#WorthMoreAlive: I like that we are talking about elephants, rhinos and wildlife conservation in general…

For about a month or so leading up to the April 30th ivory burn at the Nairobi National Park, wildlife conservation discussions have been trending. Local media houses have been assigning some much needed and deserved, airtime and attention to this important conversation. With increased coverage, came increased interest about human wildlife conflict, poaching, Eco-tourism and development. Kenyans started asking questions, giving opinions and suggesting solutions to identified challenges. I have always held the opinion that only a select few care about the Kenya’s wildlife heritage, so it was quite refreshing to watch as people actively partook of the conversation online. As the historic date drew near, the conversations began revolving around the ivory burn. Was it the best option? How was burning the ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products going to help stop poaching? Was it an exercise in futility?

When President Ian Khama of Botswana unveiled an elephant sculpture made of ivory in July 2015, it stirred up the conservation circles somewhat. Some thought it a brilliant idea that Botswana had decided to put up this monument, while other were of the exact opposite opinion. Botswana’s Minister for Environment is quoted as saying, “It serves as a reminder to people who pass through this building each day that conservation of this iconic species is our collective responsibility. Complemented with a conservation awareness message, we are saying that one live elephant is worth so much more than all the art made of ivory. The statue is a lasting memorial to raise local, national and global awareness of the devastating impact of illegal ivory and the determination of Botswana and the global community to put an end to it.” After about a fortnight of ensuing debate, the noise settled. The towering monument still greets guests at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

Ivory elephant

BOTSWANA , Gaborone 16 July 2015, Botswana president let Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama officially unveils the live size Elephant Sculpture of ivory at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone on 16 July 2015. The ivories come from the elephants which died naturally. (PHOTO/MONIRUL BHUIYAN)

This week, almost a year later, the photo of the monument started popping up on my Facebook timeline with captions like, “This is very creative, maybe Kenya should do this instead of burning the ivory.” One particular post had over five hundred shares. The reactions were as varied as they come. Majority felt enlightened and immediately endorsed the idea; maybe a museum of sorts would work? Others said no. Then there was a group that said, “Why bother? Everything in Kenya is stolen. Soon, the only thing that will remain is the glass surrounding it.” Ha! There is always that breed of people, you know, ones who seem to have resigned to some sort of self imposed fate. Before putting my thoughts down on several posts, I just took a moment to be grateful the WE are actually talking about this! In mass! Now, we just need to arm ourselves with the right information.

It is now hours after smoke filled the skies at the Nairobi National Park as President Uhuru Kenyatta led his Gabonese counterpart Ali Bongo and other dignitaries in lighting up the 105 ton heaps of ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products. The debate is still as hot as the fire that still burns what is estimated to include the remains of 8000 elephants and 345 rhinos. Why burn? Why not a museum?

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I must admit, up until three and a half years ago, I was completely oblivious of the plight of elephants and rhinos in Kenya, and indeed Africa. As I took up an internship position at an elephant conservation NGO, I told myself that it was only temporary; that I would soon get bored an take up something better. I did not anticipate falling in love with elephants as I watched BBC’s ‘Secret Life of Elephants,’ sobbing as Maasai girl’s two calves nudged their dead mum to wake up. The roller coaster of emotions being extended to the field, looking in awe as they walked majestically into the sunsets or, in more tragic situations, staring at one lying in a pool of blood, half its face chopped off. I was never quite the same. I started caring. I caught feelings 😀

My interest grew with every passing day, discovering and learning about why we bother about saving elephants. Today, I speak from a point of information, and most importantly, I reckon, real experience. There are people who will speak about the economics of poaching, a really important aspect no doubt, but I like to appeal to the heart. Pick up a documentary that will show you uncensored footage and photos of mutilated bodies of elephants/rhinos lying in a bloody pool. Watch elephants mourn their dead. Then take a trip and see them, alive, in their splendor. If you still feel nothing…if you are still giving that ivory monument a moment of thought…Doing what Botswana did, I think, just makes ivory look attractive. It breaks my heart, but to other twisted people it displays class. I see no difference between that and a carved piece of ivory in a living room in China. I prefer a live elephant thriving in a national park, living to its old age. Now that’s a worthy monument.

