MEET NANYUKI’S FINEST PHOTOGRAPHER: BEN SON

PhotographyThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, however, a writer will swallow that with a pinch of salt. It’s distasteful and unfair to summarise the hard work behind writing with just a click of a button, on a light note though. Photographers and writers are like siblings who demean each other and fight from kitchen to bedroom. Nonetheless, finding words that keep out of the way the pictures and yet shed light on the nature of photography, is not only daunting but a tall order. In fact, constructing a story out of an image in mind and manifesting that to souls of readers is way beyond public scrutiny.

On another note; you know, professional photographers can be busy and elusive these days. That should be taken as a compliment. Elusive because, Ben Son is the fourth photographer I have written to, requesting to feature in my blog and has honoured his promise. No hard feelings for Paul Maathai of Mathai gallery, or Sammy Wabs or Bobby Wafalme who I understand was involved in an accident recently. Pole Bobby. True story, photography is growing in leaps and bounds. Ordinary young people are investing hundreds of thousands to acquire the best of equipments for their work. This reminds me of hey days, right when I was growing up, when a Mr. Gatere, the only renown village photographer would transverse my village and neighbouring ones to take pics. Mr. Gatere was tall and slender, with an unkempt afro and a high waist thing, always in dark suits and the icing on the cake – the bicycle of course. Yes he would timely show up on Christmas day and Easter holidays mostly uninvited and thanks to our folks who believed in documenting life back then and having the patience of waiting for an entire month to finally get hold of the photos.

Enough of that, introducing Ben Son of HD Media Africa; a well cultivated artistic soul and one of the most sort after photographers in and around Mt.Kenya region, with his core hub being Nanyuki. Besides, he has clients in Nairobi and Nakuru as well. He started off as a videographer until two years ago when he ventured into Photography in what he says are inevitable circumstances. ”Photography found me. Since that moment I have become fascinated by the rhetoric of the image. I fall in love every day and every subject I photograph. It is another art form to me; you can be as creative as possible with a camera as long as you have the ideas. Photography has the power to change our perspective in life and power to help us make decisions.” He quips.

I indulge Ben Son on what he did after Photography met him and how he has managed to cut his own niche in this very competitive industry. Going by what he says; just like any other form of art, there is a lot of passion involved. “For me photography is about the concept, the reasoning behind the image is far more important than the aesthetic value. All my work has a reason, whether to inform, make a statement, discuss or argue, it always seeks to promote a reaction.”

True to what Ben Son points out, talent is a medium which allows us to show our own point of view, sometimes helping us to understand the world we live in and to discover something unique about ourselves. Interestingly, this is easier said than done. This is because a lot of patience and self-discovery is involved to tap and listen to our passion. And the joy of all this is that; it gives us a chance to see what is invisible, hidden deep in our dreams. As Ben Son states it, “Photography just like any other medium of art, evokes emotions in us, asks questions and forces us to reflect on the world around us.”

By the way, why do the greatest of careers start by accident? What goes wrong in school curriculums that doesn’t align success in our paths? It is like filling a crossword puzzle. That’s how self-discovery smells and tastes like! More often than not, there is a lot of sheer luck that is involved to anybody who is hundred percent contented in what he or she does for a living. And that ought not to be. Life should be nicer and way easier to decipher the paths that lead to our own success and genuine happiness. As you will clearly tell from Ben Son, it was by sheer luck he crossed paths with photography. “I had never thought or had an idea close to my mind of becoming a photographer. Now that I’ve hit the ground, I dream and contemplate daily of becoming better and better than I’m today. When I look up to my role models and the ever changing technology and new ideas, its only then I realize I have a long way to go.“

Is he worried on the influx of quacks in Photography? ”This field is vast and in fact serious practitioners are few. The market accommodates all of us but what keeps us afloat is professionalism, creativity and our uniqueness. If people are showing interest in your work it means you are on the right headway and if it translates to cash then you’re in business but most importantly, its client’s satisfaction that I value most.” Additionally, “Anyone can start photo shoot today and be a professional with time. We can all reckon that at one point everyone starts as a quack and only by experience or exposure, passion and persistence that one gradually evolves from that level to a professional, be it a photographer.”

As someone said, never believe in your own hype if you want to go far; Ben Son sounds convinced that there is more ground to cover. “Photography is purely a learning process. Every day I meet new challenges; new ideas and I learn from them. I’ve learnt to embrace and accept them to becoming who I am today. I love the satisfaction one feels when I fulfill a customer’s expectations. My client’s expectations and gratification is what counts most.”

Don’t you miss childhood dreams and the innocence that came with young age, like me? How we painted our foreseeable future with accomplishment and perfection. Sooner we come head to head with the harsh hiccups of a life that plays mischief with us so effortlessly. That said, it is our duty to save ourselves from that shock and align those dreams to today’s reality. So, what dreams did Ben Son harbor growing up? “As a child I loved movies. I thought I was born to be an actor in Hollywood. Vague as it sounds, I really didn’t understand what I wanted to become, but later as I grew up I realized and developed this passion about movie production and photography. Camera work, editing and so forth, though later I’ve narrowed down to photography.”

It is of immense importance for our parents to be steadfast in whooping unrivaled support to our dreams. They are called to put hope and sense in one basket in matters assurance, and going further to assure us that we are curved to live happier and fulfilling lives. And so, Ben Son parents are an important pillar to his career. ”My parents have been very supportive throughout my career journey and in making sure I’m where I am today, in financial matters and moral support. Every time they see my work, recommend and advice, then I feel fully contended and at peace with myself.”

Ben Son considers himself spiritual and in fact serves in a Media department in his church. You know, contemporary-cool churches are so advanced that they even have media departments and things like Young mothers, Young dads Associations, Youths Chapter, Teens forums, Young-Adults, Men of Faith and such like. This is a huge milestone from the traditional ‘mainstream’ churches which had huge presence of elderly folks for affiliations like Women Guild and Men/Women Associations.

