Arise Kenya Arise....

Arise Kenya Arise....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Nerea Made Mwanake to Cancel His Trip

My friend Mwanake surprised me recently. As the high priest of the sect of many waters, Mwanake happens to be one of the folks from the sect of frothing liquids who trusts my wise counsel. I know I am neither too wise nor too foolish so this powerful man comes down from his favourite seat of power to engage to a mere hustler like me. I am a real hustler, not like Mwanake's business partner who claims to be a hustler without hustling.

He happens to be the proprietor of The Bar on the Hill but he owns several outfits around town. He took over the establishment about two years ago from another old man who insisted on selling white cap lager only. As soon as he put up an “under new management” sign he began stocking different brands of the waters from where good old Kiereini used to brew down at Ruaraka. I don’t know who took over from Jeremiah but it does not matter to me now.

I received a call from Mwanake that he decided to cut short his trip to the other side of the mountain and come back to Nairobi. Mwanake comes from the Southern side of the mountain, but some friends wanted him to grace a meeting across many ridges and rivers. As his main spiritual overseer, I oversaw his departure from Tea Room Airport.  I was to accompany him but I got caught up in the thick of thin things around Tea Room and decided take the long walk back to Ambassador Hotel to meet new converts to our sect.

This change was a big surprise, how could Mwanake change his mind midway on such an important trip? The people on the other side of the mountain are the cream of the elite. These people eat meat without bones. When my friend Kiplain who will never be caught eating vegetables cleans up goat ribs in Rongai, these people prefer it in steak. They gave us names like T-bone, lamb and chops yet I can bet most of us know beef as either mixed or steak.  They eat it with a fork and a knife and they will never be caught surgically dissecting the head of a goat or a cow. Yet this is what Mwanake and his team like to chew with a mug of soup.

So here Mwanake calls me that he is in town and he needs some counseling. I get worried, but decide to go into prayer and fasting session for a few hours before our appointment. As much as we are pals, he wields power, and men know these simple rules, a pair of his shoes and one belt can buy my whole wardrobe so I have to be at my best when meeting him.

I had to go and get the story behind this romour that he could not cross River Sagana. There have been banditry activities around that area so the new romour mill that my son Janaya Junior and his sister Porsche are always busy on called facebook has been churning out reasons for this Sagana River fiasco. When I was done with my fast and prayers in line with the formula of the sect of many waters, I set out to meet Mwanake.

On the way I remember to call my friend Iketone, who claims to have a ranch at a place near Msanda. For those who may not be aware of Musanda, it is one of several places in Western Kenya where the inhabitants are confused whether they are Luos or Luhyas. I pick Iketone up in town because he is an adherent of Mwanake’s sect of frothy liquids, I ask him not to swallow too much. He will help to lighten the atmosphere as Mwanake likes to keep me waiting for long under the company of a big flask of tea.

We drive in my scrap of a car up several streets into the leafy suburbs. Iketone is a good guide, as many of his relatives reside in this side of Uhuru Highway as domestic and security technicians. Today, I pick him up as a Luo, so I keep these cooks and watchmen jokes to myself for inner meditation. The humble shall inherit the kingdom of God and the violent shall take the kingdom of God by force.

We are let into The Bar on the Hill, and Iketone goes ahead to order his favourite Keg beer. I pinch his hand and tell him to order something corresponding to the status of the venue. After a long short time, Mwanake comes over and I leave Iketone to imbibe on his bottle and glass. He has briefed me on the current affairs so I am good to go.

After the warm greetings, you know this man has a big warm heart, Mwanake asks me if I have listened to Nerea- the new song on the chats. I remain calm to hide my shock as I don’t want to appear dumb or as foolish as a Mogotio goat as I think of how to go around his question. He lets it pass as he jumps to explain, that the reason why he cut short his trip is because the driver was playing a list of songs and Nerea kept playing over and over. He got worried, he thought that God was speaking to him but I had become a customer- mteja which is what everybody who cannot be reached on his mobile phone become so he decided to come back home and sort this matter quickly.

Apparently the band that recorded the song happens to be his friends. I wanted to go and ask Iketone if he knew Nerea, as the name sounds more of a Musanda lady but you don’t just leave the proprietor of The Bar on the Hill on street lights. “I was worried about it but when I asked her about the pregnancy, she told me it is just a romour.” He went on to say that anyway, if God would have brought the child he was not going to forget to accompany it with a plate.

I am happy he mentioned God, I said amen in the tone of the sect of many waters. I ask him to feel free to order his drink. He orders a cold Tusker, my mind wonders to another friend of mine whose main goal in life was to buy a truck trailer, so his friends called him ZB. I know he will read this but he has told me many times that I will one day go back to the frothing waters sect. I looked at how Mwanake poured his Tusker into a tilted glass keenly and reassured myself that I consumed my quota.

