Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Occupational Hazards

A cruel rumor has started in our office. I call it cruel since I find it interfering with everyones job but also because it is dragging my priceless name into murk. The rumor suggests that a lady who recently got opportunities for growth was in a big way favored because of some inappropriate liaison with me. But that is a gentle way to put it , the rumor mongers are saying that she is sleeping with me! The funny part is that when I heard the rumor, I believed it myself. All the reasons and proof fit like a straitjacket! I was simply dumbfounded. In fact if it wasn't me involved, I would have sworn it was true! Its sad but this is not the first time anyway. Another case also came up when I got some favors and a manager suggested that her PA was uncharacteristically active in fronting my cause. She concluded that it was because we knew each other in biblical terms as well. These things disappoint me since it shows a lot of disrespect for women. That people believe that women can never climb the corporate ladder conventionally other than on their backs. And also that a man and woman sitting together cannot discus anything other than procreation. In campus I was likewise linked to a many women in the same breath. ( I dint discourage all of the rumors since it was also a little flattering to be linked to some drop dead beauties lol) However a lot of it could easily be explained. Firstly in campus people never slept if they had a major exam or assignment with lots of marks. They would move from room to room until they got the best paper to 'dub and compile' the winning assignment. Our room was one such stops. (But you see I didn't even say it). The other reason was that my roommate was the chairman of Catholic Students Association. So the room was a mini Vatican. Many people would come just to talk to the chairman or to see how he lived. He was such a good man too. And finally I was also directing people on drama and choir. In fact talking of drama, one time in Kisumu our drama practices almost caused a divorce! And the bad part was that I was totally unaware that the said husband was looking for me for hugging his wife. Said he: "dirama manadi mokwakonago dhako?!" (what drama that makes him hug my wife!) Its all about occupational hazards I guess

Talking of occupations and hazards, every one seems to be focused on Marende today and wondering how he will make the delicate balancing act. Me thinks there is nothing delicate here. Marende will need to just apply the law. Kibaki remains the HoG. He can appoint Kalonzo to HBC chair. Raila should just accept that he was once again hoodwinked by Kibaki. Honestly how many times can you allow one man to play around with your mind? And after you are conned why should you shout to others including the House Speaker to help you recover your lost ground. ODM should by now have learnt that they need better negotiation skills and more shrewd leaders. After all you cant hate the player, if you are also playing the game!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Economic Meltdown: Not for Kenya Real Estate?

Am just back home from an impromptu scan of real property for sale and letting in the Lower Kabete area of Nairobi. This is a plush area neighboring the real lower kabete where I once lived. I had promised myself that if I worked hard enough, saved well enough and the stock market kept its promise, I would reward myself with a plot in this area and put up a dream house amongst the whos of Nairobi. Michael Joseph and his long serving CFO would be some of my neighbors whose wives would be coming occasionally for salt or a few chit chats with my own.

The landscape has started to change markedly with most houses that stood on 1 acre plots being pulled down to give way for community living made of town houses. I went to couple of these and what I saw left me dumbfounded. Generally the houses are quite beautiful and spacious. only thing is that the gardens are pretty small and even though the units are sitting on a half acre each, the area left for afternoon lazy reading in open air is pretty confined. Secondly most constructors have not respected the eco system at all and area basically turning the area into another concrete jungle though this time with more beautiful concrete than say Kileleshwa or umoja. secondly the construction is done even on top of streams or very close to stream. Price guide? introductory price of 50 million for most. 50 mi? yes fifty million Kenyan Money. The persons who are selling somehow refused to judge me from my cover and even started negotiating with me and telling me the area was prime and the houses would appreciate further.

But but. I mean err. I thought there was economic melt down globally and so property prices were depressed. In fact in US people are now able to buy houses they never dreamed of. No correction. Economic melt down only affected hao wazungu. In fact I was being told that those very plots were going for about 6 million shillings early last year but were now only available at 24 million. 24 mil? yes 24 million per acre and since they are mostly foreign owned (in fact even these ones had strange looking specimen) no one was selling. So its 24 million and unavailable.

