26 August 2011

Down memory lane

Growing up back at the village was fun. Didnt seem like much fun then but I appreciate the peace and tranquility there now. Everyone knew everyone else and was responsible for the other. We took time to stop and chat our neighbors and even spent a whole evening exchanging stories after a hard days' work.

I liked the way we did stuff together. We, the children would organise to perform chores together at different homes in turn. Some of us would be cooking while the others worked. Somehow the food tasted better when we had it together in a group. And the stories were never ending. So was the laughter.

Going to school was a joint affair too. Up until class four when I went to boarding school. We woke up early to prepare to go to school. More often than not there was one or  more kids waiting outside to walk together to school. We talked all the way and only ran the last bit of the journey when we heard the school bell ring. In the evening it was one large party again, headed for home.

We learnt so much that kids nowadays do not get to learn. Walking home in the evening, we had to be on the look out for each other. There was always the danger of that man or other who lurked in the shadows awaiting little children who was more of a mother's imagination than reality. Often times as we walked, we would suddenly stop talking and stand, when one of us imagined they had seen a shadow cross our path. We would all huddle together and take off in different directions screaming. At this, someone from a homestead nearby would come running to find out the cause.

The most fun came at Christmas time. This was a time of merry making and special treats. Aside of new clothes which were unwrapped just a few days to the day for fitting, were the delicacies. But we had Christmas carols too. This is what used to happen. The older boys and girls would meet up in the evenings to practice songs. Then the last few days to Christmas, they would go from one homestead to another just after dark to sing. There would be this large number of youths trudging into a homestead, who would come, sing two or three songs before proceeding to the next homestead. They of course expected a token from the home. A chicken here, or some bread.  This they would put together and hold a party on Christmas day evening.

There were stories of village folk who did not wake up to meet these night guests who would have a smelly surprise at their gate the following morning. What surprises me today was that there was no talk of these youth misbehaving while they went about singing at night to earn their Christmas party. If one dared to go beyond holding the hands of a girl they would not only be the talk of the village and beyond but would invite gossip on their parents on their parenting skills!

The most exciting of all was Christmas eve. We would usually go to church for a service that was meant to usher the birth of Christ. There were performances from different youths. There were always some grownups given the task to ensure all went well. Considering one of them would be our headmaster, we all went out of our way to put on our best behaviour. After all, none of us wanted to have their name called out on the list of shame at the school parade when schools reopened.

Things have changed now back at the village. Folks don't have much time to hold chats one with the other. Children now ride in school buses to school and thus don't get to play and even socialise as before. People have put up high gates and serious dogs, you don't dare just walk into some one's home without notice. The Christmas carols are no more. Many people have left to go work in big towns and only meet occasionally. Life back at the village now remains a distant memory of what it was before.

I often think that our upbringing is ideal for our African setting. I mean, at the end of the day so many social ills were evaded then. But then with the changing lifestyles things had to change.

24 August 2011

Oh no, not now!

This morning many families are sad. Their source of livelihood is no more thanks to the nocturnal demolitions of the Nairobi City council around Donholm. It is a desperate mood all over the area. Imagine waking up to go and open your small business to find everything including your stock in disarray.

True, these people might have encroached on land meant for the road expansion. They might not have taken seriously eviction notices from the city council. Some of the notices might date  to years back. And yes these small traders know that they operate on space that does not belong to them. But to come and find all their investments spread all over, while they sleep? It is nothing short of inhuman. How, then do these people put a meal on their table especially considering the upward movement of all basic commodities? Sugar is now retailing at shs.385 for two kilos, while a few months ago the same cost Shs.205.

Perhaps the best approach might have been for the council, after serving notice to the traders, to erect a sign near the stalls reading 'These stalls are due for demolition on August 24th 2011. Please vacate before then'. In which case, no one would come up and claim ignorance of the demolition as it would be visible to public and all.

