Happy 20!

This time last year, when I was celebrating yet another year on my already ‘majority age’, I remember sitting in the car on the passenger’s seat just behind my father who was on the steering wheel, we had dropped someone who throughout the ride was on the co-driver’s seat. Well, anyone who’s ever given me a ride knows that most of the time I always decline the offer of sitting on the co-driver’s seat even if the car is practically empty. I do so because I’ve always imagined that it’s more about how I’ve been wired to think. You see, for a long time I’ve always thought that it is both a sign of modesty and decorum to reduce yourself when ‘big opportunities’ are presented to you because we always have that feeling of ‘I don’t think I deserve that!’ or ‘I think it’s too much for me!’ My dad and I were parting because he had a board meeting to attend to and I had some errands to run. I told him that there was this book that I saw in the store some time back and that I wanted to buy it. He gave me the money, obviously after I convinced him profusely that it was an amazing book! I walked out of the car and walked all the way to Zion Mall. I was incredibly excited that I was finally getting Inherit the Witch by Laura J. Burns and Constance M. Burge, this is just but one of the many books in the Charmed series of books. I know exactly what’s going through your mind right now, that I’m a nerd! Yes, I am and it reminds of the days when we would religiously watch Charmed on KTN every Sunday at around 8:00 PM before it got changed such that it now featured on Saturdays. My older siblings and I even went ahead to pick among the three main characters, the Charmed sisters, for ourselves and we would be like:

“Mimi ni Phoebe kwa sababu mimi ni ndogo kama yeye!”😭

Then my sister would agree and then go ahead and declare:

“Ni sawa, basi mimi nitakua Piper ju yeye ni mkubwa kushinda Phoebe na pia mimi ni mkubwa kukushinda!” 😏

Then, because our elder brother had no alternatives to choose from, he became Prue who in one of the scenes died and later became replaced by Paige. *Childhood memories*

I bought the book and as it is with some of us book lovers, I couldn’t wait to start reading it. I read it and because I had watched a couple of Charmed series, I resonated with the authors when they talked about things like orbing, shapeshifting, levitation of the Book of Shadows and all other kind of super powers that these sisters in their manor house performed. How cool is it to have super powers! I know you’re sitting there and again thinking to yourself; “Really John Mark?😟 Do you want to tell us that even with your twenty years you still love those fictitious things done by witches and wizards! If you’re reading this by the way, I hope you’re not among those GOT diehards that I know!😂

Have you ever asked yourself why Westerners make witchcraft and the fact of being a wizard irresistibly appealing? I remember some time back when some friends and I were talking about the screening of some movie in IMAX and we drew comparisons between Western witchcraft and African witchcraft! It is undeniably true that Americans make this whole witchcraft thing glamorous while Africans make it so barbaric to the point it is even dreadful to talk about it with people who hold on to superstitious beliefs!

I finished the book and then I passed it on to my 13-year-old sister who read it passionately because she could relate with the two young girls (Drew and Lily) who are friends and that Drew steals the powers of Lily. In chapters where she didn’t understand the plot, I remember discussing it with her and sometimes we would make fun of how Drew shapeshifted to become a mice!

Then 2017 happened.

This year as I celebrate my twentieth birthday, I’ve bought another book. This time I didn’t have to convince my father that I needed to buy a book because by now, it’s almost obvious that I need books both to read and pass university exams and to also keep myself useful during my spare time now that the University of Nairobi recently got closed indefinitely because of some matter that I choose not to talk about here lest I invoke some undesirable emotions from some comrades. I bought Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg. I was exited when I saw that email notification pop up on my screen at 7:30PM yesterday. I had made an order online and I had to wait for hours before I could get it and start reading it! Well, this book is not about witches and wizards and other crazy things that exited me in my teens, it’s about a phenomenal woman who has defied all odds in making sure that we change the narrative around gender roles of our time. Sheryl has had to go through some of the most awkward moments in her life as a woman, there is a time she was pitching to some board in New York in a corporate office building that offered the grandeur view of Manhattan and when one of the members suggested that they take a break, she wanted to go the bathroom, so she asked one of the people that were hosting them of where the ladies’ restroom were and this person being kind of surprised by the question asked, stared at Sheryl blankly, and she went ahead to inquire about the period that he had been in that building. Then she learned that this person had been there for a year and also she was further made to believe that she was not only the first woman to have ever pitched in that building in a span of one year but also was the first woman who ever wanted to use the bathroom!

