Category: Reflections

Every morning, I have a checklist that is meticulously gone over before the faulty padlock is slapped on my door and I jump down the ten flights of stairs on the way to the carpool. The list includes my fare (should get a wallet. Can’t keep going around with a wad  of crumpled up wad of notes), phone (damn you Safaricom. Why did I fall for that Ideos idiocy?), phone charger (yes Safaricom still on you) and my earphones. Stuff like dressing is pretty much a bonus.

Walk down the streets of Nairobi and you will find that we have plugged in to the earphone phenomenon. Mine go on for a simple reason; to keep the world away. As soon as they come on, everything drowns out. The drone of the engine becomes the violin solo in “Coming Home”, the woman complaining about her husband is melted into the guitar intro of “ Year 3000” and Maina Kageni’s incessant sex talk becomes “I write sins not tragedies.”

I find myself waiting for those moments alone with my music (my taste has been described as everything from feminine, to “awww Brian you are so sensitive right through to my favourite “Are you kidding?”) One Tulanana Bohela has had to deal with the pain of hearing a song replayed over and over when I’m going through that honeymoon phase. But here is where judgement is reserved. No one knows . It’s just me and my music.


I get cheap thrills from imagining what is on the play list of random people. The prim and proper woman listening to Soulja Boy, the important looking CEO rocking along to Lady Gaga or the tough kid with the mohawk listening to some Westlife. I can’t help but think they are relieved that here in their own little world, they can be who they want to be. Away from the expectations. Where their bespoke suits and below the hem skirts don’t have to point to the person within.


Yesterday though my checklist was forgotten due to my morning haste. The driver was hooting and on the phone at the same time. “Brian, injury time.” And so my ear phones were left on the table as I dashed down the stairs. And from there the torture started. Maina Kageni was on the radio, (I don’t hate the guy. Just can’t help think that we lose brain cells listening to him.), the topic of discussion in the car was also less than savoury (to protect the poolers I will keep that secret). Once in town the morning sounds are drowned out by the hooting and I start craving for the peacefulness of  Sauti Sol’s “I’m Coming Home.

The world is closing in on me before I know it. Suddenly my work colleague wants to talk and the conversation at the cafe at lunch time rises to a din. I can’t hear myself think. But then I start to listen and in that I find a method to the madness. A pattern in the chaos. Feelings here. Deals there. The day goes and somehow the words make sense. Human beings reaching out to others. And just when I get used to it I’m back in my room and staring at my earphones again.

This morning I decided to………listen. To the playlist. The one life provided. Waiting to see what the symphony brings. And that might just give my ridiculously small years (neither my mum or dad had small years hence reinforcing my idea that I was stolen) a rest.


Something about the way she leaned in towards her friend drew my attention towards her. They were to sign in at the tail end of the session and that tiny movement between the two women piqued my interest. As the paper was going around, the next one in the queue shook her head and whispered something to her friend. And then the realisation hit me. She couldn’t read or write…..and it broke my heart.

The week has been intriguing to say the very least. Kibera makes another entry into the pages of my life. The sights, sounds and smells come back in greater detail as the slum becomes a cog in the machinery that is my work place. I find myself seeing things in a new light. While my first visit had shocked me and left me feeling empty, this one opened my eyes to the things I was missing out on.

I find myself weaving through the narrow alleys with my eyes trained on the signs. Every corner seems to have a chemist, shop, ‘hotel’ and NGO to boot. The first foray was all about getting in and out but now I can take my time and take it all in. On the first day we are working near a school. Little children are scurrying everywhere and the uniform is anything but uniform. It’s a mix and match of colours and patterns as the kids run around during their break. Earlier I had listened to them answering questions in that sing song voice that only children have.
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I live;
In a world in which ones heart beats only for themselves. Where we look out only for number one and the best friends are always me, myself and I. Where the selfless are trampled underfoot and the selfish live to amass more another day.
In a world in which kindness and friendship are words in a dictionary. Where morals are replaced by the lure of materials and the lifetime of a human being is marked by how much they are worth in monetary terms.

In a society where love is a memory; a distant one at that. Where the glint in a loved ones eye is replaced by lust and the warmth in their hands by a clammy claw. Where the wallet is a prerequisite for the heart and flowery words are assigned a particular day in February. Continue reading

Dear Brian,

First, quit freaking out. Yes, this is a letter from the future but I can’t explain how. The details might come later. So yeah this is you from the future. Or rather me writing to myself. It’s ten years into the future and if I remember right, you are in class seven and freaking out about the whole puberty thing. Yeah, well the bad news is that ten years later, it’s still pretty much the same. The growth spurt is as good as it gets and then it will all be downhill from there. Point is you’d probably be able to beat me up if we bumped into each other.

No. We don’t have flying cars and mum still calls you ‘Baba’ when she wants to send you on errands. Don’t wince. It might stop in the next 30 years. Moi is no longer the president but no point in celebrating. The country is weirdly worse. Mats are a bit more comfortable and Americans voted in some jang’o dude to become president. No, I’m not kidding. You’ll see. In a lot of ways, the world is the same.

I know you have so many questions to ask but I can’t give you so many answers because you might ruin things. Ten years later, the one friend you are still close to is Ruth. But yeah she might be getting married soon to someone else. Don’t jump! You are happy for her and not in that passive aggressive way. Continue reading

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