I know one very happy marriage which begun with, “Wangechi, ruugiira ndirica.” These are a people marking 30 years in marriage this year, never once separated. They have brought up and educated their children together midst work obligations, massive personality differences, long distance work commitments and disparities in income, opportunities and educational levels.
They have grown together, borne with each other, teamed up against external interference, shelved their individuality and family disparities and synergized to establish a fruitful, happy and enviable relationship and marriage, for 30 short years. Altogether, is it love? Kindness? Patience? Reverence for each other? Perseverance? How good can they be at or how good are they at pretending at it that we are unable to in these times?
I peer at our generation and wonder what we are. At what in love and chivalry changed for us that embellishes our skills in barefaced lying. In deception. In conning. In keeping a multiplicity of conversations, in selfishness, in gratuitous instant gratification; at the expense of the people we have entrusted with our hearts. Why do we exploit the faith they have in us? Have we failed in love? Can we not love? Do we not know love?
In the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7 he writes, “love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, nor easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.” Here, Paul sets the bar higher than this generation wants.
This generations want to use. We want to gain evocatively and give nothing earnest in return. We want to realize our carnality discounting the costs to our moral standing and the impact on those we are entangled with. We want to normalize emotional fraud. Treachery. We want our relationships to be driven by vileness and spite. We are judge, jury and executioner over those we claim to “love.” We rejoice in their failure. We delight in their doubt. We bloom on stimulating their inner fear. We disrepute our partners. We do not illustrate love. We do not love. We are our undoing.
Let us take a little time to make known, the slightest of virtue that is within us. Let us make an authentic attempt at sincerity because we can. Let us give ourselves a chance at healing beginning with conceding that we have wronged first and have been wronged and that way, we can forgive. Let us admit that we have flaws, which must always be dazed by our strengths. Let us learn to love truly and have just a stint of faith that we can receive that same in a full measure. Let us prove to Wangechi that she did not jump through the window 30 years ago in vain.
Supplementary and translation:Wangechi ruugiira ndirica happened when a young couple was eloping. The man simply told the lady (Wangechi) to jump through the window of her mother’s house resulting in 30 years of a happy marriage at this point and a bunch of noisy children.
Sunday is probably the wrong day to share these thoughts, but again, the intention is to spur more Kenyans to conduct their house- hunting on Sundays, around 8 am. If you ever come across the perfect house and unfortunately there is a church or churches as your immediate neighbours, run. Run! If impossible, then ensure that is near a mabati church or one with a tin roof; just somewhere you can play devils advocate through mischief while they worship. Close enough, send your black cat to finish the devil’s bidding, if it ever makes it out alive. Unfortunately, I am those Kenyans who house- hunted on Tuesday at 11 am. I am suffering on behalf of you all so, heed.
Our apartment neighbours a church, Mountain of Fire and Thunder and at Sunday 8 am, all hell breaks loose. Sister Jackie in the long, tight skirt and a padded biker underneath begins her spiritual and vocal press-ups at the microphone. She is in preparation for the arrival of her spiritual ‘dad and mom.’ The ‘dad and mom’ are from Nigeria. They have established their lives here and gathered an abundant flock locally, who tithe their way into payment of rent for a whole apartment floor which is the church, maintenance of two Toyota Prado and palatial home in Garden Estate. The Nigerians have named their church Mountain of Fire and Thunder, as if anyone would survive an actual volcano. The imagery of that thunderous mountain manifests every Friday of the month, every youth kesha, every lunchtime, every men’s conference, every women’s conference, every Sunday, every family day, every national holiday, every day- all day; every darn time. After all, they must worship the holy of holies in spirit and in truth, saying “Holy”. The noise simply is impossible in this realm, but here we are.
At 8am, Kamau wa Piano who has been at it all weekend, is trying to see which chord on his keyboard will work with the voice of brother John of praise and worship. John’s vocal range is nowhere within the octave Doh Re Mi to the upper Doh in the normal musical keyboard. That exact time, the infallible Mama Onyi, who lives in a single room with the eight grown sons from four baby daddies, drags the multicoloured, plastic seats around for her Sunday school class that meets in the corner just next my abode. Mama Onyi was once the talk of the church after the fourth failed marriage. They felt that she needed more of Jesus and sex- education than Bible School, with emphasis on the topic of contraception and withdrawal. She hums tunelessly to bits of Kumbaya as the fake gold bracelets clink against each other, her exaggerated turban struggling to stay on her head as her forehead discharges beads of sweat. The Nigerian kitenge is a must-have for her as a departmental head. She is a poor imitation of her spiritual mum through appropriating the Nigerian’s mode of dressing; only that her choice of material and tailor is levels below that of Bishop’s wife whose lifestyle she unknowingly finances. It is now Sunday 8:30 am. The spirit has begun moving.