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Elephants at the Samburu National Game Reserve Photo: Daryl Balfour

We, Kenyans, have come of age, having such discourses. I hope the media does not stop with the coverage after the burn. Pray, we need to keep talking about this within our circles, engaging each other on how to make things better. Read about all the organizations working on the ground and read about what they are doing. I feel that if we, Kenyans, start caring enough we will hold our leaders accountable for things as corruption and consequently, poverty and other factors fueling poaching. We need to stop thinking about ivory conservation and re-ignite efforts aimed towards wildlife management and conservation. To purpose never to have a day like this one, because there will be nothing to burn. In a nutshell find a spot, in your own capacity and #Stopthekilling#StopTheTrafficking and #StopTheDemand for ivory and other wildlife products. The burn alone might not achieve the desired results, but with collaborated efforts between governments (this means you and I, as it does elected leaders) and conservation groups, as well as embarking on conservation education, I am confident of success. The economist will chip in. You will get involved. It will be a concerted effort, everyone doing what they can. This way, we will proactively work towards ensuring future generations SEE these species in their full glory, ALIVE, not lifeless, as a heap of ivory. That, in my opinion, makes more sense than an ivory museum. Otherwise, people will keep killing and we will keep confiscating and building ivory towers. It is pointless. As someone rightly said in one of the Facebook posts,

“Ivory for any other purpose than being on a live elephant is repugnant.”

Elephants and rhinoceroses may be large, heavy and thick-skinned, but they are being threatened with extinction in the wild by poaching for their ivory or horn, and by human impact on their habitats. You need to join the fight and help secure their future.

Pssst! I’ll start you off with sites you need to visit 🙂

  1. http://www.savetheelephants.org, Save the Elephants on Facebook
  2. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  3. Tsavo Trust
  4. Amboseli Trust for Elephants 

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.

Inside the Kraal-Part 2

I first went to Turkana in August 2011. I had just began my internship and was immediately thrown into the deep waters…well, yeah. “Deep waters.” It was the hottest time of the year up there and the dehydration was real…but once I got over the heat and the initial culture shock, I realized I was right in the midst of beauty…in place and culture. Long before the oil discovery and the lunar eclipse attractions, Turkana was already amazing.

I got another chance to visit this year, though in a totally different context. Turkana County is big, so I am not doing it any justice by not mentioning the specific places. I know I have them written somewhere…sigh! I am not completely hopeless though. I do know that where I am about to speak of is named Attan. There is an Attan Primary School there where I have had a chance to talk to the children about elephants and why we must save them. Now Attan is so dusty, that I was told(by more than one person, so its credible) that when kids come home from school, the mothers have to wash them to ensure that they don’t have the wrong child. I feel them. After that particular school trip, I needed some identity wash myself.

The Turkana wedding ceremony continued…

A few days ago, I wrote Inside the Kraal-Part 1. A colleague was getting married. I spoke about all the things that baffled me about the Turkana wedding culture and some of it was quite bloody. Today, today we speak happy things. I think being born a lady in Turkana lady is a feat. Really. You are the family’s chief source of wealth. Apparently, you can’t be officially married unless your suitor pays a dowry of at least 50 cows/bulls. At least. It could be more. You can do the ‘come we stay’ thing and even have kids, but you’ll never really be fully married until you are done paying up. Mind you, the cattle dowry cant be brought in form of cash. So imagine a man has 5 daughters. I’ll leave you to do the math. Where is Julie Gichuru when we need ‘Who owns Kenya?’ The Turkanas are almost always at loggerheads with their neighbours over cattle rustling, so you can understand the value they attach to owning a huge number of cattle.

So my colleague had finally finished paying up and this was the day his wife would be handed over to him officially. The ceremony takes place inside the father-in-law’s compound. This man must be real wealthy. He has 4 wives. I am sure he has paid for all of them in full. There are things an outsider’s heart would miss a beat for, like people smiling, posing, next to a bull that has just been speared right in the heart. Outsiders never understand that this,for them, especially the bride and groom is a sign of ownership, freedom…relief.

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Soon after the meat is cut and young men carry it to the bride’s mother’s kitchen in bits. All this time accompanied by songs of praise, joy and sometimes mockery. There was an instance where I almost took to my heels, only to be stopped by an ‘apaiya'(elder)who had accompanied us on this trip. The young men and women from the groom’s side were fighting with the women manning the kitchen on the bride’s side. I could have sworn it wasn’t a mock fight. They were roughing each other up for real. After the assurance that everything was under control, I dropped my city girl-ness and sat down, on the dust, with some women who kept asking me for money in return for taking their pictures. I guess that’s the price you pay for travelling with white friends.

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Oh my! These people can sing and jump for hours. I was already seeing double, this heat again! And there was this man who couldn’t leave me in peace. He wanted me to photograph every little detail and at one time I tried hiding behind one of the huts to catch my breath but he still found me. I forgot he knew these corners more. Anyway, I am told they’ll do it, the dancing, till dusk, till dawn. After the dung ritual explained in part one, the groom is let out of the kraal and led to another corner where he’s to sit with his peers. He is not allowed to leave this spot till the following morning, where his bride, also in a separate location with her peers will be brought to him. the elders will then bless the marriage and they will be allowed to enter their home as newly weds. They must wear their wedding outfits for another four days, because…drat. I don’t remember. I guess to remove any doubt just incase one wasn’t present to witness?

