Wednesday, 12 August 2009

"Shoes that Grew Legs...."

Rift Valley Sports Club Poolside
Last Sunday while having tea at the Rift Valley Sports Club in Nakuru, I came across a friend who goes there to exercise by walking round the cricket pitch.

While walking, she came across several pairs of mitumba shoes thrown from the high wall at the farthest end of the field. Most likely someone with ill intentions pinched the shoes from the 2nd hand dealers with stalls on the outer perimeter wall facing Oginga Odinga Street

She quickly alerted the askaris at the gate to investigate the theft in progress.

We all left confident that matters would be sorted and that the club would take the security breach seriously.

So, the next day my friend called me to tell me that despite reporting the incident to the club security staff, “The shoes grew legs...” Hmmm....

Last Thursday, I had dropped an advert to be posted on the Club’s Notice Board and they promised it would be up the next day...when I went in today I was surprised to find that it had not gone up at all.

The receptionist sheepishly admitted that they lost the advert and they needed another copy.

I asked her impishly, “Did the advert grow legs too?”

SO now the plot thickens...and I have to it that the club is a dumping spot for pinched goods? What else is thrown over that wall? Is it an inside job? Is anyone there concerned at all? Will they do something about it?

I also found it extremely tacky that they cant keep up with paperwork – I hate to imagine where my chits go after I sign them...maybe they get lost too and never end up on my invoice??

FAT CHANCE... the club would bill you for air given half the chance...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Safari Simbaz Trust – Kenyans with a great Cause

Driving away from the madding crowds of Nairobi is always a pleasant prospect. Away from traffic snarl ups, smog and the usual city’s bustle, it’s heartening to leave and breathe fresh country air for a change. I was meeting with 37 year old David Kinjah whose reputation in the Kenyan cycling circles preceded him. Our destination was just past Kikuyu town. As we drove to his place we got hopelessly lost so I turned to a bunch of boda boda riders asking (and hoping) if they know Kinjah… they all did. One of them, Kahiga offered to ride ahead of us and direct us to his house for 50 bob.

"Last minute checks"

Kinjah made his international race cycling debut in 1995 and has represented Kenya in the last 3 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpar Malaysia in 1998, Manchester in the UK in 2002 and in Melbourne Australia in 2006 despite several hurdles along the way. He is well known in the annual Cape Epic race held in South Africa and his cycling career has taken him to several countries.

He is also one of the few highly regarded bike mechanics in Kenya, possibly in Eastern Africa having about 19 years experience in the cycling industry. All kinds of clients come to him for his expertise ranging from the local boda bodas (affordable bicycle taxis that have grown to an almost cult-like following in small town Kenya) to the more serious cyclist athletes who can all count on him for precision work.

I googled him and got back almost a thousand hits all illustrating his race times and stats in local and international races. I put some of his race times against more international recognizable names and was impressed by how he stood out right there with some of them.

Basically our man is a star.

So why isn’t he as well known as the Schleck or Amstrong you may ask?

Well, the reasons are vast and varied.
The tenuous situation with the Kenyan government (past and present) and the sporting federations are more often than not tangled up in politics and corruption. This tends to dampen the spirits of otherwise excellent sportsmen in Kenya.

But I am not interested in talking politics today.

Lets go back to Kinjah and the work his doing with Kenyan youth.
I had heard about a cycling club he started in the mid 90’s called the Safari Simbaz that helped train and coach several riders some of whom ended up riding for the Kenyan team. Recently the club evolved to a fully fledged Trust and with the help of a few individual well wishers and are trying to tap into the potential of especially young unprivileged Kenyans. Kinjah set up a grassroots training camp in Kikuyu were he moulds athletes into well rounded cyclist athletes and trains them as bike mechanics.

"Pila 18 years old maintaining his bike"

When I went out to visit last week he had 2 trainees with him, Davis Kinuthia aka “Katapila”18 year old and Francis Nango aka “Franjes Nangos” a 17 year old orphan (who Kinjah has since then “adopted”) currently under his training programme. The boys look at Kinjah as their mentor, their coach and their family. He gives them hope, direction and a work skill that can take them out of their otherwise grim circumstances.

