Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Storyteller: A Review of Sorts

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite writers ever. I am learning how to tame my youthful exuberance and someone I know pointed out to me that if I claim that something is the best thing ever, I can't then go on and give that title to five or so more things. Adulting is difficult! All these rules. I will, therefore, refrain from calling Jodi 'my favourite writer ever' and add the prefix 'one of'.

From experience, I know how crafty Jodi can get. She will get you to care; to invest your feelings in the characters that she weaves around your heart and soul. You will prefer to have coffee with the suspected pedophile from Salem Falls, instead of paying attention to your date. You will get out of your Friday night plans by washing your hair when the real reason is that you can't let that sad, little girl in  Leaving Time spend a Friday night alone. She is all you have You are all she has! I know Jodi and I have been working on building up my defences. I start reading her books with a sense of detachment and refuse to let myself get swallowed in. Real life is heartbreaking enough! That was until I read The Storyteller.

This book and this story is filled with love. First of, my sister's love. She let me snatch this book from her when she was midway through reading it. I heartlessly spirited away to Kampala with it. Being the beautiful soul she is, she understood that while she is surrounded by family, friends, love and laughter; all I have in this alien land is Jodi.

Secondly, there is all the baking! Almost every single page of this book talks about delicious breads and pastries. Of all the acts of cooking; baking is the one that expresses love the most. The book tells three stories concurrently: Sage's journey of self discovery and forgiveness; Minka's experiences during the Holocaust; and Ania's fantasy like tale filled with monsters (human and otherwise). While all three are set in different places, times and realms of reality; bread remains a center point in all three.

Needless to say, I got sucked in. I could not put down this book. It combined the best elements of my love for history and my curiosity for human nature. It raises a lot of moral questions and allows me to fantasize about food when things get too serious. Like all Jodi Picoult books, it is thought provoking and will make you want to take a moment to breath ever so often.

Thank you Jodi, for the gift of  great story!
PS: If you are in Nairobi, you need to check out that book guy outside Diamond Plaza!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Slipping Standards (and finally getting to watch Pretty Woman)

Recently I surprised a friend of mine with the knowledge that Beyonce is not only married, but now has a daughter (who she named for me... not that you will believe me). It is amazing really, how removed from culture some people can be! I can't judge him too harshly. You see, I just now watched Pretty Woman. And, by Jove (high school English has to be put into some use!), it may just have trumped 'My Sassy Girl' to get the coveted spot as my favorite romantic comedy of all time. 

This outfit! Admit it, it gives you ideas for the next Halloween.. 

I have heard the fairy tale, but watching it still blew my mind away. To think that the original script was a cautionary tale on the vagaries of drugs and prostitution. It was written for a film called '3000' that would have ended in Julia Roberts getting kicked to the curb and having money thrown at her. Kind of what would happen in REAL life! Instead romantic comedy came of age then.

I have maintained that the human race seemed to have hit its peak (artistically) and is now slowly deteriorating. I see it in our music where the IQ of lyrics wouldn't even intrigue a 12 year old. I see it in literature where fewer people are writing books; and those who are have to compete with all this garbage on the internet (for instance, this unnecessary blog). I see it in art that has to compete with memes. Acutely and most recently, I see it in the fact that in 1990 we had the potential to come up with 'Pretty Woman' while in 2015 our idea of romance was 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Yes, rock bottom has a basement... and that basement is 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Something is going seriously wrong!

However, sometimes my faith is rekindled by stumbling upon beauty in the most unexpected places. For instance, Nayyirah Waheed and her wonderful instagram page with some of the most beautiful lines ever written.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Friendship: My Version

Those who get my weird... and are on my wavelength.

I have been asked to stop claiming my social awkwardness. I have been told that I am not a misfit. I have been convinced into embracing this improved version of myself that has evolved into a social animal. After all, I can make people laugh and I have a supposedly charming smile!