Sister Jackie falls into a spiritual trance at the microphone amidst the competition between the pianist and the lead singer. She yells out a long incoherent statement with a little of abracadabra, “Baba wa Mbinguni” and breathy “yes Lords”. She beseeches the good Lord to forgive her sins and to keep her pure least she is swallowed by the wiles and deeds of the devil. Jackie prays for the forgiveness of her sins, her generation’s and for those of her ancestors. She even prays for the unborn children and for the process of making them. Her prayers are interminable. She kneels, then cries. We are left to listen to her sniffles over breakfast, just when the mayonnaise hits the vegetable salad. We are displeased.
Makau wa drums has just made an entry albeit late. His role in the choir is to set the pace for the gyration, clapping and singing. He has a knack for crowd control and can sense when to transition from praise to worship. He feels when the exhaustion from the jumping and shouting grips and the vocal cords of the love of his life Jackie can go no further. on the other end of the band, Kamau wa Piano has recently discovered that his Chinese keyboard has a feature for beats and tempo. He must prove Makau’s irrelevance and facilitate his consequent expulsion from the church for sexual misdemeanour. Both Makau and Kamau have been eying Jackie. Jackie has shared the holy cookie jar with Makau, but Kamau can hear none of it. Kamau wants Jackie all for himself. He has dreams about their white wedding; the mooing of the cows and the women’s ariririri since Jackie first set foot in his bedsit where they drank divine tea. He can see his happy ever after on her knees praying about their sins. He peers at her round, arched behind and solemn bosom. This raises an immediate ache in his loins and thank God for the keyboard, nobody gets to see Kamau’s protuberance, where the sun never shines. It is now 9:30 am.
At 10 am, Bishop swaggers in with his missus in the tail as they smile, wave and shake their white clothes at the congregants who are now deep in lurid reverence. The clapping becomes louder as do the shouts. The pianist tries to exceed the singer in his rendition of Cha Kutumaini Sina as the drummist bangs the timpani in hallowed muddle. A few brothers drop and roll, as the deacon waves his white handkerchief and wipes off his sweaty brow. The children, if not petrified, cry at the facial expressions of the parents or opt to hide under the long skirts. Some huddle in the Sunday school corner, which is less noisy and has a little bit of air. It also offers them a chance at peeking outside. The room lacks air conditioning and the windows exude an array of smells, among them cheap perfume and lotion, stale sweat, raw sex, damp clothes, old wigs and dusty books. The service is full-blown. We the neighbours are bearing the brunt of the abysmal choice of residence. It is time to brainstorm.
Sarah of house number 51 has a smaller balcony. In her former life she lived miserably but is possessive and is not ready to let go of the items from her former house. Her balcony is always in existential crisis and is dusty to the roof. She neighbours the Altar and pulpit of Mountain of Fire and Thunder and worst affected by the church. Her infant no longer has the peace and quiet a night offer as they have a speaker facing her window. In house number 52, Jose with the muscles and a chain of women, neighbours the congregation just near where the older women sit. He is always on a constant high of adrenalin, oxytocin, weed and other unnameables. Mama Blessing in 53 is a bit lucky, she has the least noise but neighbours the toilet of the church. Her problem is that they directed the ventilation from the toilet so near her rear door and with the frequent blockages, she must live with the smell and sight of raw sewer, every day, worse off on Sundays. I am in 54, just outside the children’s corner. Apparently, everyone but me has brewed some sort of revenge that might end up with their souls in eternal damnation from the a collective negative prayer by the church.
Last month, Sarah tossed a load of used diapers across the balcony during service. The deacon was most affected as one landed squarely on his face. That Sunday, the service was dedicated to Sarah, they prayed that she be forgiven and that the spirit of malice be exorcised from her. The speaker blared louder and asked her to come to church and accept Christ as her personal saviour. Sarah heard none of those calls as she was far gone at Uhuru Park Sunday afternoon outing, to chew grass. Jackie made the altar call and was mandated to seek Sarah out as her weekly mission.
