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.