Held Up in Traffic

 If you’ve ever been robbed at gunpoint, you know what it’s like, how they steal your money, your property, and your dignity. – from Wiki

It was a pleasant Thursday evening, around 5pm. I had just left work at Upperhill, walked to the parking lot where I met Kareynzs, a friend and former classmate. We were going to the Safaricom Women in Tech monthly meet-up at Safaricom House on Waiyaki Way, Westlands.

For Nairobians, we all know what a nightmare evening traffic is, especially around Upperhill. This means instead of a direct route to Uhuru Highway- Waiyaki Way, we decided to go use Valley Road, then to State House Road, to the Kileleshwa Bypass then to Westlands. I don’t think Google Maps has the Bypass mapped though, it kind of misled us but in the end we reached our destination in time. However, that is not the interesting part.

Roughly, same the route we used to Westlands via James Gichuru road

Roughly, same the route we used to Westlands via James Gichuru road

 

We flew (yes flew, my car is so light :-D) down Valley Road towards the junction at State House Road, and then stopped for the traffic lights to turn green. Okay I lie, we were waiting for the cop to (mis)direct traffic because at peak hours, traffic lights are hardly functional. As I stated earlier, it was one of those sunny evenings, and our windows were rolled down to enjoy a cool breeze. My friend and I were catching up as we listened to music and waited for the cop who was 3 cars away, to wave us on.

Suddenly, we got held up.. at shit point. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense!

There appeared at my window a chokora (street boy). He held down my window with his left hand so I could not roll it up. He was a wearing black, dirty coat and an equally filthy hat. In his right hand, he held human faeces, which were smelling fresh (and apparently steaming, said Kareynzs later). He said quietly:

“Auntie, haina haja nikupake hii mavi. Let mia mbili tu.” (Auntie, there is no need for me to smear you with this. Just hand over 200/-)

I had frozen when I saw that shit. In fact, it’s exactly like they show in the movies. Time freezes. The cop’s hand froze mid-air, there was silence in the air, the only sound was our heartbeats. I remembered reading on facebook of such incidents where people are held up, not at gun point, but at shit-point, by street boys.

And then, time unfroze, and I realized I didn’t want to have human shit smeared all over me. I scrambled around, found a 40 bob coin in -that space in the car where we put phones – and handed it to him. No way I was going to give him my last 200 bob (it was around payday and like most Kenyans, I live paycheck to paycheck).

“Shika hii 40 bob ndio niko nayo” I gave him the coin.

“Hapana, leta 200”. (No, bring the 200)

“Aki, hiyo ndio niko nayo” (That’s all I have).

Later, is when I realized I have bargaining skills, LOL. I am being held up at gun-sorry, shit-point and here I am bargaining instead of handing over the 200 bob.

 

kenya-40-shillings-coin

The Kenya 40-shilling coin. Image from www.kenya-today.com

He left, slithering quickly away among the vehicles idling in traffic. I rolled up my window. The whole exchange took maybe, 1 minute, but it felt like forever. I was shaking afterwards, still in shock. I realize we had been lucky, I mean Karey had in her hand her Samsung S3 mini, while just next to where I had removed the 40-bob coin, I had my Samsung Note III. But he hadn’t asked for them.. though I think if it had come down to that, I would have fought back and maybe we’d both end up with shit on our faces. I don’t know.

While evaluating the incident later, we wondered where he got the shit from. Did he um.. ask a friend to drop him something into the black plastic bag? Did he do it himself, and how did he know to stop? How much is enough? He also must have panicked, I mean there was a cop barely 20 meters away. That’s why he didn’t ask for our phones. We also knew it must have been unpleasant for him, I mean no matter how you live, human shit is not pleasant to handle

I felt so helpless and angry at being held up and there was nothing I could really do, unless I wanted to end up with shit all over my face (urgh!). How low can a human being sink, to what depths does the search for a livelihood lead one to use shit to rob people?

Although I try to keep my windows up in traffic and switch on the air conditioner, no amount of AC will ever beat the feel of a pleasant breeze across your face on a tropical afternoon/evening. Guys, keep your windows up and your doors locked in Nairobi traffic.

Afterwards, I still had to navigate the roads using Google maps that misled us, since the bypass appears not to be mapped. Somehow, we ended at ABC Place on Waiyaki Way, crossed the road and joined other women in tech trying to (or already did) scale the corporate ladder.

That is the story of how I got held up in traffic.

N.B.

