PAIN

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear or read the word pain. I will tell you my definition through a series of experience I’ve gone through in the few years I’ve existed on this rock that revolves around a star.

5 year old me was a confident wanna be adult. I talked fast and acted faster. And when I bolted to the kitchen to to make myself a cup of hot chocolate, no one saw me. I was a tiny being who was and is still height challenged. The hot water jug had been placed on the table and as I clumsily pulled it, it tilted and the hot scalding water poured on my chest. The pain was so immense that after I let out a blood curdling scream, I lost conscious.

The following 8 months were grueling agony of trying to heal. School, friends, birthday parties, playing, joy, became obsolete. I then yielded an unfamiliar companion and confidant, radio. My love for music, art and communication blossomed there. Sundowner, radio theater, educational episodes on KBC became ingrained in me and left an impact.

Heartbreak. I was living on cloud 9 first time I fell in love. Then it happened. I never knew love could hurt this bad. My self esteem was in shambles. I lost weight, mind and will to live. I went to a place I never knew existed in my head. Then I found Quran. I know its a cliche when people say “God saved me” but am a living testament. I created a relationship so strong, intense, personal and fulfilling with my God that has enabled me to tackle most challenges in life I’ve faced with certain confidence and assuarity.

Aug 2013,I received a notification from my bank stating that the cheque I had issued had bounced and I had been penalized. I was broke. I couldn’t fathom how I had reached here. Memories of the times I spent money on unnecessary things haunted me the same way our government is being haunted by corruption cases. I had to learn to live within my means. Gone were the days where I used to eat chicken like a caucasian. Nowadays I clean the chicken bones so good that my fellows brothers and sisters from the western community would be proud of me.

Fast forward, to Feb 2018. I had been transfered to Doha Qatar. Money, status quo, and living in the wealthiest country in the world. Yet I was living my worst nightmare. My skin color, gender and age were my shortcomings when it came to my occupation. I did everything, frkn being nice to get the whole office dunkin donuts for two months. Nothing worked. I loathed how I felt preparing myself going to work. I despised how my co workers treated me. I shuddered at the sound of Skype call because I knew it was nothing but it would be something that will totally make me feel depressed. As I lay in bed, I wondered how I got myself here.

That morning I woke up, picked my passport and left for the airport. I left all my worldly possession I had over there. I slept two days at the airport for there were no direct flights back home. All I knew is that I was done, and I wanted my piece and peace of mind. And that I wouldn’t find it anywhere else than back home with the people I love and the environment that my soul knew.

So señoritas and señors, physical, emotional, financial, occupational pains that I have gone through has created fundamentals aspects of these woman you see infront of you. What doesn’t kill, makes you stronger, and gives you unhealthy coping mechanism that helps you to waddle through this journey called life.

Thank you.

Via Nay Nay.

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KING OF PIRATES: THE TALE OF CAPTAIN HENRY BENJAMIN AVERY.

 

When it comes to legends of Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow is a favorite of most especially to those nouveau to the historical phenomena.

Others that get a notable mention is Black Beard alias Edward Teach who is reputed to have lit fuses on his whiskers to look more fearsome. Alongside him is Long John Silver though to the best of my knowledge he never made the rank of captain but his exploits and respect he demanded from his cohorts have lasted for eons. Captain Flint is reckoned as a brilliant strategist, and his prowess shines brighter than most other naval commanders, howbeit I find him problematic due to the conflict of his soul or being if that is what is left of the soul after some mass murders. The one true pirate in most connoisseurs eyes is captain Charles Vane; a former slave as a boy he rose to captaincy under the pupilage of Black Beard and was a right partner and adversary to Flint. Unlike Teach, he didn’t have to fake appearances of fiercenesses or even concerning Flint he accepted his role and personage as a career buccaneer of the high-seas, a vocation akin to a highway robber, a bandit.

