See the World Through My Eyes

Posts tagged “Kenya

About Creativity

creativity

Hi my name is Michael and I am creative director at a leading marketing firm.

It’s 6am and I am watching the sunrise at the waterfront on the beach with my laptop wide open and a blank page staring back at me. I feel inspired but not sure what to write about. I am on a fact finding mission to understand two different consumer groups on behalf of the organization I work with. With the information I collect, we will be able to generate insights that we we use to develop creative strategies for our clients. This is what sets us apart as one of Africa’s fastest growing below the line agencies. Personally I can’t help feeling lucky and undeserving because deep down I know that anyone can do the job that I am about to do.

Some people are born artistic; that I totally agree. But the notion that some people are born creative is the thing that I will never concur with. I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative and I also believe that regardless of what profession or walks of life we come from, we all need creativity because it’s what sets us apart in everything that we do.

Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and one of my greatest influences of my life was my mother. You see, when I first showed her something I had drawn, she immediately told be it was the best drawing she’d seen in her life. That made me very happy and I can only remember that from then on drawing became my oxygen. I’d draw everyday and everywhere just so I could make people happy. Looking back, I think the first drawing I showed my mom was the most horrible sketch ever. She just happened to know the secret of inspiring talent. She knew that her response should ignite a spark that in turn would open up a world of possibilities for me. And that is exactly what happened.

As I grew up I realized that the world was flooded with artists and good ones at that. In my three decades, I have seen amazing talent often unsung and appreciated. You will always find them in art centers and street corners, broke, spiritual, conscious and unmotivated. In the art circles we are always joking that an artist only becomes rich and famous when they die. Ironically this is true most of the time. As painful as it sounds, the world really doesn’t need art if it [art] doesn’t address any challenge. So art without purpose just breeds artists. Art with purpose gives rise to creatives and problem solvers.

When I was 18, I decided I would be a graphic designer. Upon trying it out I realized that it was harder than I had earlier imagined. The responses to my work were more brutal and hardly encouraging. This is because design is all about addressing challenges. I discovered that being good in art wouldn’t just cut it if no one saw it’s usefulness. The world wanted something that addressed ITS challenges. I was used to making art straight out of my heart and this was new ground; I had to create art that needed to address the needs of others. To save my budding career now under threat, I decided I would try to understand what it is that successful designers did different.

I discovered that successful designers had one thing in common. They were always seeking to understand the dynamics. I realized that all along I had been seeking to understand myself and that is why I produced work that only made me happy and thus ended up seeking only positive encouragement from others. This was my eureka moment that changed everything.

Nowadays I get offended when someone calls me an artist because I don’t make art, I solve problems. I am a creative.

To harness creativity, I learnt that I needed to absorb knowledge from the environment. Yes, it was as basic as reading the paper everyday or asking everyone the most awkward questions; always seeking to understand who everyone else was and what they needed. I noticed the change immediately as I started realizing how the world is overwhelmingly filled with opportunity.

I’d passed by the shoe shiner’s everyday just so he could tell me what was going on in the city. The newspaper vendor always knew the politics of the day and what was going to happen tomorrow. I discovered our teal lady at the office always had an opinion on the challenges women were going through and all this information just opened up my eyes to a world I had been blind to since birth. I began to understand why companies and brands were going down while others succeeded within the same environment. It became my purpose to always seek information. It changed my paradigm and made my work better and as a designer. I had started making real impact.

I realized that as a creative designer, my work determined the bottomline for the organization I worked with and also the value of the brands I worked on. As a result I firmly believe that in creativity, knowledge is power. The key to creativity is understanding the dynamics of the situation in question in great detail and using this information to produce fresh, exciting and impactful solutions. This realization has been my lifestyle since then.

I believe that regardless of what your profession is, creativity can give you positive results and lasting impact. Whether you are a brand manager, accountant, actuarial scientist, doctor, janitor you name it. The principles of creativity work in the same way. Everyone has the ability to be creative. First get to understand the dynamics well, then ask yourself how you can do it bigger, better, different and with a more lasting impact. Creativity expands the playing ground and increases opportunity. With creativity you have competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. To be effective, creativity needs to be part of our daily life. Creativity is not rocket science but rather a power that is within reach to all of us. Creativity makes what we do enjoyable because it fuels passion.

So everything you have put down on your to do list today is essentially an opportunity to tap into your creative potential. That my friends is creativity lesson 101.

Next time I will write about how we can inspire creativity in organizations for better performance.

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Oh This Woman!

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I have always been a spoilt kid. Apart from reading me story books at bed time (oh yes she did until I was 10!) my mother has been the voice in my head all my life. Despite our ups and downs as a family, she has been our rock and the strong glue that holds us together. This woman happens to be a thousand years old in wisdom. She passes wisdom in a way that is funny, reflective and unimposing. I credit her for installing in us this ever present homing instinct that guides us back to consciousness every time we get caught up in life’s complexities. I’ve been in serious trouble a couple of times in my life and it is her words that brought me back. I have deep respect for all mothers and the role they take in shaping who we are. Everyday is Mothers Day.

