Family & Folklore

There are times your mind just races. You have these nice ideas about a certain topic and because it doesn’t end or the thoughts keep flowing, you have that moment when you feel the need to write it up.

Some topics need research and especially if your claims need substantiating. That is the case if you are writing a scientific journal. But this page isn’t that. Here, I am able to write down things that I feel or have experienced. I am not saying or encouraging rumour mongering. Far from that. It is not why I have kept this blog going for the last 10 years. It has chnged names a couple of times though, the basis remains. Just thought, feelings and ideas, things that make us human.

These last weeks, I have been in a good writing mood. Maybe this December will rival June and October 2012, when I posted about about 4 articles each. That was something. Doesn’t happen much though I have done two short film scripts for my employer. That is something, right? I have been in a good mental state lately as far as scribbling goes. The last two years have been very strange though. You can write about anything, from COVID19 variants, job losses, family struggles to changing economic times. We are actually more informed about some popular scientific terms than we were some years back. It is how different times are.

Even in all these changes, our basic humanity doesn’t change much. Our fears, hopes, spirations, dreams, ambitions remain. There are things about us that are software. They take us through life. Just a side note, I am having my mandazi and tea while writing this. Balancing is not easy. But again, whats been easy about 2021. I don”t want my tea to get cold while I also don’t want to lose my thought pattern and the flow. Anyway, I was talking about our human core. That’s who we are. It definess us and differenciates us. I don’t know if it has anything to do with our upbringing, socialization or DNA. This is why understanding where we come from can be helpful. It doeSn’t give answers but it helps. In Kiswahili, we say “Ngombe akivunjika mguu malishoni, hujikokota hadi zizini kusaidiwa.” In English it loosely translates to us going back to our familiar place or home when things get hard. The nature of life demands that. We desire comfort. Home, and family gives that that.

I am inspired by how my sons respond to bedtime stories I tell them. The two guys have a lot of fun listening to stories. Or maybe it’s just a way of extending bedtime. I find this interesting. But it is telling considering how they are rasied in the same home. They are similar but different. One story that I’ve been forced to tell so many times is about a hyena who attends a king’s party. At the party, there is a variety of foods. He is spoilt for choice. He eats beyond his stomach’s ability. He struggles to walk or even to breath. This bedtime routine is the best part of my evening. They love it. Or pretend to, but I don’t care. I love the laughter. What makes this story special is that I grew up listening to it. I loved it. It was told to me by one of my uncles. My sister tells me that one of our cousins loved listening to stories from our uncle when they were kids. He would retell the story so many times but it never grew old judging from the laugter it elicited from the young listeners. My uncle still loves anything comical on TV. My wife makes fun of how I find small things funny. She doesn’t get it. I could be a carrier, like my uncle and my eldest son.

Again, this writing wasn’t about anything in particular. I just got reminded of certain things that keep us connected. They unite us even in our time of differences. We carry certain things from our families and our traditions. Some things are not only in our physicallity but the stories, life lessons and teachings we carry. And that’s why family and social relations are important. Family’s value and importance cannot be understated. We are a reflection and an extension of where we come from. That is visible by how we look, the stories we tell, how we conduct ourselves and what we believe in. Family is a cornerstone. We go back to when things are bad and when things are good. We differ, fight, quarell but can still figure a way back like the wounded cow.

Maybe this writing is about Christmas in the village cause that’s where most people end up as the year comes to an end. We take our joys, struggles and reflect with our loved ones as we chart a way towards a new year. I havent’t taken my family home in two years, thanks to COVID. I am looking forward to that.

Happy festivities good people. Whatever good keeps you connected to your past, keeps you sane, whatever floats your boat, may you find it.

Edit: The lil guy shared that hyena story with his cousin over the weekend. I managed to capture them while at it. Generations….

Shared Humanity

Sometimes, I a experience a block. Other times I scrible here. If you are an old reader, you get the drift by now. We drain when the mind overflows. Anyway, some years back, I did a piece from the perspective of a person seated at the accepted and possibly only free waiting lounge outside Hilton Hotel, Nairobi. I recently sneaked in and out of the city, and while there, I tried to observe Nairobians like I did many years back from this vantage point. In between casual observance, I was reading Biko’s weekly edition and making small notes like when he uses interesting phrases. One I noted went like this; “he wore his wealth like someone does spectacles so absentmindedly that only others draw his attention to it.” I wished to experience wealth at this guy’s sphere of existence. We all want the secret, more than the phrase people hide behind when they don’t want to tell you where things are happening for them, “Ni God”. Where has he shown you the gold mine is? We all want to know.

