Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Taking Stock of 2014... Ushering in 2015.

Belated Christmas wishes; wishing you a wonderful, new year; patriotic Madaraka and Jamhuri Days in advance; and the usual birthday wishes: that's what this post is about. That and the chance to take stock of 2014.

My friend, Joan, says that I am the only person she knows who composes their own Christmas messages instead of just forwarding the same old tired texts. I think people who forward those verbose, boring monologues filled with unnecessary emoticons are the real terrorists. Followed closely by the lazy asses who don't add a personal message in a card. I suppose these little things tick me off because I am a hoarder of words. Being a voracious reader is one thing... then there's me who still has journals from Form One tucked away in my room. I keep around almost every bit of private, written correspondence: a poem someone wrote me in high school; cards from people that I used to know... the words mean so much more than the gifts that accompanied them. When the boyfriend and I get into a fight sometimes he writes these little notes for me to find later on. I have almost every single one of them tucked away in my latest journal. Yes... I am that kind of girl and if we are friends, I will send you a freshly composed Christmas message and not try to get mad when you reply with one of those messages that even you didn't bother to read.

So, 2014... On the drive to work I was thinking about what 2014 was all about for me. All year long I've felt really busy but when I really think about it, 2014 has been all about me finishing school. Almost every thing I did directly contributed to that particular war effort. I did research for my project; I studied real hard; I stood up a lot of friends. But now school is over and for the first time in my life, I am scared shitless of the future. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what I should do with my life now: get a Masters degree; start sitting for professional papers (no matter that I am not sure what particular profession I want to be a part of); start applying for jobs; get married; have a baby... I know they all mean well but can't I at least get a month to catch my breath?

The boyfriend just finished school too. I'm really proud of him. You think Actuarial Science is hard until you look at Engineering coursework!  We are officially a young, broke, underemployed couple. If this were an Indie movie we'd move to a studio apartment in a large city where we'd chase our dreams. I would discover that I would much rather write than do pension valuations. He'd encourage me to quit my job and we'd live off his salary, supplemented by his trust fund (because in Indie movies there is always a secret trust fund in play. How else would they manage to lead such an enchanted existence?) But since this is real life, we'll try to get real jobs as soon as possible. When I tell the boyfriend how scared I am of the future all he says is, "You'll be okay." He says it offhandedly and I want to get mad at him for being glib and assuming when I realize that he's sure that I'll be okay. He believes I'll figure it out and because he knows me better than anyone else, I start to believe it too.

This year I read a lot too. Both e-books and hard copy books, thanks to 10000+ Free eBooks and paperbacks that sell for only Kshs. 100.
My eBook Library.

I'd say its been a good year. I pushed myself, tapping into energy reserves I didn't even know existed. I've made myself proud. I have a good feeling about 2015 and I pray that it will be good to you too. May you be the best you that you can possibly be next year.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

My 2 Cents on Racism

I have a black hoodie that Dad got me last year. It's about two sizes too big but the last time Dad bought me an item of clothing  was at least 10 years before that, so it meant a lot that he had taken the risk. I mainly wear the hoodie to bed or to go to the shops in the evening. The first time my sister saw me in it she joked that now that I had a 'Trayvon Hoodie', I should probably take care not to get shot walking around at night in it, and we laughed about it. We could afford to. Let's face it. The police post near my house probably doesn't have a gun... and if they did, you can be sure that they aren't doing patrols to keep the peace. What, with all those pubs at the shopping center where they can go extort bribes? Then there's the fact that no one is going to shoot me simply because I am black and wearing a suspicious-looking BLACK hoodie. This is Kenya, we are almost all black and can't use race as a basis to discriminate. When tribe and class isn't reason enough, we focus on the less evil colourism. (According to my spell check that last word isn't a real word... yet we are adding words like 'mahoosive' to the Oxford Dictionary. SMH)

Where I live may have made me a little less sensitive to racism. I've watched films about it, read books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and articles... even read 'Americanah' assuming that an African's perspective on race would have a greater impact than that of an African American's. I still feel that some things have to be experienced to be understood. I couldn't honestly tell an African America that I know what they go through. We may be the same skin color but I have no idea what they go through. History handed us different crosses to bear... and I am not sure whose is heavier.