Three Sundays ago, we heard more shindwe pepo chafu and roho ya umalaya itoke than ever before. Apparently, Jose and his woman (the 7th that week) had saturated his house with weed and when the sexual tension became too much, they took it to the balcony, much to the awe and revulsion of the congregants who called upon thunder and lightning to strike their sins first and both revelers, who were drowning in sin. Under the influence of those substances, the two did not stop. They came back to their senses when Jose was struck by one of the bricks on the forehead and ran back in. However, we were left wondering about who carries bricks and stones and sticks to 5th floor and particularly to church. When the hail of items settled, Jose’s balcony was full of sticks, slippers a pile of stones and 4 red bricks. I thought the Lord protects his own especially in His house, of Fire and Thunder…
Mama Blessing of 53 apparently had had enough of the toilet and decided that all the ash from her jiko would be dumped across the balcony and specifically into the church toilet, twice a week and especially on Sunday when she was sure that there would a soul in that toilet, every minute. Last Sunday, we heard a loud scream during service. An ashy and agitated congregant shook her fist in the children’s corner and cursed the hauler of ash into the toilet. Apparently Mama Ble had used hot ash and a piece of charcoal had stuck onto the congregants wig and with the wig’s hairsprayed, the charcoal had started a little fire that was put out by the removal and stomping of the wig.
Here in number 54 today would have been my turn, but I am a law-abiding citizen. I am left wondering first, if Kenyan law or NEMA only works in well-to-do neighbourhoods, or the village where there is distinction between residential areas and where social amenities should be. My house is placed strategically, just where the children’s corner is. My black cat and I live our best lives, but the noise is profoundly exasperating, more so when the children sing Father Abraham in reverse. We listen to Mama Onyi telling them how they should remain pure and wait for the Lord to provide their needs as good boys and girls. We roll our eyes when she advises the teenagers to abstain from sexual indulgence and to look up to her and Mrs Bishop as role models. The Mountain of Fire and Thunder has driven me to sleep- deprivation and some sort of psychosis, just like my neighbours, whom I genuinely sympathise with. Now that they have set up a speaker facing my balcony at the Children’s corner and ruined my chances at peaceful sleep, I have a feeling that next Sunday, I will lounge at my balcony just outside the children’s corner, naked.
South American soap operas have for a long time been part of the myriad of reasons many Kenyans attempt at beating rush hour traffic. They arrive home, drop a bra, expel the over-worn wig, put on the Kibaki tosha na NARC t-shirt and sweat pants and lounge on a couch or bed in their bedsits. At this juncture I need to deify the part of a bedsit in the life of the Kenyan just beginning life, because last week in Nairobi, one gruesome Kenyan told the rest of us to drive our bedsit sink to work. Eventually, a number of Kenyans either was stranded in town in the evening, thus missing their favorite episodes of the hottest soap operas, or followed them through streaming online. We have the advancement of technology to thank.
Nonetheless, these Kenyans, when at home and in the comfort of loose clothes will warm last night’s leftovers or serve them cold, then lounge to follow a long and winding tale of love and romance between Marias and Alejandros. I watched the first soap opera, Maria de Los Angeles in 1999. She had a fluid dark mane and a beautiful, succulent chest. I am trying to remember if I saw her behind but it probably escaped me since her kind of chest was what I wanted for myself, but here we are. I reckon that women in this day are undergoing thorax and derrière patch ups advanced enough to offer the client liberty to shop for very specific measurements, but that is a tale for another day.
The Kenyan TV industry has taken us through an emotional roller-coaster by bringing us: Todo sobre Camilla, La Tormenta en El Paraiso, Cuando Seas Mia, Cuidado con el angel, Ana, Unforgivable, Rubi, Teresa, Muchacha Italiana, Simplemente Maria, Triunfo Del Amor, Corona Lagrimas, La Gata, Double Kara, in no particular sequence. These series have been so much a part of our evening lives, even resulting in songs like “Paloma” by Kamau wa Turacco, who in his wisdom, cajoles Paloma to take a night flight and escape her murderous aunt Carlotta, then move in with him in Nairobi’s Ruai. In the song, he refers from the soap, En Nombre Del Amor.
In this day, we are lucky to still be on our feet after bombardment left, right and center with tanned, Spanish macho men soothing us sore through English voice-overs. We were consumed by ogling at William Levy (Alejandro or Maximilliano), his smolder face and smooth chest. We loathed David Zepeda with his perfectly assembled eyebrows and piercing eyes. We died over Santos and his ripped shirts, and resurrected in glory with Sebastian Rulli’s (also Alejandro’s) money. We plotted with Angelique Boyer (Teresa) and Barbara Mori (Rubi); we cried with Maite Perroni (in all her roles as a sweet innocent girl) and wreaked havoc with Leticia Calderón as evil aunt Carlota Espinoza de los Monteros. For one moment there, television gives Kenyans unity of purpose, which is to finish these enticing series and discuss the prior evening’s proceedings during tea breaks at work.
