Category Archives: Writing

Nyamchom, bonfire and laughter for book lovers

Photo: Mike Kuria (Facebook)
Photo: Mike Kuria (Facebook)

This Saturday we had a book club meeting with the Daystar University Book Club. Prof. Mike Kuria of Daystar University offered to host us at his Matasya home for nyama choma- roast goat meat.

We were discussing NoViolet Bulawayo’s book, We need new names, and boy! did the book generate great discussions. And laughter too! I will post a review later. For now, I just want to recount the eating, laughter and bonfire experience we had. It reminded some of us of  the stories we were told by other people, of grandmothers telling them stories beside the fire. We used to listen to these stories with our mouths open wide with awe. We were fascinated perhaps because we grew in Nairobi and our grandmothers never told us fireside stories. You get the gist of my digression, do you?

It is a  unique book club, which was formed by the Daystar University department of Language and Performing Arts. The first time I attended it, I was surprised to sit with faculty members, at a coffee shop discussing a book. As a student, I thought this was an innovative  way to inculcate a reading culture in the university.

Daystar University book club is open to all book lovers, even outside Daystar University. As we speak, we have even more members who are not  affiliated to the university.

We ate roast meat until our stomachs could not take anymore. Then there was the roasting of maize, which Kairetu turned out to be good at. I’m telling you, this  girl might be wasting her talent. (Ever thought of starting a maize roasting business?) The rest (You know yourselves) seemed to be in a competition to make burnt offerings of the roast maize. Perhaps the burnt  offerings were to appease the spirits back in Bulawayo’s Paradise.

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As you can see, the discussions went on till darkness came to send us to our homes. We even left with cobs of maize to show that our intestines were full. Actually:

When we were full we carried our dense bodies with the dignity of elephants- if only our country could see us in America, see us eat like kings in a land that was not ours.– We Need New Names- How they lived.

Tribute to Pauline, a classmate & role model

Image credit: Facebook
Image credit: Facebook

Today I woke up feeling like I would rather just go back to bed. You know, just one of those days when you don’t feel up to nothing. Coming to work, i was half asleep in the mat. I ask myself, what the hell is wrong with me?

So I start with my usual work. Emails, blogs, social media, then I come across an update on Facebook with a familiar face.

Woke up to sad news that you are no longer with us, will sure remember you for your laughter, determination, controversial arguments and friendship. RIP Pauline Mwogoasige The Daystar University fraternity will forever miss you!

Wait a minute! I know that face. I’ve talked to her. We shared a maths class in Daystar University. Pauline was one of the women I admired from afar. I just never talked to her much. Come to think of it, I never talked much to most classmates, other than the usual- How are you ding? Which would automatically be followed by- I’m fine.

Today looking at that update, I felt there could have been more to learn from Pauline. She was an entrepreneur and a role model. That first time we talked, I learned as much. Come to think of it, it was my interest in graphic design that led to that conversation. She was the Public Relations Manager at Centrifugal Technologies Ltd, a graphics design and printing firm.

I feel I could have learnt more from her. Now she is gone. The lessons:

  1. God brings people your way to add value to your life- never take it for granted.
  2. Appreciate every breath you have and live life to the fullest.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom- Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Weird phone calls and texts.

Annoying texts

I keep getting these random calls from strangers seeking counselling of sorts. This is over a year since I went on public TV, and radio to share my story.

Through those phone calls have emerged the most memorable friendships. They have also brought unbearable nuisance in equal measure. One thing is for sure, if you plan to be in the limelight, limit your exposure, at least for your peace of mind. At the end of the day, you are also a human being who can snap with just the right amount of stretching.

Last year, I had to call a radio station’s reporter and complain about their replaying my story without alerting me. I used to be bombarded with phone calls immediately after the program ended. That is how I knew they had played the prerecorded program. They replayed the program five times that year, and this particular time I was going through a rough time, that needed my me time- I snapped.

I have for the past two years been receiving random texts starting with Hae Juliet…. Not from one, but several people. People who want to hold a conversation with you yet it seems their keypad is missing lots of keys. Now reading such texts and trying to figure out what on earth the person meant before trying to respond, in the politest way possible, sometimes is just too exhausting. Not that I don’t try to respond. In fact, my friend Judy used to tell me that I have too much time for nonsense.

Just after a program, I received texts from people proposing to marry me as if I needed rescuing from my desperate state of single-hood. This is not to trash the good intentions of some of those calls and texts. I just don’t see myself responding to a proposal from a stranger whom I have never seen. But then again, maybe I am still in the stone age where for a relationship to work, it has to follow some logical path.

