Category Archives: Random

Allow me to surprise you.

A Beautiful Word-No

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If you find that you say the word “No” a lot, would you qualify to be labelled as mean? I reckon my ability to say no unflinchingly is the reason why one of my students asked me why I am so mean. If you went through the 844 system you must be wondering in what universe are, students allowed to tell their teachers what they really think about them. My answer would be in the same universe that a child decides they don’t want to go to school in the morning and the parent actually let’s them stay at home. As a special needs teacher in a non conventional education system, I have lots of stories to tell but I will spare you and focus on a beautiful word we all know as “no”.

One of the reasons I love the word “no” is that it is ironically so simple. It is monosyllabic, so brief that it costs merely a breathe to say it and yet requires so much strength to be spoken. As far as words go it might be an underdog. I mean they did not make a movie titled “The No Man”. It would be confusing right? It would be difficult to get one’s head around it. A movie about saying “yes” to everything, that’s more like it. It sounds interesting; it even has the potential to be hilarious. After all is that not what “freedom” is about? Who is more free, liberated if you will: the person who says no to a lot of things or the person who says “yes” “yes”, “yes”! I leave that to you to decide.

Freedom and liberty are wonderful things no doubt but when I think of the word no, revolutionary comes to mind. I confess my grasp of all the major world revolutions is scanty at best but I imagine it all starts with a simple word: no. When Marie Antoinette said the infamous words “if they cannot have bread let them have cake”, I imagine (which saves me from reading volumes of history) someone heard this and his mind was screaming NO!!! How dare she be so inconsiderate? Things cannot go on like this. Like I said I am operating from almost ignorance but I do hope anyone out there who is more history savvy will fill in the blanks. The point is for the most part revolutions seldom start with agreement with the status quo. It starts with a No! Then, it continues with I will not stand for this then, revolt!

I don’t know about you but I love (looove) me a revolutionary. If you think about it, you do too. Remember when Ché Guevara merchandise was in vogue? If you didn’t buy the t-shirt you probably envied someone who did. I think one of the reasons we love revolutionaries is there is a little revolutionary in every one of us. Deep down, somewhere in there, you disagree with so many things but often courage does not come so easily. Deep down, there are things you wish you could change in your own life, in your community, in your country… but change is not so easy. So when we find that person who is courageous enough to stand up and say no! We applaud. I bet even those who are opposed to some of these changes admire the guy’s guts even though they will publicly portray a different picture. We love a revolutionary because we can live vicariously through them and to be honest it is a lot safer. I mean tying myself in chains to a gate knowing well the police will get me out, keeping in mind that police brutality is very real, is risky business. I would rather wait to see it in the news and say “wow, I wish I had his guts”.

While it is all fine and dandy to live vicariously through other revolutionaries, it is a new year and my challenge to you, to me is to go out and be a revolutionary. I don’t expect us to start another uprising, because the Middle East already took that bus. What I am hoping is we can all learn to say no every once in a while and maybe more often. I would begin with saying no to myself. I read a quote (which I paraphrased): people often want to change the world but no one wants to change himself. Yes it is the prince of clichés but change begins with you. What are some of the things we can say no to in our own lives? We can say no to excesses and things that are just plain harmful. That extra (caffeinated, alcoholic or carbonated) drink, the extra plate of deep fried something or bowl of sugary goodness which will lead you to a doctor sooner rather than later, that extra work you carried home from the office depriving you of rest and engaging with other human beings, that extra hour of pointless internet surfing and TV watching which makes you wonder what happened to the time, that extra illicit relationship that is killing your soul ever so slowly…. I could go on and on but I will not. Truth is you know what you need to say no to and the reasons for saying no are innumerable.

We also need to say no to people especially friends and family. This is a hard one because most of us are wired to please people. For some of us the thought of disappointing someone is harrowing.  Here’s a thought: you can’t please everyone ergo you have to disappoint some people. Now with this mind just say no. An outright no may seem harsh (but it’s more fun to say) but there are subtle ways of doing it like “I am not sure I can do that” or “I can’t do it”. I welcome more ideas on how to say no nicely. It is especially important to learn to say no to children especially if they are trying to get their way using tantrums. Think of it this way, giving a child what they want after throwing a tantrum is like negotiating with a terrorist. In my line of work I have seen tantrums that are monumental at best and I can assure you even when the child cries bullets and you stand your ground the child will respect you and they will not love you any less. It is equally important to give reasons for your answers. Some people will argue with you but that’s an opportunity to practice standing your ground. If children argue with you (politely of course), look at it as negotiation. Let the child develop negotiation skills, we all know negotiation skills go a long way in the real world.

