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THE PAIN OF INEQUALITY

Have you ever wondered, why as the year begins, and everyone is coming up with ways to get better, grow better, there is another fraction of people, who are scheming on how to become worse. Their mission is to destroy the world. Their mission is to inflict pain on the masses, as a show of power. And you may be tempted to ask, how people can feel such extremes about what they believe in, that they would even be ready to die for it. That they would set out to accomplish whatever that mission is, in-spite the risk. The irony, that one would resolve to destroy the world, and another would resolve to heal it. One has something to lose, the other doesn’t.

Well, perhaps, this may explain. Society now, understands things in extremes. One is either extremely rich, or extremely poor. It is either, one is living in a space, barely with toilets, and another is living with options of homes with five toilets, and cruising around the world having access to even more toilets in different parts of the world. Sometimes not too far from each other, the have nots and have’s use the same road. They see each other daily. Sometimes, they even live in the same house where one serves, and the other is served. It is only a matter of time, when those that have not, find a way to take from the haves, sometimes it is basic stuff such as sugar, and sometimes, it is a bank robbery, and sometimes, well, it is a terror attack. There is a symbiotic relationship of mistrust between the have’s and the have not’s, even though equality is preached, it may not always be so.

One day when you are walking from buying yourself a good pizza, and the next minute you are robbed of your change. Or the next you are driving your Prado, and the next minute, it is snatched from you at gunpoint. No body is safe, as long as poverty exists.

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” Nelson Mandela said. This statement has never been more true, the World’s 1% owns more than collectively what the 99% own, and truly the world has never rested. Those who own nothing at all, are mostly on the prowl and hunt for those who have everything. All over the world, nations have been terrorized, when they least expected.

It didn’t matter how high walls were build, often the have nots would discovering new way to get above them. Sometimes through struggle, sometimes by use of Terror.

In real essence, some places even become uninhabitable. There are may cases, people take months, even years to build their beautiful homes, 10 bedrooms maisonettes. But because they neighbored the hood, it was only a short while before they would be forced to move out. Thuggery, death and even terror. What informs a fourteen-year-old boy, to get in to a school and shoot his own peers and shoot them all, in one instance, in America.

Annalee Newitz, reckons, “Capitalism is a system that promotes inequality”. Where by those who eventually get the most, get the most out of their own effort, sometimes even at the expense of others. Thus, if anybody would need more, then they would pull their bootstrap, at whatever cost sometimes. So, it has gotten many people to quite pull their straps, to get rich, or die trying. Those not born from high standing hierarchy could even sell drugs, rob a bank, to climb the wall that often blocked the majority from crossing over the other side. Guided by competition, where profit superseded social welfare. Many businesses were dirty, promoting corruption. It makes it really hard for the clean guy to survive in this market in Africa, where corruption thrives, widening the gap even further. And even more for the man who works hard, only to find out, it takes more than hard work to climb ladders. Sometimes, you must know people, and sometimes, people must know you.

Warren Buffet and Ray Dalio, both beneficiaries of capitalism admit to the disadvantages of capitalism where very few people benefit whereas the large masses continue to suffer and strive to attain the life they desire. They admit, that Capitalism is not working for the majority. It leaves very little for everyone else.

But what if, it was easy to be wealthy. That any man with feet and hands could get means. Across the world, especially here in Africa, the greatest challenge for many youth, is finding basic employment, let alone massive wealth. When a grown man, is sited the whole day, doing nothing, what more can that man do? He has time to perhaps innovate new ways to possibly bomb other people or even himself. And if it were possible that such a man would find it easy to get himself out of that sad possibility, certain, he would do all he could to achieve that.

But since it is not easy, many sit in empty fields all day, and then repeat this cycle over and over again. His odds, likely a choice to do manual jobs, or be in crime. It is unlikely that he would think beyond the parameters of what he sees daily, where choices are quite few. Sometimes, even the attempt to do business get stifled even before he could begin. In Africa, the practice is running battles in town where the city council is thrusting tear gas on working citizens. It is what someone said, “cutting the very legs, one is using to get up the ladder”. How then, will such people get up.

Truly, excessive inequality harms economic growth and damages social fabric by undermining trust and preventing people from reaching their full potential. For what would be the odds of such a man. And if such a man had had potential, what will be of his dreams and his ambitions where between him, and what he believes to be his dreams, was a wall, often too high to get up.

In Africa, there is a saying, “I am because we are”. Which means, greater than an individual ambition, the greater good of the society would supersede that of an individual. There was no use for extreme wealth, if the neighbor was starved. If people were to go by this principle, then the conversation of creating equal opportunities would arise. To not sit comfortably and eat, until the other is served. If more and more people have the guts to speak against the injustice and inequality, there would be no “Us Verse Them”. If the main capitalist, would deliberately seek to include others, It would be a table where everybody decides what is on the menu. Free from desire to control the masses or even individuals, but truly to support humanity.

The use of force has gotten nations thus far. Even the world war, ended on a table. Leave no one behind. In conflict studies, even the aggressor, believed their actions were to a good end. Their end justified their means, even when the means were atrocious. The answer, understanding the root of the conflict, providing a ground for dialogue even with the enemy. Also, providing opportunities for all, that crime will not be something they would consider, for the gain of the good life, would be greater than the temporary heroism that comes from terror.

