Fear

I am not sure where I am going with this post to be honest. I started thinking about it in August, it has been a draft for almost two months. Just imagine what can happen in two months; babies have been born, people we never imagined could ever hold offices are, a school term is almost over, someone exercising by walking one hour every day could have lost around 9 kilograms by now. But here I am, stubbornly trying to put what is in my head into words since I can’t stop thinking about it. And also, maybe largely, OK maybe entirely, because I really can’t stand seeing it marked as a draft, and I lack the stomach to delete it after reading it so many times as I tried figuring the direction I was going to go with it.

It is almost two months after the August elections, and weeks after the announcement that we are going back to the polls next month. Everything is back to normal, only in the sense that we are back to work, the central business district is not the deserted ghost town it was. Everything else is not back to normal. There is a lot of uncertainty, there are travel advisories already issued, business has visibly slowed down in most if not all economic sectors.

See, during the August election week, I had been indoors, along with majority of residents here in Nairobi. As a precaution, most people had been advised to stay away from their offices and work from home. You could taste the anxiety as we waited for the election results announcement to be made. Many of us following keenly to see what happens, trying to read the mood from the safety of our homes. At the end of the day, I am usually almost running home, after a week of indoors, all I wanted was to get out, the house had stopped being a place I could not wait to get to, want to be in, and morphed into a prison of sorts.

I got to thinking; was I giving in to fear, or just looking out for myself and my family? Common sense. Was it selfish to want all this uncertainty over with so that we could carry on with our day to day, despite other parties feeling aggrieved? I mean, everyone deserves to be heard right? This, the election and its aftermath, is such a complex issue, with many angles, I will not even begin to unpack it.

One of the things I have been thinking about as a result though is; standing for what we believe is right and the way we go about it. And at what cost? This in the sense that standing up for ourselves and what we believe in is important, something I would most certainly want my son to know and do. But I also want him to know that as he is standing up for himself, he should consider what effects that has on other people.

I guess this leads to the question of instances when one should be selfish and put their interests first and when one should consider the common good. Because, I am convinced there are times when there is no option but to think of self, and it is important to be able to know when such a response is called for. Similarly, when our actions have far reaching implications, when they involve masses, does one sacrifice self?

Another thing I have been thinking about; how do we react when we find ourselves in situations we cannot control? Prior to the election, there was for instance mass exodus from Nairobi to domestic as well as destinations abroad, we shopped and stocked our houses, manuals were given on how to stay safe and so forth. I just wonder then, why, when faced with other situations we should run away from, we do not. Why for instance, do people stay in bad, or even worse, abusive relationships? Why do we not employ the same precautions we took during the election time? Put our well-being first and take off?

In his book blink: The power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcom Gladwell looks at those instances when our instincts betray us. When we have a feeling something is not right but we stay put because probably we desperately want it to work, or we are paralysed by fear of the unknown. He further states that our unconscious is powerful but it can be thrown off, distracted, has to compete with all kinds of interests, emotions. Maybe this explains why our sense of flight at times fails to launch even when we know its best to take to the skies. I digress, back to the subject…

Fear is how you lose your life, a little at a time. What we give to fear, we take away from faith, said Mitch Albom in his book the first phone call from heaven. So come October 26th, go out and vote, again. And as much as we should be cautious in our movements, let our lives not grind to a halt, surely life has to go on.

Much love.

 

 

 

 

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Wanted: Brother and Sister

Djasiri wants a cute little sister and a little brother. He had been away at my sisters for the weekend of 16th so I was seeing him Monday evening when I got back home from work. So I want to hear all about the weekend; what he did, where he went, did he have a good time. We are going on at this then he drops the bomb on me…

Djasiri: I want to tell you something

me: yeah sure

Djasiri: I want two children

me: you already want to adopt? how old are you? because you cannot possibly father children let alone be thinking about having them, two no less.