“I have taken some boys literally off the streets to come and train because I see in them a special kind of quality and hunger and willingness to learn.” said Kinjah as he looked proudly at the boys as they set up a tray to serve me tea and snacks. I also got to spend sometime watching his latest trainees prepping for a “short” ride to Karen to fix a couple of bikes. There was a certain methodology in their routine. Despite having Kinjah’s full attention as we talked about cycling in Kenya, his eyes always fell to what the boys were doing and how. Quietly but firmly, he righted wrongs and always took notice of accomplishments no matter how small. The boys would swell with pride at the encouragement, my eyes slightly eyes watered at that. Kinjah spent his early life in Mombasa and he loved sports and got involved in it at a very young age.

“Basically boys in the neighbourhood would drift around the beaches in the afternoon or evening to play and we would make up a team each day depending on the number of boys who came out that day and come up with a football match. It was unstructured and loose but even in those casual games we played very good quality ball.” “Football was interesting but I had to rely on others and sometimes they let you down by not turning up. So I opted to try out running. I was actually quite good at it too.”” “When I was about 24 years old, I came across an old bike my cousin had. It was a racing bike past its sell-by date so to speak. I asked him if I could borrow it for a while and restored it and rode from my parents to my grandfather’s farm for fun. I loved it.” Its been a long arduous ride since then and from his first BMX bicycle that he bought in 1993 and set him back Kshs.1,000. He is now older and wiser and feeling the need to help the young ones at a chance of cycling sports in Kenya.

“Cycling in itself is not sustaining in Kenya. That is why I train these young guys on how to fix and maintain bicycles. It doubles up as a trade and of course I need them all to know how to take care of their own bikes. This takes the boys out of the streets and out of trouble and generally provides them with a job skill.”

Kinjah didn’t mince words about his absolute demand for commitment and discipline from his trainees.

“I don’t take nonsense and the boys know that. I can’t have them missing out training by just hanging about. For some of them I work with their parents and so when they miss out on a session I am in touch with the parents just to make sure they were not getting into mischief.

“It’s very easy for youngsters to be busy all day doing absolutely nothing! So I am very strict with them. Training and the bicycle I sometimes provide them is the one ticket some of these boys have at getting at a shot at something in their lives. You need to understand that some of them have absolutely nothing back home! At that notion, very few of them mess up training.”
With the Safari Simbaz Trust Kinjah hopes to provide a bigger and more structured platform for cycling enthusiasts in Kenya. One of the ways proposed is to plan nation wide community based race “Kijiji” races and other interesting cycling events in order to capture raw talent and garner some cycling enthusiasts. With an ever increasing need to focus on the environmental issues, cycling is working its way up as a good alternative as it is a non-carbon emitting activity. One cannot also ignore the health wake up calls, cycling is an effective way of keeping fit and with such a picturesque country, Kenya is an ideal cycling destination for locals and tourists alike. With this key issues in mind the Trust could do with as much help in can get to set up and make this positive impact on young Kenyans lives.

"Nangos" 17 year old orphan adopted by Kinjah prepping for a "short" ride to Karen

“The Safari Simbaz Trust way for me and other friends to give back to the community. I would like to share the vast experience I have gained and transfer some skills that can improve life in an economic, health and social way. I want to provide a wealth of information and help that I never got when I started taking cycling more seriously.” said Kinjah in closing our afternoon together.
As I watched Kinjah and the boys get onto their bikes ridding off and waving goodbye, I was struck by the stark comparison between “Pila” & “Nangos” who had a strong a sense of purpose and discipline yet all around the centre were little kiosks with dazed staggering boys on the roadside high on chang’aa a local brew. They too needed direction, they needed a chance.

The Safari Simbaz Trust hopes to do that one cyclist at a time.
They say the key ingredients for a good race include Discipline & Determination…a combination that also sums up the race called life.

"Off the Simbaz go!"

The work Safari Simbaz would do in the local community would pay off in so many ways. Kenyans with good ideas are always worth noting so let’s step up and provide our support in this worthy cause.