Yes, I have been invited to join network marketing to sell health products. (This was right after coming from a TV program, where the producers put my number on the screen without seeking my consent.) Maybe the lady thought that I needed to use the health supplements and be a brand ambassador. That time, I didn’t have enough money to use for transport back home, let alone the 6000 to join the program. Polite me, I just sat in the meeting and listened, not showing my disappointment to the well-meaning lady.

Other people have called me to convince their spouses that it is possible to have babies while in a discordant relationship. Imagine myself calling someone’s wife.

Me: Hello, am I speaking to so and so.

Wife: Yes, who is this?

Me: I am Juliet, a counsellor, I got your number from your husband.

Wife: What do you want?

Me: I wanted to let you know that it’s totally safe to have a baby even if your husband is positive.

Wife: How did you know my husband? Are you married yourself….

Ok, maybe I let my imagination run wild. Maybe the conversation would take a better direction.

A recent call I received was when in a matatu. I was going home from work. This call was from a desperate man. Within one minute I had known that he was 32 years, he had two children and suspected his wife of cheating on him. He just wanted to meet me so that I would test him together with his wife for HIV. I told him that unfortunately, I don’t test people any more, but I could refer him to the nearest health center. He hung up…

Welcome to my world, where you have to fish out a smile, even after the most ridiculous conversation. My advice, if you choose to go to the media or get a public platform, DO NOT give your personal contact. I am just a normal Juliet, yet I was overwhelmed by the phone calls.

Don’t miss the Digital Camp 2015

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Image credit

Blogging can be fun, if you keep at it with all your might it might just fulfill your goals. It gets you out there, you get opportunities to write on other platforms if you are worth your salt.

Most of these platforms unfortunately have a currency that does not make sense according to Magunga. You start blogging as a hobby but somewhere along the way, you realize you have bills to be paid.

This is the reason for the digital camp Kenya 2015 to be held on 6th- 8th November, at Naivasha Crayfish Campsite. This year’s theme is “Harnessing the digital economy in Kenya.” It is the first ever meeting of its kind in Kenya, that will bring together different stakeholders in the digital economy.

Digital Camp Kenya is an annual digital economy and content conference we have organized to foster community relations between Kenyan online content creators and the various stakeholders that operate in the digital space.It will bring together online content creators, developers, artists, PR practitioners, marketers, digital professionals, social media influencers and those interested in online content generation. We will have master classes, fireside chats, team building exercises and networking sessions on digital advertising, online content creation, citizen journalism and free expression. It will be an opportunity for the community to network, and form lasting relationships in this niche but growing industry. You can read more about it here.

Tickets for the camp are going for 3,500 for BAKE members and 4,500 for non-BAKE members. This will cater for your transport, accommodation and food. Registration details and information on the speakers are on this link.
There are limited slots available so hurry and book yours today.

Facebook dislike button is coming soon

Credit: magic925.com
Credit: magic925.com

Ever read a Facebook post and you wonder whether to ignore it or comment? Different people use Facebook for different reasons, top among them being staying connected with friends.

Entrepreneurs have leveraged on this and position their brands on this platform. The good thing with this is that Facebook provides you with publicity that doesn’t dent your pocket. We see corporate and SME’s alike creating Facebook pages for their brands.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zukerberg recently disclosed their plans to introduce a dislike button. “I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it,” Zuckerberg said during a Q&A at Facebook’s headquarters.

He said that the move is not meant for people to down vote others posts. The intent is to give users the ability to express empathy because “not every moment is a good moment,” as Zuckerberg said. This little dislike button will have large implications for brands, however, undoubtedly widening the gap between those who can quickly interpret and respond to customer emotion, and those who cannot.

74 percent of people who complain on social media expect a response within an hour. Additionally, 1 out of 2 people prefer to contact a business via social media for support instead of using the phone.

With the dislike button, businesses can get more customer insights and better their products or services. This way, they become more accountable to their clientele.

On a social networking perspective, it would remove those awkward moments that you get when someone’s posted a sad moment and you would like to reach out to them. Not all posts need comments, some just need the dislike button. Case in point is the graphic photos posted on social media. I will be on the lookout for the dislike button.

Ousmane Sembène- Moolaadé

This post was originally posted in http://francophonie-at-daystar.blogspot.co.ke

Watching this feature film left me with several questions and lessons.

The film was released in 2004, and was the last film directed by Senegalese, Ousmane Sembène before his death in 2007. Sembène is noted as the first African film director to achieve international recognition.

The film is about Female Genital Mutilation- a fictional story that looks so real. I asked whether it was based on a true story, surprisingly, it was fictional. Sembène is a good story teller who brought the ills of FGM without preaching.

Highlights of the film are:

  • Women being kept from listening to radio, because they were being taught Western values.
  • Colle defying her husband’s orders to revoke the Moolaadé-spell that protected the girls who ran to her for protection. She endured the lashes from her husband just to  save the girls.
  • The way being a Bilakoro- Uncircumcised girl was considered unclean.
  • The coexistence of multiple wives in a polygamous marriage, and the respect they have for each other.
  • FGM makes a woman’s life miserable not only in childbirth but also during sex with her husband. (Colle cuts her finger to camouflage the bleeding after a night with her husband)
  • It is not so much about the cultural practices. Oppressive cultural practices are about power.

After the film, I did not talk much. I was however thinking of the Maasai of Kenya. Some of them still practice FGM, together with other communities. The reason my thoughts went to the Maa community was because I recently met a son of Maasai, with whom we were considering a relationship.

In a bid to be sure, I asked him whether his community practiced FGM. His answer was affirmative and he was looking for a partner who could easily adapt to cultural practices. The rest is history, we were like water and oil which could not mix.

Where is your tooth?

Kids are just hilarious. They ask you questions about everything. They are honest at their inquiries and this just cracks my ribs.

So yesterday Purity, a three year old girl asked my friend a question about my hand. “Mama Delvin, huyu ameumia mkono?”- “Mama Delvin, has this lady hurt her hand?” Of course Mama Delvin had to confirm to her that I hurt my hand.Then she asked Purity, “will you pray for her?” Purity said she doesn’t know me, so she cannot pray for me.

I have often left many kids wondering why I don’t straighten my hand. Zadock, another three year old boy usually comes to me and asks me to open my fingers. “What are you holding?” he asks. There must be something that I normally hold in my right hand, according to his three year old mind.

Now this is a good one, one child asked me, “Meno yako iko wapi?”- “Where is your tooth?” I have not been asked this question by one or two children. Many kids cannot figure out why I have a gap between my teeth. The beauty with kids is they tell you what they are thinking.

To be truthful, even my dad thought I had a large gap between my teeth and tried to assist in closing it up. Being a dentist, he had just the right resources. When I was 7, having lost two of my milk teeth, I remember he brought home some small elastic bands for me to place on my two remaining frontal teeth so as to reduce the gap. A painful exercise that never yielded much. I still don’t understand why I didn’t get braces. Anyway, not that I am bothered by the gap. In fact most people say it is a symbol of African beauty.

If only our minds would function like kids, then we would ask questions that would encourage creativity. That is why I love hanging around those young friends. They teach you lessons that school wouldn’t.

Hair, lipstick and funny sisters.

Jas & I
I have a cheeky sister with a way of making me laugh at her witty jokes while keeping a straight face. I have learnt the hard way to avoid sitting next to her when we are at serious events- church included.

She’s gotten me in trouble a couple of times for laughing where people are seriously concentrating on a speaker. She is the type that whispers some funny comment in your ear then leaves you dying of laughter.Or better yet, pass a note with a joke and keeps on concentrating. The moment you pick the small notes, you cannot concentrate on the meeting because you will be laughing as if you’re high on some cheap stuff.

She then joins the other people looking as surprised as everyone else, waiting for you to share the joke. “Ehe! What’s funny?”, she asks.

This past Saturday, we attended a wedding. I did the mistake of showing up in my almost two week old cornrows. These were my emergency measure to avoid going to work with unkempt hair. I persuaded my friend Judy, to just do the cornrows for me because she was tired. When the cornrows were done, Judy decided to add extensions to them.

They looked stylish at least from the eye of this beholder. I fell in love with my new hairstyle that reminded me of my high school days. Since my hairdresser was still tired, I had to go with my ‘stylish’ hairdo to the wedding. I tried doing a headscarf, but on looking myself at the mirror, I took it off. Isn’t India Arie one of my favorite musicians? “I am not my hair”, was playing on the back of my mind while I left the house.

Now, it’s not the showing up at the wedding with my hairdo that was the problem. It was that I had the audacity to ask my sister for lipstick. She looked at my hair and simply told me that I was better off applying Vaseline on my lips, “That hair is not for lipstick, try Vaseline”, she said.

My self esteem has not been interfered with at all by the comment. That’s why I laughed at her comment as one of her jokes. Even my asking for the lipstick was on a light touch because I expected a hilarious answer. As usual, she stayed composed as I laughed.

Wandia Njoya, a mentor who loves to ‘smell the flowers’.

Dr. Wandia at the Creatives Academy. Photo Credit: Daystar Languages Perf Arts
Dr. Wandia at the Creatives Academy. Photo Credit: Daystar Languages Perf Arts

In January 2014, the inaugural Creatives Academy, a writer’s workshop, organized by Kenyan writers and her department was birthed. It is here that I became acquainted with her. Dr. Wandia Njoya is the head of department of Language and performing Arts at Daystar University. She is a down to earth lady who relates to her students as peers.

She heads a department providing courses designed to make one think critically about life. I have been part of some of her classes either as a visitor or a student. One of the classes is Introduction to the francophone world. I thought it was a strictly Francois affair when I heard about it. The first time I visited the class, I was awed to find them sampling foods from the Francophone countries.

During mt last semester at Daystar, I picked the class just to fill my extra hours before graduating. Otherwise, I would have left the gates of enlightenment without the knowledge gleaned from this class. We were just four students discussing Francophone African history and sharing meals occasionally from different countries. About us being just four students in a class, Dr. Wandia has severally said that students are shying away from history, while that is what gives people an identity.

A selfie from our Introduction to the Francophone world class. (Dr. Wandia, right.)
A selfie from our Introduction to the Francophone world class. (Dr. Wandia, right.)

This lady has a way of thinking against the grain and questioning what many people would ordinarily accept. Her blog, she describes herself as an African, Woman and Teacher. She writes opinion pieces that make you think twice about things. An example is Obama’s GES: A not so new beginning. While almost everyone was exited about Obama’s homecoming, she took the lonely path to question the sudden interest in Kenya.

“She is too emotional”, one student at Daystar Nairobi said. I had a chance to work with her as an intern in Creatives Academy and would describe her as brutally honest, as opposed to emotional. She does not shy away from pointing out mediocrity. That made me grow professionally and hurt my feelings in equal measure. It’s one quality of a good mentor and  it made me grow as a writer and professionally in general.

Wandia once spoke in chapel at Daystar University about style, and dressing. She shared her metamorphosis over the years in defining her style. She even showed us pictures of herself having dreadlocks, short dyed hair, different haircuts and cornrows. She shared of her struggle to define her style, before finally settling on what felt right for her. “My style icons are Fatoumata Diawara, India Arie, Michelle Obama and Suzanna Owiyo. I don’t dress the way they do, but if I had a little more money and a lot more time, I would,” she said.

Daktari, as many call her, is a breast cancer survivor, I first learned that from her Facebook post. Then I had a chat with her about it. “Most of the church folk harassed me with prayers for healing, others brought their advice on healthy eating it was so overwhelming,” she said. “All I wanted was to be left alone to process the condition that I had been diagnosed with”, She added. This was six years ago. I could relate with her story, because when some Christians hear you have a ‘terminal’ condition, they offer their advice, prayers and say you don’t possess enough faith when you choose to stick to your doctor’s instructions. Something I have experienced over the years.

“I am someone who does not shy away from being checked, so when my doctor suggested it, I readily accepted,” she said. “I am lucky to have been diagnosed early, because it was an aggressive strain of cancer,” she added. She is now cancer free because of early diagnosis and treatment. She had to cut her dreadlocks during her therapy and decided to be creative with short hair.

One of the projects she has spearheaded in her work as the HOD for the Languages and Performing Arts is Ajenda Africa. She says that’s what kept her going in the faith as a single woman.”Curtis Reed’s first Soul of Sex workshop found me skeptical that love was indeed for me,” she says. This is a Pan African movement that addresses Africa holistically. It must be the reason behind some of the courses that she has introduced in the department, like Love, Sex and Poetry class. She also contributes to the pan African conversations through the Ajenda Africa blog.

She took her free spirit a notch higher when she walked down the aisle with a custom made gown, designed from African print and blue denim. She got married to Chris Lymo on July 30, 2015 in a colorful, African themed wedding at Mavuno Hill City. She surprised the congregation at her wedding when she and her lady friends danced to Sauti Sol’s Sura yako.

Wandia
Newly weds, Dr. Wandia & Chris Lymo

Chris Lymo, author of the book and blog- My side of the Street, was part of the inaugural Creatives Academy, a writers’ workshop that was held at Daystar University. This is where he met the love of his life, as he shares in this post.

