(This post is coming a couple of months late, because, well, I’ve been wondering lately exactly what role this blog plays in my life after all these years. But a good friend texted and prodded me about it and he said something like, sometimes an artist doesn’t know that they’re another artist’s muse. And I thought, what a weird-ass statement to just drop into a normal WhatsApp conversation, Boniface? But it got to me, and even though I do not really consider myself an artist in any shape or form or meaning of that word, I thought maybe there’s people who actually pay attention to these random things I scribble down. So I gave myself a deadline, and here I am posting these very random notes on 2020, well into the new year. Better late than never).

Borrowed Time

Four years ago I almost died.

My closest friends and I decided we needed some escape. We were fourth year students on the final semester of campus life. For nearly the entire duration of college, we had been locked in the veneer of false security and the ‘soft life’ that our sheltered campus life provided, but now we that were about to clear school, that curtain was quickly being drawn. Ahead we saw only a misty uncertainty, and we were desperately trying to hang on to the railings of a life we knew.

We hired a Toyota Noah that was meant to get us to Nakuru; for what purpose I cannot remember now. I was, without saying, the designated driver; because of my possessing extraordinary driving skills, as well as (completely unrelated) the only driver’s license in the whole group. My extraordinary driving skills took us as far as Muthiga on Waiyaki Way, before graciously taking their leave.

We crashed against the barrier, and till today I cannot tell you exactly how none of us got hurt.

In the four years since, I have always had this sense that I am living on borrowed time, and I should be doing more than I currently am. So when 25 sneaked in through the window in 2020, and a friend asked me whether my birthday felt special, all I could think of was that four-year-old question: this borrowed time, what am I meant to be doing with it?


Happiness is: taking a water bus to Takawiri on a warm Saturday afternoon in January and exchanging stories and contacts with a pretty girl you meet on the boat; who you will never meet or talk to after that except for brief glimpses at WhatsApp statuses. But that’s okay; sometimes this life just gives us glimpses, and those glimpses are really all we need.

Cats on the Road

In my sales manager stint in Nyanza last year, I was always surprised at the sheer amount of roadkill I came across on those country roads. Many mornings on my way to Ogembo or Keroka or Oyugis or Awendo or Sirare or Homabay or one of the other dots on the map that is South Nyanza, I would drive past the remains of a dead animal, bones and insides splattered in the middle of the road. A poor cat was probably out at night on its rounds, crossed the road cheerily and carelessly, because no one teaches cats the rules of pedestrian crossing. And the feline met its fateful end in the hands (wheels?) of one of those Nyamira Express buses whose drivers think they are in Need for Speed: Bomachoge edition. And I would always think there must be a metaphor about life to be found in there somewhere, I just wasn’t in a mood to think about it deeply yet.

But then in early March I lost someone I knew to a bad motorbike accident, and then Covid came around and started taking its numbers, and that metaphor finally clicked. We are, all of us, cats on a road, oblivious to where, when and how our Nyamira Express will hit.

Nairobi (but in tiny tastes)

Schooling in Eastlands was so interesting. Some days, walking home from Saturday tuition, my friends and I would get hungry, so one of us with left-over pocket money would decide to buy chipo mwitu from a roadside vendor, and the rest of us poor eleven-year-olds would stretch our hands eagerly in the universal symbol for: nipee (give me some) and in their generosity, our friend would give each of us one piece of fries, and all that did was leave us hungrier and craving for more. Good times, those.

Anyway, that’s kind of how my relationship with Nairobi was for the better part of 2020: tiny tastes.

2020 was the year I became a tourist to Nairobi; stealing time on weekends to stretch out my palm and receive a tiny piece of Nairobi, of family, of friends, of the many other activities that defined my life, and that only left me craving more. And then suddenly time is up and I have to take an 8-hour bus back and the small pieces of Nairobi mwitu were just never quite enough. Tiny tastes.


In March I return to the town where I was born and raised in till I was nearly 5. Then Covid acquires Kenyan citizenship and I’m sort of trapped there for close to six months. This virus; it waltzes unrestrained into a nation, expecting to evoke terror. And it does, but only for a minute. Then in our typical Kenyan attention span, people seem to just move on to some other thing. In between the daily struggles of trying to earn a living, running from police, not reading BBI, and being completely puzzled by the language in gengetone, no one has much mental space left to spare for a sickness with a strange name. I speak to a shopkeeper in Suneka in July and she asks me “Ni Corona nitaogopa ama ni Watoto kulala njaa?”

Chalbi Desert

By October my brain feels like it was put in a microwave, so I make a trip to a desert to cool off.

It’s incredible honestly, how beauty can be found in unexpected places. Like the lush green forest in Marsabit with a whole park inside it. Or the oasis that looks like a Coastal beach, somewhere in Turkana county. Or sliding down rocks in Ngurunit and splashing into cool water, in the middle of weirdly shaped hills. Or listening to stories from the first college-educated man in an entire village; perhaps an entire Samburu county.

Nairobi (but for real)

At the tail end of the year, the city calls me back to itself, and I never thought i would be so pleased to return to polluted air and tiny expensive apartments and high-rise buildings and traffic jams. No more tiny tastes. Not for now, at least.

The building I move into has a rooftop that lets me see the expanse of the city from the tenth floor, and all too often I like to go up there and look at the world below when I need a change in perspective, because high places have a tendency to make me feel outside of everything, but also to remind me that there is a grand scheme in place, and that my current problems are just tiny dots in the face of the much larger picture, and that I’ve filled too much of my mental space with technicalities of day to day existence and not enough with what should be the real, imperial questions of my life: like what am I meant to do with this time?


