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Of dowry and weddings. And rugby.

December 2, 2011

My boy Sliga, the chef of THE kitchen cabinet, recently got married. Judging him by his standards, I’m yet to come to terms with the act. Anyhow, having grown up being ardent rugby supporters, it was only fitting that we modify a rugby cheer song in honor of him and his new wife Nelima. We would sing happily:

Ningekuwa mvulana, nitake mi kuoa

Ningefurahi sana, kumuoa Nelima

*grabs green weave from NonieMG and assumes Haka position*

Kila siku LIMA LIMA!, usiku LIMA LIMA!,

Tuzidi KULIMANA, asubuhi LIMA LIMA!!

Anyhow,  what is of particular interest in the run up to the wedding was this thing called dowry. Kenyans are crazy about dowry. I remember the Saturday afternoon when the negotiations for Nelima took place. Sliga was like a sat-on cat tail. Broken. The sums I heard being exchanged were almost derogatory. I could see the veins on the lead negotiator’s temple. Luckily for the boy, Nelima’s old man, my good friend, was extra lenient on the man and we left having been granted a wife for Sliga. I remember us unleashing the only Latin we knew after the event, ‘Habemus Mulier’!! (We have a wife!)

The issue of dowry is an interesting one. Relatives sort of feel it is time they got repaid for the ‘good work done in raising & educating the girl’. Talk of the plight of the boy child. Never mind he too is educated. Girls’ families in more cases than few end up harassing the suitors’ folks to the skeleton of their pockets. In the process people tend to form stereotypes about you. Now imagine one time we are having a family get together in shaggz and one of my favorite cousins walks in and declares he was getting married to a girl from Kiambu. The awkward silence told it all. He went ahead to explain how she is a doctor. The quiet murmurs of ‘Ghai, auuuuu!’ were all too loud. The ancestral ka-protti had to be sold.

I’m even informed that in the Kikuyu culture, there are several goats that have to be slaughtered. One of them is called the goat of  ‘wiping s**t’ and is eaten to compensate the dirty work of cleaning the wife in her babyhood days.

Folks need to go easy on the business of selling your daughter to the ‘other’ family. Here’s my argument, it’s not that I’m taking your daughter away from you. I’m just taking all the headache she’s been giving you away with me, and in addition I’ll give you grandkids with her genes powerfoamed by mine. Thus, don’t sell her to me, at those notoriously exorbitant bride prices, whether or not she’s been to school. Otherwise, in the case I pay the full amount that you asked for, you realize she won’t be coming over to visit you anymore because she’ll have been bought out. You never see Beckham going back to play or Man U, do you?

Parents, encourage your daughters not to get money minded when getting married, because men are becoming shrewder by the day. Take for instance the case of Yvonne. The sound-mind looking lady takes a studio image of herself and puts it in the local dailies, looking for a suitor. Qualifications of the suitor; a stringent ability to cough out 1.2M Kenya money with a smile. Caused quite a vocal stampede of this manner…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH  SSSSSSIILLLLLLLLYYYY!!

…with the conclusion that no Kenyan bachelor, even in a drunken stupor, would produce even a post-dated cheque of half that figure for the pleasant Yvonne. Case closed. The jury had Yvonne condemned to becoming somebody’s second wife.

Dowry, while good in enhancing and resolving politics between two families, more than being punitive should just be a case of the said families getting united through the concerned couple and sharing. In our parents’ era, a dowry of five cows and 10 goats would be paid over a lifetime. Sort of hire purchase. You were guaranteed of allegiance by a son in law especially if he could not meet his installments. This was so seriously taken that in some cultures, if you had not finished paying up for your wife by the time your daughter gets married, then her dowry goes to your wife’s folks straight and untouched.

Prior to Kip’s wedding in Tot, Marakwet, we had taken him to ELD to negotiate for his bride price. I can never forget what those Pokot wazees told us. After negotiating for about 2 hours, they said that we had to produce 500K for their daughter. And that was not it. That was to be according to the Kenyan culture. In addition, we were to fulfill the Kalenjin culture which was to produce 10 cows and 60 goats. As we left that evening there was only one other alternative:  eloping.  Had we not played flanker that boy today would be living in sin. Amen.

