Thursday, 28 October 2010


I have a confession to make, and it may leave you slightly disgusted. Read on, if you have the guts. I will be kind of rumbling. It’s about ‘fatties’.

Some background: my sister and I were talking on the phone last week and as usual I asked her about ‘my daughter’ i.e. my niece. After the regular updates, she told me that I seem to have given my niece the idea that fat people are not good-looking. I was a little surprised, even shocked. I actually have no idea when I ever did this. I guess I may have talked about how I don’t want to gain weight in her presence and all, having gained 4-5 kgs (and probably growing-matooke on the regular, but more importantly an increased intake of sausage and milk) since landing here about 2 years ago. Some of the weight gain for good reason. And it’s not like I mind it that much, though I won’t lie and say I would want it to go unchecked. I think some of her ‘learning’ may have come from hearing me and my mum comment about weight, me saying I don’t want to be ‘fat’. To which my mum’s (and sister’s) response is almost always ,”wi mukiigu muno!” (you’re very stupid!). Maybe it even stemmed from some comment I made while watching some sports updates at some point and commented on the sports-reporters size and how it was ‘inappropriate’ for his profession. Like, a sports-reporter should look ‘sporty’, not fat. I don’t know. But am surprised that a 5-year old is able to listen to odd statements and come to a conclusion. And start making comments which would be considered offensive when she sees ‘fat’ people. Fat people, in my opinion, are not even that common in Kenya, our main problem being, well, food security. Except maybe in middle-class urban people who I understand are starting to be affected by ‘lifestyle diseases’.

Recently there was an article on Marie Claire where the writer expressed disgust for ‘fatties’ . The article resulted in an uproar on the internet, with people writing tens of thousands of emails to Marie Claire, some calling for the author's firing. I found this paragraph particularly disturbing: “So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.” I thought it was a little harsh, even misplaced given the fact that I think majority of women in America are large. And that’s self-desribed “...publication that women turn to for information on fashion, style, beauty, women's issues, careers, health...”. Way to inform the women, eh?

The article got me thinking about my own weight biases. While maybe 4-5 years ago I would rarely notice, let alone care that someone was overweight, perhaps due to my rural upbringing, something seems to have happened, and I kinda notice, though I don’t dwell much on it and have never commented on someone’s weight to them or to someone else. I’ve mentioned my own weight gain on twitter, facebook and blogger often. So much so that when Kellie and I met me in September, she said that she was expecting to see a ‘larger person’. I must have been exaggerating. I think any large person or one who has been or is concerned about their own weight would consider it mockery to talk about my weight often, considering that I’m 55kgs, well close to 56 now. So what am I thinking? That I don’t know what it means to struggle with weight I shouldn’t be too judgemental. The term 'Eating Disorders' is something I learned in my Physical Education class in campus, and I must confess I found all the eating disorders ‘funny’ at the time. As in how you refuse to eat? Eat, then puke???. That it’s easy to blame fat people for their weight issues, or even make it sound like there’s a quick fix to weight matters, like diet and exercise. Especialy when I have never tried the former and can’t myself be disciplined enough to practice the latter regularly (remember my skipping rope? It’s been unused for like 2 months, and I haven’t ran/exercised much in as in as long a time). More importantly, that weight is itself a ‘diversity’ matter much like sex/gender/sexual orientation, race, religion tribe, age, name them. And of course, my favourite, marital status. Am learning that you can be as sizist as any other bigot can be tribalist, racist, agist, and in my opinion, maritalist. How, for instance, would you feel if someone said that they find it disgusting to watch people with too much melanin (black people) walk across a room or a street, or do anything at all? Or two a Luhya and a Kamba? Trust me, we would be having a different discussion, possibly with a lawsuit to boot (in America that is!)

Much as I believe that it is within my power to be slimmer if I want to be, I know it’s not the same for many other people. I once had a room-mate who was kind of large, and believe you me, I ate more than she did. She had been above-average size-wise since she was young. I think also that ‘thin’, single, non-parent people should always consider the possibility of having larger kids and think how they would treat them.

What’s your take on this weighty issue? Will you complain next time you are on a 12-hour busride next to someone taking like a third of your space?

I found some fat people out there with blogs that I found interesting. I didn’t even know you could be wrecking mental havoc on someone by regularly talking about your diet. There’s Unapologetically Fat, The Rotund, and Fatties United! Fatties United! tend to bring a bit of humour in their take on fat, like this blog post here. Take a read.

That said, fat people should also be sensitive when talking weight with thin people. It's rude to indicate that someone has an eating disorder simply because they are thin.

Sunday, 03 October 2010

This and That, Mostly Biashara Nyeti

I haven't been to Church in a while but today I caught Rauka on TV. I think it was an OK, TV-friendly sermon. I kinda felt that as much as I believe what the pastor said, anyone could say that, work up a crowd like that, no? Am finding that I want stuff that I can relate to or that is specific, not a 'cookie cutter' sermon. Plus, I don't understand why you need a mini-sermon before people give their offering, and then repeat the same thing in a subtle way in the main sermon. If anything, the Bible says! Give what you have decided in your heart, but not under coercion...or something like that. I'll look for the verse. Overall, if you have the charisma and patience, I think a church is not a bad investment in the long term-just avoid scandals.

Jana we had stuff to attend to on Entebbe road, got a ride there with a friend, then me and the other friend took a matatu (aka taxi) back to town, getting off near the Old Taxi Park. Said friend was going back to work and so I said "Sawa, bye. Am going to look for hair". After the 'shocked' look on his face cleared, I explained that I was indeed going to look for a weave. He said some stuff about women and hair..... his wife/girlfriend is rocking a reddish-hair weave, so am sure he knows these things. Anyway! I walked into Mukwano Arcade and asked for an Afro-looking weave and settled on one that was 100% human hair-apparently. While we were negotiating, an older woman came by and said she wanted the same. Turned out that was the only one available, and out of 'respect', they attendant decided to sell it to "our mummy" while I waited for mine from the next shop. I was pissed and told the attendant as much when the lady had left. That was discrimation right there, though I didn't say as much. Do you know that I've once been at an interrview where one person in the panel asked me about my marital status, because it would help them in their renumeration decision? Anyway (never mind how many times I say Anyway, it's a Kenyan English adjunct) by 5pm, I'd come back to my hood and the 100% human hair fixed on my head. For the second time in my life I had a weave on. Only that I thought I looked like Kajairo's twin, so today am removing it.