He lifts his head and asks me who I would like to see seated in his bar. Some people must be removed from sina tabu stools at the counter to the butchery while others will be promoted from roasting mutura to serving wine. This will shift focus of people from this Sagana River fiasco. My mind goes blank, now even ZB and Iketone disappear from my mind. I tell him I will pray for him to make wise decision on his choices. I ask Iketone to come over and I introduce him, he shakes Mwanake’s hand for a whole minute with his head bowed.

After a sumptuous lunch served in the green lush grounds of The Bar on the Hill, we jump into my scrappy metal of a car and drive back to town. No sooner had we crossed Uhuru Highway than Iketone blurts out that the Mwanake has reshuffled his pubs sitting arrangement. I smile and tell him that it is a small matter. So Iketone is also a member of that socialite media that has taken my household by storm, this is getting interesting. I ask him if he knows Nerea, and he responds that he has never heard of such a lady in this city may be back around his ranch. So I am not the only stranger in Jerusalem.

This blog is in honour of Wahome Mutahi, aka Whispers. I have always thought of honouring him with one blog for inspiring a loud mouthed restless man like me to write.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

THANK YOU, I am moving

Dear follower,

I hope this mail finds you well.

Writing has been a journey for me. When I started blogging, I did not know where it would lead to but one I was certain about is I loved to write. Writing to me is more than just putting words together, it is the only time I say what I want to say exactly how I would like to say it. It has been a good experience so far and I hope you had fun reading my blogs. The good ones, the not so good ones and the random ones.

I would like to let you know that I will no longer blog on blogspot. This blog will remain and die a natural death so you can always refer to it if you wish to. I am moving to, I will let you know when it goes on air. Meanwhile, you can like my page on Facebook; STUTTISTICS to keep in touch with my new blogs on culture and football.

I hope I will get the time to write, entertain and educate you more as I learn myself.

Than you all and God Bless you indeed.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

While I was Away from Night Clubs

This past Madaraka Day weekend I went clubbing after a very long time, a decade to be precise. I have not told my lovely wife this, I pray she doesn’t read this. If at all she reads, may the heavens soften her heart. We were on a mission to a place called Kaimosi, if you don’t know Kaimosi I am sure you have heard of Shamakhokho. It is about two kilometres from this market with a luhyaisque name, where a man dared to stone President Moi’s motorcade during the 1992 general election campaigns.

We left Nairobi as the city is preparing to welcome Baba Raila Odinga. We decide to negotiate our way to Eldoret for the night. Unfortunately I am with an all clubbing crew, here I am, with people who can’t wait to enter a club called Spree in Eldoret. We get to Eldoret, and set out to look for dinner. Two people in our team grew up in Eldoret so they lead us to Kims Hotel. We hear it has finger licking chicken.

Only one of us is a Luhya, who claims to be the president of a breakaway republic called Eshitundu. We all went for our basic schooling in Kaimosi so we never lack the appetite for well cooked chicken. Kaimosi is the cradle of Christianity in Luhya land. The Quakers, also called Friends who used to pray with an earthquake sound in the earlier days landed in Kaimosi at the turn of twentieth century to set up a mission centre. It is said they had only about eight converts after sixteen years but the number shot up when they set up a water fall powered posho mill in the area. They had cracked the brief and found the way to the hearts of Tiriki people.

We get to Kims and make our orders. I ask for tea and it is brought in a flask. The others ask for 750 ml of John Walker. This bottle is commonly known as mzinga, or magazine, not the one with pages but the other one which can make you turn a new page into past tense. People must have felt fully armed when with a full bottle of alcohol, hence the name.

The men said they are men of few words in response to Johnie Walker’s fathers’ day advert.  Mbati is from Kisii but grew up among Luhyas, a very weird combination. One thing he lacks in abundance is silence, so for him to put a ‘mzinga’ on the table and claim he is a man of few words, is ironical and paradoxical. Then they begin to bash my ‘mzinga’ on the table. I tell them mzinga ni mzinga, and we chat the evening waiting for our chicken.

I sip my tea, and realize they know how to brew tea. If you love tea, you know what I am talking about, the kind of tea that makes a strange land home and strangers comrades. As we catch up on what has been happening since we left Kaimosi we realized we need to track many others lost in the hustles and bustles of the rat race.

Their are people we would like to see all grown up now just to see if they are still behaving as they did in primary school. The chicken is brought, and the faces around the table shine, the eyes twinkle and backs are raised. This is what good food does to tired people. We wash our hands with warm water, good for the chilly Eldoret town and set our fingers into the bowl.

