The Burden of Beauty and other stories

One day, during a Chemistry lesson in high school, the teacher told me, in jest, to go ask my mother who my real dad was. Ati,

“Wajaruo hawakuwangi weupe hivyo.”

Translation: People from the Luo community are not light skinned.

I laughed it off. He knew my dad and they were a little more than acquaintances, thanks to the number of times my dad was called to school because of one thing or the other. You guy! I was quite the teenager. Sorry Mrs. Gakuya! Also, because Nakuru really is a small town. Ballgum.

In hindsight, I think that’s when I really became aware of my complexion. Previously, no one really voiced out the oddity of my ethnicity and skin tone. It wasn’t strange for me because my parents and siblings were not the darkest breed either. I didn’t think it was a superior, preferred feature, until I came to Nairobi to chase that journalism dream.

As a newbie in Nairobi walking along River road, my attention would be drawn to the women lining up outside dingy looking stalls. “Mrembo ingia tukurembeshe. Utakuwa smart.” It took me a while to understand that they were not keen on my nails or hair. It was my skin they were interested in transforming. I found it baffling, to say the least.

On one end, random men would cat call me (still do) using the phrases ” rangi ya thao/pesa” “pointy” and “msupa,” alluding to how appealing my skin color was. How extra beautiful it made me. I won’t lie. As much as the calls bordered on harassment, there was a sense of, “Oh wow! I am beautiful! The world approves!” Oh youth! The hilarity of it all. On the other end of the spectrum, these women, maybe more keen on making money, thought that my skin still had endless potential on the whiteness scale.

I have never been tempted to see how far I can go, but perhaps that’s privilege speaking.

My dark skinned sisters and brothers may have different stories to tell – about how they were always the ones on the receiving end of nasty, degrading jokes because of the color of their skin; how they were not always the first to be approached by the cute boys in school; and how certain professions were a dream because people like them were not accepted. And so forth and so on.

Sad, unfortunate truths.

Those of us on the lighter end of the spectrum are believed to have had it easier in life. Mostly. That our complexion has at least opened doors that have otherwise been slammed on the faces of the darker counterparts. It might have favored some people, but for some of us, we have had to work as hard as anyone else.

I would, cautiously, like to submit to you that my complexion hasn’t opened no doors for me anywhere! No more than my height has gotten me playing in WNBA league. In fact, ever since the revolution began to get Africans to go back to factory settings – to love themselves proper, the light-skinned humans on this side of the world have had to work even harder to dispel the airhead stereotype. Believe it or not, I get the sense that the darker ones are the privileged ones these days. I am however cognizant of the work that has been put in to unscrew the hinges.

Remember when Lupita Nyong’o made that moving speech about her conversation with God when she was a little girl?

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

I believe this speech, and the conversations that sprung from it brought the focus nearer home of how oppressed we have been as a people. One of us spoke, on an international platform, during a major event, about just how much our rivers of self esteem issues run deep. How much the larger concept of whiteness had, and continues to, distort our view of beauty.

This past week, watching a feature on one of the local stations about the trend that is skin lightening among Kenyans, I thought of how the dynamics of complexion, colourism and perceived benefits have shifted but remained constant over the years. I don’t know if that makes sense.

The gospel of beauty in diversity has been evangelized across the country, continent. Black is beautiful, in whatever shade. You should feel bold in your skin. Empowered. Embrace your glow. All the chapters and verses have been read, yet ultimately, it still remains a choice issue. Once you hear the truth, do you believe and walk ye in it or decide to seek your version of truth? Both are valid, only if they don’t lead to self destruction. But that is neither here nor there. Some people just want to enjoy the experience, however brief. A young lady interviewed said she began bleaching her skin because she admired her light skinned sisters and thought they were the epitome of beauty. When she began using the creams and pills, people began complimenting her and that affirmed her more than she thought it would. She does not regret her choices. One man was asked if he was happy and satisfied with the choice he had made to lighten his skin;

“No” He answered. “I would be happier if I got something stronger to do the work once and for all.”

Tragic comedy.

I recently encountered on a Facebook group a post by a woman who claimed to have gone back to her original complexion after years of using lightening products. Her own husband had never seen her as a dark skinned African woman. She owed the fact that she had not suffered any of the alleged side effects of bleaching to her using legit expensive products. She did what made her happy at the time, and that’s how life should be lived, she said.