Of late if you've been reading/watching news, seems people have given the East African Community idea a whole new meaning. What with this business of stealing kids from TZ and bringing them to Kampala, for whatever reasons? That was in The East African newspaper a few weeks ago. And the couple that was putting disabled Tanzanian kids on the streets of Nairobi at dusk to beg the whole day and bring back the loot late at night? What about the other jamaa who I guess got an order for albino bones in TZ but instead got a live specimen, so decided to befriend an albino guy, and take him to TZ by bus? The killer story is the one involving (Kikuyu, who else, ha!) men caught on tape selling private parts out of a mortuary in Nairobi. Hearing them on the phone, you'd think it was some legit business going on. "Ya mwanamume au mwanamke-male or female? Anotoa pesa ngapi-how much is the buyer offering?". What if that was your hubby and you saw him on TV like that? Well, I guess that would explain why of late your standards of living had improved, eh? What ever happened to people dressing their own loved one's bodies before burial. Seems these days everyone just gives money to get everything done. I know, I've been involved in one funeral this year. That's great, if only you are not burying your loved ones bila private parts, maybe even bila some clothes. Anyway, I guess some people- or their consciences at the least- died a long time ago but they are still walking on this side of the grave.

There are also the 'genuine' stuff that is marketed in dubious ways. Like the Yvonne Chaka Chaka commercial with Lifebouy. Ati it's a 100% proven to reduce cases of illness, yeah? Complete with a coughing kid who I presume will stop coughing once he bathes with Lifebouy. Splash juice also has a way with that 100%. When you see the 100% from a distance, you think it's a 100% fruit juice, but on closer look, it's 100% Aseptically Packed. Excuse me as I go buy my 100% fruit. Sensodyne has a fully dressed dentist that let's you know that dealing with sensitive teeth is a as easy as using Sensodyne. Halafu Pampers is recommended by the Kenya Paediatric Association. Nivea has a way of getting at women. In one particular case in a Supermarket, they had ka-signpost showing the isles where to get all the stuff you need for soft, glowing, cellulite-free skin; fresh fruits and vegetables, whole cereals and yes, Nivea! Me, I take these claims with a pinch of Royco Mchuzi Mix.

Wacha I go buy me some to make me 'the tastiest githeri ever!'. Have a lovely Sunday, people.

PS: 'Biashara nyeti' does not mean 'private business', the same way 'sehemu nyeti' means 'private parts'. It's more like 'controversial business', like 'swala nyeti' means 'controversial issue'

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

No Wedding, Most Likely

First off, am wondering how much I can keep PKW the Blog alive now that am not anonymous. This has been my space to chronicle stuff as it happens and as I see it, but since coming out, am not sure what direction this blogging thing will take. Like this girl here, I feel like starting over at another discreet space, but my style would remain the same and I guess you'd have me figured not too far into the blogging. I really want to keep blogging stuff as it happens and as I interpret it without the need to make it spicier, juicier, duller or anything faker than I take it. By the way The Man doesn't know about this space either, and I wouldn't want him to find out from someone else, now that I'm meeting other bloggers and tweeps. Seriously, how many of you out there have managed to keep it real after coming out? Assuming that no one knew about your blogging ways, anyway. These days, with technology, you never know! How well are you able to manage the curtain between your virtual life and your real life?

Moving on to the topic at hand. Yeah I know your remember this,eh? And Well, there's been lot's of situations like this one here. Not the riots, but when we just can't be together. Since the end of last year, it's been Kisumu, not Kigali. Same distance nevertheless. We couldn't even be together on Valentine's day, and I at that point called it quits, as you well know. We've worked out a lot of the stuff with me being more understanding when he can't make it, and him planning better. It's been a while since he called me on a Friday night to inform me that he's not coming the following day, but the last time he called on a Wednesday, I was unhappy but didn't throw a tantrum. I also appreciate that he's been understanding when I'm on the wrong, and has forgiven me the times I've wronged him. Which are few and far apart :-) I'm perfect like that!

Fast forward, we are talking meeting the parents in less than a month. We were meant to do it earlier but I wasn't so sure. And then later, logistically, it was not possible. Now in my part of the global village, once you meet the parents, you are past dating and are set to marry, which explains why I was a little hesitant initially. I admit I have met another set of parents for a few days over Christmas, but that was in a different cultural setting, and it doesn't get interpreted the same way it does in my village. So yeah, we are talking marriage,saving and investing together, and babies. I want three, he wants one, a boy. Basically all the things that married people (are supposed to) do together.Including in-laws; I want to live with my mum at some point in the future.

The question here is the wedding. On a regular day, I normally think this wedding thing is an over-rated, foreign concept, and am happy to exchange cows in place of vows. I don't remember having a dream wedding in my mind. Ever. The only thing I remember is injuring my wedding ring finger once while picking tea during holiday from secondary school and being grateful that at least it was on the right hand, just in case the scar remained. I have never really desired to have a wedding.

But now. The more I think about it, the more I want one. I even have a unique, designer wedding gown (si tailors are designers, ala!) in my head. No, really. The grooms men and brides maids are all matching in red, African yet modern outfit. The flowers are red roses. You guessed it, the theme is reddish. And I have a Maasai-beaded tiara.

Here's the downer to this grand dream of mine. The man doesn't want a wedding, or, wants one much later. His sister, who has been married for over 10 years, is having her wedding in November. I think she is his role model. I also know other couples who have done the traditional thing or signed a certificate and had a wedding later (like when the kids are in college, and am not talking about the 25th anniversary here!). Honestly, I don't get the rationale. My other argument is that at the rate I'm 'growing',and possibly after popping out two babies, I will not look as good on a later wedding date in a few years.

