands has grown tremendously  over the last decade, and the queues that snake around the ancient buildings are proof of that.  There I was, my battery reminding me that I forgot to charge it yesterday, and my earphones missing the stopper thing, and so I was mad as hell. I saw something that made me smile though, there was a guy in a grey khaki coat, he looked agitated, like he was supposed to be somewhere else, and the slow movement of the queue was keeping him away from something important. His phone had the screensaver of a smiling young woman that I presume is his girl, and after a while he kept looking at it and smiling. That made me so happy, that even if I don’t know the guy, he was doing his part to make his lady feel special, and most importantly, that he looked happy doing it.

 

The queue didn’t move for about thirty minutes, and so my friend and I decided to go later, we had walked there, from Umoja’s market to Madaraka. It was an interesting walk for me, I’ve not been to this part of Eastlands since high school, about eight years ago, when I’d come here to chew khat and drink hard liquor on Sunday nights and sleep during the consequent Monday’s classes. I’d not been to Camp Toyoyo, the football pitch until today, and it was so impressive to see it up close for myself. The quality is good, and even the changing rooms, look really well done, and I honestly hope more politicos see how easy it is to give the masses quality development instead of stuffing their pockets. Walking through those suburbs also makes you wonder what successive governments did after the initial estates were done, because the slums we have now are because there was a gap, neglected by government, to be filled in regards housing

 

There was a time in the queue when my battery read 4% but I didn’t care, I had to listen to my new favourite song, ‘No longer slaves’ by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser. Gospel music has never had a folder in my phone, but lately, I’ve been listening to it on repeat, sometimes there is a space in your heart that only music that reminds you that you are God’s son/daughter, can fill.

.

 

I haven’t found the rubber thing, and it’s frustrating, but I got to walk around with my friend, see Eastlands and watch my battery die as I listened to my favourite song, and it’s a lot more liberating than it sounds.

THE SONKO CONUNDRUM

The Jubilee Party nominations are scheduled for Friday 21st April. It will be a two-horse race between the sitting Nairobi senator Mike Mbuvi  Sonko and former Gatanga MP and 2013 presidential candidate, Peter Kenneth. The winner will, in the August general election, face off with the incumbent, ODM’s Dr. Evans Kidero, who most residents feel has not delivered on his election promises.

 

The quintessential example of the proverbial Robin Hood, the former Makadara MP is loved by those that feel he represents the working class and poor population of the country’s capital, his charming rags to riches story, coupled with his choice of clothing, flashy jewellery and expensive cars, form a persona that appeals to the millions that don’t mind the source of his wealth as long as he keeps loosening his purse strings. The elite and those that he rubs the wrong way with his seemingly obnoxious behavior, feel that the generosity and his dislike for the status quo, are a front to mask the source of his vast financial estate allegedly acquired through dubious means, from which he personally bankrolls his one-man charity.

 

The entrance of Peter Kenneth, viewed in the last election as an alternative candidate for those tired of politics of ethnic and class patronage, will complicate matters in the ruling coalition. Sonko feels like he has earned his stripes in the party, as he has never shied away from a showdown with anyone who slights the party, its leaders and its agenda. From the ICC cases where he called the court unprintable names and accused it of being a neo-colonial outfit, to public spats with opposition legislators and governors, and campaigning vigorously for the party’s nominees in by-elections gone by, he would surely feel like he deserves a direct nomination, as he has served time in the trenches and that Mr. Kenneth is a johnny-come-lately, an opportunist who deserves nothing but contempt for running against the party boss in 2013.

 

The fact that Peter Kenneth is Kikuyu and seen as a child of privilege, (a fact Mr. Kenneth has repeatedly refuted and insisted he grew up the son of working class parents), has been used by the Sonko camp to lead voters to believe that a Sonko loss would be a  travesty. A Starehe alumni, and a career banker, Mr. Kenneth is an antithesis of Sonko, polished where Sonko is rough-edged, book smart where Sonko is street smart and calm where Sonko is brash. Regardless of Mr. Kenneth’s track record as MP at Gatanga where he was often commended for his development track record and setting up employment and community welfare programmes that run till date, the city’s biggest electorate is disenfranchised from the men in suits who have looted the city since independence and built, upgraded and fixed nothing. All they left in their wake are dry water taps, no new government housing, endless traffic jams, ever-increasing taxes, spiraling unemployment and rampant corruption and land grabbing.

 

Months into the setting up of ambulance, security patrol, water provision and hearse services for the neglected residents of Nairobi’s many slums, the county government disbanded it.  The disbandment didn’t go down well with the main beneficiaries of the services, the residents of Nairobi’s poorest neighbourhoods. As usual, the Nairobi Senator had choice words for the governor, adding the fact that if the outfit had errands to run, it was an indictment of the county government’s inability to offer services as opposed to Sonko undermining its authority.

 

Sonko’s well-documented philanthropy, (his Facebook page has more than a million followers that are updated on events on a daily basis), is very popular with the electorate, majority of whom are struggling financially. In photos and videos posted on his page, he is seen giving supplies to victims of fire accidents, paying hospital bills and hosting medical camps during the doctor’s strike, following up court cases of people too poor to afford lawyer fees, burying victims of police brutality; and the electorate love him, his availability and willingness to help regardless of social class, tribe and religion, cementing his reputation as a defender of the poor and downtrodden.

