Monday, May 10, 2021
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The cow ate my Christmas

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In the year of our Lord 2003, December to be precise, there was a very big wedding. You must know it, if not, google.

Now, this wedding was a must attend for all people, because, back then, the ship that brought the word ‘invites-only’ had not docked yet. Everyone was measuring suits and dresses to catch that wedding. If that last sentence did not make sense to you, then neither will the rest of the story. You can sign your attendance here on your way out _____

Goodbye.

Anyway, where were we? Everyone was measuring clothes. Now, as you know, the Man Beater is scarcely excitable, and the Rose doesn’t overstand the family head. So I was in utmost danger of not catching the wedding of the century, effectively becoming the laughing stock of the village, and the seven ridges around. But having been known to recover from hopeless situations, like the Hezzeh Siege, I knew there must be a way out. So I sat and thought. I could say I thought and thought and thought and thought, but recently I heard someone asking what became of the prefects who wrote people on the noisemaker list X 1million, so I desist.

In the end I came up with a plan, which I laid before the Budget committee. “You see,” I told them, “I understand we are in a very tight financial position as a family and the hyped wedding is just another wedding and it is not mandatory that me, or anyone for that matter, attends, or attends in a new suit.” By that point the MB looked sure that I was mixing him up, but he let me have my day in court. He is democratic you know, though above the law.

Thus, I continued, we need to have a good plan. See, dad, you have promised me a gift if I pass my KCPE, remember. And you mum, I know you are planning to buy me something for Christmas, not forgetting I will need a new outfit to report to school. I ignored the ‘says who?’ look from the MB and continued. So, that said, how about we buy me this wedding suit, then have it cover all the other instances? That way, we decongest our Christmas spending, and also avoid going down in history as the family that had no honour for the biggest wedding in the land.

Long story short, after a lot of back and forth, I ended up at Ndimitú’s Quick tailors who were neither quick, nor exactly tailors. Then later, much later, on the Friday which was the wedding eve, I received my suit. Not exactly a suit, but two garments of the same material and colour. Three, counting the ‘three piece.’ (Somebody tell me what we call that ka-coat worn inside, the one with a ka-shiny material at the back, half coat perhaps?)

The Rose insisted that it had to be washed, but I was skeptical. One, it was clean, I opined, and what if God forbid, it rained at night?  It’s not going to rain, she promised. I was far down in the chain of command, so, like a death row prisoner whose day has come, my suit spent the night outside, hanging. And I spent that night inside, hanging. Hanging on to the hope that my suit would dry by morning; that the Good Lord would not be teaching tap A and Tap B practicals that night.

So you can understand why I was outside at 530 Saturday morning. Literally the crack of dawn. In that arm-wrestle between light and dark, I could clearly tell something was amiss. One, only the three piece was on the line. Two I could see a dark figure like twenty meters away. Then it hit me!

Holy cow! Rather, evil cow! Wangechi!!! On this night, of all other nights, the bloody motherfucker had broken out of her boma and feasted on, of all things, my bloody fuckin’ wedding suit. I can step up when men are called out because I did not scream at that moment. Rather, I collected the two pieces of chewed garments and walked back to the house.

Chain of command aside, I summoned them all. Put on those lanterns!!! Heck, go pick the tandíka’s in the kitchen and the granary if you must!!! Tell me, what is this? Look what that cow of yours has done to my suit! Say, can’t you put up a simple structure to restrain a hungry cow? And you, can’t you for fuck’s sake buy salt lick for your cows? Do you know why cows chew clothes? It is due to mineral deficiency, now you know! If you cannot afford to rear a cow, sell the bloody thing! Right now, I want you all to sit down and decide amongst yourselves how I will attend the wedding. Afterwards we can discuss how that cow will be slaughtered.

As everyone looked at me with a pitiful face, the Man Beater just gave me that ‘Goods once sold…’ look and ‘Boy, did you just talk to me like that, I will hold it for now, but you just earned yourself a lifetime dose of daily spanking!’

I attended the wedding alright, but in a totally makeshift outfit. Of the three garments, only the three piece was wearable. The pants were totally disfigured, the coat was chewed such that one side looked like a sieve. Rose insisted there was no way I was wearing it, but I still smuggled it out.

So now, all of you who have always referred to me as the clown at Njagi’s wedding, there you have it. It was not by choice, I was a victim of circumstance. And Cosii Mkenya, you don’t have to always remind of how during entertainment, the MC called me out “Mugambi and your team, get ready, right after the singers, you will present your play.” For crying out loud, couldn’t he see that was not a costume?

PS: Njagi, please pretty please, I beseech you to burn all photos of your wedding in which I appear. If you cannot, please take them down from your wedding photo album. Classify them like nudes; for your eyes only.

If you support this petition, please sign here ___________. Thank you.

#tbt #iRestMyPen

My Ksh. 700 NYS Saga

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The day before yesterday, a certain exposé on TV said of how some lady shared the now famed Ksh. 791 m NYS loot. It seemed so real, except I am not sure how someone from so deep in the inner circle could come out to expose such. But what do I know?

Anyway, the exposé, like many other things, reminded me of myself. I thought, may be the beautiful CS stole, yes, but there is another possibility that no one is exploring. May be even she cannot comprehend what happened. Let me explain.

