A DAY IN MY CHURCH.

cross

Where I go to church, we refer to ourselves simply as “Church of God”. We love life here. There’s lots of laughter and jubilation and a certain obsession with other people’s lives which some will argue is simply good old concern. Above all though, we have absolutely no regard for time-keeping.   Our services are characterized with lots of shouting (in jubilation), screaming (involving being screamed at by the preachers and the screams from those possessed by the Holy Spirit) and a general merry making. On a typical Sunday, the main service begins sometime after 11:00 am, though the appropriate time should be 10:00. The pulpit always comprises of the priest, his/her assistant, someone who will lead in the spontaneous songs that pepper our services, the person who will lead all prayers, the head of youth and any senior pastors within the church’s vicinity. On the side, in an area designated for them, sit our very jubilant choir. Right next to them sit our elite and very busy secretary and treasurer. We the congregation gather two steps below.

My first interaction with church was back in the day when going for Sunday School was a rule cast in stone and adhered to by everyone. My mom ruled with an iron fist when it came to Sunday school. There were simply no compromises. She always whisked us out of the house bright and early every Sunday morning. The Sunday School teacher who put the fear of the Lord in us, literally, was popularly known as “Teacher Danger” (I still do not know her actual name). And dangerous she was when it came to ensuring you attended all classes, memorized the Bible verses that were mandatory every other Sunday and ensuring you participated in the numerous inter-church competitions that occurred every so often. So strict was she on attendance that she would visit the homes of absentee students. Her colourful verbal delivery of reports and efficiency in convincing parents that the child was going to burn in hell always inspired enough zeal to attend her sessions.

The other day I tagged along to a friend’s church located in one of the leafy suburbs in Nairobi (and one of the reasons I am writing this today). The stark differences stood out from the get go. For starters, the priest started the sermon at the strike of the hour; never mind at the time we were less than a quarter of would be congregation. People slowly trooped in as the service progressed. Then there was the affluence and basic wealth which oozed off people’s skin. Everyone was polite to a fault and apologies were offered for virtually no reason at all. Hundreds of cars jammed the parking lot; a major difference from my church where there rarely ever even is a need to reserve space for cars. Then there was the offering. People here offered cheques. This offering was quickly transported to safety even before the service ended. Even the sermon had a different ring to it. While priests back home focused on encouraging us all to persevere in the little we have been blessed with and for wives to not let jealousy or quarrelsome habits break their marriages, the priest on this side for the most part focused on delivery of the sermon. The few times he veered off topic he spoke about therapy and mental health and taxes. At the end of the service as I walked out, I had spoken to exactly two people the entire time; my friend and the usher who pointed me to seats. In my church, conversations start at the entrance as the usher points you to your seats and just to be sure, we all line outside the church and shake hands with everyone at the end of the service.

Churches are sacred and as varied as can be. Wikipedia tells me they date back to as far as the first century. Some practices still astonish me at my church though. Such as reserving separate rows for males and females. Or the vehemence and, in my opinion, unnecessary wrath with which preachers deliver their sermons. Or the imploration and demand that manifests whenever it is time to give offerings. So surprising as well is the fact that so many families started within our reasonably small the church. Within the youth group, so many people were paired up, as I soon learnt. I will reserve judgement on many other things though because I really know very little when it comes to churches and religious practices.

Above all though, the relationships people have with their Creator are personal, so intimate and as varied as can be imagined. From outside looking in one can hardly understand or know what actually goes on.

Advertisements

POVERTY

poverty

Let me tell you about poverty.

It is a lifetime of perpetual lack of security about the source of your next meal. The accepted knowledge that in a country like Kenya where money literally talks, some doors are never going to be accessible to you. It is living with the stench that poverty brings with it because let no one lie to you, poverty stinks. It is living with unwanted burdens. Being saddled with pathetic humility that leaves you shaken and uncertain in the face of wealth. With poverty, there is some level of nonchalance that might be misunderstood for contentment but in reality, it is hopeless resignation. So many Kenyans are poor. And not theoretically. The vicious poverty cycle is so established in some parts of the country there is absolutely no light for these people fumbling in the musky dark.

Street families exist in Kenya. Families so used to going to bed hungry it is a surprise when they actually have food on the table. Families with absolutely no notion of what decent shelter or comfortable beds feel like. People who have no idea what happens on the other side of town because it is illegal to even set foot there. Families which perish in diseases considered trivial such Malaria or the common flu; diseases that can be easily treated. Families which are ever in fear of starvation or malnutrition. There are people so abused and so harassed by the existent systems, they no longer care which way things go.