Anyway, I have saved this question for far too long. Somebody explain what’s fancier of these two pieces of equipments – Canon and Nikon? “Well, it depends on who is using it. But for beginners, it’s advisable to start with Canon because of budget constraints since it’s more effective on video shooting while Nikon is the real deal in photography. Nonetheless, you can use either since nowadays we have softwares to edit one’s work. “Ben Son attests.

I ask him about his biggest portion of clientele. “Couples and family shoots are my most frequent clients. Plus I do lots of wedding shoots every other weekend.” Of course women are more photogenic than men except for a few men that I won’t mention here, that take far too many photos and clog the new Whatsapp fad and IG. Man is that manly! Moving on, you’d wonder if one can pay his or her bills solely on photography. “I will surprise you with the fact that, the market is really responding well to photography. More middle class families are embracing professional photos and video shoots. Moreover, there is a lot of potential that is unexplored in this market especially outside of Nairobi. Nairobi is so saturated hence the need for the market to widen up and turn its heat away from the city and tap the talent in other photography hubs coming up.”

Does Ben Son believe in mentorship and giving back to the society especially empowering the youths? “I love and believe in mentorship. Photography is a field that anyone and especially youths can venture. I personally involve young people in my projects to equip them with ideas of what the markets expects of them. I also encourage young people especially those who would wish to venture in photography field, that with minimal resources, one can actually start photography as a career and build up on that.”

Signing off in Jack Ma’s spirit!!

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.” – Jack Ma

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

 

 

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STORY OF A CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

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For the first time in my mainstream writing career somebody edited my work. Okay, not really editing but giving a heads up or what some may refer as green light. This is purely out of courtesy since here is an unusual guest who has a charm for dignity, protocol and decorum. That said, I would love to be an editor someday. It should be fun correcting obvious mistakes, rating one’s grammar muscles, detecting repetitions, cutting on not-so-necessary information, combing and brushing sentences in the best way possible…oooh. Speaking of which, when I will be in my late 40s(God willing) and perhaps feature in Bikozulu 40-series, I pray that my highlight will be editing my sons or daughters thesis then in their formative writing journey, steering them into this jungle of putting ink to the imagination. In all likelihood they will wish to nurture other tastes away from putting words to a story which by the way is quite daunting, and maybe have a thing for sophisticated stuff like Software Engineering or Cardiac Surgeon – which will leave me with no option other than hanging my boots.

Enough of that. Make way for this gentleman with such a brave passion that should sit you down and lend your ears for seven minutes utmost.

Mike not his real name is a student of Christ The King Major Seminary, Nyeri. I got wind of him from Kageshi as they shared common units while he was studying Project Management. This was before he finally made the decision of changing lanes and careers soon after graduating. As from last year, he embarked on a journey through Major Seminary – Nyeri to meet his dreams, make peace with his desires and finally lend his life to Jesus by solely focusing on serving the church. That said, I consider myself very privileged to have him as a friend owing to the fact that, in the current days of our time, it is rare to have such profound young people, holding public covenants with God that for the rest of their time here on earth they will actively and entirely serve him by every deed and act in their young and old age. That dating, harboring affairs and marriage are amongst many things Mike will sacrifice to serve the Lord. That his life companions will be the rosary, a house of prayer, meditation, theology and charity. How mind boggling is such a life! Does it appear fictional on paper? Well, Mike is closing in to clear his first year and counting nine more to graduate. He might graduate after the eighth year though, but will have two more for exclusive charity work.

Childhood being one of my most favourite phases of life, every time I’m digging in on someone’s story I die to know what one’s was made of. And just like many of us, Mike had a seamless one, certainly with nothing close to being a Catholic Father. He loved cartoons, in fact to date. Speaking of cartoons, blame my rural upbringing for not drawing excitement from them. No offence though. This should be because TV missed conspicuously in my childhood. The closest our TV screen beamed, I was in Form One deeply engulfed by adolescence. Anyway, Mike had a liking for drawing, decorating items and other art related stuff too. Let’s just say he was curved to be an Art enthusiast.

He was an altar boy since class three which coincidentally shaped him to what he is studying today. But don’t all boys fantasize with being Catholic priests at some point in their childhood? Especially when one was raised up in a rural background where only high ranking village civil servants and priests would drive and appear to live-large back then. In High school, Mike would read the Bible, spiritual books and novels regularly. This reminds me of something I did in High school; The fact that I went through a grueling Form One harassment, I devotedly read the bible since I kept it in my desk and that’s where most Form Ones spent their time. How could one frequent the dormitories whereas that’s where the cookie crumbled in matters bullying be it washing sweaty Form Fours’ clothes at dead of a night or reciting imaginary poems to hostile and restless Form Threes if not made to call one’s sisters using very smelly shoes that would act as landline calling-handles.

I engage Mike on whether he wrote love letters in primary school.

He dodges that particular question and I let it die as soon as it is born. However, I sneak in a more disturbing one. This time round, on whether he ever had a girlfriend growing up.

Just like any other high school kid, I had a girlfriend. Actually, even in college I still had one. My first girlfriend told me I would make a good priest since she used to see me serve in the celebration of mass.

What was the reaction when you broke the news to her of desiring to be a Catholic Priest

She wasn’t even shocked. She saw it coming.

What of your folks

Dad was very shocked. We didn’t speak for a week.

Your friends

They gradually edged out of my life. But I was lucky because I had a few who have supported me all along.