*******Safari Simbaz Website is in the works but feel free to get in touch with David Kinjah for more information on how you can get involved in supporting their cause.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

I was surprised to see an article in a local newspaper an article by Binyavanga Wainaina which I had earlier posted on Mail & Guardian. Now it turns out that the said article was cut and pasted by the newspaper.

Here is Binyavanga's response to Nairobi Star's CEO's letter:

I came across Binyavanga’s post along with the ridiculous excuse the newspaper gave...they figured since it was "freely available since it was posted on the internet."

It brings to play how so we so blatantly abuse copyright law.

I believe in Name and Shame!!!


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mummy Dearest.....

~Mum and I~

Dear Mum 9 years ago today you left me at 10am. That day you also left some gifts because the day didn’t end without a miracle happening in our lives. When Jim told me you had rested that evening – I was so sad – I had hoped to come to hospital and read to you my new contract the same time you breathed your last. I remember the evening before when I sat and combed your hair plaiting it into neat matutas – the doctor said that even with the coma you could hear us. At that time I told you just how much you meant to me…..the thought of you suffering filled my heart with pain and I would have done anything to make you better. I think that you are now in a much better place…where there is no pain or affliction. I was the last one you spoke to before your coma – and the last words you shared with me remain in my heart. Mum you were so amazing, so beautiful and such a gift. I am so honored to be your baby…and ever so thankful you were in my life…I know you were on borrowed time – remaining strong and graceful doing your best for us all without much thought to your own needs ambitions and desires… I do miss you. Very much so. Sometimes I get really sad, like today and ask myself why you had to leave. I live in the constant hope that I might get the chance to meet you once again and fall into your loving embrace. I hope that I hear your voice once more…I well…sigh…just keep hoping…. I love you Mum…my queen, my heart, my friend Humbly and with lots of love Chiqy

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Where Do these Managers Come from?? – Rift Valley Sports Club Poor Show Ashford Kimani


I decided to save a trip to the local sports club and make a telephone inquiry after I lost my car park Sticker for 2009 and looked in all my hiding places in vain…..

This is how the bizarre incident went….

“Hi I lost my parking sticker and would like know the process to get a replacement and the penalty for the replacement.” I began.

“Eh ati, I don’t know. You mean you lost yours? Aii that on you have to talk to the Club Secretary its only him who can help you.” said the telephone receptionist.

I laughed internally thinking – she must be new or kidding – why call and ask for management for a routine query that most administrators would know the basic procedure.

But what the hell let me just put the receptionist out of her misery.

“Ok put me through thanks.”

“Yes hallo…” said Club Secretary Ashford Kimani.

“Yes hello, Bwana Secretary, I lost one of my parking sticker for 2009 and would like to know the process of replacing it and what it would cost me I have been referred to you.”

“You are a member or?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied.

“You’re calling from where?”


“Nakuru where?”

Seated in a car near Standard Chartered (Why do people ask this very stupid question????)

“Ok why don’t you come over and I tell you what you need to do.”

“ thanks I am on my way.”

TWENTY FIVE MINUTES LATER in a cab charging waiting fee…I arrive at the club

“Hi am Melissa and I spoke to the C.S on phone told him am coming to see him about replacing a lost sticker.” I ask at one of the manned desks near his office.

“OK am sorry his left but can you wait for him or come back another day?”

“Well I did say I was on my way here – maybe his left a message with one of you?” I asked looking around at the office.

No one budged.

“No kwani he can’t even leave a message with someone when he leaves?”

All the people in the office avert their eyes as though to say to me – SO NOW YOU WANT WHAT???

I head to the reception and ask if they can track the Secretary – they confirm he left the premises for lunch – am looking quite pissed so they quickly offer me his cell phone number to just speak to him directly.

“Hello Sir this is me….I said I was coming to see you about replacing my sticker but they tell me you’ve left….”

“Yes you think work will stop because you said you were coming….” he retorts back.

“okkkkkaaayyy…. But if you needed to step out the very least you could have done is left a message with one of your administrators so things don’t have to be at a stand still when you step out ama what do you think?…”

“And anyway you didn’t ask for an appointment! So you don’t expect me to wait for you….anyway go talk to my secretary I left her a message…”

“You mean Triza at the reception or??”