The biggest reason I want a wedding is so I can partake in my desire to savor, and celebrate each step and season in this my life. Reason behind that? I have lost a number relatives, G among them, and close to 3 dozen neighbours in the past 2 calendar years, and missed out on an extended family gathering, which happens only once a year, and has been delayed/canceled because of the funerals this year. I feel its about time my family, neighbours and friends met at a happy occasion. I also have these friends who are like family overseas, and it would be super good to be together again. I'm sure the lady friend would shed a tear or two-she's cries at happy occasions.

I have a friend who also tells me that I better have my way now, otherwise nikiolewa, it's submission to no end (haki ya nani, siamini hiyo!)

The thing is this, we don't have the money for the (big) wedding right now. We will have saved some for the same purpose by the time the proposed dates come up, and can have a small one, but the man does not want a small wedding. It's a big wedding or no wedding.He's kinda traditional like that; invite his and my extended families, his two and my two villages, our common (from college) and separate friends, and colleagues. Before I knew it, the list was +300 close family and friends.

You already know that I do not believe -the right phrase here is 'I hate it when...'- it's right to ask people to foot your wedding bill as is so common in our society, and The Man agrees so that's not even an option for either of us to fall back on.

My idea of a small wedding was thus: PKW and The Man dressed up, trip to Church or the registrar of marriages with our immediate family (20 people max!), the people who are 'standing for the wedding' (4) and a small reception thereafter. Could even be on a weekday. But the man? His quiet demeanor aside, I think he must be plotting to be a politician someday. Otherwise, good people tell me, why else would anyone want to please two provinces and the Nairobi Area on a very personal occasion?

Obviously, I alone want so many things right now, car included, and he too wants many things. Most importantly, in many ways, we are just starting to lay a financial foundation for the future, and we are already in our 30s. Even the Ksh 150K we will have saved by early March or late April can be put to different use-I can't bring myself to say 'better use' because a wedding is good use already!

Not really an option on my part, but it seems likely there will be no wedding. Final discussions will be held this coming weekend, insha Allah.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Coming out at UBHH

I went to the last Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour (UBHH) and plan on going to the next one this Thursday. I think it should actually be remaned UBTHH to include the folk on twitter who never blog but don't shy away from UBHH.

As a result of my going, my blogging has been and will be greatly affected as I am no longer anonymous. I wasn't planning on being anonymous much longer anyway; I've been meaning to attend one mauano session in Nai, if they still happen.

See, my blog has always been about the people and events in my life, or so I would like to think. I don't have a theme that I write about. Hence I find this person mildly insulting who said that great mind discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and little minds discuss people; or something to that effect. You will be saddened to know that I've always fought long and hard to not blog about people; my friends, my family, my colleagues, my close enemies. So far, on many occassions, I have succeeded, but evidence points to the fact that I have a little mind. And blog. Right now I feel an urge to go back and edit any bad things I've written about people, dead or alive, so I can rise above the little mind level.

UBHH was fun. I met @Normzo who blogs here, Sleek, Jny23Ug (who I'd met way back in Feb), @HellenNyana, AntiPop, Baz, @MarkBulamu and many others. No offence, for those whose names I don't remember, or anyone who I claim to have met but did not. I was actually sick and on antimalarials, hence my quick exit to go and puke after just the first bottle. Thanks, @MarkBulamu, next time I'll take as many bottles of Smirnoff Ice as you can buy, though I realize I am not what I drink and may need to change alcohol preferences. Seriously, beer is bitter! You may be happy to know that I am considering quitting drinking alcohol once and for all. Or maybe just stick to the occassional glass of red wine.

Related: Archer Mishale is probably the most popular Kenyan blogger among the UG bloggers. One @Kenyansista was challenged to make her Uganda trip more than just an idea. That's all I can remember guys, sorry. On Thursday, (if I make it!) I won't be sick so hopefully I'll have more to report on. Happy week good people.

Unrelated: I'm wondering how I can get a day off on Friday, now that kidogo naanza kujivunia kuwa Mkenya. Call me a spoiler, naye, I think as Kenyans celebrate the promul....prowhatever of the new constitution they shouldn't forget the excitement following the 2002 elections and how, while there has been growth, it was not instant. Thing is, Kenya's is a developing country in every sense of the word, and politics, well, to me it's like a wind, which often changes direction, and we don't know which direction it will blow next time. Realistic optimism, that's how I live my life. Try it.

Monday, 02 August 2010

54 @ 32

Good morning from my bed! It's 6:17 am on my birthday. I haven't been able to sleep well in the past week or so; I've been having a mild case of malaria. So even when I try sleeping close to midnight, my eyes are wide open at 3am or thereabouts, and I want to sleep at 6am. Yikes.

Today is my thirty twoth birthday. I'll be 32 at mid-day, that's when I was told I was born at the Rift Valley General Hospital in Nakuru. I've improved on the goal I had on my last birthday of being tidier with a bit of paid help once in a while, though I still need to find what I'm wearing today and iron it. Thankfully, Umeme has been very reliable. And we are allowed to be casual at work (we also do a lot of work outside) so if there's no umeme and I need to go, jeans and a jacket suffice.

What else, I have gained 2 or 3kgs over the past year. The last time I went to the doc, I weighed in at 54 kgs. I've never needed to exercise with the goal of losing weight since I've always been between 48kgs and 55kgs tangu I was a teen, the latter being my last two years of secondary school and the following year. I don't mind the weight, since am now growing back my trunk, but am worried about the weight gain, wondering if my metabolism has slowed down as it apparently does in your thirties. It would be awesome to grow the behind if it didn't come with a ring around the waist. My favourite jeans now make me look like a cup cake, so that I have wear them with a long shirt. I haven't had the discipline to exercise regularly. I bought a skipping rope last year and one week I'll skip 500 times a night for three nights, then go for weeks or months without it. Same for running in the hood. One week am up and running early, then everything goes back to me sleeping up to seven or seven-fifteen and not once exercising. I really want to get a car this year, so I think I have no option because the walk to or from the matatu stage will be eliminated. I don't want to pay for gym since it's a little pricey near where I live, though I think it might help since am a little frugal and would hate to feel like I am wasting money. Or, I could pay by the day and go three days a week, if I can keep it up :(

My guka died last week. I think he was in his mid-90s. Not a very good man when his family was young. I think 'domestic terrorist' would not have been a bad description at that time, based on the horror stories my mum and cucu gave me. But, my mum loved him, and is very sad. She wanted to take care of him when he was old, but she is also a little more traditional and he could not come and live with her in Uthoni (at the Ako in Luganda, if I'm correct; kwa shemeji). My mum will be 54 on the 30th of this month. I've been thinking about how we will take care of our parents. They are kinda separated; 'kinda' because they were not married in the civil or Christian marriage setting, yet there is no divorce in traditional marriages. I read what Maua wrote about her mum, and I feel glad that I'm not far from mine geographically. Also just finished reading this piece on NYT blog on taking care of old parents. I've pretty much made up my mind that I want to live with my mum in her golden days. She already kinda feels lonely, but that's unavoidable for now as we have to be out here making money for our own old ages; in addition, my siblings have young families to raise. It would be less than ideal for me to live with her now.

