Pure Madness

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


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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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#MakeItHappen

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March. Women in Kenya have come a long way. Growing up, there are so many things that a boy child will get away with that a girl won’t. While boys are out taking risks, breaking bones, playing in the mud, falling off trees, rolling inside tyres, skinny dipping, getting home after dark and leaving early the next day before sunrise for more adventure, the girl is at home. “Safe.”

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Where is the girl, when the boy is creating, destroying and rebuilding stuff? Where is the girl when the boy is learning how it feels to be celebrated when he scores for his team?  Where is the girl when the boy is learning to trust himself as he learns to ride his friends’ bike? Where is the girl when the boy is learning to take risks? She is at home. “Safe”.

Behave like a girl. So they say. A girl is clean and tidy. A girl does not climb on trees or ride bikes. A girl does not sit like that or talk like that. Don’t slouch walk upright, like a girl. What kind of a girl comes home “looking like a boy?” A girl does not play with boys. No, they are not to be trusted. They are always up to no good those boys.

Go wash the dishes and when you are done, please tidy up your brother’s room. You know how irresponsible he is (as if cleaning his room for him will somehow make him more responsible.) Set the table, clear it and make your father some tea, you know how he likes it before he goes to bed. It’s almost dark go call your brother (and he better not touch anything before he showers am sure he looks like a squirrel.)That marks the life of a girl’s childhood.

Sadly, even after spending a lot of time around her mother, the next phase of her life catches them both by surprise.Periods, cramps, mood swings and major body adjustments. No one prepares her for the changes. She eventually learns the hard way; on her own. Meanwhile the boy will only get a few pimples here and there, break their voices and just like the girls, hair may appear in “unlikely places.”

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Soon after, the girl,now a lady leaves her parents’ home gets a job, gets married, becomes a wife and shortly after, a mother. This means more changes to her name, her body (her skin, her weight, her nails, her hair) her health (blood pressure, dizziness, fainting) her moods, her emotions, her lifestyle and her responsibilities. A few more years and she is the one yelling, “Act like a girl!”

You would be forgiven to think that’s all the woman goes through. Another change happens – Menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, increased irritability, insomnia (and not because the husband sleeps so well that he snores), depression, decreased libido, weight gain among other changes. All these changes take place while life demands that she still fulfills her other responsibilities as a wife, mother, daughter, employer/employee, sister, friend, citizen not forgetting herself and the things she likes.

That’s not all that most women go through. Most women will be robbed the opportunity to get a good education, make an informed decision about their career, family planning and civic responsibilities like voting. Girls will undergo Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM-C), while others will be married off at early age. Their chance for a better future will be traded for a few goats. They will walk miles and miles to fetch us water, lack adequate maternal healthcare, work tirelessly in our farms, sleep late and wake up early to make sure everyone else is ready and has what they need for their day.

Every man will tell you; say what you want about my father or anyone else but if you mention my mother, be sure blood will be spilt. Every man is overprotective of his wife, sisters and daughters. But our country is still not safe for our women. Why is a society that is nurtured and brought up predominantly by women, still so insecure and a threat to the same women to the point of causing them harm?

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We can never bear the responsibilities that women do but surely, we can support them and champion them to greatness. It’s our turn as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons to encourage the women to step up and step out. To pursue their dreams as we did ours. It’s our turn to give back.

You can buy her a mansion and employ subordinate staff for her so that she never has to move a muscle. You can take her for a holiday around the world. That’s not even a privilege in comparison to what mothers sacrifice for their children. We can never give back what they have given. But there is something we can do. There must be. We can empower them.

The greatest myth buster is for us men to fight for equal opportunities for women. To judge them based on skill and ability as opposed to gender. If we can entrust them with a family, we can entrust them with a community. If we can entrust them with a community we can entrust them with a country. What else should women do to prove that they can lead? Yet we let them down year in, year out.

Men, it’s our turn to #MakeItHappen for our women. Our actions, more than our voices, need to be heard now more than ever. FGM would be a thing of the past if men said so, early marriages, teenage pregnancies and girls dropping out of school would be a tale if men wanted it to be. Crimes against women including rape and violence against women would be unheard of if men chose to stand up for women.

Surely the time has come. It’s our turn to nurture and support the women. There is nothing weak or cowardly about that. On the contrary, it’s a sign of strength and courage to stand up for someone else. Giving women the opportunity to be great is more than a right or a privilege. It is an honor! We can start the change and form a new culture for generations after us.