Now, those who know me well know that television is an insignificant component of my day. This is because the good Lord above denied me a concentration span exceeding ten minutes but they usually are an intense 10 minutes. I prefer to sleep or to read a book. It is earnest to highlight however that in my 19 years as an intermittent Alejandro ogler, I have never seen the lady protagonist take a bathroom break. I am not talking about a club or expensive hotel bathroom breaks that have her with her girls with their lipstick and powder at the mirror, no.
I am talking about post- taco and barbecue chicken with coke kind of bathroom break. Closer home, I am talking about post- chapo nne, madondo na uji kind of bathroom break. This discourse in on a post- matoke, sizzling beef and yoghurt kind of toilet break, where Maria has to march out of the chalice of fiery romance with Jorge, lest she renders everyone unconscious when sweet old hydrogen sulphide is freed from the depths of her gut. The kind of bathroom break that cannot wait a second longer before thioacetone is released from the pits of her being; scattering guests, naysayers and any terrorist group. As a realist and ardent admirer of the human body and its functions, I have waited for a moment as this since 1999. Telemundo has failed to avail these scenes and therefore, I have ceased to indulge in this vain affair as an unimpressionable adult until further notice.
In my not so very humble opinion, of course without trying to offend anyone, I will watch Telemundo series again when I hear that Maria had diarrhea. Meanwhile, let us give Maria a break; A bathroom break.
There is no better way to celebrate life than to be thankful. Thankful for life, for the good things, the lessons and those that dared walk the journey by our side. I am at the point where women mention their age while adding the word “only”, accentuated by a call from my father reminding me that I am a child, no more. For example, I am “only” 26, let us proceed. Life has been kind and as well as interesting, I will take you back to as far as I can remember and of course in light of daily negativity, we will paint the highlights because anyway, the greater deal is always what is left to imagination.
I was born the third of four children in a Christian home up the mountains to a teacher of art and a teacher of English. As a child, the mountain appealed to me, day as well as night riveted me; conflict especially about coffee daunted my child’s mind and the absence of wildlife except the malevolent gazelle boggled me. Mugomo wa Mwarimu (Teachers’ Strike) of 1997 which had Kamothos’ name thrown back and forth enticed me. Nevertheless, I never went up the mountain in my Reeboks; I was told it was far. The conflict over the coffee mill waned when the Mikigi let the Kamatusas construct their own factory and for wildlife; I hear the hyenas registered a Sacco synergizing for community wellness and Jothefu and his son caught the gazelle, called for a village feast to which we were uninvited. Day and night were explained through school and Mugomo wa Mwarimu must continue. Our latrine was outside, somewhere far from the mud- walled house we lived in and while in the company of mother one starless night in 1996, I saw an elephant. A scream from the neighbourhood at the same instance confirmed my resourcefulness and we frantically ran back into the safety of the house.
I swear mother left me behind because first, her skirt flew in my face then I saw her figure disappear in the distance. I was left alone with my elephant and we were truly struck by how my urine dispersed back into the body. I no longer requested her company to relieve myself again that night. Anyway, the screams came from Wajuu, the village drunkard who in his stupor and lurid croon had staggered upon Karoki’s burning shop in the middle of the night, alerting the village. I should have gone to that latrine at least, as my elephant was just a heap of sand that had been ferried into the compound a few days before, which my mind was yet tog register. I am yet to see an elephant to this very day nonetheless and I am not very sure if mother trusts me or my mind’s eye, 22 years on.
School was pleasurable from a tender age and although I dreaded waking up early and the cold baths, it was where I made the best of friends and most memories. While learning to read father brought home a book from a children’s collection with the words “here” and “there.” With the blood of my ancestors, I could only manage to pronounce them as THERE and HERE as you would if you read them in Kiswahili. He pinched my nose painlessly but the tears were fuelled by the ceaseless laughter by my elder siblings. I knew from that moment that embarrassment was a disease I would never predispose myself to ever again, until our parents travelled to Kampala for vacation and the two rascals ate the honey and pinned it on me. It was my first lesson on the ills of democracy, where a wrong majority can impose malevolence on a correct minority. I did receive the thrashing of the millennium, which taught me two lessons. The first: an African child can live through anything. The second, it is impossible to hate your sibling as we still are the best of friends.
