Act Like A Man, Be Like A Tree

I love trees. As a kid, I would climb them, explore them as though they were an elaborate labyrinth of branches. Trees were treated like personal friends, always ready to play. I would find resting spots, where I could just chill, places to hide, places to play and branches to swing off inspired by Tarzan, the white monkey man. Many a time, we just sat, up there, killing boredom and doing absolutely nothing else.

There were trees in Nairobi where we lived, off Ngong Road. A big tree that had ridges on its trunk burrowed by industrious termites. It had vantage top branches with steady places to perch and hang loose. My brother and I spent a lot of time up there.

In The Land Of Braves, Carry A Big Stick

Do one brave thing today…then run like hell

Bravery is a word only associated with special forces and male marital confessions. Confessing to your wife about an illicit affair is an act of bravery. Spontaneous bravery, where random men save elderly citizens from burning buildings are rarely heard of in the city.

One has to venture into the countryside where acts of bravery are an everyday affair. Fearless men still prowl the rural thickets. Acts that would be deemed literally foolish in the city are regular fare as a result of an uneasy relationship between man and wildlife.

In the country side,  men are expected to defend their homesteads against any dangers. From lurking cattle thieves, granary plunderers, pesky night runners to wild animals. Real men sleep with weapons besides their beds because when the family faces danger, they are expected to be the first responders and usually the only, line of defense.

Time To Climb Down From Ivory Towers

A cast of international celebrities were reported to be headed to Nairobi. Hollywood A-listers Leonardo Di Caprio, Nicole Kidman, Billionaire philanthropists, George Soros, Paul Allen, Michael Bloomberg and Howard Buffet, flamboyant Elton John, ex NBA athlete Yao Ming and the voice of conservation BBC’s Sir David Attenborough. That is only half the list. It read like a guest list to an invite only destination wedding for the hideously rich and famous.

The big deal was Kenya’s burning of 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn at the Nairobi National Park. The biggest ivory stockpile ever set ablaze and reportedly Kenya’s entire stash. A historic gesture by any measure.  Experts estimated it was the equivalent of 9000 elephants that when placed in a single file would measure 30 miles, the distance from Nairobi to Thika town. It was so much ivory that it took a week to stack up it into towers ready to be burned. All these great beasts, murdered for their tusks in the past decade.

Of Heatwaves Blowing Through Nairobi’s Concrete Jungle

Heatwaves

In the early 90s, I had my first encounter with the unique private taxis of Kisumu known as Kondelez. The name is derived from Kondele which is Kisumu’s version of Soweto township in Johannesburg during the struggle for liberation, the epi-centre of the country’s socio political unrest, second only to Kibera in Nairobi. The taxis would ply from the town centre to Kondele-Carwash and back.

The Kakamega road was potholed and narrow. The taxis, were beat up Peugeot 404 saloons, commonly referred to as “opija”. Passengers would be squashed into them like potatoes in a sack. Five passengers in the back seat plus a tout who practically had his upper torso sticking out of the window. Oddly, looking out for more passengers. Four people would occupy the front seats and the driver usually had only enough leg room to work the pedal. The passenger seated next to him would sometimes be charged with making the gear shift. “Omera!, Rwak ane namba ariyo kanyo” ( My man, engage the second gear).

Of Kisumu Nights And Foul Weather

Playing in the rain

The last two months have seen Kenyans conduct a long running public debate on rain. El Nino has had the same traction as Obama’s homecoming. It is every third discussion topic after, “The latest (fill the blank) financial scandal and Governor Kidero’s never ending Nairobi county challenges”. Nairobians have been anticipating rain (read inconvenience) for weeks and the anticipation has turned everyone into a weatherman, peering into the skies at grey laden clouds searching for clues. Rain and El Nino are now identical words. Children of this generation will grow up reducing the El Nino phenomenon to long rains preceded by panic. Much like young people born in the 90s who grew up believing former AG. Amos Wako’s first names were Attorney and General.

I love the rain and not in the cheesy “I want to sing in the rain” way. The smell of earth moments after a downpour is one of my favourite natural scents. It conjures up pleasant memories of a time when parents expected healthy kids to be out kicking ball in the rain. My affiliation with water from above has more to do with practical stuff like planting trees and raising farm crops. For any struggling amateur farmer, the cycle of nature is invariably linked to bottom-line figures. Years of subsistence rain-fed agriculture taught me to appreciate rainfall.