Pure Madness

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


30 Comments

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


Leave a comment

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.

IMG_0133

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.

IMG_0043

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.

IMG_0083

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.

IMG_9738[1]

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


Leave a comment

In Your Dreams!

I am such a dreamer. I believe in extra ordinary possibilities. Yes, the line between faith and dreaming is probably very thin but what if there is a place for both? Of course I would like to be more of a faith person, it’s socially (and religiously) acceptable but I have to admit I am a dreamer.

dreamer

Being a dreamer is often looked at in bad light. If you walk up to a lady, (forget all the courage us guys need to muster before doing so,) and propose something you consider “extra ordinary.” Wouldn’t her most likely response to your foolish courage be “dream on” or “in your dreams”? Oh, and don’t forget that if you don’t approach her she will consider you a coward. We have to choose which title to live with when it comes to the ladies and most of the time it’s both a dreamer and a coward in equal measure.

I love dreaming. My mind is so animated that at times I feel like a young boy who still believes anything is possible. I thought this would stop once I hit my “thates” but every now and then in broad daylight I will catch myself dreaming. My dreams are so random that I cannot indulge you in such childish thoughts. I have however always thought of dreams as a precursor to faith which leads to action.

Do you dream? Have you ever dreamt of something very silly like having super powers? Powers that would make you uproot the corruption and poverty in this country? Have you ever dreamt that you had super powers to expose injustices and those behind it? Have you ever dreamt of being able to see people’s intentions and thoughts (especially our leaders?) Don’t you ever dream of being able to make “deserving” people’s lives better? Being able to pay school fees and hospital bills and take entire families for holiday? Am sure you have dreamt of sinking boreholes and discovering precious stones that would make Kenya a self-sufficient, wealthy nation.

Well, if you have ever dreamt of free, excellent education and health care, access to clean water and better sanitation for all Kenyans, better roads, no traffic, safe (not safer) neighborhoods, an efficient judicial system that defends the rights of all Kenyans and punishes all crimes evenly regardless of who commits the crime, if you have ever dreamt of better living conditions and low cost of living for every one including yourself, you are not alone and it’s not unusual. Far from it.

Dream until

What if destiny uses these “silly dreams” as a way of reminding us when we are settling for less? What if what we so quickly brush off as stupid dreams are seeds of faith germinating in us? What if our hearts and minds have a way of showing us the possibilities available for us if only we can dream? What if dreams are the future’s way of cheering us on to want and desire better than what we are getting now? What if dreams are our true voices speaking back at us, affirming what we believe but are fearful to reach out?

Imagine if we were crazy enough to dream. Imagine if you and I dreamt of better services from our government and the leaders we vote for. Imagine if we dreamt that our leaders in any capacity would do whatever it takes to be the best they can to deliver services to those under them. Imagine if we dreamt of refusing to pay bribes and being heroes enough to admit and pay the price for our mistakes. Imagine if we dreamt of standing up for what is right at whatever cost.

Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves being the change we want to see in our country. Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves being good citizens who are so proud of their country and each other that they defend it with everything they have. Imagine if we dreamt of leaving behind a dreaming legacy for our children and their children. Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves seeing our dreams come true.

I know what you are thinking “dream on” and “yeah, in your dreams.” But what if dreams are the future’s way of reminding us that everything is possible, if only we believe in our dreams? Dream on!

Eleanor Roosevelt’s once said “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Edits by Wanjiku Kimaru


Leave a comment

Death Announcement!

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the sad and untimely death of our dear friend, Courage. Until his death, Courage has been living in our hearts from birth. He will be joining his kin faith, hope, trust, optimism, confidence self-belief, sacrifice who passed on a while ago. Courage leaves behind fear, self-doubt, limitations, cowardice, timidity and faint-heartedness.

Kenya Liz rape victim

Courage will be remembered for energizing many hearts to keep believing even when all hope was lost. He was there when we were fighting for our independence. He made the freedom fighters intolerant of injustices that were happening at the time. It is because of him that the freedom fighters sacrificed their lives and took an oath not to relent until the generations that would come after them were free to be whoever they wanted.