On the other side of the city , Southlands the houses which were about 7 million last two years are heading towards 15 million. something doesn't seem right and my smart friend has suggested to me that the pirates money is finding its way into Kenyas prime estates and if we don't watch out, Kenya will soon be a Somali state and all our poor souls will be sent to the Kiberas of this world. Now he warns that Mungiki governance is a walk in the park compared to what the war lords of Somali would be able to subject us to!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting Your Way in a New City

My friend told me the other day of the horror story of how he traveled abroad and went into this restaurant. He ordered what appeared as the most exotic and tasty meal but when the dish came it was to say the least inedible! He was totaly not prepared for the taste. Which reminds me of when I accompanied a friend into an Indian restaurant and was totaly at a loss on what to order. Its the same way that the prospect of travel normally excites me as much as it scares me . Thinking of meeting new people. Seeing new things getting to know new ways of doing things. However it often starts to get scary when i get to the finer details. Since travel is often for a short time and in these days quite expensive, I often get scared of the prospect of missing out on the fun because I did not choose the best restaurants get the best hotel or did not get the best entertainment. Even my own security really bothers me.

Even in a restaurant I always ask the waiters or whoever it is to recommend a dish. in a big city it can be more tricky but these days for instance you can get to know what others recommend as the best Indian restaurants London even before you plan your trip. You can even review the best and affordable hostels London and even cinemas London . Which actually does save you quite a bit of trouble trying to source the best and safest places in this grand city and its all trustworthy given that it has been reviewed by millions of people like you with varied tastes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of relativity and small memories

I was reminded of my birthday again as always by my kids who this time instead of asking me to give them a treat on my big day decided to instead throw me a surprise birthday bash. Everything went on surprisingly well and they managed to do their shopping, bake the cake and even craft some beautiful hand made cards for me. There was even entertainment in the form of poems, songs and dances prepared! However the funny part came when the age old happy birthday song was being sung and I had to mention my age. The part that goes, "...how old are you now" the last born volunteered instead and shouted 100! but his sister whom he follows corrected him, not hundred, 1 million! My wife and I burst out laughing and the visibly confused young people looked at us in disappointment and disapproval. The older kids told them it should be much less. That in fact they should divide the 100 by 3! the boy was very disappointed. How could dad have such few years. He said I had to have 100 years since I can change the light bulbs while standing perfectly on the floor. As in I don't even have to use a ladder or a stool! Second justification is that I always carry their bike with one hand and many other small proofs of my age. Its all about relativity I guess. But due to relativity again I was impressed at their organizational skills relative to their ages and even the idea of a surprise for 1 the million year old dad. no one betrayed their conspiracy, not even the young ones who I thought were always on my side!

But this year I got quite a number of birthday wishes from all over the world some from long lost friends. I thought I had suddenly become a celeb of sorts or that the stars had finally aligned in my favor. But my witty and up-town nephew blew my bubble and informed me that facebook was to thank for all those friends remembering my big day. Another great thing from innovation of the internet.

On another note; my thoughts go to those many families who lost their beloved ones in the senseless and chilling murder in Karatina yesterday. The sadder part is that their killers will never be brought to book and that the danger of their spreading to other parts of the country is growing ever more real given we indeed have an ineffective PM and a moribund President.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A moment With an MP

My friend has indicated to me that he will be in the running for parliamentary office come 2012 and he has told me (not requested) that I will support him in deed and spirit. (he doesn't come from my constituency). He doesn't have to be persuaded or dissuaded since politics runs in their family.

However for me any minute political ambitions I could have hitherto nursed evaporated last week when I went to see my MP and Minister for Lands. Because of the project in Urenga that I have been working on, the man has constantly sought to meet me and sent a number of people informally to me. I felt flattered to be sought by such a strong man. The other day when I passed by home, the school committee chairman insisted that we would use the opportunity to see the MP since he had also come the previous night. I was told the minister woke early and so we had to go by 9AM. However because of late breakfast and some other 'unavoidable' circumstances, we got to his home at about 11AM. I was surprised to find out that it was only 1KM or less from my home.

Getting to the home, I almost turned. The home was packed with villages of all shapes sizes and shades! old women, old men, young men and women. some sitting others standing. some in small groups and some alone staring pensively at some white house beyond the gate. I later learned that this was a new home and the minister still stayed in the old home. The chairman encouraged me to go ahead and enter the home. some helpful young man who I leter learned was the usher directed us where to pack.

