Excerpt from My Reading Library today..

CURRENTLY READING: BY THE RIVER PIEDRA I SAT DOWN AND WEPT.

AUTHOR: PAULO COELHO

WHAT ABOUT: This is a story of love, forgiveness, spirituality and internal conflict.

Excerpt from page 95.

If pain must come,
May it come quickly,
Because I have a life to live,
and I have to live it the best way possible.

If he has to make a choice,
May he make it now,
Then I will either wait for him or forget him
Waiting is painful, forgetting is painful
But not knowing what to do Is the worst kind of suffering….
Paulo Coelho.

Campus divas for rich men??? Have Kenyan University Girls lost it or are they just the local version of the Bold and the Beautiful?

By Gloria Mwaniga

I get it, really. The whole unemployment and underemployment thing going on in the world at large and Kenya in particular.
And yeah, every other business leader saying that the creatives are taking over the world. That risk taking is the new key to making it and dropping out of Harvard or whatever Ivy League University to start up your own venture could land you in the Forbes list of the richest men in the world, trust them!

The genesis
But wait a minute, you, just like Jesus, find yourself born to not-so-rich earthly parents.
If this happens in some first or second world country, then you might be lucky enough to get some food stumps and even an allowance from the government, plus you could get yourself into a shelter for the homeless.

But if you land in the deep green jungle from whence simba of Lion King originated, then you will find out that Hakuna matata (matara) is but just a phrase and that everyday, kuna matata.

Your parents (bless them) will probably work their heads off at some low paying government jobs or biashara to pay your way into a relatively expensive nursery and primary school. Amidst the bowlfuls of uji and missing teeth, you will learn that

mikono yangu midogo we, haiwezi kufanya kazi,
lakini kipenzi mama we, nitakuwa mkubwa, nitakusaidia we na wewe utapumzika (my little hands cannot work now, but dear mummy, I wil grow big, I will help you as you rest ).

And so, like every sane Kenyan, a hope will start budding in your heart. You will start looking at the future as being bright and you will read all the Malkiat Sign and Top Flyer Text books you can find. Your school motto will probably reinforce the futuristic hope by reading something like….’aim high now, for a future foundation’ or
‘ the roots of hardwork are bitter but the fruits are sweet.’

If you are a serious student, then You will get saved around about the time you sit your KCPE when some random preacher comes to your school for a challenge weekend and promises favour on all God’s children. After the exams, you will spend the next few miserable months waiting for the minister of Education to announce the results.
Your parents, will probably be huddled together with you on there sofa, watching the news bylines and hoping that your ka-name or your ka-schools’ name will pop up.

High school will come, like an untimely frost in mid-summer (Shakespeare) and you will spend another four years of your life in an institution of academic excellence. Running so as to save academic time and eating home-made foods at the academic square during visiting.

This, you will do whilst waiting for letters from the boys you met at an outing and frequently visiting the staffroom to be ‘mentored’ by the new hot TP(teacher on practice) from KU (woe unto you if its mwalimu Andrew.)

By this time, it will have gotten clearer. The fact that you really are ‘weak’ in physics and math and hence, form three is welcome as you will drop all those boring subjects and pick histo CRE and Bio. Your engineering dreams are promptly discarded as you make up your mind to become an actress like Rita Dominic and Ramsey Noah (thanks to the Naija movies on TV 😉 or a Musician like P-Square (si they are famous mpaka they have sang with Rick Ross ) or our very own Camp Mulla_ #BET.

And so when you get the success cards from your rela’s telling you to succeed successfully and to pass with flying colors, all you which for is that KCSE you will manage a B steady of 65 marks so that you can become a Reg because your parents cannot afford to pay Para.

And therefore, when a letter from HELB comes, and you have been called to study BA Anthropology or Education, you march off to the institution of higher learning with two agendas;
To have a degree and to have some fun because finally, there is freedom from the parents.

In your naïve demeanor, you do not know that in most Kenyan Campuses, fun is congruent to lots of money, and sex and bottles of tusker and nightclubs. Before you know it, you are queen of the night, and having more sex than you would care to admit (sometimes you wonder what happened to you staying celibate till you say I do ). Then you meet all this graduates who were in your ‘campo” a couple of years back and yet they are still tarmacking with their degrees.
Or who are stuck in boring and very low paying jobs like sales and marketing or customer service in banks; as they await their lucky break.

So you conclude that only a fool doesn’t learn from the experience of others. And you begin to panga (plan) your future right away, however you can. Even if it means pausing naked on face book for a bunch of old men who do not even know how to log on to face book and who look up the word twitter in the oxford dictionary and find…chirping of birds.

GUEST POST: SHORT STORY; HOMECOMING

By Vincent Kipchumba.

