Updates on the writing, reading, Covid-19 and everything in between

It’s the last week of August and Covid-19 containment measures have been in effect in Kenya for 524 days. We have had lockdowns, curfews, issues and we are still experiencing the upheavals and grief.

A few minutes past midday on a sunny Sunday and I am on my second cup of coffee listening to Usher’s song, Trading Places, thinking of how best to share what’s been going on in my life in the past two weeks or so.

I got to travel to Nairobi twice, sometime in Mid July and on August 13th and discovered art and food at The Nairobi Street Kitchen eatery in Westlands.

On Writing: If there is something I have been loving this month, it’s writing and rewriting scenes of a book that I thought I would not publish but something about going back to a story you let gather dust has me loving the characters and working on completing their story.

On Reading: I have been reading more books this month. Perhaps the greatest shock to me was how brief Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain is, 55 pages! I nearly had a heart attack just wondering how a 2hour movie could be born of 55 pages! Other books I’ve read this August are:

I am currently reading: The Illuminator by Brenda Rickmann.

Aside from enjoying reading and writing, something that I have been deeply committed to is watching Korean Dramas on Netflix and this August, there have been awesome shows that kept me glued to my phone late into the nights and let’s just say that once you start watching a K-drama there’s no stopping until you get to that finale! So, here are some shows that I absolutely loved this month:

There are rising concerns about the spread of the Delta Variant and for someone like me who has to work in communities visiting public schools, I find myself always traveling with hand sanitizer and masks, so much so that now when I get home, I shed off my clothes and take a bath before doing anything- somehow, I find it interesting how people in the rural areas respond to Corona, one old woman told me that ‘death is the one thing all of us experience, if we live in fear, always looking over our shoulder, we may stumble and fall to our death because we look back and not forward.’ Schools will be taking a break for 3 days from this coming Thursday and I look forward to traveling home, just to have tea and evening walks with my Mom, maybe she’ll weigh in on the current book I am writing.

Have an awesome week ahead!

A little thing about birthdays

So, here’s the deal, today’s my birthday. It’s also International Women’s Day. So, here’s more power to women.

I thought of settling down this Sunday, getting my thoughts together and writing this post but there’s no way that’s happening because I am working over the weekend and come midnight, this day’s gone! So, yeah, turning older is quite the treat and this year, I am miles away from my family so it means no Java treats! I’m simple like that[coffee+ cake]

But here’s one little thing about birthdays that irks me; “hbd.”

I have a feeling that social media has made us lazy- I miss the days of birthday cards and greeting cards and stuff like that because you do not want to know the number of times I rolled my eyes upon seeing “hbd” or worse off “HBD” on my Facebook timeline! Seriously, take half a minute and at least type “Happy birthday,” put in some work please! It’s just one day and then I’ll not ask for anything else, just type in the words…like your smartphone could prompt the words for you too, why not put it to use?

I whined about this last year, but my whining this year goes to show that not all my friends read my blog, because they’d have gotten the memo.

It’s been an interesting work/ relaxing day for me. All I wanted was to sit down, eat fish and listen to Emma Jalamo. Since moving to Mbita, I’ve become fond of the Tourist Hotel that’s a five-minute walk from where I stay and it’s got a lovely view of the Lake and amazing staff, so I thought why not spend my birthday there and just relax?

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Here’s my look of “please get my fish ready asap!”

And here’s what I was served…and you know the eagerness that comes with wanting something? Well, let’s just say that I did finish the fish but not the chips 😦 because you know I had to get another cup of coffee at sunset!

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Fish+Chips 🙂

I am learning that I don’t always have to be right and it’s more about understanding the other person in that particular context. On top of this, I am dealing with falling short of this lesson because I’m often wondering just what next?

It’s difficult not wanting to say “I told you so,” but all in all, I am glad that I’ve come this far and still working on my writing so that’s something.

Have a great weekend world!

Inspired by a telephone conversation

It is 1:00pm as I write this and the sun is having a family re-union here in Mbita. How are you doing? How was your Valentine’s day?

I’m asking because the last time we talked, I briefly touched on traveling to Homabay County and the possibility of relocating to the county for work. Well, my Valentine’s Day was spent on the road.

