Living in baboon country

Guys. I know I’ve lied about this before. That story about the baboon in my house was a hoax, and I apologize. I lied, and I’m sorry. You’ll be pleased to note that my remorse isn’t enough for the ancestors, and I’ll tell you why.

For the past few months, my home has been overrun by mummy and daddy baboons, and all their children. And man, those animals have a lot of children.

There are no dry spells in baboon country. Plus with Covid-19, I guess they have nothing else to do other than have sex and invade homesteads looking for food.

Can’t say I blame them. I’d also be hungry if I were making babies all the darn time. Anyhow, let me not veer too far away from the point, which is this: my household has been taken over by a family of four-legged primates who come and go as they please. They are a vicious lot who always leave behind a trail of destruction.

See, I used to have a kitchen garden, which was a great source of pride. If you’ve met me, then you know that I have two left thumbs, and none of them is green. So when my small-small veggie patch took root and flourished, I was super excited. I mean, my days of buying spinach grown in sewage were over. That was until the baboons showed up in their numbers.

They are so ruthless, those big-bummed buggers. Nothing is off-limits, even if they are not going to eat it. They uproot shambas line by line, ripping things out of the ground, smelling them and then throwing them away if they don’t tickle their brutish taste buds. I’ve ‘lived’ with them for months now, and I know what they like to eat, and what they love to destroy.

Avocados, bananas

Carrots, sukuma wiki, spring onions and capsicums are not their favourite. They are more partial to pawpaw, avocados, bananas (no surprises there) and, oddly enough, dog rice and peanut butter. No idea why.

Most of the things they like are found in the kitchen, so God only knows why they bother ripping my poor ‘shambalette’ to shreds every time they come around. Cruelty is a sport for these beasts. Then again, maybe baboons are from Mars, and humans are from Venus. Either way, after my latest face-to-face with a big ole monkey in my kitchen, my sister gave me a catapult, which we now fondly refer to as a ‘baboon gun’.

Shooting stones at baboons is our new sport. My house manager is a master in the art of stone-throwing (but does she say?), and flinging missiles at big monkeys has become a daily occurrence. Yes, I understand that they expend a lot of energy procreating and that this new coronavirus has reconfigured the food chain, but look, I’m not about to adopt a family of apes.

Kitchen garden

So, they keep coming, and we keep stoning them. They have babies, husbands, families, but we still stone them. They are tired, hungry and desperate to stay alive, yet we stone them. They are frustrated to the point of aggression, but we continue to stone them.

We do this with the confidence that we will always be around to protect our families or have the means to protect them in our absence.

Our strategy is to subdue and exclude. That’s it. We have kitchen gardens and kitchen pantries that we must hoard at all costs, even when we have the option to share. Even when we have the opportunity to create a system where both man and beast can eat and stay alive.   

It sounds a lot like the global power structure that is replicated in many countries around the world; this one included. People are tired, hungry, angry and desperate to stay alive, but governments keep stoning them, pushing them to their limits and then pushing them again.

After months of sharing my compound with baboons, I am well aware that they are getting to a point where they will no longer approach with stealth; instead, they will attack in anger and frustration. They will no longer settle for stolen bounties or reluctant donations from hoarding humans. They will attempt to gain control of the food supply, and that can only mean war.

If it does come to that, may the stronger primate win. Until then, I’m appealing to the Kenya Wildlife Service to manage the baboon encroachment problem that is affecting neighbourhoods across the capital, particularly those that border forests. I’m also appealing to every other government authority to stop treating tax-paying Kenyan citizens like baboons.

‘Rafiki’ is making enemies of people everywhere

I’ve met Ezekiel Mutua a couple of times, and you know what? He’s far less annoying in person. He’s not the intolerant ogre that he seems to be. He just has a funny way with words. Even if he’s saying something you might agree with, nine out of ten times, his delivery will change your mind. Which is all very unfortunate because he’s often at the centre of very important conversations. The type of conversations that we all desperately need to have. Like the one about Rafiki.

