Of Campus

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There three things that are lovely about Campus life actually four, free food, cheaper booze, a place to sleep and freedom. You can walk into any room in your floor and demand for food, or eggs, or cooking oil or a handful of omena or brown looking maize or sorghum flour at no cost. Hell you can offer to do dishes, give stories with sexual undertones or those highlighting problems you collectively face for a plate of ugali. People want to belong, want to feel that problems are communal, there’s nothing that binds people more tightly than strife. I’m sorry I digress.
So this day, I’m visiting a friend of mine in an upper floor room. We are telling stories of how hard our third year is. I’m using perfect similes, metaphors, irony and stylistic devices second only to Shakespeare’s. I’m feeling alive. Subtle too because I’m as hungry as a wolf, my last proper meal being two days ago when I stole tomatoes from the nearby tuckshop and sold them for a fortune, and went to the mess to buy CMB. ( chapo mbili beans). So I’m waiting for this guy to cook but he thinks I’m out sharing my problems.
He finally after eternity begins to Cook, rice? one of my favourites. Tomatoes bingo! cooking oil, perfect.

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To my utter horror, he pours two cups of rice in the sufuria, and places it on his cooking coil (a comrade’s most valued electronic) he proceeds to cut the tomatoes as the rice heats, no water, nothing! for like ten minutes, he then adds, tomatoes to the rice and stirs vigorously, adds a cooking oil, stirs again then finally adds cold water.
Well I have eaten many bad things all my life, kunde sprayed with eggs, Omena and their ammonia, rice with cabbage, ugali with fried dhania, boiled potatoes with boiled njugu, raw sweet potatoes I’ve had spaghetti cooked together with kales, kales! foods that giant worms in my tummy frown upon, but this, this was new. This was a toxin from hell whose effects can haunt generations to come.

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I shot out of room faster than I had come, feigning sleep and thanked him profusely for his hospitality. My stomach grumbling (we call it borborygmi), tears welling in my eyes, a lump in my throat and closed the door slowly.
I could swear I heard him burst into laughter.

FAT

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I want to be fat, like really fat, fat like some guys I see in clubs watching soccer with big mouths and crooked teeth. Wearing expensive glittering watches and jewelry. And goggles, big and shiny gold. Covering their eyes and nose.  Clean shaven heads exposing the wrinkles on their scalp like a giant snake. I want to be fat like them, with shirts open to the navel level, displaying their big necklaces and ordering waitresses around. I want to be fat like them, with rings on multiple fingers and hugging their other equally big friends. With a girl on their side, voluptuous behinds and rowdy too. Referred to my friends as mama, they respect her, they know better than to get to touch her, get close to her and risk my full wrath. I want to be fat, to talk in Swahili and look menacingly at any adversary, to sit on the couch in that Club in gravity and not have to pay after every drink I order. Fidelity on one waitress, tip her later. With big gigantic hands like the ogre stories I used to read about when I was  young. Fat that you must own your car because matatu touts see you as a space hazard. Fat that my face is always shiny with sweat from simple jobs of talking and shouting and laughing hysterically even at the tiniest dryest jokes. Yes that fat! Calories, 100 kilograms and counting. With deep voices that seem to emanate from the stomach…Just fat!

ABRACADABRA

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I am superstitious, like very superstitious it scares me sometimes. So yesterday my #SO significant other, asked me what my worst day is. And this got me thinking. I replied December 23rd must be my worst day. And you are probably thinking, it’s because Mary was heavy with child and all. Swollen feet and travelling on a donkey for hours on end. Scared to near death of how the child would look like. How Joseph would take it, as his own? Would Herod catch up with them? You know every mother’s fears for her child.I digress.
On December 23rd 2009 I lost my first dearly loved phone to highly efficient thieves in a mat to town. On December 23rd 2014 this phone was almost grabbed by a thief in downtown Nairobi as I was in a matatu texting in reckless abandon. Man I was scared. Imagine going home for Christmas, with no phone!