I spoke to  one of the longest existing trader with a small duka for the past 10 years. He had this resigned look as he told me that that was the norm of the city council. He had a distant look as he told his story. You see, he is a family man, with children in high school. I left him, but my heart went out to his and other families that will have to come to terms with the new turn of events. I also noticed some angry looking youths, surveying the damage and speaking in low tones. Helplessness was the mood on their faces.

There are ways that serve to crush a people's spirit. Then desperation sets in. When that happens, none of us is safe. Not to mentions the lives that are directly affected by these actions. All the people affected by this will have to find an alternative source of income. Some methods, not so good. Perhaps then, an alternative might have been provided for these people. So that they can go on making a living for themselves.

I appreciate that the demolitions might be to make way for development of a better road network. That the City council might be acting within it's legal measures. But their way of doing so leaves a lot to be desired. I wonder, did the person mauling the kiosks  pause to think of his actions? Or he reasoned that what has to be done has to be done?

I feel for the way we as a country deal with the issues at hand. Perhaps we have lost the human touch in our dealings with one another. This should be a concern for all because what affects some will affect us all. It is a dangerous trend for a country people to be treated so inhumanly by those in authority. Yet these authorities should serve the very people. I believe that there is a better way of passing across the message. After all, society identifies with leaders and authority that can come down to their level and reason with it. It is indeed a sad day for the traders around Donholm and for all their dependants.

15 August 2011

Do teenagers have a mind of their own, really?

I have read enough literature on teens to last me a lifetime. But still nothing has helped me understand the workings of the mind one such in my household. I mean, how do I understand that the little baby I cuddled in my arms just a few years ago would rather I was invisible to her lately? How is it that I can no longer have a mom-to-girl talk with her without being accused of invading her space? Can someone explain to me when I stopped being her mommy and acquired a set of horns on my head?

It was kind of comforting to read an article this past saturday on the woes of having a teenager. I kept nodding all the way down to the last sentence and it was comforting for me to realize that what I suffer is a natural phenomenon. But that did little to explain the state of affairs. I laughed aloud when I read with glee the part about rolling eyes. I mean, why do teens today feel that they have to roll their eyes to get the not-so-pleasant message accross? And size one up in such a way that implies that they-feel-nothing?

The author of the article must have had it with her teenager. Because she sounded warning that soon the teenager would go past that stage into responsible adulthood. Often times I am just wondering if my teenager will ever regain her feelings someday and get a feel of being family with us again. That's because right now the family that appears to have more influence on her is her peers. And if you ask me, that is the perfect picture of a two-horned beast complete with a tail and fangs. Cross-eyed too.

You see, peer pressure being the undoing of most is what causes most teens to veer right off the road and suffer immeasurable misery to themselves and family. And so the sooner a family realises that they are fighting with influence born of someone else's teen who does not necessarily hold the same beliefs as theirs, the better for them. Then they can begin to gather the right arsenal to hit back. I have realised that denial works well. Especially of gadgets that usually fall in the wrong hands of the youth.

I am even beginning to enjoy myself. But I wonder how long my joy will last. Teens always find a way of bursting your bubble. But lately I find joy in saying no to what I should agree to with no effort.  I find myself wishing that someone would come up with a tracker for teens. A mind reader. Or that a few years of youth would be frozen. Then the teen can come back to consciousness when they are much older and responsible. And know better. Crazy musings of a mom dealing with a classic teen.

I got to hear stories from other moms of the tales of their teens. Some were downright crazy. But most of them were told by mothers, voices full of emotion and eyes wide open for emphasis on how their once little darlings have turned into tormentors of sorts. And so I realized that parents everywhere need to pray for safe passage for their kids as early as when they are born. That should help cushion them against the events in their lives that the parents may have little control over.

10 August 2011

I like an article in today's nation newspaper on GMO maize. More so because it is done by a genetics expert. Her knowledge on the issue has prompted her to come forth and rationally sound caution on consumption of the same. I take her seriously because she has supported her argument with solid facts. I for one did not know of the serious side effects that can go up to successive generations on consumption. That procedures have to be done to test the GMO products for safety in human use.