When my two friends, Ram, a Kenyan of Goan origin and Njeri , who’d been dating for 2 years decided to get married, it was a real scrum in the mud. His folks, according to tradition wanted dowry. Her folks, according to tradition, also wanted dowry. Now we have a real dilemma. One side wants he cows, the other she cows. We wait to see how that ends. All in the name of dowry.

After dowry is paid comes the wedding. While I’m not exactly a big fan of weddings, I have attended quite a number, some of which I have even ‘stood on’. But I guess it is a necessary evil of life and with fellows like Hilum  …

“Tunaye Mburu aaah Mburu, tunaye Mburu, Hamtamweza!!

… recently married and looking happy, I take it is a great beginning to the married life. However, I have noticed something interesting in the Kenya weddosphere. People are competing to have glamorous weddings. Yeah. I’m seeing lots of young (and embarrassingly old) people running around fundraising for a wedding. Some even go the extra mile of having a minimum contribution amount for their friends. It’s as if you are being sold shares of the honeymoon bliss.

I’m of the opinion that people, in addition to spending within their means, need to be who they really are. I think your wedding should be a demonstration of how you lived before the day and how you’ll live after. A big wedding in Blixen then you return to Gataka in KarenView (wadhi wa Rongai) afterward really beats me. Be yourself. Matrix, are you suggesting a small wedding? Like hell yeah.

I think it is beautiful for men to make commitments to the women they want to have succession planning a.k.a offspring with. And what better way to do that than walking her down the aisle? Now, if all the festivities that play wingman to the aisle will leave me with a loan to be paid by my last born I’d rather not bother. But give me an option for a small wedding that is cost efficient and bam! You just won me over.

The case of our (me and Roomthinker’s) friends S and B was a perfect example. With inflation propping the cost of living to unbearable levels these two extremely pleasant characters nonchalantly had a small wedding. Church Mass, photo session, cake & tea. Then in the evening we had a gruesome party at a Brazilian restaurant that reeked of nothing but awesomeness. Total budget – well, let’s just say they are now living in a house they have purchased. While a good number of big (borrowed) wedders struggling with rent. I think people need to evaluate themselves to do what they can.

As for Nelima and Sliga. Here’s my wish to you; have a wonderful honeymoon! Work off that baby fat!

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The ABC to dealing with traffic police

May 13, 2011

We all love to hate on traffic police. We have one way or another experienced their foul breath. Be you be sleeping in a Matatu then you find yourself at a police yard because one guy had his seat belt unfastened, to when you get arrested trying to fix a flat in a city council parking to the annoying habit of attempting to role play traffic lights with a cap to simply their stinky vybe. They are clearly here to stay, so we might as well attempt to learn to kick their buns live with it.

Take the case of Jack Zorro. This man, a hardworking Kenyan male, gets to be torn away from his place of work by his significant someone. It’s his birthday. ‘Baby, we have not spent some time by ourselves for a long time. Let’s have a getaway.’ Where? Mpango Naivasha. The madam, to sooth Zorro’s ego even hires a brand new machinery (well, in actual sense, she fears Zorro’s mobile might drop the fuel tank somewhere before reaching Kinoo). And they are off.

Smooth ride. Cool breeze. Birthday cake. Piuriful woman abreast. Zorro is your unusual winner at this moment in time. And it translates in the way he is tapping the gas. Steps on gas a little. She touches his leg. This translates to a sudden jerky movement of leg in a downward motion and car moves even faster. He does not realize he is now moving at 130kph. Round a corner in Naivasha, Karanja-in-blue suddenly appears. And beckons to Zorro to stop the new machine. Jack pulls over.

Karanja-in-blue: My friend, you are overspeeding by 30kph. The max speed allowed is 100.

Zorro: How &@#$ did this a#@ know at what speed I was moving at  Jambo mkubwa.

K-I-B: jenga taifa. Hebu toka kwanza

Zorro: Sawa afande

K-I-B: Ebu geti chini ga umesimama Uko na hatia.

Jack knows this is a Zorro moment. This is where the ABC comes in

A – Amani

Zorro acts very calm. In fact he pulls one of those, ‘Afande hii kazi yenu kwa hii jua yenyewe ni ngumu sana. Ninawapa heshima sana.’ The police officer is having none of that. Zorro remains calm, nodding his head in understanding. ‘Mkubwa, sawa basi. I’m sure kuna vile tunaeza kuelewana. Niambie niskie.’ Opens room for peaceful mediation. K-I-B is now a little excited and abandons his Kaleo accent.

