December 05, 2011

I am fascinated by people's behaviors, what drives them to act a certain way, why they make one decision as opposed to the other...you get the drift. I like watching people, I like talking to them. I also have an annoying habit. The 'why' stage never really ended with me. It just got magnified to 'what does that mean?' I love meanings. That tells you I kill the heck out of a beautiful moment by wanting him to define the poem he is reading me, or explain what the bracelet he just got me meant. Puzzles annoy me, especially when they take too long to solve. I want to know everything. And I mean, everything.

Back to people.

I stumbled across Outliers. I have become so lazy in reading I want it read to me. Enter Audiobooks, Outliers being the first one on the list. One of the few books I can say has shifted the way I think, the way I look at life. He explores various situations that we take for granted, that we think are by chance, fate...Like how Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc came to be the masters of what they do. They have been called geniuses even. All we know is the Bill Gates quit Harvard to set up Microsoft. The backstory, what everyone forgets, is he started interacting with computers at 13, was programming for organizations at 15. Malcom Gladwell speculates that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice in any field to be really good at it. By the time he was quitting Havard, Gates had more than 10,000 hours in computer programming.

Gates grew up in Seattle to well-to-do parents and was enrolled in an elite, private high school, Lakeside. Lakeside just happened to have a Mother’s Club that raised $3000 dollars to start a computer club in 1968, which didn’t even exist at major universities at that time. Most computer programming used an unfathomably laborious technique known as a computer-card system. Gates’ high school relied instead on an advanced time-sharing system that greatly facilitated his ability to program efficiently and effortlessly. When the money ran out for his computer club, a mother of one of the Lakeside boys just happened to need a programmer at a computer company called C-Cubed, which turned into another opportunity to work at ISI then TRW. He happened to be within walking distance of the University of Washington, which allowed him to work on computers between 3 and 6 am. Now none of all that would be that remarkable today. But that was 1968 when computers really did not exist and computer programming opportunities were nil. Gladwell argues that the software billionaires of today all came of age at a very narrow window in time with a narrow timeframe of 1953-55 birthdates: Bill Gates 1955, Paul Allen 1953, Steve Ballmer 1956, Steve Jobs 1955, Eric Schmidt 1955, Bill Joy 1954 (btw a great story of Bill Joy, the founder of the Internet and UNIX code in the book), etc. For people in computer world, sometime in the mid 70's was the best time to be a young man / woman. The first person computer was invented around then. If you were over 30, you were too old. You probably had a fmaily and worked for IBM and thought those huge mainframes would last forever. If you were under 20,  You did not have disposable income to spend on an experimental piece of technology. You were still in high school. Perfect age to be? Between 21-25. Precisely what Gates, Jobs and Joy were at that time.

Back to people.

In one Chapter, Malcolm talk about effects of what he calls “The Culture of Honor.” He discusses why the famous American feuds like Howard-Turner (read more here) and Hatfield-McCoy (read more here) standoffs were steeped in a culture that traced back several centuries on a different soil. Gladwell argues that these intense clan battles that centered around familial honor originated in the idea of the herdsman living on the hinterland. The farmer, by contrast, who must work in a team to cultivate arable land, would not risk alienating those around him. The herdsman, on the other hand, living on the rocky highlands must defend his sheep and cattle from the encroachment of strangers and thereby defines a certain code of honor that makes his battles per force openly querulous and staunchly virile. Gladwell discovered that these individuals acted in such a fashion from a legacy that predated their arrival in the heartland of America. Coming from the lawless borderlands of the United Kingdom, these “Scotch-Irish” engaged in feuds and fights because they were classic herdsmen as found in the Basque region of Spain, Sicily, and parts of Greece. Their behavior had been imprinted through generations of predecessors before them. He does not mention this, but in my mind, I thought. Doesn't that explain Maasai, the Pokots and Sabaots... Somalis?

Maybe its a coincidence, how accurate Gladwell's observations are, but for me, who loves explanations, I have a few answers, less questions. I have been hurt by friends, and they chose to do it all at once. Separately though. I have been asking them why. None seem to be giving me an answer that heals the pain, returns the trust I had for them. In Gladwell's fashion, I have started going through my friendship with these people, the basis on how we started, the history of who they were before we met, in hopes of getting answers. I haven't gotten any yet. Still watching

Back to people.


November 07, 2011

Ka-ching!

We live in a greedy little world--
that teaches every little boy and girl
To earn as much as they can possibly--
then turn around and
Spend it foolishly
We've created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don't possess
Our religion is to go and blow it all
So it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall

All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before...

In the music video of the above song (Ka-ching), Shania Twain  finds herself in an abandoned mansion and city. She goes looking for the inhabitants, finally finding them in a casino gambling away. Everyone is consumed with the need to spend money, their greed apparent in the expensive things they own that they have deserted.

I have not listened to this song in years. It used a favorite of mine. No idea why that stopped. I spent about a week in Cincinnati early April this year,  screening our film. Actually, I spent time moving between Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. At one point, I slept in Indiana, had lunch in Ohio and dinner in Kentucky! I digress.

My friend who invited me there and organised the trip arranged for me to stay at his friends house in Cincinnati for the better part of the journey. Now, this house is a house like no other. It used to be a wood work machinery factory, dating back to 1887. Its a huge space. Very very huge. The first time I walked in, I did a double take. There was a lot of stuff. See, 'stuff' suddenly felt such an inadequate word. 'Things' even less appropriate. Over the next few days, I quickly learnt that if I did not put back my things in my suitcase immediately after using them, I might never find them again. Every empty spot in the house would quickly be filled up with something or the other. An empty space was abhorred in that house. Anything you can possibly think of was in there. It was as if Hurricane Katrina blew all the debris across the country and straight to that house. It is a three storied house, houses a few artists studios...you know the ones that has no canvases of surreal paintings, no easels, no paintbrushes...nothing. Thinking spaces they call them. Hogwash I call it, but then again, what do I know. I'm only a consumer of the brilliance that finally comes from those 'thinking spaces'. I saw a inside one of the studios, and the 'stuff' somehow ended up there too. For a 'thinking space', it made me think I was going insane!

I thought about hoarding. And how we seek to fill our lives with things to cover the emptiness within. How we, especially  those of the female-bodied form, think that that one shopping spree will make us feel better. It maybe a curse, every time I travel, I contrast situations, lifestyles, people...back home and what I am experiencing. In one part, I had a vision of a young mother in Kenya ( or anywhere else in Africa for that matter), living in a one-roomed shack, furnished with a bare bed, a stove, some cooking pans, a broom in a corner, a bed sheet separating the bed area from the rest of the room, a worn couch, half of which is used as a storage area for the children's clothing. The most expensive item in that house is the mosquito net, donated by a local NGO.

Then picture this:

That is a bedroom.Or used to be.

Couldn't help but wonder, is hoarding a condition of the rich? Can a poor person hoard? I once told someone that some conditions, sickness, etc are 'white people's sicknesses'. Between feeding 5 kids, dealing with a cheating, alcoholic husband, dealing with impossible inlaws and demanding family, we don't have time for panic attacks, postpartum depressions, etc.

I pictured that young woman with life sitting squarely on her shoulders like the proverbial troll, walking into that house. What would be her thought then? If the two women were to sit down and discuss what they wish they had, what they are looking for in life, what would they think of each other? Would each understand what drives the other?

August 04, 2011

...is the time. It has been on of those days that your body questions your intentions towards its well-being and your brain goes along with you just because it has limited options. And as they both slowly start to shut down, you fight a battle that you eventually win, and somehow, you're still not happy with the outcome. You are driving around at 3am because you absolutely had to have that meeting that you have been putting off and now it doesn't matter what time of day it is, it had to be done.

You have not eaten, every fiber in your body is exhausted and sleep is playing peekaboo with your eyes. You just want to get home. You are Mbagathi Road, looking at the friend who agreed to drive with you this late because you were worried about being a lone woman driving around in the middle of the night, and you are feeling guilty that your meeting ran too late and now he is going to get only 4 hours of sleep because of you. You apologize for taking longer than promised, he mumbles a halfhearted 'ok' and you shrink deeper into your seat and hate yourself more. You understand how tired he is too.