Long before any of this characters both fictitious and real were born, an actual pirate had already made history and indeed written his name in the annals of the record books. His exploits were never to be topped to date, and he is probably the reason most of this other pretenders to the throne ever pledged allegiance to the Jolly Roger. Henry B. Avery was born on 23rd of August 1659, at the age of 34 years after leaving the British Royal Navy he was charged to the Charles II. A warship for merchants built in tandem with the king of Spain after whom it was explicitly named to harangue and harass French ships. The man of war docked at the port of Corunna in Spain following its tedious voyage down the river Thames in its maiden voyage. Here the crew mutinied as a consequence of unpaid six months stipulated salaries due to bureaucracy. Henry was elected captain although it is not clear whether this was a motivation for his active role in the treachery. Their plot didn’t win them friends at the port and as such had to flee and sought infamy in the Atlantic ocean. The ship careened in the bight of Benin and was razeed which is nautical lingo for the decimation of the number of decks and crew onboard a galleon. This misfortune was a silver lining in their cloud as they made repairs, many non-vital parts were discarded, and the FANCY as it was renamed was able to be upgraded and was now among the fastest ships in the seven seas. After pillaging supplies from ships heading to Europe from Barbados and beyond, captain Avery was able to convince the seadogs to make sail for the Indian ocean rather than the west indies. They sojourned down to the southern tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way, they ambushed a couple of ships which they added to their inventory. Henry was the de-facto commodore or rear-admiral of at least five ships and a crew of up to six hundred men when they finally lay in waiting for an ambush at the Babel-el-Mandeb or straits of tears between modern-day Djibouti and Yemen. The victims of their ploy were Muslim pilgrims coming from Mecca reputed to be carrying vast amounts of treasure with them. The first target was able to slip past unnoticed, but the privateers gave chase and caught up with them five days later, where they boarded and looted with not much of a resistance. The bounty recovered is said to be sizeable enough to buy the FANCY at least fifty times over. The second prey wouldn’t be a pushover, it was a massive ship with no less than eighty cannons commissioned by the sixth Mughal, the emperor of most of India sub-continent at that moment, dubbed GUNJ-i-SAWAI meaning ‘exceeding treasure’ but also known as Gunsway. Only three out of five of the fleet under Avery engaged, one of the other two spectated while the other had been abandoned for being too slow. The pirate numbers suffered major casualties, but as fate would have it, lady luck smiled at them when misfortune struck the Indian’s ship when one of the cannons exploded. Perhaps in the heat of the battle, the barrels and hogsheads expanded, and the projectile got stuck when fired. With the smell of gunpowder in the air and taste of blood in their mouth, the ensuing melee turned the odds to the attacker’s favor. What transpired next is a sordid tale of deprivation, as remnants of the GUNSWAY were tortured for days to reveal where they had hidden the wealth while some female passengers opted to jump overboard and drown to avoid being Sulley-ed.

Some reports indicate allegedly captain Avery was handed a relation of the emperor himself: a grand-daughter of emperor Aurangzeb was said to be part of the entourage coming home after Hajj. The illicit gains from this single 17th-century hunt were at least £600k, half a million gold and silver rials alongside other gemstones and valuables. The FANCY and her partners in crime most likely headed to Madagascar to the pirate-utopia kingdom that predates the more notorious one in Nassau, Bahamas, the GUNSWAY limped back to the Aryan subcontinent. The score and scourge by then were deemed even more reprehensible than that of the 21st century indigenous fishermen turned pirates of Somalia. The tally of what Avery and his 600 or so scallywags were to divvy-up is estimated to be worth currently 60-100 million US dollars when adjusted for inflation. The Human Rights abuses would also lead the British government to declare H.Avery as ‘ hostis humani generis’ or enemy of the human race. Subsequently, the first global manhunt and international arrest warrant ever were issued against him. Avery had beforehand purportedly given British merchant ships a secret signal that they could use to avert an attack by them, but the British India Company had seen trade volumes go down by 90% and thus had to pacify the ruler of India to not lose any more business. No longer welcome in the Indian ocean, Avery and his band of merry men high-tailed back to West Africa.

One of Bob Marley’s most famous lyrics is ” Old pirates, yes, they rob I Sold I to the merchant ships” from his ‘Redemption song’; Avery had been involved in the slave trade after leaving the navy prior to becoming first mate of the CHARLES II, before setting off to the West Indies they purchased ninety slaves whom they used as labourers and in that era was the most consistent commodity of trade, since they didn’t want to use foreign currency as it would raise suspicion. The French and Danes that had been conscripted before the escapades in East Africa had chosen to leave. The crew had received at least £1000 each plus other gemstones, but they had a £500 bounty on their heads. On arrival to Nassau, they bribed the governor with £1000 and left 50 tons of ivory, barrels of gunpowder and ammunition along with the vessel FANCY itself as a token of appreciation for not snitching them out to the British authorities.

For all their pettifoggery, Avery’s scoundrels were soon bored out of their mind with no one and nothing to spend their hard earned *cough* cash on in the sparsely populated Caribbean outpost. They chose to make headway to the United States, a decision that proved fatal for most of them but Long-Ben as Avery was also known as was able to escape to Britain. A number of his skeleton crew were arrested, tried and hanged. One in particular turned state witness against the others. According to Henry’s descendants or relatives, he died before the turn of the 18th century in 1769 A.D. in abject poverty and destitute at the age of forty years after apparently being swindled by unscrupulous jewelers and merchants. The Swahili people have a proverb that states ” pwagu hupata pwaguzi“, which translates to roughly mean a pickpocket will encounter a car-jacker.

“Look at me! I’m the captain now!.” ~ actor ABDI-RAHMAN BARKHAD in the film ‘Captain Phillips’ (2013)

Via Sir Alan

SELF-ACTUALIZATION; An ode to Cristiano Ronaldo.

A standard measure of a mans’ worth is the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The closer one reaches the top of this pyramid the more accomplished or fulfilled they are. As one completes the five levels the more whole they are posited to be or feel.

The first level or the foundation encompasses physiological needs. These are physical requirements for human survival, which if not met the human body cannot function properly and will ultimately fail. These needs are approximately or fundamentally nine in total and include oxygen, water, nutrition, sleep, sex, warmth, excretion, mobility, and pain.

The next level is environmental needs. Growing up there were a lot of empty plots of land around our neighborhood which were adversely occupied. We tended to convert this lots to our playing grounds, and since they weren’t fenced off yet, I could join adjacent estates’ children in playing football. Sometimes we had access to the Adidas 1970 world cup Telstar design inspired leather bound sphere football replica but more often than not we would wrap newspapers into a globe then envelope it in a plastic paper bag or two and just for good measure tie a string around it in a mesh style fashion squeezing the contents so tight the object could roll in a straight line and actually bounce.

Telstar, Official 1970 Worldcup Football

The middle passage of this strata ranking is social needs. As a Kenyan, a majority of your childhood was spent in prison-like institutions called schools. In my particular penitentiary, intermittent breaks of academic learning were spent kicking soda cans and plastic bottles around in a game of pseudo football when an actual football was not available. We couldn’t carry a proper leather one to school since the older boys would deprive us of it and our parents would whip us if it got stolen or lost plus ultimately our innovative polythene bound orbs were banned by the principal.

We had variations of the beautiful game such as the one-touch, where if you scored by kicking the ball once you faced a new opponent, any more than one stroke and you were disqualified paving the way for a new contestant in your stead. Of course, some of the popular kids would get to break the rules but how they arrived to be so high in the pecking order is open for discussion.

Self-esteem is the penultimate stage, and I was lucky enough to have never had an acne breakout during puberty in the meantime gaining a deep bass in my voice in the process. My adolescent years were spent perfecting a three-point shot on the basketball rim my elder brother had fastened to a Jacaranda tree I had hoped my father would build a tree house for me on. At the only basketball court in my town, I always managed to reach 7 points in a game of 21, when men twice my age had to sit out the rest of the play for not doing the same once the leading scorer reached 11 points. My strategy since I was small was to get the ball, shoot from outside the D, after which I would sink the first free throw earning two more points then choose to either score one more point with the second free throw or violently slam the ball against the board in the hopes I could recapture it outside the D for another attempt at a three-point shot for an additional two points plus the requisite two free throws earning one point each bringing a total of five to eight points.

I took up swimming fervently in high school until the pool was drained and the renovations took more than a couple of months. I remember standing in the deep end of the empty abyss, eyes closed, imagining the natatorium filling up with water lifting me up. A hairline fracture I neglected under my right knee limited my professional athlete career although such an excuse didn’t stop polio-ridden right-winger and forward by the name Manuel Francisco dos Santos alias Garrincha from winning the world cup for Brazil in 1958. Perhaps it’s my lack of discipline that’s to blame. My tardiness to school ensured I ran a kilometer three days a week as punishment plus my annual valentine’s day ritual of a thousand sit-ups keeps me fit. One of the many older girls I’ve dated who’ve witnessed my sporting prowess used to tease me on how dirty I was in the lower primary by evening after a day of scrimmage football. I pray the athletic gene traits I’ve been told I possess are passed onto my future generations.

Currently, I’ve taken up cycling and will resume training on my 15-speed mountain bike once I purchase new tires to achieve at least 50km in one and a half hours. I will reward myself with a ‘700’ race bike with 27 gears or more that I see on tour-de-France. I plan to do this and participate in the tour-de-Machakos before it becomes an elitist event needing millions of dollars sponsorship from multinational corporations.

The final and highest phase is transcendence, where one becomes too much associated with excellence in a field that they inspire others to be of the same caliber, even if it’s not on the same genre of practice. This because success has a generic trait of sacrifice and postponement of gratification, in layman terms: no pain, no gain. Cristiano Ronaldo is an icon who at the age of twelve left his Madeira hometown for Lisbon city thousands of kilometers from friends and family. Two decades later he has won every major trophy and award bar one, the world cup. Mayhaps in a fortnight from now this statement won’t be, but nonetheless, with his Spartan-like livelihood, I won’t be surprised if he graces our screens and grass on the pitch in Qatar and America. As with all racehorse champions, we shall retire him to pasture as a pedigree stud. FORZA PORTUGALE!

Via Sir Alan.

Dangerous Muster

 

He racked his brains, from the moment they met, where they had been to, people they met. Any clue that he thought would be able to solve this puzzle. His brain lit up like a light bulb when he remembered the one place she had whimsically mentioned a couple of times. He had a good feeling about this one. He imaginarily high fived himself for his eidetic memory.

Quickly he picked his jacket, cell phone, wallet and left the house. He didn’t want to drive because he was not in the right state of mind. Ran to the nearest stage, got into a matatu and left for town. The lively matatu culture around him felt surreal. People boarding the matatu, others alighting, the makanga shouting, the driver blasting latest obscene Kenyan songs, all to him felt illusory. The makanga had to tap him twice when he was asked for fare and thrice to let him know he had reached CBD.

He was in his own world. As he boarded a shuttle heading to Thika, he realized that chances of her being there are subjacent. But a gnawing feeling that he might see her there was too immense. The closer and closer he got to the town, the more he catechized himself on her disappearance, him seeking her out and whether he should let her go. Then he recalled how she made him feel, her sarcasm, laughter, terrible jokes…her entire quirks and quiddities made him realize to breathe and live. She brought him a peripheral range of understanding of the world, her and himself that he hadn’t unearthed despite having a brain power than most. Yet in a transitory second he knew whatever the reason she had for abandoning the ship, was valid and him seeking her out would not make much difference. But his ache to see her, even it was one last time, won this battle.

He didn’t know the place, so he got into a cab and asked the driver if he knew the area. Luckily for him, he did. He was torn whether to go empty handed or not. Heck, he didn’t know how to act when he sees her. “It is what it is” he mumbled as the driver sped on.

The the weather was cloudy, cold and grey as if prepping him for bad news. When they got there, the gate-man didn’t allow the cab to go in. He paid, got out and asked the gate-man if he knew where Layla lives.

“Layla mgani? Hapa kwa hii estate watu ni wengi my friend” 

“Ummmm…Layla Amin?”

Blank stare from the gate-man.

“Ummm….babake alikua mkubwa pale Delmonte?”

“Ah! Si ungesema tu Amin wa Delo! Nyinyi vijana mnakuanga na maneno mingi hehehe. Hata ameingia tu saa hii kutoka sokoni. Nipe ID yako na uandike majina na numba ya simu kwa hii kitabu”

Relief with a tinge of anxiety kicked in as he wrote on. He was given instructions where Layla’s house was located. Like a man on a mission, he stepped forward and fast. He was in a high pitch fervor to see her. As he opened the gate to Layla’s house, he realized he was sweating. A quick wipe of his brows and a pat on his shirt and pants, he wished he had adorned an antiperspirant.

“She likes my smell anyway, hope that hasn’t changed.” he chuckled as he knocked on her door.

He knocked twice. No footsteps, no sound coming from inside the house. Hit harder, no answer. He twisted the door handle, and the door nudged open. He hesitated to wonder whether he should go in or not. As he stepped in, she appeared at the end of the hallway. His feet froze as her hands thawed and she let go of the cup in her hand, breaking into smithereens on her feet.

Silence…….

Via Nay Nay

Resolution __

 

Sleeping next to him, listening to him breathing while soft snoring made her tear up. He gave her so much peace, asleep or awake. She had never felt this way towards someone. It was a new territory to her. He was different yet so similar to her. He toned down her brazen personality. He understood her insecurities, her vices so well, that for the first time, the walls she built around her tumbled with not much of persuasion. From the moment they met, it felt like they had known each other for eternity.

Everything flowed, energy, conversations, silences, future, past. They were from two different paths, yet the stars had aligned, merged and became a unit. A unit that was so intense that every challenge they had before they met seemed like a tiny bump on the road. They smashed their personal and professional goals like Hulk when pissed. And when he started mentioning that he couldn’t wait for her to carry his child, her heart crumbled. At first, she thought maybe he had seen those cute children being posted on Instagram and got taken away. But each and every day he would find a way to bring up the topic. And each and every day she would find a reason to tell him not now. And she would see his face drop and that killed her inside.

As she waited for the results at her doctor’s, she already knew what the results would be. She hoped for a miracle.

“Miss Layla? Please come in. The doctor is waiting for you” said the nurse as she ushered her inside the doctor’s office.

She took a quick breath and walked in.

“Good afternoon Layla. Sorry for keeping you waiting. Today has been a busy busy day.”

“Good afternoon Doctor. No need to apologize. I understand” she said as she sat opposite him.

“I have all your tests here, and it seems your endometriosis is not getting any better. Unfortunately, you cannot go under the knife. I will change your progesterone drug.”

“So no babies?” asked Layla, not shocked but in despair.

” No babies Layla. As we had spoken earlier…”

” No doc.”

” Just think about it. Just because you cant have your own does not mean you cant be a mother” he said as he wrote her prescription.

She smiled flimsily, picked the piece of paper and left, her heart heavy. She always dreaded when her menses were about to start. Her body figuratively chewed her inside out, leaving her writhing in pain. When she was younger and complained, she was mummed by painkillers, hot water bottle and was told to woman up. When she got older, it didn’t get easier, but by now she was used to the pain.

Till one day she went for a pap smear, and her doctor recommended for a CT scan of her uterus. A couple more test and she was hit with the news that she is infertile. The story hit her so hard. She didn’t know what to do nor whom to tell. And she decided she would sort it all by herself. Through the years she had done that anyway,sort it all by herself.

Through the years she had undergone several surgeries secretively, been on medication, trying to reverse this curse. As each year passed and she got older, realization kept sinking in. She knew it was a matter of time before the world knew about this ticking time bomb. She avoided relationships like the plague, always ensuring that she never got attached. Her mother cries of her not getting married and giving her grandchildren had now started becoming more and more distant as each day passed.

She wanted to tell her so bad but she didn’t know how. She knew she was different, and the dear Lord made her stand out like a sore thumb. How can she save her face, in a culture where family and children came first? Where her whole life she had been taught and instilled skills to run a family.Where her family name and hers were determined by her womanhood. Where she would be congratulated for her PhD. yet, the next question asked was whether she is married or she has kids.

She was a lost soul. She tried to become “westernized” for she saw that to them, you can grow something despite the curse you had. She traveled to places where no ordinary soul would dream to go whenever she got the chance. Yet in the end, the lacuna couldn’t be filled.

Then she met Lewis. And everything changed. For once she decided to live for the moment. And that moment turned out to be 8 months of nothing but love, laughter, peace, and tranquility. But now, she had to leave. She couldn’t rob him of the happiness that he deserved, as a man. She didn’t know how he would react. She didn’t know how he would respond if he discovered that she cant be the mother of his children. And as far as she could gather, it will crush him. With a dolorous and disconsolate mind and heart, she opts to leave, for good……..

To be continued…..

Via Nay Nay.

Mkeka: The fading gem

When my grandmother sent for me, I knew whatever she wanted to show or tell me was of importance and it couldn’t wait. Once at her place I was fed to the brim as usual,you know how grandmas are right? Done, she called me in her room that had this warmth and always felt like home. Next to her bed was the decorative mat, mkeka wa chole.

“Take it” she said.

Puzzled, I asked why. I knew I was supposed to be given one on my wedding and so i couldn’t understand why she was giving me one then.

“You are different and you will need it. And maybe when the day comes, I might not be here to hand this to you”, she said in a frail loving voice.

Baffled, I sat next to her on her king size bed draped with silky sheets.

“I know you already know how important the mkeka is. And I want you to pass this down to your children’s children because we are living in a world that is evolving as the sun rises.”

As of this very moment, as I write this, very few of us do possess a mkeka and we all  know the cultural significance it has.

Mkeka’s importance in Swahili culture is also embedded with Islamic/Arabic culture. Mkeka is a woven mat, mostly used during the early days made from an indigenous palm tree found at the coastal parts of Africa. It comes from two Swahili words woven together- mke (woman) kaa(have a seat). Mkeka is mostly used as floor mat but it has other many usage such as wall hangings, table, prayer mats and on beds. But the most cardinal use is when one dies and it is used to wrap the body, then taken to grave.

Back in the day, a newly wed woman would be given one as a present for her new house. A brief reminder of the mkeka from grandmothers and aunts to her would go like this; “Mkeka huu, wafungua kwako, kama mama wa nyumba. Mkeka huu mtaswalia, mtakalia, mtalalia, mtapigana juu yake, mtapendana juu yake na
wakati wako ukifika wa kutokua mja hapa duniani, utakupeleka mpaka kwenye kaburi lako. Mtunze mkeka huu Kwani ndio ufunguo wa nyumba yako“(This mat will be of great significance to you as the mother of the house. You will play and pray on it,sleep on it,sit on it,cry on it, fight and love each other on it. And when your time to depart this world comes,this mat will carry you to the grave. Take good care of it as it is the key to your home).

These words are just an echo of what you’ve always known your entire life but now are transformed from being words to reality of the life one is about to embark after that day.

Mkeka nowadays has flourished from being a palm tree mat to sisal, string, clothes and many other materials. You will always find a mkeka in a mosque, the only thing separating the cold floor and one’s feet in the house of God.

Creativity has also played a huge part in mkeka evolution. You will get baskets, fancy wall hangings, table covers etc at coastal markets and other cultural shops. You will find it in Swahili houses but not on the floor. It will be wrapped somewhere in the corner, only used when necessary.

Mwacha mila ni mtumwa – A Swahili proverb.

So get your mkeka, be it for decoration, or any other personal use, beautify and preserve the culture.

Via NayNay.