See the World Through My Eyes

Latest

The Morning Express

I am seated in a little known quiet restaurant loved by it’s loyal patrons for opening early in the morning. I am talking 6am early; the people are the same everyday and over time we have gotten to know each other. We don’t know each other’s names, and a year later, we are still comfortably stuck at plastic smiles instinctive nods to each other. Every now and then we shall politely ask each if we could share a table in the rare occurrence that all the tables are full. It’s our little morning family and we prefer it that way.

Interestingly we are all prisoners of routine and everyone’s is unique. I for instance will arrive at exactly 6 am and slide in to my usual spot, a corner table that faces the sunrise. I will take out my notebook and write down three things that I want to accomplish that day. It sounds stupid but I have struggled with concentration all my life because I get bored easily so this is my way of making sure I get things done. After my list I will do one of two things, depending on whether it is going to be a busy day or not. My preference is usually take out a book and read for a solid hour. Again I will remind you that I get bored easily so at any one time I am reading 3 books or more and my pick depends on what I feel is interesting for the moment. After this, I will take out my laptop and seize the day.

There is an old man who usually checks in the restaurant earlier than I do and like clockwork, he reads 3 newspapers of the day in exactly the same order every day. The waiters know his breakfast order for each day and so I have never seen him ask for a menu. He is a strange and quiet character. My wild imagination tells me he must be a former priest or a criminal or detective from the old school. He has a dead gaze that says he is not looking at you but into you. Based on my assessment, I chose to mind my own business. Ignorance is bliss.

On another table in the dimly lit corner next to the backdoor, is where some young kid in this late teens normally sits with his beat up laptop, drawing pad and comic books. I can tell he is in that age where the world is exerting undue pressure on him to behave like a focused 45 year old. He has never combed his hair and he always looks anxious. My guess is, his daily plan is to get out of the house early and only go back after his parents and siblings have gone to work. I think I am right because one day his mother walked in and scolded him for wanting to become an animator. She was loud and I could make out that she was trying to arm twist him into signing up for the traditional and ‘respectable’ university courses. She ended the conversation by telling him that no child of hers will ever become an artist and take drugs. I would rather not go into what my thoughts are about what the kid should do because that’s his monkey.

Moving on, there is this good looking middle aged woman who is always in a rush and feels the need to say hi to everyone. I find myself almost telling her that it’s against the rules but whatever, it just takes two seconds of my time to respond to her greeting. I find her disgusting though; she has a habit of always licking her cup, spoon, fork and knife when she’s done having breakfast. I have tried to understand her behaviour and I hope these are not attempts to erase her DNA from the crockery as it would be counterproductive. At this point I always bury my head in an excel sheet or something more boring.

I could tell you about all the other loyal patrons of our morning express but it would take a lot of time.

One of the insights I have gained into my morning family is that most couples fight in the morning before they go to work. This I know because every now and then there are patrons who are confronted by their partners, spouses and sometimes side dishes as they have their breakfast or go about their morning routine. Some are regular and some are one-off instances. Sadly, some have concluded their relationships here and it was dramatic. In line with the unwritten and unsaid code of the morning express crew, we (other patrons) do not interfere unless it becomes a safety issue. After all, our relationship is all nods and plastic smiles and polite requests to share tables, nothing more.

Every member of the morning express comes here for a reason. Some come to escape the miseries of the ones they live with. Some are just lonely and want to be around other people even if there is no real interaction. Others have been working on their dreams and over time you learn to read their victory and loss faces as they close in (or out) on their goals. For instance, there is a struggling music artist who always comes in early, puts on their headphones and samples music from all over the world. I know this because his laptop screen is always in my line of vision. I can tell he is struggling financially just from what his order is every morning but I respect the kid and I think he’s moving in the right direction. Persistence, I have observed, sets successful people apart from the failures.

All in all, I find this place interesting because as I do my thing I get to observe and appreciate people. Everyone is dealing with something but one thing most people have in common is the need and urgency to improve their lives. To achieve this, some quiet time everyday to dream, reflect and plan is greatly needed.

I am a mixture of personalities. I like hanging out with people but I also like having moments alone. I especially love early mornings because it is when my mind is most active and there are fewer distractions. If I miss a couple of early mornings alone I get anxious and I feel like I am losing control of everything. And yes I believe it is important for people to have time alone to meditate, strategise and most of all to be fully conscious.

Happy Africa Day!

 

 

Advertisements

How I Met My Father

“I can remember the beating as if it happened this morning. He kicked, slapped and dragged me on the grass and for a moment I thought he would go on forever. To be honest I didn’t even understand why he was so furious. I also didn’t understand why he [a stranger] was beating me. I was more in shock and confusion than I was in pain. I kept on screaming for my mother to save me from this ‘visitor’ who has decided to turn violent on me. She just stood a safe distance pleading with him not to kill me…

Earlier that week when he arrived at our home, my mother had introduced him to me as my baba. I didn’t think much about it because where I come from all uncles and distant uncles are considered ‘baba’ pronounced ‘fafa’ to mean father or sometimes lesser father. So this man (the visitor) who looked antisocial and was always staring at me silently as if he knew me from somewhere, was just a relative coming to check on us. In the first few days we didn’t talk much and I avoided making eye contact as I found him scary. He and my mother would speak in short sentences and most of their conversations were one way with my mother doing most of the talking. He seemed different from all our relatives who I had by now come to accept as irritatingly noisy and somewhat obnoxious. He definitely was not one of ours.

On this fateful day he motioned me over to where he was sitting under the shade of the granary’s thatched roof. He reached into his coat and produced a couple of ndururu (colonial era 10 cent coins) which he instructed me to take to my uncle next door to pay for a long standing milk debt. I took the money and hurried off to my uncle. I was seven years old and as you would guess, I quickly got distracted by my childish curiosities along the way. I got to my uncle and threw the coins into his giant hand and waited for him to confirm that it was all there.

“Is this all?” he barked.

“I gave you the money as I was given by fafa” I responded as I played with his puppies.

He waved me off impatiently and instructed me to tell fafa that he would come to see him later in the day. Little did I know what would follow that afternoon would change my life forever.

I was playing in the dirt when I saw my uncle charge into our homestead mumbling incoherently with his fists clenched tightly. I could tell he was very angry. He shouted for my mother asking her where Mwangi (fafa) was. My mother came out of the kitchen visibly surprised by my uncle’s tone. In a rather calm tone, she tried to inquire what the cause of his anger was and whether she could help but my uncle was taking none of it. She pointed to the direction where fafa was working in the farm planting cassava and helplessly watched my uncle march there like a raging buffalo. My mother and I were silent for the next few minutes as the two men’s interaction spiralled into a huge argument. All I could hear was fafa saying something about being sure he had paid the right amount and my uncle shouting back that fafa was lying to him. After what seemed like an endless shouting match, there was silence and then I heard fafa calling me.

“Did you give fafa (now uncle) all the money I gave you?” he hissed.

“I gave him all the money you gave me” I replied.

“How much did I give you?” he asked in a suspicious manner.

“I don’t know, I didn’t count” I responded in a shaky voice.

” Did you stop to play at any one point on your way to your fafa?” he asked the trick question in a low tone.

My reaction gave me away. I couldn’t lie and by now I knew I was in deep trouble. I wasn’t sure if and where I had dropped some of the coins but something inside me told me that I had been careless. In a flash of lightning, Fafa descended on me with kicks and blows like a dog as he interrogated me to know where I had lost the rest of the money. I had been beaten before by my mother who was an outstanding disciplinarian but there was something different about this beating. I felt I was being beaten by a total stranger while my uncle and mother looked on. At some point the beating got so bad that I started screaming that fafa was not my father and that he had no business beating me. Immediately I saw my mother cover her mouth with her hands in what seemed like a mixture of fear and astonishment. It was also the same instant when all hell broke loose. My father beat me until I was numb with shock. We spent the night cutting down all the bushes along the path I had taken to my uncle’s house in a bid the lost ndururu. In the end we never found the money but that is how I knew fafa was my biological father and in the years that followed we became best friends until the day he died.

You see my father had been detained during the emergency just around the same time I was born; he was released after seven years of hard labor in the worst conditions imaginable. A lot of men and women in that period were tortured in detention and their experiences changed them forever. In the emergency period many mothers were left in the reservations with young children to look after and they had to take up the roles of fathers as well. They were tough and resilient because that was the only option they had. This meant providing, caring and disciplining their children who were growing up without father figures. Many of my age-mates also got to know their fathers after the emergency years; many still did not get their parents back as they died in the camps. We still turned out alright do you agree?”

This is one of the many stories that my father told my brother and I on a road trip last weekend. I filled in some parts creatively to give it a little kick. It feels good to be writing again.

Family Secrets

For 3 years now, I have been on a quest to understand my family and it’s origins. It all started when I asked my grandmother to show me the personal belongings of Gabriel Ngigi, my grandfather who died before I was born. Among the the things she showed me were his journals and diaries, passbooks and records of every transaction he ever made. It took me days to pour over these things to try to understand the man that my grandfather was. I made some interesting discoveries about myself from studying this man that I was named after. I realised that we shared some similarities in our character and our views of the world. Some of these similarities were good while others signalled aspects of things that needed working on.

The first thing I noticed was how similar our handwritings were. Staring at his diaries I had this weird experience where it felt like I was reading my own writing. From the way he formed his characters to his choice of words I couldn’t help feeling like I was staring back at myself though a time capsule.

According to my mother, my grandfather was a very wise man who was organised and meticulous in everything that he did. For an African man born in the early 1900s he was well travelled too. He had fought in the second world war as a soldier in the King’s African Rifles where he specialised as a blacksmith and mechanic. The war took him to many places most notable being Burma. Could it be that his stint in the army played a role in making him organised and also to view the world in a different way? I have never been in the army yet I have discovered many similarities in our lives that have helped me understand myself much better. For instance, the passion about everything thing mechanical and the ability to figure out how stuff works with little effort is something we share. Also the tendency to write down things that feel important such as life milestones and transactions was something that I found mind blowing.

This event made me want to investigate further into Gabriel’s life to discover what his shortcomings were. This as a difficult task but looking closer at his writings I realised he was always in a constant internal battle to prove his worth in everything he did which is something that I have experienced most of my life. The idea of being confident that you are good at what you do is something I have started working on. People like me tend to be pushovers because they struggle with feeling like what they are offering is still not good enough. Some people call this perfectionism but I call it unnecessary conviction because the fear that I might not deliver the best result blocks me from discovering my true potential.

A few years ago, my godfather told me that the most important mission in any person’s life is to understand the origins of his family. This enables one to understand why they behave in a certain way and also how to live so as not to repeat the mistakes of their relatives before them. Just like behaviour, disease can be passed on from one generation to the next and we can use this to make decisions on how to live. Take diabetes for example, if a family has a history of this condition,it makes sense for parents to teach their children how to live by endorsing a good diet and exercise as a lifestyle. By doing this the chances of passing down diabetes are reduced and hopefully this gene can be restructured and eventually it could stop being a ‘family problem’.

Some families are known to have serious anger issues while some are famed for producing criminals and being alcoholics. Other families are known for their inability to handle money; they just can’t keep or grow their money regardless of the great opportunities that keep coming their way. Have you heard of families that are famous for being unfaithful in relationships? The list is endless! However our cultures do not allow these family secrets to be talked about openly and therefore vices and life threatening conditions persist from generation to generation. Maybe it is time that we started talking openly about the things that ail our families. We should acknowledge that these may not be comfortable conversations but having them may save lives especially of the generations to come. These secrets are killing our potential and I believe it is everyone’s duty to ask these uncomfortable and intrusive questions. In the words of my godfather, how else will you move forward if you do not understand your past?