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But the day I remember most is December 23rd of 2013. Well I only had a few thousands shillings with me, and was headed home the next day. You know, going home you have to look really nice, so clothes must be bought! It’s a African Tradition. So I alight at Ngara, opposite Fig Tree and see a sea of clothes being sold and bingo! You see then enNGARAsha was my thing! Town was too pricy, still is, I didn’t know Muthurwa or Gikomba too well and Eastleigh scared everyone of us. So Ngara was home away from home. So on this highway I suddenly spot these pants and my feet went jelly. You see I had bought these shoes a month earlier from those shops in town along Ronald Ngala where a man endlessly shouts “Kiatu Na bei!” like a man possessed till the cows come back home. I always look for him when I have time, to pat him on the back give him a glass of water for all the barking. He makes Githurai touts look like they are whispering.

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So these pants were perfect match with the shoes, but I’m not a man to buy things I haven’t tried on. It may be a skirt or stockings. Or have a foramen so big in weird places. I have this idea that if people can have no problem seeing other people walking near naked along the beach they should have none whatsoever if the same is done in the middle of town! So right there along the busy Thika Super Highway, with nothing for a curtain,exposed for all the world to see, I changed into these pants. And boy oh boy! Didn’t they look awesome. We bargained for like thirty or so minutes, and we finally settled at 1500. So again I strip and had the pants folded nicely for me and off I went home. Feeling like a hero who had saved the world from the Armageddon. No more decisions to make that day. A day when you thank your neurons with 250cc of legend brandy for making ingenious decisions.
Ahhh! perfect! I arrived at home, happier than Waiguru and without even locking the door I changed into my pants again. My new superhero suit. And wore the shoes and run to the mirror! And Jesus! What I saw,left my mouth wide open in disbelief! I looked like I had worn Gold dust’s pants. Tighter than USA flagged tights. Everything exposed leaving nothing to imagination. I only needed a Mohawk , a leather jacket and a guitar and Voila! A rock star! These pants hurt my body! Compressing it, I felt thinner already. If my dear mother saw me in these, she’d pull my ears until they are Duale’s size. My father would tell me to go back to Nairobi and come back when I know how to dress like an African man.

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I ran my friend, I ran all the way from Roysambu to pangani to Ngara. It was dark, pitch dark! And the vendors were long gone. I could feel my eyes fill up with tears, 1500! Gone! I remember vividly blinded by anger and regret,  I entered the nearest shop and bought, using my fare home (in Nyeri) myself a pair of manly pants. Khaki, wide as a drum, like a sack cloth wide. I didn’t even bargain, and sat there by roadside a thousand anti life prolonging thoughts rushing through my mind! My tight green pants tightly clutched in my hands. Until it was 12.00 am. I wanted this day to end so fast.  They were, as I came to know, girl pants!Girl pants! As I entered again the house a second time, I suddenly remembered seeing the vendor smiling.

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I still wear the pants, from time to time, indoors though. To remind me that I can make terrible decisions too. And learning from them is the best thing ever. Learn from mine…
Have a  tight Saturday won’t you

GREED!

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Being from the bush is bad, being from the bush is so bad I remember the first time I was in High School I had ala, ero (r,l) problems. I dropped words like they were hot. Sheng was a whole new concept for me. My tongue would contest for the heaviest organ in my body and win comfortably. It took two terms of hard learning and transnighting to finally avoid dropping. Our school too was weird, we nicknamed people based on where they came from. There was Umoo, Githu,…then there was Easiege. I always wondered what Easiege was. I called him that a thousand times, fancy name, I promised I’d finally name my boy, Easiege Kanyua , only to realize it was actually, Easitch for Eastleigh.
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Anyhow I remember this day with a red face. My desk mate was a guy from town. South B or Imara Daima I can’t quite remember. I didn’t know where that was and that was my heaven. The name sounded to me like a beach in Hawaii, fancy cars, beautiful women name it. Felix* was a missionary who had been sent to me to spread the good news about Nairobi. He was the first guy I saw physically with a do-rag. I had seen them in song videos. But hey! here is Felix with one too. And he loved himself that boy, loved how he looked and hated books.

