Posted in Life, random

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

Starting out is the hardest thing I tell you. It feels like Nursery School all over again. Scratch that. It actually feels like Form One. That high-headed invincibility of graduating with first class or second upper or whatever else is quickly watered down when you join that ‘big organization’ and instead of making an impact and changing the world as you had set out to do, you realize just how little you know, and how irrelevant all that information you absorbed in school is now. And because you know nothing, all you’ll be reduced to the office errand boy for the first few weeks, months, maybe years; doing everything everyone else would rather not. And because you are the youngest in the office, quite possibly in the entire company, your frustrated opinion means zilch. Who do you complain to when they’ve all been there, done that? Serve your time, boy, like the rest of them did.

End of the month brings a temporary reprieve with the excitement at the prospects of your first salo and you wait for that account credit notification because you want to finally Make it Rain, but when the money comes in and you see just how little it is, it is highly likely that the only thing with any semblance to rain will be flowing from your eyes. But you hold, because you need to start from somewhere. Everyone needs to start from somewhere, right?

If this is beginning to sound like a rant from an entitled millennial who has only now realized they actually have to work to survive, I assure you it is not. I have no issue with work. I have thoroughly enjoyed the brief period I have spent in my current job. My beef isn’t even with formal employment. Not really. Let me explain.

 

The Zombies are Here

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

k.p.k

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.

Books

index

 

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?

Peace.

 

 

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Bizarre

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

bi·zarre- /bəˈzär/

adjective

  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.

Posted in Kenya, Life, Uncategorized

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

Cheers.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

ADDICTION

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.

Addiction1

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.”

Or

“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?

Death.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

 

Posted in Life, Travel

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.

money15


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.


jude4

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.

toast11

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:

Food
Food
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

bus13

Photo credit: Magunga Williams

Posted in Uncategorized

Tribute

I saw her at the hospital and I felt like crying. That was two weeks ago. Her mother was there with her, nursing her, trying to crack jokes, forcing her to drink some milk, in that caring way that spoke of just how much a mother loves her child. I stood there awkwardly, next to her bed, for barely ten minutes, because I knew if I stayed longer I would shed tears and it would be bad because she was the one in pain, and she was smiling. I remember intentionally making long pauses as we spoke because I knew that she was straining to even open her mouth. I remember her telling me that every single part of her body hurt, every single part, and I wondered how someone could bear all that pain and still force a smile on her face. I kept wondering, what illness is this that is so cruel, that turns a girl’s body into a reservoir of unbearable pain, that covers her body in wounds, everywhere, even in the corners of her eyes.

A week later, when someone asked me if I would prepare a speech for her funeral, I felt a hotness in my stomach and I said a strained “No”.
I didn’t know her well enough. And it gives me so much guilt because I, of all people, should have known her better. The much I remember was the few times we spoke, usually when she was handing in her assignments or asking me about class or CAT’s or explaining why she couldn’t make it to a lecture. Sometimes, while hanging with my friends, I would make fun of her the way she texted. The way she would write ‘xaxa’ and ‘plix’ and ‘axignment’ so confidently and how it used to annoy me so much, this language, and how sometimes I would just completely ignore her texts.

When people pay tribute to their friends, they talk about how wonderful the person was. How many great moments they had together, how valuable their friendship was, how strong and resilient the person was even in the face of illness. How they miss her so much and would give anything to see her again.

But me, what can I say? How can I talk about what a good person she was, when I didn’t even take time to know her? She had been my classmate for almost two years, and I didn’t even really know her. I was too self-absorbed in that way that I’ve always been. And I never really understood her pain. Truth is, I never even know she was in pain, up until that day I saw her at the hospital. She was always so happy, so freaking happy, and maybe I took that at face value. This one time I hear she did a presentation in an Online PR class and left everyone in tears of laughter. Ours was never a close friendship. But I miss her, so fucking much. How is it possible to miss someone you were not close to in the first place?

I never knew what she was suffering from. Until yesterday, when someone gave me a name. It was Lupus. She had Lupus. It is a condition with unclear causes, which makes one’s immune system to turn against its own body. The immune system rejects the body’s cells, attacking them the way it would attack pathogens. Which explains why she felt unbearable pain everywhere. Everywhere. Except in her hair and nails, because those are the only parts of your body that consist of dead cells. It almost felt good, finally finding a name for this monster that had taken way my classmate.

Someone posted this Bible verse on our class group:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

She died at 20. I thank God that she made it to 20. Rest in eternal peace, Lilian Njeri Njoroge.