From the get-go, Rafiki should have given Kenyans an opportunity – yet another one – to decide how to situate homosexuality in the culture. Instead, it turned into a court case. Which is another thing, when did we become such a litigious society? Who died and made the judiciary the sole and eternal arbiter? Some of the things we ask the courts to mediate and pronounce themselves on are outside their moral jurisdiction. After all, they can only provide legal solutions. I often wonder why we have given lawyers and judges so much room to arbitrate our norms and traditions. Wouldn’t a social contract be much effective? I digress.

About Rafiki. It has been said that what you resist, persists. So, for as long as you refuse to deal with your issues they will continue to rise to the surface. The universe has a way of throwing the same hard stuff at you until you figure it out. And yes, the lessons keep coming until you learn them. This, my friends, is why the ‘gay question’ continues to arise. Because rather than tackling it head-on, with the willingness to remain objective and open-hearted, the heteronormative Kenyan collective refuses to engage. It’s easier to say that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and then to bury our heads in the sand.

Because rather than tackle it head on, with the willingness to remain objective and open-hearted, the heteronormative Kenyan collective refuses to engage.

And if it’s not un-African, then it’s un-Christian, which is strange because ‘African-ness’ in its purest form, has very little in common with Christianity. So being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, pansexual, non-binary, questioning, or whatever else can only be one or the other. For the most part.

The truth is that many ancient cultures, including those in Africa, acknowledged both the masculine and the feminine as divine energies that were not necessarily restricted to either the male or the female form. They recognized that there would always be a percentage of people – typically a very small percentage – that would embrace the fluidity of those energies. After all, every child is born of a man, and a ‘womb-an’, and therefore every child is somewhere on the spectrum between male and female.

Some cultures still believe that at both ends of this spectrum, there are gatekeepers, people who exist on the fringes of the traditional male/female dichotomy. In those cultures, these people typically embrace a form of sexuality that is other than the norm. And because of that ‘otherness’, they have a unique perspective, and an innate ability to apply unique solutions to everyday problems.

So, what we now call the LGBTQ community, has been around for as long as everybody else has. But for various reasons across the ages, the levels of tolerance for their existence have either risen or fallen. For instance, in post-war periods, when repopulation becomes a priority, focus typically shifts from sexual actualisation to baby-making, which is a natural function of heterosexual unions. That said, perhaps the most abiding reason for the discrimination against homosexuality – and gay men in particular – is the fear that being around them can ‘turn you gay’. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that if you turn gay from contact with a gay person, then you were gay, to begin with.

There is also the fear, particularly in the Kenyan context, that we are reaching a point of gay saturation, that there are too many gay people running around, and that that is somehow a threat to our nationhood. Look, even in America, where being homosexual has been accepted more and more over the years, the percentage of folks who identify as LGBTQ is less than 10 per cent. There is no chance of a gay takeover, not in the near future.

What we all need to do is live, and let live. How people express their humanity shouldn’t be such a great concern, especially if that expression does not infringe on your rights. The amount of time that is spent judging other people for their lifestyles could be better spent thinking about things that affect all of us as Kenyans. Like taxes.

 