One common aspect of African cities are street archins. These could be young kids surviving by begging, could be families, mothers exploiting the generousity of city dwellers using their kids. I was seated facing Zetech college and Mr Price. I could see it all; from people connecting from Moi Avenue to Kencom, others going through Archives to Tom Mboya, as some just loitered passing time waiting for appointments and meeting they planned to meet. My person of interest was a middle aged man, dressed in a cap with small strands of hair locks peeping. He had a torn oversize leather jacket which revealed the nature of life he leads. His leather boots though had no laces were quite okay. On one hand, he carried a bottle that contained some form of glue or something to numb whatever his immediate existence put him through. On the other, a plastic water cup whose contents weren’t to quench his thirst but rather to beg from the passing folks who to him were doing okay.

I think one key survival trait on the streets for someone eking a living through begging is persistence. My guy would pick a target, chase him from one corner to the other pleading and in some cases threatening or demanding for something. Unlike your timid begger, I at some point heard him specify he wanted fifty shilling from his target. I don’t know if fifty shillings has lost that much value or it’s just that my guy wasn’t taking anything less. Maybe that’s how he values his humanity. With 50/, 10/, 20/ he could afford to buy something in the expensive city that is Nairobi. The problem is that what he had in his hand wasn’t doing him any justice. It sort of betrayed his efforts. Anyway, it was a back and forth exercise from one target to the next. Also, interestingly, I wondered how he picked or selected his targets. I noted two gentlemen in hair locks. Could be an attempt to get someone he’d identify with. There’s that camaraderie rasta spirit among people with hair locks. It could be something different. Other times, he picked on women and young girls. Some feel women or ladies would be intimated easily or coarsed to give. Probably, one would be forced to cough up something to be granted peace to proceed with their commute past CBD. The stretch across Hilton from Galitoes to Kencom is sizable and few in Nairobi are in search of uninvited company.

In between, I overheard conversations from passersby. I wasn’t evesdropping or craning in on them. Some people are gifted in projecting sound and so you can’t help but hear. There’s a lady that credited Sam for something. It went like…”Kama Sam hangeniongelesha, singerudi..” Sam, wherever you are, you did good. You must have saved a relationship or something. I also heard a father asking his daughter, “uko sawa?” That touched my heart. Some parents will do everything for their children. The young lady was in uniform. Must have been from school to going back, getting picked and the father wanted to ensure she was okay.

Intrestingly, my street boss did something that warmed me even with his passive agressive approach to begging. I saw a side few ever imagine these guys have. There is a bougainvillea plant in a pot nearby. It is over grown with some branches going above the average height. I saw him trying to prune it with his hand to match the size or height of the rest. That intrigued me. We rarely look at these guys to be anything other than a disturbance. Maybe there wasn’t anything there. Maybe it’s just me. For a bit I was reminded of our shared humanity.

Human spaces are a mix of worlds, existences, hopes, fears, desires that interlace. It’s a common aspects of our existence. Whether youa re a parent, husband, wife, street person, bottonline, we are the same. We have some form of shared sense of existence. We view the world in a similar way judging from the basics.

Unrelated, who planted this big tree that has offered a shed to thousands of lives going through Nairobi for years? There are some palm trees, a beautiful jacaranda and then the centre tree. It’s not a young tree. It’s likely the planter isn’t here any more. If nature or the circle of life rewarded us for our good depending on how many people benefited from our acts, this person would reap big. What if he had a chance to recoup that in heaven. Silly thoughts but it’s interesting how that would go.

Angel Gabriel to God: Here is Mark’s file

God: Mark, please step forward

Mark: Walking to the centre

God: I understand you lived an eventful life. Your file is quite sizable. How do you account for the time I gave you on earth?

Mark: (Goes into a long narrative)

God: That doesn’t excuse your actions. Do you have anything else to say in your favour?

Angel Gabriel whispers to God: The tree at Hilton Hotel in Nairobi Kenya. Could that help his case?

God: Well, looks like there are acts of kindness that resulted from the tree you planted. Looking at my judgment scales, the number of people, (and they are a lot) who sat under it’s shed and the feeling they got outweigh your evil deeds.

(Talking to Gabriel) Take him to the golden gates waiting lounge. We will relook his case…..

Conquered Borders

I have been fortunate to make inroads around eastern Uganda. There are exceptions when I have gone to the other ends of Uganda like Kitgum on the way to South Sudan, Fort Portal for a youth camp, the first time I stepped in Uganda, Kisoro for a deaf awareness week as well as Gulu from a colleague’s wedding and the obvious Kampala where every Kenyan thinks that’s where everyone is at. 

As far as towns bordering Kenya go, Malaba and Busia are everyone’s go-to points of entry. Those are less eventful. I once boarded a 6 am lorry truck that was going to Kenya through the Lwakhakha border. That was more impromptu, hurried, and less planned. Recently, I decided to explore the remaining official border point which is Suam.

