By Michael Ngigi
Every once in a while I ask myself out on a drink at my favorite bar near my workplace. I like the status this small old place accords me. They know my drink and what day to serve it. On a day like this, they know that I want something that tastes woody, almost like charcoal. So my 70 year old bartender dissappears behind the counter and a few minutes later he appears with a double Jack and Coke poured over ice flakes. This is a perfect man-drink, bold, sophisticated and mature. You should see a woman drinking Jack & Coke. It is curiously sexy, more like a woman driving a muscle car only less dramatic. You have to be careful though. When a woman is on Jack, you may have to help her protect her own reputation at some point. Know what I mean?
So today, I invite you to drink with me; make time. It is enlightening and refreshing. You will get to know how I think and why I do things different. I like to think of this as ‘my yoga’. This is where I come to re-live moments and sometimes, to chart the way forward. Other times I come to lick my wounds and once in a while, to fight my battles. All in all, I drink for a good moment. Great memories. A interesting conversation. A clear thought on my family, great friends, my woman and lastly, success.
First Jack. Critical thinking.
Among the things that interest me and get me all emotional are world politics. Lately, I am a bitter man. Depressed by the news, I am constantly on the lookout for other things to watch. Among the things that make me angry is the all too familiar allied interference in third world politics. I still can’t place a finger on the exact reason why Libyans started a revolution. Before you call me a jackass please here me out. Why would you take to the streets when your country has one of the highest HDI (Human Development Index) in the world? What valid reason would you want to take up arms when your country has the 10th largest proven oil reserves in the world? Free education up to university level would certainly make your life very easy no? And the list goes on to include free health care and a mean wage of $9.51 per hour. Any way I look at it, I can’t help aknowledging how the Libyan question is too familiar. It has the same feel as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt. The first world is hungry for energy and raw materials; it is understandable why they would want to interfere with some in the the third world. Some because they choose to rush to Libya’s aid while Ivory Coast is let to drown in chaos. Feel me? Anyway one can only take so much when it comes to politics. Let me get me another drink please. I insist you taste my Jack. Very smooth.
Second Jack. Is it just me? Or…
Now all women want to be president. Fair enough. We are equal. In this day and age we have to appreciate that they are making faster strides compared to their male counterparts. They hold the best jobs, drive the best cars and what not. I am proud of the woman especially our African woman. She keeps our families together. She makes sure that our wealth remains in the family. She is a superwoman. However, there has been a strain of women that are cropping up and it’s scary. And as I say this, I would like all the women in my life to know that I light not this match with the intention to start a fire but to shed light.
The first time I heard about the term independent woman I was confused. I mean, is there anything like an independent human being? Who are we gaining independence from? Think of the term independent man. How does it sound? Silly? I thought so. Being born on your own and having a name unique to you is proof enough that you are your own person. You have a role. Get this. Which woman does not want a man who can protect her and provide for her regardless of her ability to do the same? What woman wants a man who hides behind her when trouble comes calling? A woman wants a real man. A man who is gentle yet still has the fire of a fight raging within him. A man who gets silly and funny but has the wisdom of a centenary man. Women want a man who has solutions and answers. The kind of brother who would lay down his life for a fellow human being. A MAN man.
And so it is, with the other side of the divide. A man wants a woman. As simple as that. A woman who works had and is an achiever. A woman who is intelligent and adds value to a man. A woman who is humble despite the life on the fast lane. Which man wouldn’t want a woman who can at least cook an egg? One thing women should know about cooking for a man is, it is not the outcome of her cooking that matters but the heart behind it. We could eat boiled shoes for all we care! But how it tastes will depend on the heart behind the cooking. I love me a woman who let’s me love her in all the ways a man should. Protect her. Provide for her. Learn from her and gain her trust. A woman who doesn’t have anything to prove. She has a bigger title and takes home a bigger piece of bread (it could happen boys) than me but it doesn’t matter as long as I play my part. A woman who knows I am superman. That type of woman would have me do anything for her.
Lastly, head of the house. Yeah I said it! Shoot me. There can only be one head of the house. So boys and girls, please go, seat, have a discussion and decide who it will be and do the math while you’re at it here are examples to work with. Driver and co-driver. Plug and socket.