 

Even with his reputation, questions abound in plenty  about the sustainability of Sonko’s come one, come all philanthropy, the legitimacy about the status of his education background and his fabulous wealth, and his temperamental nature, (he has been recorded punching walls, hurling insults at people who questioned his wealth, and calling Mr. Kenneth an albino due to his light complexion). Questions also exist about Mr. Kenneth’s track record at state parastatals namely Kenya Re and KFF, the source of his wealth, and the fact that most Kenyans feel betrayed that he joined a party he had previously admonished for the runaway corruption that has characterized the Jubilee government’s four year reign.

 

The Sonko camp has threatened to walk out of the party if he feels cheated of the certificate, and after garnering 808,705 votes in the last election, his threats should worry the party’s top leadership, as many of his adherents would move with him, and dent Jubilee’s hopes of winning the country’s capital. While Mr. Kenneth has not indicated signs of jumping ship in the event of defeat, this is a task that the party should ensure is not bungled, if they wish to dislodge Dr. Kidero from his seat.

 

Nairobi’s residents, and Dr.Kidero who was handed a direct nomination by his ODM party, will be watching with bated breath on Friday as the Jubilee ticket is handed to either Mr.Sonko or Mr. Kenneth. The campaigns have been run, the tactics have been employed, the stakes have never been higher, which way Jubilee?

KENYA AND THE GOLDILOCKS PRINCIPLE

Kenya and the Goldilocks Principle

 

The posters are back again, lots of them, haphazardly placed and all screaming for attention, party primaries are almost upon us and aspirants for various posts are desperate for our votes. Conspicuously missing though, are the presidential campaign posters, urging voters to lend their vote to the most powerful and bitterly contested political seat in the country. In Kenya’s recent past, the choice for the country’s chief exec utive, given the candidates on offer, has been about choosing the lesser evil, or at least that’s what the majority of the voters feel, and not necessarily choosing the best of the lot. Too corrupt, too high-handed, too likely to be drunk with power, too inexperienced, too old, too vengeful and full of vendetta, too privileged to have the masses interests at heart, too..the list of reasons to deny a particular candidate and give another goes on and on. Perhaps what Kenya needs is a Goldilocks moment, and less posters, (there are already close to 40,000 aspirants for 1,000 local government posts, that’s a lot of posters).

The Goldilocks moment I speak of is from the Goldilocks principle, which states that when some quality of the items in a sufficiently large given sample can be arranged on a scale ranging from one extreme to another extreme (for example from extremely cold to extremely hot), some items will fall in a moderate range between these extremes. When the effects of the principle are observed, it is known as the Goldilocks effect.

The name of the Goldilocks principle is derived from a children’s story, The Three Bears, in which a little girl named Goldilocks finds a house owned by three bears. Each bear has its own preference of food and beds. After testing all three examples of both items, Goldilocks determines that one of them is always too much in one extreme (too hot or too large), one is too much in the opposite extreme (too cold or too small), and one is “just right”. The Goldilocks principle is not a hard law, but examples in which it applies are found across many disciplines, particularly developmental psychologybiology, economics and engineering.

 

In the often-divisive Kenyan presidential election, there are two main players in the race to occupy State House after the August 8th election, the current President Uhuru Kenyatta, and son of Kenya’s first president, and the opposition chief, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the son to Kenya’s first Vice President. To a section of the population, President Uhuru’s government  has been the architect of unheralded grand corruption, accused of ballooning the national debt at the expense of projects that are mired in allegations of graft, all this while lacking political will to change the status quo. To another section, Raila Odinga’s camp mirrors the government’s corruption and abuse of office track record, and the only reason their numbers aren’t as talked about is because they are not in charge of the country’s coffers. Two leaders at different ends of the spectrum, one capitalist and Kikuyu (Uhuru) the other Luo and socialist (Raila), but both wildly popular in their constituencies, and both accused of being elitist, the sources of their families’ fabulous wealth questioned, an insatiable appetite for power at any cost and questionable service delivery to the country even after decades of a stranglehold on the countries leadership.

In the story, Goldilocks walks into an empty house in the woods after the owners, a family of bears, take a walk as the porridge, that was too hot to drink, cools. Of the three seats she finds, two are either too hard or too big, and one is just right, the three bowls of porridge are also either too hot or too cold, but one is just right and she eats it before taking a nap in the bed she also finds to be just right, (not sure how sensible it is to sleep in a bear’s house though). Looking at the lesson from the fable, surely there has to be a leader that can save the country from these politics of patronage and one step forward, ten steps  backwards? A candidate with no links to the cartels that dictate the policies that affect price, and consequently, standard of life. A candidate that will ensure that our fellow countrymen in arid areas will not queue for relief food and water as the country hemorrhages money to inflated tenders, duplicated roles and paid-for-but-undelivered services.  That our shilling will not keep losing to major currencies as only a few well-connected individuals benefit from a weakening shilling. A candidate that will provide quality, consistent social services to his/her people not because it is a photo opportunity, but because he understands that it is their right as taxpayers. A president that will give Kenya hope, restore her people’s pride and set the tone for the rejection of mediocrity and embracing brilliance.

 

The story about Goldilocks and the three bears ends with the bears coming back and noticing an intruder had been to their house, and finding Goldilocks in baby bear’s bed, she manages to take off and avoid the wrath of bears angry at an empty porridge bowl and a broken baby seat. That is Goldilock’s story, the Kenyan one will be written on the 8th of August, and read out to the world a few days later, whether the electorate will settle for candidates accused of being at the extreme ends of the moral and ethical yardstick, or the right candidates is a decision they still have four months to mull over.