This doesn't sit well with me. Not entirely. You see, now that I cannot blame it on inborn social awkwardness, what can I attribute some of my quirks to? I am a paradox socially. I can talk for hours but still remain withdrawn. I can love you deeply and not be there for you when you need it the most. I am a great texter (amazing content and good grammar) while managing to be a terrible communicator. I will braid you hair and share my food but will not take you shopping or be your 'wing woman'. I will vet your significant other and ask them all the hard questions but I will not be friends with them.

This paradox makes me a great friend. You will be lucky to have me in your life. We will have a lot of laughs and see the world from a cynical, funny perspective. It also makes me a lousy friend. I won't not only miss your birthday (and wedding) but I will not even know what date it is on!

I have tried to work on these flaws but have found that it simply doesn't work. The harder I try, the more tedious it gets. With time conversations get tedious. I hate it when that happens... when a great friendship gets exhausted and you can't hold a conversation without grunting from all the effort. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be the friend who will always listen, even to your strangest BS; who will listen to and share great music with you; who will watch strange Indie films with you and dissect them afterwards; who will keep your mind off your problems by talking about her life incessantly; and who will brew you tea and make you an omelette whenever. You will, however, have to find a different friend for the hand holding; the back rubbing and the drunken brawls.

That said, I have a surprisingly quality portfolio of friends. The best collection of humans anywhere. Here's to them!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Mashujaa Day

At work we have this thing where every Monday morning we give 'reasons to dance'. Everyone is supposed to share something good that is going on in their life... and being a Monday morning, the most common response is usually, "I had a great weekend."

This week though, my reason to dance was Mashujaa Day. With only one other Kenyan in the room, this was met with blank stares. I don't consider myself terribly patriotic. Heck, most of the time I do not consciously identify as Kenya. I am Ivy, simple. However, of late I have been increasingly thinking of myself as a Kenyan. This is probably because I have been confronted with my Kenyan-ness. My Kenyan accent, my Kenyan aggressiveness, my (Kenyan?) hairstyle.

I am proud to belong to this unique country, whose strong population finds a way to survive despite everything. I know that there is a lot to be ashamed of: a government that has miraculously managed to undo years of economic development; blatant corruption; complete disregard for the future of young people; and widespread, highly accepted ignorance. However, there is still a lot to say for the people who remain on a mission to civilize.

I cannot lose hope in this country. I need only think of my mother, who teaches students who have had such a poor educational background that finding that one C student is a miracle... but she still gives them her all. I think of the dozens of people who I have met in the past few months who are solving some of society's largest problems by starting businesses... who are entrepreneuring their way around inadequate access to virtually everything: healthcare, energy, education, information, transport, employment. I think of the brilliant young men and women I recently completed school with who will go on to do great things. I think of a Central Bank Governor who does not see the correlation between his post and living in a huge mansion in Muthaiga. Who knows that having a fleet of cars at his disposal has no relation to taming the depreciating currency.

'Shujaa' is a big word. It suggests grand feats, a mask, a batmobile, and a shitload of money. Heroes are important, as are their courageous acts. However, the people doing the little things, day in, day out are important as well. They are the ones that inspire the heroes... and they are the ones that make me believe that Kenya will be okay. We will get through credit crunches, Ksh. 40000 soaps and Kshs. 100,000 wheelbarrows. The devil is a liar, after all.


Monday, 5 October 2015

New Beginnings: Kyle 2.0

I feel, and have always felt so-so about online dating. It could very easily go either way. I know we millennials, with our 5 minute noodles and instant coffee, are supposed to prefer the convenient world of online dating but surprisingly, I do not. It may have something to do with my old soul. I still think that The One is more often than not met at a party, in a coffee shop or a cute little bookstore.

My problem with online dating is that the person, more often that not, will not look like their pictures. While they may be still be funny in person, their voice won't be that deep, husky baritone that you hear in your mind when you read their messages. They will definitely be shorter than you expect! Better the devil you know can see . Once in while, however, I am proved wrong.