When we are done, we bless the cook as we water down the chicken with the remaining drinks. I cannot clear my flask of team, and that attracts some verbal jabs from the rest of the team. Soon we are on the road into town. We pass Spree and turn into a road with a twenty four hour Nakumatt Supermarket. Eldoret has arrived on the table of big towns. We park the cars and walk into a building that looks old and unkempt from outside.

Walking in we are greeted by a large portrait of Col. Mustaffa, with a campaign to reduce stress. The last time I heard of Mustaffa, he was one half of Mavultures duo. Welcome to 411, a club I later realized is a subsidiary of spree. It has been a decade since I went clubbing so this gonna be an adventure. First shock, we pay two hundred shillings to enter. Even when I used to club, I only paid to enter Carnivore or Florida 2000, this is Eldoret.

Inside, I see crowd of young souls jumping up and down in the name of dancing. The middle age crowd is seated drinking. We walk to the back of the club near the DJ and I notice a packed balcony as well, there is also a ‘NO SMOKING’ sign in the club, that is strange. A lot has happened since I left the scene. The crowd is mainly students from Moi University and its children like Chepkoilel, I hear it is now University of Eldoret. There are flat TV screen all over the walls, and Second shocker, the DJ is doing the Omega One thing of talking and hyping up the crew with crude nothings.

I order a bottle of water; sip it slowly as I take note of what is happening around. One of my friends orders Pilsner Ice, so this sweet beer came back into the market, I left when it had gone AWOL. I know that because it hit the market with the entry of internet. Its advert had a tagline-, and thats what a friend of mine and me would call each other. One of the ladies orders Reds ale and it comes in a black bottle, that’s new. I remember reds in a white and red can. Sean Paul and Kelly Rowland are on the screen singing- how deep is your love. That sounds familiar.

Mustafa comes in with a white towel over his face. He goes up the DJs booth then walks down to where we are. Apparently where we are is a stage. A few seats are shoved off to create room for his act. Some bouncers are standing a few metres behind him like you can attempt to touch Mustafa, Mustafa? oh my, the guy is beat.

He has a big Samsung phone on one hand, a fully sagged jeans pants and huge gold chain, I say huge because you can spot it from far, and from the look, it is far from real gold. His towel is now around his neck and this marks the beginning of a boring two hours. I manage to sneak out to the wash-rooms.
On my way back, I step aside to give a young couple way to go into the wash rooms. Just as I step aside, the boy taps the girl (I mean it, they are that young) at the back of her head and she bends down giving the boy a rub on his vital area. This is ‘bend over’ dance, I am watching it live next to me. I walk back to my seat and my friends pull me up to dance.

I caught a video clip once of a song called – a tchi-tcha- or something like that. The DJ decides to play it and the crownd is now ecstatic, Mustafa has finished his hustle, not show. I cant dance the song so I sit down. Behind me, a group is glued to the TV, when I turn there is a repeat of some athletics and the crowd cheers the Kenyans as they win. This is Eldoret.

While I was away, people pay to enter two star clubs, bend over came and a song that I can’t even remember the title became a hit. Then the DJ play Ken Wamaria’s fundamendoz and the club roars in approval. He then plays some songs I don’t know, before playing  Emmy Chepchumba’s song accompanied by videos of Ghana football player Asamoah Gyan doing azonto dance on the screen. The crown is ecstatic, the dances vibrant and the shouts thunderous. This is Eldoret.

At about four in the morning, we stroll out of 411 for a short nap before we hit the road to Kaimosi. That was an experience, a lot has happened since I left. As Raila Odinga comes back from his sabbatical, I now know why everyone is busy tweeting about it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Looking for Onyango in Maasai Land

Looking for people makes them feel special. Too bad if he has a chip on his shoulder, the man will feel sweet like an overflowing bag of chips. I set out to Narok, the County with the Seventh Wonder of the world. Narok is such a beautiful land, and the rural folk of Narok are so cultured and very spiritual, they look organized like a herd of wildebeest crossing Mara River.

I have travelled all over Kenya, and the Maasai top the list of best community in Kenya. They should be the official Kenyan brand. Second are Kambas, and the rest follow. The way they treat their environment, wild animals and each other show how they revere God and his creation.

It is in Narok that I realize that Nairobi needs to change its name to Nairouwa. There is a village on your way to Maasai Mara called Maji Moto this translates to Enkare Nairouwa the opposite of Enkare Nairobi. Now that Nairobi is no longer a spring of cold water, why not pull a Bombay- Mumbai and change the name.

If you have lived in Nairobi long enough, you will notice that the coolness of ‘its waters’ has been diminishing over time. The Nairobi winter in June and July is not as cold. I will go to Pumwani Maternity to check if there has been a reduction in the baby boom in March and April. That cold weather has a way of making unlike poles attract.