The minister was still asleep and we were told he had come home in the early hours of the morning. The chairman told me the crowd would be dispensed of in a twinkle of an eye. The MP would see all of them and it would be very fast. I was told most of the crowd was people of 'gonya'. 'Gonya' is the term locals use to indicate to you to give them money either for being your relative, or your dads friend or the person who saw you when you were born or who came to visit you when your dad was working in Kisumu or because they told you that you are driving a nice car any other reason that is taxable. Its a sort of a relationship tax. For an MP every constituent is entitled to 'gonya'. I was told Orengo always has wards of new crisp 50 bob notes that he uses for that purpose.

I soon got tired of waiting and wanted to leave but a whisper went round that the MP was in the shower and would soon come. Soon there was another whisper that he was taking breakfast. Luckily the chairman knew the usher and told him who I was and what I was doing for the village. We were immediately taken to a waiting room next to the 'office' of the MP. We would be the second in once he came. We waited there and talked. Soon the man came and we went in. He looked apprehensive at first on seeing me but after while he oppened up and said he wanted us to work together. He even explained that he had stayed up late in Bondo the previous night and only got home at about 4AM. He was also scheduled to go to Sabatia to attend the burial of the sister of the Deputy Prime minister. However before that he had to see each of all those constituents in his compound! With that I stood to go after exchanging contacts and agreeing to call each other to make plans.

On our way back I couldn't help but ask the chairman what all those people would be seeking. He told me that the needs were varied. Some people would come to tell the minister to help them with school fees, or with paying dowry, or burying their father in law. Or that their house was leaking and needed a new roof or that their son got lost in Nairobi and they wanted fare to go get them. or that their neighbor who had borrowed their chicken when they had guests had declined to pay and so the minister needed to step in! At the end each person would get at least 50 shillings and also a meal of ugali with meat. The meals I was told were a daily thing even when the MP wasn't home!

I was dumb founded. What about his own privacy! When does he get to talk to his wife, kids, mother, brothers cousins , unties, etc!!! and when does he even get to take a walk around the home to enjoy the otherwise fresh breeze and the beautifully rolling land full of greenery? When does he get to sit under the shadows of the beautiful mangoe trees and put his legs up on a reed-made stool sipping busaa and catching up on the wars of the president and Prime Minister on Lolwe FM???!!!

If that is the life of an MP, obed!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of Moving and Conviniences

Its often said that a rolling stone gathers no moss. Meaning in the converse that a stationary stone does gather moss. Maybe thats why when you are living in a house you tend to gather quite a bit of stuff which you dont realise until you attempt to move house. I realised this the time I was moving from the 10 by 10 servants quarter I rented in South C to a more specious house in Lower Kabete. I had thought all along that my greatest possession was my bed and mattress so I just got a taxi driver, dismantled the bed and set off to move! It was a serious miscalculation.

I find moving house very tiring , tedious and risky. Lots of things can go wrong. Delicate items can break, a number of things can be misplaced and so on. But thank God for his constant mercies and thank innovation for making life bearable. The internet has offered such easy services as finding a moving company at the click of a button. It makes the tiresome task a cinch and even if you are in a situation like mine where your stuff may not be so much as to require an elaborate plan. That by a click of a button you can get free removal quotes source a man and van to move you.

The second time I was moving from Lower Kabete, I had to be more careful. There were kids involved and they had many little things which while to me would have been better thrown away, were to to them very important and had to be taken very good care of. Additionaly I had to make sure I too never lost those small valuable gifts, souvenirs and so on. I had this time to just employ the services of a removal company to take the headache. plan the move, pack the stuff transfer, unpack and position them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Silver Lining,

A lot of good work seems to be happening in spite of the constant quarrels in the government of coalition. Driving to Western Kenya last week made me see sense. The road to Nakuru to start with is nywee all the way and Nakuru itself now has dual carriage from around lanet. the road is well lit with beautiful flowers planted in between the carriages. The road is good all the way past Kabarak, Eldama ravine, maji mazuri and onward to the Eldoret. There is a small section on Eldoret road which is very bad but the engineers are on site and its actually being fixed. However while the road constructors have done their part, the people who should manage it are probably sleeping on the job since the overloaded trucks have actually'dug' furrows on the road due to the load and you have to be careful when driving. Eldoret is as beautiful as it was when I was a student here though it has become more packed and populated. Very many cars and getting parking is as hard as in Nairobi. The hotels are of low standard though. Looking at people here, they seem very content and food is not one of their worries. They also look very healthy. Onward to Kitale, only about 20 kms of the road are kinda bad the rest is mteremko till the agricultural town of Kitale. Happy people. Small sweet town. It was my first time here. Actually when you are in kitale, its hard to imagine that some parts of Kenya are without rain or food.