Nothing screams “you’re old” like your closest friend getting married. Being a groomsman at a wedding reception in Isiolo doubles up as an opportunity to reunite with college classmates, recount tales of the old days, and how the years since then have treated us, and wonder silently of the unknown future. I find out I should wear Ankara suits more often, and that Nyanza gave me a pot belly.


Christmas finds me on an island that is so wonderfully slow, so wonderfully behind time, that donkeys are still the primary mode of transport. It turns out a little slowness is just what I needed to calm the wreck of nerves that 2020 has been. So I hire a Swahili-style AirBnB with friends, spend a couple of tipsy evenings on the rooftop just staring at an indifferent sea, play with water and sand in Shela, visit a dead town in Takwa, Manda Island, go on a sunset cruise on a dhow, and spend an evening on a floating bar.

I sometimes marvel at how people can figure out incredibly smart things and say them in a casual way without their brains exploding.

Like in a book I read early last year, in which St. Augustine says man cannot seek something unless he has memory of it, that is, unless he has had it before and then lost it. And so it goes for true happiness, he says, that we cannot seek it as resolutely as we do unless we have already experienced it in its fullness before; unless it is imprinted somewhere in our collective memory as man. It really got me thinking.

Or in an Uber ride in January, when I heard Eliud Kipchoge on the car radio, saying: be at war with your negatives. That stuck with me.

So here’s to the year that was 2020. (Or the year that taught me;

I. that my internal compass needs re-working).

II. that I, too, can be selfish in the most terrible ways. And that my selfishness can hurt others deeply, even if unintentionally. And hurt is not the legacy I want to have here).

III. that it’s easier to avoid falling into bad habits than to unlearn them. And that I have an incredibly huge amount of work to do on myself. So help me God).

IV. that I know so much, and yet apply so little. And knowing means nothing if what is known is not lived).

V. that I am so incredibly, incredibly gifted. And it isn’t pride to think that way of myself, as long as I remember that all we have is given, and all that is given should point us to the Giver; and that each of God’s gifts is always also, a task).

VI. that in the midst of all the chaos, there is so much hope. Oh, the things that we could be, if we only tried, just a little).

In 2021; Dear God, help me to try, just a little.


There’s an interesting verse from one of my favorite Hillsong tunes:

So I yield to you and to your careful hand,

When I trust you I don’t need to understand

If I’m being honest, I have a really hard time with this line, because I love to understand things. For me not knowing means not being in control. Which is probably one of the reasons this has been such an uncomfortable year. 2019 has been a whirlwind of things, and if there is one thing that has set me on edge, it is the unnerving ambiguity of everything.

January is a depressive anxiety, and a period of intense self-questioning.

February brings a change, and then another change; and I do not know this then, but it is setting me up for what is about to be quite the rollercoaster of changes.

March and April are a grueling monotony of days and for the most part, the only highlights I can remember now are late nights playing PS4 with friends.

In May, life turns 24, and God’s birthday gifts are a job offer and a huge, huge dilemma.

June is a big life decision and then a blurry interlude; a waiting for an end.

July teaches me that beginnings, too, can be underwhelming. It mostly sounds like a Michael Jackson hit because everyone keeps asking Why? Why? I have put a lot on the line, and now the seething self-doubt has begun. How do I know if I followed God’s voice, or my wayward heart?

August will mostly be a question mark, and way more than once I will find myself looking back and wondering if I did, after all, make a huge mistake.

September is the smell of wet-fried fish served with a side of Ugali and frustration, and my mouth feels full from biting off more than I can chew. I try to fit my whole life into a rucksack and move 400 kilometers down the edge of a map. Rookie me has two regions to cover, two targets to deliver, two teams to lead, and a manual driving test to pass, on second attempt. I pass the test, but barely.

October will bring a bit of clarity and some structure will be established. For the first time, I will feel like maybe I actually have a shot at this thing.

It’s funny, but all I can recall now of November  are nights with thunderstorms and power blackouts. The days, however, are a beautiful repertoire: me, driving a manual pick-up truck down a road that winds through expansive sugarcane fields, marveling at the beauty of the lush green fields, but also at the ridiculousness of it all: me, in this place, at this moment. Who would ever have thought?

I did not quite know this when the year began, but 2019 would destabilize me in ways I am still coming to terms with. This year created a person in me that I never knew existed. My usual risk-averse, play-it-safe persona morphed into someone who went out on a limb and made extremely difficult and risky decisions which at some point seemed to contradict even my own common sense. This person surprises me, still.

But here’s a thing I’ve learned about decisions: they demand to be made. And in my struggle with my own indecision, I have come to realize that not deciding is also a decision. I have realized, also, that there is greater value and purpose to be found in seeking utility than in pleasure. In the preamble to a decision, our generation resorts to asking “Will this make you happy?” when perhaps the better question ought to be, will this make you feel more useful?

I remember reading Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust last year and two words kept recurring throughout the book: What endures? And the theme of a retreat I attended earlier this year was: What can withstand the test of time?

 I think about that idea a lot. It seems that there is great liberation in knowing that I can enjoy things immensely while understanding innately that they are fleeting, and therefore practicing detachment. Everything changes. There are no solids. Keeping this in mind helps me know that when the moment calls for it, I can leave good things behind, even very good things, not because I do not appreciate their goodness, but because the moment demands it. Standing still means falling backwards.

So if present me were to speak to Jude from the start of this year, I would say something like this:

Even though it may not seem like it at the moment, you are actually off to a great start. It is perfectly expected that some days will be good, and some days not so much, and some days will be a ridiculous mixture, but on all these days, please make your bed in the morning. Down with all that victim-hood and look around. Oh, the incredible things God is doing through you. The things he is about to do. Do you not perceive?

