Thursday, December 24, 2009

IT IS CHRISTMAS ALRIGHT BUT

Christmas is here (again!) and we Kenyans will start our urban-rural age old migration. This is probably the reason our wildebeests also have an annual migration from their rural areas (Tanzania) to their urban which happens to be Kenya. It might also be that we learned migration from the wildebeests and I get afraid when people say that when societies live together, they start looking like each other and it will just be a matter of time before we start looking like the majority denizens of the Maasai Mara.

This season always brings me the tender memories of yesteryears because chapatti was reserved for it and Easter which made chapati taste better. This was followed by mandatory new clothes and shoes. My shoes were always a size larger (my mom reasoned that I would grow into them before the following Christmas) the result of which was blistered heels for the better part of the festive season and the first quarter of the New Year. It was the same with the dress or the petticoat and on Christmas day we would be looking for a sisal string to hold either of the longer (the dress or the petticoat) – belts were an Adults Only affair. The only thing that fit during Christmas was underwear. It was the only time we did not see the girl-child trying to catch their loose underwear from slipping to the ankles.

One Christmas that will forever remain etched on my mind was one when my mom, decided that I had left the child stage and was now a young woman. So she went ahead and bought me a young woman’s beige chiffon dress and a black petticoat. For those of you who did not experience those yesteryears, chiffon was a see through material. Unfortunately, I was still a girl in my mind and so we went with my cousins as usual with the mischief of girls and went swimming in the river while we were supposed to be grazing.

There was one notorious cow named Wanjiru and she took this chance to look for minerals in our petticoats. Mine happened to be the one that was reserved for Christmas. So when we were through swimming and we were ready to drive the cows home, none of us had a petticoat because Wanjiru had eaten them. We knew this because we saw a part of my cousin’s pink petticoat disappearing into her (Wanjiru) mouth. Eliza, the faster of us ran into the house and ‘stole’ for us other petticoats and brought them and we pretty much forgot the petticoat story until Christmas day. I did not have a petticoat to wear with my chiffon dress! The only petticoat I had was a blue nylon one which clung onto my body because of static. The other nightmare was that the petticoat was halfway my thin thighs and the dress reached to my ankles. I went to church looking like the Secretary bird in a filigree skirt.

Another phenomenon of this season was the hot comb. If there is one inventor I would shoot purely for sport it was the guy who invented it. The damn thing (forgive my hostility towards it) never allowed two strands of hair between its teeth. Apart from leaving me in tears, it also left my nape and hands blistered by hot Vaseline which splattered in every direction. I was usually held down by my cousins to allow the hot comb find its way through my thick hair.

Today, Christmas is fun except for the urban-rural migration. I don’t like it but my mom won’t hear that I am old enough to spend Christmas in the city. As a matter of fact she believes that there is no Christmas in the city. She is also afraid that if I don’t go home during Christmas, people might talk, if you can imagine. I asked her what they would say and you won’t believe this but she said, “That you are pregnant or you ran off with a guy without a proper wedding” hahaha and she means it. This makes me want to stay in the city so they can talk but it would kill my mother and I just oblige and head home.

We pick our mats at Nyamakima and it is always a disaster. Twice I have arrived very early to catch a mat home and twice I have been given a ticket written No. 77 at the right hand corner meaning that I will be boarding mat No.77. I ask a conductor what No. is loading and twice again it has been No.15. What this arithmetic translates to is that I will be at the stage for 8hrs to board a mat and as if that is not enough, the fair is tripled.

Another nightmare is that we have to shop in Nairobi. This is a direct result of supermarkets branding their paper bags. I heard a telephone conversation (this is the truth) where a lady was talking to I believe her mother that she had shopped in all the major supermarkets. Grandmother then sought to confirm with the grandchildren that they had Nakumatt, Tuskys, Uchumi and Ukwala Supermarkets paper bags because she did not want to be the only one carrying green paper bags to women’s meetings. And apart from whole families traveling together and therefore making life difficult already, we travel in mats that are packed with all sorts of luggage in the name of Christmas shopping. Me, I have learnt to lie. Got to. I save all the branded paper bags in tip-top condition, then shop in Nyahururu and repack the stuff in the branded paper bags.

Having exhausted our finances on this extravagant shopping, we start migrating back to the city and since we are broke, we pack the mats with sacks of potatoes and flour and live chicken with kids talking about their Christmas experience and it is like boarding a train to the abyss. I, like the politicians have started to long for 2012 because I will get a break from this Christmas madness.

