Seat 1X.

It is 7:33PM and I just stopped at Nakuru. I am going to Eldoret where I will not have to carry my backpack on my tummy, in fear that someone might cut it off. Literally disappearing with it. I have three
more hours to go and I realize I do not have enough money for a taxi to take me home. Also,I have not eaten anything the whole day. And I am seated in the most uncomfortable seat ever.

On my immediate right is the driver. See, I never sit on that seat – 1X. Never ever sit on it. It has no cushion to lay your head as you sleep. You also cannot lay on your forehead. Neither can you lay on your temples because you do not want to breath on a stranger’s neck. I would also not want a stranger blowing warm moist hair on my nape.

I also do not want a stranger poking my shoulders telling me,” Pinduka, unanipumulia.” That is something you want your sister to tell you. It does not get awkward when she says that. But when a
stranger does it, there will be an awkward silence. You will see their side eye judging you all the time.

You will not know how to tell them to close the window because the wind is too strong. It is hitting your nostrils too directly that you cannot inhale.

I have pretty long legs, or body. So sitting at 1X meant that I had little to no foot space for myself. The lady seated beside me is big bodied. And has square glasses with a brown rustic frame. I like them. Her
bag is yellow and made of fake leather. It has a snake’s scale print on it. She has no noticeable knee. Her knees stick together all through. She sits with her feet spread unintentionally. That does not even give
me a chance to share her foot space. Only one foot can fit.

As we leave Nakuru, the car now smells of fresh French fries, yoghurt and diesel. The driver is half bald headed and cannot stop touching his crotch. I figure that maybe he peed and did not wear his underpants well (if any) and now they are causing him great discomfort. So he keeps adjusting whatever
is beneath it. The woman beside me takes out a book. It is about prayer and speaking in tongues. I admire anyone who can do anything on the road. All I want to do is lay my head, sleep and not be talked
to. See, right before we left, I made an actual prayer that the driver would not be a talker. I do not like talking drivers. They ask if you are a student and where. Are going to school or from school? They ask which of your ears is bigger than the other. How many hair strands do you have.
Sleep is all I want at the moment. Something that is not possible in the freaking 1X seat.

The driver adjusts his crotch again and lightly brushes his fingers along his nostrils. I do not know how I notice this since I am not directly staring at his nose (or crotch). But I do.

It is now 9: 34 PM. And I am roughly an hour from home. I have the habit of always having my bag with me when I travel, since I always have space next to my foot for my bag. And also because everyone is a thief in their own way! But 1X was in the way today. I did not even have space for my own foot, let alone a bag.

Several people alight before reaching town and the driver has to stop, alight, open the door and boot every single time. He developed an attitude at this moment. Fatigue perhaps. And also because they
alighted pretty close to one another.
We are now at the Junction to Poa Place. Which to me signals the grand, or not so grand entrance into Uasin Gishu. (thanks to 1X).

It is now 10:40 PM and I call my chauffer, (read very kind neighbor). I am in town. I am home. I can now lean my neck on his car seat. I have enough foot space.

As the driver turns off the engine, he adjusts his crotch one last time. This time, he does not sniff.

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Mwalimu and Daktari.

The joy about leaving shags, to the city is that people think so highly of you. Too highly even.

Your grandma’ will keep complaining of how her back is killing her. And would you take her to a white doctor in a hospital in Nyairofi?

She’ll say the doctor in the local clinic is mean and too young to know shit. Besides, the bitter herbs do not work anymore.

Your quite educated grandfather will nag about how his Nokia kabambe doesn’t get charged from the solar panel anymore. He needs a new phone to catch up with his
mates and other grandchildren.
Your cousin who knocked out a poor high school girl will ask if you can ‘save’ him with a ka two hundred. The newborn is here and the clinic needs it for a medical booklet.

Your eldest aunt will keep asking when you’ll finally man up and finally bring a woman home. To which home? You shall ask yourself.

The pleasure in all this is that as a butchery seller in town, your folks will give you a fancy name like Daktari. Daktari who dehorns bulls in less painful and bloody means. Daktari who knows all chicken diseases and the names of drugs to treat them.

There shall be a fowl pox outbreak in the village one day. Many chicken will die. Many farmers shall gnash their teeth over the losses. And the wise Arap Cheptelion shall mention your name.
“Kiplagat ni daktari. Yeye atasaidia sisi” And so you are summoned.
A date is set. Audience invited. So you spend the whole night online cramming the signs of all poultry diseases. With their treatment, control and prevention.

And you show up. Because you are Daktari. And Daktari always shows up. Daktari never disappoints. He puts on a brave face. He saves the day.

And as a mere miserable intern at The Uasin Gishu County Agricultural Office. You’ll spend most of your days buying the freshest samosas. And airtime. You’ll be sent to bring more coffee sachets. And they shall be strictly white coffee. Because the boss
doesn’t like his coffee black. It raises his blood pressure. And we wouldn’t want that.