Pain will have so much to teach you, but so will joy! And yes, there will be days when the present will be a thorn in the spirit and the only thing you will feel you have to offer is this excess of nothingness. Even on those days, offer that nothingness. God has this wonderful history of creating beauty from nothing. And finally, when you encounter those many, many moments when it isn’t clear what it all means, ask for the grace to trust. God’s answer is time.

 God’s answer is time.

Twenty Eighteen


Cloud-like. (Second-hand emotion)

The best part of the dying year will find you in the clouds, literally. You will catch a sunrise at 30,000 feet above soil; the sun’s orange mixing with the clouds’ silver to create a magnificently golden hue. That will be the most exquisite 15 minutes of your life. Then descent will begin, and you will move on to work or some other thing. Clouds and people do not know how to keep still.


Back in uni, there was this guy who would run around the hostels hawking shirts, vests, sweaters, ngotha’s and khaki pants from Gikosh at very pocket-friendly prices. I wonder where he is now. I wonder how many people he touched with that simple act of getting them affordable clothes, and how many of those people remember him. I always looked forward to those Sunday visits; him and and his huge yellow paper bag full of Gikomba gold (before plastic bags became anathema). The problem was, you would buy a black shirt and I swear the color was already turning brownish grey as he walked out the door.


Of all the things that I could compare the soft aspects of this year to, perhaps the above analogy suffices. Sensation comes, but fades quickly; like the black on a second-hand shirt.


a question for time.


It feels like we’ve driven past so many stop signs with no speed limit on this road to a great unknown. The months passed like hours and here we are, still running behind December. Struggling to catch our breath. I feel the frustration of that Naija guy from the meme. I want to chase after the dying year and shout honestly, Why are you running? Why are you running?


(can clouds belong?)

If discontent had a persona, it would look like a Tuk Tuk ride at 1.19 a.m. on a drunk August morning in Kisumu. It would smell like rain on warm pavements on a gloomy May in Roysambu. It would taste like a prawn starter dish at dusk in July, on a moving boat at Tamarind. It would sound like the faint ringing of eardrums on a hot Mombasa night, Anuba Lounge in the background playing a song by Mbosso and everyone who is not you singing along. It would feel like fingers furiously typing notes on your phone; a mix of drunk and sober thoughts all through the year that just refused to stay in your head. If discontent had a persona, it would look, smell, taste, sound and feel like all the bits and pieces of moments I have lived in the dying year.

Does anyone else feel like they are floating through events? Life is happening all around but often I find myself feeling like the stationary observer in Einstein’s Special Relativity. External. Unaffected. It feels like such a waste of good years to be living through what might be the highlight reels and not absorb every moment strongly, deeply, recklessly. On a recent trip, a friend told me that I needed to learn to live in the present.

Very sound advice, I guess, but my mind is a wandering creature that sees the past, present and future as jumbled up pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle that should read: belonging. How do you teach a mind to belong?



The dying year was not kind to me.

Here’s the thing. You cannot put a face to a unit of time’s passage; so where do we get off demanding kindness from faceless things? A year cannot grant wishes. It cannot hurt, give joy, surprise. It cannot satisfy or disappoint.

And you, you are not here, now, to be a victim of anything. Time is not happening to you. You are happening to time, and to the world, and to yourself. And surely all this kindness you’ve been seeking for yourself; have you given it to the world? Have you given it to yourself?

Here’s a truth;

This was supposed to be the year of finding things but then I took a swerve, fell off the map and almost lost myself.


my verse

~From a scene in Dead Poets Society (1989)~

“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’

Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I have so much planned for the coming year, but life is the fat bully that waits for our plans at the corner, beats them up and steals their lunch money. Time is a speed bike with flickering headlights on a mud-road at midnight and for 2019, dear God, please guide my wayward heart.


Memory finds me on a Friday evening; seated on the balcony of a fifth floor apartment, enjoying new-found independence as I stare at the traces of life on the street below. Roysambu underneath is an assortment of colour; of red and yellow and white and scattered spots of blue that grow smaller, dimmer as you look farther into the distance. I love this about high spaces; how they make you feel outside yourself, outside everything, like a spectator watching the horse race from the stands – and isn’t that what life feels like sometimes, a horse race?

Music seeps out from inside the house, moving me into a melodic trance as Dan Wilson vocalizes the poetic brilliance of Semisonic’s Closing Time. In moments like this I like to close my eyes and imagine I have wings, clouds floating beneath my feet, breathing in the warm air of a December afternoon. The ground beneath appears as a mural, a painting of perfection.  And here, looking down at everything, I feel weightless, soundless, formless; moved only by the effortless melody playing out in the background. I become air.

What is color? – Tigania – Meru, Kenya


Closing time

Open all the doors and let you out into the world

This first line transports me into a blur of thought, conversation and motion. Suddenly I am at the back a 14-seater, chatting away with friends to ease the travel sickness, and erase the weariness of a long trip, and secretly wishing I had carried Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, which is long overdue from the company library but I still cannot make time to finish. My two pals Abdi and Gambo are arguing over something or other and I have now lost track of the conversation because they are always arguing over something or other. Outside, trees shuffle past as the matatu whizzes towards Meru for a friend’s graduation party.

Moments later, after the argument has fizzled and silence is king, Gambo turns to me and asks an unexpected question.

“Have you ever thought about what it would be like if we didn’t exist, if nothing existed?”

I am taken aback; not so much by the question, but even more by the one who asks it, because this guy is the most happy-go-lucky person I know. Always content with the simple pleasures of life (a game of Fifa, a half-full can of beer, a roll of weed), he’s never seemed the kind to burden himself with heavy existential questions. But here he is, all deep and sagely, and this question, it blows my mind.

What would it be like if we didn’t exist; if nothing existed?

