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

FROM BOYS TO HARDENED MEN

High SchoolWhen I read Jackson Biko’s article named From the Equator last week, it awakened spirits and resuscitated memories I had long forgotten, apart from perhaps what I penned recently on my FB page andrewismme.wordpress Facebook Page in regard to how allergic we were to water for these four, eventful years. What Biko evoked made me find it fair, to share with my readers instead of just summarising it in three sentences in form of a comment.

Makes sense? Yes….!

Ready! Here’s a much summarised story of my High School life;

On 6th February 2004, on a sweltering Friday formed part of a nostalgic week that Matatus were on strike coinciding with a time that Form Ones were reporting to their new schools.  In the wake of confusion, mum instructed one of my uncles to give me a ride to school (about 27 kilometers away) in his bicycle. Eleven years down the line, I can hardly recall what the rationale was, of I being ridden by my uncle all the way as we left mum with my voluminous Blue box figuring out how she would make it to Nyahururu town. She made it. At about 1pm, we met her having bought the mattress, a red bucket and the rest of the NECESSARY shopping.

What followed soon after successfully being admitted and handed over to a Form Three lad to escort and orient this green and naive boy, was quite dramatic. As we made our way to my new dwelling place, I braved words hurled at me, screams and all manner of intimidation you could ever imagine. It was baptismal with fire. Incidentally, a dude whose face I couldn’t manage to paint in my mind in that melee, requested to assist carry my bucket. To my surprise, he disappeared in the thin air. That was the end of my poor, red bucket and I. Short, cold and painful relationship. It was kidnapped even before I used it to wash a handkerchief leave alone the uniform. Despite the fact that it had a very gigantic and visible admission number, it vanished like Czar the Coast musician, never to be seen again.

I quickly got accustomed to the maddening harassment and playing hide and seek with extremely rogue Form One bullies. This made me endear reading the Bible daily, reading and rereading verses that warned and rebuked the unrighteous (read Form One bullies) and the unmerciful. The more I prayed about my safety, the more harassments I endured. I remember one day, after we reported from April holidays my mattress went missing. That was the second and the last mattress mum was to buy me in a span of 4 months. Soon after the night preps, I met my helpless blankets stashed at a corner of the bed sobbing and whining in darkness. Luckily, a friend of mine who was in Form Three helped me get two conjoined pieces of mattresses that didn’t resemble each other. Conjoined!! Never mind, that was high school for me. Mum never heard of this to date.

We made it to Form Two amid renewed excitement that we had been left off the hook by the bullies. At least the new Form one admission dates were round the corner. To our shock, we came to realise Form Twos were the most loathed lot of students since they had no authority to stop a Form One not even to command him to wash a plate. Speaking of plates, I never understood, as a school culture, how majority disliked cleaning their plates leaving that to poor Form Ones who would wash to over 50 plates at a go. For a Form One, making it to the evening preps without being abducted by a no-nonsense Form Four to do a task which ranged from cleaning his shirts or being sent to another dormitory which came with its fair share of more harassments, one would consider himself lucky to get to class safely.

Gradually, life became bearable and even enjoyable. We got acquainted to the culture unawares. We invested time to a wide range of interests from Sports Clubs which I was one disillusioned fellow, to Drama Clubs. I was a huge fanatic of Debate Club whereby I served as the Vice President after I was rigged out from the Presidency post. I was also an active member of Drama club which took me to Provincial competitions in Temple-road Nyeri and Thika High. Science subjects didn’t like me as much, but I remember our school steadily making it to the Nationals for all the four years. The likes of John Ngoru an avid reader of this blog and an erstwhile classmate, a relatively quiet guy but scarcely sharp and bright bagged an avalanche of medals from Science Congress to Mathematics contests.

Soon enough, anxiously waiting for letters from our so called catches from Music and Drama Festivals in 2nd term and Sports events at the end of 1st term became a grueling experience. Letters were normally read out every Friday and Saturday parades and waiting for your name to be mentioned was like waiting to hear your name announced as the SportPesa jackpot winner. Interestingly, we were also cool enough to earn space not once or twice in the much popular Insyder magazine then. I remember saving my meager pocket money to buy a copy. I so much got fond of them that I kept dozens of copies back at home for visitors who popped by during school holidays.