Courage will also be remembered for leading men and women into fighting for democracy in Kenya. He is the one who kept them from giving up when they were tortured and humiliated for taking a stand. It was Courage that reminded these men and women what they were fighting for. He showed them that even though some would lose their lives in the process, their posterity would enjoy the fruits of a democratic country.

Courage will also be remembered for walking with individuals like the late Wangari Maathai who fought greedy and self-centered individuals and organizations that were hell bent on robbing future generations of their inheritance; a safe, clean and functional eco system. Today we enjoy the benefits of her sacrifice and our children will grow up in a clean, unpolluted environment.

Westgate heros saves child

You will remember Courage when he walked with individuals like the late John Michuki who dreamt of a safer public transport system. He put his foot down and refused to give in to pressure from the stakeholders in the sector. Today, his legacy lives on; public transport is orderly, safer and more comfortable than we could have ever imagined.

Before his demise, Courage has also been living in heroes and heroines who are still alive today. He was living in the GSU officer who chose to reason with rioters during the post-election violence period instead of using violence. Courage was at the center of the people who fought for this country to have a new constitution. He was in leaders who resigned from high positions because they did not want to be part of “the rot.” Unlike the famous “I’d rather die than resign” kind of leaders we are used to

Courage, if you can remember, has over the years put Kenya in the global map as he inspired many athletes to push themselves enough to win races and marathons. He has restored the pride we have in our country when our athletes have carried the Kenyan flag high every year. From the track to the swimming pool to the volleyball court the Kenyan flag has continued to soar.

shortskirts211114

You too interacted with Courage a couple of times and can tell of his friendship. When you went out to demonstrate and demand justice over grabbed land, justice for rape victims and other seemingly ‘small’ injustices. You refused to keep quiet when something was not right. You let your voice be heard and when it wasn’t you, joined like-minded individuals to make it even louder. You brought the fight for justice home and into your networks, including social media. Any platform you got, you raised your voice and demanded justice. Thanks to Courage, your voice was heard, and you made a difference.

It took courage for you to wake up early that election morning to go vote for a new constitution and for a leader you believed in. You believed in the need for change and you actioned your belief. You chose leaders who had the courage to declare that they had what it would take to change the status quo. Courage made you see the benefits of your choice and you took the risk.

In his last days however, Courage lived a very lonely life. We all abandoned him and made deals with his enemies; fear and selfish ambition. We soon became cowards who only thought about themselves. We refused to respond to people who cried for our help and told ourselves that it was someone else’s responsibility. We built higher walls around our homes and around ourselves to keep people out.

courage wordle

We soon joined networking forums not to offer others anything but to find out what they could offer us. We became selfishly competitive to the point of sabotaging colleagues so that we would look good. We stopped being courteous on the roads or anywhere else. Our selfishness became so severe that we started selling out our country and freedom to the highest bidder or just any bidder. We turned our back and hid our faces to injustices. We hid in our religious institutions saddened by how evil seemed to be thriving around us wondering what ill equipped simple people like ourselves could do in such times. Soon our country became the prey for terrorists, rapists thugs and land grabbers. We saw evil but shut our mouths to it and slowly Courage grew weaker and weaker.

Our leaders stopped listening to Courage. They forgot that Courage had once taught them that they were the heroes chosen by the people to fight injustices in society. They too became “crowds for hire” even at the cost of the mwananchi. They unanimously appointed a public servants who played to their tune and turned down qualified personnel that would bring the much needed change in the country. They ganged up and looted the country at any given chance.

So dear brethren, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to our departed friend. Our unsung hero who lived his latter years as a lonely, abandoned old man despite all that he helped us achieve over the years as individuals and as a country. Let us take this time to honor him by remembering all that we have lost in the demise of a dear friend, Courage.

(Moment of silence)

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


3 Comments

The Mau Mau Struggle – General Smart Memoir

“Mzee Kenyatta would have preferred a less violent way but enough was enough. There was no stopping us. We were under oath, we were ready to die. In fact, we had sworn that we would rather all die and let the mzungu have no one to rule. Those who broke their oath and betrayed our cause died and those who did not still suffer the consequences to date. We were long dead before the begun rebellion.”