We all sat down, ears perched on the small squeaky sonny radio that was daddy’s. Normally, if he was here, he would be sitting on this table clutching onto it as if to dear life, anyone who dared even cough would be sent out of the house with a stream of abuses, it was as though the only thing that mattered to papa, other than his bottle, was news.

Mama, my brother Timo and I nervously waited for the announcement just like we had for the last three years; we looked hard at each other as the radio presenter read out the names slowly. Each of us held their breath, hoping that daddy’s name would be called out, well at least my Mama and brother hoped.
I on the other hand was indifferent. It didn’t matter whether he was here or not, after all, we never talked, so I didn’t even miss him at all.

In the first year after daddy was gone, I have to admit that I missed him abit, just a little bit, you know, like when you are playing with your friends and they tell you what their father bought them for Christmas and you want to say the same, whether its true or not, well like that, I had almost hoped that his name would be called out but when it didn’t happen I completely stopped hoping. Mama was a staunch believer, she always said that we should hope against all odds, she also expected us to follow the bible word perfect. Never mind I didn’t even know many words from it except the psalms she had continuously made us memorize when we were younger and more obedient.

Mama’s eyes burnt brightly with hope of my dad’s return that she even forgot this was the very same day I was born, maybe this was partly the reason I didn’t care much if daddy came home or not, after all who likes spending their birthday in front of a blaring piece of technology?

‘Your papa will soon be home’, she said ,as if I didn’t know that already, clutching onto her little worn out black and red bible, ‘he will be here today,’ she repeated rather absent mindedly more to herself than to us. Little Peter played with his toy car, once or twice gazing at us curiously although basically lost in his child world.

‘’ninety, ninety one…’’my brother Timo counted on fervently as the presenter called out the names ,The mention of daddy’s name turned the house into a bizarre place whirling with excitement .Mama danced round the house, singing and making short grateful prayers, I thought she was being too dramatic.

Timo was less dramatic, though from his face I could tell that he was very excited, he had always dreamed of being daddy’s ideal boy and so he got up and announced that he was going to shave his hair, I wondered where he had gotten the cash because just yesterday, I had asked him for five shillings to buy an onion and he had sworn that he didn’t have.

I stood up and went to the kitchen, knowing very well that mama would expect nothing less than a sparkling house from me; I went round the house, pouring water on the dusty earth to make the dust settle before I swept it clean, the ground smelled so good I wanted to eat it, just like when it rains.

The kitchen which doubly served as my brothers’ bedroom and chicken house was the hardest to clean because of the droppings and soot from our Maika, mama stood outside, smirk on her face, eye fixed on me, ‘clean it Teresa, I can still smell the muck, here have some omo,’she called out throwing a 500g sachet at me, ‘you know your father doesn’t like dirt’ she added with a glint in her eyes.
My eyes were burning with tears, the acrid smell of smoke would have been my excuse, but I also knew that mama’s aggravation was back. She tried too hard to please my father and ended up hurting me in the process.
Daddy was too hard to please, just like my math teacher, why didn’t she get that?

My mind drifted back to the night when Daddy had been taken away. He had come home, early and sober, called my brother outside and held his shoulder, I, never wanting to be left behind, had followed them secretly and hid behind the kitchen, my ever drunk father was sober, I had to find out why.
Daddy then tried to chat with my brother but it was so bizarre, he couldn’t look him in the eye, the usually harsh guy was speaking so softly I could hardly hear him, and he cleared his throat which had been made raspy by his endless drinking. ‘ Son, I want you to take good care of your mother and siblings, I might be away for a bit, but I will definitely be back, please be here for your mama, you know how heartrending she can be, I trust you, my eldest son.’
This was all my brother needed to hear, he continuously nodded, eager to please his hard to please dad. I found his credulity most infuriating, he didn’t even bother to ask daddy where he would be going.
Less than thirty minutes later, the area chief arrived with two police officers; they called mama and daddy outside and after speaking for awhile, handcuffed my father and led him to the waiting range rover. Mama looked on as the car drove off, too stunned to speak, lips bitten in what I assumed was an effort to keep from screaming, she walked back into the house, got into her room and locked the door.

Mama never talked about daddy’s going away ever since that day.
We only gathered tidbits of information and slowly by slowly, began patching up the story. Apparently, during one of his drinking sprees, daddy had begun elatedly talking about this ‘girl’ he had met a week back.
On describing her, it then occurred that the said ‘girl’ was also another man’s wife. The husband, furious and greatly humiliated had immediately thrown a blow at daddy, my father, a time bomb himself, produced a knife from his jacket and stabbed the poor half drunk man, who unfortunately was hospitalized the next day because of the wound.

My thoughts were interrupted by the pungent smell of mama’s cheap perfume and I turned and saw her staring at me. She had gone through the trouble of making herself beautiful, the best way she knew how, for her husband whom we expected to come home today.
‘Teresa, once you are done sweeping, put some water on the Maika and make your father some brown ugali, I am going to see if Mzee Kibera can loan me a kilo of meat and wheat floor, also make sure those children are bathed and clean, your father might arrive anytime, after all Kamiti is just twenty minutes from here. ‘She went on; oblivious of whether I was or wasn’t listening.
I didn’t answer mama, not that she wanted an answer; she scuttled off, singing in her high pitched soprano.

I felt tears stinging my eyes and tried unsuccessfully to keep them away, Mama was so unfair, and she didn’t even see that my back was already aching from the enormous workload she was heaping on me? Just because daddy was coming didn’t mean my back had to break, and after all, it was not like he was coming from abroad with money, no, the guy was an ex-convict who was supposed to rot in prison for the rest of his life but had been granted presidential reprieve.

I could already smell Daddy’s alcoholic stench as he staggered along the narrow path that led from the ‘Yokozuna Clinic’ to the semi-permanent half mud half cement structure I called home. Years ago, I had promised myself that I would not sit there and watch Dad beat up mom anymore, and I knew for sure that today would be a replay of four years ago, only the main character would be a reformed’ prisoner (I doubt’).

I stood up tall and stared at my shadow, this girl was fifteen, and even if no one sang her songs they were bound to find that out today.
I ran into the house and stuffed my few belongings into an old college bag that was a hand down from my cousin Eliza, I then climbed to the bedroom roof and carefully removed the mabati saving box Timo had made for him and I to use. I broke it and counted the shillings and coins inside. They amounted to two thousand, three hundred and seven shillings, I stuffed it all in my college bag, praying that Timo would understand that I had to do this. Armed with this; I got out through the back door and ran for my life.

When the Dark chocolate man calls….

By Gloria Mwaniga

Against your better judgment, you push the trolley towards the milk section and there, before your very eyes, is the adversary number one you have been trying really hard to keep off. He sits there attractively, hands folded (well not exactly); frozen, cold and alone. The only brown in the section of pink and white. Begging for you to run to his rescue.
The alarm in your head goes off, you know you have to walk away, but your parents’ lessons in loyalty are fresh in your mind.

You pick the brown tub of dark chocolate and resins ice cream, move swiftly to the counter and pay for it .You promise yourself that you will take just a couple of scoops and keep the rest for your skinny daughter. She likes it so much.
You reach home and pull the large shopping paper bag into the house, shut the door and collapse onto the seat.
You drown the last drop off the coca cola bottle you had left half empty on the table and close your eyes as you drown the soft drink.
You remove the shoes that are too uncomfortable, throw the seat cushions to the smaller sofa and lie down.
Your mind goes back to the shopping routine; it had been fun back then, before the kids came. You could spend all the money you wanted to.Now, it’s a routine you don’t enjoy so much.
With the tough economic times and a couple of kids, you have to save every penny. That alone, makles shopping seem like math.

Your mind glides to the tub of chocolate ice-cream in your shopping bag. You are quick to forget that you are on a mission to eat healthy and keep fit. Only last month, you gave up the midmorning and evening tea, this means less sugar. You have been doing really well fighting cravings and indulgences, whatever made you buy the ice-cream?
You open the tub, and begin devouring the ice cream, beginning with the chocolate and saving the raisins for last. You let the sweetness linger in your mouth as the melting cold syrup makes up for all those months you’ve kept off sweet things.

Suddenly, you hear loud laughter and they are staring at you.

What a fool you are? Their unfriendly eyes say.Goodness all that ice-cream? Shame on you.
What a nerve you’ve got, eating all that? Now you will have to live with the consequences of that. Whatever happened to the self discipline you once had?

You couldn’t possibly ever face my husband again, no not ever. You are the worst human being ever. And you call yourself a wife. Maybe you should go sleep and never wake up. Because when you wake up you will have added a hundred Kilograms and your husband will never look at you again. He is very likely to divorce you. If anything, your clothes will be too small for your new giant self. What about your children, did you think of them when you were carelessly eating your happiness away? Will you ever be able to go to their school again? They love their mother not Bambino the baby elephant.

The best thing to do would be to run away and never come back. Just allow your dear husband to get a nice sweet woman who wouldn’t indulge in careless behavior like overeating ice-cream. One who feeds on lettuce and salads and nothing more. Just go kiss the photos of your dear babies’ goodbye (I know you will probably leave thick marks of lipstick on them) grab your purse and get walking.
Walk straight to Kenya Cinema, take the lift to fourth floor, there is a nice ice cream joint there. Order all the ice cream you want and eat it. When your money has run out, begin paying via e- banking and m-pesa from your phone. Just keep eating.
You will grow so big and unable to move. Then the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers will come and put a large fencing around you. Children will be picking at you and throwing candy at you. You will be a free zoo.
‘’Ooh no, no it can’t possibly be that bad,’’ you speak out loud eating the remaining ice-cream to clear it. Things can’t so that bad, you loosen up some and vow never to beat yourself up that hard again.