Look. Life is funny. Funny haha and funny weird. Every one has deep sitting insecurities. I hope we can learn to confront our innermost beings and uproot these demons from the roots. The more we keep trimming the shrub edges for aesthetics sake, the more the roots entrench deeper into our souls and suck all the truth that is our ultimate beauty.

Peace out.

Oh, wait. If no one else tells you today, here, catch!

You are amazing, just the way you are!

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Apologies, Matatus and Bananas

First of all, my team and I would like to apologize for not posting an article last week. We can pretend that we were overwhelmed by important meetings and tasks, but no – this was pure laziness. We promise to do better.

Also, it is only me on my team.


No one:

(Me): I know you were expecting a post last week. I apologize….


Right. Now that that’s out of the way, shall we get to this week’s instalment? Great!

In February 2017, I went to Rwanda for a week-long vacation. Most of my time in the country was spent in the capital city Kigali, but I did venture out to the East towards the end of my stay.

If you have been to Rwanda, you know how clean and well manicured the country is! One is even tempted to eat off the tarmac. Are you ever overwhelmed with curiosity and awe when you see people in these western movies get on beds and couches with their shoes on? You know we can’t do that here in Africa. At best, you will get a proper tongue lashing as to why you did not leave your shoes outside. But I think Rwanda is inching closer to the ‘cool’ kids bench. No wonder it was named the cleanest country in Africa.

The most shocking urban phenomenon in Kigali for me though, was how safe it is to use your gadgets in public vehicles. Humans were busy completing assignments on their laptops during the commute or scrolling away mindlessly on their phones. Shock. Nairobi has taught me things, keep everything in your bag and don’t sleep! Try not to breath either, or you might inhale things that may initiate a twenty-four hour black out. It is what it is.

***

The leg room in this bus is by far one of the best I have seen in Nairobi. I am comfortable. Comfort is unusual in matatus (public service vehicles), especially during the evening commutes. One has to bear with the conglomeration of after work colognes and perfumes and after work sweat. Not to mention the tired neighbor who wants to use your shoulders as headrest as they relish naps only interrupted by potholes. What I am saying, is that I am comfortable, and I am grateful.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the hard copy book I have been reading. I can’t be on my phone and I don’t want to speak to my neighbor despite the fact that she actually looks like the type that would respond to rants about the shortage of tampoons in supermarkets in Kenya. So I look outside.

Nairobi traffic is being its characteristic self at 6:30pm; slow and noisy. I stop obsessing over how late I am going to be for my meeting. Instead, these two boys catch my attention.

They had crossed the road with strange urgency, one of them carrying a sack. Whatever was in there must have been very valuable, just by the way he was handling it. I expected them to jump over the barrier, but was caught off guard when they both fit through those narrow rails separating the roads. It actually saddened me for a moment, wondering how skinny one had to be to fit through that space with little or no struggle.

Now safe on this other side, they put the sack on the ground, sit down and begin sifting through the contents. It soon becomes apparent that they had collected reject bananas from the adjacent Muthurwa market and were settling down to feast on the spoils. Dinner. I know it is bad manners to stare, but I can’t help it. I continue watching them.

One of them picks a banana, peels it carefully, eats the eatable parts and then gently places the peel on the ground with both hands. He is very intentional. I am intrigued. I shift my attention to the other one.

His technique is different. He selects, eats and then throws the waste onto the ground without a thought. Repeat. Meanwhile, the other one now has a couple of peels in a row.

Making sure the window is tightly shut, I fish for my phone from the innermost compartment of the handbag and quickly take a picture.

My neighbor looks confused. What could be so interesting to warrant a phone loss risk?

I remember reading somewhere that one should eat no more than one banana a day. In fact, health enthusiasts recommend half a banana. Something to do with sugar levels and weight. Privilege. The boys are on their fifth or sixth pieces. They seem happy, or maybe content. They speak and laugh with the sort of ease that would be evident between friends. It is beautiful to watch.

A few minutes later, as traffic begins moving steadily again, an older guy joins them and is allowed to share the meal.

We move another two hundred meters before we stall again. There is a rugged guy leaning against an electricity pole outside my window. He is lost in thought and looks suspect. Or maybe he is just hungry. I don’t know. I have seen many things today. Best not to over-think.