On Humility
She said “My son, to work is worship God. Even the lowest of jobs has to be done by someone. You were born a prince but also a servant. Let no title be too big for you and let no humble task be too low for you to carry out because humility is an expression of confidence and gratefulness. A humble man is a powerful man. He can stand confidently before Kings and be trusted to lead by the poor”

On Love
She said “Love is first an attraction then a choice. If you find someone you truly love, hold on to them. Love is loyal despite betrayal. Love forgives despite hurt. When you love someone you stand by them unconditionally. Love is what you make it to be. You can be happy if you choose to be happy. You can never be sure of the character of a person you love as it takes time but in the meantime you can trust. But look for a person who loves God because only a person who loves God can truly love another human being. The rest are details. You will fight over the tooth paste tube and the socks you left at the door but you will never fall out of love.”

On Being a Man
She said “A man is only as good as his word. The character of a man is built of his action. A man never complains, he finds solutions. He takes care of those he loves and offers help to those in need. A man is honest and industrious. A man does not give up. A man is not scared to love and to say sorry. In the face of adversity, a man stands his ground. A real man knows that sometimes to win he has to lose. A man is the high priest of the house. A protector and warrior who lays down his life for his family.”

On Industry
She said “As long as you have breath and are of sound mind, God has given you everything you need to succeed. From the deepest holes on the ground come the rarest diamonds. Never work for profit because this type of gain does not last. Work to fulfill your purpose because real wealth comes as a by product of a passion fully lived. Do not spend your gains on eating like a King but spend them on the moments that count. After all they are the most eternal of all investments.”

On Sincerity
She said “To be sincere is to conquer yourself. To conquer yourself is to conquer the world. Know what you like and what you dislike. Know what you want and what you need. Know thyself. Be honest with yourself and you will know the reason why you are here. Be sincere with everyone especially the ones you love. Sincerity is the deepest and most profound expression of love.”

On Frugality
She said “ Son, the pain of work should be a reminder that nothing comes easy. Take care of the little you have. Water it and let it grow but most of all use it wisely. The bible says ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’. Thriftiness shows gratitude and it is the ultimate sign of responsibility. To be frugal is to be the master over money and not a slave to it. Before you spend, think. Do not spend your hard earned money to please others who add no value to your life. Every coin you spend should be an investment. Remember the story of the servants who were given talents?”

On Selflessness
She said “I would be sad if I heard that you did everything just so your own belly would be full. I would be ashamed to hear you saw suffering yet you turned a blind eye when you could have ended it. We are all here to take care of God’s Children. God gives you strength and wealth to take care of others. You my son are just a tool that He uses. You can never be too good to serve others. I love you but I would be proud to hear that you met your last day giving up your life so that another would live. After all, what is it in this world that I cannot give up for you?”

On Devotion
She said “ If I was laying on my death bed today waiting for my last breath, I would only have one instruction to give you. Love God and devote your life to Him and you will receive measure beyond your wildest dreams. It is only a fool that says God  does not exist. There are many questions that make you doubt if He is really there so devote your life to seeking Him. God is not on trial so as to be expected to prove His existence. Pay attention, look close and in your silence you will find Him. I have felt his presence and I have seen his work and I am still in awe of his greatness.

On Dreams
She said “In your time, life will be tough. Misery and hopelessness will be the order of the day. But you my children are special. You have the world under your feet. Write your dreams down and make it a prayer to God to bring them to life. God will grant you the desires of your heart but first you have to be clear of what you want. Dreams do not come to us by chance. They are the distant echo of destiny. It is sad for a man to die without fulfilling his purpose. Let your dreams be devoid of boundaries and let no one tell you that it can’t be done because it hasn’t been done before. Dreams become thoughts and thoughts become things.”

This woman is amazing. 


Have You Found Yourself?

purpose One of the biggest challenges of our generation is knowing what our purpose is and how to achieve our dreams.

I’ve talked to many people but sadly most of them don’t seem to know their purpose and what they want from life. I too have struggled with this question all my life and I still am. I hate that it has become the monkey on my back and I hate that I have to wake up everyday to look for myself. I can’t concentrate at anything I do and I have turned into a hopeless scatter brain. I feel like time is running out and the prospect of growing old and miserable, haunted by dreams that never materialized scares me. It makes me go into panic; a miserable state that can be observed by looking at how many things I’ve tried in my life.

I have tried starting my own business more than once and I have tried going up the ladder in my career and still, there is this nagging feeling that I am just not where I want to be.

When I’m at work I find my mind wandering to distant places and I am fearful that maybe those places are where I should be instead. I observe other people and suddenly it looks like everyone is getting onto their path. They seem happy and everything they do looks deliberate and based on a well defined purpose.

So is it that I have failed in finding my path or am I expecting [unrealistically] too much from life? Do I have the wrong paradigm of how life works? Is my purpose locked in this ‘uneventful’ job that I don’t seem to give the appreciation it deserves? Am I part of those who will never amount to anything? Is that my destiny?