You need not look too far to realize that Kenya as a country is unfairly skewed (of course in favour of the wealthy). Your mama mboga, your barber who relies on that 100 bob to make ends meet. That shoe shiner at the bus stop. Or that newspaper vendor so determined on shoving those unwanted newspapers through your car window. The guards who spend entire days opening doors for people who barely glance their way. People who have been in ardent search for employment the previous 7 years with still no leads. People are struggling with enterprises that make so pitifully little it is no wonder saving is virtually impossible.

Poverty, like slavery, is NOT a choice. And maybe, just maybe if things actually worked like they are supposed to people would not have to continue living in these deplorable conditions. Maybe it is time we called to book those to whom we entrust with our economy. We do not pay taxes to have the government not deliver. Them giving us the best they can offer is not an option, neither is it a favour they are doing us. When the government is so keen on collecting taxes and viciously fining everyone with outrageous amounts, yet the keenness is somehow lost when it comes to allocating the funds and following up on the usage then we need to speak out.

THE SHAMBLES THAT IS KENYA’S EDUCATION SYSTEM.

kenya school

You know what is sadder than pleated pants? Our education system. From overcrowded classes, to overworked and underpaid teachers to a system that is rigged and flawed, so many kids are doomed. The problems are many. And you would have to be living underneath a rock to not notice the terrifyingly poor structures that should be classes where learning goes on. Kenyan pupils are forced to spend years upon years cramming content they are never going to apply in their day to day lives. Content that they dutifully reproduce during national exams and forget before walking out of the exam rooms.

I was in class one going to class two, when former President Kibaki introduced the much celebrated free primary education. Kenyan kids poured into various public schools in their thousands. Suddenly 90 pupils were expected to fit and somehow learn in a class taught by one teacher. Sitting desks, rickety as they were, had to manage four pupils when they are designed to accommodate two. Those of us who were unable to squeeze into those desks had to sit on floors and use laps as writing surfaces. Obviously, with this new development teachers couldn’t afford to look into individual students’ progress. We basically moved through the years to make room for the incoming classes so much so that in class seven, some of my classmates could not read and comprehend basic English sentences. In class eight quite a number of us could not do basic arithmetic, months before sitting for our KCPE exams.

The 8-4-4 system that is currently in play is doing the whole country a huge disservice. That so many of us have been through such an unfortunate system is exasperating. We are in a system that is essentially a cycle of content cramming, regurgitation during exams and proceeding with the content being forgotten almost immediately. This regurgitation culminates in class eight and form four when we are required to sit for our national exams, administered uniformly across the country with total disregard of all the non-unifying factors. The gist of these national exams is that students across the country are forced to compete on a platform that should not even be there in the first place, exhibit their skill in answering questions and somehow succeed in life. Primary school kids are expected to quantify the magnitude of eight years of learning in five measly papers.  A series of exam papers over a couple of days for KCPE and weeks for KCSE are tasked with the crucial duty of determining who goes where and does what. Fates are sealed from this single assessment.

The real crime though, in my opinion, is in the thousands of Kenyan students currently undertaking undergraduate studies in various universities, with virtually no prospects of getting employed. The misconception that being in possession of a degree will land you a job is hurting many people. The number of unemployed degree holders in Kenya is preposterous. Young people with degrees ranging from prestigious courses like engineering all the way to marine archaeology are thoroughly tarmacking. People who managed to graduate with first class honours have joined the burgeoning crowd of unemployed young people. Courses pursued at universities which employers shun with commitment continue to receive thousands of new entrants every year. After KCSE results were announced, KUCCPS and by default GoK, reckoned that I should pursue a course in Library Management at Chuka University. I do not know what logic is used in assigning these courses or the number of libraries in Kenya requiring four years of university learning to be managed. I do know though that so many people end up pursuing courses they feel obligated to do because they could not qualify for what they actually aspired to. There are numerous universities in Kenya but employers favour a select few.

Things need to change and so much needs to be done. There has been talk about converting the system from the current 8-4-4 to a grade 1-12 system. High schoolers will then only study that which they plan to pursue in university which indeed is a win for us. But more, way more, needs to be done. Parents will do well if they started inculcating value and passion in their kids’ career choices. And teachers need to be trained better, employed more and have their grievances looked into. It would also immensely help if public school facilities were improved. And by all means, we the society need to stop looking down on blue-collar careers. Plumbing is not in any way lower compared to accounting. And in my opinion, it beats common sense when laptops for class one kids are even an option when we have students learning under trees. Priorities seem a little misplaced when it comes to some Kenyan policies.

LET’S TALK POETRY.