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So this day Felix comes to class hurriedly after tea break. And puts a container quickly in his locker. He looks at me slyly, a smile planted on his face and asks, “TOK unataka PB? (peanut butter)” Now Felix is a really good actor. He steals glances at the back to ensure none of our classmates spots it and come borrowing. My eyes were wide, my heavy tongue rolling with relish. Peanut butter! God sends his angels in his time. Felix then proceeded to open the can and asked me to scoop some, “Just a little!” he said threateningly…but, Edwin doesn’t know little. I curved my index finger into a real hook, and with all my might I dipped it into the container and scooped. My finger had turned into a spade. Mmmmh! I looked at Felix and there was anger on his face. Anger at the sight of betrayal, but I didn’t care. He can call me a Judas for all I care but I’ll have tasted the coveted substance. I saw him almost shed a tear as I quickly shoved my finger straight to my mouth, peanut butter dripping soiling my books.

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I shut my mouth and ever so slowly retracted my finger from my mouth, my lips clearing any trace of peanut butter from the finger. I closed my eyes like a professional wine taster, spread my heavy tongue like a giant cabbage leaf and tasted. The door opened and the maths teacher entered.
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I have lived many years and I had never tasted anything nastier than that. My eyes shot open, I couldn’t spit it out because the teacher was in class. My face was contorting in agony and disgust. I looked at Felix and he was rolling over with laughter, his eyes crimson and teary, his big teeth sticking out like a hippo’s. Veins sticking out of his neck and face. Then he gave me the container to read. And here it was written Apricot. Boy! I had never felt dumb as I did that day. After the maths lesson I relocated to another place in class.
My tummy didn’t help with issues as I suffered for 3 continuous days.  Dismayed and sad. My dad had sent me to the biggest prison ever. To this day, every time I use apricot I taste a bit in memory of Felix. I hate that guy!

THROWBACKS!

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Of brown switi mzuri, white patco,
green koo, pink Big G, orange dextrosa, yellow jolly jus that turned from powder into copious amounts coloured water, which reminds me of my primary school sweetheart who made juice from food colour (the one that is used to make icing of the cake, that one) and sold it to us at a throw away price, we drank and soon the whole class was Moses Kuriaring in the opposite direction, foul and frequent.
She now works with Keroche. I digress.

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Juice cola that was sold in ridiculously tiny papers, KSL and their very hard wrappers, those chewing gums that had papers inside which you stuck onto your body and pulled and you had yourself a perfect tattoo.
I remember once I put one on my chest, like an ancient day Lil Wayne, thinking I had hidden it from mother’s sight, she spotted it as she washed me!
The beating and scrubbing I recieved still haunts me. You cannot run away naked, can you? I digress.

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Blue tropical sweets were rare, if you had 3 Eclairs you were made the school’s headboy. Mafuko bread ruled the world, every boys dream was to witness an accident between a bread lorry and a soda lorry. Girls had dolls made of old clothes, they sometimes poured tea into their ” mouths” soon the dolls were reeking of bad milk. If you owned a straw, you were a king, we made straws out of anything, grass, pens, bag bindings. We caught locusts? where did locusts go? And stored them in a can and watched them all day, mate and eat. And people were happy, ” Uyu agatuīka dagitari! (This one will be a doctor!)”
How locusts are related to medicine still baffles me. Horrendous, mouth gaping games that made you stare at death in the eye, munywe where you added cows dung to make it more slippery, swings made of tattered clothes tied together, car tyres where you put water inside and pushed them using two large sticks at breakneck speed, wheelbarrow riding competitions, but above of all a movable barbecue with a wire attached was gold, we called it Nūgī. You stole fresh maize or potatoes from the neighbours shamba, placed hot charcoal in the Nūgī and run like a mad cow with your neighbour hot on your heels as you revolved your Nūgī when you they finally gave up chasing you, and since the charcoal in the Ñūgī was now hot, you sat and roasted your maize and ate to your fill. And you’d be very mistaken to think we never got high, with folded piece of newspaper where we put any chemical we could find, tea leaves, ash, royco, omo, soil, salt, sawdust lit it up and smoked it. Digressor.