“That is not my secretary!” (So how the hell am I supposed to know am dying to ask but didnt?)

“Bwana Secretary I don’t think your being very nice or polite you know ….”

“Work cannot stop because you said you were coming….I was called outside and I am busy.”

(Cutlery clicking in the phone background….yeah right busy got that…)


“Ok let me talk to Catherine…” I hang up.


“Hi are you Catherine? The Club Secretary said you have my message about the process of replacing a car sticker.”

“Me? No he didn’t tell me anything. Let me find out.”

She walks out and calls him on his cell phone. She comes back after a few minutes.

“OK if you lost your sticker then we cannot help you. We only issue two maximum that’s what he had said.”

I look at her….wondering whether to scream.

So I called and inquired if it was possible….they said come we tell you how….then I get there and he tells his secretary to tell me “sorry its not possible to get a replacement!” they could have saved me the trouble and said that on phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I walk off instead.

That’s a regular Nakuru “manager” power trip for you….no wonder the Rift Valley Sports club standards are down to the dogs…..and they cut the trees! But that’s a rant for another day…

Poor show Bwana Secretary …very telling for Club Members….

PS. Members, where did we get this guy from????

Monday, 18 May 2009

When Time Stays Still

When Time Stays Still

At night everything transforms….

A new world emerges on the other side of my window

Lush shady trees morph into grotesque shadowy monsters

Rustling as the wind picks up speed with an eerie howl

Like a dirge from restless spirit singing and mocking me

I feel eyes staring in from the night as I lay still on my bed

I feel surrounded somehow


A menacing hunter waiting for the right moment to get me

Darkness swallows up and devours everything around me

For a moment I wonder if my eyes are shut or not

So I blink

And see nothing-ness

I lay there waiting

In the dead of night even time stands still.

The gust is here again and the trees sway

Creaking as they bow to wind gods passing

My heart beat pounds so loud I think they can hear it

Sweat dropping on my brow

They smell my fear

How long till merciful sleep takes me to a safe refuge

How long till I swim away from this deep sea of shadows

How long till the first crack of light

How long till the next frightful night

Monday, 30 March 2009

Some Chose to Love Anyway…

There are those moments when it’s not easy to love

When too many things come between lips kissing or warm embrace

Whether the barriers be real, imagined or imposed….

And differences are not always helpful

When they prevail over things shared in common

It’s not always easy to nurture feelings of affection

When the easier option of walking away glares at us in the face

Yet sometime we hesitate

Turn back

And choose to love anyway


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Rebuilding Life Brick By Brick - Nakuru Womens Stories of Survival after the Post Election Violence (Part I)

My home town Nakuru is still picking up its social and economic pieces after the Post election violence. The town was adversely affected last year when insecurity heightened and a curfew was imposed to reduce the number of casualties.

I would like to take some time and talk about a few Nakuru women and their stories.

Today I pick a very special lady for her strength and will to survive.

Mama Ng’endo IDP from Londiani

Mama Ng’endo is an IDP from Londiani near Kericho.

She barely escaped death with her 5 children when aggressors burnt their home down without warning. Good Samaritans got them to Nakuru.

Her husband had left that morning to look for work; she had no idea whether he made it out in time.

She got to the IDP camp set up at the Nakuru Showground and registered her name just in case her husband came across it. But looking at the swelling crowds and rush for food she opted to leave the camp to seek help outside.

She went from house to house begging for food or clothes. She knocked on our gate one day at around lunch time. We welcomed her and shared some ugali and vegetables as she narrated her sad tale to us. Her main worry was her husband – she went to the Red Cross desk almost every day but there was still no word. We all tried to stay positive and encourage her.

She had her youngest child on her breast and he looked up at me with these huge eyes sad and tense; I could not begin to imagine what the child had witnessed in the few past weeks.

After the meal we gave her some supplies and a little money to help with the rest of her children and wished her well.

We learnt later that Mama Ng’endo’s husband didn’t make it.

She had little time to mourn as she now needed to focus on how to support her children. My dad helped her with a little capital to start up a liquid soap business. She is very committed to the venture – the returns though are paltry but it is a start.