The year is 2001. Yours truly has risen through the ranks and now holds the post of Troop Commander- Sungura scouts, at St. Mary’s. Baden Powell day is nigh, so preparations are in full gear for the celebrations in Nyírí. Right turn, left turn, mark time scout promise, scout laws…Check! Behind the scenes, a tidy sum has been kept away for use on the big day.

>>> Fast forward. [Nyeri]

Here we are. There are so many people the thought of getting lost is constantly at the back of my mind. But we keep matching, going around and singing mosquito………..zzzzzz……kill it pah! [clap] That is the only song we know, but as they say, the scout movement emphasizes brotherhood; our high school comrades teach us nice songs with a good vulgarity in them. This is fun.

They look so good in those khaki trousers and purple scarves; I can’t wait to get to high school. Even better looking are those girls in scout tunics that leaves bare that so beautiful part behind the knee. I swear that part….anyway, my blood is flowing much better!

So we keep marching and singing…twamkumbukaaa, papa yetuuu, Baaaden Poooo!!!!!…..arikufaaa…..

Then it strikes me! There, in front of me, is the ultimate camping knife! I pull Anoxx Nthambiri out of the procession and drag him to the stand. How much? I ask. 1500 shillings. My heart breaks, I can literally feel the pieces falling in my stomach.

We turn to leave, not because the knife is expensive, it can’t be, not when it is a replica of Baden Poos, but because we simply cannot fika bei. We barely make a half turn (scout lingo) before the seller asks, kwani how much do you have. I make an immediate full turn, turn all my pockets inside out and make the count. 700 in all.

Ongeza mia……I look at all my upturned pockets to indicate I got no supplementary budget, so the seller gives Annox the ‘do sum’n’ look. Anno shakes his head no, and the last piece of my heart falls with a cling.

But then the spirit of our Lord enters the seller, susas a bit and causes the seller to say: Bring that 700, just because it’s Baden Poo day. Mwathani Wa Isiraeli!

I tuck the knife away inside my shorts and continue marching. I cannot keep it exposed because even though we are told scouting is a brotherly movement, you can never be too sure. Even though I cannot afford a Fudge for the rest of the day, touching my shorts and feeling the bulge of my knife gives me satisfaction.

Problem is, the big girls keep looking at the bulge and laughing. At my age, this is embarrassing. They give me the ‘that’s a big one down there’ look, and I shoot them back the c’mon, it’s just a harmless camping knife. It is a long day, a mixture of shame, insecurity and happiness. Until I get home.

My intention is to keep the knife concealed, but you know a lad’s excitement, aye? When mum asks me to open a sack of charcoal, I immediately fish it out and start doing the honors. And that is when trouble breaks out.

Whose knife is that? Mine. Where did you get it? I bought it at Nyírí. Haiyaa…ebu go show it to your father.

I walk out briskly like Kithinji the butcher straight to the Man Beaters throne. What?…Mum has asked me to show you this. MB holds out his hand and I hand MY knife over. He tests the blade with his fingers. He turns it in his hand and feels the strength of the blade. I swear he has a proud look on his face.

But what has to be done has to be done.

Where did you get this? I bought it. Where? Nyírí? How much?…..I think of lying, but remember the MB is omnipotent. 700.

He turns to me with a look that reads ‘double trouble!’ What? This should not cost more than 100 shillings! But, that aside, where did you get that money? Nowhere.

Aiyayaya, I remember nowhere, nothing and such other null answers are null and void before the MB. But in this case, I honestly don’t know. Al I know is that it is my own honest, hard earned money. And that is MY KNIFE. Mugambi muue na kisu umpe! I obviously don’t say that aloud.

Anyway, you can guess what ensue, si you know the MB. I won’t go into details because, well, dirty linen hadharani.

Now here I am, embroiled in a Ksh. 700 scandal. Things are so hot feels like I will step aside from school, and home…and life! But let me ask this one question before I die. Has any one of you lost Ksh 700? See, MB, see? No one has lost any money, no one! Not even you. IT. IS. MY. MONEYYYYY!!!!

Waiguru. I feel you, rather iRelate!

#tbt #iRestMyPen

PS: Someway somehow, I didn’t get kicked out. A few measures were put in place, like automated payments (parent paying fare directly to the conductor) etc.

That I bought a knife and not a doll or a new trouser must have been my savior. You know, he felt he was bringing up a man. Just ask around, and you will realize how many men are worried their sons may turn into some little gay shit. Boys who are tying their bathing towels above their chest. Just ask.

The man beater has never returned MY knife. Either:

  1. It must have been an excellent knife. (The price he mentioned is a manly tactic called, beat stupid into them till they feel it themselves)
  2. He is keeping it away to remind me of my poor decision making someday, you know, the genesis of my poor financial discipline. ( He knew of ‘pics or it didn’t happen long ago, this man Beater)

The last supper at Box 1 with Aduda and family

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As we wound up our final year at Box 1, the school, as is the tradition, invited our families to came and wish us luck. And, like in every other public boys’ boarding school in the country, that luck to us meant loads of food.

So you can imagine my disappointment when Justin Fundi, stationed at the school gate to usher in and register parents (Justo, someone asked whether you and your ilk are currently IEBC karanis) came to inform me that my delegation had arrived.

Excited, I quipped, Who has visited me?

The Man Beater (The entire school had somehow come to know the old man by name)

And who?

No one.

I understood Fundi’s coldness towards me; he had already seen signs that I would bring nothing to the communal feast later that evening. But I still insist he had an obligation to cheer a brother up.

Anyway. I met the man beater, and a quick check around his grumpy station wagon confirmed my fears. No food for me.
Where is mum?

We split roles so she visited your brother and I came to see you.

I did not want to pursue further, I knew every answer to every question in the conversation we would have had: you have been home a lot so you need no food and you have worn us out with the trips here blah blah blah. If anything, we were at that period only maintaining essential contact; that I had been visited in the first place was enough show of goodwill. So I let that dog lie.

If my parents did not visit me, the school would. I had made a name sure enough to ascertain that.

Can I have a look at your newspaper?

Sure, here. You can check it out as we go, I see the prayer event is about to begin.

So we went for the event and it was boring and I did not hear anything because I was reading Mantalk and the sorry attempt of a match that was Femalespeak. (I read the latter every time out of pity)

After the event, The MB had a short lecture: You have heard all that has been said and we have spoken a lot in the past. I know you don’t look like a lot to most people anymore but to me you have not changed. You are a champion. I believe in you. Remember that as you sit your papers.

We both knew that was the end of our being together that day; that was too emotional it had to  be saved for last. I began mouthing the words ‘The school is not giving us lunch today,’ but then, from heaven Aduda showed up. They exchanged a few pleasantries, the MB told him to man up to the exam too then left.

My newspaper?

No.

Okay bye. Remember what we have talked.

And God was present too, the MB’s wagon just responded with one stroke, so I was saved the aibu ndogo ndogos of ebu ita marafiki wako mnishikie hii gari kidogo. Bye, MB.

My mother has sent me to check whether you have been visited, I see your dad was here, Aduda mocked.

Fuck you! Let’s pass through class I pick my spoon. (F you too if a spoon in class sounds odd to you.)

Boy, had that chimp Aduda been visited!

As the dishes were being opened, I silently thanked the Creator for Aduda and Aduda’s parents and my mother, God bless her living soul, choosing to love me less and the militancy of the MB. All things happen so your name may be praised, I concluded. Still, Lord, this would have been much more fun had Aduda been visited by fewer people. I’m just saying.

So we are there tearing away chicken breasts and soup and soda, which I avoided even then. Everybody is having fun and I am trying to appear cooler than Aduda to his parents. You know those friends who laugh at your parents’ jokes and say thank you and please and praise their cooking and volunteer to do every little task until you wonder whether they are trying to get you thrown out so they can take your place? That’s me.

But then the fun and games came to an abrupt stop when Aduda’s brother Amigo stood to help himself to a third serving.

No! Amish no….wewe umeshiba sasa! Aduda shouted.

Amigo, thinking it was a joke, threw Aduda a seriously dude! look before proceeding with his food business. But in an instant Aduda was on his feet and standing chest to chest with his muscular brother, astride a dish of stew and with one hand of each brother firmly on the serving spoon.

This is my food, I will need supper you know? You have been home all along and here you are gobbling up like an underfed kid.

Kwanza usinitukane Adush. This is not your food, this is just food. And I will eat to my fill.

Their mother, awash with embarrassment, shouted, Wee, mwana Adush, all this food. Their father just sat and watched, seemingly pleased by his sons’ manly appetite. The sisters and aunties just sat looking giving me the ‘we are sorry you had to see this’ look.

Mimi my main worry was what would happen if the battle went offensive as things stood. So I moved with speed to seal as many dishes as I could and move them away from the two marauding elephants. Adush, seemingly aware of the danger at hand, also started shoving his brother away from the food.

Their mother moved in to try and quell the fight, but she didn’t seem surprised so I guessed that was nothing new. When Amigo saw that Aduda was not relenting, he let go of the spoon and delivered a square punch to Aduda’s stomach, causing him to spit a full gizzard. The poor chimp wailed and bent clutching his stomach, as Amigo placed himself to deliver an uppercut.

Grow Up! Their father barked. And just like that, the fight was over! I wondered why he had to wait for so long. As people inquired whether Adush was hurt, I wondered how he had swallowed that gizzard. The father seemed to share my sentiments, as he said, Aduda, learn to chew your food before swallowing, it is what teeth are for. I thought that was hilarious, and we both started laughing, but I stooped because of the look Aduda gave me.

Without question, the party was over. I was glad, and also appreciative of the shot Adush had taken for the team to achieve that. With Adush’s foul mood, I was tasked to find containers in which to transfer the leftovers, a task I executed with flawless expertise- with the help of their sister. Call it a case of vita vya panzi.

And we had such a feast, the last supper, that evening! Aduda delivered me a similar punch for mocking him, but I am not complaining. Food and two friends is a fair price. Two friends, their father and their sister; both I have kept to date.

After eating, I, assisted by a few form ones, cleaned all the dishes we used. I could have cleaned Aduda’s feet too, but even he never used to clean them.

#IRestMyPen #HappyEasterHolidays

The day I begged till my mouth ran dry- All for my heartthrob

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I am not known to chase or beg, because I have this sort of entitlement that if I do just enough, returns will flow in. But life does not operate like that. The MB tells me that entitlement will be the end of me, and I agree, but I just can’t seem to shake it off.

