Pure Madness

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


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You; The Bestseller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru

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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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Free To Be Me

The human mind can at times be self-centered, gullible and misguided.  Have you ever walked into a meeting late? What does your mind tell you? “Everyone is looking at you. Tip toe and bend as you walk in. That will make you less visible.”  We worry too much what other people think about us while they on the other hand worry what we think about them.  Our choices are heavily pegged on what we think others will think of us. We worry what we wear, what and how we eat, where and whom we are seen hanging around.

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How many of us leave their real selves at home every day so that we can carry our false images to please people who don’t even care about us? How many times do we betray our true selves by conforming to other people’s expectations? We disqualify ourselves from certain positions because we think someone else can do it better than we can. We take a back seat. We bow out.

Every person who has done something worthwhile had at one time to choose between being true to themselves or to do what was popular. All the leaders that had an impact in their generation had to make that choice and so you and I must if we want to see the same in ours. There is always a price to pay and most of the time it’s our own comfort and/or the affirmation of others.

What have you been putting off because someone else literally laughed out loud when you told them what you wanted to do? What have you given up on because your parents told you it wouldn’t work? The closest people tend to do the worst damage. You had a brilliant business idea and you shared it with your closest friends. They told you there is no way you of all people would pull it off. You believed them.

What if you lost your mind for once and stopped caring what others thought about you and what you wanted to do. What if you woke up and pursued your dreams despite what your friends thought? What if you went on to get married to the person of your choice despite what your parents and religious leaders thought of him or her? What if you did what makes you feel good and happy? What if you admitted to your friends that you don’t like going out and would rather sit at home with a nice book and hot cup of flavoured tea?

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What if you and I chose a leader who we thought represented our aspirations regardless of their tribe? What if you and I refused to be corrupt because it was a matter of principle? What if you and I stopped to help someone who was in need despite running the risk of being taken advantage of? What if we lost our minds enough to take our real selves for a walk? What if we walked out of abusive relationships because we knew better? What if we laughed more even though others thought we had a “bad laugh?” What if we talked more because we knew what we had to say was more important than our accents? What if we lost our minds enough to be ourselves? You and I, just the way we are. No apologies. True to ourselves?

What if we lost our minds enough to be our real selves?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Unhappy New Year?

2015

It’s been 365 days since we ushered in 2014 in January (there is a quarter day that is still unaccounted for). This year has been different things to different people. Like every other year, 2014 had its good and bad moments and like its predecessors, it leaves behind scars and stories. Some of which are too deep and dark to share while others too bold and beautiful to remain hidden. All the same, its time to make the so called “New Year Resolutions”; as if someone who had 365 (and a quarter) days to change but didn’t will suddenly get the inspiration to do so now that the calendar has been reset.

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However, human beings thrive on Hope. We are driven by aspirations – the idea of a better day, a better me, a better you and a better living environment. No one anticipates a bad day hence terms like Happy Birthday and Happy New year. It’s an aspiration. A hope that the year ahead will be full of events that will make you happy and not sad.

If someone told you at the beginning of the year that you will have the most difficult year in your life, you would easily slap them for wishing you such a thing right? But how many people despite the numerous people who wished them a “Happy New Year” at the beginning of 2014, still had the worst year of their life!

To you whose 2014 was everything but happy, to you who lost hope in the situation you found yourself in this year, to you who can’t wait for 2015 to get here in anticipation that something or everything will change, take heart. Not because I have a magic wand to wish your disappointment, pain and suffering away. No. Take heart because the end of 2014 means you are a day closer to a better day.

Truth be told, some of us had a great year in 2014 but it might not be so in 2015. It has nothing to do with the year itself. People often say “this is my year” and it ends up being their year to learn a difficult lesson through a difficult situation. None of us are exempt from these life lessons and sadly, we don’t get to choose when they’ll happen either.