I doubt my kids will be my retirement package. Not that that's what my mum takes me to be, but I don't think retirement savings are on the minds of people her generation or slightly older.Generation is not restricted to age here. We'll talk about my father and step-mother with my siblings and half-siblings. And about my parents-in-law with the man I will marry. For myself, maybe I should just have many kids as health and old-age insurance; except I'd pay forward through the nose to finance their education, and there is no guarantee they will think about me the way I think about my parents. I would want the to be independent and follow their dreams without feeling guilty. Makes you think,eh? What do you think, exactly?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Just Wondering....

The Sunday night bombs did make scared, I guess like they were meant to, oba? I’m still not sure whether to go to the Jinja Agricultural Show, which began on Monday and ends over the weekend. My friend says that living life scared of shopping, going to church, the club or generally avoiding public places only means ‘the enemy’ has won. Thing is, me I don’t know who this enemy is, okubanga Al Shabaab said whatever makes Uganda cry makes them happy, so am wondering if it was really them. You know why I don’t know? Because bombs have exploded in Kigali (presidential elections are next month) and in Nairobi (referendum on the draft constitution is also supposed to be in a few weeks). And there are elections here somewhat early next year. So I don’t know; but I am avoiding crowded places for a while.

Jana jioni I happened upon a guy who works in security and he was telling us how they sold out on most of their devices on Monday. Then came discussions on how effective those security things are. You know that ka-thing they use to screen you when getting in a bus/matatu or some clubs? Ati it only detects metals. Apparently the only one that shows bombs and drugs is the one they have at the airport that scans your luggage. And a walk-through device like that would be too pricey for small businesses. Halafu, most people have no idea what a bomb looks like, so even when a guy is using a mirror to find what’s under your car, I’m not sure he knows what he should be looking out for. Or if it matters that you could hide it elsewhere. The security guy was sure people and businesses are going to go back to normal pretty soon, just like we did after the swine flu scare. Naye in the mean time, these guys in security will make some good money.

Lakini me I sometimes wonder; do people take life thaaaat seriously? I know am personally guilty of not always sleeping under a (treated) mosquito net, even when the message is all around me. And occasionally sitting on a boda boda. I know people who live in not very clean environment, but never bother to boil drinking water, saying it doesn’t taste as good. And when an oil tanker has an accident, there are more than enough people willing to go fetch some. And the illicit brews that guys will go blind while drinking and go like “hata mkizima taa, tutazidi kunywa!” Anyway, me I am going to take care, whenever I can, so as not to be a statistic, as my good friend B always says. I know death is definite at some point in life; how else do you explain the ‘hakika kama mauti’ msemo?. But I have this strong desire to live a long, happy and fulfilling life. So help me God.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

EAC: Much Hype About Little

From watching the news, it is clear that MPs, News Anchors and anyone hyping the free movement of Labour, Capital, Right of Residence and other benefits of being a citizen of EAC member states haven't read the EAC Protocol document and its annexes. Am trying to find what's gonna be different effective July 1st, and "Not much" seems to be the answer.

For one, there really is no such thing as free movement of labour.The Annex on Free Movement of Workers unsays that. I had held out on reneweing my work permit, but my employer will still need to part with the money. I actually consider myself lucky since most of my friends have had to pay for their permits. I think what the EAC protocol document does is 'steamline' the application for work permits; whatever that means. So friends and relatives, please stop calling me for job opportunities in UG, will you?

Here is another fallacy that Kenyans in Uganda are spreading; that after the 'borders open' on Thursday, Kenyans can come here and buy up land and property in the name of Right of Residence and Free Movement of Capital. Again, "The Partner States hereby agree that access to and use of land and premises shall be governed by the national policies and laws of the Partner States". The Land Act in Uganda is very clear. All land belongs to the citizens, and a company is only considered citizen if its majority shareholding is by a Ugandan(s). Non-citizens can lease land for upto 99 years, but the Investment Act says that non-citizens can't lease land for crop and animal production-unless they are helping Ugandan farmers. So beware, take calculated risks if you must, but the law is not on 100% on your side.

The Customs Union Protocol Article 10(Internal Tarrifs) states: Save as is provided in Article 11 of this Protocol, the Partner States shall, upon the coming into force of this Protocol, eliminate all internal tariffs and other charges of equivalent effect on trade among them, in accordance with the provisions of Article 14 of this Protocol.

Then Article 11 States Thus: The establishment of the Customs Union shall be progressive in the course of a transitional period of five years from the coming into force of this Protocol.

Going back to Part 2 of Article 10:

2. The Partner States agree that upon the coming into force of this Protocol and for the purpose of the transition into a Customs Union:
(a) goods to and from the Republic of Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania shall be duty free; and
(b) goods from the Republic of Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania into the Republic of Kenya shall be duty free.
3. Goods from the Republic of Kenya into the Republic of Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania shall be categorised as follows:
(a) Category A goods, which shall be eligible for immediate duty free treatment; and
(b) Category B goods, which shall be eligible for gradual tariff reduction.

That gradual period is five years. Five Years. Five...

There, you have it! I had to verify that I have the current document.

Me, I will believe the hype when I see it.