Then you look up at the road ahead, and you see a man staggering in the middle of the road. You think, great, a stupid drunk who's probably get a run over and die tonight. You feel your heart shrink just a little bit, and shiver at the thought as two cars speed past you and swerve as they near him. They drive on, do not even slow down. As your headlights hit his face, you notice that he looks hurt. You gasp, and your humane side kicks in. Without thinking, you tell your friend to slow down. He looks at you, looks at the man and you can see that he thinks this is not a good idea. You know why. And your cautious side steps in. It could be a set up. He could be a decoy. Thugs could be laying in wait for a stupid driver like you to stop and pounce. 'Are you sure?' your friend asks you. You can hear in his voice that he is not asking you, he is asking himself. ' By now we have driven past him. ' Turn around, Bry.' You tell him. You see his jaw clench. You know he wants to help, but he is being reasonable. He is assessing the situation, probably calculating the risks and planning on the escape if its  a set up. Mbagathi Rd is a one way road. He swings the car on to the next exit and drives back. He then turns the car back to the left side. " We should drive slowly, not completely stop. I'll talk to him, you look around.' You tell him. Your voice is shaking, you are shaking. You are scared shitless.

Bry slows down and you see him scanning all sides for suspicious activity. The guy is on your  side - the passenger side. He starts to walk towards the car. His face comes into focus. Your breath gets caught in your throat. You stifle a cough. He looks like a walking cadaver that's been sitting for days. His face is swollen, so much so, you cannot tell how he looks like normally. Where his left eye once sat is a thin slit. He looks like someone removed his skull and wrapped a basketball around his  facial skin. His mouth, which no longer like a human mouth, is bleeding profusely.

You look over at Bry. He is looking at the man too. You can read his mind. We have to help him. 'Where do we take him,' Bry asks. Without thinking, you say 'Masaba'. It's now  called Nairobi Women's Hospital at Adams. Now, you have a love-hate friendship history with that hospital. Every now and then, you are in so much pain you need to go to the ER for an IV drip of painkillers as the oral ones wont work and you need very high dosages. One of those times, your boyfriend took you there. You found a doctor who  thought that you writhing in pain, keeling over and almost sitting on the floor was not an emergency enough, you had to wait for him to check an athlete foot infection first and wait your turn. After all he was a foot doctor and he's all they had. Long story short, but you ended up driving to Nairobi Hospital 20 minutes later, you in more pain, boyfriend so angry than you have ever seen him, after giving the foot doctor and earful.

You have also brought another stranger here. He was beaten up as you watched. And as everyone ignored his cries and watched as he bled, you put him in your car and drove him to this hospital. They treated him, asked for no money after you explained that you are a stranger who wanted to help. That story is told here 

I digress.

Bry is driving like the wind, you am trying to get information from the man. He can barely talk. Of course. You pick up from his muffled speech that he is a traveling salesman who sells toothpaste. Ironic. I think he has lost all his teeth from the attack. Could have been funny in an alternate universe. He lives in a place called Mukuru kwa Mjenga. You know that slum, you have been there once. You cannot, however, figure out where he was attacked at. You want to know more, but you can tell that its taking all the strength he has left to speak. He says he was attacked between 7-8pm. It's 3 am. Where has he been. You tell Bry that you think he must have been unconscious and he just came to. The man is now thanking us. Telling us how no one would stop to help him, sending blessings our way.

The smell. You cannot quite place it. You think its the smell of death. Angry death. Angry that it has lost its prey. You and Bry speculate. There is definitely alcohol in the stench. Maybe a No.2. Both of you cannot put your finger on it. It's a haunting smell. You roll down the windows. But its too cold, especially for him. You have the sleeves of your sweater around your face and mouth. It kid of helps, but not really. Bry has to drive and focus on the road. He does not show if the stench is affecting him. You know it is. He is not even wrinkling his nose. He is looking ahead, stoically. But he is man, you understand.

You arrive at Nairobi Women's at Adams. You walk out with him as Bry parks the car. The reception is empty, save for the 4 night-guards huddled at the seats watching TV. The receptionist gets up and horror registers on her face. You are not sure if its the sight of the man or the huge drops of blood dripping on the pristine white floor tiles that has her in shock. You explain the much you got from the man to her. She calls a nurse who stands at a safe distance. You ask what the procedure is. They ask you if you are prepared to foot his bill. You have KES 3,500 in your wallet. You tell them you are willing to give them that. They tell you it might not be enough to do all the tests. The much they can do is give him first aid and release him. 'At this hour?' Bry asks. ' Well, we cannot admit him. Who is going to pay?'. Bry and you look at each other. You cannot possibly leave him here to get 'first aid' then be sent out in the cold, back to the cruel night all by himself.  You have to take him to a government hospital. You think of how ridiculous all this is. You wonder how much it would set the hospital back for treating this man. You look around at the sickeningly white floor tiles, and wonder if treating this man means that the hospital will have to replace those white tiles with an earthen floor, what with how poor they will be for attending to a patient who has no money. Maybe they have to give up the TV that 4 night guards are watching. Why are there 4 night guards anyway, when there are 4 more at the gate, you wonder. They give him  some gauze and he sticks it in his mouth.

You leave.

You arrive Kenyatta Hospital. It looks dead. You have no idea where casualty is. You walk around the corridors looking for any sign of life. You find a Pediatric Section. The nurses are dozing off. You ask for Casualty. They ask you how you got in. You say you drove to the parking. They tell you, well, that's where casualty is. You tell them you walked straight from the parking to them. They tell you to keep walking and turn right at the end of the corridor. You ask one of them to show you. He says' Just keep walking, turn right, keep walking, you will see it.' They are looking at the man like a leper. You wonder why they are not offering to put him on the wheelchair one of them is seated in and wheel him to casualty, instead of making him walk around. You decide its better to keep walking as you don't trust yourself not to say something you will regret.

Bry catches up with you. Yo give him the directions. You walk for a minute down the endless corridor. You feel like you are leading this man to slaughter. You fee like you work for some gulag. This man trusts you. He is following you unquestioningly. You know you are not going to get him the help he needs. Ye, you keep walking. Bry says he will run ahead to look for the casualty. He feels like we are walking in slow motion and its painful to watch the man trudge along, every step carefully calculated for minimum pain. Up ahead, Bry finds the casualty. You walk in. It looks, smells like abandonment. People on the floor, on unattended stretchers, on benches, heads bandaged, legs plastered, eyes sewn shut. If feels like you just walked into a morgue and the bodies suddenly got life. They stare, you stare back. You are the first to look away. You are ashamed, guilty even. For being healthy. You hear voices in your head ask you ' What have you done that is so good to give your the right to be walking around healthy? Are you so much better than them? To look at these people with pity. They do not need your pity.'

Bry finds someone and asks for the procedure. The man has to be registered. A bored looking woman tells you to wait for someone to register him. 10 minutes later, the same woman comes into the little cubicle and starts barking questions at the man. She is asking for his name. He can barely move his mouth now. Its slowly sealing itself shut. You remember he has a driving license and you give it to the lady. She ignores it, tells you to let him speak. His name is Johannes, you tell her.  She ignores you, continues to grill him. Short of telling him to spell it, she finally jots it down. 'what happened to you? Where were you coming from? Why were you walking around at 8pm?' On and on she goes. She is admonishing him. A grown man, in pain, who has just lost all the money he made that day, all his merchandise...being treated like a child. You can't take it anymore. You walk out of the room, the same time your tears finally flow. You can still hear her shouting at him. Sure, he smells of alcohol, but please, treat him first! You can't stop crying. Bry comes over and comforts you. 'Why does it have to be so?' You ask him. 'Because that is what life is' He says something to that effect.

