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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The Heart Ruin Run

I had not planned to attend the Mater Heart Run this year but Mr and Mrs Soxxy “coerced” me to sign up and buy the tshirt. After that there was no turning back. I had a week or so to get in shape and if you are like me and your CBD (tummy) has not been devolved yet, then you know walking or running can be quite a task. (Children, stay away from bacon it’s not from heaven.) I also managed to drag along my girlfriend Ciku hoping she would offer the much needed moral support.

Photo courtesy of @DjSoxxy

Photo courtesy of @DjSoxxy

The “run” (herein forthwith referred to as “walk”) started at around 9am. The turnout was great as the entire Nyayo stadium was painted green. In fact you couldn’t get into the stadium without having bought the t-shirt. I had an issue with that especially because you cannot force people to give to a worthy cause. That is a story for another day. To mark the beginning of our worthwhile venture we took a selfie.

Photo courest of @DjSoxxy

Photo courest of @DjSoxxy

It always feels nice and sort of rebellious to walk in the middle of road. I know that seems vain in comparison to what others do in the name of rebellion but I admit I was very tempted to start yelling “Haki yetu”! At the Uhuru Highway and Haile Selassie Avenue roundabout you could only see hundreds of green t-shirts. Most of us may have misread the objectives of the event because we never saw a single person running.

It was a beautiful sight to see children as small as three years walking hand in hand with their parents obviously distracted by the presence of many ice cream vendors. The youngest of them all was a few months old being pushed in a pram with not even a care in the world. Some parents seemed to give in to the tantrums of their children quite early while others managed to control their children’s thirst. They were not the only ones, Soxxy’s wife Anne and Ciku were beginning to rationalize the temptation as well. But not Soxxy and I. We knew why we were there. We were focused.

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The first water point was a few meters after the Kenya Railways Club. We decided it was not yet time to start drinking water. We were of course thinking like the professional walkers we had become. This water point however changed our conversation for the better part of the walk. It’s not just our conversations that changed, our mood and perception did too.

One or two bottles littered here and there didn’t raise much alarm at first but when the entire road was covered in hundreds of plastic water bottles and plastic seals then there was reason for concern. We initially rationalized the littering saying that there was a cleaning company whose contribution to the event was to collect the litter during and after the run. But soon even that thought became unsettling.

The first thing we noticed was that most of the bottles that had been thrown away still had a lot of water. We began to ask ourselves why anyone would take a sip or two and then throw away the rest. Was it because water was readily available or was it because the 300ml bottle of water was too heavy for them carry? Was it because most of us took two or more bottles only to realize later that we weren’t that thirsty after all? Whatever the reasoning, it was very inconsiderate and wasteful of us.

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The other thing we noticed, was that at all the water points, there were huge dustbins availed for obvious reasons. Most of us did not even notice them. We grabbed the water, broke the seal, dumped it, drunk the water and disposed the bottles wherever we deemed fit. Why would we leave garbage bins behind only to go litter a few meters away? How much time would it have taken us to open the seal and dispose it appropriately in the provided bins? How long would it have taken us to drink up the 300ml water and then disposed the bottles in the bins before proceeding with the walk? How heavy were the bottles that we couldn’t carry them to the next water point and dispose them properly?

Our conclusion was, there is a huge problem. We are not a responsible people. The run helps to raise funds to cover expenses for heart operations for deserving children. This is by all means a noble and worthwhile cause and everyone should support it. While we are engaged in changing the lives of these young ones, we also need to think about their future and ours too. What will become of our home if we don’t take care of the environment?

Someone once said we only have one earth and there is no planet B. There were many parents who by littering in the presence of their children unknowingly taught them a lesson that will probably take years to unlearn. Indeed, children learn what they live. The same applies for the parents who saw their children litter and never reprimanded them carefully explaining to them the need to conserve our environment.

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For the rest of us who knew what we were doing and still went ahead and littered, our case is sad. It’s even sadder for those of us who thought that there was a cleaning company whose sole responsibility was to clean up after we had intentionally littered. When will we realize that this is our home? When will we wake up to the fact that there is no backup environment “saved” somewhere that we can revert to?

It is presumptuous and wrong for us to think that it is someone else’s work to take care of our environment. It is my responsibility and yours to make sure that as far as we are concerned we have done our bit to take care of our environment. Only then can we point a finger on our leaders when they don’t do their bit. So we did save a child through the run on Saturday, but by ruining the environment that child will grow up in we ruined the same heart we ran to save.

We set out to be part of a big vision and we ended up being part of an even bigger vision. The Mater Heart run taught us what really matters. Now it’s up to you and I to run with the vision of saving as many children as we possibly can be also taking care of the environment that will be their home and that of their children’s children.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru