Taming emotions: fighting like a girl.

Nobody prepares you to assume positions of leadership (however big or small), at least not the way  experience does.  Sometimes, in fact most times, you can only learn these lessons the hardest way – through tears and moments of being lost; completely lost. Those moments you´re so scared that you can only laugh through the tears – hysteria. You learn to get up each morning , clean up the stench of  dreams incomplete, hold on through a blurred vision and marvel at the plot twists in the story of your life as though you were only but a spectator – powerful surrender.

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Image source: Ijeoma Umebinyuo´s online album

So you master the art of f*ckery: You learn to slide underneath the power suits you´ve invested in to the very last coin from your earnings. You know ? The suits that left you broke but slaying  (hey, shout out to the millennials, shout out to the slayers :-)),if only to cloth your struggles with pure style and feign grace… Sometimes you are simply trying to channel your inner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres from the series Suits) but since you´re a 24 year old brushing shoulders with the political elite and top-tier businessmen in your line of duty, you always end up looking and feeling like a pathetic second rate version of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington in Scandal) on a good day, and Mary Jane (Gabriel Union in Being Mary Jane) on a bad one, cos hey, this is life and hopelessness is served generously on this planet. Ah, you also become fluent in the language of cynicism, mostly to your own detriment; you´re only trying to survive.   Look, you could channel your inner self but you can´t relate to the stranger in the mirror…not anymore!

When I landed my current job as head of a political secretariat at the age of 23, I was elated. I knew it was going to be tough, but I convinced myself I wasn´t an ordinary girl (this is true, I am no ordinary girl), but I didn´t exactly know what tough meant or could entail. I believed I was a solid young lady – they say “solid women don´t crumble”. LOL! Know those fancy quotes we write as captions on our overtly irrelevant selfies? Haha! Needless to mention, I approached the new task/job with a hint of naivety and lots of assumptions. I hadn´t quite stopped on my tracks to reflect on the uphill task ahead. I just saw how noble a task this was going to be. I actually romanticised the job. You know Ms. Pope ruined my life, right? She made this idea of  “fixing issues” seem a tad too easy. I had hoped I´d be this superwoman clad in some of Ralph Lauren´s latest pieces, dropping punch lines with much ease, turning myself into a motivational speaker when dealing with my colleagues and  then retiring to my little bachelorette pad and downing a carefully picked bottle of matured wine as I caught up with the ´real scandalous Olivia´at the end of the day. Shock on me! Needless to mention, this was far from from reality. I had to justify my very own existence, as woman in a male dominated field every other time. It did not help that I was acutely young and not so experienced, but here I was, young, vibrant, pursuing a Master of laws (Public International Law) and determined to sit at the table. Boy, I was mostly bullshitting, you know? Just tying to beat a path for myself and blaze a trail for others. “Hey, if you can´t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with the bullsh*t!” My boss taught me! He laughed, I laughed, but we both knew this was some invaluable piece of advice 🙂

Breaking the rules and learning on the job – the hard way

I turned 24 on the job (September, 2016), and reality dawned on me: My job entailed slaying dragons, yes, BUT mostly those dragons were going to be the ones living between my ears – deep inside my head. Secondly, my job was going to be quite political – I had to learn the art of camouflage (first as a woman, and secondly as a human being and yes, in that order) and be able to recite to self, more than to anyone else, the laws of power lest I rub the wrong guy off in the wrong way. Complicated business, innit?

See, being a young person is already tough – we are full of energy and contemporary, sometimes even ´crazy´, ideas and we are full of fire and hope. We mean well, we want change, we dare challenge the status quo and sometimes this could be detrimental. What´s even worse is that being a young female adult doesn´t make it any better. If anything, things get worse. Society tends to favour the girls made of sugar, spice and everything nice.The ones who don´t raise their hands when questions are asked. The ones who are okay with the opinion of the compact majority. You know…the girls who are neither cotton nor silk but somehow get referred to as the wife material. LOL.  For the girls whose eyes dance with excitement at the thought of leaving a mark, the girls who are made of fire and only want to go farther and fly higher, Mmh..not so much. Those girls are an acquired taste; not for everyone. And I hope they all know that´s fine.

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Source: Rihanna Navy

I had this conversation with my mentor (a high flying top-tier businessman in the country) and it was one of the most difficult conversations we had ever had. I remember that evening, he pulled me aside and talked to me about color, in color. I, being in my position, had to shun the color red or any other vocal colors, he said. “Rule number one: Never outshine the master.” Father Lord! “What do you mean? My master is male. How on earth would I intimidate or outshine him by dressing or cleaning up nice?”I thought loudly. He smiled and told me, “there´s more to power than rhetoric. You´re  innocent and mean well, but you must master emotional intelligence”. “Surely, what is this one saying?” I wondered.

Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ): wtf is that?

Psychology is most certainly not my field of expertise, but I must pay homage to researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer for coining this phrase and loading it with meaning, and author Daniel Goleman for breaking it down in his books Emotional Intelligence and Working With Emotional Intelligence.

P. Salavoy and J. Mayer defined EI as the ability to:

·Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions

·Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.

In a nutshell, for persons aiming at achieving lasting success (whatever you construe success to be), more than just IQ is needed. This extra factor has got to be how well we can manage ourselves and the emotions of others and most especially when  under pressure. Now, this is one of the most invaluable lessons I have had to learn from my mentor. As a young lady, I can be all up in my feels quite often. In fact, sometimes we tend to walk around with chips on our shoulders – subconsciously thinking that because we are the fairer sex we ought to be handled with care. These expectations and sense of entitlement can truly be the reason women do not get seats at the table, and only 15% of women worldwide are occupying the captains of industry-level job seats, and this bothers Sheryl Sandberg just as much as it bothers me, and you must get uncomfortable!

Fighting like a girl

In a world where everyone has got an opinion on who, what and how girls can and should be, it is easy to lose our sense of being trying to fit in. Lucky for my being an avid reader, Clementine Ford taught me that it is okay to be angry with the world. That it is okay to be uncomfortable with the present. However, it is not enough to be angry, this fury ought to be transformed to fuel that can drive agenda in our homes, offices and boardrooms. This anger should be handled with emotional competence lest we come across as bitter spoilt brats with chips on our shoulders. If the anger and discomfort can work us up enough that we can raise our hands more, pull seats for ourselves at the table, win arguments that matter and go on vacations when it is required, then we will be able to shape global agenda in our communities and society at large.

And for the young lasses grabbing the world by the lapels, the girls who are figuring it all on the go; to the girls who are gravely misunderstood, your sole purpose is not to simply be understood, leave your claws´marks too; to the girls who have a seat at the table, bring your sisters on; to the girls who zig when the rest are zagging, you hold the key to the city zag on; to the girls who can´t help but simply win fairly and squarely,please stop apologising for your magic – they say life is tricky, so stay in your magic baby.

Remember, you are doing this for the women who could fight wars for you if they could, but they had their limbs chopped before they could muster enough courage to go to war!

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Questions for Ada, Ijeoma Umebinyuo

To the girls who are just like me, this is for you:

This is for girls who stay up all night, This is for you who are willing to fight,
For hidden fears, Hurt, pain, and tears, Under the smiles, laughs, and giggles we hear.
Let your hair down, straight or curls,

You’re beautiful because you fight like a girl.


For girls who wears short skirts, And their heart on their sleeve, For girls who know how difficult, It is to believe,
The girls who scream and cry, Into their pillows and tell them their goals, For girls who have a secret, But can’t tell a soul.
Let your eyes be your diamond, Make them your pearls,

You’re beautiful because you fight like a girl.
For girls who have made mistakes, And have regrets galore,

Because you fight like a girl.

-Shah Rukh

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The revolution will feature sculptors

The revolution is coming, and the revolution is going to feature, among others, the greatest sculptors, most amazing designers, greatest poets/spoken word trail blazers. The revolution will be characterized by a dash of badassery and a whole lot of fierce interruption. Stay tuned to partake in the next ground breaking, next level thing.

“You know you are capitalism’s ideal puppet (and that education betrayed you) when winning the lottery is your only chance to realizing financial freedom.”  – Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Not sure what I should write about, yet I feel the urge to write. Not because there’s nothing to write home to, but because prioritizing the issues that need discussing/addressing is the hard bit. See, when you love your country this much, you almost automatically have to romanticize hate for your politicians (both in government and opposition) worst case scenario. Best case scenario, you get an indigestion for every bunch of crap the political elite subjects you to. Mmh..explains why it feels like I just might be coming down with a bad case of the irritable bowel syndrome. (God forbid).

Do I go on an unapologetic rant about what seems to be lack of integrity on the part of Deputy Chief Justice of Kenya, Kalpana Rawal, who just like the typical  African leaders, won’t retire with dignity  at 70? What happened to people looking forward to retirement in a beach house somewhere in a tropical island, cleansing their souls by staring at the blue-green oceanic view, rolling in the white sandy beaches..sipping to mojito’s or fresh fruit juices, getting high off the memory of stupid mistakes committed in their 20’s, laughing till they cry…choking on laughter and embarrassment… You know, living on bonus gracefully and peacefully with loved ones? SMH.

Do I make this about the opposition who have managed to turn our Moneydays (Mondays) into “tear gas Mondays” here in the City in the Sun? Breeding a culture of hooliganism among the jobless, brainwashed idling youths? SMH.

Or do I exhort Mr. President for taking hard-line positions in handling matters of make-or-break nature (as that of the cleaning the IEBC)..allowing the side shows that have Kenyans like myself rolling our eyes and shaking our heads ever so often that our necks are beginning to ache perpetually? Treating Kenyans to a not so amusing, amateurishly scripted show glorifying political wars between power houses, shamelessly chest-thumping and flexing their flappy arms as if the lives and future of Kenyans were the gym that is meant to beat those loose fats into well toned biceps? SMH.

Or maybe I should address the topic of irresponsible journalism that was exhibited by one of the top investigative journalists’ recent expose that, in my not so humble opinion, achieved nothing more than shaming a slain man’s family and slandering a young lass? You see my predicament now, don’t you? Too many non-issues are being dressed as real issues and aired for us, the hardworking tax payers, to watch during the News hour, that it is becoming quite insulting for any sane mwananchi to just keep calm. But naah… I will not delve into any of the above matters for now.

I’m all about the African youth within and without the territorial borders of Africa but are still African because Africa was born in them.

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Take risks now and do something bold. You won’t regret. – Elon Musk

I’m rooting for the gullible African youth who has had to experience unrest in their country every general election year. Because the leaders are just power hungry individualistic persons with no vision for their individual country’s let alone Africa as a region, and only care about getting rich by looting public coffers, grabbing tracts of land, and calling the shots… For this reason, they are willing to watch people kill each other, businesses close down,property go up in flames…to get to power.

 

But why are the common wananchi so willing to give it all up for these persons? For people who only use them to ascend to power and discard them until the next general election period? No, it is not juju/voodoo/kamuti! It has got to be desperation stemming from joblessness and brainwashing. If you are sick about going on rants on social media each time we hear hundreds of millions of public monies have gone unaccounted for, like myself, maybe it is because we should focus on electing leaders who mean good for us. Not because they are our tribesmen, but because they actually have a plan.

How will we remain objective if we cannot resist the mheshimiwa who throws hundred shilling notes (equivalent of a single USD. LOL) at us? It is, methinks, by achieving financial freedom. You know, when we aren’t desperate for anything, maybe we can make sober decisions in life. And please don’t let them tell you how evil money can get, being broke is not exactly holy. LOL.

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” – Groucho Marx

Look, I don’t even have the answers or spot on guidelines..a sort of one size-fits-all solution to this financial dependency that we the youth are struggling with. But I do know we cannot make sober decisions on the ballot and in life when we are compromised, intellectually and financially. We lack the bargaining power. I also know we can stop whining about joblessness and start getting creative. Creativity does not stop at those wonderful imaginary compositions/essays we wrote in school to earn those good, or not so good, marks/grades. We can still create jobs for ourselves and others, right? Maybe not everyone is going to be a lawyer/doctor/engineer..you know those boring, yet noble careers my colleagues and I settled for? Guess what! They aren’t all there is. There is more. More fun, more rewarding, more exciting careers…and we need to embrace those ones because 85% of the world’s population is not going to make a kill off the “mainstream” professions.

Enough of trying to zig, is time to zag professionally and be happy while at it, don’t you think? Then the next time your politicians want to have you carry stones and stone people in the CBD you’ll be so busy painting the next  Monalisa portrait of our time, that you won’t be bothered enough to go destroy other people’s property.

changing african narrative

The revolution is coming, and the revolution is going to feature, among others,  the greatest sculptors, most amazing designers, greatest poets/spoken word trail blazers. The revolution will be characterized by a dash of badassery and a whole lot of fierce interruption. Stay tuned to partake in the next ground breaking, next level thing. 🙂

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A work in progress. And the possibilities are endless. Check back soon. 🙂 – Mbula Nzuki

PS: Please tag your favorite African designers, sculptors and young artisans. I am scouting for them.

The country of Africa

This woman…

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“Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.” ― Jomo Kenyatta (Image from Afri-me files.)

Sugarcane sweet, deserts her hair, golden her feet, mountains her breast, two Niles her tears, thus she lain.

Black through the years, over the while seas, rime white cold, brigands ungentled, took her young daughters, sold her strong sons, churched her with Jesus, bled her with guns, thus she has lain… (Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s (R.I.P phenomenal one) poem, ‘Africa’).

The  words of  the poem (above) are so rich with a well painted imagery of her (Africa). With each falling syllable inflicting upon a keen reader the incessant aching for an understanding. Then I remember stumbling upon an anonymous quote, “Africa is not a place, it is a feeling.” I chuckle, because turns out Africa may not just be a feeling, she indeed is a  lady in her prime.

I don’t quite remember how a fortnight ago my friends and I ended up discussing names, particularly English (or are they Christian names?), when I  intimated to them just how much I love being referred to by my African names as opposed to the English one. Naturally, that conversation was bound to evoke different reactions and emotions from different people. Some felt that there’s not much in a name, while others think/feel that names are quite a big deal. Personally, I must confess that the more I know about myself, and understand the African tale, the more disinterested in my English/Christian name I grow. In my recent years, I have continually made concerted efforts to ensure people identify me as Mbula Nzuki and not Eva/Evelyn.Don’t get me wrong, we all have different perspectives, and that’s perfectly okay. I mean, revolutions come in  different forms and sizes, don’t they? Ha ha.

This is it, I find English names (on me), as a black African woman, quite burdensome if not purely misleading. In fact, I never knew how much a name would make me feel colonized until recently. There must have been something that the colonialists did to convince those before us that our ways, beliefs and mannerisms were inferior to theirs. Probably the same thing that has ‘girls of color’ bleaching their skin to achieve a lighter shade, as though this melanin I drip of were not a blessing in itself. Isn’t the same thing that makes me giggle when an African mispronounces English words (mark you this is a foreign language), the same demon that would convince me that Eva is a better name in comparison to Mbula, Nafula or Achieng? Isn’t this the curse of brain washing? The very evil spirit that will have people think my body curves  and kinky dense African hair need “a face lift”? So, yes, I’m revolting. I am reversing the curse we children of mama Africa have been living in, and I’m starting with embracing the kink in my hair, the weight on my hips and the accentuated identity  rolling off my tongue through speech. Yes, I’m revolting. I’m rewriting the African tale my way. And it starts with self and proceeds on to rubbishing the narrative that Africa is a needy woman, forever languishing in turmoil.

“Africans must change their mind and actions. The keys to building your continent depends on your will-power, persistent effort and action towards self liberation.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita 

My friend from America (I bet America is a country, just like Africa. LOL) shared with me a link to the satirical page on Instagram owned by the fictitious character – Barbie Savior. The page is satirical of the white people’s mentality that Africa is a dark COUNTRY, with people languishing in abject poverty, awaiting to be rescued, hence ‘savior’. So Barbie Savior highlights the sad joke that captures a continent as rich as Africa, as merely a country. She also espouses the pretense that comes with the so-called saviors in Africa. They masquerade as saviors when in essence, they are saving themselves (from what? I don’t know).  She jokes further about the obsession of religion in the country of Africa hahha and it sure does go from a sad tale to a funny one at that point. Check out some of the hilarious posts below. You may visit the page as well for some comic relief if nothing else at all :-).

See, I no longer get mad when the so-called saviors refer to Africa as a country, she might as well be a house. Innit?  What I’m not okay with, is Africans’ complacence that has seen  visitors tell our story and sell it to us. And we have bought their perspective of us as though it were the saving grace upon which our very being depended. Truth is, if Africans don’t rewrite the African narrative, the  Barbie Savior’s of our world will. Africa does not even need ‘help’ from the developed world, Africa needs business. And Africa needs representatives who will not sell her small or be cowered into thinking she is the needy sister. She is indeed the resourceful sister. She needs representatives from the various states who have evolved past greed that sees them looting from public ‘coffers’.

Well, I am only awakening from what feels like a drunken stupor, or a beautiful nightmare of sorts. The very thing that drove Beyonce to wake up chanting to her song “Formation”, the very thing that is both awakening and lulling, the thing that you see, and no, you don’t quite see. It must be what President Obama made reference to when he wrote,  “The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.” (in ‘Dreams from My Father: A story of Race and Inheritance’.

Lovely weekend to all of you my beYOUtiful readers. Remember, the country of Africa  is not just a country, it is an unending love affair:-)

“I have loved no part of the world like this and I have loved no women as I love you. You’re my human Africa. I love your smell as I love these smells. I love your dark bush as I love the bush here, you change with the light as this place does, so that one all the time is loving something different and yet the same. I want to spill myself out into you as I want to die here.” – Graham Greene, The End of the Affair.

#LiveAndDieInAfrica

THE REAL FACTS…AND A BEER.

“Never before has a generation recorded themselves  accomplishing so little.”- Anon.

Couple of seasons ago I wrote about how my friends were accusing me of being “so political” (whatever that means), and most recently one of my favorite humans has consistently branded my talk as”quite presidential”. See, I have a way of turning all conversations into political analysis sessions, unapologetically so. Goodness me, everything in our lives is affected by politics (fuel prices, food, religion..EVERYTHING!) so we might as well have this political conversation rolling, I bring the facts only, the beer comes later. So, shall we? 🙂

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“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.” ― Mark Twain

Now, I’ve been rubbing shoulders with some of the key players in Kenyan political scene recently (thanks to my work and post graduate studies) and one thing I never miss a moment to bring up is Kenya’s downward spiral into a path of anarchy and an impending state of lawlessness. It is heart-wrenching to use the terms ‘anarchy’ and ‘lawlessness’ in reference to a country I love so dearly as the motherland..but I’ve never been the type to sweep the make-or-break affairs under the rug.

As a country, we are living in times where the rule of law is but a legal phrase left to the confines of our courts, law schools and as rich vocabulary left to the preserve of we the ones who seldom miss an opportunity to call ourselves “the learned friends”. The spirit of that very phrase is lost somewhere between impunity and the outright disregard for court orders by the very leaders we elected into office (starting from the presidency to the lower house). Our conversations are seldom objective and anyone seen to point out the misgivings is dismissed as”ethnic” or “hater”. The Odhiambo’s of Kenya defend the Onyango’s while the Mutua’s won’t let you  call out the Mutune’s on their B.S (excuse my French), and woe unto you should Kamau catch you “bad-mouthing” his friend Mwiraria.  As Sir John Dalberg-Acton noted, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is our predicament here in Kenya – the cancer of corruption.  

Prior to 2007, Kenya was a country renown for her stability within the East and Central Africa, as not only a great tourist destination, but also a financial and communication hub. While the country continues to struggle to maintain her status with that regard, we must admit that we need to tame a few greedy forces in the political arena who will raze a country’s economy to her knees if we continue to watch in silence.

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“Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.” – (Former) President Mwai Kibaki.

Take for instance the numerous financial scandals (NYS scandal, The Youth Fund saga, ‘Chicken Gate’ scandal et al.), that have been reported within the Jubilee administration, the outright embezzlement of public funds… Myriads of cases, one too many tribunals and/commissions of inquiry and not a single person jailed!  Isn’t that the epitome of a failed leadership? Will we just sit back and watch? Isn’t that robbing our descendants of the luxury of a magnificent Kenya? If indeed the future is a loan from our children, is this how we service that loan – by stealing from within? If you and I stop being “so cool” that we can’t “dirt” ourselves with matters that make us uncomfortable, then maybe we can rescue ourselves from the wrath of a failed state in years to come. And it all starts with admitting two things: one, that indeed we have a crisis and two, that we need to get real and act immediately.

Speaking of leadership crisis, I had this talk with a group of youths and in my quest to find out if they all plan to vote come August, 2017, a good number blatantly expressed their lack for motivation to even cast a ballot. Some believe there’s no need to vote as they “know” the system is corrupt, others ‘see no point in choosing between two evils only to settle for the lesser of the two evils’, while others will vote and hope for the best. This kind of tone is the tone of despair.  Kenya, being a young democracy, experts note that her weak institutions—not inherent ethnic divisions—are at the root of the current political crisis. Something needs to be done and done now. “What can be done?”, you may ask. We need to create strong institutions. Yes, very strong institutions is what we need to establish, not keep rallying behind “strong men” with fat wallets and cheap talk for the poor unsuspecting common wananchi!

When our leaders could be toiling to put the country back on track, all I see is meaningless rallies. Rallies, really? Just yesterday the president and his deputy held this massive rally in Nakuru county to thank God  (*rolls eyes*) for getting the ICC yoke off their necks or is it shoulders? Excuse my forthrightness, but how is that a national issue?? No, really, how is an issue of two individuals a national issue? Let’s first understand that Kenya was NOT in trial, individuals who were accused long before assuming the positions of president and deputy president were. Now that this is clear, how is their victory with that regard a national affair? By all means, celebrate if you must with you family and friends, just don’t make it look like the world of me depended on it. On the other hand the opposition is seen to also rally a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, but wouldn’t it be much better if we could have a strong opposition with less side shows and REAL ISSUES not forever countering what the ruling party says and/or does? Can we have the opposition being objective enough to bring checks and balances to the government? Counter an idea/action and even give/show a better way of doing things? Can the opposition condemn corruption regardless of whether it is a jubilee member or  CORD member accused? That is what true leadership entails – objectivity. I mean, the people of Kenya deserve so much more than side shows and petty politics!

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“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” ― Groucho Marx

Now, that we (you and I) agree on the fact that we deserve so much better and more, why don’t you look past my name (which may give you a hint of my ethnic background), forget my gender even (I’m of the fairer sex, but what does it matter?), can you also forget my age (who knew age discrimination would still be an issue in the 21st century!) AND work towards a better Kenya? It starts with holding our leaders accountable, and it all begins with a choice in mind and a voter’s card in hand

Just like Abraham Lincoln, ‘I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer’.Haha. Only difference is, the beer is allover the place while the facts remain corrupted.

 

 

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“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

THE TEARS WERE MINE

Yesterday I received the best email yet  from a stranger I feel quite at home with. It went as follows:

Eva darling, 

I will spare you the annoyance of formality for I know you are me refracted through a different prism. I know you love to rubbish formalities. You are a rebel with a cause, a wild soul in love with the untamed. I love you the stranger I feel most at home with. (LOL)

Before I forget, I want to thank you for the tears. Moshi was so much fun with you! What lazy pricks we are! God bless your fun side. No, God bless your geek side even more! Ever met a girl that switches between being the life of the party to a boring philosopher and then minutes later switches up to a motivational speaker? Of course not, you don’t own a mirror! Hahaha.. I thank you for the tears.

Yo hugs are the best. You have a rich soul and that is because you give pieces of it to drunk emotional girls at the brink of jumping off the ledge. I hope you reach out to the brothers as well time to time. Eva, I thank you for the tears. 

My wells had run dry and I was numb inside. As I told you the story of my life you sobbed like a little girl, a weak woman, vulnerable and utterly human; that is when I knew how strong a lady you are. I thank you the tears. 

You listened without interrupting..except for the a million sniffs.. girl, didn’t you sob? You spoke without judging, and when you laughed you laughed like a girl on top of the world. Not because you have it all, but because you know the much you have could be taken away too, you said. A girl with no sense of entitlement! I thank you for the tears. 

Your words Eva, those ones made my one week in Moshi a life-changing experience. Those mere intangibles gave me life. Whenever I saw your lips moving I was guaranteed of either coming alive with encouragement or death by laughter. I never knew how much I’d come alive and die by listening to you! I thank you for the tears. 

Well, I miss you so much. Yesterday I remembered when you told me, “Let me break your heart and collect the pieces, just so I can crush them into powder, blow them into the wind and yell: Marisella you’re now freeee!” Hah, I love your sense of humor and your lust for freedom. So as we wander on, country after country, city after city, may we find more strangers and give them tears to thank us for. But most importantly may we always find a way to reunite..each time as a stranger still! That sense of freedom that sets hearts ablaze and engulfs them within. That caring gesture that lets them know there is power in vulnerability as you always say.You were the first to ever read me a book and give it to me as a souvenir. You’re my many firsts. You gotta stick with me now. I thank you for the tears. The tears you shed. Can’t wait for our next adventure, dear sister I never had.

P.S: The tears were mine.”

Now, I don’t know if I am the only person with the habit of bonding with strangers. But I am sure it is not the worst adventure at all. So, dear Marie, I shared this amazing mail from you so you know it moved me to tears.. I know you’ll claim the tears were yours..hahah, but that is fine with me. And I shared it so I reach out to people like you and I who are in love with vulnerability, people who have learned to ditch the fairy-tale for the human-tale. People who read out books to strangers  just so they can make the day a little more bearable. I shared this email so I can inspire people like you and I to reach out to other people and give them a hug every once in a while, because the world is full of persons in need of a smile and a hug. The invaluable treasures. To all the random friends we made along the way…to the strangers we sit side by side during those flights or even long train/bus rides, the ones we have told our secrets and they told us theirs but for some reason we never asked for their names or even contacts, to the ones who let us have the window in the plane (Hi Thomas! Thank you 🙂 )  to all the strangers we converted into our “street family”, this is for you.

Dear Moshi, Tanzania, thank you for Marisela! The “stranger” I feel most at home with!

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This place was home to so many strangers last December. Thank you Zara!

And in the words of Charlotte Eriksson, “I am a free soul, singing my heart out by myself no matter where I go and I call strangers my friends because I learn things and find ways to fit them into my own world. I hear what people say, rearrange it, take away and tear apart until it finds value in my reality and there I make it work. I find spaces in between the cracks and cuts where it feels empty and there I make it work.” 

I make it work. Let’s all make it work 🙂

STRIKING A DEAL WITH THE LEADERS… OF TOMORROW

Mentoring the younger generation, in my view, is providing a seat for the little ones at the table of the older ones. It is pretending to give them some of your power, courage and hope when in reality you’re only pleading with them to use the power already vested in them by God (- a force beyond us, a supreme being whatever you may perceive him to be) wisely and for the betterment of our society come tomorrow… And yes, tomorrow does come!

“A revolution is coming – a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough, compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough – but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability” – Robert F. Kennedy

This past weekend I had the privilege of spending it with a bunch of visionary young leaders that I am so damn proud to call my friends- about 16 of them. We hit the road at the crack of dawn setting out for ‘a date’ with some mighty little ones in the heart of Kamba land (Kitui South to be precise). To say the very least, the experience was life-changing! You, dear ones, rock..never let anyone tell you otherwise! Asanteni.

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Friendship isn’t a big thing — it’s a million little things. ~Author Unknown

I was quite excited when my friend Davis (founder of Friends of Progress) reached out to me regarding this gig and of course I had to seize the moment and bring Youth Mentoring & Career Programme (YMCP) Org on board. Clearly I subscribe to the Umoja ni nguvu (Unity is strength) school of thought.  What a friend I have in you Davis! Thank you for reaching out. That’s what friends do!

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But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine. ~Thomas Jefferson Davis Muthoka & I

 

Now, this post is to let you in on the joys and pains of mentorship. Mentoring the younger generation, in my view, is providing a seat for the little ones at the table of the older ones. It is pretending to give them some of your power, courage and hope when in reality you’re only pleading with them to use the power already vested in them by God (- a force beyond us, a supreme being whatever you may perceive him to be) wisely and for the betterment of our society come tomorrow… And yes, tomorrow does come!

As I sat through the talks given by my colleagues to the pupils (in all five primary schools visited), I couldn’t help but wonder if these kids knew just how important they are. I wondered if they know how envious most adults are of them, I mean these kids have entire lifetimes ahead of them – case of the figurative clean slates! I looked into their curious eyes and felt the child in me drawn to the child in each of them. I wanted to tell them they are powerful beyond measure, I wanted to let them know that the future of our nation is in their hands, I wanted to tell them they are the people we will be judged against in just a decade or two. I wanted to tell them that it is not so much in going to school and getting the best grades, going to the Alliances, the Precious Blood Secondary Schools, the Starehe schools and the like that matters… I wanted to tell them that it is what we have over and above the accolades we accumulate over the years of formal education, that which is deeply engraved in our hearts and characters that matters the most.  I wanted to let them know that a grade A  in the exams scored by an individual with a grade E personality is the reason Kenya and most of Africa is swimming in poverty, crime and disease today.  And as I stood to speak to these little ones, I think I heard the the voice of Aristotle echo somewhere at the back of my mind saying, “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.

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 With the team at Ndili Primary, Ikutha.  “The soul is healed by being with children.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

So, like my colleagues, I stood time after time, dramatically sweeping my eyes across the rooms, slowly letting my eyes take in the greatness in the kings and queens giving me their attention,  yet fast enough not to let such greatness intimidate me. I would hear myself tell them how happy I am to be a lawyer and asked them if any of them would want to be a lawyer when they grow up, or an engineer like one of my colleagues…a doctor, financial analysts, IT specialists, business men and women…my God! What do you want to become when YOU grow up? Hahha.. Then I would proceed to tell them the time is now, time to befriend their teachers and the top students, time for group work and sacrifice, a time to sow. I smiled and told them to be disciplined and prayerful..and to never sleep on their talents..and so did my colleagues. I guess that’s our way of telling them to be a little extra. Something a little more than just book smart. Heck, there is more to life than just being good with the books! But still, we rewarded the top three students in each upper primary class for being book-smart because sometimes indoctrination is a much safer evil than to be daring enough to go the Bill Gates way..that we gotta live with.

