Musings of a professional bouquet catcher

I am a little bit over 6ft tall. It is a good thing, mostly, but what this means, (in a wedding context) is that I almost always catch the bouquet. Sometimes, I look around me and just feel like the Usain Bolt of catching bouquets. A win is assured, but winning can get boring (ha!) unless you break records or that sort of thing. So I purposed to challenge myself at every wedding. I either do not jump at all (see how bolt sometimes just jogs to the finishing line? Yeah) or try to jump higher than the other time. On rare occasions, I sit it out and let other ladies have the glory. You know, missing the World Championships for the Olympics (Logic: The potential Mr.Right grows taller…)

stock-illustration-7998604-bouquet-toss

Anyway, I recently attended a rather unique wedding. At the end, when the bride is supposed to throw the bouquet to the ‘next in line,’ she made a moving speech instead and gifted the flowers to a woman who had been married the longest. It was such a beautiful tribute!! I loved it! I of course went on to update it on Facebook, and as I was just about to click post, it occurred to me that this bride had denied me an opportunity. How dare she? Doesn’t she know that our getting husbands depends her throwing that bouquet, us catching it and living happily ever after with our prince charming(s)? How insensitive! Now I am scared. If every bride thinks that this is a splendid idea, then #TeamSingle will keep growing (sigh! Is that such a bad thing though?) We shall discuss, but first, a little bit of history…

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According to http://www.weddingaces.com, the tossing of the bridal bouquet is a custom that roots in England and was believed to be a way for the bride to pass along her good fortune to others. Bridal guests would  try and tear away pieces of the bride’s clothing and flowers in order to obtain this fortune. In attempt to get away from this tearing of her gown, the bride would toss her bouquet into the crowd. As tradition says, the single lady who catches the bouquet has received the bride’s fortune and will be next in line to marry. The garter takes the place of the bouquet for the men. The groom is supposed to remove the garter and toss it to the eager single men and similarly, the single man who catches it would be next in line. I don’t think this happens in Kenya though. Which Kenyan man would willingly give a piece as intimate as his wife’s garter to another man? Hehee! Indeed, I attended a wedding where at the evening party, the groom removed the garter (with his teeth) and put it in his pocket. That was just hilarious! And of course disappointing to all the single men who now had to wait till the next wedding to get lucky. Pressure!

In light of this, I have a few questions, on behalf of the professional bouquet and, on the very rare occasions, garter catchers.

  1. Define single.

So now, does single mean not dating or dating but not married? Don’t you find it confusing? And unfair? Sometimes unrealistic? I mean, say ‘not dating’ catches the bouquet, will she pituka or get married before the ‘dating?’ Isn’t that unfair? Like someone overtaking Bolt from way back. It just seems wrong,  especially because the bouquet is supposed to quicken a man to proposing and then leading a delegation to your parents to formally ask for your hand in marriage. However, I think ‘dating’ catching the bouquet is pretty advantageous too. As we Kenyans are fond of saying, “Watatuondolea jam.”(They will remove the jam 😀 ) I also propose that these two categories be separated and the bride tosses two bouquets. Fair, isn’t it?

  1. How many?

Exactly how many times am I supposed to catch before I get lucky? I am no longer the tallest in the herd, I’m afraid. Just what manure are we feeding these kids these days? I never used to get serious challengers. But now a new crop of Yegos are springing up and setting their own records. I need to retire while I am still ahead…or I will never catch another bouquet. Pray, someone tell me if there are rules and regulations we have been ignoring. Wait! Here is a great idea! Both the bouquet and the garter are thrown at the same time and the two lucky winners get together. The priest and pastors present then lay hands and pray seriously and seal the ‘union.’ And what do you know? The union survives and they get to return the favor to the singles club. Genius, right? Terms and Conditions still apply though. Anything can happen. By the way, I may be holding on to someone’s ‘man’ going by the number of times I have made the catch. I would like to publicly apologize to whoever it is. If we ‘jumped with you’ at any of the recent weddings, please get in touch so we can sort this out and give you what is rightfully yours. First come first serve.