Learn more about human faeces on wiki. Apparently, it comes in all colours including blue and purple, and can actually smell nice depending on a certain diet. However, what we saw on that day, was a normal, soft, brown, and smelly disgusting mess.

Why Should You be Excited by the Samsung Galaxy S5?

In February, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was launched in Barcelona, Spain, during the Mobile World Congress. The S5 follows in the path of the S4, S3, S2 and S before it.

This time, Samsung didn’t go all out to create the fastest, biggest, most radical Android device. I think we’ve really reached a limit in terms of things like how fast the processor is, how much memory the device can has, how clear and sharp the screen is etc. Because really, beyond a certain point, you stop noticing the difference between a quad core snapdragon vs tegra 3 processor!

So with the S5, Samsung added a few niche features and improved some existing ones. Here’s what I am looking forward to:

1. Waterproof and Dustproof

The phone is waterproof up to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. Enough time to impress your friends by dipping it in a glassful of beer 😀

2. Fingerprint reader

There is now a fingerprint reader to unlock your phone so you don’t have to worry about entering the pass code 100 times a day like I do now. Besides, everyone around me now knows the code so sometimes I wonder why I continue to torture myself so (entering the code 100+ a day!)

3. Heart rate sensor

Basically, you can now check your heart rate  by placing your finger on a sensor located at the back of the phone. This is in addition to the usual pedometer, diet and exercise recordings, that come with its S Health app.

4. Improved Camera

Well, the camera is now 16 MP, up from the 13MP in the Galaxy S4. You can also record your videos in 4K -format, that’s like the next big thing in the display world. All you need to know is that your images and videos will look better with the improved camera features!

5. Improved design of the cover, a bit bigger than S4

The S5 is a few inches wider and longer than the S4. However, it’s still just as thin as its predecessor. The faux-leather plastic casing is more solid and makes the phone feel expensive, which it is (or will be when it’s available in the mass market from April 11th).

In addition to the black and white covers, the S5 now comes in blue, and gold. I would love the blue one.

 

The Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5

6. Kid Mode

It’s not just my son who loves playing with (and biting) my phone, but any other kids who come into contact with it. The kid mode allows kids to mess up with kid-apps, so that you don’t have to worry about them making accidental calls or deleting unbacked-up documents and pictures.

Samsung kids mode

Samsung kids mode

7.  Download Booster

This will combine wi-fi with your 3G network to give you the best of both worlds for faster download speeds. Will this solve my perennial issues with internet speeds? I hope so!

8. Battery Life

 Samsung bragged that the Galaxy S5 can endure up to 10 hours of web browsing, and up to 12 hours of HD video playback, which is impressive . There is a new Ultra Power Saving Mode, that makes the display show images in black and white, shutting down all processes and connections it deems unnecessary, which should make the phone last longer when your battery is low. This will allow you to make 10% of your battery juice last for 24 hours. Hmmm.. can’t wait to try it out.

9. The Gear 2

Just like Note III was launched and paired with the Gear 1, I am looking forward to the improved version of the Gear. There are three versions: Gear 2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit. There are also rumours of a Gear which could be a standalone device with its own SIM-card. The possibilities.

The Galaxy Gear 2 is yet to be launched

The Galaxy Gear 2 is yet to be launched

 

10. The Satisfaction of Having the Latest Gadget in the Market

This never gets old. 🙂

Wole Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth at Dawn

Wole Soyinka describes a scene in New York, where he’s in a taxi with a friend as they are driven down the streets. They see a woman alight from a taxi ahead of them, with a man following closely. There is a doorman to the building, also watching them. It seems the woman doesn’t want to be with the man, who’s roughing her up, and who proceeds to smash her head repeatedly against the wall, while she screams. The doorman is watching the scene apathetically, not even moving from his position to help the woman. What would you do if you were watching such a scene?

He told his taxi driver to slow down, got out and before he knew what was happening, he was standing over the knocked body of the man(handler). He saved the girl.

But soon he is surrounded by curious onlookers, and the woman who was recently having her head slammed against the wall was now mad at Wole Soyinka for beating up her lover. She was now all over him (the fallen lover) wondering if he was alright. Then Wole Soyinka realizes that here he is, a black man in New York, assaulting a white man. He helps the man up, dusts the man’s coat, and tells him (this is not verbatim, I don’t have the book as I type this):

“Sorry sir for the misunderstanding. Please, go home and take her with you. Take her and beat her senseless” (or something close to that).