Well, I’m yet to finish reading the whole book but one quote–that has stood out out for me– that’s in the form a question asks:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

These are the kind of questions that feel like a pile of bricks falling on your head, these are the kind of questions that feel like a punch right in your gut, these are the questions that we need to constantly ask ourselves. Remember when I talked about being afraid of taking the co-driver’s seat when it is offered to me in the beginning? What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

Now that I’m growing better and not older, I want to keep asking myself of what it is that I can achieve if I weren’t afraid. I want to seek that which appears to other people as crazy, I want to get hold of that career, that life, that friendship without worrying about my insecurities. I just don’t want to be afraid!

When I’ll finish this book, I hope that my 13-year-old sister would ask me to lend it to her. I hope that she will read through it and know that the proverbial glass ceiling has been broken already and that she can be whatever she wants to be without paying attention to the fact that she’s female. I hope that she’ll ask me to explain to her some of the things that she doesn’t understand in the book and I hope that I’ll give her the best response possible.

Writing this particular article is what I would do if I weren’t afraid!

I’m stepping into my twenty knowing clearly that I can achieve more if I’m not afraid!

Happy birthday to me!


Be like water!

On the list of things that I love, drinking water has a special place. Well, I always tell people that I’m passionate about reading, writing and the fact that I have a blog but I’ve never quite really told anyone that I also love drinking water because really, that would sound ridiculously awkward if not absurd! My mother and I started this romance with water after we watched a program on Family TV, yes, that tells you clearly what kind of a woman my mother is. *Wink*

I can drink up to three litres of water in a day which is why I’m always such a bother to people whenever I accidentally forget my water, and please note that I’ve loosely placed ‘accidentally’ there because really, if I were to pledge my affection toward drinking water, then I’d have no reason under heaven to forget my bottle of water!

In June, I discovered fruit infused water. This is basically water that has various fruits and vegetables that not only add flavour to your mundane drinking water but also help detox your body. The most popular fruits that magically leaves you feeling refreshingly good are lemons, limes and mint leaves. Mint leaves are not necessarily fruits but if you have them in your water, trust me you won’t worry about wearing your cologne or perfume because it leaves (that pun was intended!) your body smelling really good! Mint will also help you get rid of the foul smell in the morning if you’re a drinker.

Let’s talk about water now. (Stop rolling your eyes and asking yourself what exactly have we been talking all that while. I’ve got you!) Water is one of those amazing liquids that God made. Have you ever thought about that really? I like to call water ‘the power liquid’ because that’s clearly what it is. Water is pure. Here I’m talking about the real H2O. Remember when we used to do those Chemistry laboratory tests on finding out whether water was pure, where you’d have to put drops of your ‘colourless liquid’ in blue anhydrous cobalt(II) chloride and then wait for those salt crystals to turn to pink hexahydrate cobalt(II) chloride?

*Insert cricket sounds*

My love for water has taught me a lot of valuable lesson that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Water is precious first of all and that’s exactly what we are if we were to apply the principle of relativity because technically speaking though, our bodies are 70% water. You see darling, you have no reason whatsoever to doubt yourself! Yes, trust your gut and intuition and then go kick some ass! Need I remind you that everyday when you wake you have the choice of being anything but mediocre?

Water is also shapeless. It simply means that it adapts to whatever vessel it is put in. This reminds me of the famous quote by legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, he said:

“…be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crush. Be water, my friend.”

What he meant by that statement is that we got to adjust to every situation we find ourselves in. We all undoubtedly know that the only certain thing about life and the future that lies ahead of us is its uncertainty. We’ll stumbled, other times fall but does it mean that we have to remain there? Absolutely No! We got to readjust. This is what Oprah Winfrey would call ‘recalculating’, we simply need to realign and get back on course!

Water is also powerful. I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, that an average person can go for days without food but can’t really make it through to a week without water. That’s how powerful water is! I’ve said this before but I won’t mind repeating it, we all have something refreshingly unique about ourselves. It might be an ability, a condition or even a trait. It’s just up to us to find it and capitalize on it.