Simplicity: Arboretum Park


Closing time

One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer

This verse finds me on a Sunday morning; dipping my feet into cold, clear water on the banks of River Thongithi in Nkubu, Meru County. A lazy wind tugs at me, beckoning, beseeching me to sway to an imaginary rhythm.  The river flows on; resilient, unencumbered, braving rocks and crevices on its way to God-knows-where. And it makes me think about the motions of my own life.

Time has a way of outdoing itself. Last year was such a frustrating year and I remember in my final post, asking 2017 to surprise me. It seems that challenge was accepted, because 2017 went and did just that. What a year this has been. Learning, just like growth, seems to happen in hindsight. You take a pause to recollect, to take stock of previous lives, to breathe; and only then do you realize how much you’ve grown, how much things have changed, how different today is from yesterday.


Refuse to blend in: Shot from the KICC rooftop


Closing time

You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

Letting go seems such a cliché thing to say at the end of the year. We keep speaking of getting rid of baggage, of cleaning out our closets, of ridding ourselves of negative people but lately I have been thinking that just maybe, we are the baggage we need to get rid of. Perhaps it is our habits that should take the flack for our misery; and not other people. Our decisions are our traitors. And if we consider habits, not people, as the true determinants of our well being, then maybe we shall own our life a little more. Good habits surround us with good people; Toxic habits attract toxic people.

Take me back: Shot from the KICC rooftop


Closing time

Time for you to go out to the places you will be from

Ben Okri says to read the world: it is the most mysterious book of all. This year I took up a new hobby, but photography can only do so much for you if you’re not capturing people, places, moments, that take your breath away. I have done some traveling this year, but it has done little to quench that wanderlust that scratches on my throat. I want travel, travel, and travel. Dear God, I want travel. I want to fill up my blank passport with strange symbols and emblems from different lands. I want to fill a drawer on the side of my bed with mementos from lost nights in distant places. I want to pick up new words from strange languages. I want to save people on my phonebook according to their nationalities and dear God I want to know – to feel – what jet lag means.

So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits

I hope you have found a friend

I am learning to see beauty in the dark spots, to look beyond the blandness of all things plain and unremarkable, all things seemingly mundane; and to find, hiding inside, a beautiful soul. I am learning to find joy in simple, inexpensive adventures with friends. I am learning to look forward to experiences, to capture the essence of moments, And to not get too comfortable in my own company.

Closing time

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

Please be kind, 2018.

Wind, Light, and 2017.


The fickleness of memory

It comes like a wave; someone posts a joke in my old class group, and everything comes back in a wave of bitter-sweet. It isn’t even a funny joke, but the memories it arouses are crippling. I miss the smallest things about college, like eating rice-beans-chapo from the food joints in that small dusty town of Juja, or the pressure of rushing last-minute to complete and hand in group assignments that I almost always ended up doing alone. Mostly, I miss the random revelry in the Friday night life of Thika town, spent in between club-hopping and running away from police in the naked hours of morning.

I don’t drink any more. It never made much sense to me, even when I used to. Drinking was one of those things I did solely to fit into a certain social context, until I realized that alcohol didn’t really give me what it seemed to give other people; an escape. And I got tired of waking up with nausea and the stale aftertaste of Guinness and bad decisions in my mouth, and I just stopped.

Which is why memory is a strange thing, because despite all this, my best memories of college life are made up of those nights of drunken debauchery with my pals, back when our biggest worry was which girls we’d be partying with that weekend, and how much of our (parents’) money we could blow on buying them Guaranas and Smirnoff Black Ice. I miss those nights the most. And it has nothing to do with the alcohol; it is the feeling I miss. The carefreeness. That ‘living in the good times’ vibe. And the camaraderie; those friendships, bonds that were formed so naturally over Fifa games after class, and cemented over bottles of Tusker in poorly ventilated clubs.

I suppose I should just get down to making my point. I miss school. I miss my friends. I miss my friends terribly.


Of First Jobs

At what point does a shell have to stop calling themselves human?


Lately I have been thinking of randomly abstract things; like the components of feeling and meaning, and how we struggle in vain to grasp at both. One: from heart-shaped icons and smileys and inbox(1)’s on Facebook; or from the intangible emptiness of rose flower emoji’s and italicized Whatsapp fonts. These awkward how are you’s and what are you up to now? and Oh Lord how exhausting they are, these talks laced with meaninglessness. Love in the era of soft copy emotions.

The other: by sitting in air-conditioned offices and clinging to self-assuring titles and salaries that barely fulfil our needs.

And herein lies my greatest fear.

My fear is that I’m getting eaten into the routine, turning into a robot with a scheduled existence. The monotony of 8-5 that reduces us into corporate zombies.

I have had discussions with some older employees, and their conversations are mostly a collection of dissatisfied grunts. When will Friday get here? I have so much work! I’m so tired, I think I’ll just take half of my leave days already. Did you hear the rumors about downsizing? Was it 200 or 500? Who do you think will leave? I listen to all this and I think dear lord, did I endure the torture of 8-4-4 for this?


I am scared. When I finished school I had such an elaborate plan for my life. I was to learn at least one foreign language each year within the first two years of graduating. I was also to proceed with my Master’s, no longer than a year after graduating; I am scared of being those people who went back to school late because they either got too comfortable or too caught up by the demands of life, only going back to school reluctantly at age 37 to increase the prospects of a promotion. I do not want that. But lately there are times when I feel like that may be exactly where I’m headed. I feel if I let life get to me I will get caught in the routine of things and before I know it I will be floating; all my dreams on hold. All my curiosity, sense of adventure, crazy plans, and hunger for knowledge all sacrificed at the altar of a monthly salary.