So on the 25th of March, I left home at 6 am and passed by the office where I needed to finish some office assignment. After what seemed like eternity, I left the office close to 7 am. I was seated inside the lone Kapchorwa taxi a few minutes later. I was alone for some time. Kapchorwa seemed to have few travelers that morning. I had to get out of the vehicle a few times to reconsider my options as I stretched my legs. The other plan was boarding Bulambuli taxis and alighting at the junction and then getting on another going to Kapchorwa. Normally, this would have taken longer due to the many stops along the way. Noting my discomfort, the taxi guys came and reassured me that we would be leaving after two more passengers had joined. My mind got convinced and I was a bit excited as its true covid times did require social distancing. Two, three, four, and six passengers later, we left the stage. This was around 9am.  It costed 20,000 to Kapchorwar. This is partly due to the bad road network and the unscrupulousness enabled by COVID. Does anyone else hate it when they go into the fueling station just after you’ve left the stage? I do. They did.

One and a half hours later, we were in Kapchorwa. While the road is not completely tarmacked, this section of the trip is not that eventful. You pass Sipi Falls, a few small tourist hotels, and tour guideposts along the way. I was keen on how close the waterfalls are to the road as my wife and I had planned to take our boys there for some time. Still planning. Why is it this hard to plan family trips? hehe There is a lot of roads works happening along that route. Kapchorwa itself is a decent trading centre. There are banks and key amenities and service providers like any other functioning centre aspiring to gain town status. The number of people engaging in trade is equally sizable. When the road connecting it to Mbale is done, there will be much to write about the town. I noted a picture of Williams Ruto, the Kenyan vice president on one of the taxis. He shares language traits with the Sabiny people of mount Elgon and thus the possible allegiance. He has been reported to do campaigns in that region and there’s talk of multiple nationalities which is common in border communities. Does the electoral commission on both sides of the border know this?

I immediately got into a Bukwo/Suam taxi for the second part of my journey. I was informed that that will be another 20,000 UGx. It took a while for the taxi to fill up. I left my bag and walked around to grab a bite. I got busy on a mango while standing at a strategic point with a view of my bag, though from my experience, Ugandans have not proven to be a threat to my belongings and possessions when I am traveling. I have on one occasion dropped my phone from Malaba and those touts kept it for me. The mango was rather raw. I had fallen victim to a sweet tongue. She had sworn the mango was ripe. I guess her kids have to eat. I had to enjoy the damn mango for the team at her home.

An hour later, we left the stage for the second part of the journey.

For starters, covid social distancing as enforced in urban spaces is a rural myth. A few metres from town, the space in the taxi got tighter and tigher as the taxi owners got greedier. It went from three per row to four meaning masks were a necessity. In our company was a pesky old mzee who was my hero at that point. When they tried to add another passenger next to him, he went into a rage in his mother tongue and called out the tormentors for their BS. He held his ground and refused to bulge. He had to be moved from the back to the front VIP seat to make room for the additional passengers. Like sheep, the rest of us in the back went mute and took our misery in silence. I am proud of that old guard who stood his ground and fought for his right to adequate sitting space.  His ancestors must have been proud. Kids, there is your hero when dealing with injustices melted on you by the owners of the black land we call home.

Kapchorwa and its untouched environs is beautiful.  From green hills, serene waterfalls to scenic mountain viewpoints, the region has it all. There is major road construction along the route to Kenya done by the Chinese. When you take this route, you might feel bad because of the untouched beauty of the region. While my experience was not for tourism purposes and I never got the chance to experience some of this from my uncomfortable taxi sear, it is fair that I mention that the region is beautiful, unexplored, and will greatly benefit from an improved road network. This I can say based on my first-hand experience. Before this, I had contemplated this trip but was discouraged by stories of stranded travelers who found themselves in unplanned uncomfortable camping experiences. I heard it gets really bad and the roads are impassable during the rainy season.

Despite that, Sipi falls is the most talked about tourist attraction from Kapchorwa region. Casa lodges among others help visitors plan such visits, hikes and camping expeditions. There is the Kamakunga village in Kween, Atar-Kshek waterfalls, Tawut waterfalls, the state lodge viewpoint, Nnangata cave, among others. While shooting an office video assignment, I had experienced some of these beauties.

Back to the reality inside a taxi, you are met by the usual village scenes of excited children by the roadside. Like many remote villages in Africa, their faces speak of an absent government and a life of survival. Here, they look at any oncoming traffic as a distraction from the usual boredom. The faces inside a taxi from far and the sound of roaring engines is intriguing to them and a welcome past time. It speaks of adventure and unfamiliar far-off lands where there could be milk and honey. Though they lack milk, neither honey, you can tell they are curious. They are also happy children. Children seem to be happy or they are oblivious to anything an outsider might think of them or their environment. That simplistic approach to life cuts across and is a good thing. Their immediate needs world over seem to be a full stomach, company of fellow kids and some idea or thing that can occupy their time. Isn’t childhood innocence and contentment lovely?

I saw the yellow NRM bicycle. Since the 2021 elections, you will spot those ones from as far or as remote as you go. That is hundreds of kilometers from the seat of power in Kampala Probably, you’ll be able to spot them from the moon, or even on the moon if a polling station was needed there. Elections and campaign materials can cross rivers, oceans and seas. The human tendency to get things around the electoral system working is interesting. This in the back of the road network to the north is cause for a discussion. An overall assessment would conclude that graders are yet to get to that part of Uganda. Most likely, what we currently have were wild animals, donkeys, and human tracks that over time became the official roads that vehicles rely on. You wouldn’t want to find yourself traveling on those roads in the rainy season. I had been warned not to attempt the trip when the sky was heavy and pregnant. 