I struggled to write number 5 as I do to this day from nursery school and my handwriting never got beyond legible. My 7 to 13 presented computers and the first real library which had access to ‘The World Encyclopaedias A-Z’. I also owned my first Bible, dictionary and atlas. I wanted to travel; to see all. They had written about the Kalahari, the winds took me there. I had read Truphena the City Nurse at 8 and knew for sure that appendicitis hurt as hell. The book ‘Where there is no Doctor’ was the final nail on the coffin. I knew for sure that the medical field was made for anyone but me, I was no doctor. Science was fascinating, language; fabulous. I dragged my feet through mathematics, jaded through geography and snoozed through history. My father gave me a set of calligraphy pens when truly I was a painter and a story teller. Music and Art were hands-on and enjoyable at least they got me croaking and shaking on a number of stages in different parts of Kenya and I was flourishing in the hockey pitch. That was 14 through 18. By 18, I knew I was made for the road, for sea, for air. I wanted to travel, for leisure and to work, writing the stories of the places I visited.
19 to 25 was my njui huure phase, a stage of firsts I was adult now, at least legally. I was accepted to college far from home, had a first boyfriend (not sure about love), had my first real drink and hangover, my first job, my first account, got broke and for the first time and had only myself to answer to. Here at least I can talk about conscious decisions, actual movement across the country, alliances and broken promises, hope and frustration, and dreams. At this phase, not everything or everyone in the journey counts. I learnt lessons on caution, faith, on strategy, on love, on betrayal.
I have learnt that first, the heart is for pumping blood. Let it. Guard it. Guard it because according to Proverbs it is where everything flows from. I learnt to fill mine with joy. I have conditioned it to value humanity, to share love, to share joy. I have learnt to control my darkness, my pain and my desires; to be beautiful inside. I have learnt to have faith and of the power a little faith wields; to distinguish between who and what to put my faith in. In Hebrews 11: 6- “and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who commits to Him must believe He exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I have learnt to accommodate, to love, to moderate, to hold those who truly count close to my heart. I let my heart be broken only by the things that break the heart of God. Anything else should matter little.
We have all been gifted in many ways, especially with a brain with infinite storage space and ideas. Use it. At least you owe yourself that. Express what is inside. In art, or any circumstance, the hand cannot execute what the mind is yet to perceive. Learn and keep learning. Feed it with positive knowledge and inspiration not forgetting lessons, not necessarily your own. Always take a stand and let it be known, it helps a lot in managing expectations and clearing the air. Confront your fear because otherwise, it will enslave you. You cannot afford to let your mind be a battlefield especially because of the actions of other people. Peace of mind above all else. Look for beneficial avenues to express what is inside which we cannot see. If you have talents therein put them to use. Let them ease your life. Allow them to stroke your ego and boost your self –esteem.
We all need mental and physical exercise. They say health is wealth, a book and articles, water, a run, food, fruits and memes. They will ask where I get the glow, the smile and deep laughter. It is simple, they flow from inside. Mental health requires avoidance of things and people who take away your energy and to know that not every interaction is beneficial and if it serves nothing it is ok to leave, again and again.
When all is lost all you have left is your family. Nature may be kind enough to avail a friend who becomes family. Love them. Love them wholly, with their inadequacies; their imperfections. Always remember that you too are less than perfect and you cannot always please the world. Always seek to make lasting memories of love and laughter. Visit them. Take them out, buy them a gift, and show them a smile. Encourage them. They are your asset when all that is material is gone. They are the only ones that pray for you by your name and wish you the best. You are allowed to be wrong, as is appropriate to be right. Just never fail to follow your own advice, to apologise and to be kind. It is the little things that make 26 worth trying for.
When people come across a woman, who is mature, sovereign, logical, who is at “the age” of marriage or beyond; yet she has no children, they ask many questions. I might sound like a bitter feminist in this piece but truly, we must have this conversation. Last Friday a local television station aired a feature titled “The Childless Life by Choice”. The interviewee to begin with was beautiful, smart and of course, a woman. Yes, it had to be a woman! In her words, she was raised in a conservative Christian home with three siblings and supportive parents. In her twenties, she CHOSE not to have children. “I feel free. I feel like I can get up and do whatever it is without having to think about someone else… and I know that that can be termed as selfish but at the same time… it is my life. I like that simplicity…it is very simple. I get to make decisions based on purely my desires.”~ Taruri Gatere. The social media backlash that followed against her, especially from the men was dumbfounding.
I do believe in the infinity of choice. We are living that world, a world of choice. We are at liberty to choose what to wear, what to eat, where to live, whom to include in our societal enclaves… What perhaps we had no control over was our own existence and birth, or what will result in its termination, but now that we are here, we have numerous choices to make about the holistic aspects that delineate our lives. Choices boil down to reproduction. We have surrogacy, egg and embryo donation, sperm donation, in vitriol fertilization, marriage and natural copulation, the use of fertility drugs just to name a few. Some in society have chosen not to have children. I believe that they too are right.