The road from Kitale to Kimilili is very good. Even the one to Bungoma. Bungoma to mumias and mayoni are ish ish but mumias to mayoni itself is sweetly smooth. After mayoni it was rough road till my home but thank God for small mercies. Having 'one of us' in the government has made the road be nicely graded and leveled making the driving experience very good. From home I went to Kisii through Kisumu. Of all that almost a distance of 200Kms, only about 20Km needs work. The rest is very good. Kisumu Nairobi Road is now quite good and the drive is heavenly. I thought they could have made it a little wider though. there are too many large trucks on this highway so you have to go slowly on most parts.

Generally the road network has very good improvement and areas which are bad are being worked on. Something to smile about the coalition after all.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Of Weddings and Exploitation

Yesterday I got a rant-call while driving to Kisii. A friend of mine wanted to ventilate on what she said was blatant abuse of friendship by a mutual friend of ours from back in the day. The issue here was that our friend is finally getting 'hitched' as she put it and to do that she had invited her friends from college days to contribute generously towards realizing a dream fairy tale and celebrity wedding.

1. The chick in question wants all her designer wedding props and accessories bought in the US of A (nothing wrong with that)
2. Her bridal team should be chauffeured in a state of the art stretch mercs (nothing wrong at all)
3. The flowers should be the best of cuts arranged by leading celebrity florists in Nairobi(still very good)
4. Catering to be done by a five star hotel's outside catering dept (perfect)
5. There may be rain so the giant marquee to be hired and seats nicely decorated

Well the rain starts beating the whole arrangement when you consider that the budget is running into close to a million rare Kenyan shillings and our friend and her groom have between them about 250,000 only. The rest of the budget must be shouldred by the committee. Second contentious agenda item; These people have been working for more than 10 years and they are in some quite good employments!

My friend ( the 'ranter') is angry and was wondering why Kenyans keep on wanting to depend on donors? Secondly, why do they want us to believe they are capable when indeed they aren't? And why do they want other people to shoulder their responsibility? And who said a wedding was an emergency that requires a harammbee? If they wanted such a fairy tale wedding why didnt they save for it for those past 10 years they have been in gainful employment? Or why cant they take a non secured loan from those banks hawking loans to get their dream??? Why her and her friends???

Well the rant-call lasted me the drive from Ahero to almost Oyugis a distance close to 80KMs. Somehow I surprised myself listening and driving. maybe coz I was otherwise bored on the road alone. But I only had a simple question: Why do people (Kenyans) allow themselves to be exploited and never lift a finger. Only choosing to rant to someone else. Why couldn't my friend (the ranter) tell her friend that she couldn't contribute to their wedding? I have a friend who never takes part in such committees and she says it plain and simple: "I will bring you a present but I wont give you money to get married. Its your responsibility and if you cant afford a wedding, please consider putting off the marriage coz marriage is more expensive than a wedding"

I gave my friend that option but she said it would look bad as such matters were sensitive. It was better to accept the exploitation!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Good Martha; Now Apologize.

The big news today is that one Martha Karua has resigned. there are analysts going over themselves trying to explain to us the significance of the resignation and what it portends to Kibaki side of ruins. My thinking is that after resigning, Karua has to do the next noble thing; apologize for two reasons:

1. contributing to the still birth of the second liberation and making us miss a new constitution in 2003. she was one of the very vocal supporters of the constitution she now wants changed.

2. For contributing immensely towards daylight robbery of an election in 2007.

And I put it to Martha that her resignation has nothing to do with us or the country, its all about her and a deal gone sour. Martha must have thought that by helping Kibaki go around the constitutional change and also working very hard to help Kibaki remain in power even after losing that she was inheriting the support and goodwill of Kibakis friends. she should have learnt from Raila himself. Moi told him KANU had its owners.The lady should have known that the succession has its owners.

However if she doesn't come out and apologize to all of us for bringing our country to near collapse for the sake of one man's desire to continue martgaging Kenya then her so called resignation is as strong as the shadow of the cockrel who had been starved to death.