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PROSE A PUBLICATION OF EPSILON PUBLISHERS

APRIL - MAY 2018 ǀ 10TH EDITION

MAGAZINE

IMPACT ISSUE

The face of leadership

Wycliffe Waweru Maina

Reading culture The RRS of the Information Age: Responsible, Responsive and Safe

Travel

Road to Ethiopia


Editorial | Translation | Publishing | Printing

At Epsilon Publishers, we understand that communication is more than sharing information. This as we help you excel in packaging and delivering your message to drive impactive conversation. Contact us today for tailor-made publishing solutions.


CO N T E N T S

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09 12 30 20


CO N T E N T S

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Reading

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Leadership

30 32 36

The Lifelong Learner ??????

Book review

Crotical Chain by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

The diary of a budding writer #Wakanda movie is this

Plot 11

PROSE M A G A Z I N E

MANAGING DIRECTOR R. Mumbi Gichuhi OPERATIONS MANAGER Mary Wagura EDITOR Mark Muthiora LEAD CREATIVE Patrick Waswani ACCOUNTANT Joyce Mbugu

EPSILON PUBLISHERS Gemina Court George Padmore Road Kilimani, Nairobi P.O. Box 1175-00606 Nairobi Kenya Tel +254 (0) 733 333 600 publish@epsilon.co.ke www.epsilon.co.ke

@publisherkenya facebook.com/epsilonpublishers Epsilon Publishers

Prose is published six times a year by Epsilon Publishers. The opinions expressed therein are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Epsilon Publishers. Š 2017 Epsilon Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission from the publisher.

Epsilon Publishers is proud of its commitment in embodying the spirit of the United Nations Global Compact whose fundamental pillars are to their strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. To this end, Epsilon Publishers has signed the letter of commitment to the United Nations Global Compact, pledging to align our efforts to operate responsibly and to advance societal goals in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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W E LCO M E

N OT E

Of magic bicycles that impact lives, buying a building in Ethiopia and living one’s passion.

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rowing up, biking was all the rage and where we rode all types of bicycles; BMX, mountain bike, Black Mamba, komerera… Meaning that whether you grew up in the city, in the suburbs or in the countryside, you or the neighbouring kid had a bicycle. And as every kid in the neighbourhood learnt to ride a bicycle, you moved to organising bike races along the estate; with a tumble here and a grazed knee there – quickly cured by mum’s spanking or GV (Gentian Violet) should you be careless enough to report the matter to her at the dinner table. Then we grew up and discarded our bicycles as we aspired to buy cars. For one Wycliffe Waweru Maina, however, bicycles have always had a special place in his heart. In childhood, he learnt how to do all

kinds of stunts on a bike. And all grown up, the information systems graduate walked away from formal employment to start a venture trading in bicycles. From humble beginning where he started off with six bikes by the roadside, he has impacted countless lives as he empowers low income earners to get to work or to their residences in relative comfort. And he has made biking fashionable too for all people regardless of age or social standing; in essence, a platform through which to socialise and to exercise while at it. Lucas exhorts us to live a life of passion. That said, we need to overcome our deepest fears and take a plunge into the deep end, so to speak, if we are to live our passions. In our travel peace, we traverse across Kenya and takes a sneak peek of life on the other side of the border

that is Ethiopia. And while there, we imbibe on this sinfully sweet lemon poison that has all our taste buds dancing as we think of buying a building there thanks to the small matter of currency conversion. In our book review, Critical Chain by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, we share in the joys and the worries of an odd mixture of people as they learn about the critical chain. In essence, the book being a business novel centred on a crucial part of project management. As usual, we have all our other regulars to make the read worthwhile. Enjoy!

Mumbi Gichuhi

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Pogonotrophy (noun) The cultivation or growing of a beard

A little bit of trivia Mind your language Homographs Salad days The Oxford Dictionary defines a homograph as each of two or more words spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same and having different meanings and origins. They include words such as: advocate, agape, desert and refuse. For instance, ‘refuse’ means ‘to reject’ when used as a verb. When used as a noun, it means ‘garbage’.

No, one’s salad days is not an expression for one’s past penury when one survived on greens and meat was a dream. Rather, the idiom means one’s youth when one was inexperienced and innocent and ran on idealism and enthusiasm. It could also refer to one’s heyday when one was at the peak of their abilities.

MARY DOUGLAS

Famous quotes 6

If you want to change the culture, you will have to start by changing the organisation.” - Mary Douglas (1921 –2007), British anthropologist and social theorist

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EDITH WHARTON

Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.” - Edith Wharton (1862-1937) American novelist, short story writer and designer

Nudiustertian

Of or relating to the day before yesterday

Taradiddle Pretentious nonsense

Pandiculation The act of stretching and yawning, especially on waking up

ALIKO DANGOTE

In the journey to success, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” - Aliko Dangote, Nigerian business magnate


Rebutting opposing views

C-Sectioned Constraint (noun):

Something that constrains; a restriction.

One of the successful strategies when involved in an argument is to rebut your opposition’s view. This involves convincing the audience that their – the opposing view – argument is logically flawed, has not been supported in an adequate manner, or that the argument is based on wrong assumptions. Strategies for this include:

Denial

This involves denying the truth of their data as truth is relative. What your opponent presents as a fact may simply be a case of wrong information. And should you have reason to doubt their facts, then you have every right to call them into question.

Counterexamples

An effective way to counter an argument based on examples is to cite a counterexample; thus, denying the conclusion drawn from the original data. This extends to arguments based on testimony where you cite another expert to counter expert testimony.

Interpretation

Evidence based on data can be rebutted by questioning how the said data was gathered, treated mathematically or scientifically as the case may be, and interpreted.

In an organisational setup, constraints or bottlenecks are hindrances that prevent optimum use of the available resources, more so, concerning production. As it were, an organisation is formed to accomplish a particular objective or mission. In doing so, it runs a series of activities or projects towards this; which includes administrative work and core work (for a car assembly factory, the core work is the actual assembly of the car). In the case of a car assembly factory, parts are added to the car as it moves along the assembly line – engine, chassis, wipers, tyres, painting, and so on. Ideally, these sequences should run smoothly from one to another. However, should there be a breakup or delay in one

sequence, the process slows down and eventually grinds to a halt. So, how are organisations to respond to constraints? Considering that resources – including capital, labour, equipment and time - are finite, organisations have to optimise these. This by way of establishing standard operating processes, monitoring them for their efficacy, and constantly improving on them. A good place to start is by concretising these processes by putting them down on paper and disseminating them to the involved personnel. Further, depending on one’s industry, there are established guidelines such as best practices, international standards (the ISO family) and manuals which your organisation can adopt to streamline your processes.

Matayos

Matayos is a constituency in Busia County in western Kenya. The name is derived from a European who had stayed there during the colonial times. The locals referred to him as ‘Mathayo’, the Swahili equivalent of Mathew and which was pronounced as ‘Matayo’ in the local dialect. PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

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P O E T RY

Outlawz Crack ‘em up, stack ‘em up The streets are hard, rough A dollar, a dime, a cent Squeeze ‘em hard For bills gotta be paid. Juice ‘em up, turn ‘em up The projects are dark, sad There’s no lovin’, no laughin’ Gotta grab when you can On the morrow the sheriff calls. Skrata-ta-ta-ta! Gotta scatter Bullets fallin’, bodies’ flyin’ This outlaw life is tough And when silence descends Fortune is the last man standin’.