The woman has finished barking. Gives Bry the form and tells him to take it 'over there' 'Over there', the bored looking man who has his faced wrapped up as if he is going for a ski trip takes the form. He looks it over and gives writes a number on it. 'Go pay over there' he points. The lady sends you back. 'That number has already been allocated. Tell him to give you another number.'  You tell him so. ' How come? That is not possible. How come?' Under your breath, you mutter. ' Magic?'  He writes down another number. You go back to the cashier. You pay. KES 250. That's all it takes here.  We take back the form to the ski-trip guy. By now, you wonder if patients have to do this back and forth trip before they can finally get treatment. By the time he is done registering himself, both his eyes and mouth would have long shut,' you think.

The ski guy asks us to spell the guys name. Bry hands him the driving license. He asks us questions about the man. We answer as much as we can. Then he asks for Bry's name. He gives it. His mobile phone number? You interject. 'What for?' 'I am not talking to you', Ski guy says. You are tired, your patience, the little you possess has run out. You are running on autopilot. And the autopilot is not programmed for niceties.  So Bry repeats the question. Ski guy says just in case of anything. You say we do not want to be contacted. He says you are responsible for him because you brought him there. You say you are not going to give your contacts. You do not want to take any responsibility. He gets cross. You say, you have done your duty, you brought him to hospital, you have been trying to get him treated for 3 hours and now you are going home. Bry hesitates. You grab his hand and pull him out of the hospital. This is too much, you tell him. Ski guy gets up and follows you. You joke about him calling the nightguards to restrain you. For what? For helping a stranger. You walk to the car. No one stops you. Bry says he is disappointed that no one stoped you. He really wanted that confrontation. He wanted an outlet.

You recline the seat, lean back and close your eyes. You want to stop feeling guilty for relaxing and knowing that you will soon be in your bed. You want to feel the pain the man is feeling. You want to experience the feeling of inadequacy that you saw in him when he had to beg for help.

You really want to.

It's 5 am. Life has to go on.

June 17, 2011

She harbours secrets. Those that she whispers in the strong winds that are said to make people lose their minds. It's the secrets in the winds I tell you. Those secrets that taunt and tease you. A word here, a word there, never the whole sentence. The winds knows something we don't, and its not sharing. It hints of tales and dreams and hopes. Tales of men, dreams of women, hopes of sailors, mashed up and served over centuries to those who dare venture her streets. Streets narrow and winding, daring you to turn the corner, daring you to look further.  The streets have names, names of people who ones walked them, names of people who called this home. Birds songs blend with the wind whispers. A secret symphony developed from a kinship that only comes from witnessing life and death together for generations. It's a dialogue I have come to love, an orchestra not even the best maestro can arrange, and yet I do not understand it.

Sandwiched between the richness of spices and guns, religion and trade, hot summers and dead cold winters, the town is a mutt of cultures. Warm Mediterranean waters on the right bring stories of a land raped and scarred but still  proud, cold Atlantic waters speaks of vikings and kingdoms and  the awakening of its lands. Their conversation meets here, where the walls bend their ears to listen.

In this ancient walls, I can see faces of tireless travelers etched in. The peeling paint forming the hard lines of their knowing faces frozen in timeless beauty. In my mind I hear the slow strumming and humming... 'we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’ And still those voices are calling from far away. I shudder. Those secrets again. A frozen face on the wall scowls as a car drives past. I hear an imaginary cough as the car churns up some dust that quickly mingles with the exhaust. The wind howls even harder, I swear the bird above me just screamt. This time I understand. This is their home. They love the wind that drove them insane, the streets that taunted them, the seas that took their loved ones. They know the town, the town knows them, they fear they will loose it to unfeeling passerbys.


They have withstood the tests of time, the conquest of empire after empire. They have seen men on horses, men on thrones, men in love, men lifeless on its streets, their blood seeping into its core. I breathe in deeper, maybe trying to smell that blood, the one I am sure the winds sings of. A young man walks by, his Latin features strong and dominant. He smiles as his gaze catches mine. For a moment, I resist to return that smile. You see, another secret. I am becoming very suspicious. Of the way the men tease with their gazes, make love with their smiles. Their teasing gazes tell of lovers bliss that still linger in the confines of the walls that the faces of  tireless travelers watch from.

Their smiles reveal allusions love and promises whispered in the dead of the night as the moon shone bright and the ships docked for the night. The gazes and the smiles hint of love not fulfilled, lovers no longer together, bells chiming in the distance as their hearts crumbled and wailed. He casts his eyes downwards, keeps walking. He knows rejection too well. His smile was begging for a connection, telling of a love he lost but still holds. Telling of what he will never replace. He looks back, if only to confirm that I do indeed  hear the secrets of the wind, the songs for the birds, the call of his lover in the distance waves. I do. He smiles again.  If I smile back, a part of me will be forever etched in the walls of this town that holds its own. Another traveler will hear a part of my soul in the wind and wonder what I thought of, what I dreamt of, what I hoped for. If I smile back, my longing will be added to the secrets of Tarifa.

So I smile.

June 14, 2011

She returns

...to tell you that she is Spain-bound tonight.  Then Zanzibar.

I noticed that every time I say I have been busy and 'will tell you all about it' I actually never do. So I am not going to make that promise this time round. However, I will promise to take enough photos to make you jealous for the next 3 months. Since Nate is still in Los Angeles, I am also not going to be posting 'Close your Eyes' lyrics as a goodbye to him.

The past 2 months have seen me raise about KES 170,000 for IDPs in Ndaragwa who were eating cats due to lack of food- something that made their MP so guilty he went there after a long time, complete a TV show pilot whose presentation went really well, get the gifted soulfool to work with me in my company, half of my  Kibera Film School students to work on the set of a feature film for a month and the rest to work on a video for a conference presentation.


So that was the work update. No love life update. Still in love, fight now and then to remind ourselves we still care.

See you next post.

May 17, 2011

fodforndaragwa

On Saturday 14th (night) I was sitting in my office, checking my Facebook, waiting for footage that we had spent the whole day filming to log / capture. I saw my mother's status update - "If Ndaragwa idps are eating cats where are we heading?." 

That sparked something in me.

3 years later, we still have not rebuilt our country. We have forgotten. And if we have not, then we are waiting for someone else to do it. We are content to sit around and complain. Yes, the government should be resettling IDPs, working with them towards sustainable futures and livelihoods. But they are not. If they are, then they are moving far too slow for my liking. 

So I am acting, putting my, if you like money, where my mouth is. I am organizing a food drive. Within 1 week, I plan to collect enough food to feed them for 5 months. Within the 1st 1 month, I will work for them to find ways to create a sustainable food source, that they NEVER have to eat cats again, whether or not the government cares.

I have no idea how many people they are at the camp, but I know that I have enough passion and drive to get them food to last them that 5 months as we work towards a solution.

I am asking all my friends (and their friends) to help in this drive.

I have created an email address - food4idps@gmail.com. 

I will be collecting email address and various pledges through that email. The plan is to get them non perishables - Flour, Sugar, Salt, Rice, Maize, Beans (and all dry cereals), Cooking fat, etc

There is a pledge page coming up - www.foodforndaragwa.com. 

Blog about it, tweet it, spread the word...hashtag on twitter is #foodforndaragwa, and facebook event page is - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=207945099245612

Collect food from family, friends, supermarkets, etc. Dry foods would be most advisable as we will be taking the food on Sunday 22nd May to Ndaragwa

MPESA your donation to 0716 618 188. I will be sending a running ledger and sending it to the people who get involved / pledge so that everyone is aware of what has been collected. 

Join in the convoy going to Ndaragwa on 22nd May

Then we should raise money to buy them vegetables. We should buy vegetables from the farmers around the area, which will help grow the economy there.

Why Ndaragwa?

Just because its the final straw that broke my back.

I will drive there on Sunday 21st. My car carries 5, including me. I assume we will have a lot food, so maybe 3 :)

Anyone who is interested in driving with me, in a convoy, etc, email me on
food4idps@gmail.com.

If you want to volunteer your home / office as a drop off point, email me too on above address.