What’s your forte?

Is it speaking boldly like Caroline Mutoko? Is it writing quintessentially like Bikozulu? Is it dancing skillfully like Kara Jenelle? Is it pouring yourself in the service of others like Mother Teresa? Is it standing for liberty like Frédéric Bastiat? Is it… Is it… Is it… Whatever it is that you do exceptionally well, do it! Yes, that’s more of a command than a request! You see, when our time here on earth falls due, we’ll be judged according to what we did and I particularly liked how Biko humorously wrote about this in one of his blogs, that we’ll be before God, and Jesus would probably be in the loo and when we’re asked to account for the things that we did during your time on earth and we apparently fumble, Jesus would come back and find God and the other Angels talking about how you wasted your time on earth and ask:

“What did I miss?”

*Insert your name*

Then God will roll His eyes and say,”will you guys stop calling that guy’s name here. It’s such stale vibe!

Finally, water is deep and soft. You know exactly where I’m heading with this statement. 😏 That’s how love is supposed to be. In our families and relationships we need to show each other affection that is irrevocable and indescribable. I mean, what is love it we can easily predict it? Love also doesn’t have to be discriminatory. We need to love everyone with their flaws and differences. I’m perfectly certain that this world would have been the most boring place if we were all the same. That’s why we need to sprinkle love everywhere! Can we please spread love? Yes, we’ll surely do that!

Be like water!


I finally can breathe.


I walk toward the matatu parked near Pumwani Maternity Hospital. I slowly sip my cold bottle of Glacier water which I had bought from an incredibly kind Somali woman who runs a small shop that hosts a few other Somali men that are seated in a group in front of that kiosk. These men, holding up expensive mobile phones, (I feel jealous that they can afford gadgets that are ridiculously worth a plot of land in Ukambani!) have swollen cheeks as though they had the same jawbreakers that popular cartoon characters, Ed, Edd and Eddy used to have! They are talking, actually swallowing their words, in their rich Somali accent, but wait, do Somalis have an accent? I mean, I don’t have anything personal with Somalis though!

I slowly approach the seemingly tired taut and ask him how much the fare is. He shoves at me his right hand’s clenched fist and goes further to say, “brathe, tao ni hamsini kwa sababu ya jam!” (Brother, the fare to town is fifty shillings because of the traffic jam!)

“Fifty shillings! At a time when I’m only supposed to pay twenty shillings? This is absolutely absurd!” I think to myself but choose not to share with anyone my thoughts.

Without a word, I slowly walk towards other bystanders next to that lady who hawks smokies and eggs in a movable white oven ( let’s just call it an oven because seriously I don’t know what to call it, OK?) this young lady with extremely black irregularly drawn lines in the section of her eyes that is supposedly meant to have one’s eyebrows sit, is chopping some onions, juicy tomatoes and some tiny green peppers, she does this meticulously and when a potential customer approaches, she quickly empties the ‘salad’ she has prepared into a lunch box whose lid has been punctured and has a long table spoon sticking out of that hole. Her customer orders for a smokie and she quickly takes the knife that she used earlier on for chopping her salad and heartlessly stabs one smokie that was caught unaware. She now holds the ‘dead’ smokie atop a small black plastic sachet and again, without blinking an eyelid, she skillfully dissects it and asks the arguably hungry sweaty baldheaded man whether he’d like his smokie to have her special salad and when he accepts that incredibly amazing offer, she quickly stuffs the salad on the hitherto dead smokie and dutifully hand this man who now has down his baggage to taste the undeniably sizzling smokie. He takes two intimidatingly enormous bites and the poor smokie is nowhere to be found. He goes ahead to order another one and as usual, our inhumane lady stubs another little brown smokie and now operates it quickly as she receives the greatly folded fifty shilling note and hurriedly stuffs it into her red, tomato-stained apron and gets back to dressing this man’s snack. The man, after spending hypothetically what I’d been told by the taut previously, happily walks away and at that time, a black minibus with red lines of car paint running around it like a hula hoop around a ten year old little girl’s waist, stops by and another dusty, dark skinned young taut slams the minibus’ door and yells:

“Tao mbao! Wale wa haraka! Tao commercial mbao!” He repeatedly yells this mantra as if he’s been bewitched to say it over and over!