Loving is a Loving is a digging a digging that goes deep Loving is a hurting a hurting that does not heal Loving is a crying a crying that does not stop. Loving is a lily a lily to freshen the morn Loving is a lily that withers in the evening but only when cut in selfishness. Love is promise good as a debt till not paid and trust broken The heart hardens and there is no rescue and love has to die.

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R E A D I N G

The lifelong learner “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” - Charles William Eliot

Kenyans don’t read. And if they do, it is politics in the newspapers. Or Facebook. Or text messages that defy all the rules of grammar and syntax.” You may have heard this statement many times, or its variation that Kenyans don’t write, and if they do, it is something that is not worth reading. Where am I going with this? That this generalisation has some truth to it; at least, going by my peers who swore never to touch another book once they were through with their last exams. Not so for our diligent, lifelong learner. This learner knows that learning goes past the attainment of

that degree or MBA. They understand that learning is its own reward. That there is beauty in acquiring more knowledge on a daily basis although there may never arise the occasion to use it. And with each book they devour, they travel to new lands, hear new sounds, taste different foods and their imaginations soar to untold heights. In the end, they become better people as they can see through the eyes of others who are different from them. Moreover, other people see them as fountains of wisdom and come to tap them for their insights on life. The lifelong learner reads with an open mind. They are as

comfortable reading the Koran as they are reading the Bible. And though they be democrats or liberals, they are not afraid to read on communism or socialism as they understand the adage that truth is relative. Which marks them as great conversationalists, debaters, orators and salesmen and women. And as great parents as they are flexible enough to guide their children to find their own paths; rather than imposing their will on them. Anyone whose parents wanted them to be engineers and doctors and they now compose music for a living?

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R E A D I N G

C U LT U R E

The RRS of the Information Age: Responsible, Responsive and Safe 10

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Photo credit: Quasarphoto PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

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R E A D I N G

“The irony of the information age is that it lends credibility to uninformed opinion.” - Stephen Coonts

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C U LT U R E

I

t is amazing how fast the information age has evolved. Computers now run our lives. And when it comes to communication, we are virtually tied to our smart gadgets. Just thinking about the progress of these devices is a dizzying experience. That two decades ago, our smart phones started life as bulky, unsightly blocks of plastic with unexciting buttons and which cost an arm and a leg (plus a kidney, at times). And now, our sleek, faster and more responsive gadgets cost as cheap as cheap can be. Which story mirrors the evolution of computers. The evolution of handheld communication devices, backed by the solid desktop and the mobile laptop, has gifted us with social media. As such, we can keep in touch with friends and family on the go, reach new markets for our products and services, and contribute to local, national and global discourses at the touch or swipe of a screen. That said, this gift that is the social media can be abused if recent events are anything to go by. In the same vein, there are certain

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measures we can take as individuals and as organisations to prevent or control this abuse.

Information leak

“The internet never forgets.” You have probably heard of this modern day saying. Extrapolating on the same, the internet never forgives either. Which is to say that anything that is transmitted online – an email, a photo, a video, a memo, a sensitive dossier – leaves footprints and it can be accessed by the wrong party and used for blackmail or to cause embarrassment.

Online fraud Electronic transactions of a monetary kind abound in the information age. Whether banking, sending or receiving money, or selling and buying, you do not need to physically present yourself to the bank or the retailer. With the click of a button, you can conduct business with another person on the other side of the globe. As with email


accounts, bank details and electronic card details can also be breached and monies siphoned off these accounts.

Cyberbullying Cyberbullying includes psychological torture, body shaming and threats of physical violence perpetrated online. Usually, this is done under relative anonymity afforded to the perpetrator, say, by use of a fictitious online account.

Psychometrics Browsing and social media companies use algorithms to improve their users’ experience. This by way of collecting data on the users’ likes, interests and so forth, thus feeding or pointing to them at similar content that may interest them. By and large, such data is confidential and is not supposed to be divulged to a third party. However, recently, it has been revealed that this information was used by a third party to individualise political messages so as to influence individuals to vote a certain away during the general elections in the USA. As it were, we cannot wish the information age and social media away. Whoever, we can be responsible, responsive and safe in how we use it. This so as to protect ourselves as individuals and as organisations. How so?

Responsible Are we aware of our national laws and regulations concerning the use of social media, for instance? Then again, common sense should prevail when it comes to how we use social media. This entails being mindful of how we use social media. For instance, should we chance upon an accident, it would not be wise to share gory

pictures of the victims so as to protect their dignity and the dignity of their families. The cardinal rule, “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” Thus, we should be mindful to also not spread falsehoods about others by posting or sharing these falsehoods. And in case we err in our use of social media, we should take full responsibility and institute remedial measures promptly.

Responsive As online citizens, we have a duty to uphold the law as well as stand up for our rights or the rights of others when they are in danger of being trampled. This calls for participating in various campaigns that advocates for human rights or seeks to right an injustice visited on an individual or an organisation. And as denizens of planet earth, we have a duty to protect our environment and use our resources sustainably in the realisation that we have borrowed them from our past and our future generations and we are but mere custodians of them. As body corporates, a good place to start would be to thoroughly be acquainted with the sustainable development goals, align our business practices thus and report this online via platforms such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

Safe We should strive at safety at all times when online. At the individual level, we should take measures to ensure that our information or communication is safe at all times. This applies too at the organisational level. This calls for a heightened awareness of what information or communication we post or share online, as well as how we pass it.

In this, we should be guided by the catchphrase that when it comes to posting or sharing information online, we should do so with an abundance of caution. So, what mechanisms can we use to keep safe online? This includes safeguarding our communication by use of secure means of transmission. For instance, by having official emails through which to transmit sensitive or confidential information as an organisation or as an individual. Such emails can be gotten from a domain registrar and webhosting company. Further, they can be localised as per your country’s internet domain name (yourname@yourcompany.co.ke) or be sector specific (yourname@ yourcharityorganisation.org). Such email accounts have multiple layers of security to secure information transmitted through them. Other ways to keep safe include using strong passwords for your email and social media accounts, changing these passwords after some time and linking them to other accounts where you can be notified in case of attempted breach. Also, each of your accounts should have a distinct password from the other accounts. In the case of social media, you should be wary of who you accept to be friends or communicate with. Care should also be taken in the kinds of files or apps you download or install, and the kind of permissions granted to them regarding access to other files or apps or your computing device. Lastly, it goes without saying that your computer or smart device should have an antivirus software to prevent your machine being hacked into.