Bottomline: more often than not you are likely to be inclined to tell off a traffic cop who stops. My little experience dictates with is trouble incarnation. Peacefulness with cops works wonders. Let the cop talk all he wants. If you are a man, listen attentively. At least pretend to understand where he is coming from. For ladies, oh well, just cross a leg smile. Or put up this face…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Meru, the real Mountain view

September 10, 2010

A serene view of the golden sun rays over the snow capped peak of Mount Kenya best describes the scene that first met my eye when I opened my hotel window yesterday morning. This is Meru, town, one of the highest cities, ahem, towns in Kenya. I have been spending quite some time in the area over the last year owing to exotic business escapades. I have got to grasp the place like my palm. I thought it’d be nice to promote some local tourism.

Location

Meru sits at the base, more or less, of Kenya’s highest peak. Needless to say, it gets as cold as hell. It reminded me of the days when some of us had to be taken to the river in the ungodly hours of the AM in readiness for the cut. If they do this in Meru, you are guaranteed to have anesthesia until your are fully cured. So cold. The scenery is beautiful. Lotsa green.

Business environment

The town is simple in it’s structure. At least on the outset. But spend some time and you start getting the feeling that there’s quite some bit of cash flowing around. You just need to walk into a cafe – lotsa them around – and look at the menu. A simple satisfactory meal goes for 250 bob. Isn’t Meru the bread basket of the country or something? Fries go for a burgained KES100 a plate, while you watch the potatoes grow outside your window.

But they can afford it. And they can afford a lot of other things. Hotels cost between 1000 and 2500 a night. Pretty high by Kenyan standards. Yet even on Monday they are always fully booked. Either lotsa outsiders visit the place (for business) or a lot of people are having mipangos. They have internet – YAAY! – mostly powered by Safaricom (for the corporates).

Fun

Meru, unlike Embu, has tonnes of places to have fun. If not Simba wells, you have Nakumatt Meru, Sports club, 3 steers, Meru Safari, County and a host of Nairobi West setups in the Makutano area. You then have the likes of Meru National park to visit and Kathita river in skinny dip in. The KEMU and UoN crowds make the area come alive, especially over the weekends.

Culture

Meru gives you a sense of generosity. I once ordered for a mandazi. What was placed before me looked something very close to a deep fried chapati. There’s a culture of urgency, with the town alive as early as 6 AM. I also got the chance to visit one of their main landmarks, the local Catholic church. It is richly built, with a Gothic structure and an air of stillness. I remember hearing some Gregorian chants as soon as I walked in.

People

I dunno what you’ve heard of Merus, but it is not true they walk around with Pangas and Jembes. They are very hospitable, with especially my hosts in my visits being very kind. So friendly in fact, the guy who sat next to me in the mat got all huggy once her started dozing. But Merus generally are as aggresive as it can get. Real go-getters.

Women

Wusululululu! I have one word to describe them: Tigresses sublimity (I shall exercise expressional temperance). They seem to be well trained on how to take goooood care of their men. Be warned though, they tend to get what they want, with or without your consent. Trust me, I know.

Well, there may be a few issues with communication. Some guy once found me seated on a bench and told me, ‘Niendaendee kidogo tu nikae’. But well, you adopt.

All in all, Meru is one place you would love being in.

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Tribute to Marion

August 10, 2010

Marion, when you were born 99 years ago, your parents must have been ecstatic at your beauty. When Musa came around in 1930 to ask for your hand in marriage, he must have been a man dangerously in love. When Matrix senior was born years later, I hope he was not as much a son of a gun as I was.

You were as beautiful as your grandeur, living life each day like it was your very last. Eating every little particle of it. Nothing was ever too serious, because nothing really ever is. You taught me many good things as soon as I could understand them. You made me realize that having been named after your husband, it called for me to live up to the name. The true warrior of his time and defender of the defenseless.

You insisted that your ‘co-wife’ be more glamorous than yourself. Now in your angelic glamor, I’m laboring to meet the expectations.

Till the time when the Lord felt you were a  rose so ready for the picking, full of color and splendid fragrance, you stood strong, 32 teeth in your delicate mouth, back just slightly bent and strength that left me wondering how lazy I could possibly be.