The idea of not taking supper from the dining hall became so much fun. We would gather as a bunch of 7 – 10 boys and move with speed, holding our plates with one hand and hiding our faces with the other, making it a bit difficult for the teacher-on-duty to make out the faces. We were experts in making long strides (me included) in the air, not stumbling, maintaining the speed and the balance of the plate while not having clear sight of what’s ahead. It was thrilling to cut corners with the teacher. The sound of dozens of running legs and mischievous laughters after outwitting a teacher was an endearing hobby. Weirdly, food tasted better when taken besides stuffy beds, smelly socks and in no to so clean plates haha. We didn’t even notice. Better still, Thursdays were days to be longed for, for the mere reason one would get a piece of meat. This meant some students would camp at the Dining Hall counter from early as 4:30pm. Since I had this petite physique, it was a tall order for me to endure the stampede, all for the love of meat.

Strikes were common in this school. The deadliest happened when we in Form One when the Form Three had a feud with the rest of the school bringing everything to a standstill. They paralysed the school at night by interfering with the power system. The school was thrown to total darkness amid stoning of window panes. They pulled an El-Ade attack by plucking off a metal water tank and using it as a shield as they advanced towards the perceived enemies essentially stopping the flying stones. I was caught in the melee and had a stone landing just few millimeters above my right eye which left a tiny scar to date. For some few minutes I braced for the worst, convinced my eye had been gouged out. I found myself bleeding profusely, lying on a wet ground and surviving a stampede from a crowd that was running helter-skelter.

Still on strikes, there is one time we were chased out of school at night by teargas and gunshots for causing mayhem. How some of us managed to climb the three meter school fence in half a second made me appreciate adrenaline is real. We had to run for about 15 kilometers, bringing down residents’ fences and wreaking havoc on crops as we looked for escape in the dead of a night. We soured the plains, some breaking their legs from caving in to unforeseen holes while we lost track of others. For about one and half hours, cops were hot on our heels in pursuit of these untamed boys. We camped at the hills of Mt. Thodio where the low temperatures of the night tormented every part of us. We slept in the middle of nowhere like herded livestock for one long night, cracking jokes and pondering on what fate had for us. Talk of Mt. Thodio experience.

While some were naughty enough to wake up at 3am to milk the school cows for the love of milk or to savour the idea of dismantling newly replaced power sockets or to leave tap water running; High School heavily impacted on whom I am today. And as Eleanor Roosevelt would put it – The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

KAGESHI ON THE MARKET DAY

marketIn this part of the world, every Wednesday and Saturday works out as the Market Day. This is the day all and sundry converge to the market to shop for everything from fruits, veges to second hand clothes and shoes. It’s the only place excluding church where the well-to-do mingle with the REST as they ransack goods and trade in skilled negotiations. All under one roof, they bear the noise from hawkers, music vendors, unwelcomed preachers, mad men, bodaa guys and anything in between. It’s a meeting of sorts that brings together health-conscious middle class, shrewd entrepreneurs, Mamas selling hot porridge, kanjo people, pima weight fellows, dawa ya mende dudes…..and pickpockets all united by one mission; to make it happen!

You are also likely to meet your office tea-girl(s) and that intern in the HR department, in the middle of this thick mammoth of humans. They will go like;

Is this your wife!!!

Not really, she is my girlfriend.

Awwwwww! Hi, I’m Betty and she is Carol. Nice to meet you.

Kageshi: Smiles meanly and then… I’m Kageshi Wakagoshi (With an attitude of don’t dare judge my name.)

You almost like;

When I make her wifey, I’ll throw a memo.

You also notice men fighting midlife crisis, donning tired Stanchart marathon T-shirts accompanying their wives on this day, something you highly recommend. It’s very therapeutic. It breaks the monotony in the house if not cutting off the habit of slithering home at 2:15 am to wake a validly furious wife. Try it. Smell the market. Get to see where she buys managu and those carrots from Shamata in Nyahururu. Escorting her to the market might help her forget that call from the insurance lady that called you at 10:31pm the previous night. And to ladies; please don’t call a married guy after 7pm not unless you have a better plan for him after he is divorced.

Where were we…..? The advantage with doing your weekly shopping in the market is due to the relatively cheap prices than when you visit your Mama Mboga. Mama mboga is there to milk your money. Be aware. Sorry to all Mama mbogas. Anyway, on this day I got a call from Kageshi requesting that she takes me to the market after many days of postponing. For so many reasons, my weekends are quite occupied meaning I hardly get time to visit this place.