You and I can #MakeItHappen. Have an inspired International Women’s Day.

Edited by: Wanjiku Kimaru


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Theory of Change (ToC)

Where are you today? Are you on a specific path to a specific destination or are you on the road that leads somewhere, anywhere, nowhere? Do you actually know where you are going? Yes your dreams are valid but are you doing anything to actualize those valid dreams? How will you know when you get “there”? Are you so busy trying to achieve your dream that you won’t know when you actually achieve it?

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The Theory of Change (ToC) as I am learning, is defined as a pathway or a process of activities that need to happen for one to achieve a certain goal. It’s a nice lesson to learn at the beginning of the year before my new year resolution becomes remembering what they were in the first place. The Theory of Change has made me ask a lot of questions and not just about my work but also about my personal life.

This Theory of Change demands that I dash to finish line before I even start the race. It demands that I “see” the home before I even the building starts. I have to see everything that is happening right now with the end in mind. I cannot be too caught up with sideshows and present delights. I am on a journey; a return trip. My Theory of Change malfunctions when I stall.

Life has a way of distracting us. It has a way of whispering misleading sentiments and blurring our vision. Sadly, we are often derailed too quickly. We give up as soon as the first huddle shows up. We quit the race because the pace setter was too fast. The moment discomfort and pain checked in, we checked out. We lost sight of our goal.

As my instructor would put it, the Theory of Change basically means; End first, then work backwards asking yourself, how do I get “there”? Is this getting me “there”? Am I still headed “there”? Why am I not “there” yet? What do I need to change to get “there”? Who do I need to get me “there”? Who is already “there” that can help me get “there”? Am I closer “there” today than I was last year? Have I forgotten where “there” is?

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Wouldn’t it be nice if our schools had a definite Theory of Change? That from the time we first entered a classroom we knew where we were going, how we were to get there and what would get us there. The subjects we chose, the sports we played, the extra curricula activities we engaged in etc. For me, my school life felt as if the only place that I needed to go was “Number one”. No matter how hard I tried, I never got there and so I resigned quite early, to the fact that I would never get “there”.

How I wish “they” told me that was not the goal of going to school. I left school never having come close to “there” (Number one). Unfortunately, my parents never saw or validated my other strengths; the people skills I had or the interest in certain sports. They never saw how organized I was or creative. They did not see how I loved interacting with people or how I loved helping around the house and making people laugh. They just saw how far from “there” (Number one) I was. So I too ignored “all that unimportant stuff”.

In an attempt to motivate me, my parents used comparisons, and “why can’t you be like so and so’s”). So I grew up envious of other peoples “there” while mine was left unexplored. Eventually, I quit trying, I was called hard headed and stubborn and lazy. Teachers who were meant to help me discover my “there” unfortunately didn’t know any better.

If only someone had taught me The Theory of Change; knowing what I want and then working my way FROM there. I would never have compared myself to another soul. I would have celebrated being me. I would have easily identified activities that would lead me to “my there” and not “everyones there”.

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Our country has suffered a lot from “the lack of Theory of Change condition”. Look at our leaders. It seems as if for them, “their there” is the particular office they currently occupy and not service delivery to the people. Look at our etiquette on the roads or our conversations on social media. We don’t care about the consequences of our actions.  Our cultures have not taught us to value our “individual theres” while still working towards a “common there”. As a result intolerance among communities continues to thrive.

As we discover and explore our individual Theories of Change, a greater need exists for the President and all the other leaders to not only formulate, but also role model a common Theory of Change. Every government should make known to its citizens where the country will be in five years. The oppositions work shouldn’t be to oppose government, but to keep the government in check based on the goals it set for the country and to ensure that its stays on track. Our school curriculum should be evaluated to see if it provides a clear Theory of Change for students.

You and I have our individual Theories of Change but we should also in our own way implement our share of the governments Theory of Change. If we buy into the country’s overall Theory of Change, we will keep ourselves in check and we will ensure areas that are under our influence are at par with the National Theory of Change. This way, it won’t be long before vices like negative ethnicity, corruption and insecurity become a thing of the past.

What is your Theory of Change? Do you know your goal and are the activities you are involved in now helping you to get “there” – to your goal?