Experts from all areas should come forth and educate the public on issues affecting them. This is the way to go for our country. Ignorance can be very costly for most. Better to be forewarned. The current drought situation might have been alleviated if the warning sounded by red cross early this year had been heeded. The government could have resulted in seeking safe alternative food for the people other than making a rushed decision to go for little understood alternatives in the name of GMOs.

Morality issues too have been  left to chance. There has been talk of the filth that is going on in learning institutions. What is more surprising is that most of us are still in denial. In a current story of a students been expelled on moral misconduct in a girls' school, a parent is suing the school. If I was the parent I would take more time to get the real story behind the allegations. The truth is that there is a crisis in the waiting as far as morals go for our youth. And little is being done to arrest the situation.

It takes a few knowledgeable people to turn a situation around. It is not easy changing the way a people think or view stuff. Most have taken a laissez-faire attitude in life and are reluctant to do stuff differently. Most could not be bothered enough to question stuff, even what will directly affect them. Until they are squeezed to the corner. Like in the case of the unga revolution. Or the rising fuel prices.

Perhaps if all stood up to what is not clear our society would be much better. Starting from our neighborhoods where facilities that were meant for the public are no longer such. Or when services that are meant to be rendered are not fulfilled.  I saw this sticker in a matatu that encourages passengers to speak out if the driver is speeding. The matatu was speeding alright and all was quiet.
Have you been to a place, where you got service that you felt should have been better and left quietly?

I once stood at a queue in the banking hall for an ATM card replacement. I watched some people come in right from outside and fix themselves in the queue. Surprisingly, no one asked questions and actually way was made for them. After a few such, I asked a gentleman right behind me why that was happening. He seemed to have been resigned to it and it was like he did not mind. The next person that tried to queue jump, was not so lucky. And we got better organised service.

Often times we let off issues that would be resolved if we did speak out. Then when it has gone too far we start to blame the authorities while it could have turned out differently had we spoken out. It all boils down to each one of us doing what is morally expected of us and taking responsibility for one another. Because at the end of it all, what affects any of us will trickle down to us. Inevitably.

05 August 2011

In your shoes.

At my work place there is a programme where people from various departments sit in with those who provide direct services to customers for a feel of their work. It is called in-your-shoes programme. It works well because then we all get a feel of how it is dealing directly with customers.

I wonder if we should use that method outside of work. Take our members of parliament for instance. Imagine finding one of them at the bus stop very early in the morning, trying to catch a matatu to work. Then when the matatu gets there, the same mp struggles with all the rest to secure a seat. The mp then sits in the matatu for say one hour in traffic jam, forced to listen to endless chat on classic 105 about stuff that is is best told to a counsellor. His pleas to the matatu conductor to bring down the volume or better still change to another station are met with a blank stare of you-will-know-who-is-boss-here.

Getting to town, the mp might have to jostle with the rest of the crowd from as far as bus station to get to parliament buildings. What a walk that would be for the then sweaty mp. At the end of that day he would walk back to the bus stop to catch a matatu home and sit for another hour or two before getting home tired and all the wiser. I am sure that we would be surprised to hear the same mp passionately campaigning for better road networks or even a revamp of our railway system to cater for the increase in population in our city.

Take the case of hunger in Kenya. Over the years, we have had drought come and take lives though not as severe as the one we are suffering right now. Yet little has changed to encourage a change of lifestyle on those affected. It is easy for most to reason that the affected should initiate change. That is until they do a bit of background check on their lives.

I watched news last night with compassion. A mother in the drought ravished Turkana was massaging a childs' stomach to try and ease hunger pangs. Another held out a child so malnourished to even cry, for the cameras. Imagine for a minute what these people are going through. May be if a truck load of our leaders were to be ferried there, and live out just two days on the ground they might get a feel of life there. No food available and harsh conditions. No hospitals close by. And then we might just see our armed forces sent out to these parts to drill out bore holes and build hospitals for these people. That way, even when there is drought they can still water their animals and even learn to grow fodder for the same with the available watering holes.