On the other hand I also see many people who are like me. People who don’t have a clear plan of what they would do if they won a million dollars today. People who procrastinate and are always anxious because they are not sure of the future. One day you are excited about this new idea you’re pursuing and the next day you’re not sure if it is what you want. Your life goes in phases that come and end as fast as a flame on a matchstick. First there is the ‘I need to buy land phase’, then comes the ‘I need to start saving phase’ and today you’re on the ‘I need to start a business’ phase and the cycle never ends.

I’ve heard people say that you are always in the path that God wants you to be but I am beginning to doubt that. Why? because if this is where He wanted me to be, why am I not happy? Why do I feel like I am in limbo?

I have seen many of our parents live their lives in simplicity and mediocrity; retiring at sixty five and immediately going into the last phase of life where they miserably wait for their sunset. Somehow it has always felt wrong because [I believe] life is not meant to be a mere existence and a process that is predictable as to how it ends. What happened to dreams? At what point do dreams die? Is it to late for my parents to start dreaming all over again? Why I’m I getting sucked into the same cycle of broken dreams and surrendering without a fight? Why is this the more comfortable path to follow?

I’ve had a good career so far; it would be ungrateful for me to ignore that. Learning new things has been the best part of it all. Being challenged to do the impossible has kept my adrenaline pumping and like a junkie, I want more. I want more because there is this strong unshakable urge inside me that tells me I have a higher purpose. Something I can write my name on. That THING that I can do for free and not worry where money will come from because it will be automatic. That purpose that will make my life count for something. I want to be remembered for something great!

I have looked for it everywhere and I am willing to do everything to know why I am here. Sometimes I wish God would use my friends, family or even a stranger to tell me what is it that I am good at so I can dive into it NOW. Or maybe that’s not the way He speaks, maybe it is. But at the end of the day I just want a nudge in the right direction. Or maybe I have already been nudged but was too distracted to feel it? Where is that ONE clear hint that will show me which door to knock? Or maybe a hint is not supposed to be clear after all?

Whatever and wherever my purpose is, I have decided I’d rather die trying to find it. I can no longer sail blind in this darkness. I need to find a beacon and I need to find it sooner than later. I hate losing sleep over things I can’t decipher. I hate to be a person who always changes his dreams because he doesn’t know where he is going. One thing I am sure though, is that I am here for a purpose. What it is, I don’t know. So I’m going to start my search and I will hunt down my purpose to the ends of the earth if need be.

Last week I decided I will put all my dreams on paper because I had a feeling they will lead me to my purpose. It was a challenging experience to decide on what I want for my future, but it’s a start. After pasting cut-out pictures of what I want in life on a white page, I am starting to have this strange experience that I like. For some reason, I feel like I am on to something good and long term.  For once I am pretty clear on my dreams and when I would want to achieve them. How I am going to achieve this is the billion dollar question. Whether this yields anything only time can tell, but I can’t shake off the conviction that this is probably what I should have done years ago.

You see when I was young, my mother taught me this trick and it got me my first car. She told me to write down what I wanted in future and keep it where I could see it every day. I bought a car a few days to my twenty fourth birthday -which is the date I had written down. When you are a child belief is raw and unadulterated, but as you grow older logic gnaws at your dreams and suddenly they become fantasies. I guess somewhere along the way I forgot the basics; that you have to visualize what you want because it’s the first sign that you can and will most likely get it.

It’s time I started all over again. After all, maybe life isn’t about finding yourself but creating yourself.

I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself this simple question. Have I found myself?


Killing The Chief of Staff

I recently came across this very outrageous writer called Prestone Adie whom I strongly believe deserves a medal. I choose to call him outrageous because I am yet to figure out why this article made me laugh and eventually fart involuntarily. He is a very intelligent and gripping story teller and I also suspect he is a very disgusting individual to have a beer with. I would hate to imagine the agony his close friends go through by association. Read this and just tell me flat out if I have praised him a bit too much. Oh and Big Up Camp Mulla on their video ” Hold it Down”. These kids are Legendary. Watch it as you read 🙂

By Prestone Adie
I struggle to keep my eyes closed. Every time I catch a glimpse of the dark land something jerks me awake. I’ve been at this the last 20 minutes or so. This is not my favourite past time, at least not at this moment of the day. Seated close to me is a lady who I guess got her size matters figured out. She occupies every space in her seat and most of mine. Who am I to complain after all she’s fearfully and wonderfully made; in this case I bet the potter did a tonne fearfully and a tiny wonderfully. I understand there are men who like this size. Again, am just a piece in the puzzle I can’t complain why this little space is where the potter let me fit.  I pull and tug to fit the seatbelt at least to be sure I won’t fall off should this bumpy ride stay this way. I give up when I realize the belt might have been consumed in her mighty butthole. She has every luggage on her lap; the yellow extra large polythene, a kuku, a hunting bag( no other bag is that big) and a large china phone. One of those phones that I bet come with CD players. Did I mention she loves her music loud, I mean no ear phones but the classic palito on hand. I bet this must be the reason can’t get any sleep because suppose she decides to play Brick breaker on that phone who knows the size of bricks it has and whether virtual reality could be real at any point in time?