 I think Nairobi became Nairouwa when it was named “The City in the Sun” – culminating in the name “shamba la mawe” - the rocky patch. It is not about rocks but the grit in trying to eke a living in this city. So I leave Nairobi and turn off to Narok at Mai Mahiu, another place of hot water, named from the Kikuyu dialect.

Narok is eighty seven kilometres from Mai Mahiu. You will never miss Suswa at 29km from Mai Mahiu, sitting at the base of Mount Suswa like a tired mountain climber. Like someone trying to tie the laces of his boots before trying to go up Mount Suswa again or walk into the plains.  The town has not changed much since the days when William ole Ntimama would hold Maa Congress and come up with Maa declarations.

I pass Duka Moja, Nairegie Enkare- trust Maasai with their obsession with water. Nairegie Enkare means a swampy place or the place with stagnant water. Ntulele the black spot beckons and I go past it in a swoosh, then Eoro Ekule where Ole Kawaro comes from, then I ease into Narok, the town in the valley. Even Narok is Enkare Narok, the place of black water.

I had driven down this road a few months earlier in search of ground water. I found the water at point in a place called Tepesua, brought a drill rig and sunk a borehole. This commodity that made Maasais to name every point of social convergence after the quality of water is vital but more for cattle than people.

So I am out to look for Onyango in a place called Ng’oswani, I doubt if it is about water even though I did not ask. Onyango I am told will help me pipe this water to where it can give a place a name.
In Narok I meet Ali, a Kenyan of Asian descent. I am introduced to him by his driver, and they proceed to speak in Kipsigis. Ali speaks Kipsigis so fluently you would think he is hiding Kip-Left and Kip-Right genes behind his pure Asian breed. I like such people, so I name him, Kipkoech, after a primary school mate we named ‘pirechot’ a corruption of Luo- Abiro Chuadi.

I leave Narok town and pass a small township called Ewaso Ng’iro, the place of muddy waters or brown water. The river that passes here is literally brown. The brown colour (Ng’iro) has a way of sticking longer or even for ever on the teeth of those who drink it. I pass the place and take the road to the great Maasai Mara. The Loita plain is ahead flat with hills that stick out like painful boils on supple skin. The plain is named after one of the biggest Maasai clans.

Some fifteen kilometres after Ewaso Ng’iro, the tarmac ends. This road was once tarmacked to Sekenani gate, but that was long time ago. It has now degenerated back to a rough road in Rear Vision 1990 style.  I start the rought road, pass Maji Moto junction and see a heard of wilderbeasts looking for a passage through the recently erected barbed wire. They see me approach and in a move similar to the jump into Mara River they run from the road side into the Loita plains far away.

The Maasai used to own land communally. The area I am driving through was once Mara-Olkinyei group ranch. The members have subdivided it and now the fences are coming up. This is now hindering free movement of wild animals within a land they once shared freely with Maasai cattle.
 I pass Mpora, Tepesua then I land in Ng’oswani. A dusty market with people idling around asking for rides to the next market. I politely tell them I have arrived at my destination. I get a hunger pang jab- the kind of hunger that hits you when you check the clock and realize it is half past one. I send word around that I need to see Onyango. Here it seems everyone knows everyone, so phone calls are made as I jump into butchery for meat.

If you thought Nerkwo has sweet meet, you have never been to Ng’oswani. I waited for forty five minutes for the goat meat to be ready and when it arrived, I forgot about Onyango and water. It’s the kind of meat that massages your teeth then caresses your tongue. By the time it slides into your gut, you realize that there are goats, and there are Ng’oswani goats. I ask the butcher to pack for me two kilos of the goat meat. Some people in Nairobi need to know people who know where good meat can be found.

I have not seen Onyango or let me say the meat made me forget Onyango.  I am led to a shop where he likes to hang around. The shopkeeper lost his phone recently so he has not yet seen the need of saving Onyango’s phone number again. An opportunity to sieve the people who get into his phone book arose with the loss of his phone. Then suddenly a ten year old boy comes to the shop and he is asked if he has seen Onyango. He immediately recites Onyango’s phone number from the top of his head. Onyango means different things to different people.

I record the number, save it then try to call but he is out of reach. I am directed to Onyango’s house and I soon find myself outide a shack latched from outside but without a padlock. This Onyango man does not represent his name, the house seems to lack anything worth stealing. I walk back to the shop.

I meet a lanky man, smiling at me. He talks to me in good Kiswahili with a faded Maasai accent. Oh yes, I am Onyango he says. The first question I ask is how he got that name. He tells me that he was picked up in the streets of Kisumu and dropped in Ng’oswani by a Good Samaritan. It turns out later that the man has never been to Kisumu.

When we get down to the real work, I find out whay he is called Onyango. He is stronger than the average Maasai and he does a good job. He is proud of his name and for being associated with the Luos. Yet he cannot utter a single Luo word.