I took a matatu from Kisumu to Homabay town and then boarded another one to Mbita and let’s say my first night was hot and humid. For a town that’s bordering the lake, I’ll say that the day is hot but so far my tour of the place is limited.

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Mbita, courtesy of Google Maps

The transition from Homabay to Mbita took one hour and I remember sitting in the matatu wondering just how I was going to get to Mbita by 2pm and clean the new house, fetch some water ( because Homabay county and water shortage is a one side coin), get some yoghurt and sleep. Yes, I was craving yoghurt whilst seated in a matatu and the gentleman beside me had this big green X-Tigi power saver phone and he couldn’t help but keep his conversations on loud speaker.

So, the man on the phone asks him “where are you?” and he answers “Nyangweso,” and for the love of all lies, I burst out laughing. He turned to me and smiled then the other man asked him “are you drinking again? why is it that I can hear a woman laughing?”

He clicks and sits upright on his seat then answers “I am seated next to a King’s daughter and you are talking about drinks and women? What is your problem?”

The other man laughed and apologized but by this time, the tout had already started shouting that he needed two more passengers before leaving for Mbita. I looked back and the fact was he needed three times the number he’d shouted.

Oh, the number of things hawkers wanted to sell to me as we waited, I almost bought super glue!

So, when I got to Mbita, I took a stroll in the evening and captured a two photos during the onset of the sunset. A little birdie taking a rest from flight and the clouds.

As dusk settled in, I managed to have some of the yoghurt I’d bought and watched Plan B, a movie that’s just got the right amount of serving for any hopeless romantic and it was airing on Lowladee’s Youtube account.

I am looking forward to quite a long weekend and I hope I can go exploring to see what’s great here.

The good news is that I have two huge rooms- a single mattress and my books and it’s gotten me writing again and trust me, you’re up for another short story series, once I get the details of the guy penned down. [Have you ever had a persistent dream involving a guy you randomly met? If you have help a Writer out, I think I have a crush on someone who I do not think I will meet again.]

Have a lovely weekend!

How Sim Sim saved my life

Let me tell you about the time when eating sim sim saved my life.

This was around 2013 and I was working for an organization that had just embarked on community entry in Siaya. It was my duty to work with the local administration and this included doing a census of every village I  was assigned.

Have you ever visited fifty four homesteads in six hours?

I visited more than this and given the varying terrain, it meant walking for hours, meeting and greeting everyone I came across and mapping my way through each homestead whilst keeping an eye on landmarks.

On this particular day, I had carried one liter of drinking water and two apples. We got to the location, some place called Boro and had to make our way around a village there and then proceed to another village near the Lake, miles away at Harambee. It sounded like something simple, but by midday, I had already emptied my bottle of water and we had just arrived at Harambee.

I had to visit at least a hundred households by four and I had already consumed my second apple.


It gets to three in the afternoon and we have covered more than half the homesteads. Yes, all thanks to this Village Elder who insisted that I call her “Min Rosa,” and who walked like she was floating on water, especially when we’d be climbing rocks, or walking through cassava and maize plantations. We get to this plain field and I put my bag down and ask her if there is a shop around.

At this point, she looks at me, places her hands on her hips and says “the only shop we have is at Harambee, it’s two hours from here.” Now by this time, my knees are stuck to one another, my breath is coming up short and I know for sure that I am going to die of hunger, thirst or the heat. I am in Siaya somewhere near the lake and hippos love strolling the main land in the evening, and I don’t want to meet a hippo or get eaten by one. I also know that in my condition I cannot outrun the creature!

Min Rosa just stands there, then she says “give me a minute, let me send word to my home,” and she takes off.

I lie down and think of all the jobs that I could be doing. I think of the way I knew I would be a Counselor and now I was dying of thirst in a remote village in Siaya.


Hunger is a beautiful tormentor.

See, as I am lying on that ground, I see this wild plant(Lantana Camara), the Luos call it “Nyabende,” they have these tiny seeds that look like blackberries and are quite tasty. (Don’t ask). The plant itself is a treasure because you could use the leaves as a broom, as an air freshener for your pit latrine, or as tissue paper (and it’s pretty rough on the ass). So, I look at the Nyabende all around me and I think, well, this is like the situation with the Israelites, even though I could use some chicken and chapati, nyabende is just as well.