Mama Ng’endo’s soap is quite effective and we use it a lot in the house.

She is now a frequent visitor here.

She set the kids up in a little shack in Ngacura near the local school so they can get on with education.

Whenever she visits, she always has a ready smile and a warm greeting. My heart reaches out to her but she likes to focus on light and happy things. I want to sometimes hug and hold her and tell her things will one day be alright. Instead, we share a cup of tea and chat about general things. She hardly complains but you can see in her eyes silent suffering.

I admire her spirit.

Sometimes, one sees a trace of sadness in her face when a dark memory fleets past and she stares down at her hands, willing tears back then she looks up with fierce determination getting on with the chat slowly regaining her composure…

I would like to celebrate Mama Ng’endo today. She constantly fights against remaining a victim of the cruel events that took place in the recent Post Election Violence.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

My Love Letter to you....

So it’s a big day today. Depending.

Capitalists are cashing in this Valentines by convincing you to show your affection to your beloved by buying something sweet, fragranced or cuddly…I always said if I wasn’t so lazy I would consider this business but alas I am a writer and would rather sit back and watch the drama unfold…..then write about it…

Valentine Day finds women in various phases of their lives…

Some little girls smile and giggle at the sight of love birds showing affection building their own castles in the air….

Bashful girlfriends waiting hoping and wondering what their chivalrous boyfriends would do…

There are also those who believe that Valentine is meant to be celebrated everyday and is therefore a routine day…

Or that it’s a waste of time and money….you know whatever makes you tick…

What amazes me is that 10 years ago valentine day was little known in Kenya…..nothing much happened – but lately our FM stations, TV’s and shops are colonized by the frenzy of activities it attracts. It is a bit much.

Last evening I got a thank you hug from my son for some thing or other I had done for him.

I was typing away on my computer, a bit distracted as I mumbled back …”love you”…then he paused and held his cheek against mine for a few extra seconds and said to me,

“Mum, I love your skin because it’s soooo soft.”

All at once I lost my trail of thought and held my son closer rather touched by his words (and to check if he had a fever since pre-teens are never mushy – unless of course they want something)…

His gesture and expression of love was spontaneous, simple and so sweet. It spoke volumes. I thought about how easy it would be to take these little things for granted…..

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have a special day to celebrate love.

But it might also be less sycophantic if we show a little bit of this affection in our daily lives too.

I believe women drive the course of relationships mostly because we are smarter and more sensible. Sometimes though, we get a little carried away with our expectations and benchmark ourselves with others too much…

Then those annoying little remarks (which are so unattractive) come to the fore,

“Mary gets roses every week, how come you don’t send me roses…”

“Why don’t you do this for me…why don’t you do that for me…?”

It progresses to a whine and soon no one wants to hang around you long enough to hear your tirade…bitterness and rage has a way of revealing a mirage of hideousness….we need to learn to let go and lighten our loads focus on what we really symbolize….

We are these amazingly soft but strong beings. Beautiful inside and out.

We have enough wisdom to help nudge our loved ones in the right direction without seeming condescending…

We have enough love to see past our children’s faults and patiently guide and interest them to a much better life…..

We have enough self-esteem to sit in the midst of chauvinistic men and hold our dignity and earn their respect without aloofness.

We hold ourselves together for the good of the family and the community…the world…

We just have to believe in ourselves…

We are always needed, wanted, desired and loved.

As we celebrate this day of love, I choose today to honor our women…the key to true love…

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Giving & Recieving Kenyan Style

I got a message today from an Editor that the US Embassy in Nairobi were looking for me regarding a story I did in their newspaper.

The piece was about an extraordinary girl called Maureen who helped the bedridden in Kibera access food and supplies in the height of the post election violence.

I was most curious and got in touch with them as soon as I could.

It turns out they want to invite her for a women’s event in May and just needed her phone number. I found it a little perplexing they didn’t just check the public directory and find the organization she was working for and track her down in one sure step. Go figure…

Anyway there were many such heroic stories. Many Kenyans needed to hear these positive accounts to raise hope that perhaps we still had some decency left in us even in the midst of that needless violence.