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L E A D E R S H I P


Leading to

impact

I

have a friend who defines passion as that one thing that keeps you awake at night; that thing that you would die for and that you would do for free ( ‘free of charge’ being her exact words). Teasingly, I retorted that going by her definition, then my passion must be love. I mean, we have all been there, wide awake in the night waiting for them to reply to our text when in love and such. Still, I got what she meant. In my case, that would be writing. I mean, I have all these stories filling my head and I never get enough of a living audience (that would be a breathing, eating human being) that is patient enough to hear them out. They are always interrupting my stories so that they can get back to work and other lame excuses like this. So, what do I do? I write. You know how they say about passion: ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’. For me, it has worked out. Writing has taken me places – shady places as I pin

down an interviewee to commit to an interview, a five star hotel where a cabinet secretary was the moderator, a blank cheque worth a small piece of land in Kamulu… Were I to lead, I would like to do so where my writing talents would be fully utilised. Why do I say so? It is my contention that leadership and passion goes hand in hand. That the leader must have passion for the venture or organisation they are leading as well as the people that work there. As leadership goes, it is not all smooth sailing. Again, to employ another quote, ‘The road to success is littered with failures’. As it were, passion is the one thing that will let the leader ride out the failures as he strives for success. And when leadership dances with passion, impact is the end result. For then, the leader, truly believing in their product, infects everyone they come into contact with with their enthusiasm. And they never have to put a charade as their enthusiasm is

self-evident unlike, say, were they marketing a product they did not believe in. And the product leadership offers does not have to be a lofty one such as world peace or ending poverty in the next one hundred days. It can be a new way of using the everyday; a paradigm shift, if you will. Think of a bicycle – it is everywhere as a toy, a sporting machine, a means of transport. What more could we ask of it. Then again, if you are in Nairobi or other Kenyan town, you may have noticed the hordes of walkers trekking home every day as they cannot afford ‘matatu’ fare. They include nannies, construction workers, contract workers, office workers… and they walk every day, come rain or shine. Now, going back to our humble bicycle, what if we were to empower them to get a bicycle for their daily transport? The answer to which informs our leadership piece.

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T H E

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FAC E

O F

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L E A D E R S H I P


Wycliffe Waweru

Maina

W

ycliffe Waweru Maina describes himself as an information systems graduate who has great love and admiration for two wheel power – bicycles. He is a middle child among three men who grew around play where bicycles and soccer took a special place. He says that God remains to be the epicentre for anything he engages in as he lives to serve at all capacities in his daily walk. The journey that is Play Guru? Wycliffe says that he has have loved bicycles since childhood. Then, he did stunts and flipped wheelies that were 100-metre long at age 15, watched X Games and Evil Can Evil stunts as a source of inspiration. As such he sincerely saw bicycles as a hobby and never as an enterprise. Nevertheless, he prayed hard and long for God to grant him a future around bicycles. Fortunately, he took a leap of faith on 26th February, 2010 and set up his own six bicycles by the roadside in Buruburu for sale. Wycliffe adds that he was favoured to have Kevin Okello as his lead mechanic when setting up – Kevin, was the single high end bicycle importer in Nairobi at the time. As such

Kevin loaned out some pieces to him later in his establishment which he posted on XPat Link and opened a new customer segment that appreciated what they sold while building a formidable relation between him and Kevin. Wycliffe states that he was so good a retailer that Kevin would call him to come choose the bicycles off the load prior to anyone else. He would then carry away bicycles worth Kshs 300,000 and more without paying a penny. However, he adds that slow sales led to thoughts on how to creatively boost sales; thus, they decided to try their micro-lending model to employees. Wycliffe says that this is the greatest success thus far as they have consistently choked on the orders and which necessitated the setup of a bicycle assembly line to standardise the bicycles they sell, push their own brand and add value to Kenya’s industrialisation. He adds that they are hoping to seal a deal with a leading Chinese Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) by mid-year and do ground breaking for the setup by end year. Plans are escalated through interventions by the International

Trade Centre. Wycliffe says that their current plan has been tests on how to localise part of the manufacturing – the frame as their value adding process to the operation. Future plans are distribution to the region and organising bicycle tours that are aimed at conservation where a tree seedling will serve as the event ticket. His take on cycling in the country? Wycliffe says that cycling as a commuting option in Kenya is greatly underappreciated and the connotation that it has is that it is a poor man’s commuting option. However, recreational cycling is growing at a very fast rate – looking back 5 years ago the number of people visiting Karura Forest and Brackenhurst over the weekends to ride has increased phenomenally. This has been catalysed by two aspects; need for lifestyle change to stay healthy and appreciation of these green spaces as an inexpensive and convenient getaway. Wycliffe states that cycling aligns very well with Vision 2030 as it will facilitate promotion of sustainable transport modes, that is, nonmotorised transport and cleaner cities. PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

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Queried on his advice to potential entrepreneurs, he says that his unwavering advice to potential entrepreneurs has always been TO START. That there’s a lot of information now on what to do and what not to do but very little emphasis being put on starting the journey. He quips that this is a jungle where plans more often than not are rendered useless but planning skills are critical. Wycliffe says that employment is a safe-net that nurtures the guarded and whose appetite for risk is low. That it is the best option for consistently meeting your needs but not for exponential growth. The timelines in entrepreneurship are a grey area as there’s no standard for the big break – some get it earlier, others when almost giving up. Any business/life/leadership lessons as he moves Play Guru from one level to the next? Yes – invest and value people as your greatest assets regardless of their social positions. He says that he has guards who have come through for him at levels the secretary would only dream off. Secondly, Wycliffe states that you should always seek to be the source of positive energy with your clients – everybody remembers the experience and not the transaction. The domino effect from this can be anything as the children slowly see you as a close friend over the bicycle merchant – blessings galore. This has Wycliffe wins a couple of accolades including: Top 100 innovators in 2011 under Enablis; Safaricom Blaze mentor – Retail and Manufacturing (Season 2); awarded flagship status through an MOU by Vision 2030 in 2016; and, pitched and got endorsed to do an annual bicycle tour along the River Nile riparian countries.

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As to whether his various stakeholders are as invested in his dream as he is, his answer is yes, but for different personal reasons. Wycliffe states that he has learnt to accept this as the vision carrier. He adds that they know that Play Guru`s success translates to an empowerment platform for them and to the exceptional ones, they ultimately would like to be big players in the supply chain as distributors. As to whether the government is doing enough to support entrepreneurs, more so, regarding job creation for the youth, Wycliffe answers in the affirmative. He adds that there is still a lot of work to be done as we have tarnished the blue collar by trying to make it white. He gives a simple scenario – why don’t we view Mama Mboga or the local vendors as entrepreneurs? That we should go back to basics and equate entrepreneurship to solution provision and not the rock star perception we have created. Secondly, he says that the campaign should be geared on the youth being pushed to create enterprises over seeking jobs. This is the only sustainable path to ensuring the seekers are absorbed by the creators. Queried on his take on work-life balance, Wycliffe admits that it is an oxymoron to many. His take – keep your priorities right as there’s always work to be done as life happens. Live in the moment!! His parting shot? Rome wasn’t built in a day but remember they laid a brick everyday... Selah!!