I Am Phoenix

I was married but I am single now. It is a significant and life changing event especially if one was had gone through all the necessary customs and an official marriage ceremony. Every day I get many people asking me what happened and whose fault it is. Unfortunately, when a marriage comes to an end there are no winners, only losers. Whatever anyone did or didn’t do becomes irrelevant.

There is no bad or good person after such a sad and sometimes traumatizing event. Each person is dealing with something throughout the process. Most people go into marriage innocently and with the right reasons and therefore most break ups are usually not premeditated. In the end blame is shared equally because it’s a two person affair.

Every partner goes through a process of trying to understand and resolve before finally making that tough decision that is characterized by a terrifying fear of uncertainty of the future. After all, we are talking about someone who you willingly gave your life to do with as they please. Some marriages end prematurely while for others, a break up ends up being the best decision to have been made. For both of these instances, only time can validate. It is a sad reality but that is the nature of such an event.

Moving on
Does one ever move on? Well for that I don’t have a definite answer but I can say with confidence that it is a journey that demands a lot of thought and perhaps patience. There are lots of things to consider including getting back together. I’ve heard of countless instances where two people realized their love for each other by staying apart for some time. In similar measure I have heard of others who knew at the start that it was the beginning of the end. Simply put, each situation is unique and requires to be treated as such.

I will not go into detail about my experience out of respect for my friends, family and most importantly to my former partner. In addition such details are irrelevant and we have chosen to be civil and I have chosen to keep the details of our lives to ourselves. I will however talk about my journey to the place that I currently find myself in. To answer the question on your mind, I am happy. I am happy for many things especially the fact that we are still friends and civil with my former partner. I am also happy that we have had a very supportive community of friends and family who chose not to take sides and instead to act and treat our situation responsibly. Very few breakups get to enjoy such benefits. Our families are great friends and they have made it clear that they haven’t broken up. I find this to be a good thing.

Life after breakup is different and also challenging. It is pointless to attempt to describe it in a simple way so I won’t. I will rather talk about the things I have learned so far.

Back in the game
Funny enough, I have no clue what dating is like these days. Asking someone out feels complicated and foreign so I am yet to be successful. I have lost the game that I had in my dynamic dating years. I have also become very anxious to meet new people or to make commitments of any kind. I have also come to accept that there is a very thin line between friendships and serious relationships with women over 25 years of age. When I was younger, I had a lot of genuine women friends and it felt normal. I could be hanging out in the wrong places but I happen to be coming across women whose main currency is instant commitment. While I quite fully understand the ‘clock is ticking’, I am also amazed at how easy it is to people to compromise their ideals in exchange for an opportunity to settle down.

I have also come across people who treat relationships like product packages. Some want a child but on condition they live separately with the father of the child. There is a man somewhere who will only agree to marry a woman on condition she agrees to him keeping his side girlfriends. The list is endless and it shows that as human beings we are always evolving.

Everyone is changing and we all seem to have a checklist that gets more unrealistic by the day. The result? There are a lot lonelier and secretly desperate people today than there ever have been before. Many people want to settle down but their ‘list’ won’t let them. In the meantime, they experiment in meaningless associations hoping that they will stumble into a perfect situation. It is especially harder for people like me who have been married before because we come with a lot of caution, fear and anxiety hoping that we shall do it right this time. My research on divorce veterans tells me the challenges of one’s next relationship almost always remain the same as the last one. Maybe this points to a more personal approach to future relationships that involves self-actualization and improvement and rather not expecting your future partner to have all the qualities in your list checked to accuracy.

How long is how long?
How long should it take before one is back in the game? How should I know?! I think the better question should be how are you wired? Are you the type that are not wired to be alone for long? Are you likely to be depressed if you are not in a relationship for more than a month? Are you a natural loner who just likes to be alone and are not in a hurry to ‘complicate’ your life again? In my opinion, everyone’s situation is unique and no one should be pressured to move in any direction. We love our family and friends but pressure from these people can lead you down a miserable path. I have no experience to be qualified as a giver of advice to this question but I have a feeling that one should go at their comfortable pace.

This is where I am at now
I have deliberately simplified my life. I get anxious when I am in communication with too many people (friends of family) at once. I struggle to maintain constant contact with friends especially when over dependence is involved. I like hanging out alone most of the time and when I hang out with friends I find myself wanting to keep the interaction short, relevant and sweet. There are a few exceptions of course. My close circle is always a priority and I could live with them for long periods of time without feeling drained. I have also found myself keeping away from negative people and also people with a lot of baggage to offload. I know this sounds mean but in today’s world everyone is dealing with something. The best we can do is encourage and be there for each other but not feel obligated to solve other people’s problems.

Am I dating? I’m not there yet and don’t know how long that might take. I have met very good and interesting people but I am focused on making sure I love and take care of myself before I can do the same for another. I have also come to learn the value of stating my intentions with everyone I meet. I believe everyone deserves the truth of intention when coming into any form of friendship. Sometimes it hurts but it breeds respect.

Happy
After my breakup I realized I didn’t know who I was and this has set me on an interesting journey to uncover my interests, hopes and any other aspect that I feel is important to move forward. I have rediscovered some things I used to like doing such as driving out in the cold of a weekend morning to watch the sunrise from a different place every weekend. I love to cook and lately I’ve been learning new life lessons from every new thing I try in the kitchen. Constantly making appointments to meet up with the people who have stood by me all along, I have come to realize one doesn’t need much. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, sincerity gives you genuine freedom and being true to yourself gifts you happiness. Maybe one day I’ll tell you if all the choices I made were right. I have learnt not to expect perfect outcomes but at the same time I have come to appreciate that through difficult times, there is always hope to rise from the ashes to fly again. For now I am having the best view of the city lights.