Drop off points so far are:

1. Reslotuion Health Offices - courtesy of @peternduati
a) Roshanmaer Place, Lenana Road
Pilot Line: +254 20 2894 000, +254 20 3874 774
Mobile: +254 722 200 025, +254 734 600 886

b) K-REP Plaza, Second Floor, Wood Avenue, Kilimani
Pilot Line: +254 20 3994 000
 
c)Bandari Plaza, Mezzaninne 3, Woodvale Grove, Westlands
Tel: +254 20 444 2893/4

2. Hot Sun Foundation
Olympic- Kibera
Tel: +254 20 251 6904 / 9
Less than 15 minutes from Nakumatt Prestige
See Map here - http://tinyurl.com/44tbyot

** I need to get in touch with:

--the journalist who covered the story Macharia Wamugo of Nairobi Star

-- the Camp chairman Charles Kariuki

Since its going to be a task to organize this, Sms only. No calls please - 0716 618 188. I will respond to all emails and sms :)

If you have more ideas on what you / we can do...do share!

April 30, 2011

10 days later

I was thinking of how long its been since I blogged. It felt like a lifetime. See, since coming back to Kenya, I have been having 15 hour days and none of those hours have been free enough to slot in a post. Apparently, its only been 10 days since  I last posted.

It's Saturday, the first free day I've had. Okay, maybe 2nd. Last Saturday, I went to Lake Naivasha for fishing. After 3 hours,  I did catch some fish...



...from another boat that happened to be passing ours. I threw my line to the other boat, instead of bait, I had soemthing better attached to the hook.

 in Kenya Shillings though.

Half of the loot is still sitting in a freezer. Already marinated. One of these fine weekends, a fish barbecue is in the works.

Yesterday night I hang out with Random Carole. She is in town for work. Our date started in Casablanca. All there seems to be is lonely looking old white men smoking their sheeshas. I wonder where all the high class commercial sex workers are tonight. The population of Casablanca on a given weekend is the reverse. Not that I needed to, but I just checked Wikipedia's definition of a CSW. A sex worker is a person who works in the sex industry. Sex Industry. I wonder, whenI am filling in forms, and I have to select industry, I go for Media or Arts or Film if they have that. What industry do they select? I don't recall seeing sex industry listed.

They have no tapas. We are not hungry for entrees. So we leave.

Caribana is our next destination, where after wrestling down drunk motorist, we finally find parking. Only to walk in and discover that the whole of Nairobi had the same grand idea. Go there! I say something like how easy it would be to bomb Nairobians on a Friday night, predictable lot there are. Carole adds that there is an Al Shabab bomb scare tonight. Hint? It's going to be a crowded place. I say lets go hang out in her room. They wouldn't bother coming there. She says the pub is not crowded in Al Shabab standards. Note to self: Ask her how she knows their preferred numbers. The 'not crowded for terrorists' Caribana has no empty seats. 2 walk throughs confirm confirm that. We drive out of there.

Alfajiri is our next stop. As we drive in, we notice the may empty parking spots. And how quiet it is. We reason that unless Citizen TV across the road is using Alfajiri's parking lot, we should check it out before we turn around. We get out of the car and voila, there is music. Music means life. Life means food. Again, comfortable seats (even remove our shoes and put them up). We want a meat platter. Waiter disappears for 15 mins. Comes back with this sheepish look. There is no platter because the only meat they have is chicken. So lets have the charbroiled chicken, we say. They can only stew the chicken, without the stew, he says. It's definitely not our night to eat, Carole and I think. How can they have run out of food on Friday night? Waiter doesn't know. We have a round  of drinks and drive back to her hotel. Sit in the parking lot gossiping  (do you call it that when you are taking about yourselves?) for hours. We are now very hungry. Last resort. Kenchic. We know they have food. We find food, our lips love it, our hips shake in disgust. Deep fried food at 1 am. We never learn!

I drop her back and  go home. A few hours later, head over to Westlands to rescue a friend who his date has disappeared. He had very high hopes of getting laid. Now he is in a pub all alone. They had a drink, it looked promising- despite the fact that she kept hm waiting for almost 1 hour. He says she was hot, hence worth waiting. Except she starts flirting with every man. They move to another pub, there she leaves him and goes back to the other pub. So I go out there and dance. I have always been the sober one in pubs. Today though, I look at the people and actually see how out of this world they are. Some drunk stranger girl is falling over my pal. He holds her up, she coils herself around him. Her friends tell him ' Can you take her home because we are leaving?'  I ask him which home they mean. His? He has no idea either  I suggest she can replace the one that got away. He laughs, says he is not that high. The girl can hardly stand up. You can hardly stand up. perfect match, I say.

We leave that pub and go to another one. There he meets a girl he knows. Lets call her D. Perfect, he might just get laid tonight. We talk about the girl who left him. Lets call her Bee (she does hop around, but Bee suits as her real name is a something that insect produces.) Reminds me, be careful what you name your child. Everyone on the table knows her. Every man has her number. Every man has wanted to take her home. She just left with another one. They compare notes. Men are weird creatures. They still think she is hot, and so want her. Really??

My pal looks like he is sorted. I meet some girls who we discuss business with. At 4 am, outside a pub in Westlands. Small world, one of the girls went to Chapman University in OC. I have some developing business with their film school. So we talk about that. When my pal gets his face locked up in D's face, I leave.

It's 5 am.

Hello bed.



April 20, 2011

Karibu Kenya

...and have been since Saturday night. I have a rant about Dubai ( where I spent 4 hours), but that is for another post.

So I land at JKIA, go through customs very quickly because I am not  'carrying any gifts, or did not buy anything new in the USA' ( yeah right!)...and I am hoping to see my friend and her husband waiting. They are not... I see a tall white guy who looks like my friends' hubby's brother, I walk towards him and he looks at me funny. Thankfully, I had not been wearing that, 'so glad to see you smile..'

I crisscross the meeting area, accosted by taxi drivers who surreptitiously try to get me to use their cabs. Finally, I am convinced they forgot to pick me, or they looked at my itinerary wrong. They moved house immediately I left the country, and have no idea what part of the new estate they live in.

I figure that I have a phone  that I can out a SIM card in and call them. So I walk to the nearest Safaricom shop and ask for a SIM card. It's KES 200. Now, I know that inflation is high in Kenya, but not high to an extent that a SIM card that used to go for KES 20-50 is now KES 200. Apparently that is how much they cost if you buy at the airport. Poor foreigners!

I have no option but to buy this SIM Card. So i get my phone out and alas, it died somewhere between the last time I used it in Canada and 7 months later here in Kenya. So I have to buy a phone. I ask for cheapest phone they have. They show me.  It's a cheap Nokia that I know I have bought for  clients who are in Kenya for a short while. They go for about KES 1,500. The suckers at the airport  wanted KES. 3,500. I only had KES2,000 in shillings and was not about to exchange money at the airport. The upside to getting back to Kenya right now is I get more shillings for my dollars...and I planned to get the best rate possible.

I walk to the nearest ATM - Barclays. I put in my Barclays ATM card, it tells me I have negative. Since i rarely put money in that account, they have been using the little balance I had to pay for ledger fees. Then when the bank went to zero, they started charging me for having a -ve balance. I try out my KCB card. On the screen it says ' Select One Option Below.' There is only one option available - Return Card. Not good.

As I prepare to walk back to the Safaricom shop and tell them I cannot afford the phone and can she lend me hers to make the call ( Then I can refund her airtime, no?), my pal's hubby shows up.

Long story why he is late... but we get home. I cannot sleep.. my body thinks its midday but its midnight here. The following morning, I off to Kibera to check up on our film school kids (okay, most of them are 5 years or less younger than me, but they do feel like our kids). I am there till midnight!

I decide to buy them dinner. Ati fries are KES 100.  Nothing says welcome home than having to decide whether to feed your 'kids' or to fuel your car.

April 15, 2011

Close Your Eyes

I am packing for Kenya. 

It's my last night in Los Angeles, last night in my bed, last night with Nate

You'd think I would not be typing this...but I have so much to do, thought the best break would be this post.
I pride myself in having advanced my music taste over the ears, but what I cannot get rid of is the lyric to all these boybands songs I learnt at 13. I think I have posted this song somewhere on one of my blogs, the night before I traveled.

It's my sweet taboo boyband, Westlife. ( There, I said it I still love Westlife)


Tomorrow morning I have to leave
But wherever I may be
Best believe I'm thinking of you
I can't believe how much I love

All we have is here tonight
We don't want to waste this time
Give me something to remember
Baby put your lips on mine

And I'll love you forever
Anytime that we find ourselves apart

Just close your eyes
And you'll be here with me
Just look to your heart
And that's where I'll be
If you just close your eyes
Till your drifting away
You'll never be too far from me
If you close your eyes

I know I'm gonna see you again
But promise me that you won't forget
Cause as long as you remember
A part of us will be together
So even when you're fast asleep
Look for me inside your dreams
Keep believing in what we're sharing
And even when I'm not there to tell you

I'll, I'll love you forever
Anytime that I can't be where you are

[Chorus]

Is there anywhere that far?
Anytime you're feeling low
Is there anywhere that love cannot reach?
Oh no
It could be anywhere on earth
It could be anywhere I'll be
Oh baby if you want to see

Just close your eyes
And you'll be here with me
Look to your heart
That's where I'll be
Just close your eyes
Till your drifting away
You'll never be too far from me

April 09, 2011

Really?

Was shopping around the Net. Either I am damn cheap and do not understand fashion, or there is something wrong with these listings!


How much do you think this dress is worth?

 Real cost: $795.00 USD. About Ksh. 63,000. I can get this from a tailor in Kenyatta Market in Nairobi for less than $10! It's just tie n' dye material!

Real cost: $895.00 USD. About Ksh. 71,000. Even I, who could not even complete an apron sewing class in high school can make this ugly thing!

This one?

 Real price? $815. About 65,000. Even I can cut half of my sweater and combine it with half of my dress!

Another one...


Real price $1,000. About 80,000. Ino ni Ndwui? (what the heck is that?). Hata kama niyakufua nguo, sitaki!

This?

 Real price? $1,000. About Kshs. 80,000. Bet you I can buy black bedsheet  and make it look like that!


More?

Real price $1,200. About Kshs. 96,000. That is how Nate's shirts look on me when I sleep in them.

And this one?

Real price? $2,327. About Kshs. 187,000.  What exactly I'm i paying that much for? Definitely not for the time it took to make it!

What about this one?


Real Price $4,900. About Ksh.392,000. For a dress that looks like my grandmothers curtains! It better last forever and massage me as I move. Heck, it better be able to take instructions!

April 05, 2011

I love that song. It's a sad song, but very true. At one point in life, you will find yourself alone. A loved one will leave (not necessarily for good, but they will be away) or they will die.

I am at the airport again, naturally. This time from Indianapolis to Charlotte to Los Angeles. I am sitting at the boarding area waiting as the flight is delayed. They have free WIFI, on a condition that you fill in a survey and sign up for their offers. They think they now have my email address...so they gave me access. What they don't know is I created a yahoo email address just for junk. Whenever I have to sign up for some useless shit, I give that address. Never checked it in about 3 years now. Clever, huh?

So, anyway, I set my bags down and get ready for my favourite airport activity- watching people. I don't have to look far. Next to me is a woman in her late twenties. Or not. I can never tell Caucasians age but I can tell she is not over 35. She is on phone, talking softly. Not too softly though. Airport seats are designed to make you be in contact with the person next to you. Maybe some sort of bonding idea, which never works as no one talks to anyone. She is sobbing too.  She says something like ' You know I never meant to hurt you.' Now I am paying attention. She then says something like ' I realized I wasn't ready and I know I said I loved you, and I still do, but I don't know why I feel I am not ready' She is apologizing for embarrassing the person on the other side of the phone. I am now fiddling with my email on Entourage, pretending to be typing furiously. I am actually typing what she is saying...the bits I can catch.

I get from her conversation that her wedding was on Saturday. (She says 'the past 2 days have been hell for me'). It's Tuesday. She did not show up, left her man standing on the altar. She says 'I have known all those years that I wanted to marry you...' and I can tell they have been dating a long time. Her voice is cracking, she is distraught. She says she 'has been thinking about all this' and she has decided to get out of town. She says she cannot tell him where she is going as she wants to be alone and think. I can tell the question from the other side is ' why are you telling me' as her answer is 'I did not want you to worry, I just listened to all your voicemails. This must be the first time they are talking since then, I guess.

This makes me thinking about that Gilbert O'Sullivan song, Alone Again, naturally. That is what the jilted man is. And I hope that he is taking it better than the man in that song.

The rest of the conversation is her apologizing over and over again, telling him he has all the right to be angry at her, etc. You can tell the conversation has moved from him listening to her excuses to  calling her selfish from her defensive talk.

It's time to board and she has told him so. She has said goodbye and I have to get up too and board. Will leave you with the lyrics to the song :

In a little while from now,
If I'm not feeling any less sour
I promised myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower,
And climbing to the top,
Will throw myself off
In an effort to make it clear to who
Ever what it's like when your shattered
Left standing in the lurch, at a church
Where people 're saying,
"My God that's tough, she stood him up!
No point in us remaining.
May as well go home."
As I did on my own,
Alone again, naturally

To think that only yesterday,
I was cheerful, bright and gay,
Looking forward to, but who wouldn't do,
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down,
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch,
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt,
All about God and His mercy
For if He really does exist
Why did He desert me
In my hour of need?
I truly am indeed,
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that
There are more hearts
Broken in the world
That can't be mended
Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

(instrumental break)

Now looking back over the years,
And what ever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to have cried the tears
And at sixty-five years old,
My mother, God rest her soul,
Couldn't understand, why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start with a heart
So badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally




March 30, 2011

Awakening

Been in Cleveland, Ohio for a few days now for the Cleveland Int'l Film Festival. It's been cold, so cold I can feel my insides shrinking at every breath I take. Of course in the evenings, have met girls dressed in what would be considered, even in the Sahara, too little.

It has been a terrible experience (not just the weather), but the whole aura of the city too. It's depressing, and hauntingly so. We were staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Euclid Ave and walked everyday to the Tower City Center where the film festival was taking place. And the walk there everyday opened my eyes to the skeleton of what the city, I bet, used to be in 1950. A little history tells me that in the 50s, Cleveland was the USA's 7 largest city, with a population of  just a little over 914,000. Now, its the 43rd largest, with a population of  396,815 as of 2010 census, placing the city to be one fastest-declining cities in the United States.  In the early 20th century, when manufacturing and steel industry was the shit to be in, Cleveland boasted of the famous 'Millionaires Row' on Euclid Ave, where families like the Rockefellers, the Hays and the Hannas lived in mansions. (Google them if you have no idea who they are.)

Walking down Euclid Ave, you do get the feeling that at one time, something used to happen here. The surviving buildings from its days of fame bear diverse architectural design, but mostly the unmistakable neoclassical architecture. It's like looking into the the hollow eyes of a once famous, once beautiful, legendary icon, and kind of getting a glimpse of a light that once shone bright. Or a lighthouse that stands majestically against the sea, defiant still, but without the blazing glory of nights past when it withstood the angry ocean waves and guided weary seafarers to safe harbors.

But that is not just the problem. The people too.  When they finally come out to the almost-always deserted streets, they remind me of a scene from I am Legend. They have haunted looks, empty gazes, pitiful. Maybe Nate and I were reading too much into it, but a few bump-ins with some of them did confirm that. 

Inside the Tower City Center
Like this time we were checking out of the hotel. Nate was pulling 3 suitcases into the elevator. Inside was a lady who worked at the hotel. She was standing close to the doors. As Nate made to enter the elevator, we expected her to move to the back to make way for him. She just stood there looking at him. A few seconds and he decided he had to push his way in. No movement from her. The elevator doors were now beginning to close, the bags half way in. Still nothing. Even an 'Excuse me' from him elicited no response. Finally, he shoved his way in. Under her breath, she muttered. 'Whatever'

A day ago, we walked out of the theater after a screening. I discovered I had left my cap on the seat inside. Nate offered to go back and get it. As he walked back, no one would move out of the way, you know, even walk on the left (or the right) to allow him to move in the opposite direction. It was not that crowded, otherwise he would have waited till everyone left to go back in, but it took him over 5 minutes to walk into a theatre that sits about 400 and had only about 100 or so people. Go figure.

I don't recall if it was the same day, but this time we were waiting for the elevator from the theater with some  2 friends. There was a group of about 6 people in front of us. The elevator clearly indicated that it was going down. The doors open, no one came out. We were going down anyway so we tried to get in. The group of 6 apparently were waiting to go up. But they would not make way for us to get in to the elevator! Not an 'Excuse me' or an 'Are you getting in?' elicited any form of response. One of our friends, (a Clevelander) resorted to pushing between them to catch hold the doors. They looked at him as if they were ready to devour him. I'm sure I exaggerate but that was how it felt.

Nate said it's like they were there, but really not there. They are as depressed as the once famous Euclid Ave. Have the 'used to be something' facade too.

As I did some reading about Cleveland, I came across an article written by an 'iconoclastic (Cleveland) Journalist' who has been writing in and about Cleveland since 1968, Roldo Bartimole about a walk he took in downtown Cleveland in May 2009 and the depression of that experience. Check it here.  http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/10059 .After reading that, I did have a 'phew' moment that this experience was not all in my head. Or Nate's.

Being here has awakened me to a different type of life that I have never encountered. When I talk to people, whether in Kenya, Europe or US about Kibera, they think that it must be the most depressing place to live, what with the lack of social amenities etc. I have tried to explain how the people I have interacted with in Kibera are happy, social, welcoming, helpful despite their obvious unpleasant circumstances. But that has been a hard thing to explain to anyone. Because in their minds, social amenities, good infrastructure, etc makes life easy, happy. And in as much as I know that to be quite the contrary from my experience in Kibera, I had not experienced it from this point of view. From a 'first world' perspective of having things that work (roads, electricity, heritage, public transport, housing, internet, etc) and feeling so depressed by the place, by the people, whose depression and disconnection from life seems to emanate from then as heat evaporates from warm bodies in winter. Suddenly, I wanted the warmth of the people, of life busting from people, the chatter, the interaction, the feeling of activity that Kibera offers, not only to its residents, but to visitors. But Kibera itself, just like Cleveland, does not offer the feeling of belonging or robustness, it the people that give the location that life. The tinroofs look bleak from outside, but life flows on the inside. The

Outside Tower City Center
I am typing this at the bus station in Cleveland. You heard (read) that right. I have decided to take the Greyhound to Cincinnati as Nate flies back to LA. How else I am supposed to see America's underbelly if all i do is fly? Yes, I will tell you all about it. 5 hours in the bus should definitely have a blog post.

March 16, 2011

Very few things in this world leave me speechless.

This one made me leave my jaw on my desk!

March 10, 2011

…is what I am thinking this morning, with my earphones stuck to my ears, laptop on lap, an overpriced plastic cup of Starbucks hot chocolate next to me, sitting next to two snoring travelers at LAX. I am on my way to San Jose. It's also the name of the song I am currently listening to, sang my the soulful Edwin McCain, whose voice i am so in love with. He reminds me so much of the American south, not only because that is where he is from, but it's in Myrtle Beach South Carolina that I got to see him live at the House of Blues. I am sure I blogged about that. Seeing that I am typing this on TextEdit as I cannot seem to connect to any of the few joys of being at the airport - free wifi- I am not able to pull out that particular post.

Beautiful life is probably not the thought people have while sitting on a cold airport bench at 6.15 am. But I am not most people…It's also not a thought that you have the pleasure of allowing to cross your mind if you just had 1 hour of sleep. Same goes if you do not like mornings, like I. I love my sleep. All 12 hours of it. Yep, the 1 before the 2 is real, you did not imagine it.  I can sleep for 24 hours… continuously-- much to Nate's chagrin. That man is annoyingly chipper in the morning. It's like he lies in bed dreaming about morning, while I lie in bed hoping to stretch the night in my dreams. If he was the whistling kind, thank heavens he ain't, I'm sure he would be waking up with a tune on his lips. He wants to get up, get going. I want to get up and speed a few minutes being angry at the sun for showing up. You'd think that by now I'd be used to the idea of the sun rising, what with it doing so everyday for the past billions of years.

Yesterday was a Kenyan night event at Universal Studios. It was an evening of Kenyan food, music, art and film. It was so nice to see so many Kenyans together, that are not trying to show off the little they have amerced in America (read with a Kenyan shags accent). I love my countrymen, don't get me wrong, I  just hate how they congregate to show off once outside the country. 

Case in point.

Our anniversary falls on Valentine day, Nate's birthday is 2 days later and that also happened to the be the weekend that the USA Sevens were taking place in Las Vegas.  The Kenyan Vegas parties were all i saw on Facebook  posts of Kenyans in the diaspora.  The rugby matches are on Saturday and Sunday, but the parties start on Thursday. Apparently it is THE event of the year. Kenyans from all the nooks and crannies of USA take over Vegas for the entire weekend. Vegas being a 5 hour drive only, we decided to check it out, if we had time. Our schedule was all up in the air, which meant we could not book any hotels until we were sure we would make it. This confirmation happened on Saturday, which not only mean we were going to have to go with whatever last minute hotel rate we got, but we had missed the red-carpet welcome of the Kenyan rugby team, the Saturday game and the better part of the parties. Now, this Saturday game is very important. It's the one that our boys win, a friend told me. On Sunday, they are too exhausted from the celebratory partying that happens on Saturday night. And true to that, they did win on Saturday and lose on Sunday.

There are several Kenyan parties that happen that weekend, all trying to outdo the other by having the 'illest' Dj's, MCs, location…all charging between $20-$30 entry charge. They all promise (a) night (s) of mayhem, 'Vegas experience, etc' They all sounded the same to me. A party is a party, right?  And since they will all have Kenyans, what's the difference?

Anyway, I called a couple of friends to get advise on hotels. One told me that she was staying at a penthouse suite that was costing no less than $2,000. Call me cheap but no way on earth I'm I spending that much on a hotel in Vegas. I'd rather take that money, add some, and fly to Montego Bay and stay an all inclusive resort. Did it once, would do it again in a heartbeat. That's just how I think. For me, Vegas represents the kind of fun that superficial, that is blitz and lights and quick- fading. My kinda fun involves exotic excursions, ziplines at 300 feet above the the Jamaican jungle, some sand and sun, 2.00am jerky chicken indulges. So I did the math. The suite is $2,000, the parties are $40 for all 4 days, the rugby tickets about $60 per day. So far, $2,180 is out, and we haven't even had the $18 Margaritas,  at least 2 rounds at the slots, a round of black jack, and the $30 meals a pop.  Then the flight, no less than $200, then car hire, which I don't even have a clue as to how much they cost. All I know is that there is a 'competition' to see who hires the flashiest, most expensive ride for the 4 days. You are looking at spending just under $4,000 in one weekend. And for us, multiply almost everything by 2. No way Jose.

As I talked to her, it dawned on me why most of Kenyans (especially our generation) don't go back to home, or ever send money home, despite the fact that most are here due to fundraisers done by generous villagers or sacrifices made by their hardworking families. Over 90% of them do not make $3,000 in a week. Every time they spend that, they have to spend the next half a year earning it back.  I even joked with this friend that they come back to a diet of water after Vegas, having cleared out their bank accounts. Now, not all will stay in $2,000 suites, but the extravagance is evident.

The women will dress in frocks only seen in movies, the men in bling they probably have to guard with their lives. What was annoying though was that in as much as a lot of thought and time obviously went in to getting ready, most of our lovely Kenyan ladies come out looking like trannies, or worse, hookers on cheap makeup. There is a thin line between trashy and fashionable, methinks this line is invisible at that point.

It's time to board. Rant over.

March 01, 2011

I would love to translate this video for all my non-Kenyan readers. I'm sorry, its just one of those - you ahve to have been there to understand. Fellow Kenyans, especially those who went through the 8-4-4 systems, here's a trip down memory lane.