So a group of writers and photographers decided to document these great accounts, delve into the lives of ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. We took time off work, volunteered our time, money and enthusiasm to spread the good word of Kenyan heroes. As we spewed out hundreds of proposals to the Kenyan Corporate world, it became increasingly obvious that the culture of Philanthropy is not nurtured much in Kenya and a great idea fell through the cracks of lack of support. Such a shame. Documenting positive history is such an integral part of our heritage.

I recently had the opportunity of working briefly with Ufadhili Trust. They did a case study on Philanthropy in Kenya during the post election violence. The trends of their report indicated that Kenyans do have a culture of giving and that this needs to be cultivated and ingrained in our daily lives. Working with this dedicated group of people made me realize that we have people who perpetually document optimism in Kenya. We hope some day soon this constructive investment pays off.

In retrospect, the Post Election Violence brought out some good in us. That dark phase gave us an opportunity to emerge from our mediocre lives and express our compassion to those affected. It was also clear that many who reached out to help did not seek any gain; these were pure and unprecedented selfless acts of human kindness.

It’s a Kenyan thing.

Why then are we colonized with cut throat Kenyan Corporates who seek only to brand themselves and push sales and PR stunts?

As it were, if we their stakeholders are suffering or sick or dead how many sales would they push then?

I find it pretentious that some Kenyan Corporates set up whole policy documents on “Our Company’s (Truly…Truly) Philanthropy Division” independent so to speak from the profit making section…then require their applicants to do a follow up on how supporting this “noble venture would make their company look good…”

The secret is out - nothing makes a company look better than plain unadulterated giving…Some old adage says “You can’t receive if you don’t give.”

And so how much do we expect to receive each day anyway? As an individual; in remuneration or appreciation?

Or perhaps as a corporate – in share profits, daily sales and returns?

Perhaps the real question we should in fact ask is how much we give out first…

BRACE YOURSELF! Stare back at the Mirror (& Dare to look & feel Pretty!!!)

My mum used to force us to go to mass every Sunday…in time we developed our petulant skills and eventually had to get bribed to attend God’s house with promises of treats like swimming or permission to visit neighbors kids…

While in church – my siblings attended catechism class… I was still too young to attend and a nuisance to the other kids….so my mum opted that I just be a nuisance to the adults in church (adults are nicer to brats…fact!)

Now anyone who attended mass in Trinity church in Milimani knows that they needed a new public address system for yeeaaaaars…and the father was so so soooo dull…and to expect me a 7 year old to keep awake without some impish activities was a miracle hardly achievable and this almost always got me hard pinches from my mummy.

So one day I was such a saint – quiet and obedient like a proper catholic girl. Sitting perked up at the neighboring pew. I hadn’t carried my dolls head ( I decapitated it since I only liked its hair – umm that’s another story)and I followed the priest’s lead by copying the people next to me….So much so my mum was very suspicious.

So she motioned me to join her in her pew so she could investigate this new non-naughty behavior (I swear she was psychic with eyes on the back of her head – HOW DID MOTHERS ALWAYS KNOW WHEN WE WERE UP TO SOMETHING????)

So I avoided all eye contact and sulked as I joined her. She wondered why I was not meeting her eyes…BUT heeeeee! I could not let her see…nooooooooo way man….

We were singing *“Nasaliti nasalitiiiii…….” And I pumped in some energy into the song looking dead straight……

Mum wasn’t falling for that one… she grabbed my face and forced me to look at her and then ALLLAAAA!


….my eyes were all colored up with “make up”

(Point to note – Mrs Wainaina nee Binyavanga DID NOT CONDONE MAKE UP OF ANY KIND. Make up conversations began at the age of 16 and are restricted to eye pencil and a touch of lip gloss if any…)


So my makeup drama began when I snuck my mothers old copies of Woman’s Weekly – looking at all the ads and all the women I wondered how can one survive without a dab of make up…(talk of brainwash – it starts early)..

Ok so I made a calculated risk…I figured if I could doll myself up with make up and look stunning throughout mass and have all the adults say how beautiful I looked (well at least that’s what the ads insinuated and assured me) then this would work as the best testimonial to let my mother open her mind…….