The world shares common problems, and common concerns. Though it may seem than answers will come from the future, but sometimes, a step back would give the world better insight of a more equal world that once was.

 

 

Written By Esther Neema (Founder of Dream Tribe)

(Entrepreneur, Writer, Actress, )

University of Nairobi, School Of Journalism

MA in Development Communication

estherneema@gmail.com

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THE FESTIVAL OF AFRICA

The music of Africa sips through your skin and imposes a dance to anyone that gets to hear it. A culture of drums, flutes and life that oozes out of the various festival s that emerge from the African soil. Many would wonder how a society could be so obsessed with dancing and making merry more than anything else, but until you hear the music, only then you would understand how one can dance and even forget about food. If you welcomed an African to a feast and had no music, it would be as if, the feast never happened.

We read in history of Africa having been a home of festivity.  That,  we, Africans, found reasons to celebrate even when there wasn’t need for any celebration.  Sometimes even in naming people, African’s would find a reason to bring the house down, the stronger the beat, even more the vigor. Only, the beat was always strong, and so was the vigor, and so were the bonds that came from this moments.

Just recently, there would be bands serenading the Kambe streets with music. They would move from one end to another collecting people. From house to house, masses would move with the music, without tire, they would keep moving; Women, men, children all chasing after music. It is quite a spectacle. Everything stopped for a minute.

One could hear them from no matter how far one was. And there would be people running towards it, never away. This was the meeting ground for many people. Strangers became friends, and sometimes friends became spouses.The children found a way to experience culture in the form of music. It united the world and made it a lot smaller.

Today, there are no bands that go around from house to house to house to collect people. The festivities have been reduced to only weddings and sometimes funerals or organized events. But even those in some cases have become inviting only, especially in cities. Drum beats in many African homes have reduced. Celebrating for nothing is not a habit in the country side.

On the other side of the same province is frère town whose characteristic was music and dance. The village too didn’t sleep. Again, it’s streets are silent. Modernization has changed these worlds significantly, they feel different. Even Christmas feels different. This year Nairobi was still full of many people on the roads still in hustle.

Sometimes one can only just imagine what it must have been like to have evenings full of music and dance randomly on many streets, that converged communities together. One can only wish upon it and only wonder if such moment can ever be relived. If at all Festivities in the village can ever be brought back and have music serenade our streets.

 

 

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THE SLEEPING VOLCANO:-COAST

 

When my people came on the television wearing towels on their waist and walking bare chest saying “Pwani si Kenya” my head thought, the world has gone insane.
Though not surprised with the manner this discussion was started, it generally is a Kenyan way to start conversations, dramatically, so as to be heard. I thought that there was perhaps a better way to start than having topless men on the news chanting “Coast is not Kenya”
The Kenyan coast enjoys diversity, which is what makes it rich. The melange of colors and races gives it a unique exotic feel. And even now that I work here I see the cute little children of Arabic descent all speaking Swahili. It is quite a sight to uphold, how almost naturally they as children are not aware how different they are. Yet the paleness of their skin and their big beautiful eyes are quite distinct from my own brown skin and tiny eyes and a signature of a nose, to show that I am truly African.
But really what would make any part of Kenya not want to be part of it anymore? I assumed any leader would have been interested to know? It is like saying, you want to remove a leg, off of someone’s body and the rest of the body remains silent. No one wants to know why after so many years of this love relationship, what  has gone sour?
The reality of these words would only make as much sense, only when I came to live in Mombasa. In one word, I would say it has been ADVENTUROUS. As I worked in the news room, the only stories I told daily were stories on tourism until it became obvious to my editors that I was all about party living. Whatever happened to my creativity and nose for stories . But, there is more to coast than the ultimate pleasure of the luxurious beaches.
Later on as I became a producer of a political show and had to go deeper in to the communities where my people lived, it is only then that my reality opened, that perhaps, more than being a tour destination there was the dark side, unattractive, yet to be uneearthed. There are places in this earth where lack is the lifestyle, lack actually defined existence.
On this day that my eyes were opened on the other side that is not so touristic, I was headed to KWALE  known for it’s famous diani beach, named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Later, I realized on this day that it had beautiful sugar cane plantations and even a factory for sugar, which was recently revived, turning in to a large sugar producer or if not yet a large potential for sugar supply.
The journey as any trip at the coast is exciting. Despite the many times that I have been on a Ferry, I never seem to get over it. Me, like the many masses are racing to catch it as we queue in our cars, on our feet that we may get ashore.