That said, there are instances when a man has to divert from the norm. And I too am a man. When need arises, I can beg (Let’s call it petitioning for esteem purposes.) Like this one time when I had to beg Delamon the drama teacher to include me in the Festival list. Dela can tell you how much pain I took him through on that fateful afternoon when he decided I was not good enough to be in the choral verse. Or you can ask Ephis Mburea.

But that one is shadow, know what I mean?

In the year of our Lord 2007, I had made myself a name for playing minor roles in drama sets at box 1. You know, those guys who appear in one scene of a play, make a funny noise or cry then disappear? Yes, those ones.

It was a largely non-competitive role because most guys in drama had big aspiration of growing into national figures and as such wanted big roles like Fr. Supremo and Wakapuspus. Si ndio, Muriithi Collins na JayThuci. But not yours truly. As long as I got to be on the coveted mtokeo list and avoided menial tasks like pulling curtains and carrying backdrops, I was well sorted. Not like I was really the actor anyway.

So we are there in the dining hall doing rehearsals and dancing badly and living wild like we have no care for 8-4-4. Privileged to be out of class during preps. Someone from the production crew of Tahidi High is coming to help us polish up, but I couldn’t care less. Who needs to polish up wailing ‘Woooi, wooi…mabepari wametuamulia.’anyway?

At the moment my mind is on the material day of the festivals, and on two girls in particular. Joan W and Carl Thuma of Mecca. You see, Joan was this pretty lass who had somehow come to be associated with yours truly, so much so that she had reportedly adopted my name as a second name. And I was in a daze! You may not understand because you don’t know Joan. And I wont even begin describing her looks- the contours, the lips, the eyes- or her voice. This because….Okay, I’ll stop.

Thuma, her bestfriend, was my wingman. And Thuma was more than a knockout too. She was always saying how we fit each other blah blah blah. Actually, I never really used to talk to my Joan, I was always tongue tied in her presence. But Thuma was a godsend…convo was free with her and it always got to Joan. And, the devil is a liar, he once told me that Thuma was more suited for me than Joan. Weh!

So I’m here thinking of how I will treat my two favorite women when the Tahidi guest arrives, accompanied by the evergreen drama teacher Esther, and asks us to go over the whole set. And guess what he did to me. He said of my part, “I think we should do away with that.”

Just like that. With no consideration of my budding minor actor career or my festival plans. I looked to pretty Esther for intervention, but she just gave me that ‘the expert has spoken’ look.

After the rehearsal, I asked the teacher, ‘But I will still go for fests, ya?’ And she asked, “What for if you have no role?” And that is when my petition began.

And boy, did I petition!

I stuck to Ess like a tail. From the staff room to the department to the border of the no-go teachers’ quarters. Actually, she went home to escape me, but I bid her with ‘we’ll pick from there tomorrow.’

When she saw the next day I was letting off, she asked me why I was so adamant, and I gave it to her straight. I have to see Joan. You may not understand, but it is the only way I can continue living. It is the only way I can pass my exams. It is the only way I can give the English department an A.

But she is an understanding woman, Esther. “Come up with something to present, something unique, and I will fix you somewhere.”

Boom! My shuttle diplomacy went into overdrive!

And that is how I found myself introducing a new role in the folk dance, me who had never danced before. In one night, I had internalized the luo song, dance moves and taken the lead role with great assistance from the tale of Luanda Magere- and Allan Onserio.

All for my Joan. And my Thuma

Biro Kod mier/ jokodo biro kod mier aduwaa * 3

Owaang, Owang winyo gobombe gathano….

What, is that even? Luos?

#iRestMypen

 

 

Mateso ya Form 1

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To understand this post, I will require you to do 3 things before you start reading:

  1. Pick a piece of writing paper that you won’t require anymore (or newspaper)
  2. Hold it like you hold a cloth when washing and do a mock cloth-wasing motion
  3. Write down the sound that paper produces

When we joined form one in the early years of the 21st century, the school system was largely in a transitional period. It was coming from the dark days of rotten mistreatment of form ones to one where the juniors would be treated as equal students.

Now, anyone who has been around long enough will understand that transitional periods are equally confused periods. Like with the 2010 constitution, case in point the 2013 general elections where well read individuals spent sleepless nights deliberating which seat was more beneficial to run for- MCA, MP, governor? No, senator afadhali. No, governor. Can a man run for women rep?

Such was our case in form one. If someone monolized you, you were not sure whether it was actually monolization because word around was that monolization had been banned in schools. Similarly, the senior students were not sure where elderly authority ended and monolization began. The same problem faced teachers, especially those who had been around in the dark times and to them what was currently happening was just ‘shadow.’

And that is how we ended up being one of the most monolized groups ever! Okay, I was not there in the dark days, and I have heard of cases of death, I am not negating all that. What I mean is, we were the most vulnerable group. While past form ones may have been on alert from the get go, we were made to drop our guard by the promise of changed times and admin protection. Am I even making sense here?

I will not go to the graphic incidences, because they were traumatizing, and also we were taught to forget when we forgive. I forgave all those who did traumatizing acts, so I cannot tell you what they did, because, as you may guess, I forgot. I will instead tell you of one monolization practice that I can look back to and laugh; it was a dire human rights violations no less.

  1. Gushughushghushghushghush

You remember the instructions at the beginning of this story? I will bet you got a sound similar to this one, yes? Good.