Of late I have been feeling the need to move on from Kyle. It's been a great 5 years but I am learning how to let go. We've been through a lot, Kyle and I. He's stuck around longer than my boyfriends, got me through many a lonely night... and kept my secrets. However, I had outgrown him. I had pushed him to his limit and he had nothing left to give.

After 5 years, I hardly knew how to get back into the game. I mean, I had a criteria list and all but where could I find Kyle 2.0 who matched these and more? Physically going out there to search was beyond me. II had neither the time, nor the heart for it... so I resorted to the good ol' world-wide web. At first the options were endless! Slim, sleek, sexy are all understatements. Unfortunately, most were out of my league. This was proving to be almost as heart breaking as getting out there. Except in this case my disappointment was more private.

Eventually I found something I could live with. Sturdy, reliable but still easy on the eyes. Something I could see beside me even 5 years down the line. Something that even Kyle would approve of and give his blessing. I found my Acer- Aspire E5-571-563B and he is even more impressive in person! I have been fantasizing about that 6GB RAM and ITB of hard disk space after having to live with Kyle's 2GB and 320GB respectively. Oh, the fun we will have together!

There he is!
I haven't named him yet. We are taking things slow... feeling each other out. I have a good feeling about this, though. About Kyle, I put him in the hands of a loving owner... who may have cracked his screen once in the past and ruined his battery... but a loving owner all the same. I also left him with my favorite SpongeBob sticker as a memento.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Strange Propositions

Can I begin by sharing the minor discovery that everyone celebrating their birthday around this time was conceived on New Year's Eve? Let that sink in. These Virgos... Happy Birthday to my beautiful best friend, on that note.

My roommate and I discovered this cute little coffee shop near where we work. I love cute, little coffee shops. Those and book stores would be the ideal place to meet The One. There about 10 or so tables, the Mocha is amazing and cheaper than most other places, and the barista/waiter/owner does not hover. Because we are young and poor, we have to walk along this deserted road to get there. Our youth and poverty has been the reason behind some fun adventures.

The first time we walked there, we ran into two men in a black Range, packed outside a house with an ominous, black gate. One of them called out to us to stop and come closer. At this point I had been in Kampala for about 2 months and was beginning to let my guard down. Assuming that they were lost, I walked back to help. Man 1 introduced himself and I noticed what was quite possibly a West African accent. He asked us to greet Man 2 who was sitting in the back seat. Man 2 had long, untidy dreadlocks. My kidnapper alert was now hyperactive. While I surveyed the area for possible escape routes and tried to calculate how fast I could possibly run up the hill to get away (I am not much of a runner but Man 1 was really chubby and I figured I could outrun him. Man 2, on the other hand, could have been a Kemboi for all I knew), Man 1 asked if my roommate and I could take a selfie with him. For a brief moment I wondered if 'selfie' was code for 'I would now like to bundle you into the boot of this car'. When he didn't make any attempt to get out of the car, I then concluded that 'selfie' meant just that, in this context. I politely declined and we walked off.

Calling me a freak magnet is an understatement

Our most recent adventure was not as harmless as the one described above. Yesterday, just as we were walking past the infamous black gate and reminiscing, a man on a bodaboda circled us twice. After all this time in Kampala I have grown familiar with boda drivers propositioning me. I barely register their presence. We tried to walk around him before he said something in Luganda and tried to grab my roommate's purse. Being the Kenyan she is, she had been holding onto it tightly and he was unsuccessful. We tried to get away. In a moment like that, I naturally freeze while normal people scan the area for possible weapons. Fortunately, we did not need to fight our way out because our terrible purse snatcher seemed to rethink his ways. He rode off, leaving a lasting image of the green, plastic bag tied around the carrier of his bike.   

The world seems to be telling poor, young me that I need to buy a car to drive to lunch! I am also grateful that my run ins with criminals have been limited to the slow witted, cowardly criminals.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Random Thoughts: Of Crushes and Stalker-ish Behaviour

I feel as if it has been a while since I shared completely random thoughts here! My past few posts have been too cool  and collected. In case you were wondering, I have still been having random thoughts! I dashed into Nairobi two days ago... just in time to catch a bit of Obama fever. I am still on the road to recovery. Man, that man can speak! I passed by my favourite bookseller and didn't stop to buy anything. It took a tremendous amount of will power and I am still shivering from the withdrawal symptoms.