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So if you find yourself in an unhappy New Year next year, take heart. Don’t lose hope. Keep believing that the end of every day is as much a gift as the beginning of another. If the New Year doesn’t bring new things you desire but brings with it the same pain and agony 2014 did, don’t lose hope. Tomorrow will come. Nothing can stop it. It will show up without fail. And if your tomorrow comes with the same pain as today did, don’t lose hope. It’s not the end of tomorrows.

But for you whose New Year will be better than 2014, please do enjoy every day of it! You know what it means to have a tough year so look out for those who are not having a good day, a good week, a good month or a good year. Remind them that storms don’t last forever. Sometimes it’s all we need to hear to get back on our feet. Sadly most of us would rather forget the bad old days and only remember the good old days.

Whatever happens in the New Year, good or bad, it will have its purpose and even though at the time it might not feel so, don’t lose hope. Dare to hope that you’ll have a great year in 2015. Hope that you will be happy and that life will be kind to you. But if it doesn’t, hope that you will be strong enough to wait for a better day no matter how long it takes. Hope that you don’t forget the lessons that the New Year will offer – good or bad. Hope that you will be wise enough to see and grab opportunities that the New Year will offer.

Most of all, hope that you will remain true to yourself. The world, your country, your family and your friends will need you. Every day of the New Year will present opportunities for you to be a better you. Grab them. Squeeze all you can from them. At the end of it all, you will be happy for both the good and the bad because both will make you who the person you will become at the end of the year. Don’t forget to celebrate the “little successes”. They will be the wind beneath your wings.

Have a Hopeful New Year.

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Dear “Countryman”…

It’s not just mukimo that is a headache for Central Province. Actually, in light of the challenges central province is facing their cooking habits should not even be a concern. This week I was in Karatina and Muranga towns and this is a call for help. If people from this region have been too proud to say it, well, Central Province needs your help.

A labourer prepares distilled traditional brewed alcoholic liquor at an illegal micro-brewery along a river in the suburbs of Nairobi

Every woman we met in this region had one plea; “please save our men from alcohol and substance abuse”. Their stories are heartbreaking. Some young people were buying and selling weed right in front our eyes not even worried that we had video cameras. Don’t get me wrong, these men are not lazy, far from it. The problem is what they are doing with their daily earnings and what is at stake if nothing is done soon. The women have lost hope. They don’t do know what to do anymore. They are reaching out. Maybe you and I can do something.

“What kind of a man is this”? One woman asked bitterly. “I got tired of dragging him from trenches at 4am. I got tired of waiting up for him to come home. I got tired of waiting for him to provide. To take care of their family. I live my life. I have found him sleeping at the gate or outside our house a couple of times but he is no longer my business. I am done. He is not a man.

You wonder why it said that we beat our men. What do you do to a child who misbehaves? If your child comes home in the evening and he looks like he was in a dungeon what do you do to teach him/her to be more responsible? What if your child comes home from school and he has peed himself, don’t you discipline him? That’s the same thing we do to these men who act like small boys”.

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There is a huge problem when a wife calls her husband, the father of her kids a small boy. When a woman takes up the role of the head of the family, when she becomes the provider and protector of the family yet her husband comes home every day (regardless of his state). Women in Central province are the ones taking tea and coffee from the shamba to the factories. They are the ones running family businesses. When a child is sent home to bring a parent, any head teacher would be surprised to see the father.

Still can’t see the problem? Well, according to the women from these areas, the men are always too drunk to perform their marital duties. One woman actually said that her husband sleeps under the bed. Another one said she wanted more kids but she only has two that she got before her husband became an alcoholic. So in simple terms, nursery and primary schools are closing down because they don’t have kids to teach. The population in this region is dropping drastically. HIV rates are going up, but the worst impact of alcoholism is children growing up fatherless and youth walking in the steps of their fathers.

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It’s time for families to have this conversation in their homes. Fathers, talk to your sons and daughters. Be the example that your children can emulate. Let them see that family comes first and anything that threatens this unit cannot be taken lightly. Your kids are already learning by watching how you handle your drink, or how the drink handles you.