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T R AV E L

ROAD TO

Ethiopia


I

will start with a caution: Beware of lots of photos in this story! I would also like to say that parts of this story are fiction, and some of the photos heavily edited. Now that we have those technicalities and data consciousness out of the way, let me tell you about my ride to northern Kenya with my friend, Timam. “What is the farthest north you have gone?” Timam asked me late last year. Then he added “I just realised the farthest north I have gone is Kitale!” That did not sound right to me. I tell him that the farthest I have been is Kamurio, East Pokot. I open Google maps to check how far north it is, and to my dismay realise that it actually is not much farther north than Kitale! And I’ve never been there by motorcycle. “I want to ride to Moyale before the year ends,” says Timam. He started riding barely six months ago, but he does it so ferociously. And I don’t mean he speeds, I mean he really does ride! He rides through rain and darkness. I already did a trip with him to Kisumu. He is not those sunny Sunday only riders. I say I just might join him. The trip is fixed to be on Thursday the 28th of December 2017. The eve of the ride comes, and about four other riders have committed to go. They are all somewhere near Meru. I’m the only one doing the whole trip from Nairobi. Timam says he will wait for me, the others can go ahead. And that’s how I rode with Timam to Moyale, because we ended up about three hours behind the rest. I leave my house at 5:50am, twenty minutes later than I had intended to. It’s a quick ride to Thika town and the sun breaks out when I’m past Thika. Somewhere after Makutano, I encounter the first maniac of the day. A Probox (of course) being driven so dangerously. I don’t know if I passed the guy and he got annoyed for being passed by a bike, but the next thing I hear is his tyres sliding on the road and hitting a bump hard as he races to overtake me. I move over and let him pass, and he goes on hitting bumps and doing dangerous overtakes. I continue on my way towards Meru. A few kilometres after Nithi bridge, I find the Probox parked on the side of the road, with a hazard triangle behind it. I guess it got tired of being abused.

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Finally, I get to Meru town, where Timam is waiting for me. I stop at a petrol station to fuel up and attend to pressing biological needs. I meet Timam who is surrounded by fans. A quick greeting, and we hit the road towards Isiolo. After Isiolo, the scenery takes a turn for the picturesque. Mountain ranges rise in the distance, open land glides past. There’s not much traffic on the road, and the true freedom of riding a motorcycle sinks in. We are not going fast, which gives us time to just soak in the environment. Soon we reach what I shall call the Holy Mountain, Mount Ololokwe. Mt. Ololokwe is majestic! Towering over the landscape with its brightly coloured face. I’m not surprised that the Samburu consider it a sacred mountain. Approaching it on the road feels awesome, like approaching an altar! We stop to take some photos. I take some photos of Timam and our bikes: I give him the camera and he takes some photos of me: This place is so quiet. We can hear any vehicle approaching before we see it. And we can see it approaching from about three kilometres or more out. So peaceful and serene. I forget my helmet camera on... We wrap it up and continue on our journey. A few minutes later, we see an ostrich just chilling on the side of the road. At Merille, we meet people who must be the happiest about the tarmacked road. As we approach Laisamis, Timam goes into a panic. His bike’s tiny four litre fuel tank is running empty. We stop at Laisamis to fuel. The guys ahead have already reached Marsabit, but we are not sure they will wait for us. We meet other bikers heading to Lake Turkana through South Horr.

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And onward we roll... PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

Finally, we get to Marsabit. We roll into a petrol station and are informed that the other group already left. An attendant tells us to beware of the wind, it’s very strong he says. “Is it stronger than where we have come from?” we ask. We have already battled strong winds. And we want him to tell us no, it’s a bit better than where we have come from... “It’s worse,” he says. “Recently a car got an accident due to the wind.” Timam and I look at each other. We are wondering whether it’s too late to turn back and go back home... Yes, it is! It starts getting quite forlorn. (Insert David Attenborough’s voice:) But even in this vast nothingness, there’s life... I stop to take photos of camels on the road. Timam uses the opportunity to have mercy upon the parched countryside. Camels photographed and parched countryside having received mercy, we move on. (Apologies if you are named Mercy.) Now, this was the trip plan: Get to Moyale on 28th, park our bikes and cross the border on foot, enjoy some time and food in Ethiopia, then ride back to Marsabit for the night. That plan is not going to work. We arrive at Moyale a few minutes to 5pm. The border closes at 5pm. We really want to cross into Ethiopia, even if it will be for just a few minutes. But we still have to take some photos as we triumphantly enter Moyale town... I take some photos of Timam: I give him the camera and he takes some photos of me: The other riders already found a place to spend the night, and have booked us a room. We rush to park our bikes, and cross into Ethiopia on foot. It’s already 5pm, so we don’t hang out there much. We come back and look for somewhere to eat. I order chicken. I come from a community that knows chicken. I could swear what I get served

is not chicken. I’m just hoping it’s not a crow... A policewoman at a shop corners Timam and asks him why we are here, in Moyale. She is totally surprised that a bunch of lunatics rode motorcycles all the way to Moyale for no other reason other than sightseeing. Timam affirms her surprise and informs her that the lunatics are equally shocked too. “Must we go back to Nairobi tomorrow?” I ask Timam. I’m feeling a bit disappointed that we did not spend much time in Ethiopia. The question changes our trip plans. New plan: Have


breakfast in Ethiopia tomorrow (Friday), then ride to Meru and spend the night at Timam’s brother’s, then go to Nairobi early on Saturday morning. Deal. I wake up in the morning and go outside to take a photo of the bikes. And this: The other bikers don’t like our changed trip plan. They stick to the original plan to leave early. We say our good byes, and Timam and I cross into Ethiopia to look for breakfast. At the entrance, an elderly man stops us... “Change?” he asks. We had not thought of that. A quick check online shows that one birr is about three Kenya shillings. Timam hands out 500 shillings. I start bargaining with the man so that we can get more money, but Timam hushes me up and points it out to me that I’m bargaining PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

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in the wrong direction, we will get less money. I hush up. I would make a terrible bean counter! The man gives us 150 birr. The online conversion says 130 birr, so we got a good deal, I think. We continue walking up, looking for a restaurant. Suddenly a truck driving down the wrong side of the road almost hits us. We jump out of the way, scowling up at the driver. I’m wondering what happens if I get injured here... Will I be rushed back to Kenya, or to a hospital inside Ethiopia? A bit later two tuktuks driving on the wrong side of the road almost run us down... That’s when it hits us: Everyone in this country drives on the wrong side of the road! Just like Americans. We find a small restaurant and walk in. It’s a simple affair, a sitting area with about eight small tables with two chairs at each. There’s a glass counter at the other end, and behind it a young lady and a young man busy with morning preparations. We are about the only customers. We nervously take a table near the door. The lady walks up to us... “khjhda hfufye ieufkfj;sKS Fsjakhvjh,” she says. Timam and I eye each other, stupefied for a moment. We do not know a single word in Amharic! “Chai...” I say to the lady. Something in me believes the Indians have permeated every part of the world, and surely no one doesn’t know the word chai. “Chaaaai!” I repeat. She gives me a blank look, stupefied. “hjh hdjhkdh hdjkfhdkjh hjfjkshfjkd,” she responds. Timam and I look at each other again. We laugh. We are so excited to have travelled to this far foreign land, where we can’t even order breakfast due to a language barrier. “hjHJ ioiir roirgww owoit!” She is surely not sharing in our excitement. I look around. There’s a wall paper covering one wall with pictures