Djasiri: nooo. I want you to have two children. I want a cute little sister and a brother

me: I cannot do this for you darling, not now. What prompted you to want this?

Djasiri: what is prompt? how many letters does it have? (he has lately been counting how many letters words have. I know, strange, I am not sure what he will be counting tomorrow)

me: what made you to want this? I will explain what prompt is and how many letters it has later.

Djasiri: We were was watching Storks, I think we should get two, not one like in the movie.

me: I need to grab a shower.

Yeah, I ran. But only to get words. Maybe to also battle with the guilt I felt.

I am thinking we are done with this until later I am in his room tucking him in. The routine is bedtime story, prayer, then I sing a lullaby and its lights out. When its time to pray as usual I go first. I finish my prayer and I am holding his hands waiting for him to take over. Then he is whispering, “mummy you forgot to pray for God to give you my sister and brother”. I am tempted to quote and remind him that in the movie that has inspired him, babies were delivered by storks who now work for Cornerstore.com company. Maybe he should write to them too. I open my eyes and tell him we don’t usually speak mid prayer. He continues in a whisper, which is really tickling me, and insists I have to pray for this. I guess he figures God will not hear us talking if he is whispering. So I ask the Lord to bless Djasiri with a brother and sister.

Even though this was all thanks to a movie, it is an issue that I have thought about from time to time. How do I explain to him that may be later on, but at the moment I just cannot see myself having another child? I am just not ready. I have been the subject of so much unsolicited advise, that I need to get him a sibling, that I am already late, that you get your second child for your first not for yourself, that I am being selfish, and it goes on. Maybe I should refer these people to, mind your own womb, a fantastic post by Nadirah Angail.

My reasoning is simple really. I asked myself a couple of questions I felt were core; Am I in agreement with my partner, am I emotionally, physically and financially capable? If there was even one no, then there was reason to pause. I have two amazing sisters, and I do not imagine existing without them. I however refuse to do it again just because of this.  I have after all seen siblings who do not even talk to each other. Is this selfish? Maybe yes. To each their own. I have made my bed, I will sleep on it, or is it in it? Until I get another one (bed) when it is time to. The prejudice against one child homes is here to stay. But I think we should not defined by the number of children we have. The goal should be to raise responsible, respectful and loving humans. I could be wrong.

So what else is new? Plenty. He has a loose tooth that everyone who cares to listen has been told about. We are excited, this is his first. I was running out of answers on why the teeth were refusing to come out while his friends in school have gaps. I told him something about milestones and how each child moves at their own pace. He looked at me strangely. The nanny dug in and said since Djasiri walked when he was pretty young, his milk teeth would delay coming out. Me? I am just happy we have a loose tooth. Hopefully they grow back straight. Maybe I start saving for braces just in case, hehehe. And yes, we will take a picture and share it with everyone in our circles, maybe even those who are not. Should some random person ask me how I am, my response will be, “very fine, my son just got his first tooth removed, see, as I show them the photo.

He has also developed this habit of looking at the fuel gauge of every Uber we take. The drivers then have to tell him why they are driving on empty. Are they sure they will get us to our destination? It’s been educational and hilarious, the explanations. Don’t even get me started on how he urges them to race other drivers. He may have watched some scenes of fast and furious. And yes, I am well aware it is pg rated 13. I have never claimed to be perfect.

He is also keen on looking cool which means that at times we are not in agreement on his outfit choices. I assure him my picks are way cooler than his selection, check in the full length mirror, I tell him. Problem is he at times is fixated on one pair of jeans, or a particular shirt or pair of shoes and will want to wear that all the time. Which may be a good thing, he clearly does not mind putting on the same thing two, three times in a row, which then means I can shop less. Besides, he is growing so fast, therefore outgrowing things at the same speed.

In ending, nothing can totally prepare you for being a mom, being a parent. You do your very best, give it everything, and pray, a lot. I think. I could be wrong.

love, mamadjasiri.