For many, there is no other way to get home but to be on it, for others just an experience on it is calming in the mind, and gives you a treat of what a great holiday should have. The taste of the ocean breeze and the smell of the waters is so beautiful. For many of us whom this is not our daily experience, our hair stands. It certainly is one of the most beautiful feelings. Floating on water, and seeing life from a waters perspective. There is something about this experience that you have to be there to feel it, to even understand just how amazing it is to merely cross over waters to get home.
As you get ashore, you are ushered by the smell of fish and populations of life and commerce of foods which is what mainly is one of the greatest assets of the coast region; food. We are headed for Msambweni far in the interior of this region, a road to which could lead you in to Tanzania. I almost crossed the border that evening.
We pass many trees as populations get fewer and fewer along roadsides. And we are welcomed to shorter houses patched with mad and stone, surrounded by huge coconut trees that remain a constant reminder that you are at the coast. It gives you a feel of true nature in it’s fullness. An experience, you can only get away from the luxurious urban center in to the coconut palace.
It was such a long drive of trees and trees and eventually we get in to a space where we now see humanity. Women elegantly graced in lesos and others in bui bui, oh so beautiful and graceful. The men in barazas and even younger men in groups. But shy of our cameras, they are convinced we have brought our cameras in order to sell pictures of them.
In an almost defensive state, you can tell the suspicion written on many faces. It gives you a sense of danger. Perhaps a history of mistrust from earlier years, or perhaps a protection of territory. Lucky, we speak the language and thus we felt safer and so we spoke. Though like the rest of other Kenyans we have the full figured noses and dark skins and could easily be mistaken to be “upcountry people”
Historically, the South coast has been volcanic. It was in this region where one day people woke up, looked for people from upcountry and chased them in what was known as “Kaya Bombo”. Insufferable pain from the sleeping giant where one day, masses were forced to evacuate from the south coast and especially Likoni region. Some of whom had not known anywhere else to be home.
And, perhaps that became the death of tourism industry on that end of the world, for no matter how much one loved the beach, life would be necessary to even have the ability to go to the beach. So Volcanic was it that it saw many hotels in that region deserted and left in decay. What once were glamorous hotels had turned in to hollow haunted halls of silence.  As we drove on, there was not one tourist, not one person who seemed foreign. The larger population comprised of course of the indigenous masses. Many just like anywhere else experiencing daily routine of everydayness in a place of not that vast of opportunities. Perhaps selling food and fishing for many.
What begun as a tour became an exposure to the the truth of my people deep in the interior. A truth that many of us are in denial about. Always insulting international media for covering stories on our poverty. Yet we “knew”, we were not “poor”, we were “rich” , why doesn’t anyone focus on the beach we have for example?
Our journey ends with a burden heavy on my chest. Of the issues that still remain pressing to my people. The issues of borders on their waters. How the locals can not be able to access their own waters for fishing and the inevitable of a struggle for basic needs for a population too many. And the worst which is the issue of land that bonds the Riftvalley and the Kenyan coast like a placenta. That made these two regions extremely volcanic and sometimes extremely dangerous. Its like a hot spring of water waiting to explode. So fragile are the rocks that stop it, that could be triggered by anything at all.
Many Seething in anger that slowly simmers in to peace, that is just temporary because sometime it feels volatile, more could come as history has shown us. Or maybe not, this peace may be genuine this time.
A little over a year, I was burying my young cousin. Full of life, strong, tough, handsome and with a promise to marry in what was the near future. One day he went missing and resigned from his airport job in to being part of gang. He wanted to be a revolutionist!!
In twenty five years, his life was a wrap, and perhaps to others, his legacy lives on as a soldier, but for others, that is an example of a wasted life. But most importantly to the girl who was to bare the children of his seeds who had lost a confident in a “hopeless war”
And whilst all this was happening,  there was silence. Silent to issues that secretly lay in the hearts of many. Issues that only were discussed in grass thatched huts. Issues that year in year out continued unsolved until a crisis arrives.

Of many systems that were preaching hate. Birthing anger and hatred to the young lives whose lives are even so short lived as son after son was dug deep in to the ground in that year. “What really happened there?” Could history be so fascinating, than the future possibilities that were being created seem so mundane. Did the past burn more that the fire and passion of hope of what the future could be. Had fear succeeded over possible love that once joined these people. What happened in the night? When we were sleeping, who stole our sun.

Coast is just one of those regions like the many Kenyan regions who over years have had land issues unresolved. This is not a problem exclusive to the coast region, however many do not know so. In eastern province, the easterners cry for the same, perhaps in the north, or even in the west. Most Kenyans share the same problem.  Sad was the post election violence, the incidents at tana, and many others that are election triggered, but have been in topics in closed huts. No fight ever starts suddenly, these were the hushed tones causing divisions that had exploded. Of the  tribes that had been victims of hate more often than once. That even as you travel across the country, there was mass unoccupied land, how is it then, that we had landless people. Why did borders mean so much, that the African value of providing homes to those who had non, be diluted with fear. Until today, it has become hard to settle IDs in a  number of regions.

The misunderstandings of what really is the problem. The failure to explain and failure to create platforms where discussions can be held and the future negotiated. How did we get here? And who truly is the enemy, if at all we share the same problems, then how did we suddenly manage to convince ourselves that we were the minorities. And if at all all we were, how then can we rise and not be minor, but significant contributors to the economy.

The current government has done quite some work on trying to eliminate some of the issues, especially in regards to land. They have even stretched their hand in attempt to eliminate the feeling of discrimination. Physically giving land titles to the inhabitants of the coast, having discussions with some leaders of Islamic as well as christian origin and even sitting with leaders of affected regions.