And then he equates Africa with that woman. Our politicians abuse us, they rob us blind, hoard resources, give jobs to their relatives, public contracts to their friends, incite tribes to burn each other, steal votes, insult us, are arrrogant…….. but at the end of the day, we vote them back in because they are our “lovers”. We love them so much, that when anyone else tries to “rescue” us, we turn against our rescuer instead. Gado captures the African Big Man (president/politican) perfectly in the cartoon below.

Milking the cow dry by GADO the cartoonist

Milking the cow dry by GADO the cartoonist

 

Wole Soyinka’s Memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, is a political glimpse into his life and thoughts on Nigerian (and African) politics. He never delves into his personal life, which is a pity because I am sure he has led quite an adventurous life. He left for England to study after finishing his secondary education, and while there he was conscious of the freedom struggle in Africa. He came back to Nigeria and during the first elections of the country in 1964, witnessed the stealing of an election, a phenomenon still rampant in Africa today.

What follows is a journey through the political drama of Nigeria and Wole Soyinka’s role in it. He was hunted by dictators who either wanted to use him to push their popularity agenda, or wanted him dead. He lived in exile for a number of years, especially during the terrible reign of Sani Abacha, he who had Ken Saro Wiwa (and his colleagues) shot in public in the early 90’s. The book is a tumultuous descriptions of the politics of Nigeria, the dictatorships and what one determined man (working with other determined like-minded people) can do.

It’s not an easy read, but once you get past the first few pages and start loving Wole Soyinka’s style of writing, you will loathe for it to end. What can I say? It’s not easy reviewing a man who has under his belt The Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the first African to do so in 1986. Other African Laureates now include the late Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz (1988), South African Nadine Gordimer (1991) and John Maxwell Coetzee (2003).

Remember Masaibu ya Ndugu Jero? Ever heard of the famous play that was recommended study sometime back in Kenyan secondary schools? Well, the play is a Kiswahili translation of his book, The Trials of Brother Jero. He writes poems, essays, novels, plays and has dabbled in theater. Google his works.

Wole Soyinka also talks deeply of his friendships, notably with his friend Femi Johnson, whose death he describes in the first few pages as he flies home after the death of Sani Abacha and the installation of Olusegun Obasanjo as democratic president.

The book ends on a pessimistic note, just as Wangari Maathai’s memoir. It’s cautious of the emerging ‘democratic’ Africa, because we all know that really, the democracy we have right now is just an illusion.

I enjoyed getting into the brilliant mind of W.S and wouldn’t mind re-reading this book sometime soon. The book is not just the story of a man, but is essentially a lesson in Nigerian history.

And I tell myself, Savvy, You Must Set Forth at Dawn and be Unbowed. Someday.

Memoirs of two African Nobel Laureates

Memoirs of two African Nobel Laureates

A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd – Book Review

Morgan Leafy is a misanthrope. You don’t like him at first, he comes across as condescending, even to himself. He describes himself as not too attractive, his skin is not tanning in the hot and humid West African weather and his potbelly is growing. He doesn’t like his job much as the First Secretary at the British office in the small town of Nkogsamba, in the republic of Kinjanja. The country seems to be recently independent and are about to carry out their second elections.

 

The book cover for A Good Man in Africa

The book cover for A Good Man in Africa

 

However, things are about to change for Morgan. He has a chance to redeem his dim career through a project that his boss, Fanshawe is involved in. In addition, Fanshawe’s daughter, Priscilla, has come back from England and things are going smoothly between Morgan and her. Morgan has finally got a flat for his black mistress, Hazel.

It is when things begin to fall apart that we begin to like Morgan and sympathize with his problems. The books is hilarious in describing incidents, I laughed out loud in many scenes. Priscilla dumps Morgan for a younger diplomat who has come as Morgan’s assistant. The project Morgan is working on is a local politician called Sam Adekunle isn’t going too well, as Sam is now blackmailing Morgan. Morgan was unfortunately sleeping with Sam’s wife and when he’s caught, the consequences include losing his job and his reputation. So Sam blackmails him by making him bribe the only righteous man in the book, Dr. Alex Murray, who has been treating Leafy (he has a venereal disease).

Things head to a climax towards Christams as some obscure royal duchess is visiting the small town of Nkogsamba and Morgan has to be Father Christams. Then Fanshawe’s maid Innocence is struck dead by lightning and it’s up to Morgan to sort out the mess. Even as the book ends, Fanshawe’s wife tries to seduce Morgan, although they have had a hate-barely-tolerate-each-other relationship throughout the book.

This is the best book I’ve read in a long time, and I’m glad I listened to the friend who recommended it.

Vote Now for Your Favorite Kenyan Blog!

The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has today unveiled the nominees for the 2014 BAKE Kenyan Blog Awards. The Awards reward bloggers that post on a regular basis, have great and useful content presented in a creative and innovative format.
The nominees were selected by a panel of judges comprising of bloggers and media personalities.

The release of the nominees list begins the voting phase of the awards.

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Voting will run from 3rd March 2014 and end on April 30th 2014. You can vote for your favourite blogs through www.blogawards.co.ke/vote

Here is a list of the nominees in the various categories.

Best Technology Blog
1. http://www.moseskemibaro.com/
2.http://emmanuelchenze.com/
3. http://techtrendske.wordpress.com/
4. http://techmoran.com/
5. http://www.kvrop.com/

Best Photography Blog
1. http://stevekitots.wordpress.com/
2. http://benkiruthi.com/
3. http://mutuamatheka.co.ke/blog/
4. http://allangichigi.com/star/
5. http://www.gallerymichaelkhateli.blogspot.com

Best Creative Writing Blog
1. http://www.bikozulu.co.ke
2. http://www.mydeardoris.wordress.com
3. http://mkatenusu.wordpress.com/
4. http://www.donotfeedthebloggers.com
5. http://michaelngigi.wordpress.com

Best Business Blog
1. http://www.bankelele.co.ke/
2. http://sokodirectory.com/
3. http://www.kenyamanual.co.ke/
4. http://simplytakeaction.com/business/
5. http://inspiringgreatness001.wordpress.com

Best Food Blog
1. http://leotunapika.wordpress.com
2. http://healthylivingkenya.wordpress.com
3. http://happymealskenya.blogspot.com/
4. http://www.pikachakula.com
5. http://www.yummy.co.ke/

Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog
1. http://emmiekio.blogspot.com
2. http://rockesci.co.ke
3. http://www.panaac.org/blog
4. http://youngagrochampions.blogspot.com
5. http://www.farmingafrika.com

Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog
1. http://www.thisisess.com
2. http://www.kurlykichana.com
3. http://luciamusau.com/
4. http://www.ourstylekenya.com
5. http://nanciemwai.com/

Best Politics Blog
1. http://www.anjeru.com
2. http://kenopalo.com/
3. http://www.brainstorm.co.ke/
4. http://www.shitemi.com

Best New Blog
1. http://confessionsofayoungmummy.wordpress.com
2. http://www.magunga.com
3. http://www.tdsblog.com
4. http://kenyansnapshot.wordpress.com
5. http://www.wendywahito.com

Best Corporate Blog
1. http://crownpaints.co.ke/blog
2. http://www.olivia.co.ke/blog
3. http://storymojaafrica.wordpress.com
4. http://www.ihub.co.ke/blog
5. http://blog.batakenya.com

Best Topical Blog
1. http://www.mummytales.com
2. http://blog.inkedbiker.co.ke
3. http://blog.gigwapi.com
4. http://www.lizlenjo.com
5. http://datascience.co.ke

Best Sports Blog
1. http://futbolchiqa.wordpress.com
2. http://www.michezoafrika.com
3. http://www.superfoota.co.ke
4. http://www.ilfabiano.wordpress.com
5. http://www.futaa.com

Best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog
1. http://www.ghafla.com
2. http://www.niaje.com
3. http://www.afritorial.com
4. http://owaahh.wordpress.com
5. http://actors.co.ke

Best Travel Blog
1. http://www.kenyatalii.com
2. http://www.safari254.com
3. http://www.hazelvint.com
4. http://ecotourismdemystified.com

Best Health Blog
1. http://fitnessmovementke.tumblr.com
2. http://wambuiwaithaka.com
3. http://strengtheninghealthsystems.wordpress.com
4. http://sitawa.blogspot.com

Best County Blog
1. http://uasingishudecides.wordpress.com
2. http://www.nairobicityguide.net
3. http://county-411.com/baringonews
4. http://www.mombasahub.net
5. http://www.amazingkisumu.co.ke/blogs

Best Kenyan Blog
1. http://mutuamatheka.co.ke/blog
2. http://mydeardoris.wordpress.com
3. http://bikozulu.co.ke
4. http://pikachakula.com
5. http://nanciemwai.com