Kapchorwa has a natural mountain breeze. This means the weather in the region is very pleasant. From these cool highlands have come athletic champions like Joshua Cheptegei among others. It is just a matter of time until the region joins Ethiopia in giving Kenya a run for its money on matters field tracks and marathons. The signs are there. The sons of the region have tested recent athletic success. My expectation of the region was forest of trees, cold air and green-covered lands. Cool it is but forests and covered lands, not much. There are lots of cut tree stamps along the lands by the roads, over hills and farmlands. People have cleared the lands for crop cultivation. Professor Waangari Maathai would weep about this. It is justifiable to clear land for cultivation but the farming practiced must give room for tree planting as that protects the soil against erosion, keeps the air cool and fresh, and guarantees better overall living standards for the farmers.

We had a tire problem at some point and had to alight for the repairs. This gave us an opportunity to freshen our legs, catch a break and even visit the bushes for those who couldn’t wait to get to the next stop. Traffic police are a common feature on the way. Some are of the animal control unit but the common denominator is a barricade that gets lifted after palms have been greased. By around 5pm, we got to Bukwa. Some passengers were dropped leaving those heading to Suam to proceed. Somewhere past Bukwa, we get stopped by another traffic police unit. At this point, I was famished, dehydrated, and crying for the finish line. The guy comes by the window tries to say hi but some of us have no energy left to even respond. He proceeds to check insurance which becomes the reason we are stuck there for another thirty minutes. There is back and forth, smiles, frowns, phone calls and pleading. In between, he casts glances inside the taxi and gets dead blank frustrated eyes staring back. The negotiation goes on forever. Finally, they amicably arrive at a figure, exchange contacts and we are left to finalise this long trip.

6pm gets us at the border town of Suam which is the final stop. I plead with my tired limbs to cooperate and we head to the river. Suam is a one-street trading centre sloping towards a border river. There are shops on both sides of the road with businesses ranging from farm, food supply stores, mobile money, and currency exchangers. The nature of the place means one does not escape the curious onlookers. A new person is easily identifiable. You get approached by people asking how they can be of help. Most know you are attempting to cross. On enquiring, a money changer discouraged me from crossing at that time that the border is closed. After all that time on the road, I didn’t want to hear any of that. I just wanted to cross and get the last taxi home. From my border experience, you’d rather follow the right path across that try shortcuts and panya routes. You’ll be fleeced. Kitale is not far from Endebess, the Kenyan trading area across. I managed to cross without any hitches bar the COVID certificate catchphrase the border police always throw around when they are on a bribe fishing expedition.

I got a face-me matatu that had been packed with onions. There was some space but at that point, I could have agreed to sit on top of the onions if it got to that. We were about five cramped in the back. Kenyan business people travel as far as Chwele and Kimilili to get onions and other produce from Uganda where the price is favourable. These were going to Chwele and another passeger had her order in a lorry that had gone ahead of her. I noted there is no immediate trading centre next to the immigration cum KRA offices on the Kenyan side. The nearest centre is some kilometres inside Kenya. Endebess is known for large farms some belonging to the Kenyatta family. We passed vast tracts of land prepared in readiness for the rains.

8 pm found me in Kitale exhausted with nothing on my mind but a cold bath, fresh clothes, pillows, and a long undisturbed night. Maybe it was not as long as I felt. Could be just a first trip to a new place. It normally feels longer than it actually is.

The road network
Travel like the old days.
Taxi developed a mechanical problem.
Suam, Kenyan side.

Relativity of Time

There are so many days when we’ve seen time move either too fast or slow. Have you ever tried planking for more than a minute? It might look like ages. Have you tried sitting with a person that you love spending time with? An hour may seem like a minute. That is the relativity of time, it may be an illusion of sorts.

The mind does funny things to our experience of time making it flexible; depending on attention, motivation, the emotions and more. Here are some ways our brains warp time:

1. Life-Threatening Situations
People often report that time seems to slow down in life-threatening situations, like skydiving. Same as when it is said your whole life flashes before your eyes before you die.

But are we really processing more information in these seconds when time seems to stretch? Is it like slow-motion cameras in sports which can actually see more details of the high-speed action?
Actually, What happens is we remember the time as longer because we record more of the experience. Life-threatening experiences make us really pay attention but we don’t gain superhuman powers of perception.

2. Time doesn’t fly when you’re having fun
We’ve all experienced the fact that time seems to fly when we’re having fun. Or does it? Does time seem to fly by, or conversely, does it seem to slow down?
The fact that we intuitively believe time flies when we’re having fun may have more to do with how time seems to slow when we’re not having fun. Boredom draws our attention to the passage of time which gives us the feeling that it’s slowing down.

