Friday, 19 September 2014

The "youth" and the mall!....

Having survived almost one year miles away from home, I got reminded of events that are to be commemorated in two days time that took place in my hometown Nairobi. The day before on the 20th September, I had just flown back from Khartoum in Sudan on what had been my final assignment before taking my sabbatical to head to school. Sudan had been a very mixed experience. I loved the people, and for the guys I interacted with , their genuineness and hunger to learn was quite refreshing. Due to the language barrier (the Sudanese generally speak Arabic), I used sign language at times and a few trusted "interpreters" in class to explain to the rest whatI was saying. What I felt was a shock to my system was their eating cycles (two meals a day, 11 am and dinner)...I am used to three meals a day! Anyway that is a story for another day...
Anyway, I got back on 20th evening and tired from my journey, I blacked out, slept through 21st September. Then the following day, My phone was jolted by a flurry of text messages and whatsapp messages. "There seems to be some massive robbery at Westgate, the gunshots emanating from there are crazy!...Are you ok?"...I was thinking to myself, which crazy thug would go rob Westgate during the day!...Unless you wished to die, you wouldn't get far. But the info kept coming in more confusing and scary at the sametime...."It appears these guys pack some serious firepower", one message read.."How do you explain them keeping the police engaged that long?...Kwani how many cartridges of bullets did they carry?"
I quickly switched on the telly to find out more about what was happening. To be honest, I was thinking of driving around westlands that day having been away from Nairobi for almost two weeks. I had missed my city...Westgate would have been on my route for sure! The stories that were filtering through were contradictory and confused..."It was some sophisticated gangsters,'s terrorists..." Finally the stories converged, and it was pinned down to the Al-shabaab or "the boys"..what the lose translation from Arabis is ...funny enough a few days earlier my Sudanese class were happily calling me shabaab because of my youth. I did not know now what to make of the tag...Sometimes people have a way of messing up innocent words and names! For instance, some names like Hitler, Judas and Stalin are all but historical would not find any parent naming their offspring after these fellows...what were the Al-Shabaab doing to an innocent word describing the youth?
ON realising the gravity of the situation, of course I tried to reach everyone I knew on phone to know if they are ok. Texting of course...after hearing that the murderous gang in the mall was going around looking for people who were hiding and executing them, I would not want to endanger anyone by dialing their phone and giving away their location. At the same time I was busy wondering what the hell the journalists in a bid to get a scoop were busy doing, trying to contact fellows who were hiding within the mall with the terrorists trying to locate them by calling them and asking them on air where they were hiding and if they had seen the terrorists. I used twitter to try and voice my displeasure at our news anchors who were giving away people's locations...In this interconnected day and age, that was tactical ignorance. Anyway, as it turns out, several hundred people were stuck in the mall unable to get out as the police, who had been outgunned at this point by the terrorists cordoned off the mall and a state of panic slowly spread. It was now global news. My close family members and friends were ok thankfully, my workmates as well....However my housemate's dad was stuck in the mall, and would be rescued 8 hours later after the shooting had started....I can imagine the anxiety he felt in those 8 hours....
No one had any info on how many terrorists there were, who they were and what they wanted. The gunmen had mercilessly killed several people as they made their way into the mall...The body count was rising, and it was sickening seeing bodies of women children, helpless civilians being dragged out of the mall as the siege continued.
The suspected shooters at Westgate

The terrorists would keep the mall under siege for the next 3 days, leaving a body count of 67 dead and almost 200 injured from the attack. As the guns died and people came to terms with what was happening, I still wonder what drives human beings to commit such atrocities. What angered me the most was that the gunmen some of whom traveled from such pacifist countries as Norway were busy causing mayhem in a land they have nothing to do with. The brainwashed shabaab blow themselves up while their leaders self preserve themselves....why do they never ask themselves why these so called leaders of theirs never volunteer to put their lives or those of their family members on the line? I have come to realize that youth is mixed with mental turmoil and a lot of growing up to do. As you become older you realize how foolish you were when you were young, and am sure those 19 year olds and early twenty year old shabaab would think twice if they were in their 30s, being asked by some "leader" to sacrifice themselves for some cause that sometimes they have no comprehension of.
I just wanted to remember those who lost their lives that September afternoon, their families and to commend all those Kenyans who were their to help in a most difficult situation.

