Pure Madness

My thoughts on the "behind the scenes" of life. You will find inspiration here. Share it generously


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‘Touching Base’

Calling people by their first name is one of the indications of close friendship. When I got an email confirming my trip to ‘Base’, I felt like I was being invited to one of those multilevel marketing meetings where everyone seems happy and as if they’ve known each other for ages.

Since I was in Ukunda which is a few kilometers from Base, I confirmed my attendance as I tried hard to manage my expectations with little success. I have outgrown a couple of things in my life but the excitement of visiting a new place has refused to leave me.

When the cab driver picked me up in the morning I couldn’t hide my excitement so I went on to start a conversation, “What do you know about Base Titanium?” I asked as I ignored an incoming call. (I did not want any distractions at the time – sorry caller).

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The view of one of the Ukunda streets from my taxi. The Tuk tuk is a very popular means of transport here.

Luckily, the cab driver had a lot to say about Base Titanium and how it is benefiting the community by building schools, hospitals, roads and offering many other people employment opportunities. The guy went on and on and I was almost getting irritated because he was preempting my trip. To make matters worse, when we turned into the tarmac road that leads to the company he kept to the speed limit of 60kph! Who does that? There were no other cars in site!

As the driver went on speaking about how the company was helping the community, I zoned out and started focusing on the many road signs. Children crossing, sharp bend ahead… suddenly a 4×4 pick up with its lights on, a siren light on top and a reflective flag appeared from them corner. I hadn’t even opened my mouth to ask about it, the cab driver picked the cue and started talking about the many cars that Base Titanium had and how they had given jobs to many drivers.

I was ready to walk the rest of the way when I spotted huge structures that looked like silos or warehouses ahead. We came to a barrier and one of the guards started to approach the car waving for him to slow down. I could see some trucks in the compound and the huge structures were now fully visible. The guard asked for my ID and demanded to know what I wanted and if I had an appointment. He took my ID and went to talk what sounded like gibberish on the walkie talkie as he inspected the car, my bags even my camera! To be honest I felt like I had come to a ‘mini UN building.’

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Base Titanium Limited checkpoint

The guard came back smiling handed me my ID back and asked his colleague to open the barrier. Toyota should consider adding a sun roof to the small cars they produce. I felt as if I was being denied a basic right by being confined to the front seat. We came to another gate and just like the first one, everyone was in uniform, some reflective clothing on top (no political message at the back) boots and glasses. I felt like I was in the movies and this a “high security facility.”

I paid the driver off quickly because a very inquisitive guard came and stood right next to our car. I was escorted to another room at the gate where my details were taken and my bag confiscated (well, I added that to build drama). But they did ask me if I minded leaving the bag behind to pick it when I was leaving. Unfortunately, the security guys didn’t take my fingerprints. I had prepared an argument inspired by people with questionable character who operate under the motto; “Never let anyone take your finger prints.” Apparently, once they do, you can be tracked by all agencies including FBI, Interpol, KPF (Kenya Police Force – we need a cool name for them) and not forgetting the KMC (Kenya Maroon Commandos – these guys can get a confession out of you by just singing!).

Long story short, there I was seated in a class alone with a bulletin in front me, a visitor’s badge on my polo t-shirt and a pen. I was asked what my shoe size was and I answered hesitantly. After signing that I had read and understood the safety requirement while at Base, I was handed a pair of safety shoes, a reflector jacket, a helmet and protective glasses. I was given a brief safety talk which I suspect was because the lady realized that I was too excited to read the entire bulletin. I was asked if I had any questions and even though I had many, I decided to follow the instructions from The Good Book, ‘…even a fool is considered wise when he is quiet…’ I was asked to buckle up even though we were only driving to the next block.

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My chaperones at Base, Simon (right) and Martin.

Eventually, the fun bit begun! I got into one of the pickups with siren light and a reflective flag. Simon Wall the External Affairs Manager and Martin Macharia, the Communications Consultant introduced themselves and pointed out they would give me a brief introduction into Base Titanium and what they do. They also mentioned that the golf clubs in the bag at the bag were not part of any safety requirements. I had already started wondering what kind of mining they do here.

I soon understood why most of the vehicles needed to be 4x4s. We had to navigate through a lot of mud and at times I stopped listening to Simon because I was sure we’d get stuck but Simon casually engaged the four-wheel drive every now and then without losing focus of what he was saying. A successful case of men multitasking.