You shall ensure the diabetic Marketing Manager has her brown, sugarless chapatis by 10.00AM. You thought your internship would at least feel relevant to your Agriculture Extension study at campus.

You are miserable but your folks know you are okay. They wouldn’t understand if you told them what you do. Your mother keeps praying for you. In their eyes, you are an Agricultural Extension officer. They call you ‘Mwalimu’.

You know all there is to know about growing maize. And beans. And potatoes. You know all drugs by name and price. All fertilizers and how to ride a tractor.

Your old bloke thinks you have your own office. With a secretary who wears tight little black skirts. And has a nice butt. And can’t stop calling you “Sir Boss” or something corny like ”
Oga“. It is weird. But you shall probably like it. Your mother hopes that you get enough tea at 10 AM. Dad hopes that you like her perfume. That it doesn’t make you sneeze. Or awaken your asthma.

And that her hair doesn’t smell of old rugs and stale cabbages.
And so, like Daktari you spend a whole night, legs dipped in cold water; online. Mastering everything and anything to master about growing maize and beans and potatoes. Because pests have infested their farm. And their crops have failed miserably.

And when you are summoned, you show up. Because you are Mwalimu. And Mwalimu always shows up. Mwalimu never disappoints. He puts on a brave face. He saves the day.

Midtown.

I live in a rapidly growing town. Everyone minds their business yet no one minds their business. Boda bodas are basically near the entrance of every major supermarket. These people are always overdressed. Not necessarily in the manner of wearing a well-fitted (not tight) white three-piece suite with Clarks polished pair of shoe to a Saturday brunch. It is the kind skims do. Heavily knitted scarves tied around their necks about 347 times. The last round is tied around their face to cover their nose and mouth. Wind allergies I guess. Beneath their ‘Mandago tena’ or ‘Kamar for Women Rep, Mama Wa Nguvu’ lime green or orange reflectors are very heavy pullovers.

They smell of sweat and toil. Petrol and sun. Boots and reggae music. Once in a while, a ‘Wesas production’ tune is heard from a far.
In case you don’t know, Wesas Production is a typical Kalenjin music production name.
Several women hang around supermarkets while keeping a safe distance from security guards. Literally all of them have purple like checked aprons. A few have lesos tied around their waists with some weird
Swahili proverb like ‘mwanamke ni kama chungu…’
But surely, how can a woman be likened to a pot?
Others have some pocket like bag strapped around their waists. They’re dusty and dirty. Brown- the ultimate color of toil. Most sell oranges and mangoes. Others sell onions measured in an old rusty tomatoe paste can. Others try convincing you to buy a the whole gunny bag of onions. Have you ever stood right outside a supermarket near these women? Say you’ve been stood up by your guy who has just dropped by to buy a packet of condoms. Because almost everyone is sexually active these days. Of course you are too shy to go with him. Your mother might be in there. Or your lousy aunt from shags might just be buying diapers for her infant son. Nothing will ever prepare you for such.
You will be afraid of shaking her hand because aunts seem to know you are going to get some. The shake will feel impure. Dirty. Wrong. But you will shake it anyway. A firm handshake. An African handshake.

“Mum ako wapi. Mwambie anipigie simu leo.” And you shall part ways.
Back to the women. They won’t let you be. They’ll convince you till you buy a bunch of their oranges.

“Aunty si uchukue machungwa? Iko na maji mingi sana.”
“Maji?”
“Hapana, supu.”
“Oooohh. Si leo.” You’ll say looking away.
“Lini aunty?”
“Kesho”
“Sawa” She’ll leave and come right back after 5 microseconds with a bunch of bananas.
“Aunty sema nikuuzie ndizi safi. Bei poa leo mum.”

The biggest tip I have learnt about hawkers you do not want to buy from is: Always avoid eye contact.
These people are very persistent. You will be in a car waiting for it to fill up as you type away on your phone.

In that town, people do not randomly snatch phones from windows. So you don’t have to hide your phone in the deepest pocket.
As soon as your eyes meet with that of a hawker, you shall have shown interest in their padlocks, power
banks and earphones. They will run to you and push the box to your face, forcing consideration on you,
they offer to put the watch on your wrist for you. Heck even peel the banana for you.

In that town, quite often, a police siren goes off. The alarm of a white sleek sedan salon car goes off too.

An ambulance drives by once in a while. And you hope that the person in it survives. Because life is so unpredictable.

Ghost in my genes

I was once the kind of person who thought lifestyle diseases were cool on other. Well until I had one, I was stupid okay. But I was young and ignorant. Now I am older and wiser.

Around mid-last year, I woke up with a throat that felt like sawdust and a mouth that tasted like vinegar. My forehead was so hot and sweaty. My first instinct was to pop a pain killer and wait it out. (that is technically what I do all the time till google tells me I might actually drop dead as the pimple on my nose could be a sign of brain tumor.)