I walk in modestly and seeing how dusty the seats are ( apparently I’m in a pair of white khakis) I shove the idea that I’ll dirtify them and I heavily plop myself on to that goddamn dusty seat and within minutes, another passenger, a mature jacketed man sits next to me. I pull out my phone and try to put the remaining Tunukiwa Bundles into good use lest they expire. I open my WhatsApp and countless messages trickles in, the number of chats adds up to 99 and the story section in the middle has this dot (what colour is it by the way?) to show that there are some statuses I have to view. I click on to a few people’s statues and once that loading circle disappears, I see memes, memes on why Uhuru Kenyatta didn’t attend the Presidential debate, some other people’s stories have a hilarious video of a couple that have been asked to kiss each other in a wedding. (You don’t expect me to explain what that crazy man does to that poor bride of his!😂) I click on to my own statues and check out how many views it has gotten, admit it people, we all do this shit! Then without any forewarning, my phone vibrates, I know what that means, [Dear customer…blah…blah…blah…] I saw that coming though!

Now I’ve switched off my data and eagerly waiting to get to school and dandia the incredibly fast WiFi that allows me to at least log on to Instagram and Snapchat, you know what these apps do to our bundles, right? 😑 Then two women in buibuis board this minibus and sit in the seats that are right behind ours. They engage each other in a lively chatter as the taut now shouts out, “mtu mmoja!” When actually there are still four vacant seats! The devil is surely a liar. The two women continue with their chitchat, but now I get interested in knowing what they are talking about. Udaku utaniua! They speak in this arguably terrible coastal accent, and why do all gossipers, (here I’m talking about those women who are seasoned in this art) always try to pull out this accent that is best spoken by our Coasterians?

“Nakwambia huyo mwanamke ana mimba! Lakini mbona yuaficha? Ya Rabbi, kwani atatufichia pia mwana?”

I really don’t know where that conversation is heading to but I listen keenly. Now the taut has come to demand what is due to him. The young chap motions to the man next to me to hand him his fare which he honourably does and sits still as the driver, the typical Nairobi driver speeds the minibus that hitherto sounds like a tool box that is being tossed on the ground countless times! I stretch my hand and give the conductor [this term now leaves a better taste in my mouth!] my two-ten shilling coins which he closely examines 😕 before he goes ahead to the other passengers.

Our two women haven’t stopped talking! Suddenly a Jubilee branded car bearing the photo of Charles Njagua Kanyi [I’m simply talking about Jaguar!] passed by, this car, with speakers attached almost everywhere, was playing: “Huu mwaka lazima niwashangaze!” A major hit by this aspiring candidate vying for the elective position for member of parliament for Starehe. Speaking of surprising us, do you think he’ll find his way to the National Assembly? Give your thoughts in the comments below! 😁

One of the ladies behind me comments:

“Huyu ni Jaguar anacampaign na nyimbo zake yeye mwenyewe! Nakwambia mie namwona akiwa mbunge wetu tarehe nane!”

We’ve reached Ngara and the two women sadly have to alight!

“Twashuka baba,” they tell the taut, “Tumeshukuru sana!” They thank the taut and walk away.

Show’s over? 😖 Not yet! 😂

The taut quickly picks up another lady with spectacles and a bushy weave sitting on her head and the driver supposedly takes on the route that seem not to be in line with what she wanted and she quickly and furiously yells at the driver and conductor:

“Weka! Weka! Weka! Hausikii uweke! “

The driver ultimately hears her out and stops the minibus for her to be wekwad there!

Then enters another man. Now this one is not a passenger, he’s a vibrant marketer of merchandise who is constantly on the move to different markets, simply put, he’s a hawker! No need to sugar-coat it! He is a typical Nairobian hawker who comes to advertise his products.

“Ningependa kuwaambia kuhusu ID holder, hii ID holder inakuwezesha kuweka kitambulisho chako, kadi yako ya NHIF, pia unaweza andika nambari yako pale ili ukiipoteza ID holder yako, unaweza pigiwa kwa nambari yako! Leo nawauzia hii ID holder kwa shillingi hamsini pekee! Kuona ni bure!”