However, the African culture and context has the reproductive status African woman as community business. There is an endemic assumption that every woman at a certain age will yield to what we call “maternal instinct.” We expect a woman to get married, provide dowry to her relatives, procreate nieces and nephews, name our parents; or if marriage fails to work out, then one needs at least to leave a legacy of a child… that little, delicate human that resembles us wholly or in part that carries our DNA down to the next generation. If he is not of our blood then he has the name to carry down the successive eons. Still, some have chosen remain to be childless, not as a matter of incapability but as a matter of choice.
According to Vicki McLeod on TedTalks, the term ‘childless’ harbours a negative connotation. It implies that something is missing, a deficit in those who have chosen to remain without children. She says that surprisingly, this term applies almost exclusively to women: that we do not hear about men being childless. That at least is so, for the American context. The childless African man, like the childless African woman is the object of ridicule, whispers and pointing fingers. In all ignorance, society brands them impotent…a blinkered, vilifying connotation to one, perhaps powerfully competent elsewhere.
I believe that people have their reasons for wanting children, as exist reasons for not having them. One of the women interviewed based their argument on a predisposition that those without children fail to do so because of “raha”, the party life. Another wants to have children to take care of him when he is older, just as he is taking care of his elderly parents. Another wants to have children for continuity, because children are our legacy. Another is out to fulfill the command in Genesis 1:28 multiply and fill the earth. Everybody has their reasons to want or not to want a child. That is the beauty of choice…that there is always an option.
There is a need to desist from the assumption that it is the biological destiny of all women or men to have children. Life goes beyond that. Peoples’ destinies and aspirations are incessant and in my opinion, destiny, whether biological or in its entirety should be based purely on our sober individual choices that we make, based on our terms.
Motherhood is beautiful. Having children is a fulfilling and creative act; motherhood gives our lives purpose according to Vicki McLeod but then again there are different ways in which women can find purpose. Nevertheless, motherhood is a gamble. The fruit of your womb (and loins) may be a productive, even great member of society, or they may be the shame of their generation. Motherhood also is difficult. It is difficult to conceive as is difficult to carry a pregnancy to term, as is difficult to give birth, as is difficult to raise and love another human being. If a woman feels like they are destined to make a mother and love their children and provide for them, then so be it. If another feels like that digresses from her destiny, then that still is good enough. One only needs to listen to their inner workings to see what truly gives meaning to their OWN lives. It is only unfair to bring a life, which you will fail to take care of, which you will fail to nurture in love and the abundance of body and spirit.
To me, motherhood is a vocation, as is fatherhood. It is a calling that asks for the making of decisions to indulge in actions that will result in the emergence of a child. Parenthood is a full- time job, which consumes the energy and attention of the persons involved and certainly, is not everybody’s cup of tea. We have struggling single mothers in our societies who have been made out of actions of reckless abandon, just as we have men in society taking care of children whose mothers fled from the sheer thought of responsibility. We have so many sordid and livid people in society by the simple virtue of the lack of a motherly hug during their childhood.
I do emphasise the dire need to listen to our inner workings to establish if truly, parenthood is our destiny, or if children are the legacy we want to leave. We must also understand that a woman is a sovereign entity and she has absolute discretion over what she wants to do with her own body. Life certainly goes beyond our reproductive capabilities and we may be a happier people if we learnt how to respect the other people’s choices on how they want to live their OWN lives, with children, or without children. We must learn to respect their choices. Let it be a childless life by choice.
It all started with the wrong woman, one dark night. “Gen 29: 23- 25… but in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went into her…and in the morning, behold! It was Leah! Voila! Let us pause and breath… HOW?! The wrong woman! How do we sanely explain a coital indulgence between a man and woman; the supposed love of his life even, yet he was unable to recognise that it was a different woman, in a moment so intricate. So passionate. So personal.
On that night perhaps, was Jacob, like Noah before him drunk with grape wine? Was Leah so good at the game of silence, that not a sound escaped her lips in the moments’ fire? Did he at any one time pause, get a flaming torch and out of curiosity try see the expressions on her face? Was fire “discovered” by 1704 BC? (Yes it had, because Abraham from before had tried to cook his child, Jacob’s father).