 

Much was said, but none of us dared tell these kids anything close to  what one Doris Lessing coined out in her book,’The Golden Notebook’ and which I borrow here:

Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have  not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry , but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself – your own judgments. Those that must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded  and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’

Of course I wanted to warn them of the beautiful mess that our education system is. I should have warned them about the dangers of working so hard only to join the rat-race, but they might have been too young for such truths. Maybe the next time my colleagues and  I mingle with them, we will try change the “work hard at school, go to the best universities and get a job then climb the corporate ladder”-narrative to something like, “go to school, be keen at discovering your strengths, focus on the things that make you come alive – be it science, humanities or pure talent, single out a path that best suits you, keep at it and never settle. You’re born for greatness!”

The next time I see them, I will not be afraid of teaching them freedom! I will tell them it is okay to zig when the world finds comfort in zagging… I will tell these little ones that there is no beauty in rounding ones edges…I will tell them to break free from the fear of the unknown and I will pray they understand what I mean. I will ask them to be bold enough to dance even when only they can hear the song! I will let them know they are the leaders and that the offices we are holding today, we are only holding for them in trust and that they must make us proud.

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“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts” – C. S. Lewis  
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We are the selfie – generations. 🙂
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Sanitary towels for the girls.

With that, our mission was accomplished and of course we had time to play and boy, don’t we love to play! So now, on behalf of Friends of Progresshttp://www.friendsofprogress.co/ )and YMCP ( www.YMCP.org ), we call upon all persons of good will to join in the mentoring of the youth if only in their own little ways. Let us drink from late Nelson Mandela’s wells of wisdom and remember that, “What counts in life is not mere fact that we have lived. It is  what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” and without forgetting the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.”

To my team, the dream team, keep inspiring multitudes everywhere you go. Greatness is what we’re on the brink of! Blessings galore to each one of you.

 

A prosperous 2016 to all my readers. Bless!

There’s,somewhere in the world, a saviour for Somalia: That saviour is most probably neither Kenya nor Ethiopia!

“A nation is born stoic but dies epicurean.”

Policy solutions must come from Africa if at all Africa is going to record any trans-formative progress this moment on. There are myriads of reasons why I would advice against Africa depending on the opinion and analyses of outsiders to understand herself, or even the problems affecting the continent at large or individual states. For decades we have fed into the lie peddled by the mainstream media, politicians and most western-allied economists into believing that a continent so rich in natural resources and brain power could be termed “hopeless”, “dark”, and desolate.
The Economist, in the year 2000, referred to Africa as the “Hopeless Continent”, in 2011 the same magazine referred to Africa as the “Rising Continent” and in 2013 the March issue of the Economist referred to Africa as “Hopeful continent”. Now, I do not know what that tells you about outsiders’ opinions but I know what that tells me of opinions generally: they will never pay the bills and for that reason they really do not matter! The only opinion that really matters is that which Africans have of themselves, and of their continent, and that is to say that, only Africans can cure any hopeless situations we might have in Africa.
I am starting with an attempt to address the dire need for stability in Africa. Stability is brought about by security internally and externally. Whether stability gives birth to security of vice versa, is an issue of a child giving birth to a mother, we know they are conjoined truths.
The debate that has been taking place on our social media platforms, our homes and other such places for sometime now is whether or not Kenya should withdraw her forces from Somalia. I am full aware that this is quite a sensitive matter but we need to understand that a win for East Africa, is a win for Africa at large, hence this is no longer a Kenya-Somalia affair. In my opinion, I think Kenya needs to withdraw her military forces from Somalia soonest possible and if you ask me, that should even happen immediately. Here’s why:
1). Somalia is paying the price of foreign aid fraud
Only Somalis can deal with their problems effectively. I say this because for anyone who cares to look keenly, they’ll see that the Somali people only have themselves to blame for the quagmire they find themselves in today. These problems are stemming from ideological sources. The Somalis have been sold a narrative of whom they are and sadly, they have bought it under the watch of selfish despotic leaders who have in continuously paid to have their country bombed into submission in the most literal sense of the phrase. “Why would persons entrusted with the leadership of a nation do that?”, you may ask. For selfish economic interests of course! There are people who have thrived from the instability of nations in Africa, thanks to the “foreign aid fraud”! And Somalia happens to be one of those nations where a section of their leaders would do anything to continue reaping from savagery and anarchy. These leaders reap big from famine, disease and instability and in that way the foreign aid flow would pass through their sticky hands and somehow get stuck in those hands only to end up benefiting the select few at the expense of a suffering majority. It is what one Rasna Warah would refer to as a “feast in the the time of famine”.  It is so sad how one of Africa’s oldest beautiful cities with rich history would only represent anarchy and suffrage today when the name Mogadishu is mentioned. What most people do not know is that Mogadishu became a place where anarchy and savagery reigned supreme from back in October, 1993 when the dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by Somalis who jeered on. Even though at least 500 civilians were killed during the circus, the world only remembers the 18 American soldiers who died. Ever since that dark historic time, Mogadishu, and Somalia at large, hit rock bottom because the media has done a great job of painting a really dark picture of Somali to the world and they themselves have accepted that picture as a representation of their beloved nation.