 

Have You Found Your Purpose?

purpose

Heaven always thows a big party whenever a human being on earth discovers their true purpose. A man can never be truly happy unless he starts playing the role for which he was born. When you are living your purpose, Mondays feel like holidays and holidays feel like a waste of time. When you are doing what you love you will be surprised how you will never have to work another day in your life. You will always sleep a happy and fulfilled person and wake up energised and ever curious to discover what treasures the day has in store for you.

When you live your purpose you become attractive to fellow human beings and also to all the good things that you desire. Misery loves company; isn’t it then logical that happiness should attract more happiness?

In your purpose you will discover that your life is free of clutter and distractions. By this I mean you will find it easier to say yes and no to the different things that come your way. You will make more room for the things that make you happy and find that you effortlessly repel the things that take happiness away from you. You will never have to make tough decisions just because you are not sure if the situation you have been presented with is something you want. It will be easier to attract great friends that add value to your life and drop friends that derive value.

Having a purpose is knowing who you are. This in turn gives you clarity on what you want for yourself. It gets much easier to turn down seemingly but not necessarily great opportunities. If you are living your purpose you can easily turn down a great job offering that offer a great salary simply because it’s just not aligned to who you are!

In the modern world we live in, most of us have gotten used to anxiety being part of our lifestyle. We are afraid of the future and terrified of the the unknown. We are terrified at the thought of losing our jobs and being diagnosed with a terminal illness. We are afraid of events that may never happen. This often happens a result of not being sure of who we are or even what our purpose is. Knowing what your purpose is gives you confidence and energy, after all you’re doing what you love! Simply put, discovering your purpose gives you the keys you need to live your best life!

Every human being is unique be it in thought, abilities, bone structure or eye colour. We are designed to be attracted to different things and the things that make us each of us happy are different. We are also made to be good in different things and that is why not everyone can excel in athletics. It is the reason why no one can be better than you at being you. We think differently and we experience the world in special ways and in the same breath, each one of us has a special path to follow to achieve their purpose in life. A fish is designed to live in water and would die if it were forced to live on land; when a person is not living their purpose, they will always experience discontent, anxiety,confusion and uncertainty. Purpose leads us to passion and passion to true happiness.

So how do we find our purpose? That is the million dollar question that has troubled mankind throughout our existence. Only a few people get to discover their true purpose in their lifetime. Finding our purpose is like finding our way to a great treasure through a complex maze. It is the reason why most of us are always trying something different always hoping that this time we will find something we can build our lives around. How do we eliminate these time wasters and focus on what we’re really meant to be doing? To find our purpose, we must be ready to lay our lives bare. Self actualisation is the first and most important step. It also happens to be the most painful part of discovering why we are who we are. Understanding, learning and accepting who you are now is a tough but liberating process. Deciding to change the negative aspects of who you are is a major step in beginning the hard work of uncovering the layers that have formed over time blinding you from your true self.

Many of us go into adulthood without ever discovering our true purpose in life. This is the thing that creates our biggest life challenges. We make wrong decisions when we are unclear about who we are, be it in relationships, money, friendships, careers or even when choosing a meal from a menu in a restaurant! The happiest and most successful people in the world all have one thing in common. They are sure of who they are and are clear on what they want in life. I believe that our first and most important task in life is to find out why we exist as this is the key to true happiness. Many of us are living miserable and boring lives where all the avenues to our happiness are determined by someone else but us. I believe when you find your purpose you will find your passion. When you find your passion it will complement your desires and you will be truly happy.

As part of my journey of self discovery I have been trialling a new way of helping people discover their true purpose through creative inquiry and the results have been exciting. This process doesn’t need a qualified life coach or a seasoned motivational speaker. It just needs you and the people closest to you such as friends and family to help you on your journey to personal discovery. It involves answering a series of simple questions together and recording trends and significant themes in a person’s life. It is simply a behavioural diagnostic tool that gives recommendations on the things you can do to discover your purpose. Just to give you an idea of how powerful this could be I would like to challenge you to ask five of your friends (separately) to tell you what they think you’re good at. You will be surprised by the trends in the answers you receive.

In the meantime, I hope I will arrive at a practical and inexpensive way of personal actualisation that can be applied by anyone anywhere in the world. I am grateful to the people that have volunteered in my purpose experiment that I have been running the past two years. I have learnt a lot about myself from these people and though we still have a long way to go, I believe we will find what we’re looking for and publish the process for everyone to use. I also believe that through this experiment I will also discover my purpose.

I believe discovering our purpose is the biggest question in the the universe. When you discover your purpose, you start living your best life. I believe that out there there’s a tool (or a way of thinking) that we can use for ourselves and also for our children to start living our best lives and if we look carefully we can find it.

This post is dedicated to one of my friends (from my experiment) who recently discovered her purpose and is just beginning to live her best life.

Smile If Nothing Else

Patrick has been my friend for 18 years and I’ve known his wonderful family for roughly the same period. They are the most friendly, honest and good natured people you will ever meet. I knew his dad, a very friendly and insightful man. His mother, a woman full of love and understanding. It is why I am honoured to post this article where Pattoe (as we call him) shows us a simple yet effective way of living. 

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”

— Ken Keyes

knifebloody-e1472119515361

He poked at the fire, furrows creased, thinking, scheming. It was day 4, still no animal in sight, they had come a few dead carcasses, long dead to be of any use. “Such bad luck”, he thought but his father always had something positive to say.  “The herd must be close by”, he said. The endless optimism was annoying at times, but anyhoo, to each his own. His critical mind liked to analyze facts, scheme, plot and decipher. He wanted a plan, a set course of action to follow. He wanted things to make sense. There was a drought and the animals had migrated, the crops had failed, people were starving but he was always smiling.