And days, months, years will waft by in this state of buoyancy. All I will know; all I will be able to prove at this point, is that I exist. That I occupy space and have mass, and a name. A wife and children, if I’m lucky. But meaning, I think, ought to be more than that. More than presence and movement and the convenience of being able to eat, drink, breathe. More than succumbing to the pressure of ‘settling down’ and getting kids, and having your children inherit the same culture of discontent.




Why does the wind not move the light?                  

I just finished reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and it is just one of those intense books that leave you gasping for breath, leaving you in a flurry of unanswered questions, like why does war exist? I thank the creator that I haven’t had to live through a war scenario yet (except for that brief moment of madness in 2007/08), and I pray with all my will that I never have to. War is evil, people. War turns life into a gruesome anthology of stories we’d much rather forget.

But this, this one line stays with me. A random question in an old notebook from one of the characters. It feels so scientific, yet so philosophical. And i am interested more in the essence of the question, than in finding an answer. I don’t know care if that makes sense. I want to keep asking this question for ever and ever. Why does the wind not move the light? Why does the wind not move the light?






2016 is a story that begins, and will probably end, with a single word.

bi·zarre- /bəˈzär/


  1. very strange or unusual, especially so as to cause interest or amusement.

Well, perhaps there a few more words and phrases I could think of to describe the mindfuck of a year that this has been. Like Eurobond. (Because after all was said and done, how many of us, even the ones who stole it, understand what this thing was)? If that doesn’t work for you, try clusterfuck, defined by the Urban dictionary as a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking, more commonly referred to as a big mess. Also, completely unrelated, Donald Trump.gump

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? On the first day little Forrest boards the bus to school, and none of the other kids want to sit next to him. Except little Jenny who says he can sit with her if he wants. And after he’s settled and the two new friends have made their introductions, beautiful little Jenny asks him so endearingly,

“Are you stupid or something?”

This feels like a question someone needs to ask the world right now, don’t you think?

Enough banter. I know this place has been deserted an awful long while and I am just here trying to blow dust off the furniture and scare the rats off. Perhaps, at the very least, I owe readers an explanation for the absence. Good thing I am no Lannister. Because that is a debt I have no intention of paying. (Also, isn’t it such vain entitlement for me to assume that there are people out there just waiting to read my stuff)?

Calm is a thing I crave. Not so much the absence of the wind, but more a mental resonance; a peace of mind; a less crowded-ness to life. A calmness of spirit that allows you to just lay your head back and remember that you are breathing. I seem to remember a time when it was there in plenty, but maybe there has never really been calmness, perhaps what I recall is just idealized figments from what is left of the memory of my younger days. Now it seems no more than a foggy recollection. And if the most recent happenings of 2016 are anything to go by, I doubt if the coming year has much to offer in that area.

I crave something else also. Monotony. Would you believe that? I know it is such a weird thing to long for, but lately things are either going on all the time and everywhere; or in the same place and all at once. Once in a while don’t you just wish life were nothing more than the constant repetition of waking up with nothing on your mind and hunger in your stomach, walking to the kitchen in your boxers (or just commando, if that’s your style), getting some breakfast, throwing yourself on the couch and binge-watching all nine seasons of The Office from your laptop?

Oh, well. Stephen King says it so well in Duma Key. We bullshit ourselves so much we could do it for a living.

Q: What will you miss the most about college?

Brayo: The ladies..

Q: Haiya, you mean ladies only exist in college? Why didn’t anyone tell me this before? This changes everything…

I cleared school, and barely a couple of months after, the crippling tentacles of nostalgia latch on to me. I am not sure why. Over the course of campus days, my key goal was to just get done with this thing as quickly as possible, and for the most part, that is exactly what happened. Despite the good times and amazing friends, college mostly came and went like a whiff for me.

Now, suddenly my mind demands some more; a little more. Of what, I don’t know exactly.

Q: What will you miss about college?

Shay: I’ll really miss my classmates. We had such unity (especially during the cats and exams, haha). And the energy; the freedom, and basically just being young. Those years just flew by!

Feeling. I suppose that is the word I am trying to find, and I do not know where I dropped mine. I feel a shortage of emotion: of anger, of sadness, of laughter, of surprise, of that rush of excitement that overwhelms you in the wake of good news. It is not that they are entirely absent. They just come in cautious, measured amounts. Like tea with just a hint of sugar.

In the last few months, life has been a grueling effort to stretch out my fingers and grasp anything and everything encompassed in that very simple word: feeling. But simplicity, I have come to realize, is really just a deceptive mask worn by the most complicated of things. And feeling, at least the kind I am referring to, is like that beautiful campus girl with the humongous behind who struts past you and your pals on your way from class to the students’ centre, and lately I no longer feel the need to turn my head and stare with wide-eyed awe. The want, the urge, is gone.

Q: What will you miss about college?

Abdi: I remember the parties. Like during my birthday last year when we played spin the bottle and I had to kiss *Janet (not her real name). We had quite some fun, didn’t we?

Q: Hahaha. Yes we did. We did. Do you remember peeing on that tree in second year?

Abdi: I remember no such thing. You guys made that story up. I don’t remember speaking to any tree.

Q: Lol, who said anything about speaking to it? Wait, you spoke to the tree?

Abdi: I told you, I remember no such thing.


My aunt smiles at me and quips, “Look at you. You’re too small to be graduating.” and I just fake-smile back; I should laugh, but what I’m really feeling is mostly nothing but curiosity about what I will look like in the gown and that hat-like thing on my head.

On a Tuesday evening I go for confession and thereafter attend mass at the Basilica in town, and the priest reminds us to pray for the dead; the faithful departed who went on ahead of us. Sometimes I look around at the world I live in, and I imagine that maybe if the dead could reach out to us, they would tell us in all good faith that perhaps we should pray more for ourselves. We need the prayer more.