Blackjack. The Game.
Whether you like it or not. Love is a game. As Sun Tzu would advise you [were he alive] play only if your chances of winning are good. Secondly, one hand cannot clap. If love is one way, let it go. There are things that should act as clear indicators that your relationship is headed for a fall. The first one is PRIDE. If you are the type that finds it hard to say you are sorry when you wrong someone, you’re headed for doom. If you talk down on your woman just because she is a woman, you will end up a lonely and biter old man. If you disrespect your man just because you rake in more than he does, you will suffer frost in your heart and when you’re older, you will be seen molesting young boys, quarter your age.
The second one is ignorance. When you love someone, be observant. What is a small issue to you could be the biggest issue to them. Pay close attention to what your partner is feeling and what they communicate. It could make you or break your relationship. Communicate. Good communication is the key to everything. Deeper love. Great sex. Trust. Zeal for life and happiness through good and bad times. Ignorance is the most stupid form of foolishness. Someone quote me…
Love Jack. Why I did it.
I remember I was the first to wake up that morning after partying through the previous night. Looking at my watch, I realized we only had 15 minutes before the hotel restaurant downstairs closed down the breakfast buffet. I tried waking her up but she was clearly not in a state for breakfast. I kissed her and went downstairs to feed hoping I’d bring back some food for her. At breakfast, I couldn’t help fidgeting. Meals never taste good without her at the table, that is a fact I have given into lately. It’s like watching an interesting movie without the sound. I tried looking out the window but that too wasn’t fun. Then a flood of thoughts, feelings and emotions drowned my mind. At that moment, I wanted her next to me. I wanted to hear her Pa-ha laugh more than ever. I still find it odd how she manages to make me laugh even when I don’t want to. We hit it off from the moment we first met. It almost felt like we had shared a lifetime together before. She knew me by heart. I knew her by soul.
I left the table hurriedly and rushed to our room. Just before I opened the door I reached into my pocket and took out the pouch to look at the contents. There it was, shining brightly. The old man in Ethiopia had crafted it beautifully. These nine stones would express exactly what I felt about her. I was ready. I hid the pouch in my pocket and I started the tense wait for the right moment. I didn’t know that fate had arranged for us to visit the ski that evening. Opportunity.
A man’s needs are very simple. At the end of the day, we just want a simple, eat-drink-work-sleep-play lifestyle and most of all to be next to the woman of our dreams.
Final Jack. Closing time.
It starts to rain as I beckon the waiter for the bill. I love my drink why lie! Just before I leave the balcony, I instinctively pull out my phone to call her. Honestly, however good my drink is, I know that there’s nothing better than to end my day with a stimulating conversation with my final Jack.
I dedicate this week to my brothers and sisters of the great nation of Somalia. I know that one day peace will return and so will the children of this nation to their homeland. The Somali are a resilient people who have a rich heritage and form one of the oldest societies and civilizations in Africa. I especially pray for the thousands of Somali who cross the Gulf of Aden every year in search for a better life. Many end up loosing their lives at sea while the rest trudge on in search for a new beginning. There are no promises. And for those who choose to remain, I salute you. Lastly, for those we have chosen to label as pirates. Let us sit and ask ourselves where it all started. Only then, can we find a solution.
Every year during the first week of Zul-Hijjah, the eleventh month of the Islamic calendar, a woman in black robes is seen kneeling in prayer on the beach along the ancient harbour of Hobyo in Northern Somalia. She covers herself fully that only her eyes can be seen. Those who have had the privilege of facing her claim hers are the coldest and darkest eyes they have ever seen. Some say she is an evil Jin. There is an urban legend that she can steal one’s soul if you dare look into her eyes. No one knows where she comes from or where she goes after praying. She has followed this ritual for the past 10 years. A few metres from where she prays, are shrines marked by piles of sandstone…
Her name is Ayaan Haweeyo, a top member of the National Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia (NVCG). In the free world, Ayaan and her organization are called ‘pirates’. She comes to remember, pray , meditate and renew a promise. A promise that she will not rest until she takes back what once belonged to her land. The shrines represent her family whom she lost when she was 10. She has been fighting since then. Her heart is cold and conscience is a state that she can hardly recall. Only death can free her from the tempest that churns her lifeless heart. Concealed in her robes is her rifle. She is a warrior. She is known as ‘The Judge’. She dispenses justice in the high seas on behalf of the Somali people and her family. A justice she believes, is long overdue.