Now, if you went to any of the four form one classes at around 8:30 pm two weeks after opening, this sound was likely to greet you at the entrance. If you were keen on your way there, you would have noticed many pages of the day’s newspaper missing from the noticeboard on which they were pinned every day at 4:20 pm.

You have probably joined the dots by now, but in case not, the sound was coming from student trying to make newspapers soft enough for use as tissue paper during the 9pm short break. Let me explain.

You see, for many of us who had attended day primary schools, we had no idea how much tissue paper was supposed to last you until the school broke for midterm. Again, our parents were trying to teach us to be thrift, so budget was tight. On top of that, from the same budget, we had to factor in unaccounted costs like writing pads et al. So, by default, your ordinary form one opened school with how many rolls of tissue paper? Right, two. White Tena or Toilex if you were lucky. Blue Maisha if you were facing severe budget cut.

Now, for every form one with two rolls of tissue, there were two seniors who reported with none. And who was to take care of their sanitation needs? Right, this form one. And that is where the monolization came in.

You would be kneeling on your upper deck bed arranging your box at around 4.30 pm after classes (never understood why form ones always did that) when a random third former would walk up to you and non-chalantly announce, “ Mono, TP.” By then, his neck would be stretched that he had a view of everything that was in your box, and there was no way you could flap without trapping his head in. Somehow, we slept on the same bed with our boxes, didn’t matter how tall you were. People like Josiah Langi had a really tough time.

Not understanding if this was mistreatment or brotherly co-existence, you would pick your toilex roll, with 1001 thoughts going through your mind, roll out 1…2…3…4…5 boxes and hand to your unwelcome visitor.

The third former would then shoot you an insulted look and pose, with utmost entitlement,  “Mono, did you just hand me five boxes of TP? Do I look like my hobby is holding shit?” Of course by now you would be on the very verge of peeing on your pants, overcome by fear. If you were lucky, he would order you to add more. If he was that authority-yielding type, he would snatch the entire roll and do one of two things, which were equally devastating.

One, he might disappear with the whole role, leaving you with a rude announcement “You go use those five boxes you wanted me to use.” Or, sarcastically, “This now belongs to us. When you need it, come get some from me.” Like you could even dare, in the very unlikely event you knew where he stayed.

Two he would order you to get on the floor. He would then take you to an open space and announce, “What you catch is what belongs to you,” before setting the roll out rolling in the direction opposite where you were standing. You, the teary helpless mono, would set out after the rolling dear toilex as fast as you valued a decent shit, looking like a clown all the while. It was a double loss, because if you managed to catch up with the depleted tissue, there was a high chance of returning to find your box, which you probably did not lock when you were ordered down, ransacked.

Both ways, you would just sit there, with so much pain inside, wondering what to make of it. Is it really worth reporting a tissue paper incident to the authority? Probably not. And fighting a senior was out of question. Totally.

Only one thing would you be sure of at that moment. You had effectively been condemned to the ghushghushghushghush category. Oh, and you were also sure you wanted nothing more to do with that school. Then you would start thinking of how to execute an exit. Write a letter home? Too bureaucratic a process. Feign sickness and ask for a leave-out? The school nurse will probably have killed you with painkillers before she lets you out.

What now? Escape? Yes, brilliant! Tonight!

 

I know this is maddening to many parents, but the reason I am saying I can look back at and laugh –and the reason I am writing this- is because I just realized there is no tissue in this house and outside it’s raining like what is this. No, I know about planning, but I had unexpected guestS- emphasis S- and…ah, you get. I am contemplating old survival tactics, but I am telling myself no! That was the past, you are no longer the you you were then. Okay, but if push comes to shove,  (haha) gazeti ni ya kufunga nyama, ama ghushghushghushghush.

#iRestMyPen

 

 

 

 

 The day stolen ‘Múratina’ made us sing in the morning

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13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (Acts 2: 13-16, KJV)

 

In the year of Our Lord 2004, I, and a few other chimps were involved in an incident similar to the one above.

Let me explain.

I had just come home for the holidays, and boy had I missed some village mischief! Around then, there were not very many public service vehicles in my area. My neighbour was lucky to own one of these few matatus.

However, my neighbour was not well educated on property rights, so when he went to sleep, he would leave his 14-seater outside. No blanket, no tent- nothing! As a result, the matatu was always grumpy in the morning, always complaining of a cold and/or a cough. The driver would then spend around 30 minutes taking the vehicle for a walk downhill, sweet-talking it to go to work.

You see, from our neighbour’s to our place, the road is like this….aaah, sorry, I recently appeared on TV now I can’t shake off this habit of explaining things using body signs. Anyway, the road is a downhill slope from my neighbour’s to our place and past. At the very end of the slope lives an old man, Mgema.

In 2004, I, and many of my village peers, had not seen that many vehicles, so we always came out to see our neighbour soothing and threatening his matatu every morning.

On this particular morning, as our matatu appeared uphill, Mgema appeared downhill, carrying a ‘Daso’ backpack whose source investigations have not unearthed to date. Mgema announced that he was going to town, and took his seat at the back of the matatu as the coaxing went on.

As luck would have it, the matatu was taking none of the sweet-talk that day, and eventually the owner announced that the battery would need a thirty-minute recharge at the nearby market.