“I look forward to writing together and making people’s lives better,” she said during the wedding. They share a common passion of touching lives positively. Chris is an addiction counselor, who helps others out of alcoholism. He has a story of a past struggle with alcohol, and triumph over the struggle which he documented in his book.

Dr. Wandia loves flowers. This is evident in her social media posts and her blog. Her favorite quote on all these platforms seems to be smell the flowers. Her favorite ones seem to be calla lilies. Her blog Love and Revolution has lilies as the cover photo. She even carried a bouquet of yellow calla lilies down the aisle.

I suspected that she might be related to Dr. Reverend Timothy Njoya, because of her surname. This was confirmed by her Facebook status.

Dr. Wandia StatusWandia has mentored many students and often beams with pride at their success. It was no wonder, her wedding was flooded by students and alumni of Daystar University. Thank you daktari for your tough love and efforts at improving our lives.

Abstaining from Reality: TBT- Tamar Abrams

Photo from Tamar's Facebook
Tamar and Hannah. Photo from Tamar’s Facebook

I never thought I’d one time post these posts where everyone can easily have access to them and relate them to me. That’s what age teaches you. As you grow older, you develop your sense of identity and stop caring what people will say about you. One also learns the importance of giving thanks to the people who God has placed in their lives to take them to where he wants them to be.

One such person is Tamar Abrams. She has impacted my life in so many ways ever since we met at that hotel lobby in London. I remember it was the Strand Palace. This was a culture shock bearing in mind that I came from a slum in Nairobi. Something that I prefer talking of in another post.

Here’s an article that Tamar wrote after our acquaintance.

“Standing in a gilded stateroom in London’s Westminster Palace was a slight young woman from Kenya named Juliet Awuor, preparing to tell her story to members of Parliament, heads of British and international NGOs and the press. It was early March and Population Action International’s latest documentary—Abstaining from Reality: U.S. Restrictions on HIV Prevention—was making its worldwide premiere in the U.K, followed by events in the Parliaments of Denmark and Sweden. Juliet, who never in her 24 years had left Kenya, had bravely flown to London so she could share her story of contracting HIV the very first time she had sex because neither she nor her boyfriend knew how to use a condom.” Read more here.

Tamar went ahead to set up an online campaign to raise my school fees to Daystar University. Here is the article she wrote.

Make Juliet’s Dream a Reality by Tamar Abrams, Population Action International

June 19, 2007

In Population Action International’s (PAI) seminal documentary, Abstaining from Reality, HIV-positive Kenyan Juliet Awuor says about the boyfriend with whom she contracted HIV, “He took away my dreams and my future.” For those of you who have seen the short film or even met Juliet during the film’s European and North American rollout, you know that she still has many dreams for the future. Neither her HIV nor the loss of her infant son nor her subsequent stroke has stolen all hope. This was evidenced by her thoughts in March when PAI took her to London for the film’s debut in Parliament: “After London, I see so many possibilities,” she wrote. Read more here.

She went on to ask me severally on email whether I still wanted to go to college. I had to do what was right, enroll to Daystar University. Despite having qualified for a degree program, I took the diploma due to the duration of my scholarship. Thanks to all who contributed to my education because three years later, June 2011, I graduated with honors, a diploma in Print and Electronic Media.

That was just the beginning because I dreamt on and enrolled for my BA in Public Relations. Going to Daystar opened my eyes to possibilities of achieving an education. (A dream which I thought had been snatched before it began.) I recently graduated from Daystar, a second time.

I would rightly say that Tamar has been my mentor. She is a communications professional and writes for the Huffington Post among other platforms. This is what her profile reads on Huffington Post “Tamar Abrams has worked as a TV producer, magazine editor and newspaper reporter but has spent most of her career helping nonprofits, foundations and individuals leverage their resources to maximize the power of communications in educating, persuading and motivating their target audiences. She is also a freelance writer and a foster mom. Tamar and her daughter live in Arlington, Virginia.”

Tamar is just a person who likes making people’s lives better. When she visited Nairobi in 2009, she came to my neighborhood in Kibera. They were shooting another PAI documentary, The silent partner. She saw the condition of the swing set at the school where they were filming the Nubian Wedding and decided to give it a make over. She bought the paint and I did the painting. View the photos here.

Besides being a single mom to beautiful Hannah Lily, 23, Tamar has fostered many children. Reading from her article in the Washingtonian gave me an understanding of why she ventured into being a foster mom.

I remember the night we went to a cabaret in a London theater with Tamar and Amie Coen. Oh! Good memories that still make me smile. To Tamar, here’s one more life you made better.