This episode of my life reminds me of the time I took a group of Philistine friends of mine to Nakuru. They kept asking questions on and off in a language close to English, maybe it was English because most words after serious explanation sounded English to me. They talked of how happy they were to have come to the nativity of US president and asked me whether I would take them there. I said yes and named my price that’s when I realized Kikuyu is not a tribe in Kenya, they are spread all over the world. They lectured me on the proper ways to treat foreigners even if I was playing host. We might be foreigners but we know that given a thousand shillings is your highest monetary denominator one must always find change whenever they use it, they said. They told me how they had been to Kenya before and even gone to it’s second largest city, Kampala. In fact they said Kampala had the best Kenyan women because they knelt down to greet their men and showed the highest respect. When I challenged them why they didn’t get married to them they said how dark thighs dimmed their sexual appetite.

Truth be told, I had hosted these Goliath men for the last 1 week and by then I had taught them the lines of “Mgeni siku ya kwanza…” which they sang every time they could. Am not a bad host, that much I know because my mum had taught me well. Question is how much of that do I remember or use. Let me whine a little. In my neighborhood I am a very respectable man. For one I don’t drink and when I do I don’t tell. Next, I don’t play loud music mostly because my other neighbours have better systems unlike my version of a subwoofer which is basically a stolen matatu speaker placed inside out in a cut Jerrican that I proudly made in campus, Genius huh! Again, the kids on the block love me, they want to be like me when they grow up however much I keep beseeching them to have different goals because even me didn’t want to be like me when I grow up. These kids come calling when they can and that’s where the problem comes with my guests. They walk naked in the house and say clothing is something for people who are not proud of their bodies. Am not proud of their bodies. They take pictures every other time and record everything including the time I was shouting at my mum for pledging a 10000 give away at church in my  name. Yeah! Times are hard but that’s a fact I don’t want my parents to know because they believe am one of their successful projects. These Goliath people don’t flash the toilet and say that in their country they have automatic flashing systems that go swoosh when you are done losing weight. They hate ugali and love uji, how’s that even possible. They love nyama choma and prefer I cook them nyama choma than ugali and sukuma wiki. They like Jamaican songs and believe the Jamaican language is the one used in the God’s must be crazy. In a nutshell they are quite the guests.

Once on the trip to Nakuru I told them that Zebra’s are called Punda milia and donkey punda, an action I soon came to regret when they kept shouting punda milia at everything they saw. Then I told them that Nyani is Kiswahili for hi so that they could give me some fun in the car while they kept exchanging pleasantries and they ended up using it on a traffic police officer.  Long story short thank God I borrowed a turbo charged land rover hard body for this trip cos damn! How many horse power does that thing produce again?

I remember on the second day when they skyped a friend of theirs in Australia who gave me a hard time explaining that my dad is human and not a chimp. After the call I took out the family album and compared with the evolution pictures on the internet.

Actually I understand why David had to kill their chief of staff with a stone from river Tana.  These people are a pain in the ass. There’s a reason why David is the hero of this story and am not surprised he’s a Maasai, after all they are the only people I know who like David kill lions and graze their father’s cattle. Here’s a question for y’all, What is the average height of a philistine because Goliath is the first and the last I know who was both huge and tall? Is that why he was made the chief of staff? Do they have oval faced women there or is round their only version of sexy?

Here’s a pointer. While men say women whine, am a masculine version of a woman because I complain a lot and that should not make one think I didn’t have fun. These philistines gave me three things when they were around. One is fun like never before. Then there’s a million pictures of nude men on my desktop which I have learnt to delete without looking. And finally, most significant of all they made me bankrupt.


Of Power, Light and Kenya

Hey, are you like me? Do you experience a power blackout every once in a while? Do your lights flicker every now and then? I bet you have had a casualty at one time due to these power fluctuations that have become sort of a normal thing these days. I’m taking about electrical appliances.Unfortunately, it’s one of the things we have to live with as a third world country. I hope you don’t expect this problems to end soon, I guess you have an idea of how long a minute it will take. There are so many reasons why this ‘thing’ is here to stay; at least for a generation or two. Some will say it is corruption, others will claim negligence while others just choose to accept that our energy companies are just hopeless. Life has to go on nonetheless.

So today, I was reading the paper as I got my shoes polished when I spotted an ad. Interesting. No. Embarrassing. KPLC have rebranded! How comes no one told me? Well here is my take on what I think of this rebranding. I’m not a public figure but I am confident that my opinions will reach the right ears. I am a shareholder so in reality, I own a piece of this utility. My little share gives me all the rights to comment on how this re-branding will affect my power supply and most important of all, the chances of our people in rural areas ever getting connected to electricity. If you happen to know someone who knows the culprits responsible just pass my love will you?