3. The stopped clock illusion
The stopped clock illusion is a weird effect that you may have experienced. It happens when you look at an analogue watch and the second-hand seems to freeze for longer than a second before moving on.
This happens every time our eyes move from one fixation point to the next, it’s just that we only notice it when looking at a watch. One explanation is that our brains are filling in the gap while our eyes move from looking at one thing to the next.

4. Too tired to tell the time?
When things happen very close together in time, our brains fuse them together into a single snapshot of the present. For vision the shortest interval we can perceive is about 80 milliseconds. If two things happen closer together than that then we experience them as simultaneous.
When we’re tired, though, our perception of time goes awry and we find it more difficult to distinguish between short spaces of time.

5. Self-regulation stretches time
The effort of trying to either suppress or enhance our emotional reactions seems to change our perception of time. Psychologists have found that when people are trying to regulate their emotions, time seems to drag on.

6. Altered states of consciousnessPeople report all sorts of weird experiences with time when taking drugs like LSD. Stimulants produce overestimates of time duration, whereas depressants and anesthetics produce underestimates of time duration. Time can seem to speed up, slow down, go backwards, or even stop.
But you don’t need drugs to enter an altered state of consciousness, hypnosis can do the trick. People generally seem to underestimate the time that they’ve been under hypnosis

7. Does time speed up with age?
We often say the years pass more quickly as they get older. While youthful summers seemed to stretch on into infinity, the summers of your later years zip by in the blink of an eye.
A common explanation for this is that everything is new when we are young so we pay more attention; consequently it feels like time expands. With age, though, new experiences diminish and it tends to be more of the same, so time seems to pass more quickly.

8. The emotional experience of time
The emotions we feel in the moment directly affect our perception of time. Negative emotions in particular seem to bring time to people’s attention and so make it seem longer. Like recently, I was feeling a little out of odds, the day couldn’t end any sooner.

9. It’s getting hot in here

If you’ve ever had a fever then you’ll know that body temperature can have strange effects on time perception.
Experiments have found that when body temperature is raised our perception of time speeds up. Conversely when we are cooled down, our sense of time also slows down.

10. What’s your tempo?
Setting aside emotions, age, drugs and all the rest, our experience of time is also affected by who we are. People seem to operate to different beats; we’ve all met people who work at a much slower or faster pace than we do. Psychologists have found that people who are impulsive and oriented towards the present tend to find that time moves faster for them than others

In the end time is vital… don’t waste it , live true to yourself.

Article first featured on AbookStore, your online store.

Only The Best

It is a norm to hear someone mention that they tried their best after they encounter some sort of failure. There is some degree of relief in the knowledge that in a particular unsuccessful attempt at something, you at least put out the best that you could. But what exactly does one mean when they say they did their best

It is a redundant claim to say you did your best when you half-heartedly attempted to accomplish a task. Doing your best basically means doing everything you possibly can do to make something happen.

Doing Your Best

You owe it to yourself, your family and the rest of your world to be the best possible version of yourself. This goes without saying that you have to improve every corner of your life in order to give the best possible outcomes in your endeavors. To improve self, you have to take care of the things that you put into yourself. Eat healthy diets, have adequate rest, watch your company, Keep your body in good physical shape and also develop your brain by reading good books and indulging in productive activities.

When you have conquered the task of being the best version of yourself, the task of doing your best becomes lighter. There could only be a number of instances when you could be making a solid attempt at a task and fall slightly short. This could be perhaps when your skills aren’t sharp enough or when your timing is off. There could also be a number of reasons why you couldn’t make that thing happen. Your biggest concern should be to ensure that not trying your best was in no circumstance one of the reasons.

You will have feelings of regret because of failing at something simply because you didn’t do everything that could have possibly done to make it happen. There are numerous times I could have succeeded if only I’d truly tried my best. Not putting best effort at a task seems like a sure way to miss some of the opportunities that would otherwise turn your life into an awesome collection of wins.

So stop staring at your screen, go out there and simply do your best.

(Article first appeared on ABOOKSTORE)

Nairobi to a Village Boy – part 2

Featured Writer

The world can be a strange place but that does not or should not stop us from moving on; embracing each opportunity and challenge as it comes. Few things really still on our minds like milestones. One I clearly remember, one I consider a turning point happened on 30th June of 2018. This is when I first visited Nairobi.

I had so many questions about this great city. Much of the information I had was mostly stories, tales and rumours I had heard about Nairobi. Now, I had a chance to prove the truth of all this with my own eyes and personal experience. This was a big moment to my young life. I still look back fondly about the excitement and the new experience.

One standout about Nairobi is the loud Matatus something that is a signature of Nairobi urban life. The language was also a bit alien. This is not to mean that was my first encounter with sheng. Its just that, this was different. Most Kenyan regions have a version of their sheng, a mix of languages. Nairobi’s is a different kind and it hits your ears different the first time you experience it. You feel a bit lost. It got better with time.