How was the first day in the Seminary

The place is so quiet, you are not controlled by a bell but oneself. Initially, I thought I was in a wrong place but again I got encouraged as I observed other young men around. I realized that Seminary is not about me as a person but about Jesus. Truthfully, I felt like a new student; with the orientation and learning how to begin all over again. Seminary days are unique. We have four lessons in day, we do manual work thrice, and games thrice. Talk of food; its abundant.

How many are you in your year of admission

We are 40 in total.

Why do we have a very low turnout of young men who’d wish to be Catholic Priests

I think it’s because of lack of moral values. If one is introduced to church at a younger age and instilled good values and teachings of the church, I think the number can increase.

Aren’t you scared of not having children or a life companion

Of course at some point everyone gets scared but again God decides on our vocations and we must rise to the occasion to respect those callings. I highly respect marriage sacrament because without marriage there would be no priests!

Is there monolization in that place

No no no.

Are all seminarians humble or is it like High school where we have a hodgepodge of all characters

Haha hakukosi vichwa ngumu (There can never lack mischievous people)

What are your hobbies

I love cars. Land rovers are my favourite. I also admire professional photography, watch football and basketball. Real Madrid and Golden State Worriors are my favourite.

Do you watch Football in the Seminary

Yes we do watch. I’m a big fan of Team Arsenal. It’s next to rare for me to miss Arsenal – Man U derby. By the way, I’m a goalkeeper in the school football team.

How is a Seminary program? What is the daily routine

We have a prayer book called The Liturgy of the Hours, which we use during morning, mid-morning, evening and night prayers. We use it in and out of school. This prayer book is divided into four weeks. Every day, there is a celebration of a particular Saint. We call it memorial. Some celebrations are bigger than others. They are called solemnities. For instance Mary Mother of God celebrated on 1st Sunday of every New Year. We meet with the Spiritual Director every month to talk about spiritual matters. This conversation is normally private and confidential. We have confessions twice in a month but one can have as many times as possible and is not necessarily limited to two sessions.

We have recollections once in a month. During this time, we maintain dead silence. This is a moment of prayer and meditation. Every semester we have a retreat for a week, where maximum silence is observed. Dead silence, no phones, no alarms, no bells…just silence.

The lecturers are priests. Lessons go for 40 minutes from 9am to 12:30pm. From 2pm we go for games or general cleaning depending on the day. We have our last lesson of the day from 4:30pm. We have evaluations and personal encounters with the Father in charge of Dean of students. Here, we discuss spiritual matters, academic, weak areas and how to improve. One must belong to at least one club and devotion too.

We normally have encounters with Universities and youth forums for mentoring purposes. We get engaged in charity activities every year. Moreover, we participate in country walks and trips regularly.

What is a devotion

This is where you develop your spiritual life whereas in a club one develops his talent

Do you use phones in the Seminary

It’s prohibited to use phones in the school compound, late at night after 10pm, in class, in the Chapel, Dining Hall, during retreats and recollections.

I understand you are on long holiday for three months. What are you up to at this time

This holiday is called pastoral holiday. The Parish priest has allocated me some duties; I teach catechism on Sunday, sometimes I conduct Sunday school teachings, I also teach aspiring altar services and also visit Jumuiyas(Catholic Saint associations) when permitted. I further, mentor youths and aspirants.

What is the procedure of joining the Seminary

One should contact the Parish Priest and he advises depending on the church calendar. Subsequently, one is sent to the Vocational Director where a brief interview is conducted to the applicant. Thereafter, one submits his academic testimonials and a comprehensive medical certificate. The last bit is the Approval stage after thorough scrutiny of the above mentioned stages.

What type of a Priest would you wish to be; the cool, calm and collected who follows traditions or an aggressive and pragmatic one who is vocal on society and church weaknesses.

I’d wish to make up a vocal one who criticizes and provide solutions. Moreover, I will reinforce my ideologies by furthering my studies on moral philosophy after graduating from the seminary. 

What would be your final remarks to the youth especially during this electioneering period

Two words; Pray for Kenya and maintain peace.

 

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Ray Kroc.

 

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

GRYZ WAHURA: A TRIUMPH OVER DISABILITY

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This article should have been published last week but something eroded the whole rationale. 30th June was fast approaching with thick torrents and fury. What to do when your whole extended family and friends who haven’t called you in fifty years finally emerge from nowhere and keep your phone buzzing unusually! So, around this time of the year, I usually feel quite proud of my career since very learned doctors who spent years in medical school studying complex stuff like, deciphering Human Cell Biology; TSC employed teachers salivating and edging in to meet their pensions; Beautiful, yellow-skinned lady bankers who apparently have no appetite for longer dresses who live for swindling the rest of us to take loans and subsequently sending their goofed and mean-looking credit officers to keep tabs on why the loans are not being serviced; Arrogant entrepreneurs whom you’ll spend years trying to explain to them what is I-tax, passwords and the need to have an email…name them. They will finally discover my number and call naively asking what is requested of them to file these returns. When you mention of P9As, they’ll condense and assume that is something close to a clearance form from CID. That was last week; Maddening crazy and overwhelming. Credit to I Tax portal – It was fast and efficient this time round unlike last year.

Further afield, we are putting up with July weather. Of course you and I under estimated the cold until we bumped on images about the Icing in Nyahururu and the acute low temperatures. What’s with Nyahururu and clouds falling on people’s heads and roads. Isn’t that invigorating? Well, by now you know I was raised in Nyahururu. In actual sense before global warming encroached, made a safe landing and settled, July was one of those months we all dreaded for. I recall my brother and I back then in lower class, where by 6:15 am we would painfully live the house to meet the annoying school bus. A time like July, we would shiver from the teeth to the intestines. Mind you we were on shorts, slogging through the mist and biting cold. By the time we boarded the bus, we couldn’t feel our legs.