When we finally got to the mine and Simon showed me the multi-million mining equipment, I was so disappointed! After going through all that safety precaution there were no explosions, no tunnels or underground carriages not even big guys covered in grease. Seeing my disappointment, Simon drew my attention to a huge dozer that was pushing soil into a conveyor unit that mixed the soil with water and poured it into huge pipes.  The pipes then carried the soil to another plant for further processing. That’s where all “the magic” happens.

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The Dozer Mining Unit (DMU) one of the multi-million mining equipment at Base.

As we moved to other parts of the mine, I couldn’t help but notice there was no noise, no thick smoke or residue hanging on nearby trees to be honest I did not see any environmental pollution. Maybe the movies had brainwashed me on what a mine was hence my expectations. Simon and Martin explained the whole process of mining as we moved to different parts of the mine including a dam that provided water for mining operations. I also got to see how they rehabilitate the mine so that it can be used for other purposes in future.

Truth be told, there is a lot that is happening up there that is more impressive than the machines, security and safety procedures. I found a group of interns being inducted and interesting enough they are not from the high and mighty campuses in the country. For every staff I met, I knew a family was being fed. I saw a school that Base has rehabilitated and heard many other things they are doing for the community. One company cannot solve all the problems of a county but Base is doing something. The enthusiasm of its staff tells it all!

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An 8.3 Million cubic meter dam built by Base Titanium Ltd. to provide water to the mining operations. The dam also holds rain water significantly reducing the risk of floods and ensures the community has a constant supply for their domestic use.

After unwillingly handing back my safety gear, I decided to use public means back to Ukunda and the security guys were kind enough to call for me a boda boda to take me to the main road. My boda boda guy however was not enthusiastic about Base at all. He complained that it’s not giving enough jobs and building schools and hospitals was not good enough. According to the boda boda guy Base should focus on giving the community more jobs. He even said that the locals employed by Base were the ones hindering the employment of other locals. How sad. Misinformation is such a bad disease. I asked him where he would be operating from if Base hadn’t built the road we were using and he casually answered that the government would have built one. I guess the national government would also bring him clients like myself daily.

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My ride from Base. This boda boda rider had quite a lot to say about the mining company.

I resolved to plan and go back to Base for a complete tour hoping that this time I can fully digest what they are doing up there and maybe this time hitch a ride on one of the multi-million dozers. I’m sure the driver would have better stories than the boda boda guy.


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Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

I don’t know at what point in your life this letter finds you but I hope you are well. There are so many things that have happened to me, to you that I thought you should know. Some of it may not be pleasant to hear but I will tell you anyway.

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Love, what better place to start. I wish I could tell you that this will be an easy journey for you. I wish I could tell you that your heart will never be broken and that you will have the perfect love experience. Unfortunately, this is the one lesson that you will learn for the rest of your life. Your heart will be broken a couple of times and you too will break a couple of hearts which will break your heart even more.

Please learn from your heartbreaks. They will not only teach you something about other people but more importantly something about you that you would never have learnt any other way. Be careful not to keep your heart too guarded in fear that it might be broken, that you miss a chance to experience real love. You will experience real love but not before you experience real heartache.

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You trust easily and always see the best in people. This will get you many friends who will make your life comfortable and bearable. You will also meet people who will pretend to be your friends only to take advantage of you. They will abuse your trust and will take you for granted. Yes the world has such people. Never second guess goodwill. Do your best and be on your way. I’m sure grandma has already told you to never stop doing good?

Always be kind. Never be too busy to stop and give someone else a hand. You may never get rewarded for it but it will keep your heart warm and alive. Be careful what you say to others. You can never undo the damage of a careless word. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Even the Bible tells you that a foolish person is considered wise when they keep quiet.

Give without expecting anything in return. You will soon learn that in many occasions you will only have enough for yourself. Let that not stop you from giving. Like kindness, you may never see the fruit of your giving but give anyway. Hoarding will only make your heart cold so be generous not only with your money but also with your time.

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I know mum keeps telling you to work hard so that you can be successful and make money to buy whatever you want. Sadly it doesn’t always work like that. You will work hard for many years with little or no pay at all. That does not mean you are not successful. Learn to measure your success in terms of milestones. Money is not the true measure of success. You may want to read that last line again.