 

 

Watermelon Halves

Greetings from Bermuda, Hamilton! My home for the past two weeks.

This time has been spent relaxing; beach sits and walks, sitting in parks just breathing and taking in the surroundings, roaming the streets, taking tonnes of pictures, meeting new people, sleeping, eating. The books I plan on reading: J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, Chimamanda’s Half of a yellow sun (for the second time), and David Baldacci’s The Hit, have barely been touched. I have never felt better.

It is so quiet I did not realize how loud Nairobi is. Especially now with all the campaigning going on. It is so clean. It’s a shame this is a point even, because it should be the norm. But when you see someone rolling their car window down to throw out an empty water bottle, or a banana peel at home, I guess it is something that surprises you, clean streets, something that you notice. The locals say it is not as clean as it was before, I wonder to myself how it must have looked then. I guess too, it will be spruced further as they prepare to host the America’s cup 2017 in June.

The people are so friendly, you say hello to everyone, everywhere. Caro, my sister, has to remind me at times. On the streets, stores, in the parking lot, in church they actually give you a hug, tell you they love you. Now I am not sure whether this is superficial or something that is done without much thought, but it sure feels good. We are all going through something and at times all we need is a stranger saying hello and smiling at us.

The clubbing scene is nothing compared to Nairobi, but it’s alright. The best spots are on one street, Front Street. Soca music is very popular, and very dance-able I might add. It finds is origins in Trinidad and Tobago and is a fusion of calypso and Indian Rhythms. Like Kevin Lyttle’s Turn me on. Some revelers I was chatting told me Jamaica, Kingston, is the place to be for partying. So now you  know where to go. The place I have been to had mostly expats, some Kenyan friends told me that one ni ya wazungu so I asked them to recommend ones that give me the local vibe. Now you know where I will be Friday and Saturday. Harbor nights have started, every Wednesday. Harbor nights is a street festival characterized by local Gombey dancers and street food. The shops remain open till late, folks  mingle, chat, dance, eat. Awesome sauce.

People jog here especially on Sundays so I have temporarily ditched my cardio, abs, and strength workout routine for jogging. I mean, how could I pass on the chance to jog whilst surrounded by water, houses painted in pink, blue, green, yellow, orange, all colors you can think of, all with white roofs and boats parked upfront, greenery? It makes it enjoyable, easier, even when you are huffing, puffing and dripping with sweat since it can get hot and it is humid too.

Stuff is expensive though. The currency, the Bermudian dollar is equivalent to the American dollar and one can use either. A 680g loaf of bread is $6.29, one half gallon of milk $ 5.59, water melon halves $10.99. I stopped mentally converting to the Kenyan shilling because my head was spinning each time. Guess this is due to the cost of importing goods especially since there are almost no taxes levied here. There is no direct income tax, no capital gains tax, no income tax returns to file individually, no wealth taxes. There is however payroll tax which is around 6% and land tax based on value of property. Makes this place a kind of tax haven for the rich.

This week on Wednesday there was unfortunately a road accident, between a motorbike and a car. The person on the bike succumbed to the injuries. This was the 4th death since beginning of this year related to road accidents. Speed limit is 35km/h and visitors cannot hire cars, only scooters or use the bus and taxis.

I guess it is easier running the place though given the population is just slightly over 60,000. Can’t really and fairly compare it to home.

I miss Djasiri terribly. Try video call him every other day. But I noticed one thing, he is OK, barely spares a full minute for me before he wants to run off and do something. Made me realize that maybe it is the parents who need the children? Like emotionally or to validate us or something, I am struggling with the right words. The children are fine, really.

I think at times, we use the kids as an excuse to not do certain things, or to limit ourselves. Now I am in no way suggesting that we ignore our children, not spend quality time with them, and be all in their business. I am proposing that it is fine, probably recommending even, to take time for ourselves as parents, to recharge. I know how challenging it can be, for example maybe to find someone you are comfortable with, can count on, to watch your child, but when you get an opportunity, even if for a day or two, to travel to another town, city, country, take it.