Nobody shows the least interest of wanting to own one of those ID holders and our aspiring businessman’s hope incredibly dissipates. He alights the minibus and we head to town. When we get to Globe roundabout, there’s an impenetrable traffic jam and as every persons’ conscience would dictate, we all alight that minibus and leave the driver and his taut to suit themselves out, apparently, even the taut himself walks away on the driver and lets him sought his shit out alone!

I quickly walk towards Garden Square to catch the 4:00PM bus that arguably most Strathmore student always want to board. We patiently wait for the bus as some people catch up on some light talk as others, (like me) crane their necks just to be alert when the tad blue bus shows up.

Thankfully, in the Strath bus there are no crazy people like the ones I’d met earlier on. I finally breath!


There is pride in rarity. World Vitiligo Day 2017.

“John Mark, why do you like posting awkwardly creepy things on your WhatsApp stories? The other day you posted a picture of a girl with freckles, that freaked me out, you also shared another photo of a young boy with Heterochromia iridium, and now you want to show us a lady that has vitiligo? Get your shit right!”

This is what a friend of mine, whose name I won’t mention, said.

What was wrong about sharing photos of the undeniably​ beautiful Winnie Harlow? Did I offend anyone with those photos?

If you find these question invalid, please quit reading!

Well, let’s continue, if you don’t mind. We all have something, be it a character, a habit or a condition that is refreshingly unique about us and it always makes us feel proud about having it, like Winnie, she has vitiligo and guess what, she’s a super model who once featured in Tyra Banks’ show, America’s Next Top Model, she boldly embraces her rarity, she is a representation of the few people that have enough courage to accept what they have and flaunting it.

It is through Winnie Harlow that I learned about vitiligo, how it affects people both psychologically and emotionally. I also learned about the World’s Vitiligo Day that is celebrated today (June 25th) in honour of all those 65-69 million people living with this unpredictable skin condition. This day is also meant to spread awareness and raise funds to assist in the research that will help find a solution to this skin condition.

Did you know that Michael Jackson, also suffered from vitiligo from 1986 until his death which occurred on June 25, 2009?

I’m sure you didn’t know about that, because all we knew about this sensational musical star was his dance moves and his nose, let’s not talk about his nose, shall we?

As the world marks its 6th celebration​ of World Vitiligo Day, I’m pretty sure that there are some questions that you have concerning this condition.

These questions and answers are provided courtesy of Skin specialist and cosmetic plastic surgeon, Angelica Kavouni.

Q:What is vitiligo? Who is affected by it, and why?

A: Vitiligo is a skin disease where pigment cells (melanocytes) don’t function properly, or die. All skin types are susceptible to this condition – there doesn’t seem to be one skin type that is more susceptible than others. The main symptom of vitiligo is depigmentation, which is most prominently found on the face, hands and wrists. It tends to become more obvious on dark skin and patches often start small, before growing in size over time. New patches can also form too.The causes of both remain uncertain but we believe that the patchy loss of skin pigmentation is due to immune attacks on the melanocyte cells. It is thought that some sort of defective gene is most likely the cause. Vitiligo is sometimes also associated with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, when ultimately the melanocyte cells become inflamed and die.

Q: Can anything be done? What can help?

A: Treatment expectations need to be handled carefully as the patient is unlikely to regain full pigmentation of affected areas. If you are a vitiligo sufferer then it’s probably best to consult your GP who will then refer on to a dermatologist. Steroid cream can often be helpful – sometimes combined with ultraviolet light (UVB) therapy. ‘Younger’ lesions (less than three years old) stand a better chance of a speedy response and changes can be seen within a few months whereas older patches can be more resistant. Some patients report that their lesions improve with combination therapy of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements with exposure UVB light. Personally, I have found the Obagi Medical Skincare range (including their chemical peels) offer a way to blend the patches making skin colour more uniform.

Q: Is there anything else that can be done? What do you recommend?

A:Sufferers can be stigmatised for this condition because it’s seen as ‘different’ and often need psychological support, so it’s important to be open with family and friends, who can help when you need it. Camouflage makeup is very useful and, with the wide range of mineral makeups on the market, coverage can often be easily achieved and maintained – for both men and women.Lighter skinned sufferers should avoid tanning the affected areas as darkening the surrounding areas will make the lesions more noticeable. There is always the option to depigment the whole unaffected skin to make the lesions less noticeable, but this is a dramatic option which brings with it huge life-long sun safety issues.