Time for Gryz! Back in 2009, in the lifts of the tallest building at that time of Ngara area code was Vision Institute of Professionals. An accounting school where CPA was discovered, nurtured, instilled and exported to the rest of the colleges. In fact, most of these colleges which sprouted out after (Thanks God it was pre-Matiang’i era) had their founders cum lecturers start their careers at Visions. This was the epitome of excellence in the accounting field. Then, having been new to Nairobi, using lifts was quite fulfilling for me. Particularly because I was brought up in the village, Nyandarua County to be exact which has no single hill expect an ant-hill. So, being here boxed in a lift, my height dwarfed by humans with a taste for Nairobi fashion and fancy phones and school bags; I wanted to be like them.

It was on such moments that I met Gryz Wahura. Not that we exchanged pleasantries but at least I got to know of her. She was overly short, light complexion and with feeble legs. While I was joining Visions, she was clearing. Clearly, she was astounding by any standards. CPA not being a cup of tea course, we all wondered how she made it here. What cooked in her ambitions? She must have real fire burning in her belly and a self-drive that would move Kenya economy to first world. Watching her along the corridors, one could tell that was a walking gem eager to learn and change lives.

Eight years later(2017) I inboxed Gryz on Facebook requesting to have her featured in my blog. She had no qualms. I had her draft something for me about her life which I used to come up with a questionnaire to squeeze in more juice for this article. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Gryz’s story told for the first time on an online platform.

Gryz Wahura was born 29 years ago in Nyakahuho village, in Gikondi location, Mukurwe-ini Nyeri County. From the ages of two to fourteen years, she was raised by her grandmother. She is from a single mother who was the bread winner of the entire family. She was born a normal kid, crying and playing like any other until the age of three. This is when her mum realized that her beloved daughter had a spine problem. After back and forth to quite a number of hospitals, she was pronounced as to have a deformity in her spine. Her spine was curving in as she grew instead of forming straight. The spine being a very sensitive part of the body, nothing much could be done out of fear it could cause paralysis to her whole body. Growing up in the village at such a time had its pros and cons. First, there was stigma caused by lack of not so many cases akin to Gryz’s in the village. On the other hand, everyone got used to her physical challenges and she was treated like any other pupil in school including being punished like the rest if she featured in the list of noise makers or not completing her homework. She was active in co-curricular activities namely sports, drama and music festivals. Being treated like a normal kid helped her physiological wounds heal faster. In such formative years of one’s life, it is important to feel indifferent. But you can’t be indifferent in adulthood. Ama? You need to discover yourself, cut your own niche, embrace your personality and goals and remain self-reassuring. To that extent, it is difficult being an adult hahaha.

Something happened on the eve of her KCPE exams. She got a paralysis on her legs. Gryz was in and out of hospital for eight months for therapy and medical checkups, where she was confined to a wheel chair. Gryz later joined a special school for persons living with disability for her O levels in Thika, which was a big chunk of advantage to her because of the facilities and meeting classmates with similar challenges. While here, she lost meaning to life. And as she puts it, “at this point I lost meaning of life. I was a bright kid but I was never serious with my studies in high school, after all to my thinking, who would employ a person on a wheelchair despite their education!”

What was your initial experience on the wheel chair

At first I could not seat on it, I was in denial that I was paralyzed. It took me around six months to accept the situation, until when I joined high school and found other students with severe disability.

I cleared my high school in the year 2004 and I didn’t know what next. At this time I had moved to Nairobi and the stigma from the society was just too much, I didn’t know how to face the world. I had no idea what to do with my life more so since I didn’t know of any college or university which accommodated persons with disability. Between January 2005 and May 2006 I shunned myself from the society and the only place I used to visit was the hospital for my therapy.

 How long did it take you to accept your condition

After continuous therapy I started regaining my senses and I could walk again using crutches. I went through a lot of counseling through workshops and training which played a big deal in accepting my condition. I accepted who I am and realized that there’s so much to life than disability and made a decision to continue with my studies. At this point I didn’t care about public perception so long as I pursued my life.

I indulged Gryz about her adolescence experience.

High school was fun. Being in a mixed school, one could have more than one boyfriend and several secret admirers who would keep writing notes to you without revealing their identity and leave you to do all the guessing. I was very confident in high school which made it easier for me to interact easily with everyone around.

Later she joined Visions which disappointingly, was not disability friendly. This meant, if the lifts were not working, she could only be left with no choice but to use the stairs at times to sixth floor.

In July 2006 I joined Visions Institute of Professionals as a KATC student. At first I didn’t know what would be the reaction of the VIP’s family would be, but what mattered the most is that the management accepted to admit me, the college was accessible and I had a goal in life. I made friends at Visions, several of whom are still good friends to date. And very few people didn’t want to be associated with me.

You searching for a job

Luckily, I didn’t hustle for job. A friend from my current place asked me to apply for a job vacancy which was advertised internally and I got the job. Joined Kenya Education Management Institute (KEMI) in January 2012 on a One year renewable contract as an Accounts clerk. Got confirmed on a permanent and pensionable basis as an Accountant 1 in July 2014.

Gryz is very active in Sports

In the year 2010 I joined Para sports as an athlete I participated in field events i.e. short put and javelin throwing.

In August 2010 I was a Gold medalist at the Great Lakes Athletics held in Nairobi. In the same year, I was appointed the National Treasurer of the Kenya Cerebral Palsy Sports Association.

In 2011 I joined the umbrella body that is the Kenya National Paralympic Committee as a Committee Member. This position came with several responsibilities, among them coordinating a youth workshop in Rwanda, youth training camp in Korea, African youth training in Nairobi and a Team Manager for the 20th Common Wealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Tell me about what motivates you in life

My Mum is my all-time motivator. She encourages me in all ways. I wake up every morning with her words in mind “Grace your life is greater than your disability”

Social Life

I love life and touring is part of me and that’s why I joined the Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour. Have been to several exciting places in the country and few other places in Tanzania and Rwanda.  