I urge all mothers, once in a while, to take time for themselves; a day at the spa, tea/ drinks with the girls, a holiday by themselves or with their girlfriends.  Would be good for you.

Got to go folks, the beach beckons. My chance to  don my short shorts. Oh and the Bermuda shorts are actually official wear, in the summer especially.

Happy Mothers day to all moms.

Much love,

Vicky.

Easter messages and Quitting

It’s Easter and with all the colored eggs and bunny decorations, I am reminded of when same time last year we were at this hotel and they had colored boiled eggs at the breakfast buffet. Djasiri totally refused to eat them saying he wanted the normal colored ones. I wonder to myself why Easter decorations are about bunnies, colored eggs and chocolate. So I find out. 

Very briefly, the tradition has it’s roots in medieval times. Bunnies were seen as symbols of fertility. Aristotle actually proposed and correctly so, that rabbits could get pregnant while they were already pregnant! They were also believed to be hermaphroditic and therefore capable of virgin births. Thus the association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs represent new life. Chocolate, because it’s end of lent, time to indulge. 

I love funny Easter messages, the conventional ones too, but the funny ones most. I actually like sending these messages for any occasion; birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations, name them, but I learnt it’s not for everyone. Last year Christmas, I sent one unconventional one that I found so funny I was laughing so hard tearing up as I sent it to this group I am in on whatsapp. It fell flat on it’s back. People don’t get humor? Or are we so used to ethnic jokes we can’t see past them? I sometimes get messages that are alike and I wonder, are we lazy to just get/ compose a message with a specific person in mind and send it to them? At times you can actually guess that this person got the same message a mutual friend sent to both of you. They then forward it to you and their entire contact list. Do they then they sit content that they have wished all  a Happy Easter for instance? Well, technically they have, but with zero thought other than for it to be said they sent a message, I think. 

Djasiri found his way to my room and bed Easter Friday and Saturday night. Sunday I am ripe to kick him out. He wants to share a pillow, breath right into my face. It also takes him longer to fall asleep because he starts playing; put his fingers in my nostrils, wants to count my teeth, hug me so tight chocking me till I tap out and admit to him I felt pain. When I tell him to keep his voice low, he starts whispering. Then he sings me a lullaby because I am being a baby, wanting to sleep. I can’t help laugh and that fuels him to keep going. I love him, more than anything on this earth and it’s tons of fun, but he had to go. I need to get some sleep so I am functioning next day. He also had to go because I was doing a pre shampoo on my natural hair. Pre poo, I learnt, while attending a cocktail no less, is preparing your hair before a wash so it’s not stripped of oils and remains moisturized. I use coconut oil which smells to the high heavens. You most certainly do not want to share a bed with someone who will most likely pull of your headscarf.

It’s very early Monday morning as I write this. 4:30a.m. Ok, maybe just early. It’s a holiday after all, I would have wanted to sleep in a bit. I found myself thinking about something I read on Twitter, on five things we should quit this week. I was also dying for a cup of fresh ginger black tea. I am addicted to it. I have taken this cuppa at all imaginable hours of the day and night. 

So, the five things to quit:

  1. Trying to please everyone

This I have done a good job at quitting, albeit not too long ago. I learnt, eventually, which is what matters I think, that it is not my job to make myself likable. It is my job to just be myself. Besides, it is impossible to please everyone.

2. Fearing change

This I am battling with. Fear of change within myself, how will it affect everyone and everything else around me, will it work, can I live with the consequences? And so so many more questions. I rest in the fact that, I effected the changes because I learnt enough that I wanted to. Also because I was hurting so bad I had to.

I continuously encourage myself with the words of Christopher Columbus “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. One step at a time.