What I’ll miss most about college?

Chapo tatu mandondo and coffee for only 53 bob at the mess. Oh, how we loved those chapos. We lived for those chapattis!

And because unlike my friends I am a decent human being, and also because I need closure, I  cannot just walk away from that relationship of three years without saying farewell. One last meal, for old times’ sake. So on graduation rehearsal day I will walk to the mess one last time to say my goodbyes. To tell those chapos that I miss them so much it hurts and it’s not them, it’s me, it really is. To tell them that I don’t know if I can ever replace what we had and I don’t think lunch will ever be the same again but that is a risk I’ll have to take. That I’m at a point in my life where I need to leave and find my own way and I don’t think our relationship can withstand the pressures of long distance. I want to tell them that I’ll never forget our times together, that they’ll always have a special place in my heart and no other chapos could take that place away.

But then I am sure that the queue at the dining hall will be too freaking long and I am not a very patient man, so I will just leave without looking back because my eyes will be getting foggy, and I will almost feel the wind rubbing its icy hand on the back of my neck and whispering eerily, winter is coming, and I won’t want the chapos to see me like that. And so the chapos of JKUAT will always think I am a jerk.

Surprise me, 2017. The bar is pretty high.

Camp Malta, Sagana: The #AscentXtreme Experience

Nairobi is proud, noisy and arrogant. It wants, demands, that everyone know its name. It powders its face and wears eyeliner and bright red lipstick and walks in noisy six inch heels so everyone knows when it walks by. You cannot ignore Nairobi. If you tried, it would walk up to you, pinch your nose and tell you “you should know people.”

Sagana is quite the opposite. Sagana is calm and introspective. It is a shy, quiet place that is content with just being there. Not too quick to announce its presence. When you pass by, it blushes and waves from a distance with an almost uncertain smile. Then it goes back to its business. Undisturbed.

Which is probably why, Sagana for me was always little more than a name. It knew it only because I always zoom past it on my way to and from Shagz. There was nothing special about the place, no oomph that would leave a mark in my mind. All I knew about Sagana was that. Its name.

Up until Ascent camp weekend.

My first ever camping experience found me at Camp Malta, Sagana, on the 9th and 10th of July, 2015. I was there alongside about 65 other cool people as part of the Ascent leadership program (I will talk about that in a bit), and it was nothing short of memorable. For me, it was a weekend of many firsts.

Sidebar 1: Ascent is this program that is all about creating a new crop of leaders that will be accountable; to God, to themselves and to the world. A crop of people that will redefine our country’s idea of what leadership is. A set of leaders that will shun greed; the one biggest vice that has become accepted as norm in almost every aspect of our society. A crop of leaders who will have greater good rather than selfish interests as their motivating factor. Something is broken in the system, and someone needs to fix it.

The program has opened me up to new experiences, made me meet new and amazing people, challenged my way of thinking, taught me how to be part of and work well in a team, and presented me with difficult tasks that have pushed me outside my comfort zone.

The moment we arrived they took away our phones and, for me, it sort of felt like they had left me naked. It was my first time in a very long time to stay a whole weekend without my phone. We have allowed electronics to consume such a huge part of our lives that we probably wouldn’t know how to survive without them. Our phones have become our watches, our novels, our teachers, our shops, our cameras, our notebooks, our diaries, our doctors, perhaps even our best friends.Camp 1

At camp, we were split into teams of 8 and involved in various team building activities that were really challenging, really tiresome but oh so much fun! Some of the activities sounded really unreasonable, if not impossible (like when they asked us to fill three buckets full of water with just our bare hands), but we succeeded in completing each of the tasks, and there was an underlying lesson to each.

camp bucket 2

I do not know exactly what made the #AscentX camp so memorable for me. Perhaps it was the  tiresome day 1 that culminated in a candlelit dinner accompanied with really awesome music.

Or the skits presented by each team after dinner that had the audience in stitches.

camp 6

Or maybe it was the bonfire. I think it was the bonfire. Something about that fire allowed people to set their spirits loose, to forget themselves and just dance, dance, dance, like it was their calling. Like it is the only thing they were born to do.

camp fire


Sidebar 2: Did you know that you cannot charge your phone using an electric fence?

                    You’re welcome.

Then came the duf mpararo on day 2. My first time swimming in a river. It was almost surreal, the way people went all carefree and splashed themselves, splashed other people with water and just laughed their hearts out. The way others opted to bask on the rocks and enjoy the breathtaking view. God is an artist.

To cap off the camp we had a session in our groups where each of us shared our timelines; how far we’ve come and what it took to get here, our life stories, our little joys and our big joys, our little disappointments and our massive heartbreaks, the events that have made us and broken us. I listened to each of their stories, got sucked into each of their lifelines and I saw God. I saw God in the hints of tears in their eyes as they recounted painful memories, in the little moments of laughter when they narrated funny experiences. It was a life-altering experience, sharing my story and listening as my teammates narrated their journeys, unburdened their spirits, reminding me of a verse from one of my favorite songs.

For once, there is nothing up my sleeve

Just some scars from a life that used to trouble me

I used to run at first sight of the sun

Now I lay here waiting for you to wake up.

                                                                                                 Fun – Sight of the Sun

ascent jude





I have wanted to write this for a while now. It took way too long for me to actually get down to writing it, and even longer to convince myself to publish it, mostly because I was scared of coming off as judgmental or self-righteous or condescending or patronizing, which is not my intention at all.

This here is my attempt to reach out to one of my friends who, I feel, is groveling in the trenches of addiction. I hope he reads this.


Image source: imamsonline.com

To a friend.