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of food. I stand up and go point at the image of a cup of tea. I raise two fingers to indicate two cups. She nods and goes behind the glass counter. We want something with the tea. We go up to the counter and ask the man “Cake?” “No cake.” We look into the counter, there’s some bread. We point at it and show two fingers. He nods. We sit back down, thoroughly excited. This must be how Europeans felt when they landed in Afika, yeah? Except we are not carrying guns and colonising hotels. Our breakfast arrives. The chai comes in a glass so tiny, the Luhya man in me whimpers in grief. One sip, though, and I’m smiling again. It’s delicious! Syrupy! Tastes like tea with a good amount of honey and cinnamon and something else we can’t make out. Must be illegal! The bread is good too. We ask for two more glasses of the tea. “How much it that?” we ask the girl after we are done. “gjgdj hdjhgdjhsdg djhdjahdsk” She calls the man over. “How much?” “Forty,” he says. I give him a birr note written 50. We are expecting 10 birr back. We do a quick mental calculation to see if it was too expensive. Forty birr would be about 120 Kenya shillings. Not bad for breakfast for two! We notice the man is taking long to count our change, and is actually counting a lot of money. He comes and hands me some notes and coins. I count them out, it comes to 46 birr. We are confused. “What just happened?” “Was the breakfast four birr or forty birr?” “I don’t know! Ebu let’s walk out quickly before he discovers his mistake...” “Whoa! Breakfast was that cheap? Shit!” “Damn! Dude, we are filthy rich! Let’s buy a building right here!” We decide that if food is that cheap, we might as well binge!

We continue walking up, looking for somewhere else to eat something different. As we walk I begin having some deep thoughts, or so I think. Why is the earth divided into countries? And why have humans chosen to restrict each other’s movements? Why do we have fences and gates and borders? Can’t the whole world just live together as one big country? What if Kenya breaks up into smaller countries according to tribes, and one day, you need six border passes to travel from Kisumu to Mombasa? My deep thoughts are interrupted by more vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road and almost running us down. We find another restaurant and order injera and some lemon magic drink. Let me tell you about this lemon drink. I take one sip, it hits the


back of my throat like a speeding truck! My shoulders shiver like I’m dancing amapeka, and I let out a yelp as my hands go up into the air. Two elderly men at a nearby table pause their conversation to stare at me. I order another glass. It’s sinfully sweet! We decide to go back to the other hotel after this and have more of that sweet tea in a tiny glass. On our way back, we spot some clothes shops, and stop by them to buy some women’s clothing... Don’t ask. Shopping for clothes drains all the money we have between us. It suddenly hits us how poor we really are. We decide to stop the impulse buying, with just enough money left for some chai, before we head back home to our mother land. The same lady comes to serve us.

“hjdhfajfhj ahfjfhdjfh hjadfh” she says. “Chai” I say. We manage to communicate that we want the same thing we had earlier. It doesn’t taste the same, though. The sinfully sweet lemon poison we had at the other restaurant has forever ruined our taste buds. We shake our heads in sadness as we pay. The lady comes to take our empty glasses. We say “Thank you” in about six languages and hope she understands one of them. She smiles beautifully back at us and says just one word: “Chai.” THE END. Please share.

3A1515571200 Enjoy more photos of Ethiopia and our trip back to Central Kenya: On the ride back, I get stopped by these policemen at Turbi. They just want a chat. What I do not know is that Timam has stopped by the side of the road to buy some water. I shoot past the town and speed on hoping to catch up. And that’s how we each ride solo through the Chalbi desert towards Marsabit. It’s a strange experience, seeing yourself as the only living thing on the landscape, from horizon to horizon. Not even a tree in sight.

Please read and share more of my stories here: https://web.facebook.com/djothefu/no tes?lst=689955966%3A689955966%

Please read and share more of my stories here: https://web.facebook.com/ djothefu/notes?lst=689955966%3A689 955966%3A1515571200

THE END. (For real) Please share.

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LU C A S

O N

L I F E

Passion.

I

once attended the Landmark forum more than ten years ago. It’s one of this self-improvement – you deserve to be happy - kind of events. I was single; life was good in my autopilot mode, so it is curiosity that took me there I think. I have had the opportunity to live a life doing what I love and that has been a good life I must say. Most people are in jobs or occupations they dislike or even hate but cannot leave for one reason or another. Mostly it’s the fear of the unknown that holds us back. The higher the stakes the more the fear to take the leap. Children, loans, age and other life factors make it very hard. Only a small minority in this life will go past the fear and jump into the life they have always wanted. I have often wondered why it is so difficult to make the jump into passion territory especially when older. Of course I have listed some reasons up there but beyond that I feel like there’s an internal resistance to change until we are forced to by circumstances. Most of my life I have lived my passion which was growing my events business. It was never a job, more like a hobby that makes me money. To me that was how life was to be lived. It was standard, or so I thought. People would remark “eishh Lucas you seem so happy”, “you doing well’’, “you’re so lucky” and on the compliments went. And all the time I thought that was kawaida. It’s how life is lived. Until 40

checked in. Now I feel like I’m on the other side of the admirers looking at and envying folks who are in their element. I’m like a fish out of water looking at other fish enjoying the pond. Passion for my current hustle started changing when I turned 40. This has been a huge challenge for me because I have been making and drinking that passion juice daily for most of my life until now when I start questioning what is next with my life. Recently I have interacted with people my age and even older doing what they love and when I look into their eyes, I see the fire that once burnt in mine. I believe that the best state of being is where one’s passion is their occupation. That explains the discomfort I’ve been experiencing over the last three years. It has been a space where I’m not as engaged as I used to be and that bothers me. On the one hand, my business doesn’t need me now and we need to break up so that it can flourish. On the other, I know my future is in talking (which includes writing) yet it’s taking so long, or so it seems. I had forgotten that it takes time to grow something good. I find myself busy nowadays but I don’t have much to show for it. I think I’m like the bamboo that grows underground for years then breaks through the surface finally after a long time. This is the consolation I’m hanging on to. It better be the case. The late Otieno Kajwang once

introduced the term passionometer in Parliament when referring to the ability of a candidate being considered for a job in gava. It’s the ability to measure how passionate one is for what they do. I have always measured high on that scale for most of my first half. Several of my age mates seem to be in this state of searching for their next big thing and for most of us our gauge is on low. When you are not fully engaged in what you love you tend to get bored fast and uncomfortable at what you are doing because you long to be elsewhere. My only hope is that this season will pass and I will now be fully submerged in my next big thing. Although life is still fair because I have had a few moments where the gauge spikes up. This is when I get a speaking gig or when an article I do is received really well. I see this as small oases in the desert to quench my thirst and give me courage to continue to Canaan (pun intended). Folks, please do not give up and switch off your passionometers. The gauge may indicate E (for empty) but that is just temporary. E could be for enough for now. If you are seeking for higher ground, you will surely find it in the fullness of time. Did you know desert is Latin or Greek for speak? Maybe if we listen keenly in these periods where passion is low, we shall get our next instructions sooner than later and finally get our passion groove back. PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

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B O O K

R E V I E W

Critical Chain by Eliyahu M. Goldratt “I teach at a business school. But I am no longer at the bottom of the academic hierarchy. A year ago I was promoted from the doormat level of assistant professor to the semi-respectable position of associate professor. 30

Frankly, it was a miracle, considering the abysmal number of academic papers I have had published. On the other hand, it wasn’t, not if one takes into account the name I’ve built for myself as an exceptional teacher.”

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This is an excerpt from the second chapter of Critical Chain by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. The excerpt ably captures the gist of this book, that it is a fun book to read and that the author is a gifted teacher. On the cover, it is described as a business novel and reading through it, one comes to the conclusion that it fully lives up to this name. Which means that there is no killing and no dying and that the only mystery to be solved is how to manage a project more effectively. The novel opens with a declaration that the board meeting is adjourned. This from Daniel Pullman, the chairman and CEO of Genemodem, a modem manufacturing


company. We get to learn that the last quarter was the best in the history of the company. The directors are pleased at this, though they are not overly excited as they have come to expect this. The external board members depart, and Pullman is left alone with Isaac Levy, the executive vice-president of engineering. Levy had insisted on hiring a consulting firm to do an in-depth analysis of the company’s product development. Pullman seeks to know whether Levy has read the analysis. He has. Both agree that the analysis was worthwhile. That said, they agree to launch a think tank to address what the report lacks by way of shrinking their product development time. Next, Levy recruits a think tank – three young managers. He does not consider them as senior enough for the task at hand as he deems them as too young and too inexperienced. Still, Pullman had said that a young person could help them find a better way to do things as such a person would not be set in their way. In this, Pullman had likened them to when he and Levy started out. That they broke every convention and which he attributes to their present success. On his part, Levy had not seen the need to remind him that they also ‘succeeded’ in running their first company into the ground. The think tank is tasked with shrinking the time it takes to develop a new modem. Presently, this stands at two years against a backdrop of six months for the company to obsolete the last modem introduced into the market by launching a newer version. Should they be successful in their mission, members of the think tank are to be rewarded handsomely. They are: Mark Kowalski – group leader and from engineering, Ruth Emerson from marketing, and Fred Romero from finance. On the other side of town, Rick picks and reads the memo for the hundredth time. Rick teaches at a business school. The memo states that he has been assigned to teach a course

in the Executive MBA programme and schedules him to a meeting to determine which course it will be. Rick is elated at this development as it can only herald his acceleration to acquiring tenure and onwards to full professorship. Meaning, as chair, he gets more time for research plus a commensurate salary. Rick also takes this to mean that he will need to prepare adequately since his students will be full-time managers. Rick follows through the appointed meeting with Jim Wilson, the head of the Executive MBA Programme. As their discussion progresses, we get to learn that Rick was considered to teach a course in this programme ahead of other senior candidates. Jim says that this is because of Rick’s teaching method – teaching through open discussion – which he feels is particularly relevant for their particular audience. In the end, they settle for project management as Rick’s course. We then get to meet B.J. vonBraun; rumour has it that her first initial stands for Brunhilde, though nobody dares verify it. She is the University President at the university Rick teaches. She is meeting with Bernard Goldsmith and Alistair Franklin and who are both the respective heads of their universities. More importantly, each of their universities have large business schools. They are all worried at the prospect of dwindling enrolments for their MBA programmes. In the end, they agree that the only way they can continue to compete with the established universities when push comes to shove is to enhance the reputation of their business schools. For B.J., it boils down to cultivating the talent in her university in this respect. The first lesson. Rick looks around his class and notices that there are more students than he expected, almost thirty. He is not unduly worried as he has taught classes which are four times bigger. Plus, he is well prepared as he read all summer on the subject as well as interviewing over a dozen

people with lots of experience in project management. Rick points at one of the students and requests him to identify himself. The student identifies himself as Mark Kowalski. Rick then asks him why he chose this particular course and presses him for a more satisfactory answer… a pointer to Rick’s teaching method where he deviates from mere lecturing to more direct engagement with his students. The novel then moves to a meeting between B.J. and Christopher Page, Dean of the Business School. Theirs is a delicate tango where Page requests for more resources for his business school while B.J. manages his expectations in response to her earlier meeting with her fellow university presidents. At hand is the question of budget cuts and tenure for the teaching faculty. As the novel progresses, we see various events play out as Mark’s think tank pans out. There is more involvement of Rick with his students and more input from his fellow staff who are teaching other courses in the same Executive MBA Programme. The turning point being when the theoretical knowledge gleaned from class is applied in a real-life scenario, Mark’s think tank’s task, with very concrete results (the critical chain). This calls for more close collaboration between academia and industry and everyone ends up as a winner; which means that our main character, gets his deserved tenure after all. Critical Chain is a fast-paced, witty and educative business novel. It manages to successfully break down a complex idea in project management – the critical chain - with ease. In no small part, by turning what would otherwise have been a dry topic, into a storytelling session with interesting characters we can all root for.

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T H E

D I A RY

O F

A

B U D D I N G

W R I T E R

#WAKANDA movie is this? B

lack Panther. The movie, not the movement. No spoilers either. Now that I am into new beginnings, I decided that I might just as well restart writing my novel, the greatest novel ever. And it is a sci-fi novel that will also be turned into a box office hit someday as you may well be aware. It even has a working title (Insert appropriate title here for a novel set in the desert). A confession – I am big on sci-fi and fantasy movies. Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, Matrix, The Lord of the Rings‌ There is a way they appeal to my inner child. You know, when possibilities were limitless. These movies make my imagination soar as I marvel at their tech wizardry or magic. And off tangent, that inner child thing might be why I am also big into cartoons and animations. For inspiration as I embarked on penning my marvel (I like to think of my novel as a marvel, plus the association with Marvel Comics), I decided that I might as well join the bandwagon and see what all the hullabaloo was about Black Panther. Which is to say that I was going to

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I could have gone with her to see the movie if we were still together, but we are not. Then again, she was always a fussy one. Getting to a movie on time was always a problem with her. Her other transgressions; that she would request we leave the movie halfway and that she could never finish her popcorn or pie. Now, I was raised in the oldschool way that dictated that leaving one’s food unfinished was akin to taunting Our Gracious Provider up above. see our very own Lupita Nyong’o in the spirit of nationalism. I have had a crush on her since her Shuga days; then again, there is the grit I recognise in her when I see her scooping big novels to turn into movies à la Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. In the true Kenyan spirit, now that she has a foot in, why not turn it into a mile? Meanwhile, the reviews kept coming in. Rave reviews. The action, the story line, the portrayal of black men and women, I really had to do it on the big screen. As it were, I have two rules: There are big screen movies and then there are the others. Naturally, Black Panther fell under the big screen category, 3D. There is a way that movies come alive on the big screen – bigger, better, more intense. Exactly the kind of

inspiration I needed to do my greatest novel ever. Now, movies and weekends go together, at least, in my corner of the world. Then, the body is relaxed, and the mind is at ease; more so, after a hectic, fast-paced week spent eking out a living. Which is to say that by Friday, I knew the itinerary of all major cinemas around the country. That if I was to wake up very early on Sunday, I could watch the movie at a third of the price. Still, in the order of things, I felt that my sleep’s worth could only be equated to a bucket of gold. Then again, a miser’s mind-set is not the best way to enjoy life’s treats. Still, I wake up a bit earlier to attend early mass. I really want to be on time for the movie slated for lunchtime. Which brings me to my second rules. Big screen movies fall under alone time. Back then, movies were to be seen when in the company of the boys. But now, we are all grown up with different responsibilities. As such, getting to synchronise our weekends for a movie is a big hassle. You know, one of us could be in Outer Mongolia while another is in Mogadishu and such. I could have gone with her to see the movie if we were still together, but we are not. Then again, she was always a fussy one. Getting to a movie on time was always a problem with her. Her other transgressions; that she would request we leave the movie halfway and that she could never finish her popcorn or pie. Now, I was raised in the old-school way that dictated that leaving one’s food unfinished was akin to taunting Our Gracious Provider up above. So, I always watched big screen movies twice; first alone, then with her, kind of cheating if you ask me. With the boys, what you asked is what you got. I finish mass alright and rush to town. For us men, there are four constant things: one’s mother, one’s Father (the one in church), one’s barber, one’s local, one’s football team and one’s

movie cinema. Make that five. Or six. I could pop into the nearby shopping mall that also hosts a cinema, but then again, it’s not like I am grocery shopping. There is a ritual to how we see our big movies. First is the trip to town with the intention to see the movie. This sets me in the mood for the movie. Then the location of the movie cinema. The setting makes it abundantly clear that all and sundry are here explicitly for the movie unlike, say, were I to attend the movie cinema at the neighbourhood mall. In short, there is always a carnival mood around the place as to how the movie goers are dressed, talk, snack and so on. Kind of a parallel universe. Then you get in line and get your ticket and soda and popcorn. I mostly skip the snacks as I get carried away and there is just no point leaving the cinema hall with a bag of popcorns, is there? Now, the rainy season is here and so I rush to town before the heavens open. I arrive at the cinema place sunny and smiling and engage in the movie ritual. Report to the gents, get my ticket, get into the cinema hall, be directed where to sit as I am handed my 3D glasses and so on. With phones and meetings and movies, I always make a point of switching them off before going into the venue. Which is to say I may never have sat at my allocated seat in the cinema hall as I fumble in the dark. Invariably, I always get a seat though as there is always that Kenyan who books a ticket in advance but is a no-show. And so, my inspiration begins. Still, no spoilers. Suffice to say that Lupita Nyong’o is the bomb… and ecstasy is when she just had to mention Kenya, my motherland, just before some epic action. And cascading waterfalls that were ephemeral and which got my vertigo going as I got immersed into the movie. Definitely inspired to pen the greatest novel ever, is me.

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F I C T I O N

Plot 11

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W

hen it rains elsewhere, people say that blessings have come. That crops and children and homes will grow. But when it is the rainy season, the sufferers of Plot 11 grumble and pout and sulk. They complain and complain and curse the rains. For then, they know no peace. Not in a particular order, but clotheslines and the people who do not own them are a casualty. See, when it is all sunny and harmony diffuses among the residents of Plot 11, here is how laundry unfolds. The people who do not own clotheslines, they do their washing on weekdays. Hence, Neighbour 1A, the one who does not speak much, Monday is for him. Neighbour 3D, he grabs Tuesday, and so on and so forth. Come the weekend, the clotheslines owners do their laundry and everyone is content. Now, supposing the rainy season starts on Tuesday? Neighbour 1A is safe as his laundry is home and dry – inevitably, they are always bachelors, these leeches that refuse to buy their own clotheslines. Neighbour 3D might be lucky if it suns on Wednesday as Wednesday is no wash day for everyone. Plus, if he had run out of water halfway in his washing, his clothes get a thorough rinse from the rains on Tuesday. But as you and I know, the rainy season goes on and on. So, the wash days run into each other as the wet clothes linger on the clotheslines and the battles begin. Here are the results of the third week of the rainy season: Neighbour 1A has just refused to lend Neighbour 3C a few matchsticks. She called him some choice epithets last week as she threw down his laundry from her clotheslines. To be fair, if I were him, I definitely would not be charitable having been told that I had a face even a mother could not love. Ouch! Neighbour 2B is currently locked up at the local police station as he got into a very physical fight with the husband of Neighbour 4E.

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Fact is, he was given a very thorough beating; then again, the husband was the first to report the incident, so… Swimming lessons are an imperative when you reside in Plot 11. Ever seen on TV flooded houses when the rainy season comes a calling? That is the lot of Plot 11 denizens. Here is how they arrive at home if the heavens opened at daytime when they were away toiling. Upon alighting at the nearest bus stop, they dash to shelter themselves under the roof of the nearest roadside shop. Here, catching a breather before they embark on the interior where their houses are located. Plotting and strategising, really. Trousers are now folded past the knees, shoes and socks on the left hand, the right hand clutching a rod to poke the ground for the deep trench that crosses their path and where their dying is likely to occur should they tumble in. The formation changes at times. Today, they are zigzagging to their homes, ten people holding hands. The instructions are very clear; don’t let go of your neighbour’s hand as you might just be their saviour. It really is ironic that Neighbour 2B tightly holds the hand of the leader of the pack – Neighbour 4E’s husband. Past transgressions are all but forgiven. A sufuria and some plastic plates serenely floats by this group. Tonight, people will sleep standing as even the beds were submerged in the flood waters. Yesterday, Chavi, the drunkard was swept away. He really should have suspended his drinking till the rainy season was over, is the thinking of residents of Plot 11. Toilets and matters hygiene? Let’s not even go there. Suffice to say that the city council has launched an emergency help desk to treat typhoid and dysentery and cholera and such like. Reprieve for the lucky few who contract these illnesses as they get to rest in comfortable beds and eat nice food at the city council’s big hospital. Should you contract malaria, though, you are

on your own. In his defence, though, the city’s mayor showed up to commiserate with his people. He donated some foodstuffs and blankets and promised to install a proper bridge to cover the totality of the dangerous deep trench. It was the same trick he used two years ago when he sought their votes. Then again, if he fixes it, what will he promise them when he seeks re-election three years down the line? It really is a conundrum. Security. It is agreed that security and the rainy season do not go hand in hand at Plot 11. Then, security deteriorates rapidly – robbery graduates from small time pilferage of one’s Sunday best shoes drying on the roof to machete attacks. Thing is, every house has a machete or a crowbar to be used in times of need. Which times is when a screaming is done in the dead of night and everyone rushes out armed to confront the muggers. Of course, a shot rings out and everyone runs back to their house. Still, after this, the muggers do not lurk about and the way is safer for other late entrants. Unluckily, though, a few such entrants have chanced upon the police after the fact and been shot as the robbers. Then again, you just cannot pin-point what it is exactly that a majority of the residents here do by way of livelihoods. They could be collateral damage, they could be robbers, who knows? My point? When it is raining and you are being robbed, then you suffer in silence as your loud screams will be in vain and will only attract more violence. Or you could just drink yourself silly if you will be going home late. The anecdote is that muggers rarely bother confident people. In fact, it is said that they assist them drunkards to cross the deep trench safely. Rather sad that they were on holiday the night Chavi drowned. The rainy season is now come and gone, but Plot 11 lives on. Sufferers here go on with their business. Still, if you look around, you will notice that a