Would Mgema mind waiting? No, actually, that would give him a chance to go back home and collect his ID which he had forgotten in the huff to leave. Old people place this queer importance on carrying IDs around, yes? Would we, the lads, mind keeping watch over the matatu for the 30? No, of course not, it would be a pleasure.

And just like that, we, the village boys, had a Toyota Hiace 14-seater to ourselves! As everyone scampered to the front to look at the speedometer etc, I was quick to get to the back seat. I could hear them telling each other, this is the gearbox, this one here shows how many people the vehicle has carried since it was bought (mileage) this one here is the calculator (carburettor) e.t.c.

But me? I was more interested in finding out what was contained in Mgema’s back pack. From outside, I could feel it was carrying a plastic container, so I carried on with curious excitement. After a few moments of negotiating with the zipper which was begging for a sabbatical, it gave in and lo!

“DR. LIVINGSTONE I PRESUME!!?” Do you know who said those words? Find out.

Anyway, that was my feeling when I saw what sat before me. 20 litres of Múratina brew from the famed brewer, Mgema. Within moments, we were onto Mgema’s package like calves released from their pens onto their mothers’ udders.

Only when we realised that we had consumed at least three quarters of the rich brew did we take a pause, a wave of panic washing over us like an onshore wind. But then, just as soon, the ever idealistic Cosie Mkenya hatched a plan- water.

In less than a minute, the deal was complete with water from Dangooh’s house and Mgema’s back-pack was safely zipped up. And, a moment later, Mgema and the battery wielding driver arrived from opposite directions. The driver fitted his battery, Mgema checked his package and they were soon on their way.

The vehicle was not gone for ten minutes before Sir broke into song. For some reason, I felt like the song was really nice and I joined in. Soon everyone was at it, and we walked the entire village singing and dancing. I do not really remember the song, but haters say we were hysterical in praise.

We ended up under a mango tree at kina Elias Nge’s, where we slept for the better part of the morning.

Rumour spread quickly that we were tipsy, but it made little sense since it was 7.30 in the morning, and, also, clown behaviour was not something alien to us. For that reason alone, the story did not get to the Man Beater. Otherwise I don’t know who would be narrating this right now.

***************

Later that evening, Mgema was heard complaining how the devil is a liar; he had brewed his best brew for his town friend but had ended up confused and carried a jerry can of water instead. I do not understand how no adult got to join the dots.

The real truth as to what happened has remained a closely guarded secret until, well, now!

 

When I used to have musungu friends

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I have told you that around 2010 I was headed for greatness, aye? I was bordering on influential, controversial and philosophical. And now I just realized that I was also building another very important life skill- networking. I had some Musungu friends. Rather, a musungu friend, who had friends.

It so happened that we were holding a football tournament at Kigumo, the seat of my grandfather’s heritage, and I was captaining my home team- see, I was edging towards leadership too. Now, there was this musungu crew- let’s call it a mission- that had chipped in with extra coins and gifts for the teams. Very nice. The only problem was that they were on an AIDS awareness campaign, and were encouraging players to get tested. You know the word ‘encouraging’ is synonymous to ‘demanding,’ right? Like when your boss encourages you to dress more professionally.

The other bigger problem was that as host captain, the onus was on me to lead the obviously not so co-operative group to get ‘measured.’ Not that I had a problem being measured, I probably was a virgin anyway, but that would have gone against a blanket Embu tribe resolution that two chosen people would NEVER get tested- Muminji Ward rep Newton ‘Karish’ Kariuki and yours truly. So you can imagine the dilemma I had of balancing the burden of society and immediate team responsibility.

I could have talked my way out of it, but my Rusungu has always been a hindrance. But then, with leadership skills, all is possible. When I went into the tent, I explained to the testers- luckily there was a translator in there- that I was the captain and needed to first marshal my players to take the test. I assured them that I had undergone the same numerous times so I would be more thatn willing when they were done with the rest.

Could they hand me a dummy kit to explain to the others what a simple process it was. Yes, of course. When I went back outside, I used the dummy as my own kit, told them that I had already done mine, and convinced them to do it too.

As I stood there ushering my players into the tent, a musungu male came over to introduce himself. “Something Martin,” he said, extending his hand. “Yes?” I replied, shaking it- the extended hand, silly.  I thought he was asking me something about Martin, but I later learnt he was introducing himself as Fergus Martin.

He tried to engage me in a conversation, but, like you all know, huwa siskii kitu wazungu wanasema. So I just stood there answering ‘aah’ ‘eeh’ and yes. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I excused myself, saying ‘let me come,’ then pretending to be busy addressing my team. I don’t know why, but Fergus found ‘let me come’ a hilarious statement.

Seeing as the testing queue was quickly winding down, I knew I had to get away fast, so I told Fergus, “Come I show you,” as I pulled him away. He found that hilarious too, the perverted bugger!

Football is a one-language game, the language is football, so when I engaged him in a kick-about, we didn’t have to talk. In classic Kenyan version, I told him I could teach him Swahili, and proceeded to teach him a few profanities- my apologies, but I too found it hilarious.

Anyway, after the games Fergus invited me for drinks at the hotel they were staying, but the language barrier remained. They had in their pack some beauties, but when Fergus asked me if I could ‘hit that’ I responded with a quick ‘no.’ Only later did I realize what ‘hit that’ meant, na hivyo ndivyo hiyo chance ilienda!