I'd like to think I haven't gotten this bad though!

Speaking of willpower, do y'all remember this post on my borderline psychotic behaviour when I have a crush on someone? Well, two years later I am no better. If anything I have refined my stalker game and can now get the full 411 in 12 hours and be over the unlucky guy in 24. *Sigh* I am growing too old for this!

I once vulnerably (and stupidly!) shared, over dinner, how I have a crush on a certain tall, dark, handsome blogger and can more or less track him down to his apartment block, thanks to his stark blog posts. A few days later, I noticed an exceptionally high private: public ratio of instagram users. People really need to chill! I mean, I COULD track you to your apartment but that doesn't mean that I WILL. I am a Pisces... I am so indecisive that you would probably have moved out by the time I got around to it.

When I haven't been prowling the dark regions of the net for information I have been losing my mind over the fact that I have to study for a major exam. I have also been trying not to think about the fact that the Unreasonable East Africa Institute ends in a week. I will miss all these guys. In case you are wondering what all the hullabaloo is all about, come see them at The Launchpad.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

An Unreasonable Invitation: the Launchpad 2015

If you love TED talks, you would love the Launchpad. Let me first put this in a context. I have been enjoying an unreasonable 2 1/2 weeks with another 2 1/2 weeks to go. It has been like a fun summer camp... or what I would imagine a fun summer camp would be like, seeing as I have never experienced a summer, let alone camp.

Spending time with entrepreneurs from 10 social enterprises has proven to me that entrepreneurs are crazy. They are the most fun, most idealistic and most hard-working group of people anywhere. These are people who are daring to execute their crazy dreams... and that blows my mind. I am a huge believer in the solutions to Africa's societal problems lying in the hands and minds of small and mid sized businesses. Hundreds sprout up each year and most are driven by innovative solutions to massive problems. Honestly speaking, if each of these businesses successfully scaled we would probably have solved famine, illiteracy, lack of financial inclusion, high child mortality, unemployment and a myriad of other problems by now.

No matter, we still can! While we can't help all small businesses with a strong social impact scale (yet!) we can make a huge difference by accelerating the growth of just 10-15 at a time and seeing how that goes. These 10-15 businesses are exposed to such a huge network of experts in finance, strategy, operations, HR, operations, marketing and supply chain management that they gain an unreasonable advantage over everyone else in this space. Not to mention the potential investors and amazing team at Unreasonable East Africa.

By now you must be wondering what is so special about these 10-15 businesses. Why do they get to have this unreasonable advantage? Each of these entrepreneurs has a unique story behind their venture. I have had the amazing opportunity to live, work and play with them. You can get a sneak peek into their story by hearing them give a 6 minute presentation about their story and what they are doing to solve huge-ass problems.

Which brings me back to The Launchpad 2015! Each of the 10 ventures taking part in the 2015 Unreasonable East Africa Institute will tell their story. There will also be a cool exhibition before and cocktails after. I am addicted to dreamers and passionate people in general and to me, this sounds like great fun. 

To find out more comment below or click here. Come on, be unreasonable! Join the movement! Drink the KoolAid already!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

We Don't Need Other Names

I have a well-founded fear of motorbikes. Add that my fear of heights, small spaces and life sized stuffed animals and you can see why my life is one exhilarating experience! I have no need for extreme sports when I can walk along the streets of Kampala and get that same Adrenalin rush. Come to think of it, why would any African indulge in extreme sports? We are already living in the edge as it is… Fear of bikes aside, earlier in the week I took a boda to work and almost died because of my name.

