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Here we go again with that crappy language!

Everyone was laughing. Again! I had no idea what the joke was about, everyone was beaming. Some joke it must have been, I hated the science class, the teacher and being in this school. I doodIed in my notebook as I waited for class to end. Mrs. Mugo always spent most of her time teaching in Swahili, she never cared for my lack of understanding of the language. Like all the other crappy teachers.

I had mentioned to most of the teachers that I had no understanding of Swahili, they would nod and quickly spend the next 30 minutes of the class teaching more in Swahili. And the last five instructing us on the assignment in broken English and you guessed it, more Swahili. It felt like I was deaf. I saw lips moving, but never heard a thing they said. After three weeks of school I just couldn’t do it. My hands and calfs were so sore from the canning. It seemed like I couldn’t get anything right. “Follow instructions!” teachers would bark as they caned each one of us for doing the “wrong” thing in the assignment.

I tried over and over explaining that I didn’t understand, “Then ask your desk mate,” Mrs. Mutua our class teacher would bark at me. My desk mate, was a special chap, he was a slender, well everyone was slender in comparison to me. I was the chubby kid who had to lean on the wall and sit sideways because my thighs were too big to fit underneath the desk I had. I was also pretty tall, towering above my classmates with a booming British twang.

That in all shape and form in a City Council of Nairobi school yells for attention, even when it wasn’t warranted. Ndirangu was in the boarding section of school, he was very particular about how he looked. His shirts were well pressed, tie well tied – samosa shape – the perfect triangle. His shirt was always tucked in to his shorts that cupped his pretty rotund rear. I found it pretty odd seeing a boy with a butt that big. His socks shin high, showing off his olive skin and shoes always polished.

My conversations with Ndirangu were a matter of necessity. He understood Swahili, I was deaf to it. He was my translator for some time up until his entrepreneurial hunger overtook events.

“I can’t keep doing this without anything in return.” Ndirangu remarked at the end of the Geography class. I had to give him something in exchange for his translation, but he had to earn it. He had to do more than translate if he wanted something from me.

“You are going to do ALL my Swahili homework and you need to make it look like someone else did it. Not an exact copy of your work and it needs to be correct. And the translation doesn’t stop. DEAL?” I was a towering mass of a child he had to say yes. To which he did and I starved at lunch for the next month.

It kicked off well, till Ndirangu started failing me deliberately. It started with, “Sorry, I forgot your book in my dorm room.”And I would get caned for it. Then he would get the answers wrong and finally he just gave up translating all together. He was on a go-slow, he was blackmailing me, demanding more than lunch he wanted me to give him my 10 am break as well. The hell I was going to let that happen. Ndirangu and his fat ass could die from starvation for all I cared.

The food seemed to have gotten to his head and his ass. I had lost enough weight to fit behind my desk and I was beginning to understand the crappy language after all. It was only the beginning of another 7 years of suffering at the sounds of “Ngeli ya ‘M’ –‘Wa’”

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Chronicles of a Wimpy Dog

Simba the fretful dog, his name like his existence is an oxymoron. He spends more time barking at the bones that he is to devour. He fights the cat over the bowl of milk and omena. He spends most of his time in the grass rolling around in it. He is 3 years old. That is like 15 human years; I think, I am not sure, I just make things up as I go along. Anyway, my point, he is old enough to know better.

I am not sure what’s worse; the fact that he is that old or that he is a German shepherd? A dog with that kind of pedigree is required to command attention and fearing a cat should be the last of his concerns.

Not my Simba. Look at him now, rolling on the grass wagging his tail, goodness he enjoys it so much. He coughs out fur balls? When did dogs start behaving like that? At times I feel like Simba is a cat in a dog’s body. He is needy and loyalty is only to his bowl of milk. But there are moments when he is this adorable dog. Wagging his tale running after balls, barking at things it fears or detests or doesn’t understand.

I called him Simba for the fun of it to be honest. Growing up in this part of Africa, one common thing you will hear is a dog called Simba, I guess to feed the dog with a decent self esteem. Ferocity is what people need dogs for; so make his existence the epitome of ferocity and dominion of the home, since most people only see dogs as guard dogs and not pets. Call him, (say it in James Earl Jones’ voice) SIIIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMMMMBBBBBBBAAA! (Cue lion roar!) Another oxymoron, name a dog after a cat. Why not name him after an animal from the dog family…like Hyena…well…

Simba! He’s just choked on the butterfly he was playing with. Oh! There he goes; I forgot to mention he also fights the chicken for food. It is pretty hilarious; he has grown up with some of them so they peck at him when he imposes. Like right now, now he’s busy whimpering from pain. He knows better than to paw at them. He walks away when that happens. He never really has much to do. Being an animal is pretty boring especially a pet.

You wait to be fed, you might be bathed once every couple of months if at all, you see a vet on occasion, you eat, you poop and then you die. It is kind of depressing. But then again when you are my prancy princess Simba, you take it all in stride.

Here comes Gloria, the cow, with her usual violent streaks, I better stop writing this because Gloria is about to gore Simba from her little grassy knoll.