160455065-640x640

I say poetry is special; the kinds of poems that ground you in a few lines. Poets, I believe, are actually fitting of the over-abused “creative” title. I should pause here and point out that whatever passes for a poem has to be poetic at the very least. That some pieces of literature which are in essence paragraphs of prose broken down into various stanzas are referred to as poems simply saddens me. There needs to be diction, some involvement of imagery. A good poem, from my limited perspective, needs to be captivating and concise. You cannot and should not tarnish this great literary genre by your very bland and random phrases which are hanging together by the good Lord’s grace.

I am however generally not aroused by poems. I don’t go out of my way to read poetry. Sure, once in a while I stumble upon some impactful pieces but that is all there really is. The way I see it though, poets of the ancient times were different creatures. The likes of William Yeats, Shakespeare and Maya Angelou. These poets in my mind are almost akin to scientists; lost in their own worlds and governed by their own disciplines. They go about suffering from delicious pain and muttering to themselves as they develop masterpieces that will be read and recanted for centuries to come. Poets never speak too much lest they lose some of their creativity in meaningless prattle. The creative process that is ever underway has a life of its own which as a creative, you must be subservient to. These poets, it seems fitting, used manuscripts to jot down rousing sentences in magnificent strokes. Dark mysterious rooms usually tucked at the far end of the hallway, or in the attic, away from bothersome humans are the only rooms fitting of their activity.

Modern day poets are many and rightly gifted. It is no easy craft; this poetry business but poorly written ones stick out like a sore thumb. In this current age, when creatives are everywhere with their signature dreadlocks and careless dress-codes, it is imperative that everyone puts effort in their work.

Speaking of which, my younger sister fancies herself a poet. She is quite good to be fair, but we are never going to hear the end of it. Now that Lydia is able to get by poetically, our status notifications never rest; our inboxes are ever buzzing with new pieces she has come up with or scavenged from the various fandoms she has joined. I mean, what do we mere writer-wannabes know?

I’m leaving here this piece I came across; so deep I actually shed three drops of tears. It is an excerpt from Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun book.

 

“WERE YOU SILENT WHEN WE DIED?“

Did you see photos in sixty-eight?

Of children with their hair becoming rust:

Sickly patches nestled on those small heads,

Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust.

Imagine children with arms like toothpicks,

With footballs for bellies and skin stretched thin.

It was kwashiorkor—difficult word,

A word that was not quite ugly enough, a sin.

You needn’t imagine.

There were photos displayed in gloss-filled pages of your Life.

Did you see? Did you feel sorry briefly,

Then turn round to hold your lover or wife?

Their skin had turned the tawny of weak tea

And showed cobwebs of vein and brittle bone;

Naked children laughing,

As if the man would not take photos and then leave, alone.

BEAUTY, TALENT AND LIFE.

door

Everyone supposedly has a talent. This I assumed to be true not because I am generally surrounded by talent but because you hear something often enough, you start believing it. I always struggled with this though, because to date I am still not absolutely sure about what my talent really is. And it can be quite excruciating when you keep being told that you are living below your potential by not capitalising on your talents. The way my mind worked, I would imagine the world was losing out on someone like Beyoncé or Serena Williams or all those people who are incredibly good at what they do simply because I was not using my talents. I would worry my little soul because the way they told me, talent was supposed to be unmistakable; you just knew you were talented. Only I did not “just” know. Thirteen year old me lost numerous hours of sleep worrying about this.

That “just knowing” narrative is yet to work on me. So I decided to go with what I enjoyed doing, which is playing with words. Overtime I came to accept my talent lied somewhere along usage of words, I am not sure what exactly though. Blogging seemed like the most natural thing to venture into. This blog was something I should have started earlier but because I am a procrastinator and because I shoot to the difficulty before starting, I always pushed the need aside convincing myself that I was going to start; one day. Then the day came, and on that bright Wednesday morning, I put up my blog with a solitary introductory post. The idea was, still is, that the blog would prompt me to write more often and hopefully get better. This should be my 13th post.

My relationship so far with my site (it still sounds slightly foreign to me; this my site business) continues to be that of a don’t poke, don’t disturb nature. Typically, I would log onto the site, put up a post then periodically check my stats and respond to any new comments. The arrangement has so far worked wonderfully. To my convinced mind, if the site is up and running then things are going great. Things have been great until recently when Word Press decided to put up a permanent reminder on my stats page encouraging me to upgrade from my current free domain. So each time I look at my statistics (basically my web traffic) I have to face this slightly plump woman, hands akimbo, smiling at me with a large signage at her side with the prompt button.