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Nyabende aka Lantana Camara/Photography Art Plus

I try to get up, but cannot move my upper torso. It was like a failed sit-up. So, I keep trying but by this time, I know two things for sure: my vision is blurry and I cannot feel my limbs.

I stay there for a while hoping it’ll pass, but the more I try to blink my eyes, all I see are dark shadows. At this point, I remember, praying, asking God not to let me die out in the sun miles away from my Mom.


When I come to, Min Rosa is on phone beside me, my t-shirt is wet, so is my face and hair. There is a small girl with a blue basin seated beside us and she is looking at me like I fell from the sky.

“Did you get your friend?” I finally ask Min Rosa.

“Yes and now, you decide to die while I have turned my back? Why couldn’t you shout my name? You know the heat is too much but you did not say a thing, we could have asked for a glass of water at the last house we visited, why would you want your people to send me to jail? I have two children and a lazy husband, who will go to the farm when they send me to Kodiaga…”

I remember turning to the girl and asking what she had in the basin. She removed the lesso and right there were these round balls of sim sim. She said she was taking them to the market to sell and I reached into my bag, gave her a hundred shilling note and asked her to empty the sim sims in my bag.

Before she started emptying them, I had already eaten three balls.

I ate some more then it dawned on me that I had no water, so I had to ask Min Rosa to make a stop at the next home so we could ask for drinking water but she shook her head and said “Jogo jojuogi, kidwaro lokri jajuog piti piti to temie” (they practice witchcraft, if you want to be a witch, running naked into the night, then try).

And that is how sim sim saved my life!


By the way, this is what I was talking about:

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Wait, did you know that Sesame is gluten-free? Like these seeds are so awesome that the greatest producer of Sesame is Myanmar? Oh, wait and yeah China, India and Mexico too.

What’s in my bag

It’s been a while since I shared a fun post, but rest assured there’s no fun in digging into your bag to see what’s there.

I should probably add that I threw away the various receipts I had crumpled inside there, most of them coming from supermarkets.

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Here’s my bag, I take it everywhere including to work, where a friend said I need some serious help! My sister bought it for me and I can’t resist it 🙂

So, what’s in my bag:

  • A water bottle (Kisumu is always hot and inasmuch as it’s my kind of weather, being hydrated is important.)
  • Books (one is a novel I’m reading and the other is a writing book for all the ideas that come to mind.)
  • Pain killers (I picked this up being on the road, so I always have at least three or four tablets with me, just in case)
  • Coin purse and wallet
  • Pencil porch and stationery (highlighters, pencils, rulers and erasers are a must!)
  • Two varieties of lipgloss and the NIVEA Blackberry shine lipbalm.
  • Hand sanitizer, Body Splash, Hand cream.

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There you have it, that’s what’s in my bag 🙂

Have a lovely weekend.


TMI:

Currently watching: Click on BBC

 

Migori: My stay in pictures

Hello, it feels good to be writing this afternoon. I’ve been on the road for the past twelve days and bits and pieces of my journey has stayed with me. I was working in Migori county and visiting various communities in the eight constituencies has been a thrill. So, before I digress, I’ll share some of the highlights of my stay:

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We call this “nguru” but in real sense it’s like an overdose of sugar that demands you drink up to two litres of water for every three bites!

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This is the first time I had an ENERGY DRINK, well, I had seven of them but instead of being energized, I was too drained to think straight, the team told me to sit in the back of the Cruiser and sleep!

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Yes! Michelle Obama is so awesome that there’s a girls school that’s named after her! 

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I can’t tell you that Migori was all tarmac, this is the kind of dust I choked on every working hour!

 

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Every time we came across these trucks, you’d see people pulling out a cane or two and chewing! 

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This is my way of planning for a programme session or going through a pre-psychosocial support visit plan. Highlighters and stick notes are bae!

I’m setting out to another county in a day or two, so I’ll probably write some more. Have a great week ahead!

 

Out and about

The weekend’s here. I’m so happy and well rested I could read three books and listen to some Sauti Sol.

So, I have been on the road daily since Monday.

It’s great traversing Siaya County and talking to farmers about their expertise and food security. I had fish stew at some hotel “Furaha Hotel” on Monday night and my stomach rumbled for two straight days!

I had to wade through mud to get to a school called Malunga and this three year old kid kept staring at my gumboots before stating that he never knew boots could be green in color.