Monday, 07 June 2010


A friend of mine recently-if January is recent- quit her job and joined another company that doubled her salo and transferred her to Kenya. She said the former business was a one-man show, with the majority shareholder making decisions alone, most of the time. She didn’t feel fully utilised, and felt that her opinion never mattered. It made me think of how many businesses are so dependent on individuals that they are almost sure of collapsing or having near-death experiences when that individual is absent. Here are a few more examples. I won’t name most names;

• The Forex Bureau opposite KCB Kampala road; it has probably the best rates in town. Even the first M-Pesa guy in Uganda goes there-we call him Mapesa. I like using it because it’s right opposite KCB, so if I need Ksh, I’ll buy go to KCB, withdraw UGX , cross the road, buy Ksh and deposit in my (or my mum’s or my brother’s) account. Of course I could just buy at KCB, but their rates are not customer friendly. So one Sato about a month ago, I went to the FX Bureau, and was surprised to find the closed before 2pm. I asked the askari what was going on and he said they were closed because mzeyi (mzee) was sick. This came as a surprise because besides three or so other employees, there’s this guy I always thought to be mzeyi’s son and imagined he would run the show.

• The fuel station next to City Oil on Bombo road. I have another friend who is in the fuel industry. Any time you want to give him directions or get directions from him, the easiest landmark for him is the fuel station in that area. So you are telling him to take turns and he’ll be like “which is the nearest fuel station”. Guess you have to know who your competitors are. So one day we are going to Luweero, or somewhere in that direction, and he mentions that City Oil on Bombo is probably the busiest station in K’la. Right next to it they have Java’s, the coffee shop which gave birth to Cafe Java’s at Oasis Mall where Nakumatt is located. I admire these guys; I think they started with City Tyres, went on to City Oil, then Java’s and then Cafe Java’s. Now, right next to City Oil is probably the deadest fuel station in Kampala. Reportedly, it was there first. Juzi while on Bombo road with another friend, I mentioned how unbusy it was-even their restaurant is no longer operational, I think. My friend said (he had heard) that the business owner suffered a stroke, and the business never recovered.

• A Kenyan construction contracting company gone regional. The Man used to work for them in Kigali, but now, you wouldn’t convince him to work for a one-man-show business again. I’ll keep this short.

• Talking of Kigali; I think Rwanda is a one-man show country. But the guy has a strong PR team, at least internationally. I used to think that if African countries were corporations, Rwanda would have the best CEO. Not so much now. In other countries, when a guy is president for 23 years (16 so far, the presidential term is 7 years and he will win), he is called a dictator. They have what the world calls a benevolent dictator. Maybe, just what they need? Na akienda, je?

Sunday, 06 June 2010

I'm Famous!

Jana I was just minding my business on the internet and saw the comment on my last post by Raymond Chepkwony. Not sure how I missed that in the newspaper. That's right guys, PKW is in the papers! Not just any paper, but the Friday Nation. Page 16 of the print edition of Zuqka, to be precise.

There was one or two un-facts but this made my day; "The ones weaned on Cerelac, Conrflakes and Weetabix until their hearts were broken-and not by too much carbohydrates-don't share the same sense of pride as those who hot-combed their hair from a smoking, broken piece of pot bottom in an open-air salon in Kanyenya-ini village". He he, memories are made of this.

Up next; Mauano with akina Raymond, where I'll clear the humongous bill as per the Proud Kikuyu Woman I am- you wish!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Safaricom-Equity; Say what you will

Lots has been said about the Safaricom-Equity M-Kesho deal. Of course I had to say something. I remember reading somewhere (must be CGAP) that central Bank allowed Safaricom to implement M-Pesa by ruling out that it was not banking since banking involved taking deposits and accruing interests. And so And made all the difference. Therefore, M-Pesa was not banking but money transfer.

People have hated on Safaricom/Safaricon/Suffericom for long, yet it continues to be the dominant player with ever improved products and deals, despite the more expensive call tarrifs. I subscribe to Safaricom, as does close to everyone in my extended family. As for Equity, my sister once told me that many people in Central Kenya don't ask if you have a bank account. It's simply "Ni uri Equity?"-Do you have Equity? I'm so sure this might make some of my remaining relatives move from komashio (KCB) to Muiganania (Equity). Seems like with time I'll be able to carry out real time transfers from Equity Bank in Uganda to M-KESHO in Kenya. You guys charging us 2.5%-4% for M-Pesa transfers in UG, your days are so numbered.

Lesson learned? Innovate or whine.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I Didn't Get the Job :o(

I didn't tell you all that I'd applied for a job across the border with my organization. I got shortlisted and interviewed, but then they promoted a guy from within. I would be very happy if I were in his position-he has been around like four years and I think he's realy good. Still, I was bummed! It looks like I'll be here for a while, at least that's my current mindset. After all, it does appear like after July 1st when the EAC arrangement goes through (maybe it's 'if', not 'when'- I doubt the seriousness of TZ. Plus si they were talking about it in like '67?), crossing over to UG will be like crossing over to another district in .ke. I've been to my original home three times and found myself in three different districts; first it was Nyeri, then Nyeri South, then Mathira East/West, and now I'm not sure which district we are in. I don't dwell much on the politics of this side of the national borders but the number of districts (effectively constituencies) coming up in some geographical regions is worrying. And a new note that I hope is not the Jirongo of UG. In the early 90s, that's what the 500 bob bill was known in my locality. I plan to take my leave around election time next year, though I doubt things could get as ugly as they did in Kenya after the election. Even the September '09 riots weren't that bad, only that watching it on TV with the army tanks on the streets and all, you'd be forgiven to think the whole country was at war.

Now to work smart so I can earn a promotion where I am. Maybe next year.I could go home at one level lower, and the money is almost the same anyway, but it's not a do-or-die situation. My performance rating for the last year was more like average. I sure need to up my career management game. As with many things I work at it and say; we will see.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Rain is to Kampala what a snow storm is to Washington, DC. Yesterday the heavens opened around the time most people head home. As you can imagine, traffic was horrible. For those like me who don’t drive (yet, I’d like to imagine. Kidding, I have a chauffeur-not! Well, matatu, taxi and boda bodas drivers). I figured if I called my regular cab guy to come pick me and drop me off at home it might take as much time as it would have taken to walk to City Square and board a matatu to my hood.