You gave me sublime lessons in life, that what only matters is for man to be happy, and that the only to achieve that is to be faithful. A lesson I cherish and struggle everyday to keep.

We may have said goodbye, but your spirit lives deep within our hearts.

This is my solemn tribute to you Marion; to you grandma.

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The Ultimate Matatu experience

July 21, 2010

Have you ever stopped to wonder where the term Matatu was coined from? Well, papa Matrix, the all knowing, had a ready answer for me. It is said that during the colonialist times, transportation in Nairobi used to cost a flat rate of 3 coins. Yaani, mang’otore matatu. Otonglo time. Mapeni matatu.

Let’s start with the Matatus

Have you ever gotten in a ma3 that feels like the body is about to fall off whenever the driver accelerates? Recently I took a number 33 mat. I decided to ignore the noise until we got to that hill along Mbagathi way, then the conductor mumbles to the driver a.k.a pilot, ‘Njuguna, ngwiciria nitwaguithia injini.’ Translated to mean, ‘Njuguna, I think we just dropped the engine’. I reached for the window.

Most recently

On Monday evening I took a mat home. This ma3 had all its windows shut and the stuffiness was ridiculously intoxicating but considering the cold outside, that breath heat was most welcome. Then I notice this chap in front of me who had a mzungu guest. I could hear the white fela ask, ‘do you ever have air conditioning in the mah-tay-tuhs?’. Welcome to Kenya mate, the fairest air conditioning you get is snapping your window open.

Face Me

I got to visit some place in the interior of Bondo. They use face mes. For the not-so-conversant, face mes are pick-up trucks that are covered up with a metallic board and which contain two form like structures against the walls of the poor vehicle. Then up to seven people sit on each of the sitting structures facing each other. Hence the term face-me. Now, the govt placed a decree requiring all the ma3s to install seat belts. Applying this to face-mes, you get one mukanda (rope-like) seat belt across the form. To fasten it you following instructions:

  • Haiya, watu wakae square.
  • Wewe mama, rudisha mgongo nyuma. Kamata hiyo mtoto yako fisuri.
  • Haya, wewe kijana huko mwisho, shika kamba *throws the belt across*.
  • And the seven of you adults are belted up. The only missing ingredients from the picture are pegs.

To unfasten the belt, please do reverse the process.

Ndumberi

Then there are mats to Ndumberi. Whoa! These are some Peugeot 504 beats up station wagons that triple rate of global warming with the amount of charcoal grey soot they release to the atmosphere. Here comes Matrix seated next to the driver, with a Kimbo labeled fan in between us rotating furiously to keep off fumes from the engine. Then, as we negotiate the corner at neck breaking speeds (the roof is very low) my door comes flying onto the road. Felt like a safari. Nuff said.

Up town

Then comes buruburu ma3s. We used to call them Manyangas. Now, you have some monied people who sit, while the rest of us stand holding onto the javelin – a long metalic object traversing the whole length of the ma3 for support purposes. For the taller people, the javelin acts as a support dancing pole especially around the corners. For the five foot tallers, well, the pole becomes a pendulum. The blasting music next to your ear for some reason tended to sound kinda ticklish on a nice way. One day, this lady, donning a strapless something, was dangling on the jav next to me, and in the process did not realize there was a slow but steady southside movement. Well, I leave it to your imagination for the other details.

The beautiful passengers

You get lucky on this particular day and sit next to the window in this 14 seater van. As you start enjoying the breeze and the view of hardworking con men outside, in comes a looker. Let’s just say the creator was really generous with her. Well endowed pear shapey. She’s carrying some shopping, is a little sweaty and now making good use of her cute eyes she beckons you to move over so she can seat next to the window as she seems to need it more. You oblige. You are now calculating the benefits that will come from the good gesture. You get up for her,  she takes your place. Then you try and sit in the adjacent seat. Then it happens. The moment she’s sat, she spreads out like an omelet on her seat and now onto yours. There goes you sprawling onto the floor. Enough with the courtesy.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how on earth we survived when the small ma3s used to sit 18 people in Nairobi, and 18 to the power of n, where n is the number of kilometers from the nearest cop?