Having a brother in the city made things slightly better and easier. I had classes as soon as 2nd July which was hardly a month after landing. I had not gotten used to my immediate surroundings.  I couldn’t easily locate my school. I didn’t know how to get around places. I struggle and got lost a few times. Simply put, I struggled catching up with the first moving city.  My mum had left Nairobi a few days earlier. All I could remember her telling me was “I have spent enough time with you. It is now time for me to let you learn from the world. Just remember to be yourself and you will do fine.”

Later that week, I reported to school for admission at KCA with the help with my brother. I was differently dressed. Difference of background was clear as day and night. The comfortable life of having everything handed to you was over. You are in a place where everything and everyone is different. They view life from a different perspective. Before then, I have never stepped into a party where teenagers freely drink booze. Here, there was freedom to do anything.

It was up to me to make my choices. I had all manner of friends with different life experiences based on their background.  School mates and friends would tell me things I never understood or had never experienced. Some took drugs like food. From my background, I had enough examples from the village of people who were messed up by drugs. I knew drugs as a taboo. I knew of people who lost it all and lived in abject poverty because o drugs. Nairobi’s pressure was something else. In this scene, all I was taught mattered little. I had to pick a side, decide my fate.

Life in campus started well. It actually was fun. The most important thing I realized was making the right decisions on whom I hanged out with. It takes time to make friends. Everyone is trying to check out and size up the other. It is a slow game of tip-toe as no one want to offend others unless they knew them well.  Most common question was where one comes from. People want to know your background. Is a weird social prompt that at first seems friendly but basically they are grouping you into some category, tribe or region. It’s a Kenyan thing. People want to know how things are done where you come from, how things are there. My answer would always be the same most times. It helps when people know your stand. Other times, it is good to maintain some mystery.

Phrases like “buda kam tuende baze manze kuna magushoto wameweza na make sure umekam na makibenje.” Were Spanish at first. I rarely ventured outside classes and my residence. I now realize that growth comes when you are open to change and willing to explore new experiences. Moving from your comfort zone is hard.  Sometimes, focusing on your comfort, plus fear of change does not help your growth.

Although it is common for people to focus on the bad side of Nairobi, there is a good side that makes grow possible. Nairobi offers one an opportunity to grow personally, learn to look at things critically and even dealing with people around you. Such a huge difference to the quiet in the village changes ones perspective of life.

The stories from my child and the rumors of the bad side of Nairobi have become clear. There are some are truths and exaggerations as well. Over time, as a young man in college, I have come to realize that I have the power to choose the life I live. Nairobi has changed me in terms of my dressing code, thinking, language and even the way I view life.  I have come to appreciate making new friends, going out, and socializing. Friends are like a sword. They come in twos. They can influence one negatively or positively. Learning to discern friendships is one of the most important lesson I have learnt so far as a young person living in Nairobi with roots from the village in Kitale.

Makokha out.    


The author is a student at KCA University. 

Are You Doing Good?

Being a grown up comes with so many responsibilities. Many people do miss their childhood solely because they were free of responsibilities and other worldly expectations.

If there is one of the biggest fear that we might all have, it is that we fear we might not live up into our full potential and as a result, our lives may fail to add upto anything substantial. We have all grown up believing that our existence has some special meaning and that everything will eventually make sense someday. Needless to say, we all at some point have felt like we might get a chance someday to show our worth to the world. Many people forget to consider that today is the most important day of your life. We might get stuck in the past or lost in the future. Everyone wants to be successful. We are concerned with how if we fail to keep our composure and diligence towards making our selves better, we might never have that ‘Thank you for this recognition award’ speech.

Life might particularly become even challenging when you see all your peers marching on the path of success in their careers. It is a fact that there are people of whom we thought we might have been better than, only to see them doing surprisingly great while we are still wallowing in the miasma of self pity, regret and failure. And while it is important to realise everyone’s journey is unique, it is also important to know that whatever choices you made led you to wherever you currently are.

There is no earlier time to teach yourself something if anything, there are numerous things that I would have wanted my younger self to learn. The most important lesson right now is that: you might currently consider yourself too old and immerse yourself into regret of the things that you never did; the you that never came. But it is important to learn that your current self is your younger self of tomorrow. So never get tired of making progress with bettering your self. These are the few lessons that I wished I learnt earlier but I am trying squeeze them in my life right now.