The County government has come along way in solving many of the problems. There are many more opportunities. These are naturally great milestones , but deep in the roots are deeper problems that need deeper resolution. These were were perhaps not just political and Economic problems, but social problems. Poverty, not just of lack of things, but of information, dialogue, an ear that truly listens to the plight of the masses.

The unaddressed suspicions, sometimes you hear from the language or reference and dehumanizing manner the whole Kenyan community refers to another. Sometimes it feels as if, only one region is the victim, everyone against one. Sometimes not in closed doors anymore, even openly on social media. Even coming out from the mouths of our leaders goes on to show that the problem is huge.
Certainly not withstanding Injustices that are equally inexcusable. The controlling large land masses and dishing them out at small fees for them, notwithstanding those in most cases were people’s homes. Owning these lands would certainly turn them in to squatters. The hushed word, TRIBALISM, NEPOTISM. It is spoken of quietly. Yet this issue almost took Kenya to war.

Inevitably coast and other regions will in the near future be like Nairobi, already it is a very cosmopolitan region. Mombasa has all peoples represented in it already. This is great news as it means an evolving economy, however even as the transition happens there needs to be some form of consciousness. That amidst all these developments, may the locals also benefit in ways that they too would appreciate these developments. That they would feel a sense of ownership in more ways than being neighbors with empires and suffering in poverty.

Eventually, all communities will discover ways to co-exist, as no man will ever live in complete isolation. The question is how then can this be done without tribal wars.
The reality of the country and the perception of the country gets real when you move out of the leafy suburbs of Nairobi in to a whole different world. You see true hunger and poverty in the midst of wealth. Is it possible for that wealth to trickle to the communities through even corporate social responsibility, for even the government cannot stand alone.

Later, on our drive back, I was in much silence. I could only see vast, and yet wondered why we often so scarcity. I could only possibilities, yet we often inability. And I wonder, what can I do as daughter of Kenya, how can I contribute in this healing. And then suddenly I woke up to lights of beautiful Mombasa, where all manner of happiness exists. And finally I can smile. For I know that, Mombasa had just been a dream, now a reality. That is possible for the rest of Kenya, it is possible too for the rest of coast.

 

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THE VILLAGE THAT NEVER SLEEPS

My mum moved to Mombasa, and I tagged along to help her settle in. But as usual, the worst part is finding a place to stay. After hustle, we ended up at Mtwapa.
For a while I was in denial that was going to be home. As most of the larger populations that have another image of Mtwapa of the copious amounts of sex trade that happens. Clearly my mother had never heard of them when she enthusiastically said ‘WE ARE MOVING TO MTWAPA”. Naturally because in her social circles, the topics we discuss would barely pop in their vocabulary.

But on the first day, the reality of why I was shy to move there, became clearer, especially to her. We had a free show, which of course had not paid for. As we were walking out to head to town, we met the diva herself. Now, I am not opposed to wearing short garments, I love them too. Infarct I love them so much that I thank every designer who makes them, but on other hand some garments are for specific occasion. I assumed its occasion was for the bedroom. However, I am not male, so perhaps the outfit was not designed to impress me, I am sure. I therefore withhold my opinion to self.
Though still, let me describe the outfit. It ended no sooner had it begun. It was brown in colour, a dark brown dress, that is the height of a T-shirt. The said woman was of equal colour, which means that from far it appeared as though she hadn’t any. Oi, that is where my mum’s eyes looked like they were going to drop on the floor. And the shape of her mouth changed in to an ovally shaped frown, saying “Girls these days” For which I find too funny. I always watch out for my mothers reactions, they are always priceless.
This was not the only episode where we had a generous view of “naked” people, in my mothers words. She uses the word naked for literally every clothing. She even asks me why am I walking naked when I wear another blue short, for which she made me stop wearing as she perceives that outfit as utter nudity. So this continued over exposure was not working for her too well, then she became paranoid.
Sooner than later, we could not have any decent conversation without her telling me to whisper. I could not even talk about weaves for fear that if anyone heard as talking about weaves we would be assumed to be working. WHAT ON EARTH COULD WE TALK ABOUT WITHOUT WHISPERING? I wondered. So I ended up telling her, that she needed to accept me for my loud voice, if at all we are to ever have any conversation.
Anyway, I started adjusting faster than she did. She kept telling the Caretaker we are leaving until the care taker one day asked us “Kwani hamuendi”. I think her culture shock took much longer. Infarct when my brother called her, she never called it home, she called it “This place” Me on the other hand had found the most homely place to be. Coast is amazing and so beautiful that I just thought this was part of the flavor. From a time when I was slightly whispering when asked where I live, to a time that I had taken time to research it’s history. Though I must admit for the while that I lived there, I never wore any short or tight garments,I wore maxis 24/7 and huge T-shirts and baggy jeans, that I shall not be mistaken to be in business. At least that, I had to make clear.Though that was certainly extremly challenging.
Curious to know though how “this place”, as my mother puts it, came to be. How did it acquire this image yet the larger populations was not all about prostitution. Actually Mtwapa on one hand is one of the fast growing economies of Kilifi county, besides being the main party joint. It is one of the few towns that never sleep, you will get from a party at 2:00 AM loads of people still on the road. It is safe, and you will always find Boda bodas to take you home.
Yes, “the business”  is real even as early as 7:00 pm, you see tiny girls in tiny clothes in big shoes, and oi and the numerous grandpa daddies very tempting, but the larger population is just everyday professionals and local inhabitants going on with their everydayness, trapped in an image that may take a while to clear, for the repeated stories that keep being shared of “this place”.