Oh, I am definitely going to be late.

The Homework Question

Here is a question…

Do parents approve of teachers giving homework? Do parents enjoy helping their children with homework? Do parents ever want to help with homework?

Ok. Those were questions. I beg your pardon.

A few days ago, I was early for a mid week prayer service I attend at one of the churches in Nairobi. It was around 5pm, home time for kids attending the school run by the church. Parents and guardians were already waiting for their children. Some went straight home, while others made a snack stop at the cafeteria. I sat on one of the seats at the garden, passing time, observing.

Earlier, on my way to my seat, I had walked past a woman who was helping her son with homework. She was caucasian, and her son looked like he could be around six years of age. They were working through some English homework but it seemed she had to explain concepts in their native language. Now seated, I watched as her agitation grew by the second. Her son was really calm. His feet swung beneath the seat. Nothing to show that his mother’s impatience at his lack of comprehension was getting to him. Meanwhile, mum just looked like she wanted this over with.

At my table, another pair of mother and son were going through the same motions, homework, except the mother was on phone three-quarters of the time. She did maintain a hawk-eyed gaze towards the notebook, often halting her conversation to scold or say something like,

“Why are you crossing out? Be sure of your work! You are being untidy!”

Meanwhile, I am seated there declaring to self that I am not ready for children! What is this stress?

Growing up, I don’t remember my folks helping out with homework. It was supposed to be done by the time they got home. Otherwise, what were you doing? Handbooks needed to be signed everyday, just to make sure they had looked at our books, in the least. They simply asked, “Umemaliza homework?” They trusted us, so they signed the handbooks when we answered in the affirmative. Plus, if you grew up in the 80s and early 90s, lying to your folks was suicide. Please.

I personally hated homework. I wanted to spend the time after school playing kalongolongo, watching cartoons,reading story books, sleeping or just resting. More often than not, the work was done before I exited the school compound. I would have probably hated having to go through the works with my folks, because their fatigue knew no patience! Hehe. How do you even begin helping six children with homework? Tricky!

I have interacted with kids who confess that they would rather go to an older sibling or friend for help… “Dad just gets upset that I don’t know and pinches me.”
“Mum asks me why I did not pay attention in class.”

Many parents find it hard to say, “I don’t know.” I mean, even if they were the best in school, as most folks claim, a lot of time has passed and with it went the crammed knowledge. Adulting needs a whole lot of RAM to run, so we just clear space. You can not say you have forgotten either, that may make you look less awesome in your baby’s sight. There is no room for inadequacies.

A while back, there was a photo doing rounds on the Kenyan online space. Students had been restricted access to the school on opening day because they had not completed the homework assigned for the holidays. They had to sit outside the gate do the work. Many lauded this move by the teachers. Others simply questioned the point of mandatory homework during the holidays.

Then other schools took up that form of punishment…

I know of parents who believe that school work is the teacher’s mandate. Why are they paying school fees anyway? Would they not be homeschooling if they preferred being both parent and teacher? I mean, they are teachers already in their own right, and their curriculums do not come with prior training or reference books per se. Some are just winging it.
Aren’t school teachers trained to do this work? Why is there an expectation that parents can do the same, just because they are grown ups?

If either of your parents was/is a teacher, did they help with homework? What was that like?

Do parents who do not mind this extra task at the end of the day exist? How would you rather the system work? No homework? At what level? Primary? High School?

This debate is obviously not new, at least in the global sense. A good chunk of parents and students may lay blame on the teachers, but perhaps they are also victims of the system? As far back as 2009, teachers in the UK were advocating for a ban on homework in primary schools. One of the justifications was that “Many young pupils find the burden upsetting, damaging their relationships with parents.” There were also claims that homework eats into the already limited family time.

It has been norm that Kenyans mostly engage in education conversations at the beginning of the year when they have to buy expensive books and uniforms, or during teachers strikes. How about changing that frequency and diversifying the issues too?

14th Riverside Drive Terror Attack: Then and Now…

Then…

On Tuesday last week, Kenya was reminded of the ever looming threat of terrorism within its borders. First there was a blast, then gunshots, then messages on social media asking what was happening and cautioning people to stay clear of 14th Riverside Drive in Nairobi. Only, for a huge chunk of the populace who found themselves at the DusitD2 complex, that wasn’t quite an option. They were already at the center of it all.