This wasn’t a pill and go kind of thing though. So I went to a clinic. I generally do not like hospitals and injections and blood. I do not even want anyone talking about death near me especially when I’m eating. Or even drinking water.

I walked into the nurses’ room. Protocol dictates that my blood pressure is tested and what nots. Maureen was kind and she loved my hair! A nurse loved my hair.

She slid the blood pressure monitor onto my arm and I felt the tightness on my arm. Then it let loose. She suddenly had this worrying look when she checked my numbers. Then she did it again.

“We unatumia birth control?” she asked.

That was a literal shock to me because I could not understand why she would ask me that.

I said no and asked why.

My blood pressure was too elevated for a 19 y/o, she said.

Then she asked if I was pregnant. I said no again.  She just sent me to the doctor’s office who told me to lie on a bed. I took of my shoes and lay on it. My blood pressure was checked again. Then he said I could sit.

Let me just say a set of weird questions followed that bit and I ended up being given drugs for my fever and a next week’s appointment after I was done medicating.

The next week I went there, I ended up having several tests at Mediheal Hospital. Including on called and ECG where the electric activity of the heart is recorded. The patient strips naked on the upper body. And I did do that.

Then as the nurse tried to operate the machine, she said it wasn’t working and had to call a guy to fix it. See, all that time, I was still chest naked, lying on the bed. So I had to put back my clothes as it was fixed.

Some gooey whitish stuff was then smeared on several parts of my chest; especially around the heart area and feet and wrists. It felt like a cold slug had been placed on my skin.

Some printed graph came out of a printer like machine and I had to take it to the doctor for analysis.

Blood had earlier been drawn from my body for some tests I do not remember (Kidney and organ stuff). I am damn certain that a pregnancy test was thrown in there.

In the morning I had eaten nothing. Not even water because it was mandatory for the tests I was going to have. But who am I. I carried cobs of boiled maize and immediately I left the room, I ate. There is no way I would starve. So if you saw a girl with shaggy hair eating maize in a hospital last year, and you thought, ’what kind of human eats in such a setting?’ I am sorry.

The results said my blood was clean. My heart was perfect.

I ended up using mild hypertension medication which I have since dropped because I turned out okay after 3 months. This was after battling a little anxiety on knowing I could have a stroke or heart attack anytime.

I struggled with taking daily meds.

The Indian doctor said I however had to make lifestyle changes. The boring stuff about drinking water and walking, or running and avoiding junk and reducing salt and coffee that we think are petty. (I do not even like coffee)

I did make food changes okay, but I could not exercise for shit. Two weeks ago, I walked for 30 minutes at 7AM. I was so psyched that I had decided to bike the next day. I am still waiting to date.

So today, have your blood pressure checked, regardless of your age and how you feel. It is free in most chemists.

Know your numbers.

 

 

 

Start of Something Good.

Hey guys,

This is my first ever post on this blog. I write with so much fear that things might not turn out as well as I want them to. I write with fear of getting stuck at my screen, the cursor blinking at me; with my mind blank and nothing to write. I write with fear being weak and shallow. Boring and irrelevant. I write with fear of doing this on my own. I write with darkness, beautiful darkness.

It’s a shot in the dark. Yet amid that darkness, my passion for words sheds light to it all. Beneath that darkness, lies excitement to have taken this huge step. Beneath all the fear and the reality that this might not get off to an auspicious start, there is a beautiful feeling. Satisfying even.

The biggest lesson about writing I have come to learn is that it’s a tough art. And it’s tough to nurse your art. It’s even harder to nurse a tough art.

Art is like a little new born baby. So small at first yet so beautiful. You hold him with so much caution and fear. You are afraid of him. Afraid that you brought him into this bitter battle. You bath him with water warm enough. Not too hot. Or cold.

You invest in his health and wellness. You invest in vaccination, immunization, toys, crayons, great nannies, those woolen hand sewed hats that cover children’s ears.

You invest time and emotions into this child. Money and sleep to care for him. Milk formula and feeding bottles.

You hope and believe that he grows into a beautiful baby. That he shall know how to pronounce Paris. And shave his own hair. And know how to book his own plane tickets.

Your beautiful baby. From who you shall be so proud to call yours. To introduce to your workmates, while resisting the urge to mention him in all your conversations. Hah!

In that sense, How She Sees is my new born child. She is so small yet so beautiful. I am afraid of her. Afraid that I brought her into this bitter battle.

I’ll keep the temperatures for her bath warm. And invest in vaccination and immunization, toys and crayons. Hats and nannies.

Great nannies because I can’t do this alone. I hope she grows into a beautiful baby. My beautiful baby. And I shall introduce her to my workmates too!

I’ll be posting every Saturday.

Religiously.

See you next week.

I am so glad you stopped by.

XO!