I am sure there’s a whole long list of things we can say no to but I would rather read from you. What have you successfully said no to? What would you add to the no list. Let me know. I look forward to reading from you. Now go on be a little revolutionary, just say no.

 

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Chicken rant

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I am a single white female… chicken. I sense its morning because I can see light. The cock of our coop hasn’t crowed yet. Well, actually he did crow at about midnight. Mi thinks he was gotten from Asia so maybe he is not operating on East African time. That’s not very likely though since we all belong to a Kenyan household. I would imagine up to three generations of my ancestors came from Kenya. It’s not likely that someone brought a chicken on an aeroplane or even ship. So yes we are all Kenyan chicken. In Kenya children write compositions in English and Kiswahili and a majority of them start with “I heard the cock crowing early in the morning….” This cock would certainly make it difficult to write a convincing beginning to a composition that starts with an early morning. You don’t expect a child to write “The cock crowed at midnight and so I knew it was morning….” do you? Unless of course, the said child was a writer in the making. Any way back to my morning; I think I am hungry. I cannot wait for the young lady of the house to come by with the food. She always comes round at about seven. The thing about her is that she really takes her time when she is feeding us. She especially does this when she brings kale as well as chicken feed.  She has to tie the kale first before she puts the food into the troughs. The entire time I am thinking, “are you kidding me? Do you know how hungry I am? Do you think the first thing I want to see is green when my tinny tiny stomach is rumbling? Since she carries on with this format of feeding over and over again, I figure that she has no idea what is going through my head. So what do I do? Attack!

Smack! Ouch! She’s a feisty one this one. She just hit me with the plate. I guess I deserve it for biting the hand that feeds me. The person who came up with that expression must have had my species in mind. We more often than not bite the hands that feed us and we still get fed! It’s not so bad being a chicken after all. Oh wait it’s not that great either especially when you are you in a coop and you have to contend with other hens. When my mistress decided I was old enough to leave the little league to join the big league things took a turn for the thorny. There were these two older females who terrorized me every single day. They obviously perceived me as a threat to their affections from the cock of our coop who I will now refer to as the king of our coop. Have you seen the guy? He is a bit too old for me. I am still young and hot. I think I can do well for myself. Oh wait it doesn’t really work that way around here because we aren’t exactly free range in the free range sense of the word. I mean that question that humans keep asking in jest about why the chicken crossed the road, it does not apply to me at all. I may never cross a road in my entire life. In spite of being bullied every day I am still here. It’s true what the human’s say; what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I might have developed thicker skin by now but that’s not very likely except for maybe my neck area which has thick skin by default.

I forgot to tell you my age but then again humans say a lady never tells. What I can say is I’m old enough to have my biological clock ticking. I want to have me some chicks. Like I said before we are cooped up and that means I have never seen a chick in my entire life. Did I mention that I was the only one who survived my mother’s hatching? Yes I was an only child though that wasn’t the plan. I know the mistress took it harder than my mother did. So yes the last time I saw a chick was the last time I was a chick. I remember I was very cute back then and if that is what they look like then I want some of my own. I want them so bad that every day I lie in a corner hoping my mistress will take a hint and get me some eggs to hatch. I heard her saying that none of my eggs have been fertilized. So you see I have been faithful!  I never messed around with the king of the coop. Be that as it may I want to have chicks and the sooner I get on with it the better. I don’t care if we have to adopt eggs I just want babies!

My hints seem not to be working. What is wrong with this woman? Does she not understand the internal pressure I am feeling right now. I feel like I’m going to explode! Ok, calm down, calm down. We need to think. There must be some kind of leverage I can use against her.  Oh yes! I got it! I know she likes my eggs so I will stop eating and lie in my little corner until she finally gets it. She obviously can’t let me die just to show me whose boss around these parts. Two days later…. What’s that I see? Everything is so hazy then there are those busy patterns like circles and spirals. Whoa! This must be the definition of feeling faint, must hold on for dear life, dear life is slipping away…. At this rate I hope they make a meal out of me already. If they are going to deny me the opportunity to live out my purpose which is to bring little ones into the world to ensure an endless supply of eggs then at the very least, they should let me feed a family. When my life comes to an untimely end I hope I will be delicious. I hope I will sit in a marinade for hours with lemon and garlic and a couple of spices until I am all embellished and I’ve lost that not so great chicken smell. Now I wish I lived in an Indian household then I would end up in a tandoori or just stewing in a curry for hours. Is it weird that I’m getting hungry right now? It is. Let’s change the subject. Let me ponder one of life’s greatest questions, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Oh that’s easy, I remember stumbling out of an egg and my mother wasn’t there.