15th of January is my brother’s birthday. Like every other year, I began the day by sending him a happy birthday text. There was nothing in the air to premonition the doom and gloom that was to hang over Nairobi, and indeed the country over the next couple of days.

At around 4pm, I happened to log onto Facebook for that habitual hourly scroll. A post, with a red background read,

“Approach Westlands with caution. Gunshots heard.”

I didn’t panic. I thought it was just a ‘normal‘ robbery. I whispered, “Oh God,” and logged out to take care of something. A few minutes later, responding to an urge to check on things, another post suggested tuning into one of the local tv channels.

They were not saying what it was, only speculating. Troops of men from the disciplined forces had already flooded the area. Journalists from different media houses were angling to get the scoop and relay it to anxious, clueless citizens at home.

Soon, it became apparent that this was a terrorist attack, and calls started coming through from within and without Nairobi, “Are you safe?” I was. So was my family, and my friends, so I thought…

For a while, I sat dumbfounded, watching the live coverage on TV, occasionally scrolling through my phone to see if social media had more than what the journalists on site were reporting. On Twitter some of the people inside the complex were sending mayday messages, some sending farewell messages to their loved ones.

Surely, not again. This wasn’t happening again! Not Westgate again!

Are you safe where you are?”
“Yes.”
“Where are you?”
“At home. Though I want to leave for town.”
“No! Don’t leave the house. You will go tomorrow!”

A friend pleaded with me.

For a while there, the shock had me grounded, but I later made my way to Jogoo road for Bible study fellowship.

Meanwhile, a friend had locked herself in the bathroom at work, worried sick for her brother who worked in the building. He was alive, yes, but who knew what every minute spent in that place meant?

“…heavy gunfire still going on…”

She later told me that she locked herself in the bathroom to avoid the numerous questions from well meaning colleagues – they only escalated her anxiety levels.

On my way to the fellowship, I called mum, who up until then, had no idea what was happening in Nairobi.

“Ai. Yawa.” She responded.

I asked her to follow the news online.

There was a somber mood at the fellowship. We, aptly, spoke about stress and prayed.

At 9pm, on my way back home, I ask my friend if her brother was okay.

[1/15, 9:30 PM] : Weh he finally got rescued
[1/15, 9:31 PM] : He has just gotten home

“Thank God!”

At 10, another friend responds to a message that had been posted on a Whatsapp group inquiring about the safety of the members.

“Had even started taking final selfies😰😰”
[1/15, 10:00 PM]: Gunshots.. Explosions..
[1/15, 10:00 PM]: But they got us out at 7:30
[1/15, 10:01 PM]: Home safe n sound..

What? This was hitting closer home than I had anticipated. The roller-coaster of emotions did not allow for a good night sleep.

On Wednesday morning, the reality of pain and loss became tangible. “RIP” messages started coming through. Some survivors broke the silence, somewhat relieved at their safety, yet shaken by the trauma of the experience.

Government officials were still warning people against sharing certain messages and reassuring Kenyans that the forces were working to rescue hostages. By evening, fatality and body count reports had started coming in. At least 21, including a General Service Unit Officer, had lost their lives. About 700 had been rescued. Others were still missing.

Photos of two of the assassinated terrorists were plastered online and people celebrated their deaths. Do they ever hope to come out alive? I couldn’t celebrate. They had taken away lives. Such senseless killing. Like, what’s the point?

“A terrorist has no color, tribe or religion.” Mzee Yassin (Lost a son in the attack)

He decried the fact that as a muslim, he gets looked at with suspicion and contempt. Disgust even. His ‘people’ are terrorists. Maybe he is too. Only, he is a victim too. Like any other Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or Atheist. Muslims died. He buried his son on Wednesday, a day after the attack according to Islamic regulations.

It could have been worse.’

Theories about how if the suicide bomber had been more intentional with the exact location, or timing, more people would have died – Yet, here we are. Planning memorial services and burials. One too many, if you ask me.

Rest in peace brothers and sisters. Fellow Kenyans. Peace to your loved ones who now have to figure out how to live without you.

It is hard.