That smile, who could forget it? It was a constant feature in his everyday life. It was a part of his life and he couldn’t avoid it, he had come to accept it as part of everyday life. He glanced over at his father, sleeping, the smile plastered on his face. An SI unit, poked at the fire again and added some firewood. He thought about the hunt tomorrow. “Hunt? More like roaming around and hope we strike gold, or in this case meat.” Three days of long treks and committed hunting had yielded just a rabbit, long gone since they needed sustenance. Three days and nothing to show for it, well except the smile.

As much as he tried to worry, he couldn’t. Somehow, deep down, he knew they would find something. It was a sense of calm that he loved and hated. Why wasn’t he worried? Three days of nothing and he had this optimism. This undeniable feeling that someway, somehow they would succeed. It baffled him and annoyed him, yet it somehow made him want to go on pursuing, chasing, and searching for that ever elusive prize. He started smiling, “Am my father’s son,” he thought. The last few years had been HELL. The war came, bullets whizzing past, they lost everything, all they had left were the clothes on their back and each other, he had been through enough suffering to last three lifetimes but that ever persistent feeling of optimism never seemed to die, he had given up many times but it was always there lurking, never leaving him. Like that one mosquito you can’t seem to kill, that one, that gets inside the mosquito net and flies into your ear every five or six minutes.

You have to understand; this wasn’t his life. Four years ago, he was an aspiring engineer dreaming of building bridges. The “game” he hunted was the female kind, he was what the young folks called a “fisi” Now here he was, ready to eat a real fisi if he came across one. Oh how life changes! He was now hunting game like he grew up hunting yet he had been a city boy through and through, never had slaughtered a chicken in his life. The scariest thing he had killed was a huge banana spider. But here he was, sleeping under the stars, smiling and thinking about the antelope they would kill the next day. There it was, that optimism! Followed by that smile, he fell asleep, dreaming of laughter and meat.

They did eat the next day, a large antelope that had been left behind by the herd. Years passed, things got better, life improved. The smile was a constant feature; that never changed. But one day suddenly, no more smile, it was gone! Now, here he was, burying his father. He had heard many scary sounds, screams, gunshots, the roars of a hungry lion in the dark. Nothing filled him with more gloom or dread than the sound of the soil hitting his father’s coffin. There was such a finality to it. That day, after that sound, the optimism left him. Gone with the father that he was now burying. He tried to smile, nothing. Not even a forced one, it was truly gone. Gone like yesterday, never to come back.

I lost my smile one day, like him it disappeared with that awful sound. A sound that feels me with dread to this day. You see, I too lost my father, four years ago. Words fail to explain the trepidation that filled my heart, as the soil hit the coffin. I felt that life had to come to an end, not just his but mine too. Many of us, if not all, have buried someone. We have gone through the motions, we have missed, mourned them, drowned our sorrows in drink or other ways to try and fill that void. I did all that and then some. But as it may seem, this story does not have a sad ending but rather a celebration of the great men and women that once graced our lives. Though he is not here physically, the perspective he gave me in life will always live on. He instilled in me a never ending positivity that grows and wanes but it’s always there, a constant in my life. For that, I am thankful. So we aren’t here to mourn but to smile, and smile some more.

There is a story circulating on FB that goes like this:

“Two twin boys were raised by an alcoholic father. One grew up to be an alcoholic & when asked what happened he said” I watched my father” …

The other grew up and never drank in his life. When he was asked what happened he said “I watched my father” …

Two boys, same dad, two different perspectives.

In life, we are all faced with similar situations. Two people will look at the same situation and perceive it totally differently. I looked at the death of my father like the ending of a book. But what I later realized was his story was not yet done, he left a beautiful wife and four wonderful children, who continue to tell his story and add more chapters to his book. I have dreams and ambitions that were founded on his encouragement. So when my story is told, they will speak of a father who imbued me with optimism and a never quit attitude. Maybe one day, I will honor him in some grand way and everyone will know his name. Maybe not, either way, I am honoring him in the best way I know how. Being optimistic!

What about you? How is your outlook in life? How do you perceive things? Do you know that your perception is your reality? We walk through life sometimes trying to change the world, how about looking within and changing ourselves? We are constantly bombarded on how to look, what to wear, how to be successful etc. Every single aspect of our lives is micromanaged by one thing or other. I am not here to do that, I am simply making you aware that it’s your life, get in the driver’s seat and drive. The way you can do that is to change your perception if need be. Wherever you want to be in life, it may seems that’s its dependent on one circumstance or the other but it’s really just dependent on how you view them, are they obstacles or challenges? SMILE

There are a lot of things that I would like to tell you, but I will leave you with this. If you don’t do anything else today, SMILE. I know that’s what Mr. Ndung’u is doing and that’s what he would have told you.

Use your smile to change the world, don’t let the world change your smile!

My grandmother passed away this weekend. Last weekend, we celebrated mum’s birthday. A few months ago, we got grandmother a pacemaker, because of that my grandmother enjoyed her eldest daughter’s (my mum) birthday. We miss her, but we are thankful! She taught us to smile…if nothing else.

Dedicated to the loving memory and smile of Mr. Francis Ndung’u.

How We Got Away with a Murder Most Fowl

“The stench of rotting flesh filled my car as we rolled down Waiyaki way looking for a spot we could dump the black garbage bags. Every time we thought we had found a spot, headlights would appear from nowhere and we would abandon our plan. We had been driving for 3 hours now and we feared we would be stopped by cops at any time…”

knifeBloody

A few months earlier we were sitting in a restaurant planning on what we thought was the best money making plan ever. It would be short term and best of all, the proceeds would be tax free. We held our meeting in hushed voices and wrote out a sketchy plan on some white serviettes.