I  left Loita plains a happy man. I touched children’s heads in greeting, ate good meet and had an opportunity to speak my broken Maasai. Arejo- Asheh Oleng’ that is just another way of saying, I am saying- thank you very much.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Luo Act vs. Ujaluo

Last week I thought about an old acquaintance, T. Ndede. This man is a thoroughbred. His name was mentioned in ICC proceedings, so he is a serious Luo man. Ndede had an ideal he subscribed to a while back, I am not sure if he still holds onto it. He used to believe there is a way Luos do their thing and he called it- tim Luo, the Luo Act. This is what someone later called The Lifestyle. The other day it popped up from a very unlikely place.

The other day I was in a matatu going to Kitengela. If you are not Kenyan, matatu is that necessary evil you have to board to take you around Nairobi if you are not able to own a second hand Toyota from Japan. Kitengela is a dusty suburb of Nairobi Metropolis. In Kitengela everything is dusty, but that is for another day.

I boarded the matatu somewhere on Mombasa Road and got a front seat next to the driver. I looked for the newspaper on the dashboard but I did not see any. I looked at the man next to me and I did not think much about him. Turning round, my eyes scanned the people behind me. That has become my instincts of late, reading people like book covers.

There was a lady right behind me to the right near the window. Like many Nairobi women, I couldn’t guess her age but her eyes were on a newspaper she was reading. I checked the headline, and then turned again to face in front. Yes I am a Luo and Luos don’t do such things as read other peoples’ newspapers. My phone was at hand to keep me company, from Facebook to Twitter and an occasional WhatsApp text just to poke people.

We passed Imara Daima and approached City Cabannas. This is that place where every Kamba in Kenya has a relative. The driver slowed down. Hell broke loose. I heard shouts behind me- wewe wacha kuibia huyu mama. The lady who I could not guess her age was shocked and lost for words. May be it is because this stranger had just called her- mama (mother). The allegations this man next to the door was making against the man sitting between him and the mama must have shocked her. In normal situations, she would have reacted to being called a mother but things were different. I turned and looked the suspect in the eye, he looked innocent.

The matatu stopped, the lady was still lost for words as she checked her handbag that was wide open. I think she couldn’t even know if anything had been stolen. The man next to me had turned and grabbed the suspect’s collar. There was commotion and more passengers alighted and the matau was now almost empty.

A young man came to our window and started hurling insults at the man next to me. I roll the window up halfway. “Wewe wacha ujaluo, sisi tumeshinda hata serikali.” He said as two others came to back him up. They insulted us and walked away like the government could not do a thing.

I looked at the man next to me, and immediately cought his Bantu accent. So he is not a Luo, we Luos have a way of speaking Kiswahili, his Kiswahili was too good for a Luo man of his stature- but that was still an assumption. The young man who has just walked away has admonished him to desist from Luoism.

I started talking to these two people about the incident. I was now more interested than ever on their tribes. I opted to decode their accents. The lady was definitely a Kikuyu; the man next to me came out a Kamba. I could not get the tribe of the man who busted the thief, as he spoke less after the drama settled so definitely he was not a Luo. According to the ‘highway gang’ these two men, who were not Luos had Luoism.  T. Ndede  came to mind and his tim Luo. So what is UJALUO?

Everything is Big and vulgar in Luo Land

Oh my, don’t joke. If Ndede’s quip is taken literally then it lacks juice. Wait until you were with a fine lady and you met Ndede, woe unto you if she is not conversant with dholuo. “Go and give her the Luo Act” Is all you would hear from him as you parted. It hits you that everything in Luo is big, and can turn vulgar any time. In dholuo, every discussion can end up in sex, including discussing fire and cat fish- kamongo.

Kisumu County should be the Texas of Kenya- Where Everything is Big. Someone told me that unlike other towns, Kisumu has no, “Welcome To Kisumu” billboard as you enter. May be if the County Government has put up some but I doubt, they are living large. If you are travelling from Kericho, Vihiga or Busia, and you want to know you have entered Kisumu, just look at the people walking by the road side.

The moment you see ladies endowed with enough volumes behind them. My cheeky Christian brother (name withheld) will say the Lord has blessed their going out. Then you are in Kisumu County, no need for a billboard. It is said that a Luo man must have bulging biceps. Lack of big arms for men is akin to a Luo woman with a flat behind, it leads to low self esteem.

Say it as it is

Luos speak their mind without fear. We are known to be whistle blowers, so Miguna Miguna was just being a typical Luo peeling his former boss Raila Odinga’s mask. This is the ujaluo these thieves meant when they told the man who sat next to me to shut up. Luos are a democratic people. The government is called piny owacho in dholuo which translates to- the people have spoken. It is in our nature to air our opinions.

Luos are known to love academics. This open mind culture of see it as it is and say it as it is promotes learning and the desire for knowledge.