Things did not improve in our subsequent facebook chats, because, again, I was among the pioneers of Xaxa Xema [Evidence in first comment of this post] and that proved to be a stumbling block to our friendship.

Now here I am, one who had started making connections worldwide, the farthest connection I have ni na huku Mbeere kwa kina Sammy. Maafa ya kutojua rusungu…anyone know a good English school ya kedo 3 months hivi?

#tbt #IRestMyPen

 

 

When Mugendi wanted to #Brexit his father’s house

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So England have exited Europe twice in the space of one week. Once voluntarily and once they got kicked out. Well, these things happen, I’m sorry. And it is not the first time, my cousin Mugendi once tried to #Brexit his father’s house, with dire consequences.

After the three week seclusion that followed his circumcision, Mugendi came home and made a declaration: He did not think his father was the right person to captain his ship to its next destination. Thus, with immediate effect, he wanted his share of the family wealth, and an immediate secession.

The Day I wowed the entire church parish with my musical prowess

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Pope Francis blesses the mic on his last visit to Affrica. Unlike the Catholic Father, my words deserted me at the time of great need | Photo: Guercia Gianluigi/AFP
Pope Francis blesses the mic on his last visit to Affrica. Unlike the Catholic Father, my words deserted me at the time of great need | Photo: Guercia Gianluigi/AFP

Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I have a collection of Injili songs on my PC that I will play for hours on end on random days. Not the hip urban gospel, but rather the more traditional ‘Songs of Praise’ styles, the likes of Ev. Anastacia Karanja. Now, whenever I go out after these sessions, I have noticed some neighbors throw me that ‘Is your mother visiting, because no other way could you be playing such’ look.

But The Rose does not even know where I live. I just have it in me to like these songs, from tene.

In the year of Our Lord 2001, I was quickly getting sucked into the ways of Catholicsm. Not that The Man Beater would have loved it that way, but I was in a Catholic school and they were hell, or is it heaven-bent on instilling in us the ways of Hail Mary. (Back then we used to call her Holy Mary)

And that is how I found myself in the St. Mary’s school choir. We would dance all the way from the back of the church to the altar every time mass was taking a different turn- from the priest’s entrance to offertory to the sermon and communion. You should know what I am talking about if you have witnessed Catholic mass.

Suffice to say that I sucked at every single thing we did on that aisle. That I was a funny looking kid did not make things any better. Now, I have never been a fan of pique clothing, and my folks never made any better effort in that department.

So you can picture me, a small malnourished-looking boy in tiny faded shorts and an oversized, overstretched sweater with big, funny dusty shoes to boot. Cap that with a pair of socks that packed at least a tonne of dust on the white stripe from playing football on a grassless pitch even when we had a one-minute break and you have the full picture of me. Those socks also had a tendency of sinking into my shoes with every step I took, by the way.

Now picture that boy dancing to ‘Shukrani zetu Baba/ Muumba bingu nan chi/ pokeaaa’ and you will understand why the girls from the neighbouring Sacred Heart primary and secondary were always dying of laughter whenever I took to that dance floor. I have never taken a walk longer than from the back to the front of Consolata Mission Church, Kyeni. And I have taken some long walks in my life, mind you.

And they were bad, those girls. Their way of mockery consisted of thunderous clapping at the end of the dance, but I am The Man Beater’s son; I learnt sarcasm early. Also, that took a big hit on my self-confidence, but I took it in my stride. After all, I could always hide in the crowd.

Until one day when the nun in charge of co-ordinating mass picked me to sing the Responsorial Psalm. Alone. In front of everyone….three schools of not less than eight classes each, their teachers and the priest who always occupied that throne in an oh-so-god manner.

From the moment I was picked on Tuesday- mass was on Thursday morning- to the end of that mass, I did not breathe. The one breath I took at the thought of the reality of the matter at hand settled in my bony chest and my flabby belly and turned to ice. Practice did not help.

Thursday. I said to the good nun, “Teacher, I don’t think I can sing, can I just read it instead?’… ‘No.’ And I knew my goose was cooked. But a real man is measured by where he stands in times of crisis, aye? So when crisis struck, I stood at the altar of The Lord.

But then my voice deserted me, kabisa. Its place was taken by vision, because when I opened my mouth, I saw thousands of people. I saw deep within their minds and hearts and saw that they knew that I would flop and that my mind and voice box were returning a ‘no audio data’ error.

When I tried to say “Responsorial psalm, and the response is….” The priest himself had to come check if my mic was well set. No sound, just air! “Relax,” the priest whispered.

And so you believe that there is a God in the high heavens, I somehow managed to pull something through. It may have been a croak or a squeal, but the God of Shadrack, Meshack and AbedMboya- and Daniel- sent His angels to close the mouths of the audience that would have laughed at me. They ended up pitying me instead, and were as glad as I was when it all ended.

I still don’t understand how I did not collapse on that altar. Mambo ya Mungu hayo.

As if I was not having a bad enough day, the priest, when he took to the sermon, used me as an example of how you can overcome anything with resilience and confidence. He even told me to stand up and walked around with me- his hand on my shoulder like God’s – as he served the word.

All the while, my blood never moved an inch in my veins. It just sat still, freezing and melting in quick alternation.

But Jehovah is a mighty God, he made everyone forget that episode, for it was never mentioned again after that day; not even in the many mchongoano sessions I fell victim to. And you will also forget about it when you finish reading.