ILLUSTRATION | www.pixabay.com

Just go with your gut

I was running late. If I didn’t leave by 10.30am, I was going to be behind schedule. At 10.28, just in the nick of time, I started the car. Two minutes later, I hit the accelerator. As I turned towards the gate, I came face-to-face with a truck in the middle of the driveway. A mother and child sat idly in the cabin. At the back, some guys were loading furniture. Someone was moving houses. Shucks, what were the odds?
I got out of the car and marched towards the cabin where the woman was now fiddling with the stereo. The child had his thumb in his mouth.
“I need to get out,” I spat.
Her head snapped up as if she hadn’t been aware I was standing there. Eye-roll.
“Uhm, they should be done soon,” she said.
Her arms were now holding the child tightly, as if to protect him.
“How long?” I asked.
At this point, my hands were on my hips, and there was no hint of patience in my stance.
“Uhm, two to three minutes …?”
“Are you asking or telling me?” I growled.
“Uhm, yah …may be three minutes.”
The child was now staring at me with eyes as wide as my childbearing hips. His mother’s eyes were also filled with apprehension. Looking at both of them, you would have thought I had the sign of the beast on my forehead. For a moment, I considered rubbing my hands together and belting out an evil laugh, but I was late. No time for theatrics. Seeing as these two weren’t going to help me, I moved on to the loaders at the back.
“Dakika ngapi mpaka mumalize?” I asked, in a comical translation of, ‘how long are you going to take?’
“Saa hii tu, mathe,” one of them said, before going back up the stairs.
Now my blood was simmering. Boiling point was not too far away. I could feel the flames on my face. With one huge breath, I filled my cheeks with enough air to float. Then I walked back to the car, got into the driver’s seat and slammed the door. It was 10.45.
I have to get passed this truck, I thought to myself, squeezing my temples with both index fingers. Can’t be that hard. There was a bit of space between the truck and the periphery wall which had initially seemed impossible to navigate. Now it was looking like the highway to heaven. So I got out of the car again and shouted to the watchman:
“Soldier, ebu kuja unisaidie kupita hii gari,” I yelled.
A few seconds later, he emerged from the gatehouse, whistling a tune, and seeming like the very embodiment of nonchalance.
“Sawa,” he said, one hand already beckoning for me to come forward.
I got back in the car and stepped gingerly on the accelerator, turning my wheels further towards the wall so as to avoid the huge bumper on the offending truck.
“Okay, kuja …kuja,” he said, his hand flapping back and forth like a traffic cop on steroids.
I inched forward, my eyes darting from the wall to the truck, trying to avoid contact with both.
“Wee, soldier, sita gusa?” I yelled.
“Hapana, madam. Wewe kuja tu… kuja.”
So I kept going, peering over the steering like a marabou stork. I managed to avoid scraping the wall but then I looked through the rear view mirror and realised that there was less than a centimetre between my back door and the front end of the truck. Reflexively, I jumped on the breaks stopping the car with a jolt.
“Wee, soldier, sita gusa? I asked again.
“Kuja tu, madam. Uko sawa kabisa,” he said.
I don’t know what makes drivers trust the direction of over-confident watchmen but whatever it is, it got me again. I turned my wheels away from the wall and moved forward. The next thing I heard was that familiar sound of metal grinding on metal. I closed my eyes and took yet another deep breath.
“Nimegusa?” I asked, in a low tone, hopeful for a miracle.
“Wueh. Haki umegusa, madam.”
My head dropped onto the steering wheel in complete frustration. When I looked up, the ‘soldier’ was standing there chewing on a toothpick, without a care in the world. Mother and child were still in the cabin, as idle as they ever were. And it was 11.00 am. Now, I was late for sure.
The moral of this story? Carry your own cross. Don’t follow the lead of folks who have nothing to lose should things go wrong.
ILLUSTRATION | FREEPIC

Baby, you get no love

There’s a guy I often see at the neighbourhood gym, and I use the word ‘see’ with much consideration. I see him often, but I have never once spoken to him. Not because he’s an elderly gentleman – I’d say about 65 – but because I go to the gym to convince myself that I can outrun my bad diet. To feel like I’m killing the fat monster, not just feeding it. I’m not there trying to look cute.

There is nothing cute about exercising. Burpees are not pretty. Squats are downright ugly. And no man wants to see a woman’s face when she’s lifting weights. It’s not something that he will want to remember later. And let’s not even get into the uncontrollable breathlessness, outpouring of sweat, and less-than-floral scents that waft across gym floors when humans try to make fat a by-product of their over-indulgent lifestyles, rather than their only reason for living. So yeah, the story goes that working out is good for you, but let’s be honest, for most people it’s not a good look.

With that being said, I don’t hop on the treadmill expecting to make a love connection, which is why this gentleman caught me flat-footed with his advances. Sure, I’ve seen him sneaking a peek at my Luyhia assets when he thinks I’m not watching. And yes, sometimes he’ll enter into my line of site and begin to stretch his muscles with a flamboyance that should be reserved for a peacock fanning its feathers. I would even go so far as to say that he pushes himself to the physical extreme to get my attention.