Stanley Muriithi (General Smart) gives an account of his life as a Mau Mau fighter

Stanley Muriithi (General Smart) gives his an account of his life as a Mau Mau

It’s a cold night in Nyeri and we (The Nyoras – My Extended Family) are sitting under a tent attentively listening. The ladies are cooking at an open kitchen near the main house as the men roast meat near the tent. We cuddle together under the few blankets available feeling guilty that the old but upright-standing man in front of us is only wearing a suit. As he introduces himself, you can see most of his teeth are intact. He pauses every so often to smile and laugh heartily. Obviously, he is a happy man. As he begins to tell his story, we all lean in as if attempting to see his words.

Stanley Muriithi, known by the Mau Mau as General Smart, introduces himself first as a Born Again Christian who prays daily; that after he has fought the good fight here on earth, that he would be found worthy by God of the next life. That has become sole his purpose of living. Before he tells us how he joined the Mau Mau movement, he begins by telling us a brief history of how the white man, popularly referred to as ‘Mzungu’ ended up in Kenya. Stanley’s father, Mukabi, was employed by Delamare, a wealthy Mzungu from Gilgil. He got his name “Arm Bearer” from the fact that he had learned how to use a gun to keep off wild animals while he looked after Delamare’s cattle. In those days Africans were allowed to keep livestock but the white settlers kept pushing them further and further from their homes after which they would fence off the land as their own. Within a short time, the white man had amassed huge chunks of land and the local Africans had been displaced.

When the young men who had enrolled to fight in the World War finally came back home and found that their parents had been displaced and their farms taken over by white settlers, they were deeply troubled. It took most of them years to reconnect with their families. The fact that they did not get the hefty perks they had been promised when they enrolled to fight made things even harder. They were furious. They would later form a party Kenya African Union (KAU) to fight for their rights. Mzee Kenyatta was sent abroad by this party to plead the case of Africans and the injustices they were suffering under the arms of the white settlers.

Freedom fighters Mzee Jomo Kenyatta with Musa Mwariama. (Photo Courtesy of www.nipate.com)

Freedom fighters Mzee Jomo Kenyatta with Musa Mwariama. (Photo Courtesy of http://www.nipate.com)

On 12thNovember 1951, Mzee Kenyatta met the Mau Mau movement in Kiganjo. They took him to a granary, where they hid their weapons. When Mzee Kenyatta saw the weapons he asked his colleague and confidant Mzee Jesse Kariuki, “What are these for?” Mzee Jesse explained Mau Mau’s resolve to rebel against the mzungu and told Kenyatta that every one of those 626 guns he was looking at had an owner who was under oath and was ready to die for the cause.

This resolve by the Mau Mau made Mzee Kenyatta even more confident on his mission. To gauge how prepared the Mau Mau were on this cause he would constantly ask them, “If I hold the donkey’s head will you bear its violent kicks?” To which the Mau Mau would respond unanimously, “Yes we will!” Mzee Kenyatta would then ask, “Do you know that an oath cannot be quenched with water?” To which the Mau Mau would answer “Yes. It can only be quenched by blood.”

The Mau Mau devised a strategy that would paralyze the economy. No one would buy any products sold or produced by the mzungu. From cigarettes to popular hats worn by men. If whatever one wanted was not provided by a native, then the alternative was to get it from an Indian shop. Alarmed, the colonial government responded by announcing a state of emergency and started arresting people who were aligned to the Mau Mau. Many were arrested while others beheaded.

This however did not deter the Mau Mau’s resolve for independence. As the Mau Mau prepared to leave their homes and go into the forest, leaders were identified to take charge of different groups. Young men were in charge of recruiting new people to take the oath and join the movement while women would cook and take the food to different groups in the forest. Well-equipped make shift hospitals run by police doctors were established for those who would get hurt in battle.

Freedom Fighter Dedan Kimathi is handed his leopard-gazelle hide regalia after he was arrested. He was later hanged at Kamiti

Freedom Fighter Dedan Kimathi with his leopard skin regalia after he was arrested. He was later hanged at Kamiti

As the battle raged on, some of the Mau Mau who had taken the oath went back on their word and not only surrendered but also sold out their counter parts. Many of the Mau Mau who had been exposed were arrested and detained, while others were hung.