To God be the Glory, Great things He has done.

Do you remember this priest dancing during Pope Francis’ visit to Kenya? Of course yo do! Re-live!

#iRestMyPen

 

The day I got stripped of my gold medal like they did Kemboi’s bronze

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IMAGE: Evergreen 3000m steeplechase runner Ez Kemboi. I totally related to his feelings upon losing that medal in Rio | Image source: Google.com
Evergreen 3000m steeplechase runner Ez Kemboi. I totally related to his feelings upon losing that medal in Rio | Image source: Google.com

If there is one person feeling Ezekiel Kemboi right about now, it is yours truly. I was once stripped of a gold medal with the win well and properly sealed, and celebrations underway. Rule no. 6, they called it.

Let me explain.

When I landed at Box 1, I found that my name had long arrived and settled at the school. I had former classmates who had transferred to the mushrooming fountain of knowledge and my former school gave me a reputation of its own. I also had a brush with the then principal at some point, and he was more than obliging to tell my tale.

As you can guess, I milked the limelight for all it was worth. Within no time, I was on the football team, the drama team, the clubs, and equally importantly, the first aid team. This was handy when there were funkies for societies you did not belong to.

So it was only understandable that when elections came around at the end of the year, many people expected me on the ballot. I had no political ambitions or plans, so it came as a surprise when I learnt that I was vying for the position of Games Captain. [I hear nowadays they are called President-DP- Senators and CSs]

Silas Odhiambo and Justin Fundi just popped up at my desk one evening at around 7: 15 pm and stated matter of factly, “We are going around classes after preps. We have already notified them. Prepare your speech.”

“Speech for what?” I makad. That is when Fundi unrolled the bundle of papers he was holding and extended a leaf towards me. On it were the words ‘Vote Nelson Mugambi for Games Captain’ with a red marker pen along with a funny caricature I was sure was done by Macharia Murathi. Below it was the slogan ‘Michezo sio Mchezo’ italicized by hand.

“Who told you I’m vying?” I protested. “Tutatoka hapa 9:45,” Odhi said, and they walked away. I pondered over it for a few minutes then decided I was having none of it, I’d just pull a no-show on them.

But then I received several delegations that evening, the likes of Collins Muriithi and Kingstone Njiru coming to inform me of the situation on the ground; how we were taking this by a landslide. Such, and the thought of special food for captains, had me finally giving in and saying, why not, there’s nothing to lose.

Come 9:45, we hit the ground proper, and by 10:30 the electorate were singing my name. But then I realised I was not as popular as I was coming across; there just wasn’t any other candidate going for the position. Odhi and Fundi had somehow prevailed over two other candidates to shelve their ambitions or go for other seats.

And just like that, I won even before the ballot. Outgoing Captain Willis even began introducing me to the duties of the office. Opening the office to give out equipment and running after people to return it was no easy task, especially in the campaign days when you had to impress everyone. But the perks that came with it- a private office to begin with- were well worth it.

Come election day, there was no Games Captain slot on the ballot, but it was understandable seeing as it was an already sealed deal; no need to waste stationery, right? Odhi and Fundi however insisted that the electorate add the slot manually by writing ‘Games Captain- Nelson Mugambi’ at the back of every paper. This, they said, because ‘admin cannot be trusted.’

With business effectively done, we settled for supper with satisfaction. On that day there was a pig slaughtered for the students, and we had the obligation to deliver extra pieces of meat to all who had co-operated to deliver victory, including shelving their interests for our sake. This was a tricky duty, but we were keen to keep our word.

So you can imagine my surprise when the TOD summoned me from the dining hall and took case with me, opting to even forsake manning the rowdy queue to talk to me. Miss Mwangi was my favorite teacher- and I suspect that was two way- so I could talk to her quite freely.

“So I hear you have been elected to the government?” she quipped. “Yes,” I replied with subtle pride. “It was quite easy actually. The people actually coerced me to take the seat.”

“But do you think it is necessary for you to be captain.” I looked at her like she had just sprouted a rhino horn on her forehead, failing to make head or tail of what she just said. “I mean, don’t you think it will take a toll on your studies and, more dangerously, places you on a sensitive platform to collide with the administration?”

“No worries, I can handle all that,” I reassured the good lady.

“No, Nelson, no. I don’t want you to take that office.” We talked for over an hour, but I would not budge. No way was I letting the team down. I ended up missing the pig meat altogether, and teacher had to offer me some from the teachers’ pot.

Team was eager to know what had kept me out so long, but I did not want to raise alarm, so I just told them it was wise of them to advise the electorate to add my name to the ballot.

Later that evening, I was summoned to the principal’s office and expressly told there was no way I was getting sworn in. They insisted that the responsibility would take a bad toll on my performance, and they could not let that happen. I kept repeating, “But I was elected!” to which they replied “No one is arguing with that.”

“You should have told me I was banned from running before elections,” I blurted out when I noticed this was not going anywhere. It was not a negotiation, it was a briefing. “We are past that now, and it is upon you to inform everyone that you have decided to not take the seat of your own accord. No unrests.”

Then I was ushered out.

And just like that, my gold medal was gone. Which is why I say I know what Kemboi must be going through right now.

I had to tell the team that it was an express command from The Man Beater that I don’t take any elective seats, although I revealed the truth months later.

#IRestMyPen