Riakanau

Now, these are long distance buses that pry the Nairobi Embu route. Long distance not because of the distance (about 120Kms) but because of the time it takes to get you to your destination. These rainbow colored buses are slow enough on flat land, so whenever you hit the hill, the passengers are allowed a walk outside to rest. Oh, and as you walk out, watch out for that piglet that Nyina wa Marigu has just purchased at Marikiti. You step on it and you will be on your way back to Nairobi. Ah yes, here comes the juicy part. The buses have got carriers (locally known as kerias) at the roof which hold more stuff than on the inside. So imagine, being the lady you are (I doubt it), at the point of boarding you ask the makanga to delicately place your bag in the carrier. The fellow pole vaults it up there somewhere. When it is arrival time, the makanga can’t trace it, so you are asked to go up the carrier to fetch your own luggage. Your skirt flags merrily in the wind as you go up the shaky stairs ladder, while passengers stare droolingly from within. Once you get your bag, you pose and savor the titanic moment atop the monstrous bus.

All in all, don’t you get to miss these experiences whenever you take a break from them?

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Letter to 13 year old me

July 9, 2010

Dear Matrix,

I know you just hit teenage and some real things are about to start happening in your life. From your homescience class I’m sure you are expecting very broad muscular chest and shoulders by 17, and hairs that sweep the ground before you pass on it. Little fela, it’s a myth. The only real thing that will probably happen is that at some point you start getting these dump dreams with a high likelihood of embarrassing yourself if they come when you are in class, in high school. Speaking of high school, well, you are about to head into a school of mystery, with lots of bad manners to learn. Be a man, and learn to get a grip on your hand. Girls like grips.

Now, Ms Kamau, that Swahili teacher for the other stream that you keep staring indirectly on a mathematical set reflection? Just keep off. In 3 years time she will be dead of AIDS. And sadly, she will take down with her your favorite teacher, Micheni. Sucks huh? Before you start crying, you little creep, realize that this is only the beginning of many questions you will want life to answer you, and it will just stare back at you blankly in response. Man up and face it bravely.

You see that tom-boy seated behind you, that Mercy woman you love to hate? Be very close to her. She is about to blossom into the most unbelievably beautiful thing you ever saw. Ignore her Meru accent, she will outgrow it. In fact, she will sound better than your sorry ass. C’mon, walk up to her now and tell her you like her. Go on. Oh, wait, it’s class time now. But do later.

And then there’s Hannah. That girl you’ve been competing with since 5. I know nothing is better than beating her, but find it in you to let her beat you in CPE. Because if you don’t, later on when you are grown up, she will find you. And she will be out to break up anything and anyone you have a commitment with.

Now that you are in class 8, you will soon realize that being the candidate you are means little, really, because when you get to high school no one gives a crap, I mean, cares what you got in CPE. But then again, you perform poorly and you know mum, I will probably be writing again to you next year…as a candidate again. Utarudia.

And lastly, nihil praeter optimum – a statement you need to know. You’ll use it for the rest of your life. Oh, and somewhere at the back of your head keep those Sunday School lessons coming. They come in handy.

Me

Tagged: Chiira, Wamathai and Jolie Barbra

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A Composition – the Kikuyu story

April 26, 2010

I stood up from bed that morning I drank breakfast very fast. I applied fat on my face and legs. I painted my shoes and I run like paper to school. I took the corner foolishly foolishly at an angle of 90
degrees as if I was carrying a protractor. I just reached when the bell was crying. The teacher saw me and told me that if I would have been late,he would have beaten me trees without mathematics.

Later, the teacher sent me to the butchery to buy him one kilogram of stomachs and one kilogram of much
clothes. He then forgave me with a paper. I also bought stones for the teacher’s radio.

 
The real translation in his Kikuyu mind was:

Muthenya ucio ngiukira kiroko na nginyua chai ihenya. Ngihaka maguta uthiu na maguru. Ngihura iratu rangi and ngithii ihenya ta karatathi. Ngioya kona urimu urimu ta ndakuite compass. Ngikinya oriria ngengere yariraga.
Mwarimu akinjira korwo nindacererwo, angiahura miti itari ithabu.

Mwarimu agicoka akinduma mbucheri gamugurire kiro ya mara, gakuo kaingi. Agicoka akinjohera na karatathi. Ngicoka ngigurira mwarimu mahiga ma radio.

May God deliver Kikuyus!

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