General Smart, who was in charge of the armory evaded arrest a couple of times in which he credits to God watching over him. He recounted how he used to carry a gun (Ka-minor) tucked in between his thighs. One time, the soldiers came looking for him accompanied by local teachers who knew him well. They asked everyone to line up and show their identity. Even though the teachers knew General Smart very well they could not identify him.

The soldiers then started checking everyone’s identity cards. General Smart knew his time had come and unbuttoned the guns sheath ready to fire. When they came across a man named Kimathi, they assumed that it was one of the most wanted Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi. They all ambushed him in a bid to find out who he really was. While they were all distracted, General Smart slowly walked over to the other side where the soldiers had already checked the IDs. When they finally realized that it wasn’t Dedan Kimathi, they went on to check the remaining IDs oblivious of the fact that General Smart had already moved to the front of the line. Another time as he was being chased by the soldiers carrying two guns he hid under a Somali woman’s dress as she sat outside her house braiding her hair.

General Smart was eventually captured after a colleague exposed him. Mzungu soldiers accompanied by the home guards arrested him and after his colleague identified him, he was shot and left for the dead. The last thing he remembers before blacking out was the smell of fried meat. He was unconscious for four days. When he regained consciousness he woke up to find himself lying under dead bodies with safari ants and flies everywhere. It took another three days for him to get help. Jackals and hyenas would sniff him and walk away as elephants made a stop at a nearby tree, every so often to scratch themselves.

IMG_8767

After nine days with the dead General Smart was rescued and even before he learnt how to walk again the colonial soldiers came back for him and demanded that he shows them where the Mau Mau hid their weapons. He was later taken to Kapenguria prison for almost a year after which he and 26 other prisoners were later transferred to Mackinnon Road detention camp in 1954 where all sorts of inhumane torture was administered. While at Mackinnon, many Mau Mau’s died from typhoid and other diseases because they were forced to stay naked as they served their sentence. General Smart remained in detention for six years.

Even though independence eventually came, it was not without a cost. Thousands of lives were lost and a lot of blood was shed. General Smart talked in depth about many of his experience that cannot be put into words. But as he concluded his talk, we could not help but wonder what happened along the way because today Kenyans live their lives way below the standards that Stanley Muriithi – General Smart – and others fought and lost their lives for. They certainly did not lose their lives for us to be selfish and corrupt enough to sell our country at any cost.

The likes of General Smart and other unsung freedom heroes lay down their lives to ensure we, their descendants, live a better life. What are you and I ready to lay down our lives to defend so that our children and their children may live a better life than we are?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru

To listen to the Gen. Smart’s narration (in Kikuyu) click on the link below:


4 Comments

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.

IMG_8625

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.

IMG_8641

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.

IMG_8651

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


Leave a comment

Noah Floods; Kenya Edition

This past week got me worried on many levels. I was in traffic longer than I was in the office due to the heavy downpour. None of my leaders, from the president, governor or any of my leaders apologized for holding me hostage. None of them even went to see the damage the rain caused residents in South C (sea). Many people slept in their cars, had their property destroyed, kids traumatized and still had to go to work and school the following morning.

Almost a week gone by, have we seen anything done to ensure such a mess never recurs? Has the County Government written or produced a Public Service Announcement on which routes to avoid or general movement order if it rains that heavily again? Has the County and the country been sensitized on possible disease outbreaks? Have we considered the most at risk populations if the floods persist? Do we have an evacuation or resettlement plan for people in these risk areas that also includes people with disability?

Does my government only respond to mass deaths and huge catastrophes? Why wasn’t a helpdesk set-up to assist those who lost lives, those who were traumatized or those seeking affirmation and reassurance about their next move? Why were there no appeals for clothes, blankets and food stuff for the affected? Why was there no #WeAreOne hashtags trending that night? What about the visits to the affected homes by politician albeit for PR?

Why was there no declaration of a public holiday to allow Kenya’s workforce time to rest? Why were there no free ambulances sent out around Nairobi or better yet choppers to make sure that anyone who needed emergency medical assistance or evacuation was not stranded? What message did we tell all those Kenyans who were affected in one way or the other about their value to this country?