It usually starts small, I think. I won’t pretend to understand what leads to these things. But I think it starts small. Maybe you flunked in an exam. Or your parents are giving you hell. Or your best friend died. Or just money problems. Or your girl cheated. So just one puff of a slim every now and then to help you cope. Your friends give you one or two shots of White Mischief, because that is how boys provide moral support. You get high and your problems disappear. All good.

But then the high fades, and your problem is back, staring at you in the face. So you look for more high. One shot turns to three, then five, then a bottle. One more blunt, then two, then six. Still it won’t be enough. The high keeps on fading. So you look for more.

Soon it becomes a regular thing; using booze and drugs to mask your disappointments. You failed your CAT, no worries, nothing a roll of weed can’t cure. You’re late on rent because money is short at home. A quarter of Kibao and all that stress goes away.

Recreation morphs into dependency, mild at first but more chronic as you go on.

The dependency takes its toll on your finances. You are a student, with no stable source of income, so your wallet is already thin. Add to that the strain of having to satisfy that craving for alcohol, weed, cigarettes. Your wallet suffers malnutrition.

Because you can no longer afford quality liquor, you find yourself in dingy joints around campus, drinking spirits from sachets and tubes.

Your friends keep looking at you and shaking their heads in disapproval. Or is it pity? Or both? They may not do it to your face, they may do it behind your back. But trust me, they do it.

People begin to complain that your breath always smells of alcohol. You stat to lose weight, maybe because you drink even when you’re hungry. Or because you drink so much that you forget to eat. Or you spend so much money on weed and alcohol, there’s hardly any left for food.

People start to gaze at you with eyes that seem to say, “You won’t find true love at the bottomof that bottle.”


“You probably won’t find peace floating in those fumes of smoke”

But it is not like you did not know that already. You do, but it doesn’t really matter.

Because addiction is a demon.

And the thing about demons is that they find a hole in your system and they fill it. They stick to you, make you their friend, whisper sweet nothings in your ears. The thing about demons, is that they take grip of you and refuse to let go. After a while, they begin to drill into that hole you thought they were filling, and they make it a void. Soon that whisper grows into a constant shout. They keep prodding: You need me, you need me. You can’t live without me, you miserable prick.

And the sad part is, you believe them. Because you feel your life is shit already, surely there is nothing more to lose.

Soon it takes a toll on your health, and your studies, and your relationships, and your friendships. And of course, your finances. You realize this dependency has become toxic. So you start telling yourself, just this one time and I will stop. Just one more puff. Just one more sip. Just one more to say goodbye. So you take one last sip. Then another last one. Then another. And then the next one will become the last one. And the one after that, the very last one. The one after, the very very last one. And it goes on and on, a vicious cycle.

That is what sucks most about addiction. It is knowing that you are already in too deep, knowing that this thing is ruining your life, and feeling too powerless to do zilch about it.

But you are not powerless, you can do something. It simply starts with the conscious decision to say “No.” Then making a conscious effort to stop. Yes, I said stop. Completely. When you know you’ve got to that level where you cannot think, work, live, without this drug; then do not delude yourself ati “I need to reduce my consumption of this.” “A little less and I’ll be okay.” Boss, you need to quit. Let go. Completely.

You need to admit to your friends that you need help, and they probably know that already. If they are the good kind, they will help you quit. They will help you steer clear of the temptation to booze, or to burn a joint. If they drink or smoke, they will not do it around you. If they can’t be there for you at that time, if they can’t help you get your act together, then they have no business being your friends.

I am not trying to make this look easy. I’ve never had to grope with drug addiction, so what would i know?

I do know this. Withdrawal will suck. I cannot lie. I have listened to people narrate their experiences. Withdrawal will eat you from the inside out and you will start wondering if maybe addiction was better. You will feel restlessness, and shortness of breath, and on the worst days it will feel like dying. It will feel like invisible hands, strangling your neck so hard that you’re running out of air. It will feel like an imaginary voice eating away the silence, begging, beseeching, one puff, just one sip, and all this will be over. It will feel like torture.

But you need to stick it out. You need to pull through.

Because you know what’s worse than withdrawal?


Summing It Up.

It has been too long. Let me try removing the cobwebs up in here.

How did the singer cross the road?

Hello? From the other side!

I really had to do that. I cannot help it. Bad jokes are like drugs: you know they are  no good, and no one wants to see you do them. But that only makes you want to do them even more. Before I walk away in shame, let us cap off the year.

2015 saw me hit 20. That was sort of a relief. It meant an end to the tendency of campus girls to cover their mouths dramatically and gasp, “OMG. Awwhh you’re still a teen!” whenever I was asked about my age. That, I think, may be the only upside to being twenty.

Twenty is like, well, it is like that very uncomfortable middle seat at the front of the matatu, right next to the stick shift. You do not want to be there but no other seat is available so you have to stick it out in order to get where you want to go. Twenty is full of envy, and wishing you were people you are not. You stare at people in fitting suits and expensive cars and you feel like you need to be doing more with your life.

2015 gave me a taste of the throws of adulthood. College years are murky years when you so desperately want to be seen and treated as an adult. Now you are just about done with campus and there you are, knocking at the door of adulthood, and you feel like maybe they gave you a fake address for the party. It is nothing like the rainbows and high seas that you imagined it would be. It is full of failure and heartbreak and so many unrealistic standards that the world expects you to conform to. And everyone wants to slap it in your face – yes, you are an adult now. Deal with it. Nothing cushions you from the hard kicks reality gives you right in the ribs.

This year made me realize that I am so undecided, so in-between. I am just starting to realize that I want consistency. But I also want fun and spontaneity, and I do not know how to do both without tipping the scale. Occasionally a fear creeps into my stomach, about the uncertainty of days ahead; the honest fear that I may not become who I want to be; or more honestly, that I probably have no idea who I want to be.