  1. If it frightens you, do it.
  2. Don’t settle. Every time you settle, you get exactly what you settled for.
  3. Put yourself first.
  4. No matter what happens, you will handle it.
  5. Whatever you do, do it 100%.
  6. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.
  7. You are the only person on this planet responsible for your needs, wants, and happiness.
  8. Ask for what you want.
  9. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something different.
  10. Be clear and direct.
  11. Learn to say “no.”
  12. Don’t make excuses.
  13. If you are an adult, you are old enough to make your own rules.
  14. Let people help you.
  15. Be honest with yourself.
  16. Do not let anyone treat you badly. No one. Ever.
  17. Remove yourself from a bad situation instead of waiting for the situation to change.
  18. Don’t tolerate the intolerable — ever.
  19. Stop blaming. Victims never succeed.
  20. Live with integrity. Decide what feels right to you, then do it.
  21. Accept the consequences of your actions.
  22. Be good to yourself.
  23. Think “abundance.”
  24. Face difficult situations and conflict head on.
  25. Don’t do anything in secret.
  26. Do it now.
  27. Be willing to let go of what you have so you can get what you want.
  28. Have fun. If you are not having fun, something is wrong.
  29. Give yourself room to fail. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.
  30. Control is an illusion. Let go; let life happen.

If you have any important lessons that you feel like they might have benefited you best in your younger years, please share them on the comment section below.

Featured Writer

Rate Cards and Business Values

So the other day, I was in a discussion with a colleague trying to get the Ugandan Revenue Authority personal TIN number. The long-armed government tax collecting agency has tried moving its operations online and so one is required to go to the cyber cafe or use a personal computer to apply for the number or seek certain services.

In the process of trying to make this happen, he was directed to the nearest cyber cafe. Government offices always have a paperwork guy in a bureau nearby to help them ease the very heavy burden of offering public service. He walks in presents his case and learns that it will cost him the equivalent of around Ksh 1000/ bob to get the pin application done. This is an easy process and anyone can do it within a short time. Just that he did not want to go back to the office or home to work on it. Anyway, in the process of seeking this government-sanctioned life-time chain, he gets to hear conversations around the cyber. There are other clients who have popped by to get served. One of these he learns is a man who has been asked to cough around Ksh 1,500/ to get an email address. Well, that is why I am writing my thoughts on this.

So say someone comes to your business premise seeking a service. How do you arrive at the service charge rate? What if its an old man, old woman, a village young man, or someone who smells like he/she just landed in town? Is it fair business to charge people differently because of the opportunity that their supposed ignorance presents? To use a term that solicited a lot of reactions recently, what is your rate card? The bigger concern is does your rate card apply uniformly to everyone regardless of who they are, how they look or where they come from? Is printing an A4 page Ksh 2.00 for every client that walks in, or that not how business works?

Another recent incident I encountered involved a carpenter. Now, we know of the carpenter who made a convertible bench that trended and scored the deputy president, William Ruto some political mileage. In all honesty, this was not news. It is just that they don’t get enough coverage or recognition, but local artisans, entrepreneurs are a creative lot. A lot of good stuff gets made but little is known about them because of our clamor for importing Chinese or western products. Those seem to attract the a bigger segment of the market. Maybe there is a disconnect or distrust or maybe local products are just too expensive or low quality.

There are many reasons why we don’t buy Kenyan. It starts partly at the top. When the government fails to procure locally or imports even office toothpicks, it sends the wrong impression. We can’t deny that there are cases where local products tend to be pricey. One would ask the million-dollar question; do local entrepreneurs price themselves out of the market? How does a product made locally end up becoming more expensive than one that came in from miles away, got taxed but still attracted the market? For goods, there has to be a fair formula at arriving at a price. For the arts and service providers, no one seems to know. It is like the decision is solely the service providers’ call. When the Tiktok sensation Azziad Nasenya revealed her rate card, she experienced some online backlash. People wondered and questioned her high charges. This also applies to lawyers, musical performances, creatives, writers, photographers, and others in a similar industry. There isn’t an agreed formula on what someone charges unless the government or oversight body steps in.

From my research, it is recommended that to enhance how much you sell, creating the foundation for a business that will prosper one has to price their products correctly. Get your pricing strategy wrong and you may create problems that your business may never be able to overcome. There are a variety of different types of pricing strategies in business. However, there’s no one surefire, formula-based approach that suits all types of products, businesses, or markets. Pricing your product usually involves considering certain key factors, including pinpointing your target customer, tracking how much competitors are charging, and understanding the relationship between quality and price. The good news is you have a great deal of flexibility in how you set your prices.

A fundamental tenet of pricing is that you need to cover your costs and then factor in a profit. That means you have to know how much your product costs. You also have to understand how much you need to mark up the product and how many you need to sell to turn a profit. Remember that the cost of a product is more than the literal cost of the item; it also includes overhead costs. Overhead costs may include fixed costs like rent and variable costs like shipping or stocking fees. You must include these costs in your estimate of the real cost of your product.

Other important factors include knowing your customer, your revenue target, your competition as well as where the market is headed. All these are important and doing some market research prior to setting prices goes a long way. Knowing your market helps you know whether a competitor will respond to your introduction of a lower price or a new product on the market by engaging your business in a price war.