The project was going to take 4 months after which we would cash in and move on to other bigger things. The partnership was made up of myself and my long time friends Jimmy and Muba. We felt invincible and we were confident that we had explored all possible scenarios of the plan. Little did we know our venture would end up with lives lost. It would also turn out to be one of our most memorable business lessons ever.

We set into action by ensuring our finances were okay. We asked around and carried out due diligence by gathering successful case studies. To cap it all, we already had a willing buyer who I had gotten connected to by a credible source. The buyer was specific; every ‘package’ had to conform to a weight of 1.5 kilos, no more. Otherwise it would raise a red flag with his boss and the whole deal would be considered suspicious and eventually cancelled.

We wrote out a plan and swung into action with the vision of a handsome profit burning brightly in our minds.

We bought 600 birds with 100 of them as insurance against the unpredictable. In poultry farming you have to account for losses, some stemming from negligence by the handlers and others just from random acts of God. We carefully followed our plan and not before long we started to see our project grow into the most promising venture. The birds grew big so fast that they crossed the 1.5 kilo mark on the third month, even our farm neighbours could not hide their envy. We had opted to feed the birds with the highest quality of chicken feeds available and the good thing was, all this was still within budget. We had estimated that we would break even with the first batch of chicken and start making profit on the second batch.So I called up my guy the buyer and explained to him our weight problem. He brushed it off saying we needed not worry as he’d ‘sort’ it with his boss. The only condition he gave was that he wanted a cut from our sales. We gladly agreed.

So finally the day came for the slaughter and our my guy gave us the green light to deliver the chicken at his boss’ hotel by 8PM that evening. So we enlisted the services of this giant of a man who had a reputation of being the most efficient chicken executioner in Nairobi. He was this 6 foot hulk with the most scarred face and the coldest eyes we had seen. He always walked around with his tools of trade; a set of knives, string, a sheet of polythene (which he wore to to prevent blood spatter) and a pack of cheap cigarettes. He looked like a morbid serial killer. Anyway he looked like the perfect person for the job because it takes a lot of cold heart to slaughter 500 chicken.

He filled a drum with water and started a fire under it. Soon he was snatching birds from the chicken barn, snapping their heads off their bodies like dry spaghetti and throwing them into the boiling water. He made short of the work and in two hours the chicken were hanging upside down dripping a mixture of water and blood; all ready to be delivered to the customer in the next two hours. Now it was time for the delivery.

The load was almost a ton and I could feel Iris my old station wagon groaning under the heavy weight as we flew down Kangundo road in the open savannah towards the city lights. We dropped ‘the executioner’ along the way after paying him [much to everyone’s relief]. It had been very uncomfortable riding with him at the back of the car just staring into a crazy trance. All the time, he never said a word despite our repeated attempts at having a conversation. We couldn’t stop fearing he would go crazy and snap our necks from behind, then bury us in shallow graves on a lonely stretch by the road.

As we edged closer to the city, I called my guy to tell him we were almost there. That’s when everything went south. He pretended not to remember that we had spoken about the birds being overweight. He also indifferently asked whether we had a signed order from the hotel which obviously we didn’t. He then delivered the final blow saying that they had already gotten a delivery by their usual supplier and therefore they wouldn’t take our stock. It took me a while to process the whole conversation and at some point I thought I was having a heart attack. As I broke the news to my partners, I could see Jimmy almost tearing up the steering wheel in frustration and I could hear Muba laughing in the distance as he usually does when he can’t comprehend what just happened. We pulled over to the side of the road and took a moment to feel sorry for ourselves. This was turning out to be a really bad day.

After brainstorming, we came up with our first idea for mitigation. We would ride into town and sell the chickens on the busiest highway in the city. So we drove to Uhuru highway and parked on the side of the Nyayo stadium round about and went over our preposition for the millionth time; a chicken worth 700 shillings at a price of 250 shillings. We were sure it was an offer customers wouldn’t refuse. We targeted to sell at least 50 birds each between Jimmy, Muba and myself. The plan was to offload as much as possible and sell the rest to a restaurant owned by a sister to Victor one of the friends in our circle. Little did we know this would turn out to be the hardest sell ever. Motorists would roll up their windows whenever we tried selling them of the chicken. It never occurred to us that selling chicken stupidly cheap (and on the highway) was suspicious! Someone in a matatu even told the rest of the passengers that we had slaughtered the marabou storks that are usually perched on the trees along Nyayo stadium, and that’s why our chicken were too big! We got so desperate we even offered them to motorists for free. In the end we had disposed only 10 fat chickens with 490 to go!

We packed up and headed to Victor’s sister and sadly, she would only take 5. By this time, we had even bought ice blocks because the executioner had warned us that after 24 hours the chicken would start going bad. It was almost midnight when we got the idea of asking our friends and families to assist with storing some of the birds in their refrigerators but they could only take so much. We still had 400 to go. At 2AM we gave up and decided to leave the remaining chickens in the car hoping the ice would keep them fresh until morning.

The next day was a work day and as we left the house we couldn’t help but catch a faint familiar smell as we walked towards the car. This is when our real ordeal started.

The Thika superhighway hadn’t been built yet and so the traffic usually started on our doorstep. We had opened all the windows and we could see everyone on the road sniffing and trying to investigate where the foul smell was coming from. I had never felt so defeated in my life. As usual, Muba wouldn’t stop laughing and Jimmy eventually joined the laughing band. I personally was just in a daze. Clearly we were having one of the worst days of our lives. As Jimmy dropped us to our workplaces, each person went into their office carrying two chickens for ‘advertising’. To date we all agree that Muba had the most hilarious experience of all that day as he was suspected of murdering his boss but I’ll tell you about later.