I am a designer by profession and in my opinion, the re-branding of KPLC is an epic fail. Why? Have you seen the World Food Program logo? Google it. Why the hell does our most significant utility have to ride in an identity that denotes a food relief aid agency? I’m not saying this in bad taste but I think they would have done it better. The logo does not carry any symbolism and worst of all, it DOES NOT communicate. What happened to the days where communication was simple? When did illusionism become part of the corporate communication process? I believe strongly that if your mission is to sell a red dress and make profit, you have no business in  splashing your billboards with images of a different item hoping your customers will ‘get it’. Get me?

I have heard complaints from the people at the bottom of the pyramid. People who have absolutely no knowledge in advertising and corporate communication strategy. They say that the new look is scary.  I agree. I urge KPLC to ran a poll to dispute my claims and shame me publicly if I am wrong. In fact one of my shareholder friends is fearful that the company is being privatized or sold off. I have also learnt sadly that this rebranding is supposed to be in line with vision 2030. To quote KPLC’s press statement:

The Kenya Power & Lighting Company has adopted a new name and unveiled a fresh look in line with its strategic plan and Vision 2030.”

Now Vision 2030 is a very tricky subject. I am starting to think that some of us understood it differently especially KPLC. I expected them to begin by first streamlining their operations. Have the flaws in electricity delivery gone away or at least gone down? I beg to differ. I have even been monitoring my prepaid digital meter and it’s a sad affair. I pay more for electricity than I used to with the old system. I was about to celebrate that by going digital, my electricity  bills would go down and my share price would go up but no! The share remains dangling at plus and minus 3 while the greedy gadget keeps draining my pocket like an ungrateful brat. I don’t mind paying more if it means someone in Turkana will get connected at my expense but to put my money in a bad re-branding? You need to refund me.

Over the next few weeks, the public will struggle to comprehend what KPLC is turning into and this will have an effect on the share price. Seeing that the milk is already spilled, my suggestion is for the company to step up it’s public education on the re-branding; this I will allow my money to do. The success of any company is also determined by public goodwill. In addition, let’s focus on the important things first. I’m talking about, streamlining our communication and public relation. (I have to commend your presence on Twitter by the way. The person behind it should get a raise.) In addition, let’s try figure out a way of making the rural electrification program as affordable as possible if not free because the potential for business in this category is huge. I also pray that like the rest of the world, we will unveil a green energy generating solution that will ensure we achieve vision 2030.  KPLC is a company of the future and we should treat it delicately if we want to achieve the goals of Vision 2030. As for the agency behind the re-branding….HOW COULD YOU??!!!!


15 MINUTES OF FAME

Ahenda Anjichi is back again, this time on a mission. She is out to create awareness on this long standing challenge of HIV and AIDs. The first time I read this post I couldn’t help acknowledging the weight of her words. It is my hope that this message spreads far and wide. If you are not infected, you must be affected. I take this opportunity to launch the first awareness campaign on this blog. Let’s call it  A Minute of Silence. Thank you Ahenda.


“My feet sort of just glided haphazardly from the seat of my car, ankles angrily exerting force onto the tarmacked parking as I made my way to the side entrance of the white building. So many thoughts were racing through my mind, why am I even still walking? I couldn’t feel the ground but I felt myself moving. There was a buzz of activity around me. A pregnant woman who just looked void of all human energy was standing by the main entrance, her husband/boyfriend/friend/baby daddy hunched over her attentively…I whizzed past them, smelt her cheap perfume and grimaced.

My feet pounded on relentlessly, I wanted to slower my pace but I guess after being up since 3 AM and having thought about this all night, I was here. Some unnatural forces were pushing my body, against my will to the first floor.

A gust of hot air hit me as I emerged into the semi-packed waiting area. I sat down on the plastic covered seats, not quite sure what to do or how to do it-my thoughts were louder than the baby wailing in its mother’s arms next to me and I only heard a whisper next to me when the white cladded receptionist/nurse tapped my shoulder and repeated her question five times, obviously irritated by my absent-mindedness. I nodded.

Yes” was the choked reply.

Five minutes later, I was half walking behind her and half running out the door, my body feeling like a 5 ton truck and my heart pounding against my ribcage.

What the hell am I doing here?

She led me into a tiny room, at the end of the hall and all of a sudden my heart stopped beating, my feet refused to move and I stared in blank wonder at the white walls and statistic charts adorning the walls.

I was offered a seat stood there as she rambled on, talking nonsense because I wanted to forget I was there.

10 minutes later,

Time sort of stopped.

Froze.

Stood still.

My head was spinning so fast, I felt the white walls turning 360 degrees…i had developed malaria: aching joints, fever, hallucinations, and shortness of breath and one hell of a headache…

It’s only when I felt a slap on my face and someone screaming [the fake name I had jotted on the dotted line on that yellow single sheet of paper] and telling me to calm down, that I realized the throbbing headache was actually my heart sinking and the aching joints were as a result of my hitting the floor and table, banging my head against the surface of the floor and my chorus of “OH NO’S!!!”  made the hallucinations.