Friends with food

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I think I am a little vain. I imagine some of my friends’ eye brows furrowing thinking, a little? I wouldn’t blame them. At the moment I am on a default exercise programme. Now before you get excited when I say exercise I mean the kind that will not break a sweat. Don’t get me wrong I love sweating as much as the next guy but if it involves pain I will take the easy way out. My exercise regimen consists of a 30 minute walk 5 days a week. I call it exercise because when I talk about it to people who spend a lot of time in vehicles and chairs, they are impressed, and maybe a little envious or not. If you’re on the other side of the divide and you break real sweat through adrenaline inducing work outs, a one hour walk might make your eyes roll but hey I don’t care. I will keep walking for vain reasons like I’m losing inches. If walking does what jogging could do and with less pain, I will take it. Anyway the vain part of the story stems from what I think about losing inches. What can I say I love it! Every time I talk about it I have this celebratory tone like woohoo! I’m getting smaller! On the surface I am thrilled about being smaller but deep down the thing that makes me do mental cart wheels is I can look at all food sinful, eat it even and enjoy it thoroughly, knowing full well it will not remain with me for too long. For someone who loves food this is like having your cake and eating it too. Allow me to digress a little but I reckon the expression would have made more sense had it been having your cake and ice cream. I keep asking, who is this who thinks cake is for having and not eating. In case you’re wondering; I am whetting your appetites so that I can talk about food.
My favourite scene in Eat, Pray, Love was when Elizabeth was in Italy having Pizza. She was tearing into a pizza and her new found Swedish friend couldn’t shake the guilt off having the indulgence of a large pizza because her pants were getting tighter. Then Elizabeth said we are going to enjoy the pizza and thereafter go shopping for bigger pants. I loved it! I mean really how liberating is it to realise that we shouldn’t be defined by external things. I once had some philosophical moments and I thought we should treat food like we would our friends. It made lots of sense back then, I don’t know if it does now especially since you can’t eat your friends. This is the part where I ask for your indulgence. In my epiphany I thought love your food but don’t depend on it entirely. Food is a necessity, it tastes good (depending) but it is not everything. Do not rely on food to sort out your emotional issues. Of course food especially sweets are amazingly comforting when you are in an emotional funk but the truth is if your friend figured out that you constantly go to them when you have emotional issues they would grow sick of you. Since they are your friend they might react by being passive aggressive and avoiding you. Food may take the passive aggressive route too but it won’t be so forgiving. It will hide in your body as fat and kill you slowly.
It has been said variety is the spice of life. Every once in a while you need to make new friends if only to broaden your experience of humanity. When your experience of humanity is broadened your adaptability increases. Adaptability is essential for survival. Same thing with food you need to try new foods every so often. Your palate needs to experience different tastes so as to make you more adaptable to the environment. You might end up in Cambodia where their food philosophy is apparently ‘bitter is better than sweet’. If someone gives you the opportunity to experience some novel food, you grab that opportunity. You never know where life will take you so even your stomach should be prepared for anything.
Then there are the toxic friends who do you no good. Yeah sure, they are loads of fun but they leave you high and dry. At this point I would like to clarify food includes drinks. You keep saying I don’t want to hang out with X anymore because every time I do trouble bites me in the behind. Foods or drinks with high sugar content fall into this category. When the sugar wears off, you crash and burn. At work there was a kid’s birthday party and there were marshmallows. My colleague and I helped ourselves to the marshmallows and I figured since I don’t enjoy the spongy super sugary taste of marshmallows as is, we should toast them. Personally I think in the case of marshmallows once you go dark you should never have to go back. So we went looking for some fire and well we decided to use the birthday candles to toast the marshmallows. Don’t ask! Anyway so we put our marshmallows on forks and we toasted them and you know the result, some ooey-gooey bundle of goodness. We were so pleased with our genius that we high-fived each other when we were bragging to our colleagues about our treat. Besides the marshmallows we had earlier had some cake with jam spread on it so you can imagine sugar on sugar. At first I was totally high! I mean you should have seen me super charged past 3p.m. Normally, the average person wishes the clock was a horse so you could kick it so it goes faster but then time decides to be a donkey at that time. Later on I was heading to town for a meeting and I ran into traffic and by the time I got out of the matatu I was so mad. I had to calm myself down throughout the entire 15 minute walk to the venue. In spite of my best efforts to calm down I was still the crankiest person at that meeting. Newton wasn’t kidding, what comes up must come down. I won’t even get started on alcohol because everybody knows first high then dry and literally because you need to hydrate afterwards. Toxic friends will drain you so the best thing is to avoid them same goes for food. Toxic food and drink should be avoided. Unfortunately some of us are weaker than others and we can’t entirely avoid these things, one word: moderation.
I always say moderation is key (if you haven’t heard me say it, I’ve said it to myself). There is a programme airing on a local TV station called Slim Possible that follows some women’s weight loss journeys. I know some people are having a blast being mean and criticizing them and I will admit my constant thought is “why let the weight get so out of control only to suffer later?” Honestly I feel sad that someone should have to repent for having a piece of cake during the week. Once, a friend blogged about his culinary creation and posted it on face book and the description was mouth watering to say the least. The funny thing is it sparked a debate on calories and death by heart attack and I contributed to the piece saying food is not the problem, we are. We lack control, we ignore all the signals our bodies send to us telling us to stop and then we blame it on innocent bacon. I mean bacon doesn’t call to you saying come and eat me and even if your mind is playing tricks on you and bacon is beckoning, shake your head, say no and live to enjoy bacon another day. Food is to be enjoyed but if you take advantage of food there are repercussions. Go on enjoy some food with friends today!