  1. Can people just chill out?

Do not approach me at a wedding and ask me, “Si wewe ndio ulishika ile maua ya last? Niaje umekam weddo pekee yako?” (You caught the bouquet at the last wedding, why are you here alone?) …or say to me,”Leo si utuachie tu” (Can you sit this one out today?) Maybe today I don’t need the bouquet for the same reason you do. Maybe I just like that the bride is not carrying the kawaida flowers and would like to keep that bunch on my table before I ask her where she got them as soon as she comes back from the honeymoon so I can buy my own. Phew!

  1. If you are single you are single (LoL)

Ok this is not a question, but, I have been to weddings where the MC or Pastor has had to say, “Hivi ndio watu hukosa mabwana, not heeding to the call…” then you see a flock of women or ladies, if you like, straightening their dresses and dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” There is nothing wrong with being single, I think.It certainly isn’t a disease! So if you feel it is not yet time (because if you catch the bouquet you are definitely getting married) just sit it out. Even if the pastor decrees it to be the final bouquet toss, for the next five years. Don’t panic. Know yourself.

So, upcoming brides (what?) please don’t substitute this tradition with the very noble and thoughtful gesture of gifting the longest married women. Si they are already blessed with a husband who can buy them flowers all the time? Have mercy on us. Make the right decision. We need you to uphold and preserve tradition. Thank you.

PITCHING ETIQUETTE 101

In my short professional career, I have not had many people or companies pitch ideas to me in a formal setting. Even so, being a Communications graduate, I have a pretty good idea of the kind of conduct expected. Some of these expectations also boil down to common sense and a general sense of respect.

I am quite sure that this sort of thing is also taught in Business School. So I would think that this is a skill that 90% of the workforce should have. I will take a chance and say the ‘professionals I am about to talk about fall in the 10% bracket. Please, humour me as I bore you with the details…

About two days prior to the meeting, I received a call at my place of work. The person at the other end of the line introduced herself and went on to state the purpose of her call. She was from the marketing department in one of the prominent media houses in the country. On the surface her idea sounded real good! I went ahead to give her my supervisor’s email address as well mine, so she could request a meeting officially. The call came through on a Wednesday, and the meeting set for Friday, 11:00 AM. Honestly, we were all looking forward to this meeting. We have been trying for a while to get the media to take an informed interest on the cause and it seemed like we were finally making headway.

Friday:

Our guests call at 10:30 AM informing us that they are just leaving the Nairobi CBD. Our offices are located in Karen, the other side of town, so it would take them around 35-40 minutes to get to the office. They get lost a couple of times, and keep calling for directions. Never mind the ease of access to Google Maps these days. Finally, we see a car pull up right in front of the office. It is 11:45 AM. No apologies are made for the delay, instead when we show them into the meeting room; one of them spots a heater and asks, “Is this heater working?” It is a cold morning in Nairobi, so we offer the ladies tea and/or coffee.

The meeting starts. The team, two very smartly dressed ladies, introduce themselves and again, state the purpose of the meeting. They thank us for meeting them at such short notice, and we respond that we had sensed the urgency. My boss begins to tell them about our organization and what we do. One of them is on her phone replying to some text (I was seated right next to her) and the other one had back turned to the boss and her head buried inside her laptop bag trying to find something. I doubt they had grasped anything by the time they requested to show us a presentation they had prepared.

The presentation was painful. They had the right idea, but I think, no I know, it backfired. The first slide was meant to show us that they are up to speed with issues concerning our cause, statistics and all. Let’s just say they were misinformed. The lady charged with doing the presentation kept dragging her chair to and from the table where she had placed her laptop. It was just the four of us, so there was no table separating us, sort of like a semicircle setting. She was in the middle, so she kept going back and forth, like a kid who had just seen these types of seats for the first time. Midway through her presentation, her colleague decides to interrupt her to let her know that her tea is getting cold! Right!

They finish the presentation and drop the bombshell that they would like to partner with us, with a Ksh.4 million figure displayed on the laptop. Again, assumptions are made in a quest to convince us that we needed the airtime that their ‘CSR’ approach was offering us. So we were to brainstorm and let them know how much of the 4million we can raise by, wait for it, latest Tuesday morning. We tried to conceal our shock as we politely explained how things work and assured them that we would try and go the extra mile as to contact our partners for additional support.