Happy World Vitiligo Day 2017!


Ripped Manners. 

It is ridiculously amazing how everytime I walk into that shower, or when I am doing some damn laundry or worst of all, when I am doing some stupid dishes, (this is the point where you curse yourself for being that African dish washing machine, that automatically gets controlled by only one yell coming from your mother who is probably resting her feet on that overstaffed ottoman stool in the living room) I get these incredibly brilliant ideas about what to write about.

“Should I write about that smokie pasua I recently had in Mada?”

“Wait a minute, that fashion cop with her long and baggy skirt, can’t she make a perfect blog?”

“What about that old man who sat next to me in that matatu thinking that maybe by being near the driver, he would probably arrive in town before those restless high schoolers at the back, can’t he feature in any of my articles so that he can consider himself a celeb for even a day?”

All these ideas dissipate when I turn off the shower, they magically grow wings when I have hung those countless clothes, they usually vanish when the dishwasher has been been turned off. 

That is the time when I get back to my ripped manners. Where writing is only essential when you are penning down notes from that nondescript lecturer, where reading is only prudent if you have a CAT or a RAT soon, where answering  questions regarding Cashflows earns you the title, ‘accountant of the week’, where your statements balancing is something to be so proud of to the extent of feeling that KPMG should consider your application as their Chief Auditor.

Well, these behaviors form such a significant part of our lives, they make us believe that life has some certain unit in which it is calibrated with. Speaking of calibration, did Lucy Gichuhi, Australian Senator representing the state of South Australia for the Family First Party, follow these standards? What about Sarah Ikumu, the 15-year old aspiring singer from Milton Keynes who is in year 11 and currently studying for her GCSEs, was she bound by those ‘principles of life’ that dictate our living?

Tough questions, Huh? 

I wouldn’t need much inspiration, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in herself, is a powerhouse of motivation. These are the people who miraculously open our eyes and make us believe that life owes us no shit! Yes, I’ve just typed shit in case you are wondering if what you are reading is an error in my typing, No it isn’t! 

Like rugged jeans, we will probably be new at something at some point. We will have to harness some skill in that yoga class we often skive, that course unit that you attended the first lesson only and thought that you should not read too much because people might think you are overreacting, that WordPress blog that has more drafts than published posts, that crush of yours, who after a struggle of sitting next to, you updated your statuses on all your social media accounts, ‘finally, I sat next to him or her…’ Heck! If we do not take up the challenge, we slowly fade, our fabric becomes a better rug than a cloth and ultimately, we become those second-hand ripped jeans or jackets that give crap a run for its money. 

You did not wake up today to be mediocre, over to you darling…


A beautiful spirit that we should adopt.

It’s exactly one month since I last wrote an article and my readers have been asking me:

“Ulienda wapi?” Which loosely translates to, “where did you go to?” In Swahili. 

I always laugh at this question because it’s not only hilarious but also senseless! I have been reading, seriously reading! I have also spent that same number of days knowing college and understanding this coveted ‘campus life’ which many people who have gone before me, arguably praise and exalt. I am a late bloomer.

College is incredibly great, but what I like most about the campus I’m in, is not the food, not the buildings, not even the good people we have around, but the beautiful trees that stand both within and without the school. I just love them irrevocably. Everyday when I draw my curtains in the morning, I look at how gracefully they stand out in the chilly mornings of Lower Kabete and they remind me of the late Professor Wangari Maathai. The most loving mother of the environment we ever had. God rest her soul in peace! 


In my bus rides to college and back, I always find a spot near the window, ensure I have the bus fare in coins, lest the taut breaches the contract we had earlier on made when boarding the bus, and once everything is safe,(here I’m talking about my phone and backpack) I’m carried away by the trees besides the road. Besides the beautiful jacaranda trees that stain the road with their purple flowers, the palm trees that are evergreen and the other species of trees that I never learnt about in school, your sight won’t miss the countless works of architecture brought to life by the most skilled masons, architects and doubtlessly highprofile engineers. 