In 1991, after the defeat of Siad Barre by Farrah Aidid during the Somali revolution, Ayaan’s family moved further north to Hobyo from Benadir to escape the ensuing unrest. Her father was a fisherman while her mother stayed home and took care of them. In the years that followed, the increase in civil unrest made it hard for local fishermen as the open waters grew unsafe for fishing. Life was hard and in the famine that followed, Ayaan’s father and other local fishermen had to sneak out to sea every night in order to provide food for their families.
One morning in 1994 during the second month of Safar, Ayaan’s younger brother woke up with a high fever. In the days that followed, the young child started bleeding from the mouth and became bedridden. Ayaan’s parents took him to a nearby clinic for treatment unfortunately, the local UN doctors could not save the young child’s life. Eventually,young Mohamed died at the age of five. No cause. No explanation.
A few months later, her second youngest sister Hawa developed a strange skin disease that discolored her skin and caused painful boils. The young child was in so much pain that even covering her in the lightest sheets made her scream as her skin had become overly sensitive. They tried taking her to every doctor they could find but to no avail. She eventually went into shock and died on the first day of fasting in the month of Ramadhan at only seven years of age.
The remaining family was devastated. As they tried to piece up what had happened, Ayaan’s father decided that they would move south to Kismayo to ward off the ‘bad luck’. On the eve of the day that they were supposed to relocate, Ayaan’s father did not return home from fishing. Early the next day, Ayaan and her mother were visited by a relative who broke the news that her father had been killed by an American patrol boat in the high seas, suspected of being a pirate. It was too much too bear. The young Ayaan and her mother mourned bitterly in the days that followed not knowing what to do or where to go. As if the suffering was not enough, death came knocking yet another time and Ayaan’s mother died of a mixture of abdominal haemorage and heartbreak in the month that followed. Ayaan was alone. She had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She decided to join the rebels as a soldier against the the american led Unified Task Force. By this time, it was widely believed that the Americans were using peace keeping as a way of controlling Somalia’s vast portions of unexplored oil fields.
As the war in the rest of the country raged on, reports started flowing in of strange diseases similar to the ones which had taken their two children. There were rumors that they had been caused by the toxic waste dumped of the Somali coast by european ships. Months before, some humanitarian aid workers had warned people of eating fish from the Indian ocean citing that it contained high levels of radiation. The main cause of the strange diseases. People were dying everywhere and fishermen were disappearing at sea.
At some point such health cases became so common that the Somali population along the coast started believing that the rumors were true. In addition, the fishing waters that rightfully belonged to the Somali were taken over by western and asian trawlers who had taken advantage of Somalia’s unrest to fish illegally.
Ayaan’s story is shared by thousands of Somalis around the world. Some of whom are members of various armed outfits that patrol the waters off the Somali coast and as far as Yemen. As the sun sets on the Somali waters, about a thousand Somalis in deferent gangs patrol the waters of the Indian ocean fearlessly to attack and take hostage ships passing through these parts of the ocean. They later demand for ransom often running into millions of dollars for the release of the ships and their crew. For some of these militia, it is for the love of their country. Others are motivated by the huge sums of money that come in ransom. For others like Ayaan, it is the pain of unnecessary loss that drives them. All in all, we bundle all of these groups up and call them Pirate. My Somali brothers pronounce the same same word differently. It sounds something like “Ba-i-rate”. Bairate
Here are some of my Research Notes and some of their sources
• Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, there have emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in late 1991, Somalia’s long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste that was illegally dumped in Somali waters by several European firms. The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies—the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso—and representatives of the warlords then in power, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million). According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment mission, there are far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobbio and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast—diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP continues that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region. – Wikipedia (Piracy in Somalia)
• “It is a response to greedy Western nations, who invade and exploit Somalia’s water resources illegally. It is not a piracy, it is self defence.” – Muammar Al-Gaddaffi
• “Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there”, and “European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.” -Nick Nuttall, United Nations Environmental Programme,