I had had enough. I could not wait for them to take leave so I could tell my boss what I really thought of them and the idea. Long story short, we did not partner with them, but we did do due diligence and contacted our partners on their behalf. Waiting to see if they got them on board.

I am disappointed. Disappointed at the level of disrespect and assumptions made. Maybe we can make future performances better. Here are a few pointers to winning people to your side:

  1. Be Punctual. Always arrive a least ten minutes before the agreed time. This way, you are able to prepare any presentation materials before the meeting begins.
  1. Basic etiquette. The heater working is none of your business!! (I just had to throw this one as it is) Seriously though, your conduct, right from the handshake when you walk in, your presentation and behaviour during the meeting, will determine the end result. There was such obvious disrespect during this meeting, and the fact that the ladies did not seem to recognize this or bother to, is baffling.Until the host insists that you refer to them by their first name, do not. The pointer is usually at the point of introduction, “Hi, My Name is Trezer,” and “Hi, I am Miss Oguda” already tell you how the person wishes to be addressed. Alternatively, to eliminate any doubt, you can ask, “Can I call you Trezer?”
  1. If you are going educate experts about what they do, please do sufficient research. For instance, Don’t say Serengeti is in Kenya for God’s sake…Or that the organization is two years old while it is in fact twenty! Oh, this one’s important, GET THE COMPANY NAME RIGHT!
  1. Even in this dot.com age, I prefer a pen and paper as opposed to an ipad or computer to take notes, especially if it is a small meeting as was ours. It is less tempting to respond to texts or emails and you actually maintain eye contact. If you’re one of those big shots, do come with someone who will transcribe the meeting notes for you. Someone who will not be directly involved in the talks.
  2. If it is a last minute thing, as this one was, please please please get as much ammunition in your bag as you possibly can. I am talking personal charm and fascinating presentations of past successes.
  1. Oh, I must say this. It does not matter if your host met your perceived expectations or not. That same level of respectful tone you had on the phone should be transferred physically. Never let it be seen that you are ‘disappointed’ to be meeting someone smaller in frame or any other physical attributes that could cloud your judgment. Do your job and walk away.

You must be disciplined in how you prepare yourself every day. Don’t be careless or go into meetings unprepared. You must be serious, if you want others to take you seriously. And it all boils down to your personal discipline.

The Follow Through…

Kenyans, we need to stop with our hypocrisy.

Trust me. This is not just another tired rant.

44 hours. The amount of time The President of the United States Barrack Obama spent in Kenya, majority of which was spent delivering life changing, inspirational speeches. We sat at KICC and heard him talk about his belief for innovation and entrepreneurship and how Africa, specifically Kenya is a hotbed for all good things. Take that CNN! Mr. President then told off the opposition, something that earned him more Bonga points with a section of Kenyans. Finally, he spoke to a massive crowd of young people, encouraging them to secure Kenya’s future through integrity and hard work. Women, their rights and place in the society was discussed. Sauti Sol got him to do some Lipala, and he nailed it! Eh! By the way, tell me you did not “uuuuu” and “aaaaah” at how Mr. President hugged his sister Auma! So cool! Now our men even have pictorial lessons on how to hug a woman, I hear!

The infamous Obama siblings hug

The infamous Obama sibling hug

Every second and space the internet could offer was filled with quotes from #POTUS’ (President of the United States) various speeches. We put up posts on how President Obama’s visit to Kenya has touched us, and how we have been inspired to grab the steering wheel-URGENTLY-and LEAD this country to great heights! The Global Entrepreneurship Summit also got those of us who attended all fired up.

Let’s do this!!

I am happy that Obama came. I am quite excited about the GES and the resulting flourishing lives and economy. I may not have hung on his every word and gesture with pure unrefined, exaggerated delight, but I sure I’m glad he took his time and did this before his term ended. Save the best for almost last, ey?