It is equally important that value is set right in the service industry. This can be the time it takes to train, perfect one’s craft, the costs involved, etc. All those sets you on the pedestal to run a successful business. Others share a scientific three-step guide to pricing products; cost-based pricing, market-oriented pricing, and dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing, also referred to as demand pricing or time-based pricing, is a strategy in which businesses set flexible prices for a product or service based on current market demands. I understand where the Nasianyas are coming from. It takes time and a lot of effort to perfect ones trade. The online consumption demands what they are producing and so, artists are trying to price themselves based on demand.

We start a business with the sole purpose of making profits. That is a motivation high up there otherwise there is no point of going through all the hustles with municipal license, taxes, employees, and everything that comes with the venture. In a competitive open market economy, it gets competitive and profits have to be made to stay afloat. But the question is are there values to be upheld in all this? Values are principles or standards of behavior. They define who we are to the core.

Does the Bible have something to say about this? Fair trade matters to Christians because we are opposed to forced labour, and the bible advocates for justice. The book of Proverbs in chapter 11 talks of dishonest scales as an abomination to the Lord. In this verse, God cares about honesty and fairness. By fairness, both parties; seller and buyer must get their fair value. He condemns fraud and encourages fair business practice. The book of Proverbs recognizes the benefit of riches, but also their limitations.

The world has changed. A lot of the modern ills; corruption, greed, individualism, and exploitation for profit is not something that is new. Though, traditionally, values in the African set up were important. Treating others fairly was and still is a teaching ingrained in children and expected in adults. This guarantees a just society.

Regardless of race, gender, creed or origin, excellence, profits, and wealth is everyone’s wish. Even monks desire spiritual wealth of some sort. We trade to make a living, better ourselves, and the status and living conditions of our dependents. It goes without saying though that we expect to be treated fairly and so it’s only fair that we do the same to others. This is not only biblical, encouraged by most cultures, but also fundamentally human.


New world for Man

Featured Writer

The rise of social media over the past decade or so, has enormously transformed the way humans will interact going forward. The general landscape of information transfer, communication, and education has been revolutionized. Newspapers, radio tv, advertisements, and blogs have now taken the backseat in their domains as they all struggle to snatch content from this “New Media”

The digital divide that once used to exist is now borderline, children of ages as low as 7 years can outright access the internet and post their “two cents” on every trending subject on the social media platform of their choice. Online bullying, political polarisation, privacy, and other entirely new cyberspace related controversies (story for another day) are what the current world is still adjusting to: as there is still so much we don’t know from all these newfangled platforms. Where do men fit in this new world?

Men have taken a hit in the particular change of worldly norms. The Alpha power men used to have in the days of our forefathers is now a myth. The rise of social media has led to contemporary women’s overinflated self-evaluations and the value of men has been toxicised with the rampant rise in number of faux feminists. Current women consider gender difference as a good excuse to vent out their entire life frustrations. The difference in gender has been made adversarial and not complementary any longer. It’s no surprise to come across posts with very long threads stereotyping how “all men are trash”. The same people calling for gender equality, want to uplift the girl child while pulling down the boy-child and still complain of how null the role of new men has become.

Women can be very opinionated, and the pressure in social media for men to present themselves within certain unrealistic standards is something that has gained so much conflict within the social media, and perhaps it’s time men put their gadgets aside and try to rebuild the value of their gender.

If we educate our sons, we won’t have to protect our daughters. ~ Siya Kolisi

While it is close to impossible to revolutionize mindset using just one post, there is a trait that every man needs to master, if their value should be regained. A trait so important that not having it can cause low self-esteem, doubt, lack of confidence, or even the lack of that feeling of being a man, a feeling experienced only when we are in our full masculine potential. This trait could be mustered through the difficulty of unplugging yourself from the current societal matrix and reprogramming your caveman instincts.

All this is through learning to control your Frame. It is a tough journey, but bettering yourself will take sheer will, determination, and the thirst for becoming a finer version of yourself. A man’s frame is the way that he himself frames a certain situation in his head, and his ability to project that framing upon other people involved in that situation.

A drawback of modern men which is tightly connected to the downfall of traditional masculinity in the current generation is that men have become more and more subject to their emotions. “Embrace your feminine side” Men are encouraged. While It’s okay to express your emotions in proper ways in the right time and at the right place, allowing your emotions to lead your opinion and forming a frame-based upon your emotions leads not only to you being on the objectively wrong side of an argument but also to lowering your reputation and more importantly your value as a free-thinking man. It is very important that men do not forget their role in the system.

The society wants men with values, but the boychild is heavily neglected. The rise of powerful women and subsequent fall in alpha males has left boys with no role models. It is no shock that the number of Streetkids and jailbirds is exclusively the male gender.  You cannot pour from an empty cup, there was a gap that was created at some age by the dads who left for wars, some for work away from homes and the group who neglected their families due to one reason or another.

The effects of the society with no manly influence in the basic family units are now being seen in our timeline. For there to be any improvement in terms of the value men can add to society, we can perhaps be helped by the use of educating men and women using old ways. Or have we lost it all?

Share your thoughts and comments

(The writer is a concerned Man, and dad to an 8-year-old boy)