Now in my spirit of innovation I asked myself why people bother wearing “eye pencil” which rubbed off easily?? Being the bright bulb I decided to take it a notch higher and use a ball pen on my eyes instead – since …..yes you got it …it lasts forever! That way I have make up all day and night…fresh-(ish)….as I was dolling up my mum had her hand full blast on the horn of the car in a howling an annoying loud hoot….so I worked quickly (translated as clumsily) and dashed to the car and averted my face crossing my fingers the day goes ok…

Back at Mass (…*nasalitii nasalitiiiiii at the background….)

So now you know what my mother saw in horror when she looked at my face there in the middle of Mass…there was a gruesome amount of black bic biro around my eyes I looked hideous…there were dark erratic lines emphasizing my eyebrows….but you know I thought I looked divine…

I even batted my eyelids at her and smiled sweetly…..

(People! my shadiness has come from far…)

My mum surprised me by smiling and ignoring me for the rest of mass…aiii no that was too easy – something stunk and I hadn’t had beans for a while…..

Mass went on and suddenly I started faltering…what if my plan didn’t work…what if my mum was just waiting for the right moment to pinch my fleshy self…what if she told my dad…..ooooh the horror!!!

After the benediction I tried to make a quick escape out of the chapel and run to the car…

But you know church – everyone is clamoring to leave as soon as possible so I was squished and squashed and people’s mummy’s and daddy’s all wanted to shake hands and say hello… (I was a sweet girl then always in some fancy Sunday best dress)

But alas! When they looked at my face…I saw their expressions changing…laughter, swallowed in……others were less discreet and laughed out loud asking me what I had done to my face…many were horrified at what I had done to my face…..

And you know how everyone likes a good laugh especially after mass…so in minutes I had a crowd round me outside church pointing and laughing…guffawing in the most indecent way…tears popped and filled my eyes…. through the blur of tears and I desperately looked around for help…

My mum caught my eye and nodded discreetly mouthing…”you see I told you…”

The laughter went on cruelly……my lips quivered and there was a serious threat of full blown sobs….then a hand grabbed at me…and shoved me away from the crowd…it was my big brother. He held me tight and threatened punches to other kids who pointed at me and laughed. Kids stepped aside. Big brothers were never messed with – even in church.

My bro was pissed. We walked too fast I was struggling to catch up and wipe snort and tears with my other hand….

When we got to where my mums car was parked…he got his hankie out of his pocket and tried to wipe my messy face….a bit too hard…by then I was crying like a banshee hiccupping sobs…most of the biro didn’t come off…..

He told me to shut up – which I did because he is the only person on earth am terrified of and obey without question. (Till today!!!)

Then he held me close while leaning on the car door – I was just hacking out some dry sobs…..trying my best to calm down.

My mum came to the car with my other brother and sister. They were calling me names…as usual….

Big bro shushed them loudly – and they shut up instantly (we all kinda feared this guy)

“Chiqy – what you did was stupid …rules are rules and you need to respect that. If you don’t learn to obey then you have to pay the price. Next time I won’t rescue you when you mess up. Sawa?”

(FYI – he still rescues me all the time even today…why else would we have big brothers ????)

I stuttered back. ”OK”

We got into the car and drove home.

I was sulking big time (did you used to say “ana fura kama mandaziiiiii….”) and hid my face all the way home.

When I got mum who still hadn’t said anything… held my hand and took me to the bathroom sink and washed my face up with a warm wet soapy flannel.

Then she told me – in a warm mummy voice –

“You are who you are, you are beautiful and no make up in the world could light up your face like your smile does…”

She rinsed off the ink from the flannel in clean water and dabbed at my face again, “Your eyes are the windows of your soul. They show the depths of your passion – no make up could ever do that…”

“Wear make up at the right time and for the right reason. Let it excite your senses and reflect your mood.”

Then she turned my face to the mirror and said…

“Look, there is pretty Chiqy again…” kissed my cheek and left.

So now even on horrible days I just look at the mirror and brace myself. I try to see what mum saw back at the reflection … a pretty me…

Writers Note - * supposed to read, “Nasadikii, nasadikii….” (Translation – Nasaliti means betraying trust & Nasadikii means – I believe…)