When given a task whether big or small, do it to the best of your ability. Whatever you set your mind to do give it your all. Be careful not to do anything for the accolades. Applause is good but it can be deceiving; if you get used to it, it will soon become a crutch. When you give your all whether anyone notices or not you will be happy with yourself and that surpasses any compliment anyone else will ever give you.

Failure and disappointment. Oh boy, this will be a difficult one. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to fail or even try more than once! Failure is painful and you will experience it more times than you would want to. Don’t let it keep you down. Get up and try again. Learn to embrace disappointments as a part of life. Not everything will always go your way.

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You will apply for job positions that you think you are best suited for and not make the cut. You will start relationships that will look hopeful only to end painfully. You will expect your friends and family to support you in a difficult time only to be disappointed. Life itself will slap you with a fair share of disappointments like death and disease. When this happens remember I told you “it’s not the end, a better day will come”. Never give up

Never take credit for someone else’s work. Give credit where it’s due. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell someone when they do something good. Empower others by teaching them to do what you have already learnt. Never hide knowledge from someone else. Show them to do it until they can do it on their own.

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If you forget anything that I tell you please remember this; never turn a blind eye to injustice. Teach yourself to stand up for the truth no matter the cost. Speak out if it’s all you can do, it’s more than enough. Even if you find yourself alone, speak out against any form of injustice. As a country, we are currently paying the heavy price of keeping quiet and looking the other way. We allowed our own selfishness to keep us from speaking out against selfishness of others. You can change that. You can refuse to hide your head in the sand, you can choose to be unpopular and uncool. Whatever it takes, do not let corruption become normal to you.

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Many lives including your own depend on your ability to stand up for what is right. Don’t be quiet dear Younger Me. Don’t be quiet.

 

Yours Truly,

Older You.

 

 

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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#PinkShujaas

What breaks your heart? What makes your eyes well up with tears? What makes you take that deep sigh of helplessness? For me, it’s knowing someone genuinely needs help but there is nothing I can do. This explains why I love superhero movies; normal human beings going about their day to day activities, often unpopular (unsung) and unsuccessful but that’s not all there is to them.

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Growing up, I learnt a habit that I have not been able to detach from 20 years on. When my mother passed on, I felt helpless and vulnerable. I had many questions. The one question that refused to go away was, “What could I have done to save her?” This question was persistent and intrusive. For the next many years I learnt to play in mind different scenarios of what I would do if I had super powers.

This is the same feeling I get every time I hear that someone is battling cancer. I feel helpless and it makes me wish I had some super powers that would somehow get rid of cancer forever! To say the truth, I wish I had superpowers to equip our hospitals with not just equipment but also the resources required to eradicate the hopelessness that comes with disease.

I wish I had superpowers to develop “a hope pill” that would make patients believe that a better day would come. That they would recover fully. I wish I had an injection that helped patients “catch up” with what they “missed out on” when they were unwell. I really wish I had superpowers. Sigh.

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This month, I celebrate men, women and children who in my mind and heart are the real the superheroes; cancer patients. My heart literally collapses when I think about the life a person, whether an adult or child, battling cancer. The emotions, the pain, the costs, the effect of the disease on family; how can anyone have the strength to go through all that and still have inner strength to believe in better days? These are truly superheroes living among us.

Have you ever stopped for a minute to put yourself in the shoes of a person who wakes up one morning ready to go about with their normal day only to find there is “something off” with their body? Imagine what they feel when they leave the hospital having been told they have cancer. Imagine how they feel when they have to break the news to their spouses, their children and their family.

What goes on in their minds when they realize they don’t have enough money for treatment? What goes on in their hearts when they have to deal with the possibility of not making it out alive? How do they feel when they have to access resources they had saved for their children? How do parents feel when they have to be taken care of by their children who in their eyes should be living out their own dreams? How do children feel when their parents use all their retirement savings to pay for the treatment?

There is so much that goes on in the lives of people who are or have battled cancer. We can never comprehend how they feel no matter how articulately someone shares their experience. Whether it’s a story of pain and uncertainty or its one of hope and survival, to many of us they remain just that, stories. To the people who go through these experiences, it’s a part of life that they will have to carry for the rest of their lives. The pain, the cost, fears, the hopes, the disappointments, the regrets, the lessons, the faith the doubts and the wishes; no amount of words will ever capture what that experience meant and still means to them.