The Village Dance

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When I was in high school in my Social Ethics class I learnt that the village dance was a great part of courtship back in our African ancestor’s times. Now that I think of it I also remember reading of the village dance being a precursor to courtship in Ngugi wa Thiong’ o’s “The River Between”. I am pretty sure Nyambura* caught Kinuthia’s* eye during the village dance. In our modern times I beg to ask what happened to the village dance. Some people may argue that it has been replaced by the rave. To that I would say the rave is a watered down version of the village dance of yester year or more like it is a spiked drink version of it. This is because you don’t need an expert to tell you, the rave is hardly good soil for good marriage mates. But for those who were lucky enough to find a good spouse in the midst of all that loud music, high temperature and smoke, good on you mate! You see the village dance had some romance to it though the participants those days would have never used romance in a sentence. The romance I am talking about is in the propriety of the dances at that time.

The men, they were brave. They had just undergone initiation probably slaying a lion and they felt fearless. So at the dance, when the guy identified the object of his admiration, he walked up to her and asked for a dance. I imagine thoughts of rejection may have crossed his mind but he figures he was out in the wilderness and came back alive, so what if a girl doesn’t want to dance with me? The women, they were poised and graceful. They had come from training in womanhood. They were confident that some good guy would ask them for a dance. All she had to do was make eye contact for a fleeting second, look down and smile. And if he didn’t come then he wasn’t it. It was simple. Things were so easy back then right? Now it is all so complicated.

I recently read an article about social dance and it made me think the principles of social dance could very well be applied for dating in modern times. With that in mind I propose that the village dance be brought to life with a few modern twists. For a start the traditional dances could be replaced with ball room dance but the exception is the “mwomboko” because it was ballroom dance. When I say ballroom some people may imagine some stiff sashaying around a ballroom but it doesn’t have to be that way. I prefer Latin ballroom like Salsa and Tango etc. Usually the guy asks a girl to dance. The girl is at liberty to decline or accept. If the girl declines it is not at all a reflection on the guy. He should move on and ask another girl. For the girl if you want to be asked to dance, it has been said stand at the edge of the dance floor. Put a smile on your face and stamp your feet like you are enjoying the music. This sends the message I want to dance and someone just might oblige you.

Now that you are all partnered and on the dance floor, the man takes the lead. Leading is supposed to be oh so subtle it is a gentle tag, a lifting of the hand. There should be no pulling and pushing. A girl should never lead herself or try to lead the man, it maketh the man mad. Men this would be a good time to remind you to watch your hand. Your hand should never go too south, north is always best. Don’t be the guy who finds a dance opportunity and decides to make maximum use of it by taking his hands on a tour. Like in the village dance of yester years self-control was a mark of quality. During the dance it will not kill you to have a good time. Have fun and try to look it. Also away from the dance floor, work on your dance technique.  If you have the ability to dance really well, it increases your popularity on the dance floor. For the fellas there will be no getting turned down. For the ladies, there will be a line waiting to dance with you. The rules of social dance say you shouldn’t dance to many subsequent songs with one partner. In other words even if the person you got paired up with is an absolute delight do not hog them. After one song set them free and find someone else to dance with. When I did salsa class in university, this rule made total sense. It was all about variety and variety is the spice of life isn’t it?