Tell me more about Maina Kageni Road Trip

I joined the team when they were on their third week of the tour after I heard Maina talk about it on his morning show on radio. It’s very simple to join, since you only have to pay.

How have you been handled by the rest of the crew in the road trip

Maina and the entire management have been very supportive and extremely friendly. I remember the first time when my friend (a wheelchair user) and I joined the crew, Maina was very encouraged.

Most memorable visit

When we visited Kyanguli Secondary School where the fire tragedy happened in 2001 and killed 63 students. The images were very disturbing. It was overwhelmingly emotional.

Tell me about a typical day in office

I wake up at 6am and retire back at 12 midnight. I get to the office by 8am. Being in a Finance Department, I’m busy all the way to evening.

I also do more in this institution than just accounting stuff. I’m a member of committees like;

  • Disability Mainstreaming Committee
  • Integrity Assurance Committee
  • Information Security Management
  • Tender Committee

 

Currently, Gryz, is pursuing her Finance degree at KCA University.

 Nick Vujicic perhaps one of the most popular persons living with disability worldwide having been born without arms and legs but two small feet, at some point succumbing into severe depression from bully in school, survived all this horrifying childhood challenges and by now is a huge motivator to legions of us.

I will leave you with two of his quotes;

If I can encourage just one person then my job in this life is done…. There’s no point in being complete on the outside when you’re broken in the inside.

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Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

WHICH WAY OUT: FEW OR MORE KIDS

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Early April this year, my family and I embarked on a trip to visit my Shosh, up in the hills of Othaya. A green desert of tea farms, and dwindling coffee plantation, up and down we were, taking sharp corners underneath unbothered deadly rivers making their way to distant lands. Othaya, a very fresh environment courtesy of the unrivalled abundance of rare indigenous trees, tall and gigantic, placed on top of hills and down south along the slopes, bending and singing smoothly – what a purified air! And this journey is never enough without passing by Tums. Well Tums is a small getaway, sandwiched by weather roads, red in colour and inside a sleepy village called Giakaja. Here, the best of kuku and mbuzi choma invites you from the parking bay, and soon you spot the busiest of waiters speeding like rally cars, balancing their trays with the dozens of orders playing in their heads. Tums being a gazebo-like layout, the laughters from happy people enjoying every bite of the meat and ambience waft easily all across. Normally, Nairobians who live for discovering hide outs, will be found here on a Saturday afternoon, flanked by their glossy wives, and their beguiling looking, smooth skinned girlfriends with sweeping elegant weaves, and their boys in expensive pants while some will still insist on puttting on coloured shorts in the year of our lord 2017. Usually, their tables will be dotted with Tuskers and silver-like melting meat. They will smoke arrogantly, speak louder, laugh more and ask for more beer and choma.

Now, we make our way to Shosh’s place, eat, drink, chat and then by coincidence happen to meet a number of my cousins who have also checked in for other engagements here. So, as the evening gets weary, one cousin rises to give vote of thanks but sneaks in an interesting conversation. That as cousins, they are considering awarding whichever family that will reach the target of having at least five kids. Currently the top contenders which is a tie of a few, has four kids each. Actually they are three families out of thirty something. SADLY, SHOSHO PASSED ON RECENTLY AND IN FACT LAID HER TO REST ON 16TH JUNE 2017. Rest in eternal peace dear pillar of my heritage.

Moving on…Our generation is breeding far fewer kids. Two utmost. Three if one is damn rich. Some one. Well the commonest reason being the “harsh economic times”. Quite logical. I mean how and why should one agonise over raising more kids when Unga is neither affordable nor available. When you can’t place food on the table, why more? Dear Andreaders, can our economy encourage contemporary parents to get more or few?

Well, I sampled a few of my friends asking them: Given a choice considering the status of our economy, would you go few or more kids? Kindly give reasons. Only one out of twelve respondents was for four to five kids regardless of the economic status. Three respondents were for very few kids. The rest had no clear answers. Simply put, they were nor here nor there. Just a bit confused. Sometimes back, my siblings and I visited mum by surprise. She was extremely happy and sensational. One thing I fondly remember her saying was; “Assuming I had one or two kids, would I be this happy?” You can imagine a family of slightly many siblings , armed with their spouses and curious teenage-like kids, and few more delicate and restless ones less than a year old, who can cry all night. We were scattered in one house, unbowed by the crying ones annoyed by the new environment they were not used to and the laughters and dealing with not-so-familiar faces plus the undoing of low temperatures of Nyandarua. Kids can be sensitive? My mum now savouring the beauty of watching her grandchildren whirl up and down while the shy ones sat attentively as they gazed at the hearty conversations. The shy ones in this instance had to be the teenagers getting acquainted to adolescence stage of life.

While working on this article, I stumbled on a research report named, Kenya: The Demographic of a Country in Turmoil which gives a chronology of Kenya’s population. Digging in, between 1970s and 1980s Kenya had one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. It experienced an economy slow down thereafter, which prompted the government to advocate for family planning to lower fertility rates. In 1960’s an average family would have 8 – 10 kids. As of 1990’s, that dropped to about five kids. With the AIDS epidemic which eroded health and mortality progress, Kenya has had to review life expectancy from an average of 60 years in 1980s to 53 in 2007.

But while the poor are having more kids, the middle class are siring few! Seemingly, the former are putting up with a fight of survival while the latter are toying with pro-westernized ideologies where getting more kids is no longer fashionable and worse still – very demanding and expensive, so to speak. But demographic pundits have it; that with an effective government and stable economic environment, population increase leads to steady economic growth.