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Midnight Fat-ulosity

So I was curious, we all get curious about this stuff. So where do you go when you want a quick fix mercury laced skin ‘purifier’? Say it with me all you insecure men and women….Yes you said it! In Nairobi you have River road; bleach town, with women exposing themselves to heavy amounts of mercury to appear orangish, pink and grey. I need to understand how mercury does that to gorgeous ‘midnight skin’. I had to steal that from Lupita Nyong’o.

Well so there I was happily curious but unaware of the amount of badgering I would receive from all these orangish, pink women. It started off with this colossal ‘princess’; let me call her Ursula. I said hello and walked in to the store and a plastic kenpoly stool appeared and I was invited in to have a look at the products, “Kama niko comfortable (pronounced KAM-FO-TABO)” So I politely sat and for some reason this ebony skin wasn’t the only thing on their agenda.

“You see my daughter, if you want a man you need to lose some weight.”

‘Uuuh! OK?” I chose to not get offended, why should I? Since I was 6 my weight was always an issue, why should it be an issue 23 years later when I am seated on a light weight plastic tool that is completely covered by my rotund rear? So I smiled and gave an inviting nod.

“You see my daughter,” She points at a fellow beached whale across the hall in another shoe box sized stall.

“She has lost a lot of weight and you see her husband appreciates her now. You, I can see, with this… you will now find a husband.”

The lady points at a line of boxes with weird brand names. I lifted one box and realised it was empty then I picked another also empty and Ursula quickly and ‘helpfully’ suggested a brand lifting one of the empty boxes. “This one will work for you.”

So off she went, I said nothing, I was fine with my beach whaled self. What I found ironic was Ursula was at least 10 kilos heavier than I was, shorter and still felt the need to provide unsolicited advice on my weight. Eish!  I played along and sat there. While Ursula was away another lady from an adjacent shoebox sized stall offered me a cream, my eyes popped out of their sockets at the label, I quickly said “no thanks”. Then she quickly pulled out the orange skin cream. It was in an old aluminum Nivea tin, “try?” She gently nudged me.

I smiled and shook my head.

“Just try!”

This woman was about to apply mercury on my face. As she steadily drew her mercury creamy goo laden finger close to my face. My right arm was steadily raising itself to cause maximum pain and turn that orange grayish countenance black and purple. A commotion ensued and the sales lady toppled over with her concoction and the next thing I knew I was in darkness. All I could hear was heavy panting and screams of “Kanjo! Kanjo!” The city council inspectors were around on a ‘crackdown’ of illegal and counterfeit products. Yeah right. Not like they don’t know these women operate here.

15 minutes later, the blinds were lifted and the light flooded the room, Ursula emerged with her fat burning agents and said, “3,500 shillings only?”

I laughed, stood up and walked away shaking my head. Why did I go there? Well like I said at the beginning; quench my curiosity. My fat-abulous midnight skinned self still proudly cruises the city wide and proud.

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Unresolved

I had sat in the lecture theatre for about an hour. I don’t recall a thing the lecturer said; his lips moved I heard no sound. After thirty minutes I gave up and plugged in my headphones and let them take me to wherever they wanted. I closed my eyes and bobbed my head gently to the beats. Heads turned in unison toward me. I just stared at them and turned to the window. I felt the table shake. I looked down at it and shifted my gaze to the window outside. There wasn’t much to learn anymore.

I saw people stand an hour later, and leave the theatre I followed. I saw, “Assignment one” written on the whiteboard in purple marker. I didn’t care to know what it was. I walked to the door and something drew me to look back. It was Harriett again with the munchies wolfing down doughnuts from the cafeteria. I waved, her chocolate laden hands waved back. I shrugged and walked away. I had another class it was two doors down from the Lecture theatre. I walked past it. My presence in class made no difference. I learnt nothing, heard nothing what was the point?

The lecturer saw me pass by, I just ignored him, he stuck his head through the door into the hallway yelling my name. What did he care? I just whipped out my iPod and cranked up the volume to drown him out.

I walked past the janitor; we exchanged nods acknowledging each other. He looked around and gently placed his mop against the wall. He followed me to the smoking section of the school courtyard.

“Got it?” he asked me. I nodded and whipped out the book. Soma contrary to his name hadn’t done much reading as a child and spent at least 20 minutes of every break he could get reading a novel, anything to stimulate his imagination. He was an interesting character to read. He would read a chapter and then sit for a few minutes eyes closed, still replaying what he just read in his mind. “Movie ya kichwa” he would say; re-enacting a movie in his mind.

“I have something to show you Kevin!” OK I thought. I pulled out my earphones and looked at him quizzically.

“Check!” Soma handed over a yellowing foolscap with dog ears and ugly penmanship that looked like a 4 year old had doodled on it. I sneered a little then stopped when I realised Soma was looking at me.

“Read!”

Soma had always told me he would write a book. And today I had the manuscript in my hands. The bell interrupted our moment. I just said, “Thanks!” flipped my hoodie back on and blasted my iPod some more. As I strolled to class, I felt someone behind me, I turned and Soma threw himself on me and hugged me. It was a weird feeling I had never experienced before. I shook him off quickly. It was a sensation I couldn’t explain. I wanted it but hated it at the same time.