Another rule that cannot be ignored is don’t take dancing too personal. You danced with someone, you had a good time, the chemistry was palpable and you hope they felt the chemistry too. Wrong! Don’t assume that. When I did salsa class in university I always told myself it’s nothing personal it’s just salsa. Trust me it is better that way. If you take the dancing too personally and hope for romantic attachment afterwards, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe heartbreak. Granted there are people who find romance from dancing it should never be the sole intention for dancing. I mean there are better reasons to dance like improving on your technique, getting a bit of a work out, meeting new people etc.

In conclusion what can social dance teach us about dating? The guy should initiate and take the lead. This means the guy should be confident. The girl should be warm and receptive remember look like you want to dance. Guys, be respectful just because you are hunters doesn’t mean you should maul the deer because she agreed to dance with you. Finally, enjoy each other’s company and unless there is information suggesting that there could be more, don’t put all your emotions in that basket. Social dance has been compared to a five minute encounter at a cocktail party. You have five minutes to impress but if you don’t, it’s never that serious same applies to dating. While it is argued people date to find marriage mates, I would also say like dance dating is good exercise to build your personality and character (if you meet inspiring people, it will rub off on you). So go on, dance away.

 

*names haven’t been changed to protect identity rather they have temporarily slipped my mind.

 

Would you.

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I was going through my stuff and came across this poem I wrote. Enjoy!

If you did not know me, would you let me have a say

If I gave you nothing would you give me time of day

If I was chased with monsters would you for me slay

If my soul was restless would you for me pray

If I was in the mood would you with me dance and play

If someone indignified and discredited would you for me start a fray

If I became a bit misdirected would you stop me from going astray

Would you do all these for me would you find a way.

 

I ask you all these because I’m in need of a friend

Someone to whom warmth and kindness I will extend

Whose criticism to me will be to mend

Time in laughter and joy we will spend

When either of us are lacking it will come naturally to lend

In tears of misery on each other we will depend

I pray to the heavens it is you they will send

To have a friendship not even death will end

 

Now you must be wondering what I see in you

It is your warmth and kindness that seems so true

Although I barely know you I may not have much of a clue

I still imagine a winter’s day with you, the sky will be blue

With that shine in your eye I believe good times we will accrue

It makes me smile the adventurous things we will get up to

I honestly see you fitting in my shoe

I can only hope you feel the same way too.

Appreciating me Quirks and all.

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Appreciating me Quirks and all..

When I was in high school, I was once (read, a couple of times) referred to as a coconut. A coconut means someone who is black on the outside and white on the inside. Never mind the fact that if someone was asked to produce a coconut that was black on the outside, they would have as much luck milking a chicken. The reason for this was because I had an “accent” and I had a few mannerisms that were considered foreign.  On the foreign mannerisms, I’m clueless. But the existence of the accent I can’t argue about it. A lot of things are said about people with foreign accents. Some will say a person spotting a foreign accent is fake or lacking in cultural identity, but here is an accent I have had since primary school. It cannot be undone and I wish not to undo it because it is a part of me that I like.

Over the years I have also been made fun of for my walking style. I don’t know what is wrong with it though someone mentioned I have peacock feet. But I remember in primary school my mother encouraged me to walk tall. Those days I used to watch Ally McBeal and there was this character named Neil played by Portia de Rossi and she was gorgeous and she walked tall. I admired her so I was more than willing to take mum’s advice. When I grew older I discovered good posture was a sign of confidence, great for good health and it makes the person more attractive (self-explanatory). On the peacock feet, I dare say I just have that natural swagger.

I have also been dissed for being a lady. For some reason it wasn’t very popular to be one in high school and university. I think it stems from the premise that after women were subjugated for so long by men, they decided it’s time they wore the pants and fought back. But I disagree with this, I love being a lady. I embrace my femininity like it was the best gift that God ever gave to me. I would trade the dull power suits for dresses and skirts, florals and bows. This is because at some point I realized that feminine charm disarms men. If a guy will get off a matatu and take my hand to help me get off, then who knows what more he will do to make me comfortable. So yes call me soft, delicate, whatever but I will keep building my arsenal of feminine charm and be a lady unashamedly.

I have been told I am a little quiet, reserved, shy perhaps. And I will blame it on my mostly melancholic temperament. Some people find it a bit of a bother when I seem so aloof in the midst of activity and that I tend to zone out and my mind wonders into nothingness.  In spite of this, I have been given compliments about my being quiet. Quietness amid semi-chaos cuts a picture of serenity, and there is beauty in serenity. Catch me quiet in a social situation and I will not apologize. At the end of the day, sure it is annoying when people highlight your unique elements and try to make them sound like idiosyncrasies but let it not ruffle your feathers. Instead keep in mind the people who appreciate your uniqueness. Then move a step further and be one of those people, the president of your own fan club if you will because if you love yourself others will too.