Merry Christmas to you all in readerland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WHEN INSECTS MAKE YOU MENTAL

I have these insects that have erected their nests (or what do you call insect housing?) in my bed. They have decided that they are going to eat it down from below and when I discovered how they have been slowly sawing my bed, I was not just unnerved, I became hysterical!

My mind raced through the options and the first one was to call Hon. Ruto, the Minister for Agriculture. I remembered that it is his Ministry that deals with issues insects. The most scary thing that came to mind was what they would do to the mattress and even worse to me when they start sawing through my bones.

So I called the Ministry and when I asked to talk to Hon. Ruto, and explained what my problem was, the person who answered the call advised me to call the Ministry of Livestock. I forgot the name of the Minister but asked to ask to talk to him anyway but I was told he was only dealing with pastoralists at the time. If I tell you that my heart sank, I will be lying. I was alarmed, worse because the government no longer publishes a poster that the former regime used to publish that had all the names and photographs of Ministers. That meant looking for the 2008 newspaper that had the names of the Ministers of this bloated government only to realize that I had set it on fire in defiance of the grand coalition.

If I had not found a caption where the reporter had been kind enough to include the information that the Vice President S.K. Musyoka is also the Minister for Home Affairs, I would have been sawn through by now by the messengers of destruction that were sawing my bed. I was delighted to nail the right Minister since my problem was more of a home affair than an agricultural or livestock one.

By this time I was nearing breaking point. The phone rang several times and was later answered by a kind hearted lady who listened carefully and advised me to order a new bed from Kamiti Maximum Prisons. What the lady was advising me to do was to buy a higher quality bed for the insects to saw through. If this lady had been at the emergency calls when the Titanic went down, she probably would have asked a fearful voyager;

Lady: What is the colour of your seat?
Voyager: Orange
Lady: Get a green one!

The next person I could think of to help me was the Prime Minister but what was his phone number? And with this Mau Forest issue, I didn't want to bog him down with the petty details of my bed. The last person I could think of calling was my mother. Guess what? She was a great help - for a time. She advised me to douse my bed with paraffin and the insects died in their thousands. The result of it is that I was exiled from my bedroom to the living room for the following two weeks by the paraffin.

Two days after I went back to my bedroom, I noticed some saw dust on the floor. The little monsters were back! At night I didn't sleep because they were drilling the bed. I applied paraffin but they seemed to have carried gas masks and paraffin was not working anymore. What should I do? I have a strategy now which is to just let them eat the bed and I will kill them in one swoop when I fall on them riding on the mattress. Hahaha.











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AN OPEN LETTER TO HON. BETH MUGO

Dear Madam,
I am writing this letter to you because I am distressed by your recent remarks about your Ministry not having enough reagents to test whether what is killing us is cholera or not. The way you said with an obvious nonchalance, was as if you were talking about running out of rocket fuel and not reagents that would ultimately save our lives.

Let me start by pointing out that I have never suffered from cholera and so I would not presume to know an inch of how much my fellow citizens are suffering. But I did come close due to a rotten choice I made this past Jamhuri day. I hate to bog you down with my woes but on that day, my eyes and mouth formed an unholy alliance and later a coalition where they agreed that so long as it looked and tasted great, it was to be wolfed down.

I am not sure whether my stomach was cleaning up or sleeping when all the wolfing was going on, but an assortment of food and drink did end up there and what followed, even though I am afraid is not half of what would happen to a cholera victim, might probably help you to see things more differently and hopefully you will rethink your stand on the cholera epidemic that has hit our country. And because we are both women, I see no need to leave out any details and will be as graphic as I can possibly be.

Immediately my stomach learnt that it was 'overloaded' it started to rumble so loudly so as to exclude me from the other party goers so that it could deal with me properly. It then sent an angry memo to my knees which made them feel like they were made purely from Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. The Synovial fluid (my grandmother used to call it phinnochio juice) evaporated and then my stomach started to threaten to release the hormone and enzyme and other digestive juices treated 'overload' on to the lower parts of my body.

My brain had to work fast to look for a bathroom before the stomach fulfilled its threat. So on jelly like knees, I rushed to a bathroom, only to find women at the mirrors applying and reapplying make-up. The best help they gave me was what-the-hell-were-you-thinking dirty looks and you-deserve-it-glutton remarks. I couldn't stop to give them a piece of my mind coz I had to dash into a stall and so I blacked them out.