Now…

A week later, I am experiencing a strange guilt. There are times I have seen tributes in honor of the deceased and my heart sank. Deep. Who am I, to still be alive? Who am I to not have to figure out how to heal from the sound a machine gun makes, or the crunch of glass when stepped on? Or just the sight of human blood?

Everytime I share a funny meme on FB, I wonder if it is a tad bit too soon, too insensitive. Everytime I laugh and enjoy good company, a part of me questions why we are so deserving of such joy. Of “Normalcy.”

It is what it is. I remind myself that I am not an inch more deserving than that man or woman lying in the morgue right now. Lifeless. Cold. That could have been any of us. It could have happened at 15:53, 29th June 2018, the last time I was in that compound. It could have happened anywhere. That could have been any of us…

…but we are still here.

Why?

Well. Yeah.

Maybe you need to ask yourself this over and over again, till, if you don’t already know why, you get some clarity. Even if it is just an ounce. That will be enough.

You owe it to yourself, and the world to live the heck out this gift of life. To impact your generation, and more to come, with that awesomeness that is divinely, God inspired.

I am glad you are here. Hugs.

She is just one girl, raped.

Ever since the “Surviving R Kelly” documentary was released by Lifetime, there has been a growing outrage across the globe, Kenya included. R Kelly is a marked man, and to some, dead.

Around the same time, in Homabay county, a thirteen year old girl is gang raped and her genitals mutilated using a sharp razor blade. She is admitted at a local hospital for five days before being transferred to a Nairobi hospital where a reconstructive surgery is done.

“The girl was brought to the hospital when her clitoris was cut and this caused profuse bleeding. To avoid the rapture of the birth canal in future, the minor must undergo a medical procedure that will repair the damaged genital.” the medic added.

Media reports say the police have arrested eight suspects connected to the heinous crime. A group of female Members of Parliament have also visited the teenager, taking the chance to talk tough on sexual and gender based violence and the consequences of the crimes.

THE END.

While we are condemning R Kelly and his enablers, jumping in on the #SurvivingRKelly hashtag to warn him against his impending trip to Africa, a girl at home is fighting to survive. No hashtags have been created. No outrage has been registered on the county, let alone the national scale. Yet, our own predators are shedding blood, literally, with every step they take. There is so much going on. She is just one girl.

Where does the healing begin for her?

Will she ever forget how it felt to be pinned down by these criminals, while one dangled his erect manhood on her face before thrusting the hardened rod into her with unnecessary urgency?

Who is to say if her private parts will ever heal? Ever? Will the memory of the rape ordeal come flooding back every time she needs to use the bathroom? Or everytime she showers? Or when she accidentally sees herself in the mirror? What about when she finally, willingly, has sex for the first time? This physical pain, when will it stop?

These beasts of men blindfolded her. With her sight taken, all her other senses became more alert. They say she passed out during the act, but I think her brain registered every touch, and stored it. Touch. Is that a sense she never wants to experience from anyone, ever? Does it scare her when doctors and nurses do their examinations? Warm, cold, hard, soft hands, do they all take her back to that fateful day?

Will she ever learn to speak up again, seeing as to how no one came to her aid when she screamed her lungs out? Her cries didn’t stop the men. They probably registered them as pleasure moans. Continue. She likes it.

The voices. Does it startle her everytime she hears a bass, a baritone? What is that chill she feels flowing down her spine?

What is she thinking, right this moment, lying on her back on that hospital bed? Does life even make sense? Is it worth living? Where do I go when I am discharged? Why me? Is it the dress I was wearing? Is my walking style too sexual? Why didn’t I run? What will people say? Am I damaged goods now? Men?!? Where is God? Where was God?

Does the weeping ever stop? Do the laxatives cease the nightmares she is likely to encounter in that dark pit of nothingness meant for rest?

Oh, my heart.

Can one even begin to imagine her pain? Where does the healing begin? The mind, body and spirit are probably things she doesn’t have control over. She is suspended somewhere dark, alone.

“She does not want to look anyone on the face,” said one of the nurses.

Will justice ever be her shield and defender? What does she need them for after this ordeal anyway? Can anyone do any worse?

As a society, we are infamous for our selective amnesia. A “we will revisit” attitude. Yet, we never do. The case files are dropped in the storage to gather dust. Once or twice, we blow off the dust, cough, remember and sigh. Then we say “bora uhai.” Of importance is life.