Even with all that, I really didn’t expect him to make a move. But then, one day as I’m huffing and puffing on the cross-trainer, crying salty tears and cursing the exercise gods, he comes up to the machine right next to mine and begins to fiddle with it. I figure he’s up to his usual shenanigans so I level up and begin to step even faster, hoping that he’ll get the hint and leave me alone. Next thing I know he’s leaning in.

“Sweets,” he says. “You are so energetic, eh?”

For a second there I almost lose my balance. Ati sweets? Wow. What was it about my gapless thighs, stinky armpits and perpetual grimace that made him think of sweets? More than that, when did we graduate from zero communications to the language of lovers? The whole thing got me thinking about the future of male/female relations.

See, just because I had never said a word to him didn’t mean I hadn’t noticed him. I figured he’d look better in a suit than he did in stinky sweatpants and well-worn rubber shoes. Most likely he was some kind of boss. Most likely an industry big wig with a big job and a stash of cash. And yeah, had I been 20 years younger and dumber, I might have envisioned a prosperous future between this dude and my bank account.

But as things stood, I was in the gym to lose my love handles, not to get a handle on love. I wasn’t in the market for either romance or finance. I just wanted to keep fit, and ‘sweets’ were definitely not part of my diet.

So I mumbled something incoherent in response and jabbed at the arrow button so that it took me to level 12. After that I didn’t have enough oxygen to engage, and my would-be paramour slinked off to another piece of gym equipment from where he proceeded to work himself into a sulky frenzy. He hasn’t spoken to me since.

I observed two things from this event. One, there is little hope for mature relationships when a 65-year-old man can get mad because a girl in the gym was mean to him.  And two, I have become so disenfranchised with our current political leaders that I would rather write about my gym membership than our repulsive and premature pre-election machinations.

I refuse to be burdened with a 2022 state of mine while living in a 2018 world. It’s about time we all got weary of being manipulated by schemers who will only be satisfied by the sweet taste of conquest. These high-level power games that we continue to spectate upon from the stands will inevitably turn into hunger games where voters are habitually thrown to the lions. And while everything in life is political it’s time we rejected the advances of a toxic political leadership and focused on working out how to establish governance systems that put people first.

Of banging, bedrooms and boardrooms

 

There is more than one way to skin a cat. More than one way to milk a cow. Many ways to climb a tree. Numerous paths up a mountain. And two ways to progress in your career. These two ways apply whether you’re a man or a woman.

First is the good old-fashioned route. Study hard, get a job, work hard, rise up the corporate ladder. If you know a few people who know people, then maybe you make quicker headway than your peers; the ones who are relying purely on their education, experience and willingness to rack up the man hours.

This is the traditional model of career progression. Scores of Kenyans can testify to its effectiveness. It might take a while, and the journey to the top may take more out of you than you thought it would. But it’ll be worth it in the end. There’ll be a sense of accomplishment. A sense of pride in what you have been able to achieve. A satisfaction that no one will ever be able to take away from you, whether you become a CEO, peak at mid-level management or spend your lifetime striving to rise from one job group to the next.

Unfortunately, there is one thing that education and hard work cannot guarantee, and that is success. They should but they don’t. You might have a briefcase full of degrees, an enviable work ethic, bucket loads of passion and pockets full of drive, and still end up at the back of the line. Hey, life happens and the gods do what they please.

So, at end of the day the traditional model may not work for everyone. Thankfully, there is life beyond the workplace. You can take apply your qualifications and your work ethic to all manner of gainful endeavours that do not require you to trade in your labour for a wage. You can become your own boss.

Or you can assume the missionary position and trade your body for a promotion. This model of career progression is perhaps even more traditional than the first. Since the very beginning of time men and women have traded sex for favours. It’s not a secret. It’s a fact.

But the fact that sexual transactions happen often within organised work environments doesn’t mean that we should be exchanging our HR manuals for the Kama Sutra. Not because of any moral argument, or the notion that if some people think it’s not right then it must be wrong. But because we need our sexual organs to reproduce; we do not need them to grow economy.