It was like a freaking out-of-body experience! I was watching myself act out this role in a movie and it was not actually happening and I’m not that crazy girl reeling on the floor, bringing attention to herself in that small, white walled room with arms flailing all over and white lab coats straining to pin down my struggling and jerking limbs.

I looked up through my tears and glanced back at the two ugly red lines, which in just FIFTEEN MINUTES had managed to shatter my 24 years of living, by a simple prick to my index finger and small talk of living positively.

In FIFTEEN MINUTES all the people who saw me walking down the hall would remember my draught stricken face and my tear stained cheeks and how concerned the counselor was as she led me back to my car, whispering words of encouragement in my ear that seemed to evaporate into whims of air the minute they left her lips because they didn’t register in my mind, neither did they make any sense-she could have been talking Greek for all I cared.

The world around me was like a bad dream and I was snow white and those two red lines were the evil step mother that had turned my world into gloom.

There was a slow buzzing in my ears and I found myself hunched over the low hedge, violently hurling out the remaining gooey lumps of my breakfast, constantly jerking like I was in an epileptic fit as if to drain every grain of the disease from my system.

I was in a pained trance and I could still feel the warm tears cutting irregular streams down my face.

I could swear that my heart had stopped beating and the quick breathes escaping my nostrils and mouth were my life’s essence seeping out into the noisy world and nobody noticed my frame, slouched next to my car, fingers digging into the tarmac and my arms hugging the front left wheel, hopelessly wishing that I was that cold inanimate object that proudly owns no emotion.

At that very moment, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, because all the stares and glances had me naked and vulnerable and I felt like “HIV POSITIVE” was plastered on my forehead.

I had drove into the hospital just FIFTEEN MINUTES earlier and nobody knew me; now I was just but one of the statistics.

 

FACT FILE:

DID YOU KNOW??

That-

  • Kenya is home to one of the world’s harshest HIV and AIDS epidemics.
  • An estimated 1.5 million people are living with HIV; around 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS; and in 2009 80,000 people died from AIDS related illnesses.
  • Kenya’s HIV prevalence peaked during 2000 and, according to the latest figures, has dramatically reduced to around 6.3 percent.
  • This decline is thought to be partially due to an increase in education and awareness, and high death rates.
  • Many people in Kenya are still not being reached with HIV prevention and treatment services. Only 1 in 3 children needing treatment are receiving it.

This demonstrates Kenya still has a long way to go in providing universal access to HIV treatment, prevention and care.

  • Kenya’s HIV epidemic has been categorised as generalised – meaning that HIV affects all sectors of the population.

Nearly half of all new infections were transmitted during heterosexual sex whilst in a relationship and 20 percent during casual heterosexual sex.

  • HIV prevalence is higher amongst specific groups and tends to differ according to location, gender and age.
  • Various studies have revealed high HIV prevalence amongst a number of key affected groups, including sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs), men who have sex with men (MSM), truck drivers and cross-border mobile populations.

Some of these groups are marginalised within society – for example, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Therefore these groups are difficult to reach with HIV prevention, treatment and care, and the extent to which HIV is affecting these groups has not been fully explored. Up to 33% of new infections in 2008 were within these ‘most at risk populations’

  • In 2008, an estimated 3.8 percent of new HIV infections were among IDUs and in the capital, Nairobi, 5.8 percent of new infections were among IDUs.

Laws prohibiting harm reduction services, such as needle and syringe exchanges, significantly hinder the prevention of new infections among IDUs.27 HIV infections are easily prevented in healthcare settings, nevertheless, 2.5 percent of new HIV infections occurred in health facilities during 2008 in Kenya.

  • Women are disproportionally affected by HIV. In 2008/09 HIV prevalence among women was twice as high as that for men at 8% and 4.3% respectively.

This disparity is even greater in young women aged 15-24 who are four times more likely to become infected with HIV than men of the same age.

Kenyan women experience high rates of violent sexual contact, which is thought to contribute to the higher prevalence of HIV. In a 2003 nationwide survey, almost half of women reported having experienced violence and one in four women aged between 12 and 24 had lost their virginity by force

  • Adult HIV prevalence is greater in urban areas (8.4 percent) than rural areas (6.7 percent) of Kenya. However, as around 75 percent of people in Kenya live in rural areas, the total number of people living with HIV is higher in rural settings (1 million adults) than urban settings (0.4 million adults)

Source: http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-kenya.htm

N/B:

Those statistics were as of 2008/2009.

Imagine how the situation is at this moment.

I did a random survey in a mat this morning, asking how many people riding with me to town had ever had an HIV test done.

I was sitted just behind the “kange’s”seat.

Keep in mind that the mat was full.

I managed to talk to the “kange”, the guy behind me, the passengers sitted on the double seats across from me and two guys alighting the mat, and with the Kenyan spirit of “udaku”, the answers chorused around me in the mat.