Jacob had toiled seven years herding his father- in- law’s herds of sheep, goats and camels (I have not read of cows) and Rachel, being a shepherdess herself toiled alongside her one true love. In the context of this publication, we are guided by the assumption that they went on holy dates and long walks, where Jacob casually pointed into the herd and said “hii ni kondoo yangu na inazaaga mapacha”. Rachel would blush at how lucky she was to be loved by one whose assets expanded geometrically. Or is it exponentially?
We can also comfortably say that if Jacob kissed her on their first encounter, (read the beginning of Genesis 29) they did hold hands. Because he loved her, he must have gazed and gotten absorbed into her eyes. His thoughts held the mirage of infinite possibilities of a long life of love and laughter; of growing old in her arms , of a happy ever after. Allow me to quickly point out that Rachel dies young (you can now collect the pieces that are your heart as we proceed).
See, seven years was enough time for Jacob to get accustomed to the scent or smell of the herbs she used on her hair. He must have known the concoction; including ingredients, of the substances she applied onto her skin to make it soft and supple, for according to Genesis 30: 17-…but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
In seven years, he must have been more than cognisant to her laughter, her gait and stature but as things stand in this Bible story, the moment of carnal indulgence with the wrong woman truly proved how superficially a person “knows” the other until they are let onto the inside. Things get deep hence.
Now, if Jacob was a modern- day man and was asked to justify how he ended up with the wrong woman for the whole night, he would simply say, “stima ilipotea”. For that reason, I stand with Jacob. There was no electricity, therefore there was no light that night and maybe the stars shone less brightly. Maybe also, wedding festivities during Abrahamic times demanded total silence and total darkness, to mitigate mutual awkwardness.
Jacob of this day would emphasise on a SEVEN- YEAR thirst, yes. Seven whole years since he spotted Rachel from afar coming to to water the animals. Let us bring seven years into perspective. It means, 2556 days without draining the reservoir. It is 2555 plus 1 days of Yakub running after goats, camels and sheep, just herding (unlike the Kiambu man) devoid of the opportunity to gasp for air and stretch his legs in glorious concurrence. I mean, in 2556 days, nobody gagged there, nor got their hair pulled. 2556 days and not once did Jacob “arrive” (at least according the manuscript). As a man, Jacob jumped 😉 at the opportunity, rose with the moon and set with the rising sun. He was only awed in the morning at the sight of the wrong woman. Imagine his horror when she turned and he saw her when he was not fully awake…
To cut to the chase, Jacob of the Bible was a lucky man. He started with the wrong woman. A week later he acquired the right woman. Years later, he got the right woman’s servant, then the wrong woman’s servant, then the wrong woman repeatedly, then the right woman occasionally and thus, the origin of a people chosen by God Himuselefu. It all started with the wrong woman.
I walked a road barely used, a path barely trodden. It was adulterated by tar yet devoid of the throttle of any engine. I strutted on the centre of the road like I owned it, lost in my thoughts, the sunshine and the bliss of a westerly. At this point I am tempted to mention in utopia of the possibility of wind running through my hair, but then it is kinky and Bantu and knotted down using synthetic braids. I certainly do recall feeling the wind in other places courtesy of dera; but well how will you ever recognise your aliveness if air cannot circulate freely therein?
Four men sat on the ledge with their Nikon cameras dangling. One waved and asked as if to measure my knowledge of the language, “madam idwaroni agoi picha? “ I am sure I understood “picha” and that he was motioning with his camera, he definitely wanted to take a picture of me, in the peace and tranquil of a lonely road. I declined. Here I was, 8 counties from where I call home, seeing and feeling the peace and quiet of country in a bustling city, just to read my novel and watch the sun sink into Lake Victoria.
To enter the Port of Kisumu, one is required to produce identification and pay twenty shillings. The guards are helpful and friendly and you cannot fail to notice the lush carpet of green grass and the colonial buildings housing Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Maritime Authority, the police and a number of research firms. As a child of a farmer, I certainly have no love for cows but I imagine the party a number of heifers would have were they set loose on grass as such.
It is an entirely new climate with the zephyrs; devoid of the coastal humidity but with the warmth of “summer” in the mountains. This is July in Kisumu and I count myself lucky for the opportunity to adorn loose cotton, a privilege my counterparts in the central parts of Kenya have been denied by life and nature. Thank goodness for a rather lucky escape from the life of socks, blankets, sausage fingers and flasks of hot tea.
On right side of my path are massive stores and one of the larger vessels is docked and being offloaded. Each man carries a sack on his shoulders from the vessel, disappearing into the stores. I dare to make an approach but a lady guard brings it to my attention that I am unauthorised to get any closer, nor to take photographs of the activity. My twenty shillings offers no cover for being nosy.