Trouble with matatus here is that they are not numbered. You know only know it’s going your route if the conductor is shouting the name of the place that’s in the general direction where you are going, or and pointing right, left or straight ahead. In most cases, shouting and pointing. Pretty confusing if you are new. For instance, if you are standing on Kampala Road, a conductor pointing straight ahead may be going to Bweyogere/Mukono/Seeta or Bweyogerere/Kireka/Banda. Left indicates Nakawa/Ntinda while right indicates Luzira/Bugolobi. At the matatu stage in my hood, they straight ahead is for to the new Park/Kampala Road/Fido Dido. You have to be keen with this one because they can take different roads there, but rest assured, you’ll at least get back on Kampala Road at the Esso Corner – does Esso still exist? The ones going to the Old Taxi Park point left and shout as much.
So jana after work, I went to City Square. The place was over-crowded, with very few matatus, all full. Most were going to what I then christened my rival hood. I walked up Kampala Road towards King Fahd Plaza and took shelter near Shell. And that’s where I was till my matatu caEventually, my matatu came, and charged us 1UGX 1,500 instead of the usual 1,000, which I understand because I think they make fewer rounds when it’s wet. I got home slightly after 9pm.

Watching and listening to what direction the matatus take has got me thinking; it wouldn’t take long to designate route numbers to all the Kampala neighbourhoods and get matatus to adopt.

On the other hand, Ugandans are way ahead of Kenyans in terms of street numbering. Most plots in Kampala are numbered. When you need a physical location, you write the Plot Number and the Road. E.g. PKW Ltd, Plot 2 PKW Road, That Hill, Kampala. Not so in Nairobi. It’s more like, That Road, opposite that Petrol Station, next to that Church, at the intersection between these two Roads, behind that Building, formally known as that other Building etc etc. Pretty confusing.
Today I had a bit of trouble locating an office because the plot numbers were pretty straight forward till the one I couldn’t find the one I was looking. There was 215-----211 then 165. The business I was looking for is not easily recognizable. But it didn’t take long to get to them-I called the guy and he told me to go up the road from the Police Station that is at an intersection.

Kampala can teach Nairobi a thing.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


Yaani it’s been long since I blogged. Nsaba munisonyiwe bambi (Mtajuaje? Naringa). Wacha I see if I can do a post a week. Also look out for one of mine over at Raymond Chepkwony’s place. Hebu we see if I can do stuff his style.

Leo I want to talk about ‘servants’. It’s in quotes because am referring to actual employees, some at the places where we work, others that are employed at home. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have any when I was growing up, but the whole arrangement does not sit well with me most of the time.
Let’s start with the time I was working as a ‘servant’. I’ve written on this blog that I at one point would baby-sit some neighbours’ and friends of friends kiddos, do laundry, and clean house while doing an unpaid internship that gave me the kind of experience I was looking to put on my CV. And, I consider myself lucky as I had more indirect financial support than anyone I can think of. While job-hunting post-grad school, I waited on wealthy folks who paid top dollar for the smallest portions I’d ever seen people pay for. The point here is not to tell you nilipitia njia mrefu. Let’s just say that I have been in the ‘service’ industry, but with a better package than most locals here. Case in point: If I worked more than 40 hours a week, I was paid 1.5 times my hourly rate.

When I eventually started working my desk job, there were no servants. I would often bump into the president of our organization toasting his bread or microwaving his lunch at work. At one point when it was apparent that the economy was headed south (even though I believe these were actually not bad times for the firm), they announced budget cuts, sending an email that you needed to clean after yourself in the kitchen because those services were not being paid for any more. Some guys would only come by after everybody had left to clean office and pick up the trash.
Fast forward to here and now; I’m talking E. Africa. Thanks to the high official unemployment rate, there are plenty of ‘servants’. With it, the class thing is alive and well. I bet you, you can walk into any office and get a general idea of who’s ‘big’ depending on how waited on they are. I’ve been to places where the biggest person gets served tea with spices in a special flask with a colourful cup, the big people are served in special flasks at their desks, and the rest fetch their tea in a common room or in a kitchen somewhere. It all seems totally acceptable, almost expected.

Let’s starting with the day I was seated in an office with a big person. She sends the cleaning guy for a plastic cup of water from the water cooler. The guy initially gives her an odd look, but then proceeds to go fetch the water anyway. But not before she has specified her order ‘wait! I want a mixture of hot and cold water. No, wait! Bring it in two separate cups, one hot, one cold” The guy goes, comes back with one cup, saying it was the last at the cooler-plastic cups. She hands him the one she had been drinking from, asking him to go get another one. The guy obliges. We stay for been about 10 minutes and she hasn’t touched the water, eventually going out the door. I’m thinking, the water cooler is in the general direction of the door, ma’am.

There are those tea people and cleaning people. These guys do more physical work than most of us in a day. More often than not, they are the first to get to work, and the last to leave, and most likely the least paid. Halafu people give them the most mundane tasks. ‘J.,take my food to the fridge. G., go get my food from the fridge and warm it up for me. Go get me lunch. No, I said I wanted groundnut paste, not beans’ –which is offered in only one restaurant that is like a15 minute walk, sometimes in the sun. It’s pretty sad when you realise they are buying and warming everyone’s lunch but their own-because hawana. ‘Buy me air-time’. I asked one why they do all this when clearly, it’s not in their job description, and they said that their JD clearly describes their duties and states that they are to run any other errands assigned to them. Talk of going an extra mile.


I won’t repeat what Shiko from Msa said about domestic servants. But banange, if some made my entire family's food and I had to leave them with my child/ren all day, I’d handle them with care. I onceI carried out an informal survey-if you call asking one question repeatedly a survey- about how much maids are paid. The mode was UGX 30,000 (like Ksh 1,200) per month. Answer to ‘why, that’s kidogo!’? ‘That’s the market rate’. Free markets at best? Yeah, you could also argue that there are market rates for slaves. Even more amusing is when the ‘employers’ will be ‘poverty professionals’: apparently when you need a domestic servant, gender balance, women empowerment, education, making poverty history yada yada yada don’t start at home.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

It's Not Me, It's You

Today is Valentine’s day, in case you missed it. I’ve read my card, but not yet touched the chocolate or sparkling wine. That’s for later. Yes, no, we couldn’t be together.