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For the rest of us, even though we cannot fathom what it means to battle with cancer, we can support families that are. Definitely financial support would go a long way but support should not be limited to finances alone. Emotional and social support is as important as the finances. So this month take time to step out and support someone or a family that is battling with cancer. Your support, little as it may seem will go a long way.

To our #PinkShujaas we honor and celebrate you.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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You; The Bestseller

They are both on top of their worlds. She always seems to be the center of attention when she is with her girls and he, he is known to make friends so easily that he can chat up a statue. People often call them the life of the party and they don’t mind the attention. They are both known for their generosity. It’s part of who they are. They are confident and thrive in any environment whether in crowds or small groups. They are outgoing and social. They have an opinion but they always try to accommodate others and so they will always strive for a win-win.

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I am not a fan of interviews. It’s an environment that is often full of tension and high anticipation. Everything in that room seems like a test. The glass of water in front of you, the pen and note book on the desk even normal regular greetings always sound different. I personally don’t appreciate the question “Tell us about yourself?” I know I have lived with myself for all those years but every time I am asked this question I always feel as if I don’t know myself or I am lying about who I am.

I keep getting worried about the many bestselling books about “me” that are out there. How do they know me and why am I not the author of these books if they are about me? They tell me about becoming a better me (who said I need upgrading). They are ready to tell me about the best activities for me, the best career, the best diet, the best exercise and even the best spouse. As if that’s not enough, these books will then crown it all by telling me I how unique I am, a special order and the only model ever released by my manufacturer.

I always enjoy seeing babies discover the mirror. Naturally, girls seem to have a liking to the mirror than boys. It’s not strange to find a girl attempting to apply makeup or having an intense conversation with her twin in the mirror. These “mirror-tendencies” continue to develop as she ages and more time is dedicated every day to refer to the person on the mirror. As they grow up they seem to learn how to spot their reflection anywhere, wood, stone, mud you name it and a lady will see her reflection on it and adjust whatever she deems appropriate. .

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What I don’t understand about us humans is that even after living with ourselves that long and even after knowing what our “selling points” are, we still listen and value what others say about us.  The Bible talks about a person who looks at themselves on the mirror only to walk away and forget what they saw. Our society is highly sensationalized on what other people think. Our spending habits are often influenced by fads and trends. We even have TV programmes that discuss how prominent people dressed.

In the end, we suffer from identity crisis due to the many messages that bombard us and dictate the kind of person we should be. The light skinned feel they are not light enough and the dark skinned feel they are not dark enough. The plus-size women are celebrated for certain features while the slender ones end up being anorexic in a bid to remain a certain size why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Men, both young and old alike are not spared either. The TDH (Tall Dark and Handsome) syndrome seems to haunt many of us. That’s not all, you need to have certain well-formed abs and muscles. Beyond the body you need to dress in a certain way, groom yourself in a certain way, hangout in certain “joints” and with certain people, drive certain cars, drink certain drinks, live in certain neighborhoods, come from certain communities, talk in a certain way and even date a certain type of woman.

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Is there a place for you and I outside these “certain criteria’ What would happen if you and I were comfortable being who we are as opposed to trying to fit in? How can we ever bring ourselves to stand up and fight for others if we don’t know how to stand up to fight for ourselves first? The fight to save the world must begin with fighting to redeem ourselves from the cells of criteria and opinion. If we can accept and celebrate our own diversities, preferences and opinions, then we will accept the differences we see in others.

We all desire our children to grow up to be “great people” who will do amazing things for their generation but even before they can conquer those battle fronts, they will need to conquer their own battles to remain true to themselves first. Are you fighting yourself or for yourself?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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20 Years Later and Death Still Hurts As Much

It was August 27th 1995; we were in school for remedial tuition. I was called from class by Mrs. Wang’ombe. This was not strange since I was the class prefect and it was common for teachers especially my favorite (Miss Carol), to call and send me out of school over lunch.

Guess who that sweet baby is...

Guess who that sweet baby is…

Something was different though. I could feel it. Mrs. Wang’ombe told me I needed to go see Mrs. Mathenge who lived near the school. She asked me to make sure everything was in order before leaving. As I walked to Mrs.Mathenge’s   I thought about many childish things but I never anticipated what I was about to be told.

I found Mrs. Mathenge waiting for me at her house. She started with some chit chat about how big my dog had become (a German shepherd I gave her since my mum would not let me keep it). Her eyes were blood shot red. I could tell she had been crying for a very long time. After trying to make me as comfortable as possible she finally gathered the courage to say it.