This place that I had actually come to find extremely fascinating. How the long walk from the bus stop would comprise of sinking in the sand. And shortening distances would be of taking Boda bodas to the house when late. Always refusing to sit my legs parted would always make the Boda boda guy amused. I would hold on to their stomachs like my life depended on it. I enjoyed every bit of it, until when we did eventually say goodbye to the village. The town that certainly never sleeps with music from every direction and full of life.
However, with more other stories of” this place”, the story may change. Of other recreational facilities and trade and a life that goes on day and night. As Chimamanda puts it; there is need to tell, the other side of the story that often is not told.

Mtwapa is a historical town of Swahili people. Many retired white settlers especially from Europe came and find home here. They have created economies in this place. As a result many young ladies found their way in pursuit of greener pastures through association, and some that association has been sex trade, which irrevocable is the Koinage of Mombasa.

The name Mtwapa comes from a swahili word “Mtu wa hapa” meaning one from here, or one who lives among us. This was given as a name to the many immigrants that had come to live here, and permitted to stay. The name was to show that they had been accepted as – Mtu wa hapa. This would prevent the outsiders from being ostracized. And this here, is what makes Mtwapa one of the most diverse regions in the country as well.

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ALL IN 24 HOURS- BY ESTHER NEEMA- ( Published on Matatu chronicles)

A friend of mine asked me to write my matatu chronicle, and I wondered how I would write this article without sounding bitter and troubled with life. However, I still said, why not. After all I have been reading with pleasure her eventful chronicles.

I have had the most dramatic ones too though never imagined it possible that I could ever again experience any worse than route 48, where your feet get to experience an unwanted breeze from ground. Actually a ride in them could comprise your feet dangling outside the vehicle, since the floor is sometimes broken, or is it torn. Anyway, I am trying to mean there is a hole where your feet are supposed to be placed.So you must believe me when I say I never thought I could experience any worse.

I have moved cities, now living in Mombasa. To be precise, I have been here for only a week. The first day I rode to town, I could have sworn for a minute I thought I was in Nairobi until I was asked for fare. Aki, I promise I have never paid my 200 shillings to go to any destination, not even to Rongai. The most I have paid is probably 80 and I fumed the whole way, thinking about injustices in the world.

I was Shocked though, no one caused Drama. You know I am used to my gangster route 46 where WE, the passengers, decide. WE just wait for one passenger to say “Ai,si fare inakuanga fifty hatuwezi lipa seventy, we fare ni mbao” and the rest of the bus we would echo those words. It is called people power. And somehow we manage to piss off the the kange as much as he had pissed us off. “Kama hamtalipa mshuke’.. only you cannot chase a whole matatu when we are in traffic and already half way in to our destination. So we would pay the team fare, the one that we the common wananchi had unanimously agreed..

Now the 200 bob affair had nothing on this day I am about to tell you. Which I promise I thought we had been hijacked!!!

My mum and I left for Mombasa from Kilifi at about 10.00 am, in the hope that at least by 11.30 am we should have reached. Oi that didn’t happen. It took quite a while before the matatu filled up. Then we left. However, on our way we met more passengers who got in to an already full matatu with the hope to sit on us. Now you know when you have paid 200 shillings, my friend, the last thing you want is someone sitting on you, but we kept quiet and moved just a bit for them to sit, WITHOUT COMPLAINING.

I was not that surprised when at the next stop the matatu picked more people to get in. After all I was born in the PRE- MICHUKI era where bus rides were the most uncomfortable rides ever. As in you could feel peoples privates. Now all you feel is shoulders, thank heavens. But still, really there was no where else anyone extra could sit in this matatu for sure, so they had to stand.

Now here people made noise “watakaa wapi hao, huku basi hakuna nafasi” Directed to the conducor and then indirectly to the passengers, ladies, “Na sasa we mwenyewe ukiingia matatu ambayo imejaa hivi huwa umefikiria vipi..” ha ha ha, I would hate to be the one who has gotten it to such. But with the ladies, got in one know it all male who was much more proud of his actions and said “Kama una shida bwana unune yako, hii ni gari ya abiria bana.

AND THAT IS WHERE THE TROUBLE BEGUN.

As I happily viewed the beautiful scenery of Vipingo ridge and the sisal plantations avoiding all the interior drama, I was interrupted by noises. The conductor plus the new guy who had also helped to get the excess passengers on board, let us call him Joseph, started heckling. “Kuna mapolisi huko mbele lakini”, causing the driver to start panicking almost leaving his staring. They then directed him to get in to a route in the plantation running away from the police.