It is important to point out that my benefactors (that would be Word Press) have been cordial, and so helpful. In the spirit of making things easy for bloggers, Word press has this thing where you are given a one word prompt every day to write about. You then get suggestions and a list of similar worded articles. The prompt as I was writing this happened to be “Beautiful”. The various articles included a poem by a Tony Single and an article by a Photography Journal Blog titled “The Beautiful Normandy Coast”. Personally I think nights are beautiful. I think rainy nights are magnificent and above all I think a kind soul is the most beautiful thing anyone can possess.

Today I remind you to be beautiful human beings; whatever that means to each one of you.

 

PS: Every now and again I will be doing finance and/or economics related articles. Stay with me, will you? Besides, we can all do with some biashara lessons here and there in the midst of all the fun and laughter, yes?

ASHIKA CHRONICLES.

Ashika

The way she was brought up, Ashika understood there was a way things always worked. Rules were to be followed, authority was not to be questioned, and above all, the approval of your elders counted most. Her parents, particularly her dad, was a firm believer in not sparing the rod lest the child got spoilt rotten hence thrashing was never too far.  In a single room where six siblings struggled to fit, rules were rules, period. Errors were thoroughly frowned upon and dealt with even more ruthlessly. The only thing that guaranteed worse punishment was poor performance at school.  Ashika, in an environment where the surest and safest way to live without beatings was to follow instructions and do exceptionally well in school, decided to focus on school work.  No one noticed the little girl who was quietly getting obsessed with outward approval. There were entirely too many children in the house, with too many more urgent needs to worry about.

Thus grew Ashika. Keen on pleasing, never questioning authority and almost anxious to conform. With this obsession came individualism and inherent selfishness. The need to be the best and loved by adults overtook everything else. Approval from teachers at school, from neighbours who would send her on errands and from her parents became the reason for her living. Being the best regardless of how many backs she stepped on along the way was all that counted. Her zeal was erroneously mistaken for competitive energy and infectious ambition. No red flags were raised and Ashika became the example parents used to warn their erring children. Her school grades were stellar, the praises from teachers and neighbours would make any parent proud and the future seemed promising enough. Absolutely no one saw any reason to worry.

As was expected Ashika did well in her KCPE, though some had harboured hopes that she would appear top in the country. The high school she landed on was renowned and ranked high among its peers; only the best made it here. Ashika found herself amongst young entitled girls who had grown up being told they were the best, that nothing could stop them. The rivalry and sheer need to outdo each other took unprecedented heights. Hormones, esteem issues and strong personalities ravaged through teenage bodies for superiority. Ashika, tossed in this new melee, did what seemed most reasonable. She burrowed deeper into her books. She toiled and sacrificed friendships and personal development for good grades. The world revolved around books, always books. Midterms and holidays were spent trying to finish assignments and everything else in between. Sadly though, there can only be one winner and no matter how hard Ashika tried, she always fell short of that top position. She would be within the vicinity and her name would feature somewhere around the top, but that top price was ever elusive.

At the end of her four high school years, the girl who walked into the eager talons of the world was naïve beyond belief, totally oblivious to the world’s reality and so green on male-female interactions. A painfully shy girl who had grown up believing self-worth depended on others’ opinions and always being the best was about to learn the world was no level ground.

There are things no one tells a wild-eyed eighteen year old. Things not quite covered in school syllabuses. Simple lessons about boy-girl relationships. And self-esteem. Lessons about the absolute importance of having clear cut and precise personal standards and values. In this new world where Ashika was finally not buried in books, she realised that life-long relationships had been created, that people had worked on developing their social skills. Hobbies and talents had been honed. In this fascinating new world, Ashika realised that there existed men, so many men, who would do anything for a lay. Men who were driven crazy by a pair of female legs, any pair. To her dismay, Ashika realised that the way life is set up, way more than just books was required to navigate the rowdy Nairobi streets. No one cared about your stellar grades if you could not think beyond classroom guidelines. Ashika was only just realising that most of what she had spent years learning would never apply in her life.

The downward spiral happened soon and fast. It was set off by KCSE results which fell slightly short of what she had expected. Ashika was unable to reach the minimum required points to pursue a degree in Medicine, which in her mind equalled prosperity. Anything but was a total waste of time. She was forced to settle for a different degree, at an institution she did not quite want to attend. She considered the course too easy. If she had been able to handle Chemistry’s mole concept without so much as a hitch in her stride, then Business and Finance were far too easy. The bare minimum was apportioned to school work. Most of her energy was focused on living this new world sprawled at her feet. This new world where every decision was left at her discretion. And where so many, both male and female, considered her beautiful. Social media would come up with new trends every time she blinked; trends she fought hard to keep up with.