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The Attires

Bride and Groom: The men, in my opinion, end up standing out more than the women. Bummer. They have on colourful lesos and on their heads a headgear made of ostrich feathers and mane. The women on the other hand wear skin. Sigh. They of course have the choice of the colourful beaded jewellery which the bride here used to cinch her waist and define her long neck. I think the men should wear the skins though…lol!

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The rest: Whatever story you’ve heard on the origin of the mohawk, throw it out the window. Here, deep in Turkana land is where it all started. I insist. The women, just like their urban counterparts take time to get ready for such ceremonies. On their hair, they apply some oily mixture and the result is either a red or very black look. Their jewellery is phenomenon. Earrings, necklaces. Look at them. They look quite heavy but I love them. I would have asked for a pair of earrings, but I am quite sure I am not ready for a hole that size on my ear.

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On their feet, well, akalas(shoes made of of tyres). I guess they gave up on this dust a long time ago, because their feet are so cracked, it reminds me of my childhood nanny who used to say she could fit a ‘bob’ through hers.

The men are less traditional. They bring out their Sunday best shirts and pair them with lesos and akalas, of course accesorized with the beautiful shangas and earrings.

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After a great meal punctuated by lots of nyama choma, we took our leave, knowing very well that we were going to miss the main bash. The one that would take place when the sun had set, people dancing to beautiful acapella voices that we’d already sampled and young men ‘tuning’ young girls in some corner, convincing them that their wedding would be much bigger and finally, the bride and groom counting the hours and smiling when the sun’s rays peek at dawn.

Congratulations Wilson and family!!

Photos by Yiwei Wang and Trezer Oguda

Inside the Kraal-Part One

I had never seen anything like it. My camera froze in my hand, as my eyes moved slowly round the Kraal. So much was happening, and for the first time, I was confused on where a photographer was to focus the camera lens. My nostrils had long gotten used to the stench and my eyes had finally given up the dust-wind fight and had teared up to their satisfaction. I looked hard at the spot where the bull had fallen with a spear wound that ran straight into his heart. He was long gone now and…

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“Piga picha!”(Take the photo!)

I was startled back from my trance by a rugged old man. I couldn’t understand why he had on his shoulders a winter blanket with temperatures souring 40 degrees. “Piga kimila yetu picha!” He repeated. Before my eyes had wandered off, the old men had been preparing what is commonly known here as “the old man’s soup”. The ingredients: Fresh blood from a bull, I kg sugar, fermented milk and ghee. All this in a large sufuria where the octogenarians would take turns stirring using special carved sticks.

Milk is added to the frothy mixture

Milk is added to the frothy mixture

 

While waiting for it to be ready, I saw one of them drink ghee like one would milk. Gha! Anyway, soon the mixture was smooth and ready to be served in the waiting metallic cups. His feeble hands shook as he took a sip and subsequently gulped down the first, second and third cups. Yuck! I tried not to let my disgust show at the thick froth he seemed to enjoy. His mates shared this secret little joy. See, this was an elite club. Only old men who had married off their daughter(s) were allowed to sit with the mates and drink the delicacy.

Yummy?

Yummy?

An elder partakes of the delicacy

An elder partakes of the delicacy

“Hold him! Hold him before he hurts himself!”

A moran was having convulsions. It took three young men to pin him down. Whoa! What’s happening to him? I wasn’t expecting anyone to answer. Hmmm. Strange. Apart from the ones who’d rushed to help, no one else thought this was an emergency even when three more men went into a similar state and one even threw himself into a thorn bush! “Relax, wamepandwa tu na mori” Someone volunteered to ease me off my I’m gonna bolt out of here look. “Ati?” I thought they were possessed and I didn’t want to be there when the demons left them and sought a new home! “Wamepandwa tu na mori. Wameshikwa na uchungu mbaya kwa sababu ya hiyo wimbo inaimbwa.” Oh, that song! I thought it was pretty depressing for a wedding but I had quickly told myself I wasn’t allowed to think, or even voice my thoughts here. I knew nothing! The man revealed that the song, usually sang by a group of morans who sat with the groom, was meant to do just that…make them angry enough to go to war as soon as yesterday. The song taunted the young men, asking them why they were seated there, celebrating, while someone had made away with their pride, their cattle. Now if you know anything about the Turkanas of Northern Kenya, you know that their cattle are their pride, I would even dare say their everything. Maybe that would explain why they are almost always at loggerheads with their neighbours the Samburus, cattle raiding being the order of the day.