As for the Al Shabaab... "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword!" I was tempted to print some expletives, but I think I am better than that!

Hero on that fateful 21st of September and his image from a grateful Kenyan

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Viva Espana!

I have now spent almost a week in the Spanish capital of Madrid, and what a time to land in this beautiful city. Apart from my rubbish Spanish (believe me it is rubbish), getting around has been quite easy. The place has a very efficient metro system (don't think I will miss the Nairoberry traffic for a  while) and generally excellent public transportation.
The temperatures are currently wintry leaning, and I understand it will get worse. I had gone up to the beautiful town of Segovia a two hour drive outside Madrid up the mountainside, and the snow, though beautiful from our heated bus, almost gave me frostbite when we had to get out of the bus.
The city cleaners just got off their latest strike , and boy was the city sunk in garbage. I am now trying to settle down, and get used to the city and language (to even buy essentials). This is going to be one great year I hope, and I look forward to learning the lingua of the telenovelas. 
In the next few months, I will chronicle my weekly views as I go along.

In the meantime, hasta luego peoples!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Striving to be a better person

I have always quietly wondered to myself, "why am I?...", and why do I continue existing in this space unsure of my purpose and effect. Mid-life crisis one may say, or am just bored...either way, I have recently gone into a period of confusion, uncertainty and basically soul searching. It's like I have these episodes every now and then, and each time I come out thinking "Hey, I think I've got it!", I slowly descend into my abyss again.
I have recently signed up for 10 week course at the local church, a member of a certain Battalion 5. I wont go into the details, coz like parliament/Vegas, the discussions are privileged. But the content of the course are quite interesting. I would recommend any budding 21-40something (yes bado ni ma-yut hawa watu) to sign up and join this interesting journey where we hope to answer the very many questions we men struggle with in relation to our purpose. You will be surprised at how un-isolated your struggles are, and you get to share and learn from each member of the struggles and the path to follow as we progress with our lives. It will not necessarily make me the perfect man, but I know it is making me a better one. The 7am start in itself and the...(ok I am giving away too much)
It is a cool way to bond with other folks of our polarity (male) and gives you a foundation both in scripture and practical life of how to fulfill your potential and responsibilities as a man. Anyway it's only week 3, but I am enjoying the journey and the brothers in tow.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

When the fence is no longer there to sit on....

Have you ever felt the urge to say something when it is not your place to speak up, ..say anything,.. whether morally correct or otherwise. Have you ever had knowledge of that not so well hidden but deadly secret that would open up a can of worms whose aftermath you wouldn't know how to control? Well sometimes some of us find ourselves in such positions, and it's a pretty awful position to be in. I think I have been invariably pushed into such positions quite often in the past.
Unfortunately I am the analytical type, and I usually subject my poor brain into carrying out several permutations and combinations of likely scenarios as dictated by my actions (and possibly those of others as well).This is one of the easiest ways to gather fatigue and stress.
I am no therapist, but I know and usually feel almost instantly the relief on the stress once am able to share with someone the load of withholding such information. Worse still, I usually ask myself why I always end up being the recipient of such "classified" information. Anyway there may be some reason I may not be privy to that makes me find myself in such situations.
Anyway for ye who find yourselves in such situations, however hard it may be, I learnt that there is no need to sweat it, trust in the good Lord... quoting one of my favourite person in the world, " shall be well...".
Sitting on the fence is usually my past time in such situations, and my default stance, but I think I fail my friends and myself by not stating the obvious or my thoughts for that case.As much as the truth is difficult to swallow in some cases, I believe we all have an obligation to advise those closest to us when we feel they are not doing what is proper or stuff you disagree with (not a mandatory one, but a moral obligation).