Jimmy went ahead and parked the car under a tree at his workplace hoping the shade would slow down the decomposition of the chicken. By midday he had called us saying his workmates were reporting an overpowering smell of death.

That’s when we all spoke on phone and agreed that our business had gone bust and it was time to pull off the final act. Disposal. We decided we would buy garbage bags and wait for midnight to find a discreet dumping ground. We also enlisted one more accomplice in our circle Naito who would help us with pulling it off.

At midnight we headed out into the dark. At first we tried finding dumpsites along Thika road where we used to live but the mayor had done his work well that year. We couldn’t find any. So Jimmy suggested Waiyaki Way as the perfect place since he had grown up there and knew the dumping sites like the back of his hand.

The stench of rotting flesh filled my car as we rolled down Waiyaki way looking for a spot we could dump the blag garbage bags. Every time we thought we had found a spot, headlights would appear from nowhere and we would abandon our plan. By now we had been driving for 3 hours now, and we feared we would be stopped at any time by the police. That’s when it hit me that we had committed mass murder because thanks to us, more than 400 chicken had lost their lives for nothing. As morning drew closer we decided to go back home because the situation was getting risky and out of control. We were tired and sleepy and as we turned into the last street home, Naito made a comment about dumping the whole thing on the roadside just before our gate. Little did she know what she had just said was the best idea we’d heard all week.

The next morning we woke up to chaos in the neighbourhood. Somehow stray dogs had managed to rip the bags open and strewn the carcasses all over. The stench was overwhelming. Good thing no one knew who was responsible. We quietly slipped into our car which was still reeking and drove out to work. We had gotten away with murder. But we wouldn’t eat chicken for the rest of the year let alone look at it rotating on the grill behind the Kenchic joint window.

The whole event taught us some hard and important lessons. Firstly every business idea needs a proof of market before one invests their hard earned money. Secondly always have a backup plan to your backup plan because anything can go wrong. Lastly, always be cautious when someone offers to hook you up with a contact while saying “I have a guy”.

The Art of Being Fat and Cool

I’m fat. That’s a fact. I don’t want you to ever call me a ‘big guy’, ‘mzito’ or ‘big mike’ again because I know that’s what we call fat guys so they can feel better about themselves. I feel heavy that’s for sure, but I don’t hate my body or appearance. Why should I? I am too awesome for that. I’m able to do everything my peers can do except pushups; which is understandable because my belly just won’t leave the ground no matter how high I push myself. The last time I managed to do five I almost drained my intestines in my living room. My arms wouldn’t stop shaking for two days and I almost visited a neurologist. I decided to leave that part of self determination to YouTube athletes. However I can run further many fit people but then I also understand it’s about fuel capacity and efficiency.

I have to admit that lean guys get more perks in life compared to fat guys. Lean guys can walk up to any store and walk out with nice clothes or even an extra large pizza. For a fat guy it’s different. You have ‘your guy’ when it comes to clothes. And even with this [your] guy, you have to keep your fingers crossed because clothing manufacturers make really bad clothes for fat guys. The evidence is everywhere from polka dot shirts with spots which look like little mini-me’s arranged in a neat motif, to jeans with a low belt-line meant to show my crack every time I stand up. I believe there’s a worldwide conspiracy to force us into losing weight. We must be using a lot of resources and just maybe, we might be the original cause of global warming.

The airlines are doing it too. Fellow passengers cringe when you’re pace up and down the airplane isle looking for your seat number. And for a moment in the plane it feels like lean people have been forced into playing a game of Russian Roulette;  fat guy being the bullet. Which unlucky passenger will have their side squashed by fat guy’s upper butt? Who will be the miserable passenger who will have to endure an eight hour flight next to a sweaty fat dude who’s evidently eyeing their food and asking for whisky refills throughout the flight?

In defence of fat guys, I wish to state that the mind has a way of making you appear smaller in the mirror. Every time I’m topless mirror I can swear there’s a six pack peering through my one pack. Ok, you need to get your dirty mind of the hairy man boobs if you really want to get my six pack story. Fat guys are often called good huggers because they actually look and feel like oversized dolls or as you would call them Teddy Bears. They hate it and love it in equal measure. Being a fat dude makes you appear somewhat friendly and dumb at the same time especially when you’re in oversized clothes. Fact. A fat guy should never go a day without a shower. Too bad they have to use more soap than the rest of the population. We should seriously consider signing up for a daily scrub at the local carwash.

So what to do? For most fat guys, the whole fat experience involves learning how to deal with yourself daily. It also involves pondering over some strange challenges in our lives. For instance, most fat guys miss at least one meal a day which translates to something like “My car can go on an empty tank every now and then”. Genetics? Gastric abnormalities perhaps? Are we even trying to lose weight in the first place?

So this is where I speak for myself. This year, I plan to quit being a fat guy. Not because I hate how I look; please don’t get it twisted. I can still get laid more times than you skinny guys can count. I’m just tired of panting every-time I have to tie my shoe laces. Hint: That’s why fat guys totally dig slip-on shoes. A big stomach can make the world literally disappear under your nose. Honestly I just wish I that one day I will see my toes again.

Though very difficult, I want to eat right, train right and have healthy hours of sleep. I want to dance all night in the club without having the waitresses follow me mop-in-hand. I want to show off in bed and not end up waterboarding my lay. I want be able to pick an meal from the menu without feeling like it’s the night before my final exams. Did you know that it’s very hard for a fat guy to get a job waiting tables in a restaurant? Not because we’re slow but apparently the customers always suspect the fat waiter of foul play whenever the portions come small. Moving on…

Now I know almost every lean person is always looking to give a fat guy their secret of staying lean. But this is the world cup baby. It’s much harder than it looks. For one, fat guys naturally try to lose weight privately which will often fail. Why? Because the world doesn’t adjust for you. The food will be always be floating in the air and the beer will always be the right temperature after every long day. I like how Kiyosaki views obesity as a condition caused by emotional and psychological factors but not food. I think he’s right. We ate candy and greasy chips every breathing moment when we were kids and we never grew fat. But somewhere along the way life got real and suddenly the body went into self preservation mode.