Before President Obama’s feet even stepped on the beautifully presented homely red carpets in Ethiopia, Kenyans had gone back to the status quo. Oh, the internet was still awash with Obama praises and quotes alright, but trust me, nothing has changed. I don’t see or sense that palpable inspiration and determination that existed during the 44 hours POTUS paid us a courtesy call in the land of his ancestors. Maybe that just me, but indulge me a while.

I saw a lot of posts indicating change. Strict navigation towards goals, no stalls. Accountability as a human being first, then as a Kenyan. “We are going to change this country, one day, one person at a time,” we said. Well, the rate at which amnesia hits us seems to have gone up 100%. We have gone back to gnawing at each other on social media, “killing” everyone who tries to say that Obama lectured Raila, Kalonzo and theIr CORD counterparts. Dare someone say that Uhuru Kenyatta is not the best president Kenya has ever had!  We have gone back to our tribal cocoons, where we are apparently most powerful and vocal. Positive ethnicity is preached everyday in Kenya, nothing changes. A case of two steps forward, another four backward. In my naivety, I really thought hearing it from Obama would at least change something.

Sigh! I need to wake up!For real…

In traffic, we are still overlapping, creating our own filter lanes, in roads and insulting anyone who tries to tell you to be patient. Someone is still charging you 15bob for a banana that would normally go for 10bob, just because you look like you can fish out an extra 5bob just like that. Change my foot. Why is this guy in the matatu sitting with his legs apart taking up all my leg space? Come on….What time did you report to work again today?

Look, we need to stop embarrassing ourselves like this.

In basket ball, there is a vital shooting technique that every player worth their salt should practice and perfect. The follow through. In this technique, your arm finishes straight, your wrist loose and your fingers hanging down. Your fingers should be naturally hanging, not tight together or pointing. More important than the follow through, is the act of holding your follow through. By holding your follow through you are engraining it into your muscle memory, making your mechanics come naturally without conscious thought. In other words becomes the natural thing to do as and after you shoot a basketball. While the follow through may seem like a simple movement, it does make your shot go more to where you want it to go. The HOOP, or in layman’s terms, the goal. This technique is not something you need to master, but more like take a habit of. One can easily tell a sure shot from a fluke even before the ball touches the rim, just by observing the follow through. A perfect follow through often births an excellent sure shot. My team mates and I used to call it a swish!(The sound the basket makes when the ball goes through)

3.2.5 Release

Follow through, that is exactly what everyone of us needs engraved into our system You speak, you follow through. Act. Follow through gives you results. Favourable results most of the time. The steps need not be big ones, but they must be seen. The little things we do, positive or negative, blow up and determine the course and quality of life we live. I want to be hopeful that our dreams will not just flourish on social media, with numerous likes and shares. I am hopeful. Let’s do it!

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots over New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis (23) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, March 18, 2013.  The Warriors won 93-72. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots over New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis (23) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, March 18, 2013. The Warriors won 93-72. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Yeah. Let’s stop with this hypocrisy!!!

A lesson in dreaming

I treasure children. I love their innocence and all they can get away with in the name of being ‘children’, because when a grown up does them, they are branded childish. I love the genuinity(is that a word?) in their eyes; the windows to their souls. I can tell, earnestly, when they are happy, sad, bored or whatever other feeling. Being around kids is refreshing. I started accompanying the education team for documenting purposes, film and photography. Then, unofficially, hype man (woman) was added to my TOR-Terms of Reference. So whenever the kids look bored or are unresponsive, I am there to do an equivalent of ‘ikibamba sana wapi nduruuuu’! Anyway, so this one of those times, the Save the Elephants education team, is out in Chumviere, somewhere between Isiolo and Archers post. To get to Chumviere Primary School, you will need:

  1. A strong purpose
  2. One of those cars used by drivers in the Rhino Charge events
  3. Water
  4. A state of the art backbone.

There is a British Army barrack just off the tarmac. It is the only modern building you’ll see until you get to the school. The terrain is mostly rocky and thorny, and when its not, its very dusty. There are ‘manyatta’ villages scattered every few kilometers. Sometimes, you will see an old woman with her donkey carrying a jerry can or two of water and boys tending to goats. They stop to look at you and/or your car and the young boys run after you waving excitedly. If they see a ‘mzungu’ they will shout proudly “How are you?” and run away giggling at the response, “Fine.” Only, the mzungus are sometimes too eager to show off their Kiswahili skills, they shout back a “Jambo!”