These mansions and villas spell on thing; wealth. They belong to stinking rich people. They belong to those people who flourish in secured homes. They belong to those people who everyday take the back left seat of their cars and get driven by meticulous chauffeurs to work. They belong to people who probably spend their weekends in some golf course, a certain high end hotel that serves food made using foreign recipes and when they are running late after work and their chauffeurs claim that they went to pick their kids from that International school you are probably thinking of, they are quick to call a cab. Not just a cab, mind you, Uber works well for them. They can even pay double the amount so long as their safety is guaranteed.  

Albeit I admire these people’s way of life, my heart has a soft spot for trees. I always think of all those buildings and others that are in their early stages of construction and I think of Prof. Wangari Maathai; Kenya’s Internationally recognized change agent when matters environment are at hand. Did you really read that carefully? Internationally recognized! 

When they wanted to do away with Uhuru Park and have constructions there, more specifically a massive statue of the then head of state; Retired President Daniel arap Moi, she condemned them and they did throw all sorts of nasty names at her but she gannered support from other few people and had a freedom corner there, where they planted trees. She was selfless, a character that is really lacking in us in recent times. She spoke the language of nature. Maathai punctuated all her sentences with the word ‘environment’, she seldom spoke without mentioning how sustaining the environment would do us more good than we could imagine. 

Everytime I use Professor Wangari Maathai Road, I wonder whether I’ll keep her spirit alive in myself. I usually wonder whether I’ll ever drive sense into people’s brains and make them understand that our environment will sustain us if we sustain it.  

I read this quote from the internet recently and it moved me. It read:

“Learn character from trees, values from roots and change from leaves”~ Tasneem Hameed

This is a powerful quote that not only uses the example of a tree figuratively but also speaks about our lives. 

Planting trees is a culture we should cultivate. You get the pun? You do not need to be a professor for you to plant trees. Wangari Maathai said:

Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and we should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.

Now that January is over and it has been ushered in by rains, don’t wait for another time, plant trees. Let her spirit live in us. Let us appreciate her efforts and our country, won’t be how it threatens to be. Our children, the ones we nurture in our rising continent will also appreciate our efforts but would be reminded that they have another great granny who used to love trees and that she advocated for the conservation of the environment. 

Now that we are in the month of love because of its fourteenth day, let us show love to trees and most importantly, our environment.

Enjoy your February and know that, ‘Nimerudi sasa!’ to mean, ‘I’m back!’

A photo of the late Professor Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.


You’ll soon join the dots. 

Early this year, I attended an interview that was being held at Parklands sports club. I actually received a call from Githinji Mwaura, one of the volunteers who sat in the United World Colleges (UWC) Kenya, national committee. I had to travel all the way from Eldoret; my current town, to Nairobi; my birthplace. I had feelings of both excitement and uncertainty ulternating ruthlessly in my mind. This was actually the first, real interview I was attending. The other ones, the mediocre ones I had attended at school when I was vying for Deputy president, did not appear to be those that had you worked up, stressed out and utterly exhausted.

I boarded the 10 pm bus. I had never travelled late in the night before, so I had to be watchful, owing to the fact that I had heard that some bizarre things usually happen during these travels. My phone was tightly tucked in my jeans’ pocket while my earphones snaked up my shirt to my ears, and as always, I was listening to Kari Jobe. We had earlier on been warned about cocking our heads out of the windows. I mean, that was so obvious! Why would a self respecting person dare to do that whilst it was cold and very late? I even doubted whether that driver was aware of what he was saying. Well I sat there, my arms folded across my not-so-broad chest and enjoyed the sweet, soft voice of Kari Jobe.

Hours later I was in the heart of the CBD. Lights, vehicles and many people stained the city. When people talk about ‘working around the clock’, I totally understand because that’s exactly what I saw. I quickly plopped into the taxi that was nearby and was on my way to Eastleigh. I arrived minutes later and quickly unpacked every luggage I had so that I could at least catch some sleep and head to the interview hours later, needless to mention that it was already Saturday.

“Wake up!” Screamed my stupid alarm. I could not dare snooze it lest I’d be late for the interview and also the traffic, there is no need to talk about that, right?  I wore a pair of simple pants and a decent shirt. My document wallet (seriously, how many documents does a form four leaver own?) was clutched tightly under my arm. That day I had sworn that I’d carry myself nonchalantly because it would have  done me no good to be tense.