If you’ve risen to a position of influence based on your bedroom skills, there can only be problems ahead.

Because if countries could run on orgasms alone, sex work would be even bigger business. As things stand, if your brain is not engaged you won’t last very long.

Transactional sex can take you from the ground level to the boss level but it will rarely keep you there. Education, skill, experience, hard work, tenacity, grace – these are the things that can shoot your career into the stratosphere. It is often a long road, especially because there are no bedroom breaks along the way, but here’s the thing; making progress on your own steam is possibly more climactic than sex.

That said, if you’re an adult and you feel that your body can take you further than your mind ever will, you’re at liberty to make your own decisions. If you want to ride the wave of success on your back, that’s your prerogative. As long as you’re not being violated, what you use your privates for is entirely up to you.

Even then, as a working nation with a youthful population, we cannot allow ourselves to become comfortable in a world where sexuality trumps personality. Where pleasure trumps purpose. Beyond being unbelievably basic, it’s just plain stupid. The consequences of the sex-for-promotions phenomenon are plain for all to see and they do not restrict themselves to the individuals who participate – they pick at the very fabric of society.

So no, it is not possible to joke about men or women who “deploy their bedroom talents to get to the top”. It starts off funny but quickly turns dark. Of all the munition that the average adult can deploy in the workplace, the f-bomb is the least suitable. And if we knew any better, it would never leave the armoury.

 

 

The gospel according to Winnie Odinga

First things first: “Let them eat cake” is attributed to Marie Antoinette, who was the Queen of France and not a supposed princess. But in typical princess-like behavior, Winnie Odinga last week chastised Kenya’s mythical middle-class for creating slums and then scolding slum dwellers for taking their troubles to the streets.

“It is a complete lack of understanding to believe that people take to the streets because they are “commanded” to do so by politicians or the uppity assumption that they are unable to reason simply because they are lower class,” she wrote in a tirade that was posted on Facebook.

Aside from the fact that defining citizens in terms of class is crass, she just called “the Kenyan middle class” uppity. Oh yes, she did.

To be uppity is to take liberties or assume airs beyond one’s place in a social hierarchy. The word was used a lot by white folks during the American slave trade to describe Negroes who thought they were better than their skin colour. Black people who “violated white expectations of black deference”.

It was also used by ‘house slaves’ in relation to ‘field slaves’ who they deemed to be growing too big for their britches. House slaves were lighter-skinned and considered more genteel than the darker-skinned masses that were basically work horses, literally slaving away in the fields.

So, in my opinion, for Ms Odinga to dismiss the Kenyan middle-class as uppity is telling. You see, there are only two socio-economic distinctions in this country: the haves and the have-nots. Otherwise put, those who have money and those are trying to make money. In between is a fictional bourgeoisie which aspires to great wealth but is yet to reach the true heights of excess.

In Kenya, it makes more sense to segment society purely in terms of economics instead of social standing, meaning that one would say lower-income earners as opposed to lower classes. I say this because there are many high-income earners with no understanding of what it means to be culturally middle-class, leave alone truly elite. But moving right along.

If she used the word in the historical sense, she was essentially calling out all y’all uppity ‘field niggers’from her perch in the big house for violating her expectations of lower-class deference. Who do you think you are to address any other Kenyan as if you were better than them? You are not. In fact, you can’t even afford to pay your domestic worker Sh50,000 a month.  I mean, who pays their employees a Sh10,000 salary? Well, less Kenyans than you seem to imagine Ms Odinga.

If you are truly simplistic in your analysis of the facts, Ms Odinga has a point. There are many urban-dwelling Kenyans who are not paying their domestic workers enough to rent a “chalet in Muthaiga”. The thing is, for the most part, they are paying what they can afford to pay.It’s hard out here on these streets for everyone but the one-percenters. And it’s easy to pontificate from a position of historical privilege.