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing" .. George Zimmerman

Friday, 13 July 2012

Ukifanya juu chini uvuke booodaaaa!!!...

Sometime you got to admire how things work in some places to really appreciate the circumstances you have back home. It is never that straightforward, and as the saying goes, "The grass is always greener on the other side". I have had the chance of interacting with various groups of people in the greater Eastern Africa region and have basically marveled at the various elements of behaviours that mark our differences (hopefully these will be restricted to the non-violence type of differences).
The lifestyle of my brothers across the border in Tz has always had me curious. Kenyans are generally viewed as aggressive and impolite (...wankosa nidhamu hawa ndugu zetu!). I do agree with their sentiments to some extent, but get baffled by their behaviour as well. Truth be told, they are not the paragon of virtues they are presented to be. Like our society in the +254, they do have their bad apples and's only that they are more polite about how they handle or deal with it, and they have shorter memories than the Kenyans. The justice system there is slower than a slug, and the public officials are as corrupt, but more polite and non-confrontational as the brothaz in the +254.
Anyway for days I had been shuttling from my adopted place of work to the hotel and in meetings around Dar, and couldn't help noticing the beeline of kids from skool at around 2pm headed to what I figured was home. Now this brought my lower primary skool memories when skool ended at 1pm and the afternoon was left for extra-curricular activities in the hood. However with time I noticed that it wasn't just the young 8 and under who were going back home at 2pm..apparently across the border, skool is from 8/9am to 2pm, then everyone goes home at 2pm..this applies from kindergarten to form 6....I mean these guys should be major sportsmen and artists...what on earth do you do with all that time?....
The other thing I learnt is that they also start learning English in High skool (form 1... after class 7). And proceed to be instructed in English when learning all the other subjects (Bio, Chem, Physics, History, etc)..Imagine having to learn Spanish in form 1 and then all subjects thereon being taught in Spanish..I have mad respect for these guys, but it is not a pain worth inflicting on yourself.
This kinda explains their struggle with English even at advanced ages. Not being out to judge them, they would learn a thing or two in overhauling their system and getting children learning English at a younger age. Also not being out to judge and remind them of their apparent hesitance to join the EAC wholeheartedly, learning from the neighbour isn't such a bad thing. We can learn to be polite and they can learn a bit more industry and effort in their approach to everything.
I also happened to visit one of their treasures on the Indian Ocean, Mbudya Island. For $10 and a TZS 10k 30 minute boat ride, it is a place worth visiting.

The next instalment will be mutisha at the moment as they say!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

8-4-4 = zero education?...

I know it's been a minute, and I felt time was ripe to write something (not corruption or theft related). I was recently drawn into a debate on the education system in Kenya and how it is not designed to be fair and to recognize the diverse talents individuals possess. The most vocal people appear to be the Artists who believe they have been sidelined by the 8-4-4 system of education.