Thinking the nightmare had ended, I rose to leave but my stomach screamed 'Stop right there!' I remained holed up in that stall for the rest of the party period. My stomach continued to play this game on me on my way home. I boarded 5 mats because my 'captor' kept threatening me with more diarrhoea and I would stop the driver after paying full fare only for me to feel perfectly fine once the mat left. In retaliation, I have decided to fast until the New Year to teach my stomach a lesson it will not forget soon.

As I said earlier, I am not sure my experience is even half of what our fellow Kenyans who have survived the pandemic have gone through. But believe you me I would not wish this experience on you. I am not sure you understand what I am talking about, but please do get the reagents and doctors and other things that might help relieve the suffering of our people.

As I sign off Madam Minister, may I give you some advice. Next time you are talking about life saving reagents, rehearse before a mirror before dashing off to a press-con. You will at least learn to fake some concern for Kenyans.

Sincerely,

Gasheri.

Monday, December 14, 2009

THE HELL WITH NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS

We are in the New Year season and as always we are coming up with all sorts of resolutions. Let me first state my opinion about New Year resolutions – they were invented by very mean sadists who wanted people to be depressed after the Christmas season. Another idea is that they could have been created by Mother Nature for stability. After peak pleasure during Christmas, the other way is down and she made sure that she did not give us a descent but a fall.

So I am sick and tired of New Year resolutions because I have had one for the last 20 Years that I made at midnight on January 1st and broke it at 7 A.M. the following morning, even though I would have broken it earlier if I had not been sleeping.

My take is that since I have turned out just fine even after breaking all 20 New Year resolutions, that they are unnecessary depressants that we do not need. Their only result in my life is that they make what I have always done with ease become difficult because they come wrapped in a gift wrapper that screams better. I think they are blind ogres facing away from us, and we just walk up to them and pat their shoulders declaring ourselves ready meals.

I want to advise us that whatever you have planned to do this year, remove the New Year resolutions tag and you will accomplish it. Those of you that will be trying tough things like quitting smoking and drinking relax. Wait until the newspapers have screamed themselves hoarse about New Year resolutions which will probably be in March, and then sit carefully and read the label on the pack of cigarettes or the label on your beer bottle. The cigarette pack is written in bold letters that ‘Cigarette smoking is harmful to your health’ and I insist that the government demands that they add ‘and only an idiot like me would light it up.’

Then there are those of you who have paid yearly subscriptions to gyms in the pursuit of loss of weight. Good luck! Especially if you are like me still nibbling on the New Year cake in the name of slow but sure. Gym time comes and the only 'sensible' thing you can think of is to drive away in the opposite direction from the gym because your whole body hurts from the last session. New Year resolution rears its ugly head and the next thing you want to do is crush into a tree. You tell yourself that since the New Year resolution is causing you so much pain, it is ok to pass via Marc’s Ice Cream to soothe your sore self.

So this New Year resolution fad is complete horse waste and you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you just join my club which is New Year resolutions no more.

You will also agree with me (and it won’t kill me if you don’t) that we Kenyan’s love our culture of being broke in January so that we can tell each other how broke we are. Can you imagine a January where you have money? I paid my rent before going home for Christmas and you can’t believe my landlord. He confessed to me that it sucked up all his ego because I robbed him the thrill of coming to my door and declaring that the house belongs to him and if I didn’t pay up he would throw me out and find another tenant. So now to keep up the fa├žade, he is coming every day for a cup of tea. I think I prefer the nagging and declarations of being thrown out. Apart from building his ego, it will save me lots of cups of tea whose cost is going to be higher than two months rent by the end of January.

Happy New and Prosperous 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

PATRIOTISM THEN AND NOW

The joy of writing about our national holidays is that you can always turn in the same column every year, except of course for the election year where the national holidays are converted into political rallies. So during the non-election year, the president drones on and on about the achievements of 'my government' and then realizes in the election year that his government has achieved zero and he starts to promise us pie in the sky come the following year.