The worry is, many alike, in our classes of life are bringing up fewer and lonelier families. Where, a couple gets two kids, educates them and by the time these children join University at about 19 years, the parents being anywhere from 45 – 51 years, are left to live alone while the kids run to Nairobi. These are the same kids who never get married nor visit home. So the closest these parents get to meet their grandchildren, unfortunately, will be in their sorry state – feeble and draining their family savings to medical bills besides dealing with two kids who haven’t stabilized in life. Forgive me for entertaining the thought that, there is fun in more numbers.

Thinking rationally, clear advantages of having relatively more kids include; Family projects become easier and attractable to finance based on the numbers, the few less-fortunate in life get pulled up by the rest of the siblings, the diversity of careers and lines of incomes brought about by different interests for each sibling increases chances of survival, such a family has a bulk of knowledge and forum to exchange ideas and increase business networks. Moreover, economies of scale have never been more plausible than in families – Utility bills are far cheaper in a house of more, than of few. Clothes and toys can be passed on to the younger ones. Parents who are pro-more can be in a position to enjoy freedom earlier since the teenage kids can be left to guard the little ones as they attend a dinner date, or rush for urgent issues out of the house, and can be caught up in traffic without worry of house girl drama.

Medical researchers have disclosed that growing up with a brother or sister can reduce food allergies, multiple sclerosis and some cancers. Obesity and depression is potentially reduced by exposure to more siblings. Parents with one or two kids, spend lots of money in Day-cares while the pro-more can have that aspect taken care of easily. Research have shown that ‘siblinged’ children will have stronger soft skills and keener emotional intelligence than single children. In most cases, siblings make up the best of friends. Mistakes and confessions are first told to close siblings meaning a good support system can be nurtured within siblings. Further, one or two kids can choke from over attention and pressure. Relatively more kids dilute the attention awarded to each kid hence aiding in making a child mature quicker.

Few or more, the jury is out.

 

CHEATS AND SIDE DISHES

A friend of mine who lives in a staff quarter since he works in a firm located remotely shocked me the other day when he narrated a story about his colleague. So, his colleague whom we shall name Jacob* who happens to hail from afar town and hence compelled to live in the same quarters, developed an affair with a lady from a nearby village. With time the lady moved in to stay with Jacob and would only walk home occasionally. Mind you, the lady’s parents are aware that their daughter sees a man from this firm but somehow have no idea that Jacob is very much married and with three kids. Commonly, cheating men are stingy to their wives. Exactly what Jacob turns out to be; earning a handsome salary but neglecting his family to an extent where one day, his wife decides to travel a distance of about 200 kilometers, to Jacob’s place of work to confront him.

On this day, the side dish happens to be in Jacob’s house oblivious of his wife journey to accost his seemingly mindless man. So the wife rings Jacob warning him that she is five minutes away, having embarked on a journey for an impromptu visit. As soon as Jacob hangs up, he drifts to the bedroom, grabs the side dish suitcase and all her belongings, throws them over the fence that borders the staff quarters screaming at his girl to speed off since his wife is meters away coming. In seconds, the poor girl walks out of the house confused, meets with Jacob’s wife along the corridor but lucky not to have been noticed as to where she emerges from; walks away unhurt by a fellow woman’s wrath. Too lucky but unregretful, she walks back a week later after Jacob wife travels back home.

A number of years ago, soon after landing my first job and too excited to live alone; living in a single room by then…My immediate neighbor a struggling alcoholic, red eyed man with a couple of dark scars on his face and one who would carry a heavy smell of intoxation, welcomed me in my new found freedom of sorts. His love for loud music was unmatchable. He’d exchange ladies at will, something the neighbors had made peace with. Well at some point he settled down with one lass. Haiya, just so casually at the glare of our eyes in that come-wash-my-dishes scenario. Assuming that she was among the seasonal ladies who would just be replaced as soon, we were dead wrong.

You know, in single room neighborhood, sound travels as fast, as if everyone is living under one roof – See your life landlord. One evening, as I was retiring to bed (My bed being next to the imaginary bedroom of my neighbor’s room) his newly wife phone rung and she picked it with ease. I could tell it was a man calling and flirting with somebody’s wife right on his balding head. As soon as the conversation ended, screams from the lady could be heard. The tiny house was turned upside down, in chaos, screams, ultimatums and shouts that would go like “Live my house”….”live my house”…”pack your stuff!!!! (Wajameni whats with men daring their wives to pack their stuff while inside they are wishing – I hope she won’t). Here was a phone call from a man who was sharing the spoils with a newly married lady or so it appeared.

While a good number of young people would jump to love triangles for material gains, a good number of the slightly older folks, deliberately get involved in side affairs for emotional assurances. That not being an excuse, the contemporary marriage has been rocked with complex issues opening gaps and cracks for side dish syndrome to penetrate, shimmer and thrive. The most vulnerable being men who are trapped by either desperation to feel loved, reassured and recognized, the side dish woman continues to grow in vigor and boldness each passing day. From the gospel world to men of the cloth and politicians, infidelity and lust seem to be crossing paths far too frequently.

When some months ago, a compelled confession by a man of no mean achievements and who happens to be the number two most senior official of Jubilee government, an eloquent, vibrant and charismatic – William Ruto; clearly the wave of brooding side dishes confidently stands tall, first among equals even for the high and mighty. Is this the case? Perhaps not. How so, while he is not the first nor the last politician to feature in the side dish infamous book. That in the year 2006 Ruto met, got twisted and succumbed to the strong agitation of brewing a secret affair, hearty and well-oiled love only for the timing and leaking of the bombshell to be in the electioneering year.

Monica Lewinsky a 21 years old unpaid intern in White House under the leadership of President Bill Clinton back in 1995, perhaps was and is the most publicised woman in the history of marriage infidelity.  Tiger Woods who was too naive to realise his career was intertwined to his performance in marriage, painfully ended up his envious world class golfing career out of a side dish affair. Locally, renowned celebrities have battled recorded tapes leaking to the social media, pants down cheating on their spouses.

But why are we surprised? You know of this guy in your estate pub or your friend who brews this beautiful side dish. You know of this woman whose man works in a far city but broods young men when the poor man drives back to the city. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now. You know of this close relative who is in his/her early forties, unmarried and seemingly unbothered to get hitched but occasionally have rumours wafting now and then sometimes to your doorstep that so and so is normally seen frequenting his/her house. You perhaps have this neighbor in her late thirties, with two kids, no consistent man in the vicinity but an occasional man who sneaks shyly when these kids resume back to boarding school.

What I’m I trying to say? That our generation has normalized infidelity, sexual greed, selfishness, and compromised integrity. We have smashed the marriage institution, robbed it off its values and bleached the institution with short-sided sinful and guilty looking men and women. We have witnessed Whatsapp prayer groups get rocked with sexual scandals. That not surprising, infamous pastors and alleged men of god have been all time culprits to this society weakness.

Far more men and women are putting their cries on social media, others succumbing to depression, lost for words with what is fighting their union. Many more are resulting to physical fights to save what is rightfully theirs in as much the reality is hostile to listen, respect and keep off.

Thanks to an ongoing conversation in the social media that MARRIAGE IS NOT AN ACHIEVEMENT; I dare say marriage is a goal and an accomplishment – For crying out loud in Africa. Marriage should validate oneself and be devoted for, if done for the right reasons. The so called campaigners of this narrative have every objective to welcome and support cheats in marriage and just play down this incredible institution. That with one phone call or text message, a life may be at danger, a whole family may be in shambles, two people conjoined by honest love and commitment may be at the brick of self-destruction. It’s very costly to repair love more so when the orchestrators move and smile at will in the name of socialites and sponsorees at hire.

Yes, majority of married men will look attractive to you lazy woman who can’t find your own and will gladly fall into your trap to cheat on their wife with you, only for you to realise when it’s too late that you too will be cheated on by the same man you lured in the first place. That said, people should stop doing church weddings for formalities if they can’t let go their side dishes.

Have a good one Andreaders!

LAIKIPIA’S PRE – ELECTION VIOLENCE

Image result for laikipia clashes 2017Just last month, (January 2017), the New York Times published a list of 52 must visit destinations in the world. Laikipia was number 47 worldwide and the only one in Africa to make it to this prestigious list. Borana Conservancy, being the reason why Laikipia was picked is a  hotbed and all-in-one scenic destination in and around Africa. It forms part of a 90,000-acre protected area for elephants, lions and cheetahs, among other charismatic megafauna. Game drives and lodges abound, but a spectacular new property, the five-suite Arijiju, opened in 2016 with guides who take guests on excursions, including fly fishing, trail running, horseback riding and treetop canopy tours. The region is also home to both the Samburu and the Maasai, tribes with equally colorful and fascinating cultures – According to New York Times website.

In 2016, Laikipia County was feted as the, County of the Year, Tax Compliance County and Trade Facilitation partner for the year 2015. I can confirm, this was not accidental but due to the quality of firms which have settled in Laikipia largely in Tourism sectors and Flower Industry, thereby fueling the economy of this county to new height levels including providing employment opportunities to as many as they can. It has dozens of ranches, conservancies, private firms, home to the big five, and big enough to fetch over 200 kilometer squared.

By now you appreciate the level of tourism inside Laikipia County. That said, you’ll ponder why the political class is busy crisscrossing the country mobilising all and sundry to register as voters as County number 31 is burning inside-out, since late last year. It’s prime revenue source, being Tourism, the sporadic violence is eating up its main core of survival, displacing the minority tribes and European/American settlers; while no hairs are being raised.

The worse of all is the lackluster approach with which the government in place has conducted itself. It’s saddening when the media too doesn’t tell the whole story. The country has been cheated all along that what is befalling Laikipia is scramble for resources and the biting drought. That’s part of a well-choreographed story, well-polished to lure the rest of us from what is the actual truth. The actual truth is, Laikipia County is envied for its lack of ‘hardened Army’ unlike its neighbouring communities who engage in cattle rustling.

The truth of the matter is, Laikipia County has been invaded by its neighbours, who form thousands of pastoralists from Baringo, Isiolo, Samburu and Pokot with close to 200,000 cattles. Worthy to note is that the dynamics of this invasion was changed by the heavily armed Pokot. Pokots are ‘envied’ for their superior war tactics and the number of arms in their possession. Why Laikipians need to worry is because; Pokot and Samburu resolved their archaic feud just before 2013 elections, and developed a strategy to displace communities living in Rumuruti – Maralal and East of Laikipia.

The minorities being largely Kikuyus and white settlers, theirs have been counting the losses and watching their properties go up in flames and farms get invaded to feed pastoralists livestock. The epitome of the violence is greed, selfishness and barbarism from enemies of Laikipia which is unrivalled. I wonder why the Government has not thought of setting up a military base either in Rumuruti or Baragoi where we lost about 40 military and brave Kenya heroes who died painful deaths having sacrificed their lives for peace, in this region. As the situation appears now, the worst is yet to come. Unfortunately, the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Commission of Kenya has been reduced to a spectator as Laikipia County is held hostage, by incitement and political powers where some politicians want to place themselves as kingpins for their self-preservation as election date draws near.

The aspirants are using the Land issue to incite their communities that the ranches and private firms across Laikipia County are illegally occupied by the settlers yet most of them are Kenyans, who pay tax and land rates and rents to County governments just like everybody else. A former Mungiki leader who controversially got born again and fashionably became a pastor, who is now an aspirant for the Laikipia senate seat has gone public to allege that the settlers leases have expired and therefore should give back the land to the locals. There has also been allegation of voter importation by both political divide thereby causing tensions and political animosity.

National Land Commission and National Cohesion and Integration Commission have done little to bring long lasting solutions. The government too has failed to disarm communities in cattle rustling areas which to a large extent has had guns play out as the most lethal weapon in this clashes. Where the guns are sourced and who finances these bandits cum herders, is the elephant in the room.

Will we watch Laikipia’s envied ecosystem get destroyed by politicians who want to win elections through the back door? What of the billions of money in this economy which has created employment and tax revenue to both County and National governments? The media must do enough to expose aspirants who are fuelling animosity like Maina Njenga and have Head – Office of Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tubiko direct prosecution of these rogue politicians who want to burn our livelihood. Moreover, Laikipia should make enough noise to their superiors be it having politicians and other leaders be vetted for this menace. The National Intelligence docket too, should have justified their work by now.

WHAT’S IN A BEARD!

Image result for Full blown bearded men african men

“The male beard communicates a heroic image of independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things,” said psychologist Robert J. Pellegrini

November might have been my birthday month but somehow also marked the end of ridicule from a good friend and deskmate whom I will refer as Chris for the sake of this article. Chris is a typical mischievous, humorous and very bright classmate if you may, who effortlessly creates lighter notes from a seemingly dull class tormented by fast approaching exams. Now, Chris decided not to shave his beards the entire month of November citing to be in solidarity with the rest of the guys who believe in not shaving in this particular month. It’s known as Movember where male adults raise awareness about men’s health issues more specifically, cancer.

For the rest of us who either have no good relationship with beards or who were caught unawares, had to deal with a Mr.Chris who did everything to make us feel bad about ourselves for failing to prove that we were in oneness with men who battle prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and liver cancer which are common in men. Forgive Chris for this weird imagination. My problem with him though is that he tried too hard to create an impression that he had full-grown beard look while in reality was struggling with a semi-arid, disoriented appearance. (Hoping Chris won’t read this).

That said, you’ll appreciate that beards have come of age on perception, metamorphosing from the conventional thinking to contemporary trends that use them as a fashion statement, to express one’s personality and to symbolise solidarity with victims of chronic illnesses. In the past, beards only proved that one was indeed a male adult. Nowadays, depending on how they are kept or shaved, they can enhance or totally disfigure one’s look. From a research I did at a recent time amongst friends of either gender; female respondents showed a very high correlation between how they perceive a man and how their beards appear to be.

Let’s sample a few reactions I received from ladies when posed the question;

What’s your take about men who keep beards and them that not?

Respondent A: A Man who keep well-kept beards appear to be mature, responsible and more manly but in situations where the dressing does not match his style of hair and beard cut, it implies a disconnect but the same dude in casual outlook gives a totally different implication…..Those with trimmed beards appear more presentable.

Respondent B: I believe it’s an individual’s preference however I personally prefer men with well-kept, trimmed beards.

Respondent C: I prefer a complete shave…It’s neat and brings out some kind of order in a guy’s image.

Respondent D: Some look handsome while some are deemed not grow beards at all!. I prefer a neat beard, trimmed and well cut. And he has to have a smooth face not a bearded face with pimples looking like a forest in the hills!!!

Interestingly, from my findings, ladies have stereotyped men with fully grown beards to be ‘Bad boys’, unreliable in the society, hostile and bully.

A good number of male respondents didn’t have much of a problem in fact insisting beards are a sense of male identity, and part of their personality and expression. Some said they keep them to justify their age which if not, are misjudged to be young boys. A majority of them confessed to keep well-trimmed beards by virtue of their careers which otherwise would be taken to be disorganised, arrogant and unprofessional.

Well, researchers agree that men who keep beards do so to appear dominant among other men. Moreover, they are stronger, older and more aggressive. They are also likely to have deeper voices and rated as the most attractive. In contrast though, some experts have it that beards can harbour more germs than a toilet. They have warned that beards are nothing more than a ‘bacterial sponge’, riddled with thousands of bacteria and a perfect way to pass on germs. The cuticles on the hair which are like layers of tiles on a roof, trap the germs and grease. Hair around nostrils and mouth is well-placed to harbour bacteria. Men have a habit of over-handling their beards, meaning they can spread bacteria to their mouths. If their hands are dirty, they transfer dirt from their hands on to their face and mouths.

TYPES OF BEARDS

Wild Beard

The full-on scraggly, all-over beard belongs to a very specific man. Not many can pull off its wild ways. It epitomise boldness, super confidence and egocentric. This look is also likely to be kept by people battling depression, relationship or marriage breakups and loss of job.

The He – Goat Beard

This is kept by outgoing men who love exploring, have a soft spot for outdoor activities and are self-employed. They are also likely to be sophisticated, mischievous, non-conformers and have a sense of humour.

Cleaned Shaved Beard

This is common with men who don’t love attention, cautionary when it comes to risk, and mostly semi introverts. These type of men have a belief that all grown beards are irritating, demanding and trigger itching.

The Scruffy Chin

This type of look is close to the weird beard but a bit trimmed and well-kept. This is for men who are fashion sensitive, have time for themselves and pay attention to image.

The U – Shaped

This type of look is for men who are averse to change. It is mostly common with men above 35 years, who grew up listening to KBC radio and who unfortunately believe that it’s still trendy to have such a look in the post-Trump era. We forgive them!

Male beards have endured endless battles that somehow threaten their extinction with perceptions that men who clean shave appear more presentable. In the midst of these challenges, beards remain stubborn, unbowed and rebellious, confronting all roadblocks that threaten their legacy with a pinch of resilience. What does the future hold for them? Will men stand to erode part of their heritage by doing away with them? The jury is out.