Which life?

Are we all helpless? Have the vices and crimes committed by our own brothers become oh so overwhelming? Why are we so protective of them? Is it every man for himself now?

I don’t know if we see this as a failure, somehow, on our part, but I do know that we need to do better. Now.

Back in 2016, a report launched by the United Nations and the Kenyan government indicated that nearly one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18. According to the findings of this first nationwide household survey, three quarters of Kenyan children are said to experience physical, sexual or emotional violence. More than 3,000 young people aged 13 to 24 were interviewed.

One can only imagine, dreadfully, how high the stats have since risen.

We – you, need to join the 0.0000001% of the populace who are actually doing something to ensure that, girls – children, are not growing up damaged; that is if they live long enough in a society that has since stopped desiring to see them thrive.

Image: Courtesy

Karibu 2019 🎉

Maize meal and cooking oil.

That is what I came back to after the three week Christmas break at my parents’. I felt like that widow in the Bible whose miracle came from sharing the little oil and flour she had left with prophet Elijah. On that note, are you a prophet? Do you need some cooking oil?

Kuja na kibuyu

The GoTv (cable tv) subscription had expired and the gas had (not so) mysteriously breathed its last while I was away. The fridge was humming its way through life with soy sauce and some Akabhanga pepper from Rwanda keeping it company.

Njaanary, as they call it, had arrived. The glow was unmistakable.

Happy New Year! Tis’ the season of both intentional and coerced fasting. It is also the season of renewed vigor. Goals are being set, vision boards are being crafted and drafted and landlords are being avoided.

Mangoes are everywhere, taking the place of lemons and oranges. Patriots from the Kamba community are the ultimate best friends until further notice. If you didn’t know, mangoes from Kambaland are THE best! (We might say the same thing about the ones from the coast region when the time comes…)

Cabbages are also in season. If you know, you know.

What is also true is that there have been a lot more Whatsapp messages on my end. “Hi big siz!” “Umerudi Nairobi?” “Itakuwaje?” “I need a favor.” Please, the a hundred dollars I kept under the mattress as contingency will not solve all our problems.

Sadly, it looks like a few people I know or I am acquainted with didn’t make it to the 5th day of 2019, and I find myself in a couple of funeral fundraising groups. If you have lost someone, pole sana. My condolences. My cousin Patty rested around this time last year. I can tell you, it doesn’t get easier, the pain and grief. You just learn to think of them as anything but the still body you saw/see in that coffin. You live with their smiles and the familiar scents that remind you that they lived, and you loved.

Ah. That got a bit dark pretty fast. Here is a lovely photo of the sunrise from my bedroom window…

R Kelly has been trending. We are upset. Me too. You have no idea how I karaoked my lungs out when I am your angel, Storm is Over and The World’s Greatest were played on the radio. How can a human being be not so…human? He took advantage of young teenage girls who dreamed of a career birthed from their passions and gifts. May they find healing and most importantly, justice. As for R Kelly, I can’t. Hurt people must not always hurt people. Get help. You can’t be the person who uses your past as an excuse for trampling on the delicate flowers that are people’s dreams. No.

Speaking of dreams. This year I want a new mattress. And silk bedsheets and a new bedroom. I also wouldn’t mind flying first class to Seychelles. There is this thing I want to do for young boys and girls, grooming storytellers.

What’s your dream this year?

Yes. It’s okay to be selfish with it. If it brings you true joy and peace, there will be a ripple effect on those around you. Like me, si if I sleep better and drink more water I will be less cranky and have less breakouts on my face? Then I will be an overall nice person. My point is, be kind to yourself this year. Treat yourself like you would have others treating you. I am eating more dark chocolate this year. People must see me eating dark chocolate.

Wear more pajamas and lingerie in bed as opposed to the promotion t-shirts and those pants you bought in 1982.

Tell yourself the truth. All the time. The truth about who you are; to yourself and others, the truth about the kind of person you are and where you are at with your dreams. What’s love got to do with it?

Otherwise, don’t panic! You made it through 2018! That should mean you still have work to do and a life to enjoy!

I am sure it will be a blast!

Haya, enough of my preaching, but go ahead and applaud 😂

God bless you, and again, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2018. Of roads, bulldozers and life.

Just hours away from the new year and I am yet to answer the question of the season; how was my 2018?