Life Lessons from the Olympics

By Gloria Mwaniga

Looking up the origin of the Olympics a while back, it amazed me to find out that the earliest recorded Olympic competition, which occurred in 776 B.C. was won by a cook named Coroebus.
A cook? I wondered to myself.

As I went ahead looking at the Olympics history, I found a number of life lessons that we should keep in mind even as we traverse this life journey.

1. It’s never written in stone.

In the past, only freeborn men and boys could take part in the Olympic Games. Women were forbidden, on penalty of death, even to see the Games.
In 396 B.C however, a woman from Rhodes successfully defied the death penalty. When her husband died, she continued the training of their son, a boxer. She attended the games disguised as a man and was not recognized until she shouted with joy over her son’s victory. Her life was spared because of the special circumstances and the fact that her father and brothers had been Olympians.
In life, no matter what the rules are, always keep it mind that it is not written in stone. Give yourself credit by believing your creativity is good enough to produce something new.

2.The greatest of all

The greatest athlete of the ancient Games was Milo of Croton, a wrestler who lived in the 500’s B.C. He won the wrestling crown six times, and he was said to be so powerful that he could carry a full-grown bull on his shoulders.
Next time you doubt your strength as a human, just think. If a human could carry a grown up live bull on his shoulders, what can’t we humans, in our most persistent state, do?

3.Looking for inspiration

The ancient Olympic Games also honored, and inspired, artists.
The poet Pindar wrote many odes in praise of the Games’ winners. The Olympic buildings were prime examples of the beauty of Greek architecture, and the remains of Zeus’ great statue bear the signature of the famous Athenian sculptor and architect Phidias. Like the athletic champions, artistic champions were awarded olive wreaths and great acclaim.
Thought you as an ‘artist’ and have nothing to do with ‘outdoor sporty stuff? Think again. Inspiration can be triggered anywhere at any time. Just be keep enough to identify it.

4.Lean back to enjoy life.

Sparta was famous for the strict military training of its citizens. But it would wait until the games were over before sending fighters into battle. Other cities followed this example and hence they enjoyed peaceful periods of fun and friendship. Athletic competitions became so important to the Greeks that the Olympic festivals were a peaceful influence on the warlike city-states.
Even as we work hard and fight to keep up with the current Times and busy schedules, we should always know when to take a rest and just lean back to enjoy life.

5.Life’s not always a competition.

The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Book Review: Men of the South By Zukiswa Wanner

By Gloria Mwaniga

TITLE: Men of the South.

AUTHOR: Zukiswa Wanner

PUBLISHER: Kwela Books, South Africa.

The African dream, just like the American dream, is a slippery, mirage-sort-of-affair even in this time and age. From underemployment and joblessness to homosexuality and immigration in search of better opportunities, the modern African man is faced with enough challenges. That is without adding the educated post-Beijing modern woman’s high expectation levied on him.

To bring out these modern day issues in a light and funny way that is relatable requires a writing style which is unique to only but a few African writers and after reading this book;you can judge for yourself if Zukiswa Warner is one of them.

Zukiswa (the queen of black chic lit), takes us into the private worlds of three men of the south and an educated woman.

First, we meet Mfundo,a struggling jazz musician in love with an uptown educated working gal. The girl, admits that she fell in love with the man’s potential but she is now taunting him to get a real job

Then there is Mzilikazi. A successful 100% gay NGO executive desperately trying to hide his sexual orientation from own children.

We also meet Tinaye, a Zimbabwean immigrant who is an Oxford graduate and would do anything to get South Africa Citizenship. His plans turn upside down when he falls from grace as the love of his life,finds out about his past with a certain lady called Grace.

Will Mfundo ever make it as a big-time musician or should he give up the dream and get a real job like Sli keeps telling him? What about Mzilikazi’s children,Can they live with having a gay dad?
And will Tinaye’s south African citizendship dream ever come to be?

You will definitely get the answers in this urbane, fast paced page turner by one of the most promising modern African writers.

The book tackles real-life challenges faced not only by Men of the South, but by the modern African man in a humorous, witty and hilarious style.

The 215 page turner is easy to follow and has a captivating plot written from the male point of view.

Zukiswa Warner was born in Zambia to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother.She studied journalism at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.

Her debut novel, The Madams, published in November 2006, dealt with racial role reversals in post-apartheid South Africa.

Her second book,Behind Every Successful Man is a witty tale of a mother turned entrepreneur – to the horror of her BEE tycoon husband.

Men of the South is her third novel and was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Award.