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Life was good, the older you were, the easier you pranked your younger friends, school was easy. You could play with anything, Cati, 10 stones and a hole on the ground, 10 boxes drawn on the ground, a few coins and a wall. You were a hero because of the tiniest things, i once had four five shilling notes and no one could tell me nuthing, my friend Simon knew how to make the best of footballs and we worshipped him. But misers, these were a pain in weird places, I once thought i was a failure in life because I couldn’t keep foodstuffs for a day without eating them. You give someone a soda, no a cake today and next year they are still gnawing at it. I wet my bed a lot, like torrents so much I had to sleep in a polythene bag, but I didn’t care because most of us did. And mother ensured we didnt reek in class. I respect that woman.

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Anywho, it’s a Thursday, and throwing back is good sometimes, it reminds you of how far you’ve come. That joys and fulfillments are found in simplicity. We were unbiased, unsullied, pure. Everyday we woke up to have fun. May we be always young at heart, share what we have, be accommodating, respect and uphold diversity among ourselves, pray and believe…

WILL YOU?

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That drinking buddy, you like him in a totally non gay way. His company on Friday and Saturday is priceless. He gives you that conviction, that reason, that right to drink. A second opinion to ascertain that drinking ain’t bad at all. That sorrows will be drained, that a smile will be finally formed from thine lips. You talk with him while drunk, about how messed up life really is, a fucked up education, a frustrating career, a proud girl you recently caught pants down with the tout of Baraka za Bwana bus, the too easy one you fear has herpes, or the very cute one who has friend zoned you. The Drinking buddy, who carries you home when you had a little too much, laughs heartily when you fall but still lifts you up. Lights up your cigarette in the rain, screams to everyone who cares to listen how a fine, strong man you are.
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The drinking buddy, who knows that escapades of last night remains buried deep never to be spoken, how you wet your pants, how you puked on that girl you were hitting on, how you slept with the old fat barmaid, how you shouted your mum’s name and cried. They stand up for you when you start a brawl, slap you when you KO, out of concern and care.
They tell you against going after that commercial sex worker and pinch you into reality. Drinking buddy, more than a girlfriend who would never stand your drunken state. Pays your bill when you are broke, taxi or bus fare and reads their number plate out aloud threatening to kill the driver if anything happens to you on your way home….will you be my drinking buddy?

LUNCH!

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I’m sitting in a kibanda, just opposite the Uon hall 13 or box, this place is called club 36 for reasons i know not. My new blue shirt with its arms folded to the elbow, it’s a sunny Monday afternoon. I hear the attendant in the next kibanda converse in my mother tongue and sudden melancholy creeps into me, I’m sure i have betrayed my kind, perhaps if i had entered there I’d have had coerced him to serve more food at the same price. I look around as I expertly pound the ugali in my left hand into a small ball, my thumb then makes a deep trough with a gigantic amplitude in the ugali and scoop the spicy omena. I lower my head at an angle theta, jutting my tongue out in savouring in relish of the meal to come. A delicacy i not so long ago hated to the bone but have come to love. Economic problems, a girlfriend here, a meal there, a night out, credit, weekly bhajia meal at some fast food joint along Tom Mboya street with a ludicrous police mannequin at the entrance. So omena with their pungent ammonia stench must be eaten.
Then i notice her, she is in her early teens, probably just finished her KCPE, her face young and breast just tiny mounds still yet to claim space on her thorax. She works tirelessly, pumping water from a borehole…