We get to the school and its just perfect. Well, not perfect PERFECT, but it certainly beats my lowly expectations. I spot a water tank somewhere, and then classrooms built of wood and oiled black. The Kenyan flag is flying high on a high metal pole planted in the middle of a circle of well-arranged white stones. A few meters away, a stone walled toilet brightly painted blue and white. Some writings on it, I can’t quite make them out. After a briefing at the headmaster’s office, we head to the Standard Six class. There are about 20 of them, more girls than boys this time. There have been incidences of banditry and cattle rustling, and most of the boys had to go help their fathers with the herds. The girls stayed back with the women folk. Staff introductions and the lessons begin. “Living in Harmony with Elephants,” they are dubbed. The education team goes round schools built around elephant corridors and carries out lessons to find out the students attitudes towards the elephants and how Save the Elephants can help in areas of conflict.

The team concludes part one of the lesson and one of them whispers in my ear “enda uwachangamshe kidogo before we start part 2”) Ha! So I step up and ask each of them to tell me their name and what they would like to be when they grow up. Cliché, I know, but I love to hear that kids still dream in this day and age. I tell them to smile while at it because it makes it even more interesting, and I like to see happy faces (…also, we need to get really happy photos for social media and the website) I get a couple of answers; from doctors (of course) to teachers, pilots and even rangers, but nothing could have prepared me for this one. “My name is Raphael, he says, “…and I want to be a farmer.”

Source: Internet

A young farmer

I say a ‘wow!’ Careful not to sound too surprised. I tell him to keep working at it. I expected all the other answers. Almost all of them had seen someone in that career once. Pilots, they had seen flying planes over their schools. They have been through enough hard times to see soldiers and men in uniform around, so being a soldier or pilot don’t sound so farfetched.

Why you ask, did the farmer amaze me so? Picture the terrain I have just described. Nothing grows there except thorns and other random weeds. The livestock eat whatever they can find. On a previous visit, lunch was githeri (A mixture of hard boiled maize and beans-a Kenyan delicacy) No one wants to eat this everyday though, but to some of these kids its life. A hope. For Raphael, being a farmer represented people and green lush farms that he’d only seen in books. A farfetched one, but a dream nonetheless. It made me happy, that he wished to explore the world beyond Chumviere. He knew that to fulfill his dream he had to work hard to get out of Chumviere where farming doesn’t happen and who knows, come back and supply green leafy vegetables home.

Aaaaah! A lesson in dreaming.

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough. -Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Money Lover

I was walking home one easy evening in Nairobi, lost in #Foodie thoughts, you know, what I would have for dinner in my #FlatTummyQuest. I had decided on butternut squash and a nice wet fry 🙂 I was already cutting up the cucumbers, the red and yellow capsicum when a man stopped abruptly. He bent to pick up something from the ground. He then turned my way and said, “Huyu ameangusha pesa na anendelea tu kutembea?” (Someone just dropped some money). I encouraged him to go after the man and give it back.

“Aii zi!si hiyo ni carelessness. Tugawane!”(No, he was careless, let’s share it) By now, I had noticed he reeked of alcohol. I decided to play along.

“Sawa, but let’s find him and give him the money and then demand ‘our share’… imagine if it was you?”. Accompanying the bundle was a receipt of one from the trusted banks in Kenya. Fifty Thousand Kenya Shillings Only, it said…being payment of ‘driver’s fee’. I really wanted for the guy who had dropped the bundle to get it back, so for a moment, my dinner plans were put on hold even as the ‘finder’ agreed to my suggestions. We crossed the road and started looking for a short guy with a red cap on and a sweater draped around his shoulders.