As of that moment, I was still admiring the sisal farms and how green it is, so beautiful indeed assuming that the route used is actually a short cut since a few other matutus had gone that way. So I enjoyed the unique view as my mother kept complaining about the driving.

One thing for sure is that many drivers here ENJOY overtaking and overlapping. Oh, they can’t do without it I tell you. And especially when there is an oncoming vehicle, that is when they feel the urgency to even further do it. You find yourself staring at the front window in fear wanting to almost hit the drivers head.

Also, some love even more arguing with fellow drivers, insulting pedestrians and even more arguing with passengers. It is funny when you are in a matatu where there is an exchange between a passenger with the conductor. Usually on anything. You can laugh for tears, infarct there is a lady from upcountry who laughed until she chocked, we had to fan her.

Anyway, we kept going and going further in to the plantations then we meet a young boy who says there are police on the side where we are going. So the driver starts to panic once again and is advised by Joseph and the conductor, that we should go right. So we go right and keep going until we reach a dead end. As in, there is no through way because we had reached someone’s aboard.

This Jose guy with his friend the conductor kept giving directions that lead to gates that are closed and now we were lost in the middle of nowhere. As in obviously lost. So my mum being herself kept complaining LOUDLY in English about the whole situation. At that point my heart was convinced we have been hijacked. So I kept whispering to her that she should stop drawing attention to herself by complaining in English, she should whisper and if so in Kiswahili.

At the same time the driver has started to act harassed as well saying “Kama mlikua hamjui njia mumenileta huku kwa nini, sasa ndio tumepotea hivi.” In my head I am thinking “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!!!!, This guy has no diea WHERE WE ARE GOING and we are in the middle of a sisal forest, oi” In my head I thought it was one big act pretending. “How can we be lost?” “How can the man on the wheel not know where we are going?”

Now to raise my fear even worse was a log that we found on the path and a group of young men running after our matatu with sticks on their hands heckling oye oye. Oi, Esther Neema, my heart stopped beating. “Dear lord, did you bring me to the land of my people to meet face to face with MRC” I thought. He, I could not even breath. I was just there thinking “Gawsh I should have repented all my sins in the morning in case of anything”

Of course there was no turning back as both sides were huge sisal plantations that made us have no sight of anywhere else. So literally we were under their mercy, whoever these guys were. Humbly the conductor paid his dues and the log was lifted off the road.

It turns out they weren’t MRC or even Al shabaab. These are called Mateja. Now, they collect cash from matatus that pass through these “short cuts”. If you are unlucky you will find them in every corner you turn, so you loose ALL your money to guys who just harass drivers. As in that is what they wake up to do this in the morning. They actually bid good bye to their family early in the morning to rob matatus of their income.

Anyway, this was better than MRC, I thought, however we were still lost, and honestly the fact that we were lost was not helping much. My mothers paranoia was rising every minute and my heart could not take any longer more shocks.

The rest of the passengers kept complaining and shouting to the same, “haya sasa tutafilka saa ngapi jamani yarabi” .

You see if this was a shortcut then we should have reached earlier. But with time I have realized the said “short cuts” take the word short cut to a whole new meaning. I don’t know why they use them anyway.

Luckily in the process of turning and turning and turning and turning, one of the passengers recognized a place. So he begun to dictate where we should go. “Argh wewe weanda na wapi wewe, nenda huku. huko kwengine hakuna njia huko”

Feeling a lot better, though it was already 12.00 meaning we had spent two hours in the same area turning and turning in the same Kilifi. SURELY. Honestly if we had any appointment at all, we would have lost it. Perhaps we could have walked or? Well in Nairobi we are always told “kama ungekua na haraka ungeamka jana”

“Haya nenda na huku” he kept dictating. And finally we start to see homes and children playing, others laughing and crying, reminding us of life . Then at last we can all start giggling just for a bit. Then he says, “angalau hata mimi mumeshanifikisha kwetu” as he laughs.

As in, this guy has just directed us to his home, and then what? How do we get to town? But the rest of the matatu was full of praises, saying how he has helped us much since we would have just been lost over there. “Angalau umetusaidia hapo”

Immediately he leaves, everyone else starts complaining saying how this guy just tricked us to get home. Ha ha ha, it was just a funny scenario, though a part of me was still so PISSED looking at those ladies who had gotten in to a full matatu causing us this unplanned adventure now sited comfortably and joining in the conversations. It was better to look outside the window.

And then FINALLY straight to the road, our journey to Mombasa now begun. I see a mass of blue, it is the Indian ocean, so beautiful. I swear it melts every anger and finally a smile broke. I swear, sometime I just think that nature conspires just to make me happy. I am in Mombasa. At exactly 1.00 pm.

Now, since my journey was not to end in Mombasa, it was actually en route Nairobi at about 10.00 in the night, I had a few hours to feel as much breeze and warmth of this beautiful town, before going back to what has been home for the last 27 years, Nairobi.