Leaders from central should be losing sleep thinking about their people. They should be organizing community forums and door to door initiatives to educate their electorate on the dangers of alcohol abuse. “Presidents” of these counties should form a police outfit specifically for this purpose; protecting the citizen from substandard brews.

Let this be a lesson to other leaders in Kenya. Handouts are finishing future generations. That 200 bob you dish out is the first spade into the sand. You are no longer buying your votes, you are burying them. Who will you lead in future? Why not start employment opportunities for these young people. Why are there no tough laws to curb illicit brews in the country?  I am sure authorities know where they come from but they also know the revenue they get from these companies. According to women from Central province, the biggest distributor is known and he enjoys police protection.

For the rest of the Kenyans, once the market in Central province is “no longer competitive”, these products will find their way to your region. This story will repeat itself and since nothing was done when central cried out, you too will watch as an entire generation fades right before your eyes.

We were told.

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Survivor Nairobi Edition

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Are you a Kenyan or a tourist who plans to travel or relocate to Nairobi?  Well, there are a few things you need to know before you make the big step into the big city. Depending on how you look at it, this is neither life threatening information nor a thoroughly researched document. If you are looking for that, Google is your friend.

Nairobi has a very unique mode of public transport commonly known as matatus. You will get distracted (or impressed) by the loud music and the graffiti but please keep your eyes on your luggage and your pockets. There are very well mannered men and women (emphasis intentional) who make a living out of your living. When you get to your destination, always remember the-left-foot-down-first-rule. Most matatus will not stop completely so you need to alight with your left foot first to maintain your balance in case the vehicle moves while you are still midair.

There are many investment opportunities in Nairobi too. Be careful of “investment groups” that move cards around in populated city corners and ask you to guess where a certain card has moved to. These guys have a lot of experience and know the best seasons to entice you to “invest”. Often, you will be more vulnerable during Christmas and back to school season in January. You will be offered “an opportunity” to multiply your cash in a second. There are different packages for different markets. Some will even offer to pray for your money multiply right before your eyes! In the end only your sorrows will be multiplied.

Don’t eat anything offered to you by a stranger. No matter how pretty or handsome they look or how hungry you maybe, please say no. Many have been victims of these “acts of kindness” and have woken up days later with empty pockets without a recollection of events beyond the sweet they were given by a seemingly generous passenger.

Don’t think with your heart in Nairobi. You will come across decent women who have heart breaking stories and men who will even shed a tear for you to give them some money for transport lunch or claiming to have been robbed. You are the one being robbed. Be in the same spot the following day and you will meet these actors and actresses in the same need. These days they have recruited young men who want sponsorship to go to driving schools and schools kids who are raising money for certain humanitarian events.

If you like having a good time, Nairobi has some of the best hangouts. Whatever you do, don’t leave your drink unattended. Yes, even that pretty lady with a “to die for” smile across the bar cannot be trusted. Your drink will be spiked and the entire nation will watch you on the evening news making incoherent pleas for your passport.

Be careful who you ask for directions in Nairobi. Some people will show you the direction to your misfortune. Walk into a shop and ask the attendant to assist you. Watchmen are also trustworthy but that is soon changing as they too have seen the potential in this untapped market. If you are lost act like a mwenyeji. Otherwise, “helpful god sent angels” will appear to you in your hour of need.

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If you have to be out at night, stay in well-lit streets and environments. Refrain from using your phone while walking. If you can, don’t use your phone at all at night. If you have to, stop somewhere secure, make your calls then wait a while to make sure you don’t have an audience before you continue with your errands. Many have “lost ground” and found themselves on the ground with empty pockets and aching neck because they were not conscious of their environment.

Security personnel can also be a source of insecurity. Whatever you do, stay clear of the security forces known as the City council askaris. They are known to be ruthless, reckless and walk in masses like high school outfits. They will stop at nothing if you are the target. If you fall victim to these guys stay calm and plead your innocence. God be with you.

Nairobi is a great city. There are great people and places here but there are a few bad ones too. Prepare to meet both. Tell the world about the good, I have already done the bad, well a few of the common ones.

Welcome to Nairobi, the green city in the sun.