It’s funny how an ending is never as beautiful as a beginning,

when the credits begin to roll and the farewell music kicks in,

the beginning is full of smiles, laughter and hope

and the ending reeks of charred hope, dashed dreams and inexplicable feelings.

The motors purr as the descent into the earth begins,

a sight to behold as accompanied by tears, wails, curses sometimes,

everybody remembers the beginning and how it was full of life

and here,

the ending that now shuts off with a thud and a crack in your heart.


Of Braids, IUDs and Cunnilingus (Part I)

They lowered their voices conspiratorally. The questions came out rapidly in succession and the air in the small kibanda expanded with the curiosity of a million pairs of eyes trained on me. They were braiding my hair and I reached out and traced out with my fingers, on the mirror propped up on the shelf in front of me, the female reproductive system. Well, as well as I could manage with no pencil, paper, chalk or accompanying board. And my public health training kicked in.

“Is it true that if someone has a big one, they can puncture your ‘coil’?”

The term ‘coil’ in Kenya refers to the copper implant for contraceptive use.

They, the ladies, all leaned in to hear my answer.

I don’t know how we got here.

I am seated in a small plastic white chair that cups my butt warmly and has raised arms on which I place my own arms. Around my shoulders is draped a leso to protect my shirt from stray hairs falling all over. Around me, around this chair, are three ladies; one confesses later that she just ‘cleared 4th’, meaning she just finished her high school studies last year (so maybe 18 years old), another says she has a kid in Standard 8 (13 year old) and a 3 year old, and the last one is very quiet and does not give up much about herself. Her top row of teeth are stained brown and her body has that soft curvature that implies she has lived. I guess her age to be late-30’s. The three ladies are working on my hair, inspired by the picture of Fulani braids worn by Taraji P. Henson at some award ceremony that I have displayed in a screenshot on my cell phone. They are braiding, separating the Xpression braiding hair and talking kiKao amongst themselves and then intermittently asking me questions in Swahili and in English.

“Which is the best one to use so you don’t get pregnant?”

That question comes at me three times, posed by other ladies who crowd into the kibanda to finish the three-strand braids Continue reading

Huh? Ati?

Mama Bear came out today but I reined her in kiasi. Let me explain.

I have a new nanny. She started about a month ago. When I compare her to my holy grail of nannies (Betty took care of Austin from when he was about 7 months to when he hit 2 years and 4 months), she was okay. I learned that I should not expect her to match Betty in effort, initiative and activity so I was open to seeing what her work ethic and deliverables would be.

Today, I stayed home and worked from home. Well, truthfully, I spent most of my day decluttering my room and arranging Austin’s clothes properly. Austin piped up at some point that he wanted to go to the playground. I asked him to ask his ‘auntee’ which he promptly did. She told me she was going to take him for a walk. I said okay because last time they went for a walk, they went around the block. I had previously warned her to avoid the main road because of crazy drivers and too many cars; it is a busy main road.

They left.

I continued my decluttering efforts. Continue reading


Thoughts of you patter through

this darkened, shadowed mind

at the oddest of moments.

I was pattering away at

this slowed, aged keyboard

when you crossed my mind

You crossed it so casually,

in almost complete slow-mo

turning your dazzle of a smile at me.

I crossed myself very un-casually

in perfectly fast motion

turning my upturned lips down

The religion of wanting you

fighting against the faith of

feeling for you and your everything

The science of muscle-memory

embracing the art of

our first kiss and our last one

and colliding in my memory banks

and firing up fireworks where

none should be after the last burn.



Today he said water like a Kenyan. The letters of the word sliding and colliding into each other, the hard t leading the onslaught.

‘Mummy, I’d like to have some woh-tah’

I looked at him and asked him to repeat…

He thought perhaps I was asking him to ask politely and he repeated: ‘May I please have some woh-tah’

He is three years and seven months old. He has lived in America since he was two years and six months old and we just got back three weeks before he hit the three year-six month mark. Facebook sent me a reminder pic from when he was 7 months old. The one featured in this post is from before he knew how to say Mama or Worrah or anything close to it. He was 9 months old and was a faceful of smiles and no language.

He had that flat Californian accent when we arrived back in Nairobi from our time in Los Angeles. Worrah is my marker for his accent. When we were in the City of Angels, he was Worrah-ing all over the place, buoyed by his Monday to Friday stay at Ms. Banner’s daycare and surrounded by other Americanos. Yesterday, he was saying worrah even as I put him to sleep at bedtime and today, a holy day, his tongue has suddenly unrolled and folded around and about the words and letters and decided to showcase his Kenyan side. Woh-tah.

He says other things too. He says ‘Chafu’ and ‘Taka-taka’ and, my personal favorites, ‘Chapa’ and ‘Chuna’. He throws in ‘Moshi’, ‘Vumbi’ and ‘Pikipiki’ for good measure. He still can’t say Ugali; he used to call it ‘Ugaya’ and now it has become ‘Mu-gali’ (perhaps he is linking this to Uncle Bob in Zim, who knows?). He seems to Continue reading

Oyunga Pala’s Workshop: The Art of Becoming A Writer

I attended my very first creative workshop this weekend. It was a full day affair punctuated by great snacks and food; my own personal measure of event worth. I met 6 ladies and a gent who were charming, endearing, sensitive, funny, poignant, honest, quiet, exuberant and all things writers can be. Our master of ceremony, our teacher, the Yoda? Oyunga Pala. Many of us in the room came to this simply because of his name. And the title of the workshop? The Art of Becoming a Writer.

Now, you may say that I have been writing for years, decades actually. Why would one attend this class? Aren’t you already a writer? How do you get taught how to become when you already are and you have the science of writing down? Valid questions. But have you ever thought about what it takes to write? There is a science to writing, a formula. Our teachers in 8-4-4 taught us this science but this course by Oyunga Pala introduced me to the art of it. Yes, I can sit down and take a mundane phrase and weave a story around and about it. For me, the science of how I write is a formula combination of [ideas or topics + imagination or research]. x + y = z. Solve for x or y and your story (z) pops out. Some other sub-requirements to give this formula life may include, for me, the ability to step outside of self, life experiences, an amount of time to think up or create storylines, a suitable writing tool (preferably a beautiful pen and crisply white paper) and the availability of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. But that is not a necessary part of the scientific formula though it is an infinitely better choice than a glass of Hendrick’s and Lime every time I write. Then there is what you need to subtract because it is not always about addition. You can have x + y – bx – cy =z. bx could be fear as attached to your x, your ideas or topics. cy could be procrastination as attached to doing the research you need for your topic or the lack of motivation to really imagine up a scenario for your protagonist and all his or her friends.

For some people, their science is that they can simply look at a person walking by on the street and type out their imagined story of this person’s background and all the incidents, events, situations and happenstances that give him or her that gait.  Yes, it takes Continue reading