primary and popular denizen is gone. Long a permanent fixture, he had to relocate swiftly after he got a dog’s beating. And it all had to do with the rains. ‘Ben wa Supu’ – Ben the Soup Man. You know how they say that chicken soup is best for your health? Ben and his product were the equivalent in Plot 11. Which is to say that chicken was way out of reach of the denizens here, so chicken soup was out of the question. The set-up? Ben also ran a butchery that traded in beef and goat meat. Come evening though, he would don his cape (in the form of a dirty brown, streaked with blood, once-white apron) and transform into the superhero Ben the Soup Man. At the front of his butchery, he had erected rudimentary benches for his soup customers. To reiterate, Ben traded in beef and goat meat, meaning there was no cause to suspect him and his products. The soup being bone soup. Now, the denizens of Plot 11 are hardworking. They carry building blocks as they build the nation. They haul sacks of potatoes on their shoulders from the brokers’ lorries

to the stalls of the traders. These sacks, way bigger than the Ministry of Agriculture’s recommended sizes. And when they clock the hours, they report at Ben’s place for respite for their aching bones as soup is good for their bones. And Ben is a fair man and trades fairly. He scoops the soup from the big metal drum into a plastic jerrycan, adds some salt, shakes it up and dispenses it. So now, the rains were heavy and toppled the metal drum as his customers huddled at the front of his butchery. No big deal, except that a dog’s head and bones tipped over. They beat him up and ransacked him by way of dividing the money he had traded for the day and his beef and goat meat. The anomaly being that, on this day, everyone preferred beef over goat meat. If you think about it, goats and dogs are about the same size. But it not all gloom and doom at Plot 11. Like the fact that elsewhere, when people want to marry, they become a bother to their friends and enemies and relatives. They form pre-wedding, wedding and marriage committees and put people in them. Then they set unrealistic

Sherry, the house help, is the one who spends most of the time in the house. She has been with the family for three years now and Nanai calls her Auntie. She has rather plain looks and which is subject to debate as to her suitability as wife material. targets for these poor souls in the form of monetary contributions.

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Three years down the line, they are no longer together, and they stop talking to you when you ask back for your contribution. Very selfish, if you ask me. Not so at Plot 11. When the people here love each other, get tired of doing their own laundry, see that years are running out of them, or whatever else makes people marry, they do so. Only that they start living together as husband and wives; with the details of making it official (before the law and kin) to be sorted out later. There are exceptions, of course. Timothy was one such exception. This Timothy, he is in the transport industry. Meaning that he operates a fleet of handcarts; about ten of them as one or two cannot be traced as he rents them out to rascals. Occasionally, he also pulls one when a long-time client calls. You just cannot ignore a client who trusts you implicitly to deliver – a client who gave you work when you started out by way of renting a handcart. Then you just have to deliver personally. His clients being market traders and shopkeepers. Timothy, having moved from the realm of one triangle meal to three square meals a day, with porridge and soup breaks in between, saw it well to have a wife. And considering that he had imbibed on the virtues (and a couple of vices for balance) of Plot 11, namely, self-sufficiency, he did away with prewedding and wedding committees (for a time, though). Still, a man of his stature had to put on a show in how he acquired his wife. It was covered in The News and he and his wife were even invited to the TV station run by this media house. This, his wedding, received TV and newspaper coverage as it ought to and cemented his legacy as a man of substance in Plot 11. At which point a tour and travel company rode on this publicity and sponsored them to Israel. Incidentally, Timothy had mentioned in passing that he had always dreamed of going to Israel in his interview. Specifically, to see with his own eyes where Jesus was born and to also see and believe that one could

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PROSE MAGAZINE | APRIL - MAY 2018

float with nary swimming skills on the Dead Sea. The lead handcart, heavily adorned with purple ribbons and balloons, the wedding theme colour, carried the videographer. Then came the bride and the bridegroom in the second car. By far the biggest and brightest in the convoy. Freshly painted royal purple, wheels decked in Mercedes Benz’s rims, brimmed with purple flowers (Hibiscus? No one seems to know), ribbons and balloons, a purple couch and a folding stair for the couple to alight; also in purple. And Plot 11 denizens did not let him down either. Even the senior bachelors and the louts came in their numbers, though it cannot be unsaid that the offer of a free lunch could have been the main attraction. And the market traders really outdid themselves. For the menfolk, Timothy was one of their own. He had been with them in the trenches – shovelling handcarts’ wheels to keep them turning in muddle patches. They simply had to come through for him. And they freely gave of themselves – rice and beans and oil and meat and beer for the after party. Some had even offered their pickup trucks and cars, which offers Timothy politely declined. He took pride in his work and when a man takes pride in his work, you got to respect that. For the womenfolk, this was the opportune moment to reward themselves. Having worked so hard, searching for cereals and vegetables and fish and cloth all over the republic to feed Plot 11, were they not entitled thus? And so the tailors were ambushed with dozens upon dozens of the finest purple cloth with strict instruction to deliver this time around. As a matter of fact, some women traders took time off their stalls to personally supervise the traders so that they would deliver. But they need not have worried though. After all, was Timothy not one of their own? Which gratitude the tailors extended to the market urchins and tailored them wedding clothes with the leftovers from all the cloth they got; a

caveat, though, there were to wear them on the material day of the wedding and which would serve as their pass to the wedding and the banquet thereafter. Even the market mad man got his outfit, though there was trouble getting him to wear it. Which goes to show the effort they put in the whole affair. And so, for a month, things heated up in Plot 11 and its environs. And now that Timothy was marrying – legally and with a wedding to boot, a pre-wedding and wedding committee was formed. The first in the history of Plot 11 and the ninth or so wedding to be conducted in the local parish. As it were, weddings were hard to come by in this parish and so the father-incharge had to report about the pending wedding to his superiors. And he kept them updated on all the excitement that the coming wedding was generating and that it was likely to be covered by The News. Which meant that he had to stir things up in this parish as excitement was hard to come by; at the spiritual level, that is. Meanwhile, Satan kept on winning as one scandal after another engulfed Plot 11 and its environs. So, he called in a few favours and ensured that a crew from The News would be on hand to cover this special and unique wedding. By putting his parish on the map, he reckoned this was the only way he could get some funds to repair the church’s leaking roof – as well as funds for his many indulgences which could be looked on uncharitably as vices. As it were, he often went to one local or the other to fish his faithful. If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain; his creed. When all was said and done, the church had to send the Archbishop to officiate this wedding. The old rascal nearly bailed out at the last minute, though. Then again, wisdom prevailed; that presidential functions happened every week and him missing one would not be the end of the world. And they could be rather dreadful affairs, he concurred.


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Prose April - May 2018  

Prose Magazine is a bimonthly publication that has hitherto delved into industry trends, promoted literacy in the region, put on the spotlig...

Prose April - May 2018  

Prose Magazine is a bimonthly publication that has hitherto delved into industry trends, promoted literacy in the region, put on the spotlig...

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