Look, I have nothing but respect for Honourable Raila Odinga. It is beyond commendable that an elder statesman of his stature still has the gumption to hit the streets to protest on behalf of a younger generation. A generation that really ought to have the good sense to join the struggle, whether or not they live in a slum.

But end of the day, ‘Protest Mondays’ are political and understandably so. Many of those young people are out on the streets not because they have real hope in the process but because they have nothing to lose. They are not hopeless because of aspirational folks who drive Japanese cars, enroll their children in ‘academies’, shop at Nakumatt Prestige and pay 10 000 bob a month for satellite TV.

They are hopeless because of a system that was designed to prop up a minority elite at the expense of the poor majority. The elite own car dealerships and schools and malls. They are the landed gentry of the 21st Century at whose feet all blame for inequity in the sub-strata can be rested.

So with all due respect ma’am, you cannot fault one ordinary citizen for impoverishing another. That’s bullshit. Excuse my French.

 

ILLUSTRATION | www.quotesgram.com

Oh, boo hoo …blow me a whistle

I have mad respect for media folk, you know, the kind that spend hours on air talking.  It’s not as easy at looks. Yeah, it’s not like digging in a shamba – it’s probably worse. At least when you’re in the shamba, you can let your mind wander.

You can go through a list of chores and chide yourself for throwing a pink sock into the bucket that you filled with Jik and all your white underwear. And then laugh out loud when you remember you soaked your husband’s undies first. The bugger should wash his own damn boxers any damn way.

Maybe that’s why I’m an unmarried parent. Hey, there’s not enough wife material to go around. When you’re dealing with something that was last manufactured in the 1950s, it can be hard to find. Buuut I digress. Back to the shamba.

You rest one leg on your jembe and make plans to acquire a non-carcinogenic wheelbarrow. Look into the horizon and imagine a plot full of kunde, which you will nurture to maturity with the subsidised fertiliser that has just been offloaded at the Port of Mombasa.

You calculate how much it will cost to transport the 10 litres of milk your dairy cow has so graciously allowed you to harvest from her udders, because your county government has just installed a cooler and Brookside will buy every last drop the heifer can produce.

You make a mental note to M-Pesa your chama treasurer on the 5thinstead of the 1st because your salo hasn’t checked in. Last time you spoke, she was gushing about some hare-brained scheme that involved bidding for a tender. You balked at first but hey, ain’t nothing wrong with being a PYT – pretty, young tenderpreneur.

And just like that, the day has come and gone. Before you know it, you’re back in the house going to war with your toddler and losing, never mind all the muscle you’ve been building on the farm.

Even then, you don’t have to speak because your kid is quite happy to talk to herself, and her nanny is so accustomed to communicating IN ALL CAPS via text message that she says nothing at all. Not even a lower-case whisper.

Now the folks on television? They don’t get the luxury of silence. They must open their mouths, enunciate and articulate whether they accidentally tie-dyed their husband’s undies or not.

Politicians on the other hand, abuse their right to remain silent with a constant flow of verbal diarrhoea. Their mouths are literally open sewers. And when they’re not stinking up the House, they are white washing it with lies. Yeah, it’s not like all of them are bad. Many of them are just plain ineffectual – and that is much worse.  Because the only thing necessary for the triumph of foolishness over common sense is for clear-thinking wo(men) to do nothing.

When ‘we the people’ have trusted you to open your mouth, enunciate and articulate on our behalf, you really shouldn’t let your mind wander while your mouth is still engaged. ‘Irregardless’, that’s the kind of nonsense we have been forced to accept. When a politician speaks, and a citizen is not there to hear it, it is still inconsequential.

That said, yesterday’s whistle-blowing shenanigans on the floor of that most comedic House may have been of even less significance. As an act of protest, it was lacking in finesse. For a moment there, I almost wished for the dissenting politicians to speak. Hard to imagine, I know. By the end of it, none of what the President said stuck because the true state of our nation had already played out on centre stage. It’s hard to say which side of the political divide will rise from the sewer smelling like their poop doesn’t stink. Probably both. There can only be one loser in this trifecta and that loser is us. What can I say? Shit happens.