I am very fortunate and blessed to work for an organization that values me. I was getting calls as late as 3am from my line managers asking me if I am safe and if I needed assistance. We were actually advised to work from the house the following day and to avoid unnecessary movement until “normalcy” returned in the city. Am I not lucky? (Asking with the tone of the girl who recited a poem for the Dep. President)

Photo courtesy of www.hekaheka.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.hekaheka.com

How many others were unlucky that evening? How many Kenyans only got home to shower, dress up and go back to work after spending the entire night in traffic? How many Kenyans went to work for fear of losing their jobs but their minds were at home wondering where they would sleep that night? How many home owners went to work to please their bosses but deep within they were crumbling because of the millions they had invested in the now “sewage infested” homes or the trauma the little ones underwent inside their submerged school bus

What would we have lost as country had we paused to show solidarity with the affected families? Imagine the sense of patriotism Kenyans would have because they felt valued enough by their country. We don’t have to wait for terrorists to attack and lives to be lost for us to show each other that we care. At that moment a mother needed time to compensate the time she was away from her children. Some children needed to recover from the trauma of being trapped for more than 10 hours the middle of nowhere.

Workers needed time to rest and rejuvenate their strength so that they can deliver at work as expected instead of going to work the same morning they got home. The greatest investment a nation has is its people and the greatest investment the people have is their bodies. Many of us were cold, hungry, tired, frustrated and anxious for hours on end. Surely I must mean something to my country. Am not a robot!

God forbid but had there been a terror attack on those congested roads at 3a.m we would have heard from the President and our leaders. But we were alone like sheep without a shepherd in the forest. None of our leaders found a way to reaffirm and console us. We all huddled together in the rain, at petrol stations and food joints yawning and shivering at the same time.

Your silence, my leaders was the loudest statement you have ever made. You missed an opportunity to unite us. You missed a chance to validate our choice when we voted for you. You broke most us. The Next time it rains that heavily we will follow your leadership. Every one of us will run to save themselves not caring about their neighbor or anyone else.

All I wanted to hear that night (and morning) from my president and his leaders was that I would be fine and that you Mr. President were doing everything in your power to ensure my safety regardless of where I was. The County Governor’s statement came in a tad too late, in the morning. A friend joked that Nguata Francis’ job was in danger since the Governor’s statement read like it was from the Weatherman.

These are the seemingly small things that build or break a nation.

The bigger question however remains, “Have we both the government and the citizens learnt our lesson, are we better prepared for next time”? Only time (and rain) will tell.

Editing by Wanjiku Kimaru


7 Comments

In God’s Name

A lot has been done in Kenya in the name of God. The other day, a pastor in Machakos is said to have been caught praying for naked women in the middle of the night, as if clothes have been known to hinder answers to prayers. In the name of God, a group of gun blazing youths recently left an entire nation wounded and 148 promising Kenyans dead.

This is not the first time “shameful” activities are done in the name of God.These days, the miracles promised in the Holy Books to anyone who believes, are now on sale on the pulpit, in parks and in buses. In pursuit of these seemingly elusive and expensive miracles, many a people have sold their shambas and other possessions only to be robbed of the hope that put them on that journey. Others have in the name of God refused to take their children to school for education or to hospital for treatment. The list is endless.

Christianity isn’t the only religion that has had its fair share of challenges in the name of God. Our Muslim friends are now looking for ways to deal with the radicalization of the younger Muslim generation into religious militias that have seen Kenya lose many lives, the recent Garissa attacks still fresh in our minds. We have seen Mosques turn into battle grounds as the police raid and disband suspects hiding inside the mosque.

Religion is personal maybe that explains why most people are very defensive when it comes to matters religion. But does that mean we ought to turn the other way when religious injustices are going on unchecked? Where do we draw the line? Do we have to wait for lives to be lost for us to act? Do we have to wait until an entire generation has been radicalized before we say its needs to stop? Or an adherent who will not take his children for immunization and chases away health officers? What must happen for us to start talking about the danger of “unchecked religion?”

What can you and I do anyway? I believe the answer lies in very uncomfortable quarters -cleaning up our places of worship. Christians already have a perfect example on how to clean their places of worship. Jesus once went into the temple and chased out the people who were doing the wrong business in the temple. Our places of worship, just like during Jesus’ days, have become “A den of thieves.”

Pakistani Muslims Form Human Chain To Protect Christians During Mass. (Photo: www.huffingtonpost.com)

Pakistani Muslims Form Human Chain To Protect Christians During Mass. (Photo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

The government has intimated that they want to start regulating religious institutions. My suggestion is we do it ourselves; if we don’t and the government authorities do so, I guarantee you there will be an uproar. We will feel as though our holy places are being intruded by outsiders and most likely we will be up in arms.

I believe the religious umbrella bodies like the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and Supreme Council of Muslims (SUPKEM) need to be empowered especially by the religious groups they represent to play a more active role-in monitoring what happens in their respective groups. These umbrella bodies also need to have powers to shut down religious institutions that do not adhere to their code of conduct.

There should be registration procedure put in place before one is allowed to start a church. All activities happening in the Churches, temples and Mosques should be privy to their umbrella bodies. If any doctrine is being taught in any religious institution that is not in line with the Holy Books, action should be taken against that institution. This way, the government authorities will only need to deal with the religious bodies as they do with unions.

Religious leaders will need to do what they preach and be humble enough to submit to their umbrella bodies just as the congregants submit to them. Their finances need to be audited by an independent professional auditing company. This way, if any activity is noted in a religious institution that is questionable, the umbrella body will be asked to account for them. If that institution is not registered then the government can close down the institution and take legal action against them. If it is registered then the government deals with umbrella body who in turn takes action against the individual institution that is “out of line”.

Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 10, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotund

Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, January 10, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotund

Sadly (and God forbid), if status quo remains and we don’t put some controls to our religious institutions. Religious intolerance will soon soar and cause religious institutions to form militia groups to “protect” themselves from the other religion or fellow religious institutions. Worse still, religious leaders might start aligning themselves with political leaders who promise them “protection” once they are in power.

Pirelli, the world’s fifth largest tyre manufacturer have a slogan, “Power is nothing without control” and a common phrase from the Spiderman movie is “With great power comes great responsibility.” Friends, our religion and our faith need to be checked for our own good. The latter (faith) is personal responsibility. You and I have the great responsibility (are mandated) to live our lives as the Holy Books we subscribe to dictate.

Libraries are a great resource to help us add knowledge and complement our education. Spending time in the library reading is beneficial to our education but it does not guarantee passing exams. In the same way, Churches, Mosques and other religious facilities are just aids to complement our faith. Regular attendance helps us increase our spiritual knowledge but these institutions should never replace personal devotion and effort required to grow our own faith.

Power is nothing without control and with great power comes great responsibility.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


4 Comments

My Land, Was Kenya

“The good you do for others always comes back to you” said my grandmother Shelmith (read Sheromithi) Waruguru Githaiga. She would repeat these words to us every day as a motivator, a compliment and as punishment. These profound words never made much sense back then but today, they haunt my every decision, good or bad. I will tell you why.

stamp

Photo Courtesy of Nostalgic East Africa

When we were growing up, Kenya was such a super power in our eyes! We talked and sang about it with pride. In our “Patriotic” (remember that word) stories no country came close to Kenya’s might. Well there was Israel (God’s territory according to Sunday school) and there was America aka US of A (the home of all heroes; Cynthia Rothrock, Chuck Norris and Van Damme). There was no comparing those two countries to Kenya. They were allies.

If you wanted to know how “bad” Kenya was, the Olympics told it all. Douglas Wakiihuri, Kipchoge Keino and John Ngugi ruled the track, mark you, doping scams were unheard of then. I remember when John Ngugi tripped during the 5,000 meters Olympic race and then went ahead to become second missing first position with milliseconds! I must have cried that day. Then there were other heroes like the late legendary boxer Robert Wangila Napunyi. I have never been a soccer fan but I knew Joe Kadenge (Kadenge na mpira would perhaps ring a bell).

1989-leoneRallySafari01

Remember Ian Duncan and his co-driver Ian Munro driving a Subaru Supra and winning the Safari Rally in 1988? Of course you cannot talk about Safari Rally without mentioning Patrick Njiru with his co-driver Dave Williamson. Back then, Subaru Legacy was an airplane on wheels. Easter holidays were to die for. Every kid in town had their own version of a race car made from Kimbo, Cowboy and Kasuku tins. It took days of dedicated work to put together a race car especially one that you could open the doors! Forget this nitro nonsense on Ps3 and X-box. We knew how to say “X to the box” (I had to say thatJ).

Then The Rare Watts and Jam City changed the entertainment scene in Kenya forever. Jam city of course won the Fiat Uno but we all thought Rare Watts were the life of the competition. Back then, TV was full of local content. Forget Scandal, Prison Break or 24 we had our very own Tahamaki, Tushauriane Tausi, Professional View, Dunia Wiki Hii, Mamboleo and KBL Festival of darts. These were somewhat family shows that we endured watching as we waited for not so good shows, or ‘adult rated’ shows like No One But You and The Rich of Also Cry.

Being a Kenyan those days in my mind was the best thing anyone would wish for. The song “My Land is Kenya” by Roger Whittaker was like an extension of the national anthem. Speaking of which, back then we knew the national anthem word for word in both Swahili and English. We knew the composers, we recited the loyalty pledge with pride. Even the president loved his country and would stop on his way to any destination to give out Orbits. (I never got but I hear he used to).

Roger-Whittaker-Roger-Whittaker-I-426003

You were not truly Kenyan if you did not have a Dash t-shirt; a locally made good quality t-shirtbrand. Towels were made by Fariji Towels and all other fabrics and bedsheets came from Rivatex Textiles. Buying anything second hand was uncommon. (Yes youngling you best believe that!). As a matter of fact there was a local car assembly for certain brands. Uhuru (not the current President) was one of the locally assembled cars. You had to literally kill this car for it to stall.

Government parastatals were functional and were a source of employment for many. Local products were the best brands on the shelves. KCC produced Ghee, great UHT milk and milk powder. I loved their butter even though my mum would not allow us to touch it in her absence. Kenya Meat Commission provided all kinds of meat and National Pencil made their own HB pencils. National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was ever full. I don’t remember hearing about starving Kenyans back then.

unnamed

Photo Courtesy of Nostalgic East Africa

I lived in the best country ever. Until I grew up and ruined it. I did not take care of it and left that responsibility to someone else. I started seeing things going wrong and never said anything. I looted my country with “deals”, avoided paying taxes and gave sidekicks. I was seduced and gave in to “outside brands” and abandoned local products. Perhaps that is how the tag, ‘Buy Kenya, build Kenya,’ came up.  I learnt the art of corruption and passed with flying colors. My view of my country changed. I soon developed preferences and they started being reflected in the way I voted. I forgot what it meant to be a brother’s keeper. Everyone for himself sounded better.

My heroes soon changed from athletes that made my country proud and freedom fighters who put their own lives on the line to make sure I did not lose my rights, to national looters. I affirmed my support for them every five years. I sent them out to “harvest where they had not sowed.” They were so ruthless, that they started harvesting my future and that of my children. When the time for justice came, I “testified” in their favor and gave them a new chance to loot what was left.

unnamed (2)

Photo Courtesy of Nostalgic East Africa

If you are keen, you will see me and you still ruining the country further. I will give you a bribe to look the other way, pay you extra to cut “a few” corners and side step procedures. Yes you will catch me asking you to give me the tender and you will get your fair share. It’s not uncommon to hear me tell my children and yours that’s how the country is after all. Take a sit. Watch and learn. Let us show you how things are done. Come along, I want to introduce you to my business so that when I am gone you will run it the same way your father did and perhaps even better.

So here I am today caught between the fairy tale of what I know my country could and should be and the nightmare of what is. What has become of you and me? Is it all lost? Is there hope? Who will take us back to the days of childish faith in our country? Is it you Mr. President? Is it you my fellow Kenyan? Is it me? What if you and I refused to let things get any worse? What is there to lose that we haven’t lost? My Land still is and will always be, Kenya.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


8 Comments

The Days of Our Lives

I don’t like death. Well, I am yet to meet anyone who does. My greatest frustration with death is that no one survives it to give a detailed account of what exactly happens when someone dies. I have a very inquisitive mind so you can imagine the “uncertified” ideas I have about death. Movies have not made it easy either. Some people “die” violently, others just close their eyes and are no more. Dead.

Funny-Til-death-do-us-part

Many cultures in Kenya consider it a taboo to talk about death. Perhaps that is why you will find people crowding around accident spots or crime scenes. It’s our chance to glimpse at death. Have you ever noticed how people queue for hours to just glimpse at the body of a prominent person?

No one gets used to death and no amount of preparation or information can shield you from its pain and grief. Even when you thought you saw it coming when it finally checks in, the death sting will always hurt as much. It is not a respecter of age, marital status, wealth, profession, religious belief or education background. It strikes whenever and wherever it wants.

I started having questions about death when I was very young. Every time any of my pets died, I was devastated. My mum, like many other parents would attempt to comfort me by saying, “It’s in a better place.” This of course left me wondering, “Was I that bad that it had to go somewhere else?”

death-quotes11

The older I got, the more frustrated I became with death.  There was no stopping it. It came after my family and after my close friends. I was bitter for a very long time. Every time I heard about death even if it was a stranger, my own “death wounds” ached.

Every time I thought I had “enough experience” to encourage people who were dealing with death, my own heart demanded answers. It seemed unfair and unjust to rip precious ones from us without our consent. In my attempt to comfort the victims I ended up saying things that in retrospect made the situation worse.

Recently, when I was bitten by a snake, death was on my mind a lot. “What if I die?” I kept asking myself. What if this is it. The end of my days. What if I don’t make it out of this alive? What does this mean to my family, my relationship and my friends? What awaits me? Have I lived my life well enough? What will I be remembered for? Am I even ready to die?

tumblr_mz9xbsySx01r75xe0o1_1280

We are often very reflective when someone close to us dies. We swear to ourselves to be better people, to live for what matters, to be there for other people and to make our lives count. We promise ourselves that we will embark on a new and more meaningful life from that moment on. The brevity of life finally dawns on us and it scares us to know that there is a part of our life that we don’t have control over.

But this new revelation is often short lived. We soon go back to our “normal” fast lives. Yes “our” lives. Before we know it, our new values and resolutions take a back seat. We lose sight of what we resolved to uphold. We go back to living for ourselves, ready to do whatever it takes to seal that deal. We put our health on line and throw our conscience out the window, fight whoever stands in our way and step on others if only to “get there” faster.

The fortunate yet unfortunate bit about life is that it does not give you a death rehearsal. You only live once and most certainly, die once as well. Every day you are alive you are living and rehearsing to die at the same time. Some of us of course have perfected the “art of playing with death” through our driving, diet and drinking habits but even then, we all don’t know when and how we finally bow out.

death-unemployment

One day, it will be us that people mourn. It will be our departure that will make people rethink their lives. How sad it will be that at the end of the days of our lives all we will have to show are graveyard resolutions that never got to live.

It’s sobering to know that we have no control of when we die. It should be. This does not mean that we ought to live in fear of death but we cannot ignore it altogether. In my view, death should be a motivator for living and not a source of fear. The snake bite and a gangster waving a gun to my face experiences made it very clear to me, it could be anytime. What is sad is that I will soon forget that am not here forever. Neither are you.

So while we are still here, today, let’s make it count. Let’s be the best we can. Let’s aspire to live behind a legacy (and not a Subaru, blue or otherwise). A legacy that generations after us will remember. A legacy that you and I, left “our environments” better than we found them. This is not the responsibility for the Mheshimiwas; it’s for all of us. We owe it to ourselves to leave a good story behind. Not just an “I was here.”

funny-pictures-dramatic-cat-asks-where-the-sting-of-death-is

Today you get to rehearse for your death by living. Put on a good show. It could happen anytime. Maybe not a snake bite but who knows when it’s your story that makes us reflect on The Days of Our Lives.

Editing by Wanjiku Kimaru