I can write different fat article everyday for the rest of my life because I have tasted life (sic) as a lean guy and eaten it with a big spoon (sic again) as a fat guy. Both have advantages but one has more disadvantages than the other. Trust me, you don’t want to be that guy that suffers those terrible night sweats and snores like Godzilla even when you involuntarily nap during working hours. So if you’re lean, just stay that way and I mean stay that way! If you’re fat and you hate yourself I have no advise for you. You can choose to sulk and look fat and miserable and be sure the CIA won’t save you. But if you’re fat and you love yourself and you feel like it’s time to get your breath back then make friends with like minded people. The road from fat to fit is lonely and hard; it only makes sense to walk with someone. Regardless, let’s raise our (water) glasses to always keep trying to get fit.

Breaking Up with Her

iris

So the time has come to let go of someone that I’ve held dear to my heart for too long. Her name is Iris. I first saw her 10 years ago one day on my way to work and instantly I knew we were meant to be. I decided I would do everything just to make her mine. She was a bit too old for me but I didn’t care. At least she was mature and had a cool head. A month later I was the happiest man as Iris and I drove into the sunset to start our lives together.

We travelled all over the country to new places meeting new faces and making friends long the way. On the road she was the envy of many girls. They couldn’t understand how a girl her age would would still look so beautiful. She was always calm even when the going was tough. She hardly complained or broke down like all the younger girls did. The sound of her heartbeat has never changed; deep and strong like a raging storm. She was always ready to go regardless of time of day or where the journey led us. She’s taken us on the most memorable road trips of our lives. She has also accompanied us on some of the saddest times. She was always up to the task. She still is.

My friends love her. To us she represents all the good times we’ve had. She has always had room for everyone and everyone has had room for her in their pictures. My family doesn’t remember who I was before Iris and my nieces will kill me if they knew what I’m a bout to do.

You see though she can’t speak, Iris talks to me. Lately she’s been telling me that I need to move on to a new adventure. Every time I look outside the window I can see her looking back at me from the driveway. She also wants a new adventure. Don’t get me wrong, we are not fighting. We just understand each other. She just wants me to see what else is out there. “Go see the world, I’ll be fine” she says. She’s a classic girl. I know that feeling so as painful as it is, I will let her go.

It’s been a great 10 years and a lot has happened. It’s not easy to break off with a car that you have come to understand so well.

Therefore I am inviting offers for my 23 year old Mitsubishi Libero Wagon named ‘Iris’. She features one of the best engines Mitsubishi ever produced; a 1.8 litre 4G93 engine and full time 4 wheel drive system. The suspension consists of 2 weeks old monroe shocks running under a regularly serviced engine. It is advisable to buy Iris as a collector’s item and complete her restoration which is at 75%.

I’ve had Iris for 10 years. It’sad to let her go but it’s time for a new adventure. And yes, this post is just about a car.

Jo

jo

Today I broke down in the car as I was driving to work. I surprised myself. For some reason I thought it’s been too long since you left me hanging on hope that you would pull through. At least once every year I get overwhelmed by this deep and helpless feeling of sorrow. But today was worse. I couldn’t help myself. So I cried and banged my fists on the wheel in rage not caring if the people in traffic could see me. You always said that you’d be surprised if I had any tears at all. You said my face made me look cold, disinterested and criminal so yes today I cried.

I have never forgiven myself for not calling you in 3 months yet you were my secret best friend. I hate the memory of calling you only to be told by your mother that you were in hospital. I can still remember how weak I felt when I came to see you at the hospital. I never imagined I could see you helpless. I thought I’d come in and you’d sit up and immediately ask me why my hair wasn’t shaved. You always wanted me to look neat and organised. For some reason I liked that I could handle your OCD.

I never understood why a beautiful soul with such a bright future would be taken first. I sat there at your bedside and for a moment my heart skipped when your heart monitor showed that my presence had gotten you excited. But you were trapped. I could see you fighting to come out from behind your tearing eyes. I could feel you trying to move your hand to touch my face. For a split moment I knew you just wanted for us to have coffee like we always did every couple of days just to talk and debate about anything and everything.

I have never forgiven myself for not being able to say anything all the times I came to see you. I was scared. I felt like you had abandoned me. I tried to speak but my throat always turned into a tight knot. I didn’t know how to talk to someone who was not able to respond. I felt angry and sorry to see you twitching and drooling all over the hospital sheets. I hated that for once I couldn’t fix it. I hate that we were so broke that we couldn’t afford you better care; I couldn’t shield and fight for you like the first time we met.

We were friends and we liked to keep it that way. We never dated and we never even saw the need of talking about it. I knew where your heart was and you knew the chaos that was my life. We were two sides of the same soul yet different in every way. But here you were, crying out for help. Trying to tell me something I will never know. There I was, trying to stay hard above my tears and trying to convince you that you’d get well.

I hate the day when I walked through the hospital gate and instantly knew in my heart that you were gone. Suddenly I knew all the things that I wanted to say to you but it was too late. We were born on the same day and hour so you know why it’s always been hard for me to understand why you were gone before our time.

I didn’t look at your face in the funeral. I didn’t cry. I didn’t want you to see me that way. Even now I find it hard to visit your grave because I know that’s not where you are. I want to hold on to the music, the laughter and the conversations that made everything okay. The best way I can honour your memory is to tell everyone around me about that brief moment in my life where I found a friend that promised she’d one day make me cry and delivered on it.

Tonight I will find a quiet spot and raise a glass to you.

– For Georgina Maxine Mueni, 1978-2007

%d bloggers like this: