#RespectTheUrge

Greetings humans!

I know we need to have a conversation about the relationship  I have with this blog but that is another story for another day. (someone keep tabs on these things.)
How have you been doing the past few months? If you’re in Nairobi, you have survived a brutal couple of months of heavy cloud cover and barely any sunshine. I apologize on nature’s behalf (not really. lol) for your sufferation. I absolutely loved it. However, the sunshine is back and you can thrive in it. 🙂

I’m constantly being made aware of my need to leave Nairobi. More often than not, at switch up of every season; summer (Njaaanuary, HELLO!) to the long rains, paralyzing cold to sweltering heat. Or when it becomes my favorite part of the year, the mixture of it all’ sunshine all morning, raindrops in the afternoon and evening and cold all night from an inky black sky. As the winds began changing in Nairobi I escaped to the place that stole my heart last year. The land so rich in people, food, air, water, knowledge, spirituality, memories. The Republic of Uganda for the NyegeNyege Festival 2016.
Now, before I go on, I must tell you of this amazing festival that changed my life. It is a short story so we only have to travel back in time a few years.
In 2014, the agenda was to begin the process of getting introduced to festival life goodness through the Rift Valley Festival. Unfortunately that year, that ship sailed and left me at the shore with my white handkerchief. I wasn’t worried. “RVF is an annual festival. It’ll be back next year.” I told myself. It wasn’t. The last edition occurred that year and I missed it.
I sulked all year. Kicking crunchy leaves instead of crunching them (i know, i know.), trying to sell my organs to somehow end up with enough money to have my own RVF. No one wants my diaphragm, so that ended badly. It was until Daniel and Ore(eternally grateful btw!) told Lindsay and I about NyegeNyege Festival in October that I stopped trying to give away body parts, packed up and literally escaped to Jinja for the first edition of NyegeNyege International Music Festival. 
I was blown away.
The festival occurs at an abandoned hotel which is a huge maze like thing that gets you lost but not really. I mean it. The hotel is completely covered in plant life of all kinds that it possible for you to loose your sense of direction and finding it again, till it becomes home. Bonus, it’s located right at the source of the Nile! \0/  I was sold at this point already.dsc_9540 The stage set up, camp sites, food stands all seemingly had positions so perfect on location. It was amazing to just see. When the people began to flow in, NyegeNyege reached perfection in its vibration. People from ALL OVER AFRICA and the world arrived. Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo, South Africa, France, Britain, Canada. It was a global scenario.

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Lindsay and I at NyegeNyege 2015. (Photo courtesy of Awuor Onyango)

2016 was BIGGER.
The funniest thing is that the whole year, we (Lindsay and I) were waiting for the festival dates to be announced. There’d be times we would be kicking it together and then all of a sudden we enter a moment of just pure nostalgia and sit in it for an hour. we did this over and over again. Then NyegeNyege sent  word out for its people. We entered some sort of a frenzy and began counting down the days to the return to the magic. I knew the twenty or so Kenyans who went last year, wherever they were with knowledge of the festival, were going through the exact same thing. The footage began to come out from last years festival. Pictures, promo videos and a WAKALIWOOD PRODUCTION that the whole festival was a part of! It was slowly forming into a tangible reality. “This years festival is going to be so delicious!” I would constantly say. At this point I let myself dream of a rollex. It’s dangerous because once you do, every time you think of one its going to be all you want. All. You. Want.
Nairobi caught NyegeNyege fever immediately. Early bird tickets came out, party buses were organised and constantly being booked. Some of Nairobi’s amazing artists were performing; Tetu Shani, Labdi, EA Wave, Cosmic Homies, Yellow Light Machine, Prisca Ojwang’, Kaya Collective, DJ Lasta, Jinku, Nu Fvnk and of course, Mr Blinky Bill, who killed us u.pon the dance floor last year was returning to the stage. The energy was moving in everyone. Unfortunately, those who couldn’t go were already experiencing severe F.O.M.O (Fear Of Missing Out). Nairobi, was prepared for this festival.

 

Needless to say, it was worth it. Took the trip to Jinja this year with the family, Yellow Light Machine. The thing about travelling is that before you get to the destination, it bound to get ugly at some point. Never before have I gone on a completely perfect trip from the point of departure to return. This wasn’t any different.We were late to get to the bus, I traveled in shoes with laces, we got to Uganda at 5:00am and chilled, literally, for a hot minute. It was draining really. We got to see the sunrise though. The sky changed from its deep blueness and hundreds of stars to having shades of purple, pink, orange. Clouds that looked like the lightest stroke of a paint brush covered the sky occasionally disappearing. Cotton like clouds on the way formed in the distance and sat out together, barely moving. Every morning I saw the sky in Uganda, it looked exactly like this. A story.

By midday on that day, the people of NyegeNyege had began to arrive in numbers. Food stands were going up, the stage was being set up, the camp site was filling, people were exploring and meeting each other again and for the first time. In no time the festival was in full swing. It then became a movement from one stage to the other then to get a rolex, possibly a beer as well, then back to a stage of your choice. Most live performances were set up during the day and so you could kick it in the sweltering sun or by the river and still get to jam featuring artists like Body of Brian, Winnie Lado (who I immediately fell in love with), Undercover Brothers, Young Cardamon and HAB, Tetu Shani, Cosmic Homies.dsc_9493dsc_9601dsc_9631 One of the best things about this festival is the amount of music you get to listen to, passively and actively. It’s from everywhere and it comes with the wind. Within the maze of the abandoned hotel, you hear it. It calls you and you answer.

 

“You never leave the dance floor alone. That breaks its deep bass heart.”