I really miss home food and being on the road has exposed me to different kinds of people. I am learning that:

  1. It’s good to say hello to people.
  2. Farmers are the most hardworking people and they don’t even know it. I have been calculating how many days they spend on the farm from land preparation to harvest.
  3. Sweet potatoes and black tea is the best meal ever.
  4. The best way to heat your feet is to wear gumboots the whole day.
  5. Not everyone is pro-teamwork.
  6. I love four-wheel drive trucks.

Have a great weekend y’all.

Chapter Twelve: Maureen

“You can take the children for a while and spend time with them,” said Maureen.

“I live in a one bedroom apartment. You’ve seen it and it is not the kind of place they would enjoy playing around and all that.”

“They are kids. They only care about the attention you give them besides, you will get this job and that means you’ll have a better place if you so wish.”

“Maybe…”

“Belinda, can I ask you something?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Have you thought of going back to your house?”

“You mean the house?”

“Yes, I am talking about the house where Jeff and your kids live in. It’s the house you left and haven’t been sleeping in for the past one month. It’s the house that your kids call home and where their school bus knows to stop every morning and evening. Do you need me to clarify some more?”

“No, I know what you are talking about. I am not ready to go there.”

“What about Jeff?”

“I am not ready to talk to him. I know I was hard on you at first about Michelle, but there are many more women like her out there. It’s Michelle this time but there have been others and the more I act like a fool, the more I feel hurt. Look, if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s more to life than playing the perfect wife. I always thought that if I took care of everything at home then it will be great. It was for a while and then he started acting different and I started asking myself questions. I got what I was looking for and now…just don’t get into something and forget yourself Mesh, no one’s ever worth all that loss and pain.”

“You need to sort things out with Jeff.”

“Wait, are you telling me that I should forgive and forget?”

Ehe! Yes, that’s what I am saying. Before you start lecturing me again, hear me out. Listen, you need to iron things out with your husband. You chose to stay away from him and it’s reminded you that you can always get up when you fall down. You did not take his money or live under his shelter but you managed and he knows that, in fact, it probably scares him that you could walk away. All, I am saying is that you need to talk to him, yell at him or something, just to get everything off your chest and after that, you can decide what course of action to take.”

“Where is this sudden enlightenment coming from?”

“I have been reading this book by some woman in America. You know the divorce rate is pretty high there and their courts make more money settling divorce cases and all that. She talks about ‘the hurt you give’ in one of her many chapters about healing. I just tried it out on you and it seems to have worked.”

“Can I read the book once you’re done?”

“I can send it to you via whatsapp!”

“It’s a pirated book! Mesh, now you are hurting the woman’s efforts, just give me the title of the book and I will go and look for it.”

“I forgot I was talking to Saint Belinda. You need to go out, get drunk and wake up with a hangover or something.”

“There’s no way I’m going out with you Mesh. I’m too old for the club scene.”

“I know this rich friend of mine who knows how to have a good time. I’ll call her and make plans this Friday, and while we are talking about going out. Okwan is not invited. I like her, but she’s way too off in my squad.”

“You’re mean. How about we invite her and let her decide whether she’d love to come or not?”

“If she comes, she’s your headache, not mine.”

The thing about ringtones

Is this…if your ringtone is John Mayer’s Heartbreak Warfare, I’m going to strike up a conversation with you. I am not declaring my weirdness, just the profound understanding of what that song means to me.

Image result for heartbreak warfare gif

I was meeting with a group out of town today. I had just strapped myself in when one of the guys in the back shouts to someone outside, “Weh! Ali, simu yako…”I could have cared less but then it was Heartbreak warfare and all I could think of was laying my weapons down and turning to get a good look at this Ali dude. Ali comes back, looks at the caller ID and then says “wacha tu ilie,” and at this point I’m thinking it’s a conversation he is not ready for.

I dig that. I get that.

Two magic words: Airplane Mode

When I’m not down for anything be it a text, call, notification or beep, I set my phone on airplane mode and read a book or two. Sometimes, at night, if I am unable to write, I would look up random policies on children and read them comparing what each government has to say about child protection. (I find Singapore’s policy quite refreshing; but Liberia does take the cake when it comes girl’s education and gender bias and merging it with their basic education policy, that’s kickass if you ask me. I’m yet to read Japan’s but I feel like South Korea could be worth a read some night.)