The thing is that I’m already thinking of how to end it with the Man, because I don’t see his clan bringing goats and cows (actually these days it’s their equivalent in Kenya Shillings) to mine in exchange of me. We had agreed that the walk down the aisle can be done several years down the line, or even never, as long as the legal thing had been done so he’s not left free to ‘buy’ as many wives as he can afford. We had even set dates for the initial unofficial Meet the Family visits last December, before I suggested that we postpone for a later, unspecified date.

Now, in my gut, I almost know the Man is not the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. I’ve told him as much, got back the few things I had at his place, but he doesn’t seem to get it. I kinda am at peace with my decision. But there is a problem. Maybe up to four problems.

A man features prominently in my 5-year Strategic Dream. Not sure why I place him at number 2, while ideally, he would contribute to number 1. Well, there was no particular order.

Also, there is the fact that I’m 32 this August, and I think, over here at least, there is a fat chance that the probability of meeting the one you want to spend the rest of your life with gets slimmer as the numbers go up.

Now, I’m not sure I want to pray about this Man issue anymore. I feel like God has probably given me many chances already, but I seem to always have a reason why not this one (like passion, even). That is, when I’ve not been the one being given the boot. Which reminds me of my friend in college; B. B once told me and her room-mate at one point to “Shindeni tu hapo mki-date machali. Wakati mtapata malaika, mkuje mniambie ‘B. nimepata malaika, sasa nataka kuolewa!’”. Loosely translated: ”Go on, just date for fun, when you meet angels, come back and tell me ‘B. I have met an angel, now I want to get married!’”. Which would be my mum’s take too, though hers sometimes seems to border on the justcloseyoureyesandgetmarriedifhenotabusiveorjustgetababyalready! school of thought.

So, in the past few days, I’ve been thinking more in the line of how I’d live my life as Single PKW, if it comes to that. Or, by method of elimination (like, ‘he lacks passion’. Really), how to eventually settle for Mr. Good Enough if/when he comes along.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Tuesday was Liberation Day here. We were observing the day the National Resistance Movement, led by M7, captured (that must be the right word. I've heard that Kenyatta would get offended and verbally insult you if you said that 'we' were granted freedom by the Brits. "Tulinyakua Uhuru" was right-er) power in Kampala after 5 years in the bush. I forget from whom the country was liberated. M01 was also around, pushing forth for a 4th term of the M7 presidency. Elections are early next year.

When I got back into town in the evening, I got together with some friends and we played Monopoly. It was a first for me.

After learning the rules, I bought some property when I could, refused to make early deals that would have seen me develop some from which I could have earned rent, or even allowed me to buy more, and refused to buy property I thought too cheap and in bad neighbourhoods. That you earned 200 bob every time you passed by sounded like a Mungiki-infested area.
The end? The guy who got the cheap stuff made a fortune, and was able to buy and develop other properties. Which made me broke because I had to pay too much rent. I had to mortgage my houses at half price, and ended up selling my properties to merely pass by. In the end, I was left with no property, was penniless and, I imagined, homeless.

I was shocked. Not because I lost the game (I can explain! It was my first time, and I was the second to go bankrupt, out of four people. The first loser was the mugaga-sonko-in an earlier game before I got there). I don’t want to live my life like that. We all started with exactly equal opportunities, but two of us were wiped out. Just wondering could life be like that?
In the next five years, I’ll focus investing for the long term, and on cash-flow outside my job in the medium term. Medium term is now through the next 5 years. God willing, and helping me. Starting........soon!

Ultimately I think Monopoly is a game of chance. But isn’t life? I think a more appropriate name for the game would have been Capitalism. Like, you are either going to eat or be eaten. You know, like the animals I saw on National Geographic at the same venue some time earlier. Because I’ve never been to Maasai Mara, neither do I have DSTV (who’s the other new Pay-TV guy after the death of GTV, R-TV? See, it’s a game of chance). Not until this coming weekend, anyway. Way to get that positive cash-flow, you know?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Seeking Balance

Part of this post might come off in classic Kenyan Reality style (See the last paragraph, white font here): scarcity of details and the only take-away is that things are a bit out of balance, in a negative way.

I only made New Year resolutions in early 2005, the same year I resolved to keep a diary from that year onwards. Then I lost the diary sometimes before June, and decided never to keep one anymore. In a shared house with no personal space, it was too risky to have the wrong pairs of eyes reading it. Because I wrote about my interactions with people, some of whom I was living with.

Learning how to live with people while minimizing conflicts has been a journey for me. I can't say what I achieved what year, and definitely don't remember 'resolving' to learn how to coexist with others peacefully.

Anyway, last week there was an in incident that led to a few awake-at-night moments. And there are two others that kept me awake last night. In one, I’ll my know my fate by Feb 9th. . Still, I need to come up with a plan B for the result because I have a deadline to meet by the 15th. The other is a process that needs a lot of my effort, and favour from God. The effort needed to resolve the first issue includes such things as: patience, resolve, mutual understanding, giving and receiving respect and dignity, and even levelling expectations. And of all things, commitment. No, the other party is not even remotely a romantic partner.

There was a time that I had so much faith in God that all I would do was give my best in whatever depended on me, pray, chill, change strategy whenever need arose. These days, I’m taking things quite personally. Even being a bit sceptical on God’s intervention (to use a trending topic, think the Haiti earthquake, His omnipotence, and their faith in Him). Only that it’s all been to my detriment. I would never lose sleep over stuff. I’m so going back to my former way of dealing with everything! It doesn’t all make sense all the time, but it works for me.

Here are some 20 easy ways you can reduce daily stress. I guess, in life, you can reduce stress by better planning and anticipating stuff. And for me, praying.

Friday, 15 January 2010

To Tell or Not to Tell? Or ask.

Would you ask or tell all of your 'pyjama time' stats? There's this guy who wrote to Love Letters . He's freaked out because he asked and she said she had it going with like 35 guys in college.

Then there's huyu who's afraid to share inexperience.