Yesterday I read 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd. It's a small book and I devoured it within hours, even though I was at work. I don't like bugs; most animals too... and some people. I am an unsocial being... as opposed to antisocial. Antisocial suggests that I have something against social beings when in fact I am simply unlike them. Nothing further to say on that. I wouldn't have picked up a book called 'The Secret Life of Bees' in a million years. But it had a pretty cover, could easily fit in my bag and cost only 50 bob; so I bought it over lunch. I have to say that was my best decision of the day.

Turns out a 14 year old living in the American South in the 1960s' perspective on race wasn't any easier to picture than my previous collective experiences. However, this story got to me because it focused on one white girl and four amazing black women who manage to create a slice of race-free heaven in the pink house that they live in. In the South. In the 60s... Wow.

In the book, I finally concluded that Lily Owens got it all figured it out when she mused:
"They (the Daughters of Mary) didn’t even think of me being different. Up until then I’d thought that white people and colored people getting along was the big aim, but after that I decided everybody being colorless together was a better plan. I thought of that policeman, Eddie Hazelwurst, saying I lowered myself to be in this house of colored women, and for the very life of me I couldn’t understand how it got to be this way, how colored women had become the lowest ones on the totem pole. You only had to look at them to see how special they were, like hidden royalty among us"

Everybody being colorless together sounds too good to be true. It probably is. It would take a miracle for us to stop seeing race as a defining factor. However, we can try to respect each other differences and appreciate that we are all human. I may not understand how African Americans feel... and their pain may be overshadowed by my own unique Third World problems... but I'd like to take the time to say that #BlackLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Dull and Ignorant ( I am Getting Real Tired of Hearing Their Story)

Turns out Green Day was wrong... Silence is not the enemy...

If you've been following my blog you know that I just finished school...exactly one week ago, actually. As expected, I was starry eyed and full of dreams. All my life I have been prepared for this moment. For a person who didn't peak in primary school, high school or college; I figure the next few years will be my moment in the spotlight.

I have become quickly disenchanted. You see, as I said here, I have spent the last four years in the company of highly intelligent people and in a place where almost everything runs like clockwork. In other words, I have spent the last four years in a scenario that was nothing like the real Kenya. In fact, make that eight years. My high school had this antique feel to it that made it seem like a prep school. Now it's dawning upon me that most people are pettier, duller and generally more difficult to work with than I had imagined them to be.

I have to say it started with my attempt to get an ID at work. I literally had to sit the guy in charge of that down to get him to process it. Every time he'd ask me to come back later, I'd find him playing Candy Crush on Facebook or stalking Ole Lenku; said ID still unprocessed. With the patience I usually only reserve for my two year old nephew, I got him to sit and do the 15 minute job that had taken him two days to get done.

Even after that, my starry vision had not yet been dimmed. I wasn't going to let one uncooperative IT guy ruin my day. The hostel thing was what started to nag me. I needed to leave some luggage at the reception for Daddy dearest to pick up and the matron was unrelenting until she overheard me speak Kikuyu to my dad over the phone. Then she got all clansman and village-matey on me; let me leave my luggage and even forgave the fact that I lost my cutlery. You are probably wondering why I got worked up about some reverse tribalism when there are bigger problems in the nation. I'm not sure. I suppose it just triggered the knowledge that no matter how far I get, my name and mother tongue will always influence how people treat me. And even when that treatment is good, it will always leave me with a bitter taste.

What completely disenchanted me was the policeman who unleashed tear gas in Bus Station to a group of people queuing peacefully because a few women demanded that if the City Council askaris were going to arrest the women who were selling groceries, they should at least be allowed to take their children with them rather than leave them on the street. The pompous ass started firing bullet into the sky and threw tear gas canisters to the queuing passengers. I think a certain minimum level of intelligence should be ascertained before handing someone a gun and a can full of irritant gas. That's just the responsible thing to do. It is really no wonder that our national security is in shambles if these are the kind of people entrusted with it!

PS: On the bright side I got to buy a faux Luigi purse before the chaos begun...
Fake it till you make it...

 PPS: I will forever be a laptop activist. My respiratory system was not made to handle tear gas. And I didn't go to the obstacle course that is UoN, which would have hardened me to the terrors of this world!