True Artisans

Your typical best tailor, cobbler, carpenter, and mason may be a Luo but we are more than that. In whatever a Luo does, he will be the fundi. Be it Barrack Obama with words, Oginga Odinga with politics or Philip Ochieng’ with his lexical obsession with the Queens English, we are fundis. Perfection is at the core of Luoism. If that is Ujaluo, I am proudly in.

Luos have taste. Dresscode, furniture or name it. We can dress smart at an affordable cost. When you give a Luo and ‘others’ Ksh. 1,000 each and send them to buy second hand clothes in Gikomba Market, you will notice the difference. It is not about the price, an eye for that good stuff is part of the Luo Act.

But do we say

If you thought Luos hard-line stick to the rules is all about being stubborn, you are wrong. It is our pride that makes us to shun anything that may soil the lifestyle. Pride makes us work hard at what we do; it is the same pride that gives us the guts to tell you off on your face. BUT DO WE SAY.

It is only in Luo land where you can be put off with your wealth. In other areas wealth may be a source of influence but not in Luo Nyanza.

Regardless of what the busted thief meant by- Ujaluo, there is more to the Luo Lifestyle than Raila Odinga, benga music and Gor Mahia.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thanks Heavens, I STAMMER...

I love writing, not because I enjoy it but because I cannot speak as fluently as I would love to, so I write. Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o summarized it for me as quoted above. The irony is I am heckler and I love talking even to strangers. My most fulfilling moments are when I interact with people. Discussing and arguing about anything just for the fun of it. 

My good cousin once said, if only I had not been a stammerer, I would have 'destroyed' the world. Oh yes, and to some extent, he is right. Please don’t visualize me as a goat tethered next to a maize plantation with the rope just one metre to the green leaves, it’s better and more fun than that.

Politician Rachel Shebesh is a handful in the Kenyan social but spare her some slack. I will not defend her; unfortunately I have to start with her but she deserves it. This is October, the month when great people are honoured and the lady is great even if it is only for her looks. October 5th is World Teachers’ Day, World Military Day is on 14th of October and the Breast Cancer Awareness Day is also in October. Mashujaa Day will extend to Monday 21st for Kenyans to honour heroes they care little about.

There are heroes among us who share October 20th celebration with Kenya. These are people who nature has bestowed on a condition that modern medicine is still grappling to find its genesis and cure since the days of Moses. That Levite who was picked as a baby from the bull rashes- the reeds that grows by the river. I dont think the trauma of being dumped made him a stammerer, or I am giving you ideas? Let us leave it at that.  I enjoy reading his arguments with Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, like they say, I feel him.

International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD) is a day observed worldwide to create awareness of a condition that makes people think faster than they can speak. That is the simplest definition I can give it. In other words, we are always done with a statement before we say it.

Rachel Shebesh is the only member of parliament to ever ask about our plight. She asked the then Minister for Health, Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o what his ministry was doing to manage stammering especially in children. I can’t tell where She got her facts which found Prof. Nyong’o clueless (to use Miguna’s catch word), but for that my respect for her will always be a grain higher than the public opinion.

One day some years ago, a short nine year old boy stood in front of the whole school to recite a poem, and as they say, the rest is history. He stumped his foot, slapped his thigh, he even squinted but in the end, no word came out. That is a horrific experience for a nine year old. That boy is me, all grown up now but I will do it again if that teacher asks for volunteers to recite poems again. ISAD is a day my colleagues and I look forward to every year to celebrate such moments.

In secondary school after playing truant on the teacher, he asked to stand in front of the class. The usual stuff that happens in school, to be candid I was drawing the caricature of renowned humourist the late Wahome Mutahi (whispers) which I made sure appeared on all my exercise books. I went and stood, as soon as the teacher turned his back on me, the whole class burst into laughter. I am not a comedian, but my struggles to speak have made some people to chuckle but I always forgive them immediately. I was asked to go to the staff room where I could not utter a single word in my defence. The poor teacher felt sorry for me and let me go. I smiled all the way back to class.

        Albert Einstein and his sister- he also had a stutter- we are bright people!

I will not go into the mechanics of stammering because I don’t know what happens physiologically. All I can say is, it is like an iceberg. What you end up seeing is a tip; beneath it is a huge mass of ice that has baffled scientists for many years. I stutter; that’s a new word? Blame the Americans and their obsession with being unique. The British call it stammering, the American chose stuttering, know what am saying?

In the four primary classifications of personalities, stammerers are primarily introverts by default and melancholic to be specific. What do you do if you suffer from social anxiety disorder? This is the condition where one is conscious that inability to communicate properly is a big deal. It leads to shyness and fear of situations that call for an articulate tongue. Everybody is cautious about meeting new people, initiating small talk, and talking to people in authority. These things are hell to a stammerer.