Ali comes back to the van. The driver steps in and introduces me to the team. At this point, I know two things: they are working on health and sexual reproduction in a community and they need me to help them plan out how to reach out to the women and young girls. I am introduced to; Anne (Sociology major, cute glasses), David (Masters in Community Development, Unapproachable facade), Ali (Communications, hence the John Mayer vibe and I tell him that I was once a Communications Assistant at my previous job), Stella (Project Manager, the one who reached out to me) and then Humphrey (the driver whom I like, but know he’s the senior field manager and he’s just too modest to admit that he’s the boss). Stella is keen on clarifying that this is me just giving me a guideline and that I wouldn’t be employed by the organization they work for. She hands me some liability documents and I take them and sign them. Ali asks “won’t you want to read those?”

“No, I know my way around them. The only document I ever read is anything that deals with photo and video consent and it’s not here. So, this means that any photos you take of me while we are working would not be shared without my consent. Is that so?”

“Eh, I have the consent forms but I thought I’d give them to you once we are in the field.”

“Why did you pick heartbreak warfare as your ringtone?”

“Ati what?”

“Your ringtone, that’s John Mayer’s song Heartbreak warfare off his Battle Studies album. Why did you pick it?”

“I like it. Do people have reasons behind the ringtones they assign?”

“Yes, you just said you like it. I love that song. It’s cool that you have it. Can I take a look at the consent forms you had in mind for me?”

“Sure, let me just get them for you.”

At this point, Humphrey looks at me and smiles, “You are not what I expected.”

“What did you expect?”

“Someone taller, older or let’s just say a bit different and serious like most consultants are, but you are…easy to talk to.”

“Why do you say so?”

“Ali does not talk to anyone while we are driving. He would have his earphones on and listen to music the whole way, but you come along and suddenly he’s talking. I don’t know what to make of that?”

I nodded and we talked about everything including why it was important to buy bananas at Kisian and not Ndori. They dropped me off at home an hour ago. I wished them well but Ali jumped out of the car and reach out to me just as I was opening the gate. He dipped his hands in his pockets and leaned closer and said “I really like you. I mean, I like how you talk, but don’t get any ideas, it’s just that few people can…you know, speak, yaani hawawezi kuongea vile unaongea and that’s dope. Na, juu ya hiyo ringtone, well, sometimes you like someone and she’s not yours and it’s like war every time. So, see you next time, I’d love to hear your suggestions on a success story I’m working on. We could do something together, I mean…nitanyamaza sasa, bye.”

“Sure, bye Ali.”

I knew he was cool from his ringtone because you’ve gotta have something in you to set heartbreak warfare as a ringtone.

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Travel diary; Bungoma 

I recently shared my experience in Chavakali and an interesting turn of events at The Crying stone in Mukhonje.

My trip to Western Kenya saw me visit Bungoma county today and I was so excited to be back that the team we were traveling with thought I was high on my own expectations. I love Bungoma. I love Kakamega. Honestly, I love where I can get some good milk tea and a whole cob of well roasted maize at twenty shillings. Please don’t remind me of Kapsabet, Kitale, Eldoret and Londiani…we are talking about Bungoma and Kakamega here.

So, we made our way through Kakamega to this place and arrived at around 3pm. We drove around looking for someplace to stay, with a limited budget, I kept reminding people in the car that any hotel behind Barclay’s Bank was out. During my previous stay I had no sleep because of the loud music played from the pubs around and in more than one occasion, I found myself listening in on more than I could handle. 

We drove along Moi Avenue (yes,there is a Moi Avenue in Bungoma) and we came to The County Comfort Hotel. I stepped out and asked for the rates and a chance to scout the room to see if it appealed to me. 

When I saw the room, I settled in, picking the most spacious of them all. It did not come with an awesome view because it overlooks the Shariff Centre which is a pit stop for Easy Coach buses. 

I did however love the tiny electric kettle they set up on the table. 

The receptionist told us we could prepare some instant coffee or tea with what they had provided. When she said this everyone turned to see me light up. The Driver however asked if his room had a mini fridge and Tusker, and when she said no, he walked back into the hallway. 

I am looking forward to visiting Chwele and though my stay is a short one, I hope it goes well and I can’t wait to visit more places.