We went back to the spot and as if by a miracle, the guy appeared, exhibiting all manner of stress and panic.  We greeted him and asked him if he had lost something, and in the shakiest voice you could ever imagine from a man, he said, “Aki nimepoteza fifty thao!”(I have lost fifty thousand) We interrogated him a bit more then Mr.Finder asked that he gives us five thousand each. I looked at him, registering all sorts of disbelief and anger! When did we stop being genuine good samaritans we once were, eh Kenyans? So ‘we’ negotiated to two thousand each. He agreed. As soon as Mr. Finder handed him the money, I excused myself, telling him I didn’t need his money. Mr. Finder protested and said we had a deal. he was almost getting angry. I knew this could get out of hand so I said, “You can have my share too” and whisked myself across the road. I looked back from the other side and the tension seemed to have eased a bit.

Fast forward a week later. We were passing through the exact spot where Mr. Finder had found the 50k bundle. I start recounting to my colleague my experience and how we are just becoming a hopeless cruel society where no one helps without expecting a reward (I might have also shown some bravado, being a Christian who wants to follow Christ’s footsteps and get to heaven, lol) She stops me midway looking quite concerned, but on second thought lets me continue. Once I was done, she tells me, “Those were conmen!” Apparently, these group of people work in twos or threes. One drops the bundle, the other one picks and offers the third unsuspecting party a share of the money. If one agrees, they are escorted to a dark corner(because the owner might come looking) and then robbed and whatever other evil they feel like metting out on the victims.

“You know what saved you? You are not greedy. For money. For things that aren’t yours. Imagine if you had accepted the share.” My colleague quipped. I was quite shocked. How naive of me, to just help without asking the right questions. Here are some of the things that should have raised my antennas;

  • Why would someone, tell another of a jackpot, yet only he had seen it? Very strange that they would insist on sharing.
  • This drunk man, remembered the details of the man who had dropped the bundle, in suspect clarity! A red hat, and a sweater draped around the shoulders? First of all men don’t do such details! haha!, I should have known!
  • When I refused to take the deal, he got agitated, even when I told him to have my share, he seemed to insist that we are in this together. Why would someone get so angry?
  • Come to think of it, the supposed receipt from a leading bank in Kenya was not the ones I had seen before…but I didn’t think it a big deal, since there are bank transactions that I have never done.

In hindsight, I only had Ksh. 100 left that day. I don’t know why I didn’t think that Ksh 2000 would help my life, because it would have.

I Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

I am so glad God delivered me from that snare. The whole experience challenged me in ways of honesty and trusting God to provide for when it is uncertain where our sustenance will come from. My greed would have led to me “piercing myself with quite a pang”, it makes me shiver. Be wary of conmen! There are people who are out to use your kind-hearted spirit for their own selfish gains, of course hurting you in the process.

One more thing, challenge yourself to be a genuine helper. One who expects no rewards. When the rewards do come, they will be even sweeter. I know mine was.

A dreamer’s resume

A dreamer’s resume. Powerful!

Conversations

Joseph CV

Life sucks when a sack at work happens.

First there is a subtle brush of excitement that you can breath at last! Then annoyance, anger, fear and all other gray energies that pull over shortly after.

With heavy bills quickly in tow, it’s not long before you start hoping for something, anything at all. So you pray and promise to be faithful handling whatever comes.

Then it comes. . .

First there is a subtle brush of excitement that you can breath at last! Then annoyance, boredom and all other gray energies that pull over alongside Monday blues. Friday becomes that one day in the week to really live for.

Two Sunday’s ago, I was convicted by a message on Joseph. It’s what I’ll be posting in the next few days, hopefully with a right tone of clarity, as God enables me.

Joseph’s corporate life – A dreamer’s resume

You…

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Influence

Mark 8:38
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

semasoulful

We started a young believers fellowship at work. When I suggested the start I had not thought of some dimensions of its necessity. Here is an important dimension I missed: Influence.We all need support in any endeavour. I agree that some of us are very resilient and we can achieve anything we put our minds to whether we have support or not…. However, most often than not, we need support. We thrive more in those areas that have support than those without.

We sent invites to those colleagues who were open about their faith. However, a lady came that had not been directly invited. We were happy to have her and her story off-set the thoughts leading to this post. She was strong in the faith until she joined our company and everything went south from there. Our company is extremely secular. I remember feeling that way when I 1st…

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