I briskly walked into that boardroom where other intellects had already settled. I mean, any random person would tell that these interviewees were certainly smart courtesy of how they behaved and were dressed. Everyone shot a glance at me as I mad my way past the door. I ignored it and found a vacant seat where I plopped myself onto. I found myself spontaneously talking to the lad besides me, who told me that he was called Collins and that he had finished Form Four from The Maseno School.

“Good morning everyone! We’re about to start but first, I want us to introduce ourselves, that is: Tell us your name, the school your were in or currently are in, and just tell us something interesting about yourself.” Said one of the panelist, whose name I had not gotten right because when she asked us whether we still remembered her name, my colleagues twanged her name, and that really baffled and irritated me. Who did they think they were? I know, a bunch of insensitive intellectuals that had no sense of respect for their naive counterparts.

Most interviewees took less than a minute to introduce themselves, I personally remember stuttering all those details in a matter of seconds. I even wondered if I’d still hold on to that oath I whispered to myself earlier on about carrying myself nonchalantly.

Once the introduction was over, I remember letting out a sigh of relief and ‘thanking God’ under my breath. We continued with the other group interviews which were done outdoors. I had to admit that I’d never played charades before. I found it interesting and educative too. The other activities that succeeded charades had us sitting on the clean marble floor, cross legged, Indian style as we discussed the pros and cons of Devolution, a system of governance that had recently set its roots in every county in Kenya. I was baffled by how articulate my colleagues spoke, they actually inspired me, to say it modestly.

The interviews were finally over. It was Saturday by the way and as if that was not enough, it was Valentine’s. I totally had nothing better to do. Wait, I had my smartphone and free Wi-Fi was available. In retrospect, I had a lot to do that day as I waited for the phone call I had been promised.

A month later, I received that call that I’d really anticipated. The lady’s voice on the other end was calm and casual. I had to muster enough courage and confidence whilst I spoke to her. Well, the news that hit my ears was not good. To put it plainly, I had not been accepted!

I lay in my bed and had these melancholic thoughts erupting in my mind. I had failed. I was nothing but a big failure. In Steve Jobs words, I’d say that,“…that was bitter tasting medicine, but I(the patient) had to take it…” I had to accept the truth and live with it. I later found out that Collins would soon join UWC Singapore and I felt proud of him.

In March, that was some weeks after I had gotten over the whole thing and I remember swearing that I would live life forward and later come to connect the dots backwards. I got Noah’s number from his brother. He was my longtime friend that I had been separated from for half a decade since we moved to Eldoret. We had a lot to talk about but I never told him my aweful story. Then he spontaneously broached the subject about PACE, an acronym that stood for Promoting Access to Community Education. I had no idea what that was and I had to go offline while I ran a quick Google search and found out what it was about. When I came back online, he asked me whether I would be interested in joining the organization, the response I gave was quite obvious. 

“Yes, I’d love to!”

I soon became a PACE fellow in May. After a successful interview that I’d gone through. For once, I believe in my capabilities. I accepted the fact that sometimes it did help to fail. I came to see this blessing in disguise objectively. I sort of felt like this was my intuition and I had to follow it.

I remember meeting new people who’d later turn out to be incredible people. I remember the countless trainings that I attended and even played charades, but this time, with some bit of idea of what the game was all about, I would make up all the signs until people wondered how I knew that. I would tell them that I had learned it from UWC, but I would not dare mention that I failed in that interview because it was not worth living in the past while you could confidently enjoy the present.

A year was enough for me to clearly understand my niche. However, this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t failed. I wouldn’t have found my intuition if I hadn’t stumbled in my pursuit for achievement. I dare you not to fear failure. I mean, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and a little bit taller.

Sooner or later you’ll come to join the dots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you grin while you look back at some of your mistakes that turned out to make you who you are today. In fact, I’ll be delighted to share in your reflection and perhaps pat you and encourage you to move forward never minding if you’ll make mistakes or not.

P.S. What a great way to end the year. It has been a crazy year! Now I can’t wait to go to school, seriously!