Tag Archives: Kenya

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.

About a Book

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A little while after I graduated from university I found that I was averse to reading. Ok, averse sounds a little extreme because I would still read newspapers and magazines whenever I got my hands on them. In fact I have cat like curiosity as far as written materials are concerned. I read matatu stickers, bumper stickers on vehicles, bill boards, labels on products especially food items like chocolate and biscuits. I even read labels on spices specifically to find out what kinds of foods go with those spices and last but not least I am one of those creepy people who reads a newspaper over my fellow matatu passenger’s shoulder. I have even read pages of books though I have trouble keeping pace with the original reader so I only get bits and pieces but it doesn’t matter because I got to read something any way. It’s therefore not surprising that I like to read books too. As much as I like to read books I feel that education, strike that, schooling ruined book reading for me. When I was in the university I had such a hunger for books that I would borrow as many as my library cards would allow but I would end up returning them almost unread. At the time I really wanted to read widely so my book choices were not restricted to course work. I would have a pile of books sitting on my desk and not enough time to read. The poor books had to compete with an active social life, my course work assignments, series and movies. Considering the number of books I returned to the library barely read I am surprised that I think I was averse to reading after finishing my studies. The reason I thought that was because I had such trouble finishing books whenever I picked them up, now I know the problem was there all along. There is a book I read for more than a year and I gave up and decided finishing it would not contribute to world peace. I am happy to report that, that has somewhat changed. However, I cannot say I now inhale books as quickly as someone would when they get out of a stuffy room but I can say I have revisited my love for reading for pleasure. Way before I graduated I chanced upon an article that highlighted a speech read to graduates of Havard University on things they never teach you in university which you should know. Reading for pleasure was one of those things that we should do. I could go on and on about reading books but then I would miss out on telling you about a most phenomenal book I read.

A little background information on how I got the book: I got my current job through a colleague whom I went to university with. When we were in university I knew he liked poetry but I had no idea he loved books. Turns out, he loves books like the Vatican loves the Pope. As far as my revisiting my love for reading for pleasure, he was the ghost of reading past to my Ebenezer Scrooge.  He got a copy of a book by Binyavanga Wanaina called “One Day I Will Write About This Place”. I had already read some titbits about it from a previous book he wrote which I read for a literature class I took, and I knew it was going to be interesting. I also read that the book was selected as an Oprah book club read and that is amazing. The feeling derived from knowing that the book would land on my laps was not as much kid in a candy store as it was; shoe addict receiving an anonymous cheque of a generous value in the mail and finding herself in a street with Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo stores. When the book did get to me, I read it slowly and I would even go days without reading the book. This is not because the book was a cold egg. Far from it, it was so good I wanted to delay the inevitable: the end.

I will try not to give too much detail so as not to ruin the surprise and now you will have no choice but to get the book for yourself. The book was a memoir. He told stories of his childhood, a bit about his time in high school, his time in the university and how he ended up winning a Caine Orange Prize for writing. So unique is his style of writing that I found myself having conversations in my head (before you say aaiihh! who doesn’t have mental conversations with him/herself) and the sentences were structured the way he structured his. So short were his sentences that bits of his book read like poetry. The way he structures his sentences and the way I structure mine would make for an opposite attracts affair because my sentences tend to snake like a TGV minus the speed. He is also super talented at talking about nothing and for pages and pages and I have to say I came so short of exclaiming brilliant out loud on my many bus/matatu rides with my book companion.

Finally the reason the book won me over: the story of his life in university. I know I promised not to go into details but please forgive me if I do. At some point during his university tenure Binyavanga went through what I can only call a depression. His relationship with class was strained to say the least; he wanted a divorce. He came back to Kenya at a time when his mother’s family was going to have a reunion in Uganda and told his parents as much. When they came back from the reunion he stayed in Kenya for a bit and he felt a little better and decided to try and work things out with class. When he went back he said his new confidence lasted all but a week. He went back to hibernating in his room though unlike hibernating insects he had not gathered his food for the summer. At this point I desist from going into further details but all in all his story was appalling especially for those who stick to the straight and narrow as far as going to school and putting in some effort if for nothing else’ sake, to please your parents. A majority of Kenyan parents would have labelled their child useless. His own dad came close to calling him that but his mum shot him a warning look.

He had no idea what he wanted to do with his life but what he knew was he liked to read and he liked to write. He read all day and wrote most of the night. He shared his writing with other people he met online.  Then one day he got a letter informing him that his story had been short-listed for a Caine Orange Prize and he was invited to the House of Lords for dinner. One minute he was Turkana District, semi-arid and no water despite having a lake and the next minute he was Turkana district with oil deposits. The rest as they say is history. That was his story but what’s your story? Have you been dismissed? Do you constantly feel like you’re a disappointment and your life will not amount to much? Well, figure out what you like and direct your energies into it, whatever it is, work on it consistently and it will pay off. Now go get the book and let me know if it’s something to write home about.