Death is a terrible thing. And this year has been full of it. I have lost friends, classmates, relatives, most of them so suddenly and unexpectedly, and dear God it has been painful. Losing people hurts. Especially to the ones that are left behind to pick up the pieces and move on. But we find comfort in knowing that God has His reasons for the things He does.

I have realized that there are people in my age group, who are already living my dream life. I remember a few months ago I walked out of an interview at some office on Lenana road where I was looking for internship, feeling all good about myself in my blue sneakers. I never got the job. (Lesson: do not wear sneakers to a job interview). But I remember the highlight of the day. As we were walking back to town, this beauty of a car swooshed past me and my pals; a sparkly blue BMW X6. That was just overwhelming; my dream car, in my favorite color. The driver was a very young lady. Just from looking at her, 23 would be a stretch. And she was there, gorgeous as ever, on the steering wheel of a BMW X6. (Nobody looks ugly while driving a BMW X6. Beauty tip for ladies: drive a BMW X6). And I remember thinking, that right there is achievement. My cynic friends would say that it probably belonged to her father or – more likely – her sponsor, but that would just be the jealousy talking.

Blessings come in different ways. If I found out that my (imaginary) girlfriend was cheating on me, with a sponsor who owns a BMW X6, I would confront her furiously for betraying me like that. How could she not ask him to let her borrow the car on weekends? We could go for so many road trips.

That story popped out of nowhere, and is probably going nowhere. So let’s just call it a year and hope 2016 rocks.

Happy Christmas. See you on the other side.


Snippets of Kampala

Tuesday. It is 11 am and we’re in this New Victoria Bar in Kireka, Kampala (read Kireka as ‘Chireka’). We set foot in M7’s land earlier this morning. Trust only Kenyans to arrive in a strange new country and walk into the first bar they see. At eleven in the morning. I’m in the company of such big names in this our literary scene, it feels like an accident of nature that I am here. There is Beverly Akoyo Ochieng’, a superb blogger and writer for The New Inquiry. There is Nduta Waweru of The Star. Abigail Arunga, The Shy Narcissist that writes for Nation. Dalle Abraham, who has been to the Caine Prize workshop, and I can only dream about that. RichieMaccs, the Jalada bigwig. Ras Mengesha, the professor, who can weave a web with words. And Andy Musalia, the PR practitioner with a great story in the Writivism 2014 anthology. Even Magunga and his broken tooth are here; those two need no introduction. All these people, so suave, so elegant, so accomplished, and I’m just here like, Jude Mutuma, the skinny guy sitting in the quiet corner, googling tutorials on how to groom a beard.

The Crew
The Crew

This currency of theirs, man, so depressing. Like it gives you so much hope when you first change your money. Your Kenyan 7k turns into 210000, and you’re like, Nigga I finally made it. Wait till you start spending. Wait till they tell you that hotel accommodation is 30k a night and a decent meal of posho (their word for ugali) and beef costs in upwards of 10k. By the end of the week you will have spent more than half a million Ugandan shillings and you still do not own a Brazilian weave.


The accents are so hilarious. I cannot get enough of this taxi conductor saying “Bring your maane” when asking for fare. I swear if I had a Ugandan accent I’d never be bored. I would just speak and speak and speak and laugh at myself till kingdom come.


Thursday night. We’re in New Victoria Bar, again. They have this crazy offer for Thursday nights where you get a bucket of 5 beers for only 14000. Yes, I counted the zero’s correctly. UGX 14000 converts to about 450 Kenyan bob. Now you stand up and show me one place in that Nairobi of ours that will let you have 5 beers at 450 bob. Anyone? No one? Thank you.


So back to New Victoria Bar. It is slightly after 12 am and I’m not sure whether this is my third or fourth bottle of Club Pilsener. And God bless Ugandan sheesha. Good shit, I swear. The few times I have walked into the urinal have also taught me something else: Ugandan men love comparing sizes. You’re there at your slot in the mensroom doing your business and you expect that the guy next to you should also be minding his business. Only he is not; he is staring at your business. At first you think it is super creepy, but then it happens again, and again, and I start to think maybe this is urinal etiquette in Uganda and someone forgot to brief me. This one time I was at the middle booth and the guy on my right and the one on my left are both staring intently at my junk, and I’m just there in the middle, feeling like General of the dick parade. In my head I’m thinking maybe they’re just too shy to ask whether I’m from that famous Luhya tribe; that they’ve heard the glorious tales and they want to confirm with their Ugandan eyes. Or maybe that famous rumour about skinny guys finally got across the border. Whatever the case, I felt like I should just take a photo of the thing and hang it there on the toilet wall with a caption that says “They lied.”

This is what my Friday morning in Chireka sounded like:

You wake up with this tiny hint of a hangover and you can smell the sheesha off your own breath. Last night is faded into a blackness. You do not want to even look at your wallet because you know you might just cry real tears. You’re thinking maybe you should just turn this into a Survivor Africa series and run to the bush to forage for fruits and nuts. I’ve been spending so much money on transport, there’s barely any left for food. Yaani jana morning you checked your wallet and you had maybe 30k and you thought oh, okay, I’m not that badly off. Then you spent 10k on transport and 18k on food and drinks. And now you lie on your bed in the morning and you realize Museveni is not your mother.

Anyway, here’s the rest of Kampala in pictures:


And more food
And more food

Fried grasshoppers, anyone?
Fried grasshoppers, anyone?

At Namugongo Martyrs' shrine
At Namugongo Martyrs’ shrine

Pioneer bus- the future of public transport
Pioneer bus- the future of public transport


Photo credit: Magunga Williams