Out of 14, only 5 had “I have been tested” answers.

Now spread that out across all the mats in the traffic on Msa road at 7.45 AM at the Nyayo round-a-bout inter-section this morning.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.


The New Girl In Town: Just Remember Everything Will Be SAWA

Have you seen The Bigger Picture? Well it’s one of the blogs that have inspired me and given me pointers in writing my own. I am honored to know the owner of this blog and she happens to be a good friend. I have taken time to study her work especially in writing and photography. My conclusion? She is gifted. Meet Susan Wong, a Chinese Canadian who has travelled the world extensively. Wong is a traveller, writer, radio personality, photographer and fashion designer. When she told me she was on a flight on her way here, I didn’t waste the chance to request that she write me a blog note while on the plane. Today was her first day on radio (Capital Fm 98.4). She was good!

By Susan ‘Lucky’ Wong

My body ached and my head throbbed from exhaustion.  Coming up on 20 hours of travelling time, jetlag was definitely catching up to me.  As I flipped through my colourful Kenyan guidebook in a desperate last attempt to absorb as much information about my new home, the captain spoke over the intercom and informed us that we were descending into Nairobi, and moments later the flickering city lights welcomed us.

Mesmerized by the enchanting lights and the new adventures that awaited me, I reluctantly closed my guide book and put it away.  I realized that no amount of homework could really prepare me for my relocation to Nairobi.  I suppose the best preparation was to put aside all expectations and just humbly enjoy every moment, adventure and opportunity that crosses my path.  And with that mindset, I penned this journal entry to myself just before the plane touched down…

Dear Self,

 

Young Lady, you are no stranger to Africa, Kenya, Nairobi or the challenging task of relocation.  With that said, ignore those butterflies in your stomach; stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if you had made another choice; and tell your Mom’s chanting of “Nairobbery….” In your mind to hush!

 

Undoubtedly there will be a lot of challenges ahead.  You will face challenges that seem impossible to prevail.  You will meet people that will challenge who you are and the core of what you’re made of.  You can do this.  Remember that you’ve been blessed with this opportunity to follow your passion and perhaps answer a call.  There are amazing people that are waiting to support you.  Be bold. Just be you.

 

Don’t forget about the lessons you’ve learned in the past.  And yes, you’ve learned so much in Ethiopia from the past few years.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Trust people until they give you a reason to not trust them.

 

Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to explore the diverse restaurants in town!

 

Don’t fret.  Chin up Girl because everything will just be Sawa.

Voice over the intercom: “Welcome to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  The temperature outside is 18 degrees and expect a light drizzle …. Thanks for choosing….and we hope you have enjoyed your flight.”



The New Girl In Town: Just Remember Everything Will Be SAWA

Have you seen The Bigger Picture? Well it’s one of the blogs that have inspired me and given me pointers in writing my own. I am honored to know the owner of this blog and she happens to be a good friend. I have taken time to study her work especially in writing and photography. My conclusion? She is gifted. Meet Susan Wong, a Chinese Canadian who has travelled the world extensively. Wong is a traveller, writer, radio personality, photographer and fashion designer. When she told me she was on a flight on her way here, I didn’t waste the chance to request that she write me a blog note while on the plane. Today was her first day on radio (Capital Fm 98.4). She was good!

By Susan ‘Lucky’ Wong

My body ached and my head throbbed from exhaustion.  Coming up on 20 hours of travelling time, jetlag was definitely catching up to me.  As I flipped through my colourful Kenyan guidebook in a desperate last attempt to absorb as much information about my new home, the captain spoke over the intercom and informed us that we were descending into Nairobi, and moments later the flickering city lights welcomed us.

Mesmerized by the enchanting lights and the new adventures that awaited me, I reluctantly closed my guide book and put it away.  I realized that no amount of homework could really prepare me for my relocation to Nairobi.  I suppose the best preparation was to put aside all expectations and just humbly enjoy every moment, adventure and opportunity that crosses my path.  And with that mindset, I penned this journal entry to myself just before the plane touched down…

Dear Self,

 

Young Lady, you are no stranger to Africa, Kenya, Nairobi or the challenging task of relocation.  With that said, ignore those butterflies in your stomach; stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if you had made another choice; and tell your Mom’s chanting of “Nairobbery….” In your mind to hush!

 

Undoubtedly there will be a lot of challenges ahead.  You will face challenges that seem impossible to prevail.  You will meet people that will challenge who you are and the core of what you’re made of.  You can do this.  Remember that you’ve been blessed with this opportunity to follow your passion and perhaps answer a call.  There are amazing people that are waiting to support you.  Be bold. Just be you.

 

Don’t forget about the lessons you’ve learned in the past.  And yes, you’ve learned so much in Ethiopia from the past few years.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Trust people until they give you a reason to not trust them.

 

Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to explore the diverse restaurants in town!

 

Don’t fret.  Chin up Girl because everything will just be Sawa.