I didn’t know what I was feeling about this move. All I knew for a while a break from Nairobi would be excellent therapy to my soul for sure. Many events have happened and I couldn’t wait to leave it all behind and start over elsewhere. After all, home is where your heart is. Yet the fast pace of the city and the mall and the amazing people of My Nairobi still drew me to it like a magnet. But two weeks in kilifi made me realize I wanted to be in coast not just for a holiday but could love to live here. I was in love

At exactly 10.00, I board a bus to Nairobi and my journey begins, a journey to my goodbye to my beautiful Nairobi. I get in to the bus and as if the driver knew my heart desire, HE PUT TARAAB. Ow, happy place, music kept playing and lulled me in to sleeping I didn’t even notice the driver was driving at 50 Km per. How!!!!. HOW SURELY ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET ANYWHERE AT 50 KM PER HOUR???????

My eyes open and it is 6.00 am, then I open the curtains, YOU MEAN WE ARE NOT YET IN NAIROBI???? At that point, I am sooooo pressed all I was yearning for was a private space. But since I cannot even see any sight of building yet, I know we do have a long way to go, so I just close my eyes to help me forget that I gotsa pee. STILL THE DRIVER IS DRIVING AT 50 KM PER HOUR? Oh Lord! WHY is this happening to me and the other passengers of course?

It is 8.00 am and now we are closer to south C. of course we are now caught up in the Nairobi Traffic. Then the driver refused to take “short cuts” and so of course we were stuck there. I secretly wished he could overlap, overtake or anything so that I just reach destination house. At least there was a promise I would be taken to the prestige bus stop which is closer home. I could even walk, run and if I felt a bit adventurous maybe crawl. But why crawl when you can take a cab for 200 bob surely.

I am still mad at the driver for driving us at the ridiculous speed, but happy that he brought us home safe and sound. We are in Nairobi and the bus stops and everyone leaves with drama as usual. But we have not gone through Prestige why, I ask the bus conductor. Who reports that he was not told there was one going to prestige. My heart sinks. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WERE NOT TOLD YOU I AM GOING TO PRESTIGE. ISN’T THAT WHERE YOU PROMISE TO TAKE YOUR PASSENGERS. NOW SURELY WHERE IS THIS SURELY” my mind speaks to itself. Then I let out a weak “Ni sawa” Hmmmm, I was so bored. He blabbered something and I just saw his lips moving but
heard nothing. I was too tired for Drama.

So I look around and I am just seeing buildings I have not seen my entire life. Honestly in this my 27 years I have not been everywhere in this city!? “uuurgh where is this place now” So I start walking towards wherever with my bearing being Hilton Hotel. In Nairobi, Hilton has always been my land mark from the first time I went to town by myself until today when I am a grown woman, I knew I had found my way once I could see hilton. Now at this moment, I COULD NOT SEE HILTON. Do you understand. I COULD NOT SEE HILTON!!!!.

I took my tiny suitcase, disgusted of course. It is madness to drop people off at different stops than they expected. But ey once I saw Ronald Ngala street, I knew I was home. I headed straight for Kencom. At exactly 10.00 I was in Kilimani. Welcomed home with the beautiful jacaranda flowers all in purple. And some other cute orange flowers. Some gracing the streets. Some covering the roads and some forming umbrellas above me. Beautiful.

It was beautiful. In one week there was already a change in season. It was flowering in Nairobi.They were serenading the streets. Home sweet home. And I was suddenly in the rush and city madness once again from the calmness of Mombasa. I always feel the urgency to do something, just anything whilst in Nairobi. Oh this town.

But alas, I had been to two different towns in such dramatic events, with very dramatic peeps, but these dramatic people, who sometimes made me so angry, had delivered me from one home to another All in 24 hours. Reminding me to be grateful for Matutus and Buses and wonder why we should always have this fight relationship when we both need each other.

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KENYA AT 50

I have duly noticed, the lack of enthusiasm of certain people towards #Kenya@50 , many citing the disappointments they feel towards regimes in the past and even today. Which I believe it is justified to some extent, there are ALOT of disappointing things that Kenya has been through in it’s course of history. To be listed one of the worst places to live in, actually number one, not just in Africa, but actually in the whole world, is not really an appreciated title. Or even to named as the worlds most ugly people is not a title you want to go announce. But really think about it, to not appreciate the milestone Kenya has made as a Kenyan, is utter disrespect for those who fought for this country.

No matter the level of DISAPPOINTMENT we may experience as Kenyans, You can not ignore what KENYA AT 50 means. Do we really know what it means to have a chain passed through your ankles and dragging your feet with a heavy metal so that you will not run away from “the master” Do we know what it means to be born in to servant hood in your own country, to be a slave in your own land, to be landless in your own land. To have no voice, and the worst form of insult, to be considered unintelligent, and worse still to know that children of your womb will come and inherit the same system. Do you know what it means, the humiliation they went through, the pain, until after so many years of this they decided to fight. Can you imagine what you would have to subject an adult man with his pride and dignity to eventually willingly surrender his land, his will and his authority and become your servant, say nothing if you rape his wife and children? Now can you imagine what strength they had to master to get out of it.

So much sacrifice was done people’s; people lived in forests, many died in the course of this history being made. WE CANNOT IGNORE THIS SACRIFICE. Of the leaders detained as they fought for multiparty system. Of leaders who died in the course of their fight for freedoms that we enjoy today.