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I’m certain by now it is clear I don’t quite fancy the notion that Africa needs foreign aid to rise. Africa is definitely better off without it, if anything, it benefits the powerful elite mostly.

2). Kenya is not the best mediator in this case.
History shows that the relationship between Kenya and Somalia is not any different from the relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia. The dealings between these three nation which border each other has always been one characterized by fear and suspicion. All these can be traced through the history of the three states in which you will see that it is argued that the British colony of Kenya extended northwards over a predominantly Somali area, and Ethiopia appropriated in Ogaden province territory to which is claimed to have belonged to Somalia. While Ethiopia could not trust the British with being impartial towards the Somalis, the Somali people felt that Kenya was the unfairly favoured “child” of the British. This consequently brewed some tension amongst the three states which would continue for decades. In 1977 the Somalia-Ethiopia war broke out in which the Somalis seized the Ogaden region from Ethiopia but an intervention from the USSR army to the aid of the Ethiopians would later result in the same disputed Ogaden region seized back from the Somalis. Long story short, their has been tension amongst these three states and it is evident the Somalis would not trust that Kenya nor Ethiopia would want them stable for rather purely political reasons stemming from a not so pleasant shared past. Even though many would argue that Kenya would benefit from having stable neighbours, it is not clear if the Somalis would believe the same to be true as the relationships between the two nations remain tense, characterized by fear and suspicion, and certainly what I would call a dysfunctional marriage which looks quite unpromising. It is, in my opinion, best if these two countries (Kenya and Ethiopia) back off and let Somalia deal with her issues first before any further interferences.

Somalia05-2007

3.) The problem in Somalia needs more than military-intervention.

It is hard to help a nation achieve stability when her leaders are benefiting from her being unstable. Ever wondered why we live in a so-called free world in which everyone  preaches freedom and the benefits that the same bring forth yet these benefits only accrue to a select few, specifically those in power? Well, I am certainly not the one to answer that question for you but logic dictates that the answer lies in the game of power and the rules that the world is run by. In the case of Somalia, a country run by warlords and a breeding ground for radicalized youths who are intoxicated by doctrines they can’t quite comprehend, we might as well need more that military intervention to undo the damage done by brainwashing the younger generations of Somalia as they are the future of the nation. In fact, we need to demilitarize the police and employ more pacific  counter-measures.  Whether it is a misinterpretation of religious texts or a victim mentality-affair eating into the nation it yours to decide but in the words of Tony Blair (Former British Prime Minister),”The reason why these people are radicalized is not because of something we are doing to them. They believe in what they believe in because their religion compels them to believe in it.” Whether that statement is accurate or not, is definitely a highly debatable topic and in fact, almost polarizing and for that same reason, I shall leave it at that.

4.) Enough of the blood-letting already

I need not recount painful happenstances that have taken place in Kenya and Somalia in the recent past all in the name of retaliatory attacks, leaving hundreds (thousands even) dead,orphaned kids living in abject poverty, many more maimed and homeless with images they would give anything to have erased from their memories…not to mention how our tourism sector has been left literally on its knees. Our economy is threatened and lives are being lost day and night.  We have lost too much and not much has been seen to benefit us. It must all come to an end. It is possible that there might be a saviour somewhere in the world for Somalia, but that is definitely not in Kenya. Sometimes it is really okay to quit if the price is too high and the gains only but minimal. Abort mission Kenya, abort mission already for the sake of Kenyans! Some will argue that the U.S.A has pledged to aid Kenya in this mission in Somalia, but do Kenyans quite understand the dynamics of that pledge? The U.S.A has vested interests in both Kenya and Somalia and now, more than ever, both countries need to fully understand what is in it for them. Does the west even want a stable Somalia? Go ponder.  The U.S.A just like the entire fraternity of the western countries and China have vested interests in Africa as a whole and East Africa happens to be such a prime area now for these self-proclaimed world powers and before any deals are sealed blindly, maybe it is time we re-evaluate our place on the high table  or we are in for more instabilities, and rude awakenings. A word is enough for the wise.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, there is a saviour, somewhere in the world, for dearest Somalia, but that saviour is going to come from within the borders of Somalia, not Kenya, not Ethiopia, and certainly not from the United States of America. That saviour will arise and Africa will rise with them. They will tell a more authentic tale for Somalia and the rest of Africa will rise in the Africa rising narrative. May that day get here sooner.

It is important we all accept that once most of Africa awakens, we won’t ever return to business as usual, but that knowledge offers hope for the future. Arise Africa, it is time we shaped our own destiny as a continent, it is time for a new Africa narrative, this time for Africa, by the Africans! The Africa Rising Narrative: let’s rewrite history together.

Let us not look at the future as a gift from our ancestors, but rather as a loan from our descendants!