“Thank you!” Soma said nodding and smiling. “You tell me what you think?”

I nodded. Weird! I thought. I turned back and found myself throwing myself on him. I needed that sensation again however repulsively meaningful it was.

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Invisible man

 

Nike’s, Reeboks, stilettos, ballet flats, foot after foot passed by, sandals, ashy feet, shiny feet, caramel, dark, long legs, short stumps for legs, hour after hour, it was legs and feet. Then it was long skirts, mini’s showing too much for comfort, tight jeans, baggy jeans, jeans with zips undone, jeans torn at the thighs, jeans with patch work, ripped jeans, dirty jeans, new jeans, old and tattered jeans, tight trousers, baggy trousers, butt cracks showing, panty lines, boxers showing, jeans so low they looked like the owner had defecated in them and was embarrassed to admit it. Because by the way he walked, legs almost completely spread eagle, jeans so tight they looked sprayed on with heels that looked like needles.

Then when it got hot, HELLO! It was nice flowing frocks, barely any toes visible, flat sandals, the walk changed from rushed to suave and elegant. Toes pedicure. Check! Stunning was the look. Masculine hairy legs in nice comfy sandals with the occasional too tight for comfort shorts, beached whale look in so called not so ‘hot’ pants.

And there was just something about the heat, hawkers poured out their wares. Things got really stuffy and unhygienic; people farting as they bend over to buy stuff and pretend that nothing happened. One dweeb coughed after they let one rip and exclaimed, “He! Tear gas kali!” The gas they manufactured sure did make me tear. You see being a lame beggar on the corner of Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi opens you to a whole new realm of life.

You see life from the bottom up. I have no lower limbs, just stubs, so I spend most of my time only able to see people waist or mid thigh down comfortably. Any higher is straining.  Hehehehe! There’s one now. A couple… I can always tell by the angle and proximity of their feet. I barely hear the conversations, the blaring music, matatu horns, banging the matatu bus sides, plastic bags shuffling past me, blocking my line of sight. I am the leg guy, I can tell you for free if that man really feels you or wants a wam! Bam! Thank you ma’am!

And then there is the body odours, that tends to be really common really early Saturday and Sunday morning. Man, forget the alcohol, I think a good fraction of people in this city spend more time dousing their stench in cheap perfume, because after the dancing and the alcohol takes over, boy! Do the scented layers peel off fast? There is one guy, I remember when his trainers were pleather new.  I could smell the pleather, I think they were called Bike, the tick was short and was upside down. When Nairobi stalls still existed. I think those were his favourite or only pair of shoes; they were white.

I saw those shoes graduate from pristine white to vomit scented brown with black streaks. The last I saw the poor chap, his feet were hanging limb between two black polished police boots. Haven’t seen him since.

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Muchene

Whoosh! Clang! The screaming was deafening. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Clang! Clang! And breaking of objects had been going on for hours. I lived across from the Mayais. They were a noisy lot. I remember the day Mayai carried his bride into the apartment, the sparkle in their eyes could light up the night skies. But now 6 months later it was some form of violent Olympics; who would wake up first and cause the most damage.

That’s number 13, next door to the violent duo, is Mr. Roit, fancy name, as dark as charcoal. He moved in to the flat as an immigrant from some European country that he claims was erased after the fall of the Soviet Union. Most ignorant Kenyans believe it. The last I checked No-over-scotia did not exist, what did they care? He was a chocolate mzungu living in the ghetto; more like seriously broke and maybe a European fugitive if you ask me.

A few days ago after 3 years of living in that flat, I saw Roit  bring company home. It was a cute caramel looking child. I initially brushed it off thinking that it was one of his girl friend’s children. Then I heard the boy scream, “Papa!” Hold up! I looked a bit closer at the child, yeah I have military assigned binoculars, deal with it. That boy looked like Akinyi who came over to clean every week. The dirty devil! Hahahaha! How did I miss that? I spend every waking hour by the window. The walls are thin, so half the time I can hear every conversation and every erotic evening people have.

Then at number 15, sandwiching, nasty Roit, there is this Lego Maria lady. Her house really does look like a religious shrine; candles lit. She is always garbed in a purple gown and huge black rosary draped around her neck. Even though I don’t understand her religion, I find myself respecting it just because of her. I call her Maria. The last I heard she was divorced, had 3 adult children, all dead beats with bastard children of their own. But on silent nights when she gets home from her religious missions she would pray for each child and grandchild fervently. I always wanted to meet her and talk to her. It was always a good idea, but…well…maybe.

Then number 16 my all time favourite; and heart throb. Mr. Shirare; dreadful name; but he is jaw droopingly gorgeous. He is such a great dad. I just swoon thinking about him, sigh! Why wasn’t he created for me. Oops! Been at the window too long, let me draw the curtain, people will know I have been watching them.

You see I am a military amputee with one amputation gone wrong, I can’t really interact with people, with a colostomy bag to boot. I just live life vicariously through the people I observe. Some call it being a voyeur. I am neither proud nor ashamed of it, it is an immutable fact.