The entire world sunk. I became numb and every second seemed like a hundred years. I stared blankly at Mrs. Mathenge as she moved closer to where I was seated. She started crying and that’s when everything sped back to normal. I wailed heavily and from the heart. “You are a man Githaiga and you need to be strong for your sisters,” she said. At that point my tears dried up instantly and I never shed another tear until the day of the burial.

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

The last time I saw her, I was out playing with my friends. I saw my uncles walking her to the car and I dashed to say hi. “I am fine,” she said. “Go back and play, I will be back in no time. Please behave yourself. OK?” and she got into the car and they drove off. I went on to play. Everything would be OK. I was so wrong.

Mrs. Margaret Waihuni Njuguna was a woman I loved deeply. Even though I denounced her as my mother a million times, I loved her. Mrs. Waihuini was unpredictable. She was the love and terror in equal measure. She would switch between both characters anywhere and in a second. I seemed to provoke the terror side more than anyone else.

Mrs. Waihuini loved her family and especially her mother. Mrs. Waruguru Githaiga was the world to my mother and when she passed on my mother evidently lost her zeal and vigor. She was never the same again.  She had lost her source of inspiration. It’s like all she wanted was to go be with her mum. God granted her wish a few months later.

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

I lost the two most important women in my life at that time. My mother gave me over to my grandmother when I was a young boy. My grandmother ceasing the chance tried to take me to a local school but I couldn’t learn in the language they were using and so I refused to go back. I got my stubbornness from these two women.

My mother’s death was not painful until four years later when I finally cracked. It soon dawned on me that I was always too busy trying to be a man that I forgot to mourn her. I became bitter at the world for robbing me of my mother; my life, my everything. I was even more bitter at God because of not doing everything in His power to stop death from taking my mother.

What kind of a God can’t stop death? What kind of good God allows bad things to happen good people? Why would He take both of my parents when they world had billions of people he could take. What made it even worse was that “His people” said the wrong things in an attempt to console my sister and I. “She is in a better place”, “We loved her but God loved her more”, “She is watching over you from up there. “Though meaning well, these statements came back to haunt me four years later and I was furious because God seemed to have told everyone else about my mother’s departure apart from me.

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

When my mum died, my world ended. I was convinced that life wouldn’t go on. I believed that was the end of time as I understood it. I stopped dreaming unless the dream was about being with my mother. I hid my heart from hope and from faith. Nothing was worth holding on to. Moving to Nairobi made things worse because I was constantly reminded that I am in Nairobi because my mother was not around.

It’s been 20 years since my mother passed on. I have lived longer without her, something I never thought possible. Even though every now and then I miss her, I have learnt to live with the scars of her absence. Death of a loved one is a language that is unique to an individual but it’s the most painful experience anyone can ever go through. It only gets worse with the unanswered questions, the missed opportunities, and the ‘if onlys’ continue to haunt us long after the world has moved on.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

I scoff at people who demand that we “move on.” Yes our lives must go on and they eventually do but if we are honest enough we will admit that we left a huge part of us “back there.” All the same the longer we live; the pain becomes part of us enough to be bearable. We learn to see the benefits of being alive. God grants us “better moments” every now and then like finding love, fulfilling our dreams, having our own family, being a source of hope to someone else or making a difference in other people’s lives.

But the more “better moments” we get, the more we wish our departed ones were here to be part of the stories they inspired. It’s been 20 years since I got to the end of the road. God has been gracious to give me many “better moments” including surviving a snake bite and life continues to surprise me every day. My mother’s corrections and affirmations continue to influence the kind of person I am today.

For everyone who is still asking the questions. There is nothing wrong with you. There is no expiry date to missing someone who passed on. One day, twenty or so years from now your “better moments” will creep up on you and warm your once frozen heart.

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago. Do not look at the feet.

Hope.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Lessons from the Land of ‘Injera’.

#SomeoneTellEthiopians thank you for the many lessons they taught me for the short time was in Addis. When I left Kenya for Addis Ababa, there were two things I was told to look out for; spices in food because of my sensitive stomach and the beautiful ladies because of my curious eyes. Neither the ladies nor my stomach disappointed.

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It was rather easy to identify me as a foreigner the first few days and for obvious reasons. I was clearly disturbed by the beauty in Addis. Thank God for a friend who affirmed my seemingly rude and remote behavior by confirming that my reaction was not unique and that soon, I too would get used to the beauty. I never thought that was possible.