3. Living in the past

Work in progress. I miss some things in my past, but, and I am most certainly convinced, I do not want them back. I however miss some things and I do want them back.

4. Putting yourself down

Once in a while yes. But I have forgiven myself of mistakes I have done. I am also aware of and therefore catch myself when I start comparing myself to other people. Affirmation, affirmation.

5. Over thinking

I have been doing this a lot lately. I am not proud of myself, thinking about something/ someone too much, for far too long. I am quitting, immediately.

The battle to conquer self continues. All the best with yours. Wish you a great week. 

XO, Vicky

This and that

First off, I am dead tired, worn out! I have been up and down the past four weeks, work and other obligations. It does not help that I am also experiencing a loss I truly had not anticipated. It caught me flat-footed. But being a grown up comes with such, you just deal as best as you can.

In the aforementioned ups and downs, I missed spending quality time with my son. I am riddled with guilt. Life and work balance they say. I might have to call bullshit on that. You just do your best I think. And focus on the quality as opposed to quantity. Make every second count. I am trying to remember the exact words a friend used to describe this, something about the sum total of work and of life that then makes the balance. I truly am exhausted, I can barely think, remember, I doubt I can find my elbow with either hand and a flash light. But I need to write, it is my therapy. So stubbornly I will continue, hopefully it goes well, my musings on totally unrelated topics, this and that.

I learnt some, doing my other non work related obligations. That you can give your time and skill to a cause, you do not necessarily have to give money. That in my own small way I can bring change. And that it feels so damn good when you do this. Giving of your time and knowledge and other resources disposable to you is the ultimate goal. You could go to your old primary school in the village and get involved in some activity, mobilizing the parents and wider community to do some improvements to the classrooms for instance. Visit your college Alma mater and give a talk to the continuing students in your former faculty, explain to them the realities of the work place so they are able to translate the knowledge they learn in class and be better prepared for the marketplace once they graduate.

Have you ever met a total stranger in the most random of places, who then becomes a good friend? A supermarket for instance. You are queuing at the till in Nakumatt and you start talking to the person in front/ behind you. Maybe about the cashier and how friendly he is (because a friendly human in this Nairobi is a strange and rare thing, when it happens you gawk, speak about it. Have you ever said hi to a random person and they just look at you not responding? I do this a lot and usually wonder what triggers the lack of response, they were not anticipating a greeting?) Or the trolley ahead and how full it is, how long does it take to go through all that cereal, you ask each other. Maybe they have it for dinner too? Then the chit chat morphs into a serious conversation.

You go through an aha moment, a change of perspective, an awareness or understanding of subjects in a way you had never thought of before. Totally makes you reexamine your life. Like the story of that Uber driver that was doing rounds a while back, how the experience he went through made him make some changes. I guess that’s why we are told to travel, mingle with people of different cultures, class, read. We pick so much, that hopefully makes us better people.

Change is difficult. When you decide to do something different, that is actually good for you, but out of the norm, what society and culture perceives as acceptable, you best be ready to rub people off the wrong way. People close to you, your family even. Change makes people uncomfortable. And as much as they know it’s good for you, the natural way to react is object? I still can’t figure it out. I guess once you have made your mind you just go on and do it. And pray it works. And if it does not, learn from this and try again a different way. Now I see and understand why people stay in comfort zones however uncomfortable. Change is too much work.

Djasiri asked how I got him out of my stomach. I told him they cut my lower abdomen and got him out. He then asks what they used to cut my stomach. I said a scalpel. “You are lying , if they cut you, you would be dead”, he says. I am tempted to tell him I got him off the shelves of Carrefour, or I wrote a letter to the Storks, and the birds dropped him home just like in the movie. I strongly suspect he would believe this version than my truth. I also wonder how you could possibly explain a vaginal birth to a six year old?

It’s school break, grandma and Easter are here! Wish you a good one. Be kind to one another.

xo, mamadjasiri