February 28, 2011

..is the name of an alternative rock band I love, and also how close we are to the Oscars. We live less than 5 minutes walk from the Kodak Theatre, and if i strain my ears hard enough, I can almost hear the conversations. Since we are not famous enough to be invited, we are watching them from the comfort of our apartment

Yesterday we took a walk down Hollywood Blvd to see how the preparations were going. The street has been closed for about a week now. It's amazing to see what is usually a main street, now completely blocked off. In reality, the Oscars red carpet is a road! They created diversion for people traffic, that took crowds via alleys inside the Egyptian theatre.
I took photos of the area, enjoy:

                                                
they constructed a bypass in the middle of Hollywood Blvd


the grand stairs

The entrance to the theatre

view from Highland Ave. The poster is H.U.G.E

February 08, 2011

I am always fascinated by beggars / homeless people. I am curious to find out how and why they ended up on the streets. It might be a sick obsession, but I like hearing those stories. Could be because I am a filmmaker and subconsciously in search of the next movie story? I don't know. I will talk to some, even help them, and some I will ignore. I don't have a criteria, some I just don't feel drawn towards.

Even the stairs to a parking garage
looks like the the stairway to heaven!

Over the weekend, while in Santa Barbara, Nate and I decided to explore their main street (State Street). Is was a sunny day and Santa Barbara is gorgeous I tell you! It feels like something out of a quaint town in Spain or Italy. And on a sunny Sunday afternoon, it is heaven.

Allow me to tell you  a little bit about Santa Barbara.

It is also known as the American Riviera due to its climate. Very Mediterranean. ( except like most of West Coast, the water is only beautiful to look at, too cold to swim in. Something I find crazy as our Indian Ocean is so lovely to swim in, even in the middle of the night. Yes, I have gone skinny dipping in the Indian Ocean in a beautiful beach called Nungwi in Zanzibar. No wonder they come over to East Africa take over our beaches :)

Apparently, in the 1800s there was a huge earthquake and a tsunami. Almost everything was destroyed. Another earthquake hit on early 1900s. The quake was not as bad but the aftershocks were terrible. Incidentally, that was around the time they were rebuilding the city.  So the man in charge then talked to the Santa Barbarians and they all  chose to stick to the Spanish colonial style architecture.

Got the above history lesson from a lovely Santa Barbara couple who had attended the screening of our film. (BTW, our film won Best International feature Film Award at Santa Barbara International Film Festival shortly after)

One of the most beautiful churches I have ever been in is the Mission Santa Barbara. You can get the virtual tour here, even though its nothing like the the real, physical experience of being there, in the presence of so much powerful history and spirituality. So grand, almost would make me change my mind about a church wedding!

Even their government buildings are gorgeous. The Santa Barbara Courthouse has been rated the most beautiful public building in the US.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
A section of State Street
You will remember that Neverland, Micheal Jackson's playground is (was?) in Santa Barbara. The Tudor style buildings of the ranch and the Savannah like grassland were described as ' English country manor meets Kenya.
But, no matter how big  and famous they get, or how rich they are, they all wished they lived in Kenya! Go Kenya!

End of history lesson. Back to the story.

This lady walks past us on State Street.  She is in patched cut off jeans that end just below her badonkadonk (always wanted to use that word, a white fitting tshirt with the sleeves rolled back to her shoulders making it look like  a vest, a black backpack, white socks and black and orange trainers that looked like either New Balance or Timberlands. On of her backpack side pockets held a bottle of water. She looked good. The rugged, backpacking good, very nice figure,and an amazing derriere. He hair though looked ashy, some kind of dirty blond and unkempt. Then she stopped at a trash can on the street. At first I gave it not much thought, until I saw her reach in to it. She was dumpster diving! I was shocked. She had on glasses. I swear she looked like a very hot nerd. The hot kind and doesn't know it, spends lots of time studying and all the boys wanna bang her but are too intimidated by her intelligence. She found a brown bag with some food in it. Reached into it, fished out a half eaten muffin and shoved it in her mouth. I turned to Nate and whispered. ' She does not look like a homeless person!' He nodded. Told me that maybe she was a runaway. Maybe she was a rich family and had issues. Couldn't take it anymore...She looked to be either in her late teens or early twenties. Though she can have been even younger.

I wanted to know what her story was. Why such a good looking girl was out dumpster diving. Not that garbage fishing is an activity that should be left solely to non good looking people, but you do tend to get curious when they almost look like Scarlet Johannsen. I did not talk to her, but that her image disturbed me. And it's been bugging me that I did not talk to her. Not that I would have helped her or given her any solutions, but just to hear her story. Kinda selfish of me, that is.

Anyway, it reminded me of the 'Golden Voice' homeless man, Ted  Williams. In early January, some reporter in Ohio came across a homeless guy holding up a sing that said something like. 'I have a God given gift of voice....' and was asking for donations.  He used to work in radio but lost his job, family and home due to drugs and alcohol problems. The reporter challenged him to show his talent. The result was this video

Ted did indeed have a wonderful voice. The kind that you can feel booming in your heart. The reporter posted the video on YouTube, it went viral. Gig / money offers for Ted started streaming in. He was getting a second chance. Lots of second chances! Everyone wanted a piece of him. Including Hollywood.  Funny enough, on one of our daily evening walks around the neighbourhood, we spotted him on Hollywood Boulevard (Walk of Fame)  followed a herd of paparazzi. They seriously do look like a herd, you know, the same word you use for a bunch of cows...you can even hear a moo if you listen keenly.

Actually, Nate spotted him and pointed him to me. He was outside Madam Tassaud Wax museum giving some interviews. We talked a bit about him and how lucky he was, and whether his life would really do a u-turn now that he had this chance. We did not have to wait long to know the answer.

A few days later, news broke that he had been arrested by LAPD after a scuffle with a family member at a local hotel. He later checked himself into rehab, as he had lapsed. Before he could complete his rehab, he checked himself out, against his doctors advise.

I guess its a wait and see game to see if he cleans his act completely or he looses this chance and goes back to the streets. People can only him so far, then he has to walk the rest of the journey by himself. Fame doesn't help either.  Normal people living normal, mundane lives are messed up by fame, it must really eff him up.

Another day, again on one of our walks, we came across some disheveled looking guy on Sunset Blvd. He was about 50+ (I can never accurately tell white people ages, they say the same of black people anyway. I always think they look older than they are, they always think we look younger). Anyway, this guy was walking towards us. He paused as he came close and goes like ' Can you spare a dollar?' Nate answers, 'Sorry, don't have my wallet.' It was true. When we do the evenings walks, we don't carry anything on us, including phones. Now, Nate is a pretty generous person. Wrote about some incident here and I know if he had something on him, he would have given the guy. He really did look hungry. We did not expect what came next. He asked. ' Are you sure?' Yes, we said. ' F*&k you and may you die of cancer!' he shouted to us. My mouth hang open! What? He walked away. I started laughing. I have had insults from panhandlers, but that took the award. Actually, it did not piss us off. We found it strange and funny.

Back to Santa Barbara. On our way to the parking lot (whose stairs photo I have posted above) we come across a panhandler on a public bench. He was sitting, chatting to a fellow panhandler, smoking. On his feet was a photograph. Of him holding up a ' A dollar will help. I am homeless and hungry, blah blah...' cardboard sign I laugh. Nate asks whats funny. I show him the sign.

Even beggars have become too lazy to hold their sign. He figured its too much work. Take a photo of himself holding the sign, place it next to himself.  He doesn't have to talk to you. Even frees up his hands to engage in other constructive activities. Like smoking. Genius.

Yesterday, on another walk along Sunset again, this guy stops us. ' Do you have some change?' He asks. We shake our heads an move on.  Then I thought. He did not ask us if we had some change to give him, he asked if we had some change, period. That's all he wanted to know. And I told Nate as much.

"If we had change, I would have told him yes and kept walking. After all all he wanted to know is if we had it" I argued.
Of course you know what he meant, Nate replies.
That is an assumption!  What if he really just wanted to know if I was one of the people who were lucky enough to carry around some change? I argued back.

Then I told Nate of this one incident in Nairobi.

I had a meeting at PanAfric Hotel and another on at Alliance Francoise. It was around 5pm when traffic is heaviest, when I finished the first meeting. So I decided to leave my car at PanAfric and walk to Alliance.I had just crossed the road when i noticed this matatu next to me. Traffic was heavy anyway, I was actually walking faster than the vehicles. The tout pulled back the door and looked at me.

"Siste unaenda tao?" He asked (Sister, are you going in to town?)
"Ndio" (Yes) I answered and kept walking.  He hit the side of the matatu twice signaling the driver to stop. They stopped, I kept walking.
"Unaenda au uendi?" He asked (Are you going or not?)
"Naenda" I answered as a matter of factly (I am going). Still I did not stop walking.
"Kwenda huko, unanipotezea wakati!" (Eff off you are wasting my time!) He shouted.

You asked me if I was going into town and I aid yes. How I'm I wasting your time? I asked him. He asked why I was not getting into the matatu then. I told him because I did not want to use a matatu, I wanted to walk. He was getting frustrated. Traffic was not moving any faster anyway so i knew this conversation would go on a while. He asked me why I had responded 'yes' to his question. Because, I explained calmly, I was really going to town. He has asked me if I was, I had given him the answer. He was not getting the point I was trying to prove. I went on. You did not ask me if i wanted to get into the matatu to go town. You asked me if i was going to town, period. And truth is, I was. But I did not want to use the matatu. He finally got it and in spite of himself, he laughed.

When I told Nate, he told me I had been a biatch. I said I did not think so. Why do you think he asked you if you were going to town then? He asked. Maybe he wanted to make conversation, I don't know. I answered.

Of course I knew what the tout meant. But once in a while,some questions do deserve the right answers. And I am pretty sure I made the tout's evening.

The title of this post now makes sense? Me talking about Santa Barbara, Neverland and the homeless, how that is ironic since the homeless have not found a 'Neverland' and me putting all of that in one post....ah, forget it!


Disclaimer: All photos in this post were taken by me, except the courthouse. It's courtesy of Konrad Summers

February 07, 2011

I commented on Mrembo's blog that none of ladies tagged on the "What's in My handbag?" posts had included pads or tampons in them. I thought maybe women stopped doing that and no one gave me the memo...So, she tagged me. And now I have to tell you whats in mine.

**dumps all contents on couch**.

  1.  Business cards. Mine and other peoples.
  2. Moleskin / Pen.
  3. A white and blue tube written serum re activant cils. I got this in a L'oreal Swag bag last year. I never opened it, but it looked cool to carry around. Just Googled it. I think its for eyelashes.
  4. Earrings. - 1 pair 
  5. Pair of Keys
  6. Lots and lots of assorted coins.
  7. Little Lacie harddrive with cable in a small bag
  8. USB drive
  9. Digital stills camera
  10. Laptop charger
  11. Phone 
  12. A random piece of paper with a phone number. mhhh
  13. Ipod touch / headphones
  14. Ipod / headphones (**Ipod touch belonged to Nate. Hegot an iphone, 'donated' the ipod touch to me. Useful coz it gets internet / wifi. Stupid coz i have to carry them both around as the Ipod has all my music.)
  15. Sennheriser  earphones pouch.  Carries various sizes of Ear tips ear buds  covers replacement. ( I have tiny ears. Been hard to find earphones that stay in place)
  16. T-mobile refill card ( gosh, they are so big. should get advise from Safaricom, bamba 50 cards save trees...)
  17. Wallet - contains
  • Pic of me and this Korean girl I met in Berlin. We became good friends,  took silly pics at an instant photo booth. We lost touch.
  • Pic of Nate
  • Pic of my baby sis (one of them)
  • Money (Kenyan, Canadian, Euro, USD)
  • Lot and lots of receipts.
  • credit cards x3
  • ATM cards x2
  • Health insurance card
  • Various supermarkets and grocery stores Reward cards- Kenyan. All US ones are all on the keys. An idea I should share with Nakumatt and Uchumi.
  • Kenya Museums membership card
  • AA membership card (the automobile association. Not the one you are thinking)
  • British Airways card
  • Virgin Atlantic card
  • Turkish Airlines card
  • Lufthansa Airlines card 
14. Make-up bag that contains:
  • Liplicious Lip gloss from Bath&body Works. Can't live without. (x6 tubes of different flavours. They are like 3 for $5!!!. How could i not? Plus they are all so yummy! )
  • L'oreal Made For me Lipstick. I apply it once in a while. I lick it off minutes later. Till the next 'one in a while'. You guessed. Did not buy it. Was in that swag bag too.
  • L'oreal Studio Secrets eye shadow. Swag bag. Use it one in a while.
  • L'oreal Mascara. Swag bag. never used. Tried, eyes looked like I had used a huge piece of charcoal. too much work.
  • M.A.C moisturizing 2 way powder. This I use.
  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Dior Addict 2 perfume small bottle.
  • miniature toothbrush / toothpaste. From a Virgin Atlantic flight
  • BYS Bronze shimmer pencil. Never used it. Again, some girl gave me.
  • Sunglasses x2 Black and brown cat-eye .
  • Sisley lipstick. A pal had it. convinced it me to try it. I liked the colour. I kept it. Never even looked at what brand  it was till now!
  • Nivea Happy Time roll on
  • Small Black Amethyst perfume - from Bath and Body Works. Yeah i love B&BW)
  • Fair & Lovely. Use a lot. Reminds me, last tube. Gotta check if they sell them here...Most girls have asked me if it bleaches me or reacts with my skin. Nope, I love it. since high school. and mys skin is a testament to that. Don't believe me, check it out here. You also get to meet Nate :)
  • Nivea Fruity shine lipgloss. Bought it Nairobi. Hates how it condenses on lips and becomes whitish. Not throwing it away, yet. What if one day I don't.  have my other Lipgloss and my lips are really dry?
  • Bath & Body Works True Blue Spa hand cream  (x2 tubes. couldn't decided which flavour I wanted. Boyfriend was in a hurry. Grabbed both...plus buy 2 get one free..)
  •  1, 2, 3, 4....14 Kotex tampons. (Their little white and red love-hearts cover is are so cute! But that's not the reason I carry them...)
  • Farmasi wet wipes
  • little paper napkins / towels? no idea what they are called
  • Eyeliner. Used as much as the lipstick
  • Various hair pins and clips- useless anyway as i cut my hair. 
  • Mini shampoos and hand lotions from various hotels. They all smell the same...tacky. But they come in handy. when someone asks me for hand lotion, and i don't think they are nice enough to get my B&BW ones, I give these.  I am men like that...
15. Little ziplock bag containing:
  • Passport (x2 old and new)
  • check books x2 (personal and joint account)
  • Kenya driving licence
  • Int'l driving licence
  • More business cards (mine)
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate / booklet. (x2. Had to travel urgently once. I was required to have one. Being stupid and cheap, and young, I got a fake one. Stop looking at me like that. Later, I got the shots. I should throw away the fake one)
  • Lots and lots of boarding passes
  • Lots and lots of movie ticket stubs. ( I never throw them away. I am working on making a scrapbook of  all the movie tickets stubs of all films I watch in theatres. One day, in the year 2080, they will be worth a lot of money. My future kindred will thank me)
  • DVD of my movie Togetherness Supreme - I never know who I will meet in Hollywood who will ask for a copy of my film :). Wishes, wishes
  • DVD of the the Trailer of the above movie - Always handy.
16. Black Sandals. ( oh yes they fit in there. I have a HUGE bag. The one where i can never find a thing unless i removed everything. Esp my phone when it rings..)
17. Various brochures from a film festival I just came from.
18. TicTacs
19. Dentyne Ice gum

Is my bag heavy? Most of the time. But I rarely walk...and if i do , I have a man who offers to carry it! And when i am done typing this, Laptop will go in there.

;;