Beauty was not my only disorientation. In Addis, vehicles keep right and they are all left hand driven. I cannot even count the number of times I almost got knocked down because I crossed the road looking in the wrong direction. Something else that I could not get my head around was the number of big hotels in Addis. Maybe it’s because it hosts the African Union headquarters but hotels in Addis could very well be what exhibition shops are in Nairobi. (Exaggerations mine)

It was easy to identify that Ethiopian businessmen and businesswomen are not as aggressive as their counterparts here in Kenya. I walked into shops and restaurants where the attendants just looked at me from the comfort of their counters waiting until I called out to respond. Orders were forgotten a couple of times and even took longer to be served. We actually had to walk out of some shops because the attendant did not seem as if they wanted business that day.

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The transport industry is very similar to the Kenyan one even though the PSVs and taxis in Addis are quite old. PSVs in Addis still carry excess passengers and are driven recklessly. I still feel Kenyan PSVs are still leading in recklessness and unruly road etiquette. Ethiopia might soon catch up.

The most impressive thing about Addis was how much Ethiopians love their culture. From their food, coffee, music and dressing, it was evident that Ethiopians are proud of their culture. Coming from Kenya where we have different types of food to Addis where ‘Injera’ (Ethiopian national food made from teff flour) is served daily, it took me a while to adjust. Ethiopians love to have a cup of coffee after their meal. This is not the sachet coffee that Nairobi hotels whip up when you order. Its well brewed fine tasting coffee. I don’t like coffee because it give me heartburn but the coffee in Addis is so good that it was irresistible.(I never got a heartburn.)

Ethiopians love their music! You will hear it everywhere. What was even more surprising was how much they enjoyed listening to other Ethiopian communities’ music. I have to say, even though their music eventually grows on you, there are no adequate dancing styles to their songs. For Ethiopians, the mid-section of their bodies are seriously underutilized unlike in Kenya where every part of the body moves with more special emphasis on the waist line. Ethiopians dance a lot with their head, shoulders and feet. I felt as if I was in an aerobics studio each time I got up to dance to Ethiopian music.

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Even though there are over 7 different tribes in Ethiopia, they seldom describe each other on tribal affiliation. They don’t have demeaning jokes about each other’s cultures. To them, they are one even though they are quick to admit that the ‘tribalism venom’ is beginning to creep up on them. It is very easy to assume that Ethiopians are a single culture and tribe community because they coexist so well.

I love my country Kenya. It’s a beautiful country with very rich cultures but it’s not until I saw how Ethiopians promote their culture that I realized how much we have lost in the name of modernization. There are many cultural centers across Addis where different Ethiopian communities sing and dance as they eat injera with other accompaniments including raw meat. The audience in these places – foreigners and Ethiopians alike enjoy these acts.

Ethiopia provoked me. I was inspired by the national identity the citizenry has and are proud of. They are not busy trying to keep up with the West. They try to make what they have work best for them. Ethiopians however, do have a long way to go when it comes to political, governance and freedom of expression issues. Kenya on the other hand has a long way to go to build believe and sell its own brand to the world. We have more than 42 reasons to believe in Kenya. Today, all that tourists want to see when they come to Kenya, is a Maasai Moran – and so many other communities are learning to masquerade as Maasai Morans.

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Who are we as Kenyans apart from people living in Kenya? What are the more than 42 reasons why any tourist would leave their country to come to Kenya? Better yet, what are the more than 42 reasons that you and I are proud to be Kenyans? We almost “lost” a couple of intellectual properties that we have always thought were uniquely Kenyan (Kikoy, Kiondo, Shuka etc). How much more do we need to lose before we, like the Ethiopians find what works for us as a country?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Get In the Kitchen

I often consider myself a good cook. I don’t know how to make fancy food but I can put together a burnt offering that tastes better than my friend Dj Soxxy. If you grew up as the only boy in your family you will agree with me that there are a few “traits” that you pick up either by force or willingly both of which are for your own piece of mind. Soxxy and I grew up as the only boys in our families. This meant that we had to learn a lot more than just kitchen stuff.

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Briefing from the professional.

In our home the kitchen and dining were “holy places”. We learnt early enough to take our plates to the kitchen after eating. Actually, you were not supposed to leave the dining table until you had swallowed your food. Talking with food in your mouth would easily land you a slap heavy enough to make you choke. No matter how late you were or what you needed to do urgently, my mother always operated on the principle “No balloons” which meant bite only what you could chew.