Now imagine all that, and then God creates you an extrovert. You get where I fall, I am the stammerer who chats matatu (public transport) drivers if I find myself in the front seat. I wonder what they think of me, “wacha kujisumbua na story huwezi bonga.”   That is why I call myself- STUTTISTICIAN and my condition is STUTTISTICS.

You see another aspect of stammerers is creativity. Not by design but for survival. Imagine you have a lot to say but you just can’t say it as well as you would like to. In the end one ends up being a ‘punch-line’ guy. Punch lines are like those advert like taglines. Look at Nokia for instance- ‘connecting people’ is the punch-line. We tend to have a way of simplifying stuff just to cut the long story short but pass the message across.

 I set up this blog and called it Otieno Kenyatta, I think I was tired and bored that day or just trying to fill my minutes with something constructive. After some time I changed the name to “Blocks & Stutts” just from the blues. Blocks is my main mode of stammering, as in “K-K-K-K-K- Kenyatta” the other form is prolongation; “Keeeeeeeenyatta.” Stutts is my rendition of stuttering. A few months later it became “STUTTISTICS” my new name to stuttering. And I became @stuttistician. Are we not a creative lot?

I have grown as a writer, if you read my earlier blogs, you find a lot of “punch lines.” Not any more, I have learnt to avoid cutting the long story short by explaining even the stuff I would avoid in speech. It has been an enjoyable journey speaking to myself for you to read.

Then I joined Nairobi Stammering Support Group a few years ago, I went home and laughed. I am not crazy, I did not laugh out of malice, I had never seen more than two stammerers in a room, so I laughed. The other reason is I felt nice, that there is a place I can go and talk without fear of victimization or being misunderstood. I almost (ROTFL) - Rolled On The Floor laughing- like they say on Twitter.

There are more men than ladies in the group as more men than women stammer. This is one indicator that women are genetically stronger than men. On average they speak more words then men, so from an early age they tend to beat this monster. In my search for information on stammering, I got one I always share with people. Stammerers have a high affinity for substance abuse. These drugs especially alcohol and cigarettes tend to ‘cheat’ you that you are fluent by giving you undue confidence. On the contrary, it worsens the condition.

So October twentieth we are celebrating heroes like me. These people go out and spend hours looking for something just because they are afraid of being judged when they ask. We tend to spend more time lost than ask for directions. We still manage to overcome all these hic-ups (sic) and go about our businesses like any other person.

This October, take time to be patient with anyone who is not as eloquent as he would like to be. We make one percent of every society so you will see one of us near you. Take time to listen, and encourage us to speak. Not all of us are as chatty as I am, so go out of your way and ask us how we are doing. May be we will find out why society use words we cant easily pronounce to describe us; KIGUGUMIZI (Kiswahili) or STUTTERING and many more.

As I wind up, if I woke up tomorrow speaking fluently, I will check in for therapy to cope. It has become part of my identity. Apart from Rachel Shebesh, I will appreciate KISS FM host Carol Mutoko – oh my, we attract drama queens for her support. I think we give drama queens a chance to show their good side. Emma Shah is one sweet soul, no drama, this lady has dedicated her life to work with stammerers, and I envy her patience. Thank you ladies, and the men, it is time you stood out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Men, Women and Something in Between

I love stories, and my hood is one place that gives me good stories every day. I live in Laini Saba, if Laini  Saba cannot register in your mental map smoothly, then  Kibera East should hack it. That makes sense, now you can go ahead and size me into sizes. I love my hood; it is the only hood in Nairobi other than Gigiri with a United Nations office, UN Habitat has its offices here. Before you judge me, a pinch of respect will do some magic.

One of my pass times is touching base with men, politics, football, women and gik ma kamago (that’s the new fad after donge? It means- etc) I will not go into details but the hot story in the media then was of a young man (here called a boy)  who was having carnal passions with a willing lady the age of his mother. The discussion became heated with opinions and sooner men were speaking from the heart.

A man who looked over fifty years old was upset as he shared how he cannot imagine chasing after a woman again to marry at his age. “If someone and especially a boy jokes around with my wife now, I will sort him out.” he said curtly. He looks the emotional type, I conclude to myself and make a point to honour my presence among these older men with silence.

Men don’t gossip, you see what we do is we pick an object, that object might be a person, a car or a movie. Then we discuss it to logical conclusions. This is what we were doing, and the discussions touched the heartstrings of these men. As the youngest, I stood out like a sore thumb in many ways.
Everybody agreed that young men are going for older women, or let’s say older women are going for young men. The chemical equation is in a state of equilibrium. The movement is either way depending on which side finds itself with excess molecules to send into the reaction.

So we discuss how men go about this women thing. To my dismay, these men find it normal, cool and a measure of grandeur to have escapades beyond the matrimonial bed. They tend to happy to give, but to receive the same measure is painful. A case of people applying Christ’s command selfishly; to give is better than to receive and what about ‘do unto others….’

This is a field where most men, especially the masters of it, play as a grand opera- more action and less talk. Men, who brag about their exploits with women, tend to be average at this game. So, I listened keenly as the discussion went on in a way that brought out the good and the bad.

We went back to our object of discussion above; we were discussing him and not gossiping. Everybody agreed that he had his days in the sun with ladies but it is wrong for a woman to play this game to the gallery. Oooh, so these men agree that women are also good at this game but they must do it with dignity. Double standards here, but we are men, as long as my lady does not do it in my face, it can pass.

So, because the men had learned to chase, catch and devour with the finesse of a cheetah and the arrogance of a lioness, women have come out of the box as well. This is where Kibera East is different to many Nairobi suburbs. The men say they know too much information about each other. The environment is not conducive to privacy so it is easy for people to cheat on each other.

But why do men cheat? This man who looked more of a construction site foreman went waxing lyrical. Women are available and they are always ready to give so he can’t sit back and watch. One man who looked shy and out of place, spoke in a soft tone to claim his territory- that is a man thing. According to him, it is curiosity. These women just make you want to explore and find out why they are so mysterious.

So it is all about curiosity, and this is killing the men like the proverbial cat. Talking of cats, men go out on a cat walk as well but here it’s to hunt for women. Ever walked into your house tired and hungry and spotted your cat, not known to you that the canine was belching away the fumes of your left over meal you had saved for dinner. He always looks innocent; I can hurt no fly look. That is how most men look after a detour from their marriage bed.

The domestic cat has a lethal trait. Hell hath no fury like a cornered cat. That is the male equivalent of a woman scorned. So the discussion deviates into many excuses and explanations. It goes back to the point of discussion. The young boy should not have taken his fling with the older woman too far. The woman should not have let the moment of passion carry on for too long.

So to these men from Kibera East, these things happen so the main thing is to manage the saga. There is an old man who clears his throat then backs off again. I look at him, as the only bachelor in this team, they respect me this much to allow me into their chit chat. May be it’s the grey hair I have been acquiring of late, the kind of hair I believe you get if you ever drank “super dip” for juice.

The youngest of the lot who looks shy interjects to send the old man back to his shell. He takes us back to our object of discussion. That man was known to chase ladies all over, his wife is paying in kind. By the way, if I can meet his wife I won’t mind. He adds that, nowadays these women over fifty years of age know how to maintain themselves. Look at Bishop Wanjiru ( Margy) or Esther Passaris. Many others who you wouldn't know are in their late forties look like they barely into their thirties. Mimi ‘nitaongeza chumvi’ and proceed (add salt and eat), he concludes with a tongue in cheek punch line.

The old man seems to have gotten energized. He jumps in when the shy man slows down to take a breath. He speaks quietly, measuring every word as if he wants to hit everyone without hurting them. I adjust myself in my wooden bench space rather subconsciously in anticipation. I rest my elbows on my knees and put my clenched fists below my jaws. He looks interesting.

According to him, old men still think they can run the marathon when they cannot do four hundred metres. This is why many of them are dying in the act after a dose of Viagra to boost their libido. At this point another big shot is brought into the talk and another one who happened to have survived a similar Viagra induced ordeal. Oh God, we-men discuss stuff, but it is not about the people, it is a discussion on Viagra.

The old man manages to wade through the voices of interjectors. The adrenaline has taken over now. He says men should wake up and realize we can’t manage more than one woman and satisfy her fully. Times have changed, the stresses, high expectations drive us up social walls- or do I say social media walls. These pressures send us to chase women to release tension yet we cannot satisfy them.

This man is making sense. “Take it from me, if you chase other women, someone will look after your wife, whether you like it or not.” He says in a hush tone as the atmosphere goes silent. He goes ahead to say that our fathers could manage many wives because there was plenty of good healthy food. Viagra was ingested unknowingly in food in small doses over time. The men never travelled far, they would watch over their wives social and emotional health.

 The expectation was low so men could hack many ladies. Today, it is expensive to have an affair and he went ahead to enumerate as if he is the brains behind Jimmy Gathus ‘piga hesabu’ campaign against extra marital affairs. He added that with little technology in the past, personal contact was a must hence emotional well being.

The old man spoke as the group listened. I could not agree more. If the man thinks he has it all in this game. The woman is empowered; she will go out looking for a substitute. That is wisdom galore, the writer in me has seen a story to pen down. I relax my shoulders, sit up and ask the old man a few questions. In the end I realize, time has changed but the man is stuck in his ways hence most men losing it big time on the family front, worse off losing lives.

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