DOWRY DAY IN EMBU

dowry D-day will finally be here. Culminating a series of family and friends meetings all for the sake of ensuring this day turns out to be a success. As I’ve said previously in this blog, as weddings are huge to ladies so are dowry occasions to men. A man who goes ahead to pay dowry, is not a small man. In actual sense, in his circle of peers, he stands to cement his territory for having ‘fully complied’ with traditions. It’s important to also appreciate; the occasion is financially draining at this day and age, coupled with a commercialised aspect in between. So any man who commits to go full throttle deserves a pat on the back.

You being Stevo’s (Stevo is the dude paying dowry) insider cum confidant, you’ll have been sneaked to this Whatsapp group of his inner circle which essentially deals with the nitty-gritty of the big day and ensuring all plans take shape. Meanwhile for Stevo, he’ll leave nothing to chance. From text messages to lengthy phone calls, a total of 200 friends, family members, colleagues, business partners, acquaintances and so forth will be invited to these endless evening meetings. Mind you only half the number or less will turn up. You’ll gather, deliberate and raise money. For young lads it’s never in vain. In fact, if you never show up in such meetings, nobody will show up when you’ll be in the same situation. Talk of Karma! But more importantly, it’s more fulfilling being part of your friend’s life achievements especially when it requires of you to support.

According to my kienyenji research, three out five ladies from Embu are paid for dowry. I’m even sure most of my readers have attended a dowry thing in Embu, meaning there is something special about Embu ladies. The jury is out. We leave it at that. So, on this day you’ll be embarking on a journey to Embu. This gets so exciting for guys living in Nairobi, for no good reason though. Putting a bunch of crazy friends in a convoy of cars, to transverse up country with all the fun that comes by, becomes too costly to miss. You’ll be cruising along Makuyu stretch, on this first Saturday of the month, nodding to some good hip hop music from the talented Khaligraph Jones. There will be heavy traffic but this will be overshadowed by smell of fresh air outside of Nairobi (pun intended). Observing humans all the way from Thika Road to Makutano Junction busy selling their wares across the highway, or far in their farms tilling, brings out tremendous patriotism within us.

You’ll make it to Embu town some minutes after noon and pull off at an agreed rendezvous. Here, you’ll finalise logistics as you sip quick tea and as you await souls from the rest of the country which then you’ll proceed as one longer convoy. It never gets this blissful. As all these unfold, you’ll quickly fall in love with Embu town. Apart from realising natives here speak with ‘heavy tongues’; you’ll savour the clean air and environment. The roads will be up to standard too with hardly any street family in the vicinity.  Before long you’ll again embark on the final part of the journey after conducting some short prayers, seeking blessings for what’s ahead.

Embu is beautiful gosh!!  From the very green forested farms, to the range of sleeping hills, to the smell of fertile and rich habitat. Rivers will be draining quietly to the lowlands as bulls pulling carts make headway to the highlands. And this will be such a big deal. Your bunch of friends will scramble to take pics of bulls pulling carts. It never happens in Nairobi you know! And funny still, not in their up country either. That work is done by donkeys. The day will be chilly but won’t erase the joy drawing from your faces. The atmosphere will be akin to Limuru Road heading to Gigiri. Birds will be chirping in this fresh ambiance with beautiful roads that meander through the calm and serene locations.

After one hour or so drive, cars ahead will start hooting noisily with their hazard lights all out screaming, “The visitors have finally arrived”. Why do Kenyans do this! hehe. Waking an entire village from car hooting. Again you’ll realise Embu people don’t fence their homesteads. At least for many. After further prodding, you’ll be reminded there is a relatively low criminal rate in Embu. In other words, Embu, Meru and Kirinyaga people have a history of strong belief in traditions of not trespassing nor pilfering. You don’t just go stealing, you’ll be made to regret.

Anyway, the turn up will be impressive going by the number of excited assemblage and variety of cars parked outside this homestead. And that’s how you judge a man. By how many friends and family members he commands….. Few minutes after, women will lead the pack in traditional songs suggesting the visitors have arrived while making their way to the gate, carrying baskets of shopping, mainly food stuff. In Africa you never visit empty handed. (This shopping is shared among the welcoming women, it’s not part of the dowry price.)

The guests will be ushered to the preserved tents and once settled will be invited to queue for buffet to calm their murmuring stomachs. Appreciate that the man paying dowry entirely foots the food budget of the day. Speaking of food, it’ll be a combination of traditional foods like Mukimo (An Agikuyu traditional meal), Nyama choma, fries, pilau, plain rice, black beans aka njahe, peas, fruits and veges. There will be sodas and mineral water too in plenty. This will be followed by family preambles conducted by this fairly young MC with a heavy accent too.

Interestingly, as this happens Stevo will be directed to a certain room to identify his wife from a group of 15 ladies divided into three groups and tied with lessos from head to toe. If he makes a mistake of identifying wrongly, he’s penalised a colossal amount. Luckily for him, he manages to identify her from her shapely hips and the fact that he had entered into a deal with her to pose in a certain way, makes things easier for him. (This is a top secret amounting to corrupting the system and punishable if discovered.)

The day becomes more eventful when Stevo and the wife change to traditional attires and are taken through more activities. The highlight turns out to be when Stevo is served porridge from a calabash but not before a series of other theatrics according to Agikuyu traditions. (The husband doesn’t just accept porridge. The wife must sooth him by polishing his shoes, combing his hair, cutting his nails etc..).Later all the guests are served this nutritious porridge as close family members from both parties make way to a highly guarded room for dowry negotiations.

This will take an hour or two before the white smoke is seen coming out of the hut, signifying a deal has been arrived. Part of the negotiations will involve Stevo’s side officially delivering items demanded by Wazees from the other end. This include five FAT goats, ten crates of soda, five crates of beer, a 90 kilogram bag of sugar, a 20 litre bucket of fresh honey, two pairs of bed sheets, a blanket for Stevo’s father in law and the icing on the cake; hefty loads of money. Meanwhile for the guests, it’ll be time to catch up, exchange pleasantries, network and move around while taking dozens of pics from the picturesque view to flood the IG later amid some good entertainment and more drinks. (Again it’s important to appreciate no matter how long the negotiations take place, the visitors aren’t supposed to spend the night in their laws homes.) The hallmark of the negotiations will result from donation of one crate of beer to the visitors as a sign of appreciation.

By now, it’ll be minutes to 7pm when you’ll power your engines back to Nairobi for the After Party where you’ll get down all night celebrating a life’s achievement.

ABOUT LAST SUNDAY

20141228_084128[1]We that work on Saturdays normally have a tendency of looking forward to Sundays. Sunday is that harmless day, so to speak, free flowing and gentle. For me, Sundays is a time of healing from the previous week bruises. I find myself reflecting, assessing and reinventing myself ready for the following week. I take time to read extensively on this day though nowadays I will lazily watch a movie in the afternoon if not taking a siesta.

Last Sunday was not that different only that I was more at peace, happy and in good books with my conscious. Actually, I was so challenged by the people I interacted with on that day.  Immediately after the church service, by the way am a church guy, at least most of the time. I walked straight to the newspaper vendor who hardly knows my name. I didn’t have ‘loose money’ for ease of getting my balance back. It would mean waiting for like 20 people to be served. So this guy hands me my copy and tells me he has no problem with me paying next Sunday. To be frank, I was very surprised.  This is not your typical vendor who even after bumping into him countless times on the streets to expect him to entrust you with his wares for a later pay day. That’s very unusual in my country, or so I was proved wrong. We have profound people darted all over, only that we overlook them.

That’s not all, with my surprise I walked home but before that, I set foot in my local supermarket to get some few items. As soon as I was served by the cashier, the guy behind me on the queue gives a heads up, asking me if am interested in getting some bonus points now that he forgot his shopping card.  As you are aware this is an inimitable occurrence, I quickly nod to him as I  get my card. By the time I got home, I felt mean and selfish, the people I met on that day clearly made me look bad.  It never hit me that ‘kumbe’ there are great people in our small worlds.

Feeling drained by the scorching sun, I sip some cold water as I flip over the TV stations. I am eager for more inspiration on this day. I stumble on Family TV and the preacher, one John Hagee gives a conflagrant speech warning of the coming rapture many Christians are not prepared for. With prosperity gospel all over our TV screens in the recent past, this is a program I dare not to ignore. Hagee goes ahead to point out the warning signs, of the coming of Messiah in great lengths. The only other place you can get similar preaching’s is at Prophet Owuor’s church. The message was, we must repent and take control our lives before it’s too late.

The subsequent program is even more worthy to watch. The preacher who I didn’t get his name teaches about Abel and Cain’s story in the bible. Cain developed jealousy to his younger brother seemingly because the Lord favoured Abel after they made offerings to Him. Genesis 4:1 – 26. Our generation is obsessed with jealousy. We loathe everybody around us and in so doing help them count their blessings as we overlook ours. Jealousy begins where our talents and skills end, said the preacher. He shares a memorable bible verse, that we can reread in our low moments equating to calling the hotline 911(Psalms 91:1).Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Catching up on the day’s paper, Christ Hart a popular columnist wrote on how the world worships talent but really values character. He talks about how we are misguided that our purpose in life is seeking happiness. According to him, what you feel when doing things beyond youself is more fulfilling. He concludes that greatness comes from selfless determination to improve society for the benefit of all.

Later on I proceed to watch the eagerly awaited Arsenal vs Man City game. I sit next to this white man who after exchanging pleasantries informs me he is French. I quickly indulge him on the anti-Muslim attacks in his country on the wake of Paris attacks. He sounds unaware and the conversation is cut short by the kick off. He is warm and diplomatic

The challenge that disturbs my mind as I lay in bed after such a memorable is whether my impact on people around me or whom I interact with on my daily hustles would warrant somebody to write about me in a story I will never come across. Can that random person who bumps into you, for the shortest time possible needlessly find he/she narrating to his/her friends a positive encounter with you?

May you be that person who’ll take up the challenge.

NANYUKI MY TOWN

Sitting strategically along the ever busy Nairobi – Meru highway, a 3 hours drive from the capital city, sand winched by highlands of Nyeri and Meru. Nanyuki town dances on the backdrop of an all time huge branding besides a rich history dating all the way from times of construction of the railway.Everyone has had heard or eavesdropped a story about Nanyuki. Unlike many small towns, its a cosmopolitan which boosts a conspicuous presence of white settlers who have heavily invested in the economy of the vast Laikipia County whose headquarters and epicenter is Nanyuki.

But Nanyuki is more than the town, having dozens of opulent, high end hotels out of town which ordinarily engage in cut throat competition for the ever growing tourism market. Laikipia County is a world class tourist destination with numerous private and government owned humongous ranches dotted across the region. This has consequently offered many casual and formal jobs to the youths complemented by the white settlers who have invested in a wide range of investments from flower firms to cattle breeding and milk industry.

One amazing fact that really stands out for me is how foreigners interact casually with the locals. In fact you will spot most of them choosing to walk rather than take cabs as they find it more thrilling, if not finding them bargaining with a maize vendor.IMG_20140418_173228_00-1-1 British Army have also set up a training base which has hugely impacted on the economy of the town. They offer ready demand for coffee houses and booming business in the only shopping mall.

There are peculiar habits though, starting with extremely long queues witnessed around end month in most major banks.IMG_20140502_080925-1 The notion that Nanyuki is a huge entertainment base is rather quite true. With a number of serene restaurants out of town with well manicured golf courses and a view of Mount Kenya and one or two in town that can match the likes of Tribeka or Rumours of Nairobi. The flip side is, twilight ladies have a big business here with teens as young as 15 walking along the streets in the night hawking their bodies.This is also a town with so many street families probably because they are given hand outs by the very many whites in the town. My last and most awkward observation is the high number of mentally ill people, they are just so many.

A friend working in Nairobi once complained of food joints being a bit expensive and so are the stalls dealing with clothes and shoes. On a light note , you do not need to worry of alcoblow, your scare should be drawn to the fast speeding miraa pick ups as you cross the road or the military jets landing or taxiing away at the nearby Laikipia Airbase. Its a great town for those who need a less congested place and environmental friendly ambiance to live with no matatu madness or traffic. Life is relatively cheap if you make ‘good money’.