Beyond the kitchen, proper toilet use proved to be a difficult lesson for me. My mother made me clean the toilet every time I “missed the mark.” If by mistake I did not “shake well after use” especially because I was in a hurry to go out and play, I had to wash my shorts – an activity that was often accompanied by tears. Like most boys the first stop when you got back to the house had to be the bathroom. Sometimes you had to remove everything and still tip toe to the bathroom. If you never went through these critical steps of growth you need a refund because you never maximized your childhood.

There were two things that I was ordered never to play with. You need to understand that back then when your mother told you not do something she was not testing your knowledge of your rights as a human being. “My mother said No” was the most valid reason you could give and not have a re-battle. It was ultimate. So my mother in reasons best known to her as a mother declared from the roof top, “Thou in thine right mind or otherwise shalt not play with fire or a knife, for if you do you shall surely die and it’s not because you will hurt yourself. Far be it from you oh ye foolish son that I bore to be tempted to play with fire and/or knives.”

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Take 1!

So for a long time the kitchen was a place I was sent to wash dishes (I must have washed our knives with fear and trembling lest they tempt my curious mind). It goes without saying that the devil (who else) managed to tempt me to play with both and death has never seemed so real. The first aid I got was not medical. Eventually all these don’ts about the kitchen made me curious and so today there are few Kenyan meals I cannot cook. If that feels like a brag it very well could be. Top on my ‘to learn’ list was Chapati, until recently when the doctor banned wheat products from my diet.

I therefore don’t understand what got into Dj Soxxy to nominate me to compete with him on the popular K24 TV show Get in the Kitchen. I will not spoil the surprise for you. Watch the show on Tuesday at 8pm to find out who won. Let me also put it out there that Soxxy isn’t as fat friendly as I am. We can deduce a lot from just that. I highly advise against pitying him because of not being fat friendly. While at it, please remember the adage that says, ‘Never trust a skinny chef.’

That said, being on Get in the Kitchen was an awesome experience for all of us. It made me appreciate the effort that goes into that room every day. It is sad that we seldom appreciate the process (cooking) as much as we do the product (food). We have been told that kitchen is no place for men; I beg to differ. From the time we started to prepare what we would cook, it was obvious how many utensils we used to make a single meal. Luckily for us, we were having fun so we enjoyed ourselves as we cooked.

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Take 45!

Get in the Kitchen made me realize why my mother would get so offended when I said I did not feel like eating after she had worked tirelessly in the kitchen to put something together for me. Being a single mum, she must have worked hard to make enough to buy the food. She then had to make sure she was home in time to prepare the food for me. Regardless of how bad her day was, it never reflected on her food. My sisters learnt to cook early in their lives but when they were in school my mother made sure I had a great home cooked meal every day.

Cooking isn’t just about preparing food, it’s about planning and cleaning after. It’s about knowing way ahead what you want to achieve even before you start. You also have to factor in how to balance your meal. . When preparing the food itself you have to think about timing and when to add the ingredients. You consider the heat, the amount of water, the time, the portions and how best to present the food.

Cheering Squad!

Cheering Squad!

There are many injuries that occur in the kitchen as Soxxy found out. There are times when the food does not turn out how you wanted it to. Sometimes you are not even in the mood to cook while other times all you want is a well prepared meal by someone else. I know our culture emphasizes that there is no space for the man in kitchen but until you get into the kitchen, you will always take food preparation for granted.

As men, there is a lot that we can do in the kitchen beyond tasting if the meat is ready. If we never do anything else, we can at least get into the kitchen to keep our mothers, sisters, wives and Daughters Company. We can beat our chest as much as we want, we can complain about eating bad food or the same food for years but until you get into the kitchen we may never really understand what it means to have a good meal.

Guess who prepared this meal!

Guess who prepared this meal!

So before you complain about that meal, take time to appreciate the effort the person who prepared it for you put in. Even the simplest of foods takes effort and time to prepare so once in a while, it would be nice if you and I actually got in the kitchen whether as tourists, first aiders, motivational speakers, casual workers, chefs, messengers, spies, investigative journalists, plumbers, friends or simply as fathers, husbands brothers or sons who want to give the ones we love a hand. Gentlemen, let’s Get In The Kitchen!

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru