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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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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:


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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


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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


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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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