I prefer to not ask. But sure go for tests. Wewe je?

Monday, 11 January 2010

I'm Back

As my Zimbabwean colleague would put it, I’m bek to werk. That is, back to work. It was good to be home and away from UG for some time. The trip itself had kidogo drama, with my flights delayed both ways. I fikad at my house at 3am leo morning, and had to be at work the same day. But, I’m a KQ shareholder, so I won’t bash them much. Here’s a recap of my time away from my home.

Got to spend time with my family. My niece and nephew, those kids are growing, yawa! Even took it upon myself to tell PKW kadogo a few things about boys and sex . PKW kadogo is my cousin’s kido, and is turning 12 this year, and we are named for my cucu. My mum seems to be ageing a bit faster than I’d have expected. She complained that siku hizi watu wanaishi kama wazungu, with kids and gradkids away from parents and grandparents. Told her she can always come stay with me when she is old(er) and I have a family. And I mean it. It’ll be awesome, I think. Interestingly, seeing my family made me feel a bit old too. Imagine I saw PKW kadogo’s mum pregnant with her when I was 19, going on 20!

Time with friends fro seco. I think there is nothing like friendships za kitambo. You know, one of those when you haven’t seen each other for five years, meet up, and ongea, mpaka it feels like you were never apart? With one of them, we spoke mpaka the husband flashed her phone—aende akalale.

Time with my friend that I met kwa mtandao. Kasichana, thanks for inviting me to the Kenya-Cameroon friendly match on Sato. Thanks to you,I can now be counted among the people who have seen Etoo, Song (? The guy who plays for Arsenal) and Congestina live. We lost. 3:1. Wana-Cameroon waendelee hivyo hivyo especially kwa finals za World Cup in June. Woi, I hope at least one African team will get to the semi-finals. Gosh, I hope the stadium is going to be ready.

Not enough time with the Man, but every second was well worth it. We even had a mini-crisis which we kinda created by failing to plan, and got through it intact.

Became increasingly aware that depression is a terrible disease. A relative of a friend, whom I knew, committed suicide in ’08. She was 30. Second time I was hearing this in the last couple months, though the other friend’s dad committed suicide in the early-mid 90s. I think many people, including me, are never aware when they are depressed, thus never seek help. And what you think is your support system can be your biggest detractor. It may be hard for people to support you if they don’t know you’re sick and don’t even recognize a disease in the first place. There is a case for mental health awareness in Kenya.

Had conversations that made me to (more seriously) think about retirement. Yaani, gone are the days when people would retire and go grow sukumawikis or have a ka-kiosk huko shagz and that would sustain them. These days, some maybe lucky to be in the village sinceyour expenses may not be as high as those of townfolk. Luckier if your kids are doing well enough to take care of their kids and take care of you. Not many Kenyans put retirement living into their plans. We have a lot of young people to take care of, and it’s a matter of time till we have a lot of old people to take care off. I used to hate nursing homes with a passion, but now.....someone better think of expanding that business model.

Matatus: I ride them all the time in UG, they are called taxis. Cabs are called ‘Special Hires’. Over here they are white, with a broken blue strip, not pimped hata kidogo. In Nairobi, they come in many colours, music and DVDs. I rode in many ‘SMS ONLY’ matatus. Yeah, the music was that loud. And Tanzanian music seems to have taken over. But then matatus went on strike last Monday.As my sister-in-law put it, watu wa matatu ni watu wa njaa, hawawezi enda long. Sure, they were back Tuesday night. I really hope we don’t get as many bodabodas in town. Ama they outlaw their operation in the CBD. Kajini they are doing a great job between where the matatus drop people off and homes in shagz. Made a new friend. A broker, can imagine that?

M-Pesa scare. Sent 10K to someone by mistake, using 0710, instead of 0720. You should have seen me running from Maggie’s to the Safaricom Customer Care Centre on Moi Avenue and dialling 234 at the same time. I ingiad the Maggie’s kitchen while looking for the exit. Luckily 234 went through real quickly and they reversed the transaction. But I couldn’t re-send or use that particular amount of money until after 72 hours. Apparently, people had gotten into the habit of buying lots of merchandise, paying through M-Pesa, and immediately calling Safcom claiming they sent the money by mistake. Then discard the SIM card and get another one. Kinda makes SIM registration sensible, when I think about it. J.N., the guy I’d sent the money to by mistake, asked me to send him 100bob air-time sababu hakutumia pesa yangu vibaya. I didn’t. M-Pesa’s real cool. I even M-Pesad the mama who did my hair the fee.

Rain, rain came our way: a lot of Kenyans had prayed. It poured. Yaani, in my village it rained every day. When I went back to Nai, I M-Pesad my mum enough money to plant 100 or 125 trees. Also realized that forest land at the small centre not far from our ka-market on the way to town has been demarcated and settled in by, I think, previously landless people. Used to be a forest 10 years ago when we moved there. Also, wonder of wonders, wells in our village had dried up during the draught. Imagine that, and we don’t have rivers. Potatoes, which we;ve sold for as low as 200bob a sack, had hit 5K bob.

Real estate (flats and houses): I think now that the roads are being repaired, real estate value in some places is shooting trhough the roof. Was last in Kitengela in December 2004, and now people have built up the place like no one’s biashara. Nyumba poa za kuishi. It’s becoming a well established town with all the social amenities. Was in Kajiado, and some guys actually commute there daily from Kitengela. Then I met this guy who told me that he’d bought 2 parcels of land for 70K each in early 2008, and just sold one for 500K. Then again, some people in Central Kenya will quote millions for an acre, even though they can’t justify that. I think it may be a bubble. There are flats coming up almost in every direction you drive from Nairobi. I should be a shareholder in one of those cement-manufacturing companies. Or HFCK, or the other banks financing the developments. I also imagine that it may be better to buy than build a house. Saving me the hassle of building from scratch. Just a thought.

Other resources (cows, land). I think the Maasais, at least the ones I interacted with, are a very rich lot.

I feel rather excited about 2010, like it has great things in store.
I wish everyone a happy, health and prosperous (for real, not just because that’s what people say) 2010. May God guide you and help you accomplish your plans in 2010 and beyond.