I will, in a bit, but first, let me tell you about a road…

Sometime in August, the county government began work on the roads in my estate, with an intent to tarmac them. It has been six years since we moved there and I had gotten quite used to the all weather murram road. It never got too muddy during the rainy season and stayed relatively dust free during the dry season. It was just okay. Usable. Could pass.
I never really thought it could get better. At least not that I can remember. So when I began seeing the Chinese foremen with their yellow and orange helmets accompanying the huge Sany bulldozers, it dawned on me that “haiya!” tarmac roads within the estate can be a reality!

By early September, I could hardly recognize the road leading up to my gate. No, the tarmac was not on yet. Surely. The road had been dug proper. The dust storms became a nuisance. Leaving the house for us route 11 folks (ok, me) became such a task! Good thing I mostly work from home so I only ventured out when it was absolutely necessary. There was so much digging and flattening and digging. So much so that when the short rains came around mid October, I was grateful that the dust had been beaten down, literally.

That feeling was however short lived. Thanks to global warming, the rains got heavier and kumbe there was more digging to be done. From dust that almost rivaled the dunes in the Sahara to mud that given a chance, would swallow you whole. I remember a day I naively wore my new velvet flats because the skies looked clear, only to come back and find that mud skiing rig. Sigh. The pain! The roads were so bad that no taxi driver wanted to risk getting stuck going down the road. Ultimately, it was up to us humans and the relative agility of our limbs.

Where am I going with this? Stay with me.

I am not too familiar with the different types of dozers used for road works, but during this period, I got a favorite.You know the one that has a huge steel barrel that that is used to flatten/firm out/even out the ground? That one. It brought back a sense of familiarity. Reminded me of that road I knew from back then and didn’t quite mind. However the ‘destroyer’ would come back and overhaul every particle and we would be back to square one.

I was getting really frustrated at how long this tarmac was taking. I am not sure why I thought it would be ready in two months. Smh. In the midst of all the chaos though, I began seeing progress. The drainage tunnels had been dug, cemented and covered. The workers began planting huge boulders underneath the road surface, for some sort of stability I guess. Last time I checked, before leaving for the December holidays, there was no major activity going on. Maybe it was some period of rest. I don’t know. Who knows what I will find when I get back?
So much has happened to/on that stretch!

In the same way, so has my 2018 been. Looking back, I feel like that estate road leading up to my gate was me, my life. My life was relatively ok. Could pass. Served me well. Until someone began work (by force?) on it. Thanks God! Average, mediocrity for who? Suddenly, there was digging, uprooting, unlearning, and everything was unfamiliar. Thing is, I probably made a prayer at the beginning of the year for some symbolic changes in my life, but it didn’t quite register that changes often come with a shifting. The degree of which depends with the desired end.

Many times, my anxiety levels peaked. I am a bit of a control freak and it concerned me that several things would just fall off my previously dependable grasp. Concerned is an understatement. Parts of me were being pulled apart, vigorously, and I wondered who commissioned this war. Was it even necessary?

Every rejection felt like a buildozer ramming through my core. Even the high festive moments felt like process. Like work was being done. I was supposed to acknowledge every bit of feeling, emotion, actions and reaction, consequences, words and weigh them against what? I am not sure. I just know that there had to be a heightened sense of self awareness that felt foreign, sometimes even scary. Even dreams weren’t just dreams anymore.

Rough! But…

I still feel like me. The true essence of me has not changed. I am surprised at some of the revelations, but it is not like they came from nowhere. I have had to dig deeper to unravel the intrinsic mysteries. Just like that road is still a road, used for that same purpose it was created for, it’s current condition notwithstanding.

I am stronger. I know myself a little better. I know that only good things can come off this process, and I am learning to ease my grasp on things that need letting go, so I can be open to receiving the best the coming year has to offer. I am looking forward to that tarmac. It is definitely better than the murram road. It has taken time to demolish and reconstruct but it will soon be ours to enjoy. We deserve better roads, but until then, I will be like these little estate kids who play in the dust and run through the tunnels with glee. I want that freedom. To live in the moment and know that it will be alright, eventually.

In the same breath, I know 2019 can only get better. Limbs are more agile, heart stronger, hands wide open and smile constant. I am at peace.

Happy New Year!!