Perhaps a trip down history lane would do some good before we shred the merits and demerits of the system. I think the system began in 1985 or 1986, and the philosophy behind it was to try and arm an individual with all round basic life skills. That is why we had such practical subjects as Home Science, Craft, Art, Music, et al.The view at the time was if one stopped at class 8, you'd be able to use your skills for example to be a carpenter, metal worker, etc....Clearly there were good intentions and who knows how it would have ended up had we stuck to the ethos of the system.
Fast forward to 2012, and the system now is set to be scrapped. "It has not achieved it's purpose", they say..."We are better off with the old system"....So what went wrong?
It is my personal belief that whichever system we employ, the results would be the same, whether it is the old 7-4-2-3 system or the American system. We Kenyans have a knack of messing up whatever systems we place to make our lives better. For instance the Master Plan for Physical Planning done in the had envisioned the by-passes, expansion of the city to Kiambu and expanding the airport to have two runways. Plus the zoning was done properly...well 30 years later, we have a mess of a city. The 8-4-4 system has been messed by the competitive nature of Kenyans. The advent of academies and burdening poor kids with 40 books, homework, extra classes in the evenings,weekends and holidays has turned children into academic machines. How do you explain a 4 or 5 year old child being up by 4am and in school by 6.30am to "study"?....I mean what the hell (excuse the swearing) would a kid that age be grasping if up by that time? The kid then gets home at 6pm..I mean at that age they should have 60% of their time playing and getting to know the world around them...But no everyone wants their kid to be number 1 in class, go to a National School, join Med school and be a rich and successful doctor....Dreams they were unable to attain while young. Intentions are good, but we seem to be out of touch with reality....We can not all be academics, we cannot all be number 1.
Imagine for a second what would have happened if Oliech or Mariga's folks forced them to go for holiday tuition...Now like the proverbial kiosk owner in the village who appears to make so much money everyone wants to start their own kiosk forgetting they are the customers, everyone wants their kids to excel in football so that they make the same tons of cash. (I still think education is important....helps manage that windfall you get!).
I think this business of ranking kids and drumming it into their heads that some careers are better than others has messed up the good intentions of the education system. I am a product if 8-4-4 and was lucky to have skipped majority of the current ills (weekend classes, holiday classes, early morning preps, sack full of homework et al)....I had extra time for just random discovery and getting to know my bearings and interests....I can say I was the last one off the field at 7pm after checking out of skool at 4pm and class started at 8am not 6am. I made rock slings, had a garden, made bird traps, etc....all what a young boy is expected to do. Now the only knots some kids know how to tie is the shoelace and school ties...
Anyway enough about my rant. What we need is major change in our attitude, yes stay competitive, but in moderation. Let the kids develop "normally"....roll in the mud, have a few bruises, make wire, carton or other self created's part of growing up as a complete person. The much derided "Art" based careers are not as bad as they are set out to be. Advise your kids on all that is available, and assist them in attaining realistic goals and dreams. We are all different in some way and the differences are our strengths. If you couldn't invent something as complex as a particle accelerator, a much more simple but practical paper clip can do.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The year of the Dragon

As 2012 rolled in with much less fanfare than usual (thanks to the fireworks ban by the government as a result of the al-shabaab menace), I sit back and reflect to the year that is gone, 2011. I know this is a "time-barred" sort of thing to write about, but's the Chinese New year - Year of the Dragon!!
Looking back, I think this has been one of the most low key years in my short existence...I don't think I achieved much to write home about...I did scale Mt Kenya, made a few new friends in the process and visited some random countries, but I felt there was something missing in the grand scale of things that I may have achieved in the past one year. It was more of routine and ton-loads of stress in the process.
2011 saw the Arab spring uprising, the deaths of a number of dictators around the world (Gadaffi, Kim, et al), the birth of new borns to some of my friends and the union in marriage of a few others. Milestones I would say (others would replace the 'e' in 'mile' with an 'l'). Some switched jobs, others got promoted, a few completed school. Well I am happy for them, and as the gauntlet is thrown for the coming year, I think it is time I sat down re-evaluated with a sober mind what I should aim at reasonably achieving this year, and go for it..
As one of my friends usually puts it " is never that serious!" . I have been more of a slave to my work and  reduced time for my family, friends, church, etc. If I had something to show for it, it would have made sense, but a wake of stress, fatigue and unfitness does not justify the time I spent toiling.
For those of us on the grind, they have an innate wish to do what the elves below are doing to their boss, but circumstances don't allow. Though I know a pal who gathered the courage and did just that :-)...thumbs up dude...
Anyway. Before the world ends like some Mayans said some years back, I think I should just be different in 2012, and have something meaningful to say come 31 December 2012 (if by that time the world is still laughing at doomsday predictions!)