My interest is drawn away from the vessel, to a grand tree that is to my left.
I cannot fail to recognise a Mugumo Tree anywhere. It was where my ancestors besought Mwene Nyaga. I was told that it is parasitic, engulfing its host tree into one massive oneness. Its branches laze in the wind, taking me back to the stories from my childhood. One of the more enlightened neighbour’s children came with the analogy that if one was to walk seven times around a Mugumo Tree while butt naked (they forgot to include clockwise or anticlockwise) then if they were a girl, she would turn into a boy and vice versa.
I remember that narration of the Mugumo almost verbatim because that day Karumba told the story we were playing mûnywee in a neighbouring compound. I fell in the mud where my kamisi got a rip, warranting for a century’s beating. I never did come across a Mugumo Tree, being the child I was, and you can bet a million, I would have taken gone seven circumferences just to prove that Karumba had lied. Now as an adult believing in science, I am yet to streak and flap some parts around a tree as part of research, but in my very humble opinion, were it that easy, there would be no need to invoke the pain of needles and knives upon transexuals, just to grow or lose some balls.
I move further left in an attempt at getting to the old railway, now covered by grass. Since the collapse of the initial Rift Valley Railways Company, there has not been a single carriage transporting anything or anyone to the Port of Kisumu. It lies intact yet idle, full infrastructure never used. This takes me to the discrimination against Kenyans working on their own standard gauge railway. They are being ill-treated by human from a strange earth, dealing with their own challenges of overpopulation and ambitious cuisine preferences, with spaced-out erect hair and a bad dentine.
At this juncture, I am left to wish that our structures would actually work and for us. I wish that we can fully control our resources, because we can and we must; having the will, the know-how and the desire not to die of hunger. I had walked these very rails two years ago but now with the grass and an active imagination on the number of potentially harmful organisms that may be at home under the rails and grass, I revert to my path because I still need both my legs.
This path leads me to the pier. Here, they call it jetty and is literally the end of railway in Kisumu. The map was not lost here unlike in Nanyuki, because the railway somehow did get to Kampala. Someone saw the risk of rotting wood and rusting metal just being lost to the elements and placed a wire, thorns and branches in the way of people like myself who would want to walk all the way. The “Danger Hatari” cliché poster is always there to remind us that we are likely to result as the skull with two femurs crossed. The water is murky and still, with the occasional wave beating against a man-made wall. I get to see the deliberate construction and how meticulous and detailed the designers were.
MvRVR (Marine Vessel Rift Valley Railways) is half sunken at the jetty as is another unnamed vessel four times her size. They are rotting away in the dark waters. In my head, the engines on both roar and I hear a loud blare of the horn as they set sail, each at its time. They are new and lit with a flurry of activities on board each, with clean seafarers at the helm of each, alive to the hordes of the wanderers of the world. I am brought back to reality by the clank of a metal plate after being hit by the waves and by the way, ghosts are real.
Further away from the pier there are about 8 working vessels docked in one corner. MV Utumishi is used by Kenya Police. Some of the others are used by Maritime Authority for research and others are used for fishing, rescue missions or highlighting fishermen using the incorrect nets. All the while, I have the hope that MV Kipepeo would dock or be docked by the time I arrived since the coxswain does allow people aboard for pictures and a chat, as one watches the sunset from a vantage point. On a better day, I have been offered a cup of coffee that I sipped marveling at the glamour of a Kisumu sundown.
I very much desire a revival of the lunatic express or construction of the other half of the standard gauge railway that would see the awakening of this giant in slumber, lying in rot, just waiting for a revolution. A revival of the port of Kisumu would be a source of employment and business opportunities for the locals on casual or permanent basis. The port has the advantage of being in the middle of a town bustling with youthful energy and impressive levels of both male and female literacy.
Just picture the number of people who would be mechanics, engineers, loaders, administrators, dockers, stewards and stewardesses who would every day have the facility teeming with life and earn a living from a life of adventure. Imagine the number of people who like myself want to retire having explored land, air and sea (read lake) just to swat a mosquito as we watch the sinking sun over banter and hot chocolate.
Travel. Come to Kisumu and pay twenty shillings to purchase a stint of heaven on earth at the port. Go to the Port of Kisumu with your novel and read in utmost peace and quiet and for only twenty shillings. Go to Kisumu with your children and tickle their imagination of the endless possibilities of the capabilities of this country that we have just chosen to ignore. Come and at twenty shillings, have a picnic and reignite those dying embers in your home. Come; because we are the missing piece in the lifeline of the place, where the sun sinks into the water.