Walking, running almost, towards the dance floor so you can dance and release. I remember the sun having just set and I had run to get mosquito repellent to save a bunch of us from vicious attack (because those little guys bite you and you’re itching for three days) and on my way back I heard the LIVE.ST lingala set happening at the Eternal Disco stage which was next to the river. I had to get everyone from the other stage to deliver justice to the music that was being played.There was also a percussion circle that kept popping up all over the hotel. anyone and everyone could drum or dance. Both if you bad ass like that. As the day turned into night the music got heavier and so did the vibe. Schlachthofbronx, Ibaaku, Tom Blip, Max Le Daron, Blinky Bill, Jinku, Nu Funk, Heartikal, Ea Wave, Ska Face threw it down!dsc_9325dsc_9304
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Akwaaba Sound System played from 3:00AM to around 5:00AM on Sunday morning. I have a special reserve of energy and deep love for this set because I will always be left weak. WEAK. The same set occurred in 2015 at the same time and I kid you not, there was a point at which my brain could no longer be awake but my body couldn’t stop moving. BBrave didn’t even go easy on us this year, serving us a back-to-back set with Max LeDaron they played even more fire music that sings to your soul, makes your feet move, burns inside you  Except, this year, we were more prepared.

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Max LeDaron.

Then there was afternoons when the sun was really hot and it was time to lazy around by the tent with a cold drink and just talk about the most random things with the people around you and let the hours bleed into each other. Laugh for hours, take a nap in the hammock cause the tent will have you peeling of your skin (Yoh. At some point, it got really hot). Walk down to the lake and dip your feet in the water, or your whole body. Y’know, which ever you prefer. Let the water of the Nile wash you. If your not careful, so will the current. Maybe get on a boat if your not feeling like touching the water. It was in these times that the friendships I have got stronger. It’s amazing when your in another country with people you see often at home and a blessing to spend time with those you don’t see often at home. A collision of both is able to transform everyone involved. As an artist, this space to be with people was refreshing. You’re able to share the reason for you art, the force behind it, truth behind it and live it. In a society that has a bittersweet, love hate relationship with the arts the island of NyegeNyege is where we can go to energize, re-calibrate, redirect and return to the same society and CREATE.dsc_9616dsc_9557dsc_9250

Time ceased to be a factor to govern the weekend by. It had no meaning. Time stretched and snapped back together. Moments bled into each other, slumber was optional, music was continuous, food was sustenance, dancing was inevitable, humans were vibrating higher. Which is why it feels like the next NyegeNyege is light years away and the one that just passed is close enough to take two steps back into. Nyegestalgia. (lol)

My words, I hope, fill in the blank spaces that the pictures leave out. Hopeful that it makes the festival a reality, world, planet, on its own that once you enter, you can only leave if you promise to return. The best part about that is that you will be more than happy to return.

Till next time.
Love and blessings.

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Old Town Love

Greetings Humans 🙂

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live in an old town. To be more specific, an old town by the beach. To be even more specific, an old town by the Kenyan beach.
Earlier this month, I was able to go down to the beach…
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This trip happened to occur at simply the best time of the year for me. Nairobi was just beginning to lose its heat and chilly winds were slowly creeping into the city. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweater weather. I now look a little bit normal constantly walking around with tea. I can wear a furry hat every day of the week if I want to  (sort of, kinda already do.) When it rains, I can carry an umbrella and take a stroll in the empty CBD (Nairobians have an irrational fear of water falling from the sky) or sit in the house and read, edit, sleep, drink tea, dance to the patter of the rain. Kenya’s winter is amazing. But I left my beloved city and ran to the ocean. DSC_1092
Now, being by the coast in Kenya’s winter is a whole other situation. I loose myself in the atmosphere but find my happiness easier. I have a theory that every human being has a place in the world where their mind, body, soul, spirit is set free. By place I don’t mean anywhere in a concrete jungle but a place where the earth still sings. Where you can make music from the sounds of the little insects, birds, night creatures and wind. There is always that place where soul to earth connection is no longer a theory but an experience.DSC_0517
Mine, is by the ocean. The humid air, the salty water, the fact that by 8:00am, the city is still asleep… I feel at home. In May, the sun rises early and brings with it light morning rain. The wind is strong and I kid you not, the palm trees sing. The fishermen sing too but their song is covered by the dance of the waves. Other humans are all silently sleeping.
Its beautiful.
It took us (Pidgin Squad as we called ourselves.) a couple of hours for us to walk from one side of the town to the other but each road had a small surprise. Sometimes it was the overpowering smell of viazi karai. Other times it was the architecture that blew me away. DSC_0886At some point it was Mohammed and his shop that sold items from the ocean including puffer fish which he said some people buy and use as a lamp shade. (ummm, lamp shade? LAMP SHADE?)
DSC_0825Other times it was an Italian Wine shop that became sunshine on a cloudy day, or the roads that were wide enough only for two tuk-tuk’s to pass side by side. It was just old town love everywhere!DSC_0694
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Just like the town, the people had the same vibe. Yielding a big camera, you would expect for there to be some sort of fracas like in the big city (Nairobae.) Quite the opposite actually. More than enough times, people would call for me from across the street to ask for me to take their picture then talk to me about my trip. I was an obvious tourist but I loved it. They made me feel welcome.  DSC_0812DSC_0756
DSC_0912DSC_0900DSC_0882DSC_0909DSC_0802DSC_0923DSC_0811DSC_0777I miss you Malindi. I promised to write about you when I missed you most and this is just a little note from my heart. The henna on my hand has already faded off and the sand that was stuck in my sneakers is finally out. But the shark tooth I got from Mohammed dangles above my heart, where you will always remain.
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Know This…

Hey earth humans (and also not humans, no discrimination =] )

So, this is rather awkward but i’m going to try keep it tight. I mean, it just the beginning of the night. Don’t want to scare anyone away, i’m not that weird, i just throw a different type of party. I know its been long, two months or so.. I haven’t told you of any of my adventures.. oh no. You see, life for me is a little bit strange. Many things, many times make me a little deranged. So i take a break for some minutes, days, maybe months. But i always come back with a tastier lunch. Also, i’m currently watching the last season of how I met your mother from 2014. I put it off because of the very last scene. I haven’t gotten to the end so no spoilers please. Just keep calm, i’m only on episode thirteen. You see, at some point in an episode all they do is rhyme. Line after line, line after line. So i thought, why not give it a try. And now my mind is in overdrive.
Allow it just for this post. I promise you space later if you intend to roast. Like i said, I’ve been working on something. I hope to you, it is worth reading and observing.
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Hi. My name is Adikinyi. Small sized, literally tiny girl who lives in Nairobi city. Well, i’m not that small. I just realized everything else is just rather tall.
Okay, now listen to me as i talk about beauty. About bodies, about skin, that has sort of become an identity. We live in a world that’s hard to love, because left right and center, it seems like its crumbling from above. Crumbling, crashing, cruising into the unknown deep where humanity is forgotten and the robots are awakened from their sleep. I’m talking about us human beings who are being mechanized. Damn it. I don’t think we can see love anymore through our eyes. I’m sorry, i digress. Its just that this gives me so much unrest.

Beauty and love. Right. That’s where i was going.
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To show you a vision that is truly breathtaking, I might have to take your heart, mind and soul to a place where pain is waiting. Because we lock it up too often saying its nothing serious. When its really tearing us apart, shouldn’t we be curious??
I’m talking about the struggle that it is to be survive on society, where you see yourself and automatically say ‘ugly’. I refuse to use that word to describe anything, because my vision is only limited to my understanding. And so is the world’s, if you look at it carefully. Are we supposed to trust people that saying twerking is beautiful dancing.
I’m opinionated. Deal with it. It’s because i finally decided to open my mind and let it think. But yet again, I leave the topic of conversation. Ugh, this is going to be some sort of continuous rotation. DSC_8340
I’ll try again, i’ll try again and i should get it right. Because I’ve been battling with this for quite a number of nights. Sleeplessly, tirelessly trying to figure out, how to call to Jah for this blessing that I wanted to come around. I spent so many years changing identity, because of who society wanted me to be. Do you know the feeling of asking yourself, ‘am I worth it?’ under the covers of your bed?? Maybe you don’t maybe you do. Maybe the universe was a little kinder to you.
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Damn. This rhyming shit is hard. Nigga, Jermaine needs to win a couple of awards.

Back to my gory story of tears that were shed for more nights than a human should have to carry to their last day of glory. Crickets and sniffles, yearning for love and giggles.But when is that last day surely? MelaKings, MelaQueens, tell me when i can finally shout glory. Because so far, it’s only been a fight against me, and what i stand for and my hair that is so damn nappy. (No apologies by the way, it will grow in to a long glorious bed on my head;  connection to the earths flow.)DSC_8404
I’m here tonight to tell you to break free. Beauty is the reality that is you and me. It is the conscious complexity that continuously combines reincarnations of humans from past. present and future times. It is a reflection of telluric currents that has passed through oceans and seas and finally settled in bodies. It is the soul that we all posses. It connects us regardless. Regardless of our hips or our thighs. Regardless of the many times we have had to compromise. Compromise to fit into a box where we are taught to loose footing and walk forward without looking. It’s time we fell in love once more with ourselves. No longer slaves, placing us behind the image of that Barbie doll on the shelf . Time we changed perception, time we left deception. Deception we are fed, deception we are taught. Deception that is a conditioning, transforming into a permanent thought. Its time we looked at ourselves and said, “I am King, I am Queen. I am goddamn royalty.”
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It’s time we raised our voices and start making the right choices. So that generations to come may not have to work so hard to not do themselves harm. To find self love from the moment of conception. Because already they are within a body that is perfection. It’s time to combine the strength we collectively posses and employ it in our every step. So that the ground shakes with greatness and the wind carries our presence. It is time we explore what is means to look, walk, talk, beyond walls that have been put up and constrained us, restrained us, forbidden us from looking at ourselves with eyes that tell us we are worth more than living a life of being jealous of these lies.
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I used these pictures because this is what i love. Love of self, love of others. love of heritage, love of my culture. Love of people, love so equal. I’m tired of everything pointless and extra. It’s honestly adding so much pressure to be a certain kind of way.
I said i am beautiful and you don’t have to see it. As long as its me who gets that then i don’t care about what your deal is.
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[Its Saturday night and I am typing this from my room. Damn its so hot. Black walls make you sweat like a baboon.]
I’m done rhyming, just for now, as i make this small request to you.
I’m going into a phase where i want to collaborate. Calling all writers, are you down for it?
Drop me a message and lets make art, with your beautiful words this could be a place to get conversations to start. I want to tell a story of my people’s experiences, perception, reflection, pain, anger, joy, beauty. However, my words may not be able to describe it fully. So i call on all of y’all to work with me. We can publish maybe one or twice weekly??
[The pictures and the story have little connection, and that was my intention. Collaborations however will take a different direction. A flawless connection]DSC_8376

I honestly believe we can change things. Only question is, are you with me?

Peace and blessings!
Adikinyi,
From Nairobi city

 

People of Aethiopia. (I)

Hello! Hello!
Is any one out there?

I’m back to tell you more of this magical place that is just to our west. 14 hours drive, 10 at best. Really, its not too far and its not too different.
I met many people, and talked to many people and had many people talk to me and at me. INTERACTION! (inter.act) Woah.
Interaction is a constant aspect of life that happens. When you accidentally step on the back of that guy’s shoe in town, when you’re asked for your Nakumatt card when the person in front of you doesn’t have one and they are buying so much stuff. (\0/). Interaction is EVERYWHERE because it is an action shared between.

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location: cafe javas. 

There are some pretty cool people in Kampala who I was able to inter.act with. Alvin the Body Builder who indeed IS a professional body builder (he’s pretty good at it.) Jabu who immediately began throwing small Luganda phrases at me. I’m pretty good at it now from all that fumbling around that i did (i liee. . .) There was the boda guy who took us about 3 km in the wrong direction as we were trying to catch the remnants of the sunset. That failed. He then took us another possibly 2 km in the other wrong direction. When he took us back to where he got us, he was smiling really hard. (toast)

Its a cocktail, salad of personalities. When I set out to talk to these people, i wanted to find out about what they thought about Uganda as well as Kenya.

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Nuwa Wamala Nnyani.

I met Nuwa Wamala Nnyani who is a Visual Arts Practitioner/ Consultant when Lindsay and I were at the market next to the National Theater on the first and last day. The first time I met him, we had just arrived in UG and taken a boda to where we had thought the bus was going to drop us. It instead took us all the way to Old Kampala, across town. He was our reference for bark cloth. When I was ordering bark cloth, I didn’t know why I wanted it. I just really wanted it! The reason showed itself to me immediately after when Lindo and I went to the Museum and saw this FRESH PIECE OF CLOTHING!

 

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Bark cloth was used widely in the Buganda Kingdom, one of the strongest kingdom in Aethiopia. Richard Raid studied 19th Century Buganda in its economic and material context. He documents a Buganda dominated dynamic regional economy and argues that the kingdom grounded its regional commercial influence in a diversified productive base that the state enhanced via military might. Kabaka Junju took control over a place called Buddu for it BARK CLOTH production because there was large regional demand. Bark cloth was a big deal.

On the last day when I met Nuwa again when I went back to pick the bark cloth he had ordered for me, we got to talking a little. Since I am a little bit crazy about the UG accent I could immediately pick it but he spoke with the Kenyan accent (Kenyans say that we are an accentless nation bu we are able to identify the accentlessness when others talk but were completely unable to replicate it. WHAT IS THIS ACCENT THEY SPEAK OF?)
Nuwa began his journey as an artist in Uganda but developed and grew his art in Nairobi where he lived for 12 years. The Nairobi artist scene was his teacher. He had basically settled in Kenya with is wife and children. During the Moi regime, he left. He wanted his children to have some years of growth where he is from. Also, something about foreigners being chased from Kenya. Nuwa insists that Kenya isn’t very different from Uganda if you break it down to the people. A Ugandan can seamlessly transition to being a Kenyan in simply a matter of months and vice versa. After many years of living in both countries, he says that we look at each other in the same way. Ugandans believe that Kenyans are more than proud to be from Kenya while Kenyans feel the same about Uganda. What we believe about the other nation, we are.Tribalism, he added, is different but present across the countries. The tiring statement of “It is our time to eat” is thrown around in both countries just in different phrasing. Bottom line is that it is present. However, there is hope, with a small awakening of people realizing its ultimate pointlessness.

I met 20 year old Derrick Muwanga at Cafe Javas .

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Derrick Muwanga.

We had stopped at a Bata in the CBD to get a pair of ngoma’s (no trip is complete without a trusty pair of ngomas!) and decided to have breakfast. Derrick is really polite. absolutely charismatic and patient… really patient. (It took us a quite some time before we ordered anything.)

 

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He’s a part time waiter and a student of Information Technology at Makerere University. In the next 8 years he wants to open his own studio/gallery for photography. Working and studying in hard. “Finding that balance is the hardest part, really. I work in order to pay for my tuition fees and that keeps on increasing. Therefore, in order for me to keep paying my school fees, I have to keep working. In order for me to keep working, I have to miss some classes. The same classes I am working hard to attend.” He says. Some people are led to believe that Derrick is Kenyan. He learnt a lot from Kenyans. “Because of the metropolis that is Nairobi, Kenyans, even those not living in Nairobi, are very fast people. Efficient in their work and quick on their feet. I like to work like that and I deliberately learnt that from the Kenyans that I have spent time with.”
In the next 8 years in Uganda however, he wants to see a country that is achieving and producing transformative ideas and leaders. After so many years, there has barely been any change in Uganda. The economy isn’t on the rise but the inflation is. There now need to be effective and ample communication between their government and them. Uganda’s economy is based heavily on its agriculture. However, the farmers happen to be the least listened to people in this country. The place the economic voice is coming from is the wrong one. We need to fix it.
Derrick left immediately after that. I had forgotten that he was at work.

Something that came up with every one that I spoke to, is that they would never leave Uganda.

“If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.”
– Malala Yousafzai

 

Color of Aethiopia.

“I went to a place and all I saw was color… . 
Color in the air, color in the sound, color in the people. . . color.
 It’s color is all vibrations. Its vibration is all color.”


[Lindsay…]
“Imeldah must’ve lost HER DAMN MIND!!!!! Why isn’t she picking up her phone?? My phone is dying too trying to get a hold of her, and her not being there before me is worrying.  Anyway, let me send her a text, my Uber is here.
Mum is the real MVP, I would’ve really taken a jav but I won’t say no to a free ride from mum.
Hah! A female cab driver-you don’t see those every day, bonge la muchene!”

I set off, at about 4:40pm from Runda, heading into town, kinda worried because none of us had bought tickets, but this hadn’t stopped me from travelling to Kampala before. I always got tickets.
Stories about drunk pick-ups around Nairobi kept me occupied for the ride…until I realized its 5:30.
Imeldah, YOUR PHONE IS OFF!
The first bus that leaves at 5 is long gone, the one that leaves at 5:30 is most likely on its way in fact I’m just turning in to the Mash Office…I can see the bus going….going….

G O N E.

“It’s alright, breathe. Just buy tickets for you both, you’re here now you might as well, and there’s one bus left to leave…she still has half an hour..”
I walk to the line streaming for the booth and the man painfully announces “all buses to Kampala, Mombasa are all full! You’d have to come back on Wednesday.”

OKAY……DAMN!
…..OKAY. BREATHE.
PLAN B.
WHATS PLAN B LINDSAY?

[Imeldah…]
“I cannot believe there is traffic on Mombasa Road at this time! Its SUNDAY NAIROBI!! SUNDAY!! Haven’t we had this conversation before? We AGREED!! No traffic on Sunday! We drive our cars and not park them on at least one day of the week!! Anyway, we will pick this fight later.Now, please, please, please just open up. I need to go to the house first and pick my bag then go and catch the bus.
Ugh..
The last bus leaves at 6:00pm for Kampala and here I am stuck in traffic at J.K.I.A and its 4:45pm. Mombasa road is brutal but what can you do?  All I can do now is dream of what it is I could possibly encounter in this distant land. Is there air a different color? Maybe there is a hint of blue in the dust. It rains all the time! Can I dedicate myself to getting rained on at any moment? I think so. What do I think of now when I have a 14 hour journey, that i will definitely be late for, ahead of me? To build or not to build expectations. I cannot wait for . . .
Oh look! Traffic is opening up. Lindsay is going to kill me.”
Give Thanks.

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Lindsay a.k.a Lindo

“I went to a place and all I saw was color… . 
Color in the air, color in the sound, color in the people. . . color.
 It’s color is all vibrations. Its vibration is all color.”

I had my head stuck out the window. The air was thick but crisp, and warm. It was as if I was constantly breathing in from a thick cloud of cleanliness. Do you know how that feels like? It’s a weird feeling. But weird in a good way. The same air was filled with constant hooting from boda’s and cars at each other. Coming from Nairobi, it took me a while to get used to the fact that boda boda’s run the streets in Uganda. I believe buses in Uganda move on the roads in the same way that a human being would have to move through a pool of minions moving really quick in all directions at all times. Controlled chaos almost. . .
The longest time between hoots on one of the boda rides we were on was 27 seconds. The only difference is that the hooting here is calm ample communication between drivers and riders.
Kampala’s sound track.

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The color I see in Kampala is like seeing colors I am familiar with but I have never seen before. It really is overwhelming. For example, everything in Uganda is green. I mean it. EVERYTHING, is GREEN. I have never seen so much jack fruit before. Mango trees, Cassava and avocado (Peace, Love and Avocado!) were everywhere. The grass is Kampala is grassier than Kidero grass. (its true. . .)

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We moved across the city from Old Kampala and went to the market, culture center, a cafe called Bimbo Cafe which was right around the corner then to the museum (where they told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.)

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The Market

“I went to a place and all I saw was color… . 
Color in the air, color in the sound, color in the people. . . color.
 It’s color is all vibrations. Its vibration is all color.”


The people I meet when I travel are the most important part of the journey. Snippets of people’s life story is like reading sections from a really good book. Ugandan people are all of that. Just beginning with their accent. I kid you not, the Ugandan accent is among my favorites. Somehow, when you get to Uganda, you can’t talk normally. Lindsay can easily be mistaken for a Ugandan, if you only listen to her. (She went through most of her education there). Many people believed this except Maureen.
Maureen is the receptionist at the museum who was immediately able to tell that we were Kenyan. She had just finished watching Shuga season 1. “If Kenyan’s are anything like the ones in that sow, you are a bunch of crazy people.” She still wants to come to Kenya.
Maureen helped us get a special hire (cab) and we met Enoch. Enoch has been a driver in Kampala for 5 years. He thinks that the malls in Uganda are worsening the traffic situation on their already bad roads.

The days’ missions were over and it was time to kick it. We had chai for 4:20 at the Bean Cafe and then, finally met the most color that day, Huey…

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[Lindsay…]
Huey is a special little being with so many stories to his name.IN fact the last time I say Huey, it was under some pretty tense circumstances. The house had been broken into, and I remember how he climbed up the stairs to sniff me up in the middle of the night, which I thought was Huey just being a curious sniffer. He went over to Ore’s bed, who once he woke up, realized something was completely wrong almost instantly, and so began the chaos that was that night.
ROLLING OVER TO OUR MOST RECENT REUNION,
It was nice to see Huey basking on the veranda in his golden fur…just…being a dog.

He came down, sniffed some butts, sniffed come coochie, lol (He really likes to do that…like, A LOT). Still, he was calm as ever, warm to Imeldah and I, and loved being rubbed everywhere. It was really nice seeing Huey just being that cool, calm and collected dog, so sure of everyone else enjoying his presence.

ni
“I went to a place and all I saw was color… . 
Color in the air, color in the sound, color in the people. . . color.
 It’s color is all vibrations. Its vibration is all color.”

1. Slave To My Mentality.

I’m a slave to my mentality.
It’s true and it has been true. I have been a slave to my own mentality. You see, somehow you seem to have made me absolutely different from everyone else. I’m not too sure when differences in people became a problem. Considering how much we have developed as a sect of nature, you would think that differences would have been something that we could have learnt to live with a long time ago. Yeah . . i thought so too, but I guess not.
With this difference around, its made it quite difficult for me to simply exist on earth without attacks from different sides of the society that I live in. From my neighbors, from my family, from myself. Some days are easier than others and others are just flat out painful to get through.
Oh. Who am I?

I AM AN AFRICAN.

That’s right. African.
It IS indeed hard for me to exist daily. Its so hard that I now believe that my difference is a bad thing. I no longer believe in me as a human being. In fact, I see myself as the ‘scum’ of society, at the bottom of the ‘food chain’.
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I know, I know. ITS CRAZY!! Can you blame me? Left right and center is something in society being glorified that usually has nothing to do with me. The limelight isn’t something I tend to see unless its the exposing of the problems that have been affiliated with me; war, dysfunctional governments, debt, hunger, the usual. (That’s all a story for the near future, I promise.)

“Emancipate yourself. . . “
You tore me down from the outside and worked your way in. At the depths of my heart, you settled and I was unable to see, think, FEEL, LIVE, clearly.

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That’s different now. Something has been bubbling on the inside and there’s change. I think its safe to say that once change is seen on the outside, the inside has undergone absolute transformation. You see, i’m no longer bound to what you have put up around me. Let me now tell you who i am, breaking down the superficial and slowly making my way to show you what is within. Then you might probably see that I am not just an African.
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“Emancipate yourself . . . “
I now walk around with the mentality that I am royalty. Why? That is what I know me to be in the very fiber of my being, from my soft, vibrant afro to kinky dreadlocks that hang down to my knees to the baldness on my crown that sits so perfectly. Sometimes I wrap it all up in beautifully colored fabric just to compliment my dark skin. I chose to see my hair as a crown adorning my simplistic beauty. It is no longer about how straight my hair can be or how much it can be blown by the wind. I now accept that my hair has its own identity. Don’t you dare strip that from me.
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“Emancipate yourself . . .”
You attack me because of the color of my skin, and its fine. Think of it as you please. Your thoughts will no longer affect me because my dark skin is something else entirely. I could be like cocoa butter: light, soft and cream or like dark chocolate; rich and deep in flavor just like the earth below me. I now cover this skin with brightly colored beads and materials of different heaviness that lightly dance on my me as the motherland’s wind moves with me.

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Yes, my skin is black like oil but don’t you see it leaves a mark on everything I touch. From the palms of my hands, to the soles of my feet, I now see this melanin as a natural robe covering me.

“Emancipate yourself . . .”
My hips, thighs, lips, wide nose, strong arms and eyes are all thick. I mean, what other body would possibly be able to hold this big personality. I come in all shapes and sizes, widths and depths. I’m no longer shrinking myself to hide the structure of my body. Sure, my outward look may be a little bit intimidating but how else will you know that you are walking in the midst of power, right next to unshakable authority? There is no longer a reason for me to be shy about it.
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“Emancipate yourself . . .”
You broke me down and told me that I was not beautiful. The color of my skin, density of my hair, shape of my nose was all different and therefore you called me ugly. That could have been a while ago but it stuck with me. Even worse, my children  seemed to have believed that they would never be seen as a symbol of beauty.  . . .
False.

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I now approach myself with a different set of eyes. Its all about how I perceive myself, you see. The mentality that I continue to change which will finally embody the real me. And when i say me, i mean WE! I believe me is in the rest of my brothers and sisters of equally dark skin.
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POWER.
I am no longer a slave to my mentality that tore me down more than it could ever have uplifted me. I believed that the creator made me lesser than I was destined to be when there is so much more for me that you told me.
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“Emancipate yourself. . .”
It is a sense of pride that I move with. It is an identification of SELF that now cannot be taken from me. I now realize that I have a place and role in society. Call me whatever you may but I am now aware of exactly who I am. I accept your label as black because out of the deepest darkness rises, like the sun, the most beautiful phoenix.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”
-Marcus Garvey.

I AM AFRICAN.
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Soul of the World, in Sikanga.

Hi.
My name is Adikinyi.
I met you the other day, remember? Well, I remember you. I remember you very well.
I have a couple of things to ask you, if you don’t mind, because you seem to have everything worked out perfectly.
But first let me tell you a little bit more about me.

I’m a girl who lives in the big city.
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Nairobi is what they call it. Its not such a [great] terrible place to live in. I mean, people say it has the same vibe as New York. The Big Apple, imagine that! That MUST be something right? Riiight? I’ve lived here all my life. I like to believe by just by that virtue I should have some sort of connection to this city. I mean, I have learnt how to maneuver through the maze that is its daily experience. I can cross a superhighway now without getting hit, I’m able to hold conversation with Mama John every time i need to go and get avocado from her. Oh! I can also tell you where to get the biggest creamiest avocado’s even when they are not in season. [I’m that chic!]. I can tell how bad the traffic is going to be at which side of town just by looking at the time. This thing called Twitter helps sometimes. I also have a couple of friends who I like to hang out with. However, I don’t see them enough because, Nairobi. . . .
I’m also a student. Yeah! I go to university and I am taking such a serious course. I’m often (jokingly) referred to as learned even though most of the time i’m in some sort of daze surrounded by big words and big books and very intelligent people. Believe me, its overwhelming to be amidst 800 page books daily that you can sometimes barely understand. However, I seem to have some hold on it.
If you look at all this, I seem like a pretty accomplished, focused, figured-it-all-out type of citizen, don’t I?

Well, I haven’t figured it all out. As a matter of fact, I feel a little bit lost. Yeah, lost. . .
I saw you the other day when I came home. Not my home, our home.
Our home, a little village called Sikinga in Nambale.
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You see, I hadn’t been home for anything other than tears. I can’t remember the last time I  smiled when I saw the mud huts that are scattered around the compound or the trees that tower and race for the delicious warm sunshine that is constantly at home.
Actually, I can.
I was about five years old and we came to see kukhu (grandma). She was really happy to see us. She couldn’t stop hugging us. YOH! The love that day was immense and it stretched out through the whole visit and every other visit. I remember her teaching me how to milk a cow (Yeah, that’s right. I can milk a cow!). It was kind of terrifying cause that day that cow was sort of angry. I did it though. [I’m kind of bad ass.] Oh! How can i forget to tell you about the river?
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The RIVER was fantastic. Whenever Peter and I would take the cows to the river and to graze we would play in that river for hours. It was alive. The water was alive and felt like it was running. Running really fast. I don’t know where it was running to but it felt nice to be in the middle of its path. Then the wind would change and we knew it was time to go back. One time, the cows had gone rogue while we were swimming and were just in the maize eating everything from the shamba that WASN’T kuhkus. I met Victor on that day and it was a hustle getting them out of there.
Some of my happiest memories were birthed in Sikinga.

Now where was I? Ah, yes. . .
Back to the answers you posses.
You don’t want to move to the big city. You don’t want to live in a big house with a perimeter wall in suburban Nairobi to prove that you are happy. You don’t need to be called ‘Mheshmiwa‘ in order to have a place in this society. You don’t see yourself as a small fish and definitely do not know who the ‘big fish’ are. It simply doesn’t concern you. You seem completely free from society’s materialistic clutch. You seem absolutely happy.
Because you are.
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So teach me. Teach me how to go back to the city and survive and fight until I can finally break free. Teach me how to listen to the wind that passes through the concrete jungle. Its the same wind that you feel on your skin in Sikinga. Teach me how to once again appreciate the sun dance in the rain because of all the life it has. Remind me that the earth beneath my feet was once walked upon by people and animals who genuinely loved each other and mutually built each other. Remind me that the earth had its own vibration, it own beat that we could all dance to under a blanket of stars.
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Show me how to be myself; not a human, not a machine but self, in the same way you are undeniably yourself.
Show me, little one, how to listen to the guiding voice of my ancestors, ’cause I am just a girl, in a big city trying to find herself.
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Bazuli Bemhlaba.

The Beginning of a Familiar Journey

Take a trip with me into something I like to call the unknown. For some of us it could be the hope of a future. . for some of us it could be a step into the past. For others, it could be the current reality.

x.x.x

Her:
He left a long time ago but he is back. He’s here. HERE! Alive . . .
I can’t believe that he is here.
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My love, I could only think of you wounded and bleeding but fighting on. I cried night by night waiting for you to come back to me. I cried until the tears became ice that numbed my heart. Before you left, I saw it in your eyes even your stride. You weren’t sure you would come back. Neither was I.

Him:
I never thought I would see her again. I never thought that we would be this happy again.
Youth-7
I was gone for so long. She slowly became a distant memory as I wasted away. With every day in the battlefield, I could feel each part of my being wasting away. I became less and less of a man and more of a machine. My only reason to live was to survive. Day and night become of no significance to me because it was all war.
Then it all of a sudden it wasn’t. I was sent away from the only home I had known for three years, the unpredicatable, to come back to you. I was afraid. I was afraid that you would not be able to love the empty shell that I was.
Until I saw you.
Youth-6
I saw you and I was filled. I was filled with what had been torn from me. It was like I was refilling and beginning to see life in a new way. My wounds seemed to be empty of their psychological pain and were now wells drinking from from her love. She was my light. She was the other half of me.

Her:
Its been three months since you appeared on the doorstep all shades of brown and depleted but I am still not sure its you. I am afraid that its all a dream that i am stuck in. I am afraid that I keep on creating a merely mental reality where nothing seems to be affected by your return. Even after years of seclusion and separation, i’m still able to speak your hearts language. Except it is a reality. My heart never forgot who you were.
Sometimes you can’t seem to grasp reality as well. You don’t realize that its all over, and that you are finally home. There’s a turbulent wave. I only hope my heart’s song can quieten the noise.Youth-5

Him:
I remember bodies, guns, blood and pain no matter how hard I try not to. I toss and turn each night trying to get away from the feel of it all. The memories come out when I am most still, most quiet, most alone, just like in the battlefield. My demons come out to haunt me, taunt me, control me. I drift off, hide, just so that I don’t let it get a hold of me, and eventually you.
I want nothing to happen to you.Youth-1
This . . . this is something i am unable to explain, unable to capture, unable to completely express. It goes way beyond the understanding that I may posses as a mere man. It goes beyond stars and skies. I can only experience the truth that it is. The truth that is love,

We’re now on a new journey. A new adventure awaits us. A journey that is taking us through familiar places. Tough places, Beautiful places. I will stand with you as we go through these places again but yet again begin. I will hold your hand as we rise beyond the trials that threaten to tear us apart and drive us away from each other. We shall lean on the voices of our souls and hold on to the wisdom of love.
Because we are together; King and His Queen.
Youth-8

x.x.x.

To all this, I owe Mr Joseph ‘Nabster’ Chege. Thank you 🙂

Bazuli Bemhlaba

Color of a Sunday Morning

Greetings Earth dwellers,

Before we embark on this journey of my experience, allow me to present to you one last thing you didn’t know you needed. Join me in a nostalgic frame of mind here or in my creative process frame of mind here.

Good. Now that you’re back, hold my hand, let’s go.

____________________________________________

What. What’s going on . . .
Where am I? Oh. Okay. I’m not lost. Yesterday was fun times. So glad Beth lives right here. This moving from one side of the highway to the other in the middle of the night is not a funny story. Open your eyes friend. Its probably seven.
Its 9:30.
Its 9:30?! Mahn. I must have slept for quite some time eh. Haiya, time to start the day.

My feet feel pretty alright for someone who was boogieing 99% of last night. Barefoot for most of it. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to this barefooted lifestyle. I hope I didn’t leave my shoes there.
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I can move, and i’m alright and its still pretty early. Let me go home and get ready from there. I can still meet this homie in the early hours of the afternoon.
Glasses. Where are my glasses?
There they are. Okay. All dressed, time to go.

It’s so quiet. Everyone must be asleep. I wonder how cold it is outside and is it cold all the way home? The micro-climate situation that happens in this city is just beyond. Anyway, it will be a flawless transition from house to car to house. Barely any time in between to properly experience that blanket-like cold.
Car keys? Check.
Now time to go for real.

This fuel gauge is playing games with my head. Anyway, I shall overcome. Probably fuel once i get to Mada. Done did this before, shall do this again.
This fuel gauge is playing games with my head. Anyway, I shall overcome. Probably fuel once i get to Mada. Done did this before, shall do this again.

Langa’ata Road is pretty empty. Sunday has to be the only day that has this road clear all morning. The weekday struggle has people who have to use this road either really patient or really early; by force. One of those “Life has given you one lemon and wants you to eat it.” You have to because life has a pretty scary looking serious face.
I really like this podcast that’s playing! Yosh! And its stupid loud already. I should close the windows. Then I get that ‘Underwater Submarine Music Machine’ kind of feel. But I like that breeze. The cold isn’t as bad as i thought it would be. However, i do like on-land submarines. Submarine Music Machine it is.
I really like this podcast episode. Oooh and my SONG is about to come on. It just has that Sunday morning kind of vibe. I wonder if there is any one out there who bumps to their music hard while driving. I really have never seen anyone driving an jamming to their own loud happy tunes. That jamming gene must have really manifested itself in me. I am still waiting for that day when a car passes by me and it’s a one man party up in there.
Yes! The song is here. Boogie time
(Lord – Alexander O’Neal [bah samba mix] ).

Eh! It’s a miracle the way that song gets to me mad. And my cheeks are hurting so much. I can’t stop smiling. And these smiles are always the goofiest. That! is how music is supposed to make you feel. Good vibes. DSC_1274

Wait, what’s going on? I didn’t realize I was moving so slowly. Uh-uh..
Is this vehicle breaking down??
Negatory. No one has time for that. C’mon baba, let’s go! You can do this very easily. I’m sorry I didn’t feed you. I promise you I will fill your tummy, just to compensate but brother, do NOT fail me now.
Damn it! Its not even your tummy, it’s your energy.
My battery is dead.
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The battery is dead. The battery is dead. The battery is dead. What am I going to do?? Okay, hazards are on. Now get out and go put up that triangle car sign.
The ground is so cold. Oh. You haven’t worn your shoes. Let’s not worry about that. But yawa it’s cold. This skirt is really allowing my squeks to marinate in that cold eh.
WHERE IS THE TRIANGLE!
I removed it. I removed the triangle. Why did you remove the triangle? Did you not see this brother looking like he wanted to break down this Sunday morning? But there are some branch like looking things. When did it rain? Now my feet are pretty muddy. Mud is so soft.DSC_1405

I have the branches, I have the hazard on. Okay. Now time to make a phone call.
Crap. 1% of charge is left. Okay, now I have to make a wise decision on who to call. This phone call can only take 5 seconds. I have to fit very crucial words in those five seconds before I decide to Hulkify myself and carry this car down the highway.
Jonathan is calling me. Maybe he has seen me.
Helllooo? Yup, its me. The battery is dead. Yeah, that would be nice. Thanks. Bye.

Next investment plan, jumper cables. I really need jumper cables. I wish I knew the number for those Chloride Exide guys off head. They have one of those rescue services.
Jumper cables. The number for Chloride Exide Rescue Services. Note to self.
I need to get the car off the road. This is possibly the worst place to be.
Is someone stopping? Yes! Jonathan looks like he is here. But that’s not him.
“Hi! The battery is dead. No, i don’t have cables. You do? Oh bless! Okay, let me get it open.”DSC_1408

I don’t even know these guys. Such nice people.
Damn. i’ll get mud all over the chair.
Can. I. Reach. It.
There!
There is a traffic build up. I never thought i would be the cause of traffic. Now i can direct those really angry typical driver thoughts to myself. Ha, the grass is greener on the ‘sitting-in-traffic side.
Oh, there’s another car. Jonathan’s here!

“Jonathan! I’msogladyousawmesoiwasjustdrivingkickingitandthenthecarjustsloweddownandstoppedandnowhereiam.” Inhale Imeldah. Stop panicking. You’re fine okay? The car is being jump started and you can use Jonathan’s phone. There is no need to panic.
This pep talk isn’t working? Okay. Phone call made. No success. There goes all the calm I had.
Jonathan. You were on your way to hospital?! Yes! Yes! You can go. I shall be fine. Alright. Bye.

Okay, cables set, time to start this misbehaving kijana.
“He’s running! But barely. There is one more problem, he doesn’t have fuel. There is a station right after the round about. But who will stay with the car? You will? Okay, i can go with your brother.”
Just let me get my shoes. . . .DSC_1288

What is this morning? Ha! I cannot believe this. These street camera’s should send me that footage so i can watch later and laugh at this disaster. Oh. There’s a station.

“Boss, my car has no fuel and its on Lang’ata Road, unaweza niwekea kwa kibuyu? Sina kibuyu. The biggest one you can find.”
Get a kibuyu. Note to self.
He is giving me in a kibuyu. Yup! I know it helps that I’m female. Thank you for stopping. I honestly had no idea of what I was going to do. I clearly have never been in this situation before. Oh. He’s done. Okay, let’s go back.

Crap. A cop is flagging us down. Now here, a curve ball has been throw my way. On a Sunday? I can already feel him scheming plans. Or maybe its because the car has caused so much traffic. now he has tracked down the owner and he has come to arrest me. But is it an offence?
The turn we made was illegal? No way. How is it that its illegal? Its not! There is no sign indicating that this turn cannot be made. There is one exactly like this on Mbagathi way and one almost like this at Capital Center. Why don’t you go and set up secret posts there like you have here? Why are you hiding to find these people? If it was wrong, why won’t you put a station right beside the road and wait for people. This double standard way of action is one of the thickest roots to the constant stagnation in development in this country of ours.

The station.
This place is quiet. Well except these guys out here. Three police men, one huge thermos, three cups. They sound really happy. They look happy too. I wonder what responsibilities they are avoiding as police men today. Or maybe they have none. Probably that’s why they are so happy. I’d be just as happy if I had nothing to do and I had a big thermos full of chai on such a cold morning.DSC_1403
This guy has taken some time in there. Oh, there he is.
Forgiven? Eh! That Sunday spirit must be warm in this guys heart. Or maybe its the tea. It must be the tea.
For the last time, its go time.

There’s no massive backlog of traffic? Hallelujah.
Oh oh oh. We must have kept his brother waiting for so long.
Anyway, we’re here now. Time to feed this child. What if he doesn’t wake up. What is now the engine is the one with a problem. Then I have to go get those mean mugging defenders to come tow this baba.

My hands smell like fuel. A lot of it is on my hands.
DSC_1308Is that a tow truck? Now i’m just imagining things.  I would just walk all the way to them at the round about. That’s not too far. Is it? Well, my shoes won’t survive. They are barely holding it together now seeing as mud has laced them. It was their time anyway.
Please start. Please. I will lie if i say that I can take more of this.
He heard me! He’s ALIVE!
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“Thank you guys so much! I really would not know what to do if you guys hadn’t stopped by. Oh. My name is Imeldah. Brooks and Jeff. Asante sana! Nairobi needs more people like you. Have a great day. Bless! Bless!”

Home time!
I can’t believe this. I still haven’t showered.

____________________________________________

Bazuli Bemhalaba.