My friend and I were actually waiting for a matatu but this boda guy stopped in front of us and promised to charge us the same as a matatu would have. Since there was a bit of traffic and I really needed to get on with slaying some dragons, I decided to hop on. Being the friendly Ugandan he is, the boda guy asked our names as we rode off into the sunrise (somehow that doesn’t quite sound right… sunrise). My friend gave him hers and he said it back, as if to test it out on his tongue.

I shouted out, “Ivy!”

He turned his head back and asked me to repeat my name. Apparently he hadn’t encountered an Ivy before and those two succinct syllables were strange to his ears. I shouted it back… and again. By then we were at a junction and since the boda guy was busy trying to catch my name, he didn’t see an oncoming car from the right. Just at the moment he got my name right, we found ourselves wedged between two cars, amidst great hooting and cussing. No one got hurt… and the boda guy yelled at the two drivers, calling them stupid (that is how you know an accident was not serious… when there is a lot of yelling on both sides).

For a while now I have been debating dropping my English name and settling for just Muthoni. Or ‘Noni’ to my friends. No one calls me Noni though, except my mum. I think it would catch on with time, though. If I was a Muthoni, maybe the boda guy would have caught my name instantly and I would have one less near death experience.

I have been going through this whole africanisation phase where I want to grow out my natural hair, wear print, use my African name, listen to local music… I met a lady a few weeks ago who phrased it so well, “We don’t need other names.”

This could very well be an identity crisis. All the same, I am practising introducing myself as Muthoni. Who knows, the people I meet in the next ¾ of my life may get the hang of calling me by it. It’s not the most glamorous of names… in fact it has no real meaning. However, it belonged to my grandmother and that certainly counts for something.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Motherhood Fairy

Today as I walked to work I was musing about my skinny arms and how they rightly describe my physical strength. It got me to wondering how I will ever manage motherhood with such feeble arms. Even holding infants tires me after a while. I have this theory that motherhood equips you with super powers. The moment you push that baby out, there is a glowing light that only you can see and the motherhood fairy blasts you with her wand, making you invincible.

From then on, you acquire super human physical strength. Your baggage:body weight ratio can now exceed an ant's. Physical ailments can't hold you down any more. You lose all sense of gullibility and can suddenly see through all the BS. Suddenly you have an ability to see the best in this one human being no matter what the rest of the world sees.

The basis of this theory is my mother. She is the strongest person I know, both physically and emotionally. My mum can lift a 90 kg bag of maize flour that would leave many young men panting. She can work all day tirelessly, only taking time off for a cup of tea now and then. She has heard every smart-ass lie my siblings and I could ever conjure and seen through them all. She stubbornly gets her way with everyone. There's no point in getting mad and refusing to talk to her because she has this amazing ability to carry on and not notice your tantrum.

I look at her and know that it will take no less than a magical, wand waving fairy to change me into anything close to her by the time I have my own children. Fortunately, if said fairy doesn't exist, I have mum to teach me. Hopefully, 5, 10 years from now I'll look in the mirror and see half the woman she is.

In the mean time, my super powers go as far as my ability to do my own box braids. I have had them on for two weeks now and surprisingly, people love them!

This goes to Mummy dearest, who is currently going against every thing I asked and making my graduation party next week into a regional event! How did my guest list of 20 get here?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

It Ain't Fun!

Fun || Paramore
Funny how they call it the pearl of Africa when there are no street lights. Aren't pearls supposed to be brilliant? Don’t mind me, I am not in the best mood at the moment. I have to get down to writing some reports for work… and I am actually glad for the chance to put all my concentration into that and not have to think about anything else. I’ll probably be able to push that into the better part of the weekend. And when that is done I can pour my heart and soul into cooking and making small meals for next week. I can also clean compulsively. Unfortunately, I braided my hair on Wednesday so I can’t turn the next idle day into wash day. What I am trying to put across is how mundane my life can be.

Strangely enough, 12 hours ago my life seemed pretty great and interesting and I couldn't wait for the weekend to begin. I had almost forgotten how that one person has the power to turn my most exciting day into another grey one using a simple statement, “Sorry, hun. I can’t make it.” But then again, the same person can turn the worst of days into a bearable one with a simple text. Ironic.
I read an article recently about how music lyrics are getting dumber with time. Apparently, as we stand, most music is at the IQ level of a second grader. I call this reverse evolution. We got to the smartest, most refined level as a species and now we are regressing. Didn't that happen to the Greeks too? Being an Indie fan, maybe my music passes for eighth grade IQ level, at least. It is depressing but not all hope is lost. For instance, I recently discovered Hopsin and ‘Ill Mind of Hopsin 5’ has become like a daily anthem. I think everyone should look it up and will probably be all the better for it.

I have come to the conclusion that I feel this disenchanted because this is like when the initial excitement of camping wears off and you now want to go back home to electricity, internet and sleeping indoors. I mean, I sleep indoors in Kampala too but I miss Nairobi now. I would almost trade the traffic to be able to drop into Ebrahims for almost anything I could need; to run into my best friend randomly on the streets and drop all other plans for the day; to catch up with my sister about her week; to sleep in my bed at home and to just have everyone I love close by. The fun of living in the real world is wearing off. No, Paramore… it ain't fun!

Hopefully (and seriously though!) this too shall come to pass and I’ll feel more like myself soon.

In other news, that feeling when you get your first pay-check before you have to pay the bills! Coincidentally, Bills by Lunchmoney Lewis is currently playing. I wonder what IQ level the lyrics are…

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I Want Books... not Stationery!

*sigh* picture courtesy of
I have been having a great time settling into Kampala, though I suspect that the side of town I live, work and hang out at has a lot to do this. All the same, to give the devil his due, Kampala has been good to me. Before I go on I have to mention that since leaving my favourite radio stations in Nairobi, I while away my days streaming music online. I am currently listening to songs from the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack. That said, I hope my current emotional state doesn't seep into this post.

Last week I felt comfortable enough to go somewhere on my own. A shopping center like place near town called Wandegeya to access my ATM (ain't nobody got time for Mastercard charges!). My main worry was how I'd tell the conductor to stop when I got there. I still haven't gotten the hang of pronouncing long multi-syllable words without pauses. Try pronouncing Wandegeya... or Kembabazi in a single breath! I kept mouthing 'masao' (masawo?) to myself the whole way. Fortunately someone else was alighting at my stage and did the honours.

After that successful bank run, yesterday I ventured into the city alone. I had finally run out of movies and novels and I couldn't face a new week in such a state. I alighted at a very central part of the city and begun walking uphill before realising that the term 'uptown' was taken literally here. I passed a few banks, travel agencies, classy hotels and the parliament before deciding that downhill was probably the way to go.

Anyone who knows me knows how terrible I am with directions. Even left and right confuse me so let us not get into the details of North and South! With my weakness in mind, I tried to walk in one general direction. Two streets down I found myself along a decidedly down-town street. There was noise, actual people (for a city the streets I'd walked along had been deserted) and more motorbikes than usual. I walked along the street: past store after store that stocked printers and printing paper. At some point the stores gave way to mall-like buildings with several stalls... all selling stationery in various forms. Most had signs advertising plastic ID printing... which I did not know was a thing. Aren't IDs an institutional thing and shouldn't your institution provide them for you? Incidentally, this was one of the busiest streets I had come across yet. Apparently stationery is a huge thing here.

A few turns later I stumbled upon a movie stall but I didn't see a single street book seller. I guess stationary and books aren't as directly correlated as you'd think. I have finally concluded that the thing I miss most about Nairobi is my street bookseller. I was musing that if I could conjure one thing to bring here I'd have a hard time deciding between my bookseller (with his whole stash!) and my boyfriend. But since the boyfriend promised to bring me books I guess he has unevened the playing field.

Seriously though, if any Kampalians   Kampala people are reading this and know where I can get affordable books... which incidentally happen to be second hand books, please help out a sister!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Kampala: Of Taking Risks and Killing Two Resolutions With One Stone

Hello World,

I feel as if it has been so long since I blogged that I should start afresh. To be honest I haven't been busy all along... but the past couple of weeks have been busy. I moved to Kampala! I have never lived more than 2 hours from my family... let alone out of the country. That said, making the decision to come here was a huge risk. I got so many goodbye calls, texts and audio messages full of well meant advice on how to handle Kampala life. If it were up to my mum I'd have moved in a truck full of supplies for the four month period. We struck a compromise at two suitcases!

I am greatly excited: first by moving out here and finally getting to live independently and explore... and second, by the work that I will be doing here. For the next four months I will be working with Unreasonable East Africa as a Financial Architect... which is a cool super hero-ey way of saying that I will be helping a group of East African entrepreneurs, operating ventures that seek to have great social impact, figure out their financial systems. I will get to work directly towards solving huge societal problems by providing solutions to a bunch of really passionate individuals. I wouldn't know about you, but for me that is living the dream!

My first impression of Kampala: "Where are all the people?" by Nairobi standards the streets seemed deserted. The matatus are too sane and the people too helpful. I am in a constant state of suspicion waiting for the other shoe to drop. The hilly terrain is quite the workout but I can work through that. Now all I need is a movie guy, a street bookseller and a good eyebrow trimmer and I can finally feel at home. Oh, and my boyfriend!

I also cannot get the hang of traffic police wearing white. For a moment I thought St. John's was just a really huge thing here. That said, my first few days have been okay. This is probably because I have a great support system and work with very wonderful people. I have successfully fulfilled my resolution to take more risks and to travel more this year. 22 has started off great!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Being Plus Sized in a Skinny Family

RIP Guka Kibira.
Up until last week when I read bikozulu's blog post on a kikuyu burial, I had never questioned the sense behind our burial customs. Now that I viewed them through a fresh pair of eyes, it is a wonder that I have never questioned the logic behind taking photos at a funeral... posing behind the casket! On Wednesday we buried my grandfather, my mom's uncle, and it was a sober, dignified ceremony befitting the respectable 87 year old man.

During the now infamous photo session, the MC called for the late man's nephews to take a photo. he mentioned one of them by name: KiMuriithi Kinene (The big Muriithi), jokingly referring to him by his childhood nickname. As an aside, he added that Muriithi was clearly still kinene (big). I glanced across at my mum, remembering this set of pliers that Muriithi had left at our house when I was only six, and that we had taken to calling KiMuriithi Kinene.

I can bet that you are imagining Muriithi as a hulking, big-boned, big-bellied figure. In fact, he's average in size. His belly is no larger than the average beer gut. He'd fit right in along the hallways of KRA where the beer gut is an identifying trait of the officers. Try stepping into an elevator with 5 or more of those and it's like squeezing between foam mattresses! I have officially developed claustrophobia. However, in a family where the average weight would probably fall between 55-60 Kgs, any visible flab will see you labelled 'fat'. You can now see how Muriithi stood out like a sore thumb in that particular photo.

For a partially deaf man, there was a lot of singing at my grandfather's funeral. The MC opened up a 'presentations' session and a once reknowned Gospel musician, a white haired old man whose vigour made up for his tone deafness and a woman whose rendition of Look and Live was only recognisable from the tune and the refrain: hallelujah! It took a beat to recognise that 'rooku and reeve' was actually 'look and live'! My mum tried so hard not to laugh that her pained look made me laugh. Despicable behaviour at a funeral.

The heat was altogether hellish. Do Republicans still think that global warming is a myth? I drank a whole 500ml of water in a matter of minutes (that is an amazing fete because I cannot stand the tastelessness of water).  The woman who was sitting right in-front of me, who was questionably reading the eulogy upside down, turned towards me, stared at my bottle for a full minute before asking, "Si unipatie hako kachupa." As far as requests go, that is one of the strangest I have gotten. That was before she asked my mum for TicTacs; my cousin to take a photo of her; and my aunt to invite her for a get together that we were planning for in April.

Looking back, I feel that bikozulu had every right to be baffled by Kikuyu funerals. All the way down to the rice, mukimo and cabbage. The important thing, though, is that all these characters had come to lay Guka Kibira to rest. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Chauvinism in Language

Last night I was chatting with my mom when I told her that one of my former lecturers was got married recently.

 "Kwani how young is she?" my mom asked, as she continued to peel bananas with a deftness that I will never master.

"He's a man," I replied, wondering why she had instinctively assumed that I was talking about a girl.

"Then you said it wrongly. Men don't get married. They marry," she went on, all grammar-Nazi.

This conversation, like almost all conversations at my house was going on in Kikuyu. I have to brag that my Kikuyu is really good. Much better than my Swahili. However, I have never understood why when referring to marriage, in Kikuyu the man is always the subject while the woman is the object. Isn't this great institution supposed to be a partnership? Why then is it always the man doing the marrying while the woman is said to be getting married as if she is making no active choice in the matter? Pet peeve right there.

I understand that payment of dowry plays a big role in making marriage seem like a transaction... and in a lot of ways it is. However, marriage is a merger, not an acquisition. So despite my mom's protest I will continue to refer to 'dahikania' (when I marry) as opposed to 'dahikio' (when someone marries me). Being in love takes too much control out of my hands, you don't have to go on and make me feel like a prized acquisition.

Here's to my chauvinistic language. I love it all the same. Frankly, people who fear that when their kids learn their mother tongue, it will interfere with their English: have a little more faith in your kids' intelligence.  
Now that's a little more like it.
Source: Image Source.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Dear Past Me

Hi 17 year old Ivy. This is your 22 year old version. 5 years older, 50 years wiser. I hope you would be proud of what I have become were you to meet me. Your mind had been so focused on KCSE so I want to just tell you that you did it! You passed. scratch that, you did exceptionally well. What will surprise you more is that there are greater things in life than that exam that was the sole focus of your life for four years.

Remember that 5 -year plan that you had in your journal. The one in which  you planned to have an Actuarial Science degree from UoN in five years time? Well, you almost have that degree, but it will be from Strathmore and not UoN. Maybe you had some sort of premonition about it when you stuck that flier you got at the career fair in your locker. Campus wasn't the rave you expected it to be. I mean, you met some pretty cool people but I sincerely hope that those weren't the best days of your life because that would suck.

In a surprising twist, you fell in love. No, not with HIM. Turns out he wasn't The One. Not unless there's more than one One...  Soon after high school you met a guy who seemed like pretty much everyone else but was refreshingly different once you got to know him. You know how you think that two people in love always work out? How you think that relationships go sore because the two people don't truly love each other? You were wrong. Sometimes love isn't enough. You will get your heart broken at the tender age of 19 and it will hurt like a bitch. But you will get over it. You will date other people before you finally float back to him. You'll learn to forgive, to let someone else see your flaws, and to see past their flaws in return. Spoiler alert: He will not be a starving artist... or a hot shot lawyer.

You still have more or less the same taste in music; the same inability to grasp fashion trends; and the same hunger to read anything and everything. You now blog. Almost everyone does. At some point of campus almost everyone you know will have a blog. You don't write in your journal as much as you used to. It has something to do with a vow that you made to stop making journal entries if they involved nothing more than boy trouble. Yes, at some point in the past 5 years you had become that kind of girl. You watch too many movies and TV Series. You got over Damon Salvatore and currently don't entertain crushes on fictional characters. In fact, you don't even watch Vampire Diaries any more.

All the important things about you are still intact. You have lofty dreams, borderline narcissism, and an infinite ability to forgive yourself. At the moment you are holding these qualities close because life seems so uncertain. Uncertain enough for you to have written a letter to yourself five years into the future so that in 2020 it will remind you how worried you were about the future, only for it to turn out so well (hopefully).

I'll leave you to yourself now. Looking back, I'm glad you are seventeen in 2010. Teenagers these days are so weird. You'd be lost in this decade.


Future You.