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So after this revelation I just stood there, asking myself if there was anything/one I would die for…just like that moran who had thrown himself into that thorn bush. Eh. Pressure! Well, I would answer this question later, because soon enough the tempo picked up and I guessed something interesting, or scary was going to happen. The young and old men all stood up and walked round a huge pile of fresh dung that had been extracted from the bull. There was yet another ritual to be followed here. As the group went round the dung singing and chanting, some, mostly old men, would pick some dung, sniff it and then apply it on their leg. The others were only allowed to lightly step on the dung. Again, only men whose daughters had been married off could touch the dung and apply it. The rest, irrespective of age could only step on it.

Finally, two hours since he had bid me goodbye, I saw the groom in the procession. He smiled and told me…”Its over now”..as if sensing that I had been in a state of shock for sometime now. It was time to move on to the next phase of the Turkana traditional wedding.

Okay. Your facial muscles can relax now 😀 Look out for part two!! It will be less shocking and more jovial, like a wedding is supposed to be. I promise 😀 Here’s a sneak peak!

Dancemania :D

Dancemania 😀

What does Vera Sidika have to do with it?

“No butts, Vera is a national issue” A headline on of the lifestyle magazines in Kenya today.

Very interesting. Within days of the now ‘famous’ Vera Sidika Ksh.50m skin lightening procedure, she has had numerous interviews on both local and international media. On social media, a majority are clearly against her changing her complexion, while a small number say its her body and she has a right to do whatever she wants with it. The other negligible percentage don’t know who Vera is and keep asking what the fuss is all about. In PR, there is no such thing as bad publicity. They all direct spotlight at the brand. Vera’s business has been given a boost, heck! She might even go on and meet Kim Kardashian and become bottom buddies!

Now, I don’t want to start on whether whatever she did is right or wrong, as that would never be conclusive. However, I would like to suggest the following;

1. Airtime

For every one socialite (whatever that means), can we have 10 other women doing extraordinary things being given the attention that the likes of Vera have been getting. For instance,  #KOT (Kenyans On Twitter) were very capable of making Captain Koki Mutungi, the Kenya’s first female pilot of a Dreamliner a Trending Topic(#TT). Instead, we chose #bleachedBeauty and #campusdiva. None of these TT had anything productive. Just backlashes. Well, maybe a few tweets here and there were positive. Let’s face it, we are not having healthy online conversations. The power social media has in the 21st century is massive, so much that it sets the agenda for what is aired on traditional media. Now if mainstream media won’t join us in the ‘One for 10’ campaign, then lets use Twitter and Facebook and arm twist the Tv and Radio stations into seeing through our now(hopefully) refined eyes.

2. Mentorship

If you are one among many women who have been spewing serious bile on this issue, I dare you to do something about it! While you are busy condemning others on their inability to be proper role models for young girls, I bet you the same girls are yearning for ‘a big sister’ or friend to sit and just talk. Just because. Your financial status not withstanding. You can speak life to this teen. Oh, and don’t go bossing them around with a know-it-all attitude!

3. Don’t just let your kids grow up, raise them

I know this question might border close to unrealistic but, can we not let our children be raised up by the media? Can we give them the best grounding and foundation that the first place they are going to look for role models is at home? Mom, Dad, Big Sister or Big brother. The excuse, the media is corrupting our children is getting old. In giving credit where it is due though, the media has done its fare share of CSR, having exposed us to some great minds and personalities. So we need to stop complaining, because most of these media houses are in business and they need to make money(apparently the only way is to air this rot we do not agree with). Yes, let’s apply pressure till they budge; but until then, lets raise our children as we would love to see them turn out, then trust them to sieve what the media exposes them to and only pick what they feel is best and relevant in their lives. Sometimes they’ll chose paths that we don’t think or feel are right but ultimately the choice will be theirs. You would have done your part.

When people see kids misbehaving, they don’t ask..What TV channel does she watch? OR What does he listen to? They mostly ask,”Who’s her mother, father? Who raised him?

4. Let’s keep the conversation alive

“I am glad Vera did this skin lightening thing,”a friend remarked. “As far as I can remember, this is the longest we’ve had this conversation in mass.” I agree, only that I need to add that the conversation needs to stop bordering on condemnation and crucifixion and more towards positive engagement. I can bet on my mama’s spiced chicken that we all know of family or friends have gone down this road. We were scared to confront, well, ask them about it…but now…:) Today we celebrate Lupita Nyong’o, her dark skin and all. We must realize that this celebration is as a result of a long time journey for Lupita, having also battled with issues to do with ‘beauty and skin deep’. We also need to be willing to walk this journey with the people we love.

I am not offering very concrete solutions here…am I? 🙂 but while we wait, who’s with me? Is there a chance that these might actually work?