Her life became governed by social media and all she picked along the way. Given her humble beginnings, her father, now cowed with age, could not provide for her acquired eccentric tastes. Ashika, it should be mentioned, had an exquisite pair of legs with a face and derriere to match.  Her endeavours became governed by what she stood to gain. If there was nothing in it for her, then it was not worth spending time on. Men were there to provide. Unfortunately, one’s physical appearances can only take one so far. New faces with tighter packs and perkier breasts are bound to always come around. Ultimately, Ashika found herself seeking men harder; same men who had hitherto sought her out with one-minded purpose. Her degree which she completed by sheer luck was proving useless in securing her employment.

When all is said and done, Ashika had come down to a shell of her former self. Dissatisfied with the world, shocked by the harsh realities in life and incapable of any real relationship. Worse still, Ashika had no real friendships to talk about. She joined the infamous group of Nairobi women who could smell successful men from a mile. Women who go about parading their seemingly flawless lives on social media meanwhile they are dying from hopelessness and an almost unquenchable thirst to fill voids in their lives. A question she struggles to answer is; where exactly did the rain start beating her?

MY VERSION OF TRAVEL DIARIES.

trvl

He who holds my heart thinks I do myself a disservice by not writing more often. There is no such thing as following the art and writing when inspiration strikes, he has said severally. Today, I am busy minding my own business, trying to salvage my wokeness by catching up on all I may have missed on social media when he pops on my screen and enquires on what I am writing. Of course I was not planning on writing anything today. In his typical self, he ended up insisting I write something, today. My comeback, I have no topic to write about.  Any suggestions, Mr. No Such Thing as Inspiration? He suggested I write on travelling, (how original, ha). So travelling it is. Fair warning though, this will not be as educational because I am not that well-travelled in Kenya, let alone outside the country.

I have been out of the country once, which also marked my first time in a plane. The trip was supposed to be educational but boy oh boy, did I have fun. I feel inclined to inform you that these my eyes have seen the insides of an airplane and various airports. That my feet have touched ground outside Africa, in Malaysia and Singapore, and my taste buds, those ones have had the misfortune of indulging in non-Kenyan bland fruit. I could go into detail of what it was like and all the beauty I saw in Singapore (I still get starry eyed) or the night life in Malaysia, but I will give my two cents on what I consider travelling to be.

People always talk about ensuring you travel the world while young. Before old age brings along with it brittle bones. My question has always been, with what money? Because if I am trying to make ends meet as is, how am I supposed to get enough money to buy a plane ticket and get to see Maldives Island. Fair enough, life is not necessarily easy and waiting for everything to fall in place before doing things will never see you move. But still. There are people who live life on the edge, insisting on grabbing it by the balls and “making it their bitch”; but that is not for everyone. Just as leaps of faith are not for everyone.  Before I venture into new territory, I have to plan for everything to the very last detail including which side of the bed I will sleep on. Things are notably so much easier now, with so many opportunities to take advantage of. Like Bonfire Adventures who are all but throwing incentives at us that will see us travel for free. Or exchange programmes or social media which is not short of people who managed to travel without incurring too many expenses. Truth be told, if you looked hard enough and in the right places you are likely to learn a thing or two about convenient travelling. Either way, stop shoving that narrative down people’s throats. Let people take bites they can chew at a time.

For those who are crying their pockets are not deep enough to sustain a trip to Tanzania let alone Brazil, I say travel your country first. Visit that national park that is one bus-ride from your house. Or the Museum which costs all of 300 shillings. Most of us have not Tembea’d Kenya apart from coast, our rural homes and the city. Start home, experience what our tourism has to offer then progress to Mauritius as your wallet gets fatter. Something else, try deal with issues closer home before going crazy about other continent’s issues. I find it absurd when a Kenyan who does not know the first thing about racial prejudice, is tickled by the existence of racism in America yet has nothing to say about all the injustices right here in Kenya. I mean, racism is senseless and unfortunate but how about we exercise the same zeal with issues back home. God knows we have more than enough to worry about. One of my lecturers once said that it is a sign of colonial brainwash when people go out of their way to learn foreign languages, like Spanish or French, meanwhile they cannot go two sentences in their own mother tongue without fumbling for words. I do not know about this tbh.

My two cents, live within your means. Do what works for you and when it really is not within your means, leave it be. No point in rendering yourself bankrupt because you could not wait to take that trip. Remember, honour and integrity should come above all else.  And I do not know about you, but having enough to see me through the month ranks higher than seeing snow.