It is nothing to be proud of really. Having faces of hungry kenyans splashed on front pages of world dailies. What a way to be known! Ooooh, you come from Kenya where their hunger all the time. Surely we can do better than this. We can seek a lasting change so that despite what the weather hands us we are prepared and can take it on and move to available alternatives. Just as well as should be, really.

One mp is doing it already. The youthful Mike sonko of makadara. I hear that he hates to see any form of suffering  and will even step out of his car to do what he has to do. This does often times get him in trouble because he is quite passionate of his peoples plight. But he has worn peoples hearts because he identifies with their plight. He knows what it is to have the staple food unaffordable to most families in kenya. He knows what it is like to sell small wares out in the sun all day and has built sheds for his people. He knows the youth's cry for want of work to do and the pain of a mother who cannot afford a meal for her family. No wonder he is so popular with the crowd.

It is obvious that once you step into someones' shoes abeit for a moment you can identify with them. So much change in the world came about by people who actually came down, status and all and got a feel of life in less fortunate places. These are the missionaries who come to Africa and highlight a people's suffering and drum for funds to be sent for them to initiate projects. Many families have had contact with these charitable organisations. There was even a story of one boy in kenya, many years ago who could not afford to go to school. A swedish lady decided to sponsor a child in Africa. That boy was him and went on to a reputable university in America and has come back to put up an organisation, complete with a school for the less fortunate. Many children are now benefitting from this, all because he has been there. He can identify with them.

Maybe we can all consider this idea really. In our different settings we can all try to live out a few days in the shoes of those who have no voice to air their plight. Might even help those who take stuff for granted to realize just how fortunate they are and reach out to those who are not so lucky. Seriously.

03 August 2011

It is incredible, this bond.

I remember the first time he held her in his arms. She had just come into this world and it was their first meeting. I remember noticing that she just seemed so snug in his arms. And for the first time opened her eyes. I smiled though I was so tired.

Hubby and our last born are so close. Sometimes I think they read each other's minds. The bond started way back. Even as a little baby only he would soothe her. He would lay her on his laps and bingo, she would soon float off to sleep. Something the rest of us might have been trying a whole afternoon. He learnt to sing to her. Made up songs that must have sounded like angel music only to her.

There have been incidences that have driven the two closer still. I watch these two and get the understanding of a father's love anew. But my heart aches too. For all the children that have never experienced a daddy's love. I wonder how it might feel. No one to fall back on. No one to call on for strength and protection only daddy offers. I hurt for the ones who have not experienced love but pain in their daddy's hands. There is comfort though that  God is a loving father. It only takes for them to reach out to him.

While we all go around with our business, we rarely stop to think of the role that a father plays in shaping his children. Let aside the provisions but a daddy who plays out his God-given role is worthy of honor. Sad to say, in this age dads are not taking their roles seriously. Young dads who did not mean to begin parenting find themselves in a position they did not bargain for and the only way is to beat a hasty one. Leaving behind equally young mothers who have little or no support to bring up the child.

Even mature daddy's do not escape the blame. There are countless children who only identify with their daddy as a source of income. Conversation is limited and only when necessary. These children grow up with a distorted picture of what a father should be. They have no feel of a daddy's love, no special memories with that special person in their lives.

I once listened to one such lady. All grown up now and working. She was having some issues in her relationship. Listening to her rant and rave all I could hear was a cry for love. The man in her life was all loving to her but with no experience at love she did not know how to love him back. Instead she was inwardly looking for something to lay him blame for. I thought how different the scenario might have been if she had come from a background of an involved father. She might have identified some of what she was going through from such a previous exprience.

Children grow up watching their parents. They are watching everything from the way daddy treats mummy. Even when things are not well between the two they see. They learn that relationships can be worked out when they see the two most important people in their lives come back together after falling out from a misunderstanding. They learn that daddy reacts differently from mummy about issues. These lessons, they take into their adulthood. And are beneficial.

And so as I watch hubby with our little girl I hope that she is learning from his being there. That she will know enough about how to relate with the opposites in a healthy way. That even as she goes through life the knowledge of his love for her will give her strength to handle whatever it it that may come her life's way. That she will grow up, secure in daddy's love.