But on this Saturday, since I had sent her a message that my afternoon class had been cancelled, she saw it perfect to help me shop from the market. Here I was, armed with my college bag and so drained by the screaming, January sun. Right at the entryway, we were met by this lad selling kuyus C.Ds, with a music stereo attached to his stomach that the guys from NEMA should have witnessed. Business comes to a standstill when this guy is on location. For Kageshi and I, we had to find out if our eardrums had been blown off minutes after he was gone. The sound was annoyingly harsh.

We made our way to Mama Waiganjo as Kageshi would refer her for the sweetest sweet potatoes in this side of River Tigithi. Wife material network having been enabled, I found myself taking notes again. You remember Isn’t She A Wife Material?

Kageshi: Most round shape, sweet potatoes are tasteless. Go for the oval shape.

Me: Ooh really! (clueless)…..my mind was like; I should sue all my ex girlfriends.

Kageshi: When it comes to arrow roots, be careful with the bottom part color. Purple -like are known to be too watery. Check for the whitish colour. They are dry and tastier.

My mind: I should sue all my ex girlfriends   ….

We dashed across to a Mr. Wagithomo who wakes, sleeps, dreams and talks PAWPAWs. He has been in this business for ages. I’m tempted to ask him;

Seriously, Pawpaws? Isn’t it too risky?

But yes, pawpaws are quite nutritious; They immensely contribute in reduced risk of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering blood pressure and improving wound healing.

We buy two the size of Nairobi ladies’ waistlines and walk over to buy some tomatoes. Here a beautiful lady joins us, as she carefully combs for the very best. She smells epic. I also like her kinky hair. What goes through my mind at this time, sandwiched by Kageshi and this chiq is how reassuring men view the whole idea of women insisting on carrying their stylish contemporary baskets and heading to the market. Spotting ladies in those wedding-dresses the ones that are balloon-like and strictly reach at the knee, busy walking from vendor to vendor with their sun glasses/hats and weekend rubber shoes is extremely enviable by men.

Why so, for the simple reason that men have had to deal with many women who have lukewarm attitudes when it comes to matters kitchen. Hence finding one who appreciates healthy eating and shopping from the market, can make a man’s receding hairline halt. Shopping in the malls is one overrated exercise of our times. It’s a feel good activity that makes fool of ourselves especially when it comes to fresh products.

Walter Kang’ethe, chairman of Bachelor-Accountants Association (BAA) may not decipher why Kageshi and I were stunned to buy tomatoes at 50/- per kilo. That was damn cheap. Walter and all your subjects, I forgive you. If you make it past the bachelorette stage successfully, you can certainly be anything you ever imagine to be. Ignore that as our eyes landed on apples pleading for a bite. We grabbed a few for 30/- each after our negotiations were met with resistance but however saved from the 35/- or more that trades in the malls. We bought onions in the next stall with the same trick I wrote previously, about feeling the top whether it’s dry.

Moving on swiftly we bumped to this mzungu who got the attention of this seemingly 5 year old kid waving at her steadily. Being a cool mzungu, she walked right over, gave the kid a handshake at the glare of excited parents pulling ear to ear smiles by now. Come-on Paul Mathai of Mathai Gallery , you should create time with your Cannon camera to drop by and take some unrivalled shots in this place. Meanwhile a smiley banana chap packed us some few. I took note of;  One should go for the big and firm. Don’t get twisted, hehe.  They have a longer shelf life.

We wrote off potatoes, after-all Nyandarua County where I was born and bred is a hotbed of POTATOES. Did I just say hotbed! I also don’t recall the last time I cooked sukuma after Kageshi introduced me to Kamande. (Lentils).  Also to note is that Central Bank alluded to high cost of sukuma and its cousins to having driven up inflation, just the other day! Very strange. We concluded the day at the Peas area, where mamas seated in a long stretch, busy removing the peas from the pods, solicit for the customers’ attention. It’s a confusing affair before you settle for one. Here Kageshi whispers; The smaller the better. The bigs ones are just empty and tasteless.

I so liked the whole idea of the market and while at it, this Bible verse came to mind. Proverbs 18:22  He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

Thank you Kageshi W.