During the Nyayo Era,we kids attended the National Holidays with zest especially if one belonged to the 'exclusive club' of the school choir. To join this club, all one needed was a pair of black Bata leather shoes. We pleaded with our parents for this privilege and if they could afford it, or if they did not subscribe to an imaginary 'rebel' group, one was in. The only problem is that when the shoes were new, they were five sizes larger because they were meant to last the whole upper primary duration. When it was time to exit the 'club', we would pray for fire and brimstone to fall from heaven because the shoes had turned into feet mincers and so the senior members were always chosen to sing the really emotional patriotic parts because tears came easily. Our parents on the other hand were dragged from their houses and work places to the stadium in the same way the government deals with terrorist groups.

The mark of the Nyayo Era holidays is that the entertainment was superb. It didn't matter whether it was in the village where the Sub-Chief represented the president. We sang our hearts out. But then came the presidential speech and people behaved as if the president was hiding a beehive in his mouth and they were afraid of a serious bees attack when the president opened his mouth. So immediately the Vice president took the podium to welcome the president, all the adults would start scampering for the gates and clambering on the walls of the stadium to launch themselves out. The Administration Police would follow in hot pursuit with clubs aiming at the skulls of the fleeing adults probably to ascertain whether they possessed a working brain or in its place was a sac of air. In less than a few seconds calm would return and the president would go on to read a three hour long speech.

Today, the MC is notified on the eve of the holiday and he has to make arrangements for choirs at midnight. Small wonder we end up with the calamity that we call entertainment. Then we are treated to the protocol circus where in the Vice President and the Prime Minister do not know who is senior to the other. I am warning that if this is not corrected very soon, we will have a major limo crash as those two dash to seat on the seat that is deemed to 'be just below' the president's power-wise.

At least the president's speech is bearable, doesn't take forever except that with this president, however keen I am the only thing I hear is 'my government'. This is then followed by a treatise of 'Hakunaaa, hapanaaa, no, no, hiyo haitawezekanaaaa'.

From there we move on to the MPs' take on the presidential speech irrespective of the fact that they have emerged straight from slumberland! Depending on which side of the coalition they are on, we hear such big words as 'right on, divine, novel, splendid' or it was 'empty, a pail of hogwash ,balderdash e.t.c'. Then they all by mutual agreement, hop onto their limos and head to State House to gormandize our tax money. Wish you all an enjoyable Jamhuri day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

PAIN AND SUFFERING

I am suing CKJ for causing me, a citizen of a democratic country pain and suffering. And I am looking for the best lawyer in the land - one who has sat in several commissions of inquiry. This at least narrows the number to quite a few but before you raise your hands, this is a serious case with serious money. I need compensation from the clothes line for the humiliation, pain and suffering the company has caused me.

I am the kind of person who appreciates instructions and I read them very carefully before using anything I buy including tea leaves to make a good cup of tea. I always do just in case there is a change in formula or content. I read the instructions on the pair of jeans about how to wash, dry and iron it. You must be wondering what went wrong if I had read the instructions and followed them. What was not in the instructions was the most important because I had bought the pair of jeans to wear it, right? You don't buy a pair of jeans or any other piece of clothing to wash, dry and iron it, do you? Therefore the company should have included the instructions that 'you should make sure you have buttoned and zipped the jeans before leaving the house' and maybe just out of concern for the consumer include the consequences of not zipping and buttoning the jeans, something like 'BECAUSE THE JEANS WILL FALL AND LEAVE YOU EXPOSED!

The long and short of it is that I am suing CKJ for leaving out that important instruction. I was walking in town in this uncertain weather we are now having where you leave the house in jeans and you want to throw the pair in a dustbin by ten in the morning because it is too hot or you wear something light and then go buy a jersey on credit by noon from your stockist, and then you wish you could return it by two in the afternoon because you are steaming.

A tout thought that I needed to be rescued from the weather and started those auntie greetings of theirs and insisted on taking me wherever his 'mat' was heading. I always have the courtesy to wave, meaning no or the usual 'siendi asante' but this particular day I ignored the guy and the tout, who would probably have been polite if I had been in the first place shouted to me in a rather loud voice considering I was close to his matatu "Auntie hinga mubuto."

For those of you who are not familiar with Gothic, this translated means Auntie Zip up your damn trousers! I thought he was just a little bit irritated by my refusal to board his 'mat' and was trying to mock me but when I looked down and saw an unzipped CKJ jeans on me, I wanted to burst into flames or mutate to an unknown life form!

If you think you are a good learned friend, please contact me. I also need an insurer who has a humiliation policy. I will be putting my millions in your basket.