Voice over the intercom: “Welcome to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  The temperature outside is 18 degrees and expect a light drizzle …. Thanks for choosing….and we hope you have enjoyed your flight.”



The Delivery Guy

By Michael Ngigi

His face shows that he died a very shocked man. It is now 8am.

Sit back and I will tell you why Kimani is lying dead in a trench right  in the middle of Africa‘s largest slum.

Yesterday at 8 am. Valentine’s day.
Kimani got to work a very happy man. It was Valentine’s day and his wife was finally coming home. He had missed her dearly and after six months the least he could do was wait a few more hours till she showed up. He greeted his boss happily as he passed to collect his scooter and begin the day’s deliveries. Among his first assignments on the log was a letter to deliver to a Mr. Shah in Westlands and another one to a Udi Djembe at lodging house in Eastleigh, 1st Avenue. This would be an interesting day. The lodging at 1st avenue was famous for infidelity escapades. It is where old  men and women took their ‘sidekicks’ for ‘meetings’.

And so off scooted a happy Kimani to Mr. Shah in Westlands. On his carrier was Shah’s letter and Udi’s huge-heavy-suspicious package. On his way, he stopped at the supermarket to buy a present for his wife. A red and white teddy bear with the inscriptions ‘I Love You’ embroidered in the little animal’s shirt. He only had 200 shillings to spare and so this bear was top of the range. It was the first time he was going to buy his wife such an expensive gift. Now he only had one more item to buy. Flowers. The colorful plastic flowers. All his adult life,  Kimani had always wondered why you’d buy a woman you love flowers that would wither in a day. Plastic ones were cheaper and long lasting. One could even wash them if they got dirty!

He found Mr. Shah’s address easily  but was disappointed when no one answered the bell. he knew what it meant; he’d be forced to come back later. That was going to ruin his plans. Kimani decided to go round the house to the back of the house assuming that Mr. Shah would probably be in one of the inner rooms. There he was on the patio with a group of suspicious looking characters. It looked  like they were in an argument but they all went quiet when they saw him. Kimani introduced himself as the delivery ‘guy’ and proceeded to hand the letter to Mr. Shah; evidently the only asian in the group. On opening the letter, Mr. Shah’s face turned into a red and angry knot.

“The letter is blank!” He cried. ” Where is the letter you were supposed to deliver?” Now the attention was on Kimani.

“That’s what I was given to deliver to you” whispered Kimani in a scared voice, “Is there any problem?”

Mr. Shah now rightfully refered to as ‘The Shah’ ordered one of his mean looking goons to accompany Kimani back to the parcel collection point to sort out the ‘issue’ and make sure they come back with the ‘letter’. Now Kimani was really scared. He’d done everything just as his work log had stated and now this? He couldn’t understand. Before they left the compound, Kimani requested the Shah to allow him to deliver the Eastleigh parcel enroute to the office. He obliged. So off went Kimani to Eastleigh, behind him was the goon following in a dark tinted car.

When he reached the lodging house, Kimani untied the parcel and proceeded up the stairs. It was heavy. Hanging in the air was the heavy distinctive smell of sex and damp-unhygienic-space.

“This must be the most vile whorehouse in all of the city” said Kimani to himself as he reached the fourth floor. He knocked lightly on the door assuming his client would be in the middle of business. It took a long minute before the door was answered. What followed will never be understood clearly. There standing naked in the door was Kimani’s wife! In the confusion that followed, Kimani dropped the parcel, breaking it and spilling the content therein. A white powdery substance. He slapped his wife the same time a heavy fist shot out from within the house and caught him in the temple. Ude Djembe. A huge beast of a man with the bloodiest eyes he had ever seen. Kimani ran down the stairs in terror and shot out of the building screaming with Udi and the goon hot on his heels.

Later one witnesses would tell the police that it must have been a drug deal had gone sour, while another swore that Kimani had been found with another man’s wife. Rumour, heresay and confusion.

It is now 8am.
It is raining and onlookers in the sprawling Mathare slums are puzzled why a man tied by rope on a scooter, is lying dead in a trench. It is even more peculiar that his face is still twisted in shock. One couple in particular (seemigly in love) can’t seem to piece together why the dead man is still clutching on to a teddy bear. I personally think God made rigormortis to freeze one’s final moment in death so the living can learn from it.

Kimani’s wife could not live with the fact that he was poor and couldn’t buy her nice things. Her plan was to dissappear, make enough money then go back to Kimani and make his life better. Now she can’t live with herself. That is why she is hanging from the ceiling of room 4G of Gituamba lodging in Eastleigh’s 1st Avenue, dead by suicide.

Love is denied expresion by poverty – Wallace D. Wattles

No one knows what was supposed to be in Mr. Shah’s letter. No one has an idea who Udi Djembe is, or why a box full of cocaine was to be delivered to him.  All that, doesn’t matter. It’s the dead delivery man and his dead unfaithful wife that matter.

This story is dedicated to my sister and partner in crime Marcie Mugendi whom I love to death. She says I’m a good story teller. Well here’s a story for you little sister.