Friends, it is okay to be disappointed, I am too, with the corruption levels which are indeed embarrassing, I hate horrible service, many of our leaders put the S on SHAME, but i appreciate that every country has it’s cons. I appreciate as countries evolve, they go through the worst and recover and heal of it’s past wounds, and I hope Kenya does too. But I think Just for this day, for the sake of those who actually fought for this country and it’s freedom. We don’t need to like the leadership, but KENYA deserves that respect. We don’t even have to be proud of it now. But indeed we must appreciate the sacrifices others have made to bring us here. Regardless of party affiliations, many people have contributed sweat and blood to bring Kenya here. Not one individual can claim it. So until we are able to give Kenya that contribution as well, we actually should remove our hats of pride and respect THOSE. And if our humility allows us just for a minute, put on our Kenyan Jerseys like a people who never fell.

NB: I think Kenya is older than 50, its people didn’t start living at 50. I hate how history states we are turning 50, we are celebrating 50 years of INDEPENDENCE but we are older than that. We go way back. #Kenyaat50 #Weareone

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22 Signs You’re An Ex-Convent School Girl

Natalie-Kay-Es-El

1. You’re cool with doing the heavy lifting – as long as it’s manageable. What? Wait for the guys to come help out? Girl, we went through 10 years of school without a single guy in sight (unless you count that wimpy math teacher), and we did just fine.

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2. You have that one group of girlfriends that you know will be there for you. FOREVER.

bestfriends

3. “Friendship problems” don’t throw you anymore. We’ve been through 4 years in a school full of girls going through puberty all at the same time. It was hell. There would always be at least one person in any classroom PMSing at any one time – plus we pretty much hung out with the same group of girls so much that our cycles literally synched up. Yes, it’s not a myth; it’s true. Which basically means WAR every few weeks. I repeat. It was hell.

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Chinua Achebe for Me

The life of Chinua Achebe is celebrated by every man, every woman, every child that has had a chance to read the works of this man. Taking us to a world we could have never imagined had we not read it in the books. Painting pictures of the African man through his character Okwonkwo, the will of man to change his world and fails in the life of Odili, speaking of injustices and being a voice of reason through his rich words. He leaves behind a great legacy, unforgettable, in a time where Africa literature was very much needed to speak to the society, to remind us of who we are and help anticipate where we could go, as well as to entertain.

I grew up knowing that the village of Umuofia existed, and the people were just as how I saw them in the book. The festivities, the cultures, the people. I could see people dancing in festivities, I could see pride in the characters of men he created, I fell in love with Okwonkwo. And through his books, and those of others like Elechi Amadi, i found African literature irresistible and beautiful.

As I pay my respect for great skill and art, and inspiration that his writing has brought to many of us, I pray that eventually Africa will tap in to the possibilities of better days that he had willed in his literature.

 

 

 

 

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Tracing roots- By Esther Neema

Me bi bi was not an ordinary woman; she was a lady who went with many secrets to the grave. You could tell she was different, but many had never been able to find the mysteries about this lady, until the day she was laid to rest Having been the eldest lady in Mahunduni village, at the point of her death, a village in the north coast, she knew everyone’s story but no one knew her story. She stood tall and slender, a black beauty with pride and elegance, they say she was one of a kind. You could see from the way she walked and talked, the confidence and strength. Truly, you would have though she was a princess from Nubia.
me bi bi

If you asked her where he was from, she was likely not to tell you, either because the memories were so vague, or maybe once upon a time, it was much safer to hide ones origin than to boost of ones origin. For her the true definition of home was where she lived for seventy years of her life, the rest of the early nineteen years was kept a secret and a mystery to all, until the day she was buried.

In the midst of celebration for a life well lived, stood a tall lady, slender, confident, and a symbol of strength. Indeed an identical to Me bi bi. After stares and whispers about typical resemblance, people went ahead and find out. who was she? where was she from? And that is how the story f true origin got to be told.it became a true story redefined, Me bi bi had a sister?

History begins to unfold as the lady speaks of the unspoken stories. It turned out that the two had been born of freed slaves whose initial origin was in Nyasa, all the way from Malawi. After being freed they were settled in Tanzania where they had to start all over again.

Both their parents passed on leaving the girls alone. They were adopted by a Muslim Zaramo family in Tanzania for not so long before there emerged a conflict, and the girls fled to Kenya to a missionary home where they found peace and safety at last.

Though they had come a long journey, a time had come and they had to part ways. They got married far from each other and that meant that their journey together had come to an end. Many years down the road the sisters meet when one of their journeys is truly over and one could tell from the sisters face that she missed those days that just they two shared, the days of their childhood, the adventure and the many memories

Me bi bi’s life story had been told and understood, who could have known that such a smiley face and jovial lady had not been a princess, but actually the daughter of a former slave. Me bi bi is just one of those many inhabitants at the coast province who have come to call it home. Many who do not know where home really is, and if they had to search they would not know where to begin, and s they call this one place that they know home, that they even get buried in that land. It is a call to all Kenyans to appreciate diversity, because at the end of the day, home is where your hear finds solace

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