Summer Bunnies

Happy New Year! If you’re doing a double take, checking your calendar, and then sympathetically sighing, thinking to yourself, ‘it happens to the best of us. It has finally happened to her. This daughter of Alego has lost her marbles. But who can blame her? We are not judgmental people. We have even been called good people by people who are not our mothers, so that means we are good people. After surviving 2020, let her marbles roll where they will’, donge?

Well, you will be happy to know that all my marbles are very much intact, and that I am well aware that we are approaching the final lap of February. I am writing my first piece this year simply because, to paraphrase the late great Chinua Achebe, until this moment, I had not found the mouth with which to narrate what happened to us.

It is said that when the universe first speaks to us, it is in a gentle whisper, so only we can hear. You see, the universe does what it can to save us from what my Nigerian brethren call embarrazzment. And the universe, knowing we were about to embark on our trip to Kenya, started whispering in my ear. Perhaps the first sign that this was to be no ordinary trip should have been the torrential rain right as we arrived at the airport. The universe, sending an early warning to us, whispered that our seven suitcases were overweight. But did we blink? No. Every summer bunny knows that overweight suitcases stuffed full of gifts are a direct reflection of the fullness of one’s heart, and are in fact, a sign that one cares deeply. To show up at home empty handed after being gone for so long is Just. Not. done. Periodt.

Whisper ignored, the universe decided to be less subtle. She poked the skies, which, starved for attention and eager to please, opened up to unleash sheets of rain upon us. But we are not made of salt oooo so come rain or shine, we were going to Kenya, boatload of suitcases in tow.

By this time, the universe was looking at us like, really? Really. I try so hard, I try but they don’t listen. So she decided to turn up the volume. You see, in the years since we have been to Kenya, the Kenyan government had discontinued issuing visas upon arrival, and instead requires that visas be obtained through their ecitizen portal. Now, you might be wondering, how did an obsessive planner like me miss this glaring detail? Well, you would be correct in asking that question. And I would be correct in wiping the egg off my face. But even the best of us can get distracted when laser focused on packing and repacking suitcases so they are just at 50 pounds, knowing full well that the airport scale will add a pound or five to the weight.

And so, when the gate agent asked us to show our evisas, I casually said, “oh that’s fine, Kenya issues visas upon arrival.” The man, Massimo (not his real name), said, with a very patient smile, “no, they require that you apply online before boarding.”

I should mention that this was 2 hours to boarding time. I felt my palms sweat, even though it was quite chilly. That overused phrase from my primary school days, “I felt a cold shiver run through my body”, suddenly made sense. But we had no time to sweat, or shiver. And so between my husband and I we managed to register and log into ecitizen, and as luck would have it, the portal was down. The universe raised an ‘I told you so’ eyebrow, but wisely did not rub it in.

Time to boarding: 1 hour 45 minutes

We tried again, and as we were engaged in a bare-knuckle brawl with the portal, Massimo, who I firmly believe is an angel, started weighing our luggage, and wouldn’t you know it, it came in as overweight. That’s right. All seven suitcases were overweight. You can count on three things in life. Death, taxes and airport scales adding pounds to your luggage. But Massimo decided that we had weightier problems at the moment, and decided against bringing up the little matter of the extra pounds. Such a gentleman.

The next hour and a half flew by in a blur of ecitizen portal hangups, attempts to log in again, a frantic search for a place to print the e-visa confirmation, a maddening wait as another customer at the printing place talked the attendant’s ear off, and finally, FINALLY getting the printed paperwork and then channeling our inner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce all the way to the gate.

Time to boarding: 1 minute.

Of course, in all the excitement, we were almost the last to board, and as luck would have it, the attendant informed us that the overhead bin was full, and I would have to check in my carry-on suitcase. The universe looked on and sighed to the other galaxies, “I tried to warn them, I did, but did they listen? No.” And so I handed in my suitcase, which, I should mention, had my only change of clothing. Imagine my shock when I got on the plane and found empty spaces in the overhead bin. At that moment, I was peeved but not worried since we were connecting at Frankfurt, reputed to be a highly efficient airport because, Germans.

To make a long story short, the flight had it all, starting with a delayed departure because, and I kid you not, they had to fuel the plane. Now I am no engineer, but even I know a plane needs fuel to fly. So how was it that they only realized they needed fuel once we were fully boarded? So we sat on the tarmac while they fueled the plane and one hour later, we finally took off. If you’ve never flown out of San Francisco, please add it to your bucket list. The view of the ocean, the red Golden Gate Bridge, the white Bay Bridge, the boats sailing in the deep blue water, and the white surf really are a sight to behold. 

Hours later as we flew over frosty Canada, we hit serious turbulence, significant enough to relieve our child of his lunch. Please keep in mind that my change of clothing was somewhere in the belly of the plane. The universe did me a solid, and spared me from getting my clothes soiled in the eruption. After everything was cleaned up and some fidgety sleep, we landed in Frankfurt, with barely any time to board our connecting flight to Nairobi. 

Time to Nairobi flight departure: 30 minutes.

Now, one would think, we departed late, we arrived late, they must be expecting us, right? Wrong. We sat in the plane for another 15 minutes while the airport located the door engineer. You read that right. In Frankfurt, a specially trained engineer opens the plane door. I wonder if that is always the case in other countries, or if the Germans simply decided to make it A Big Deal. Some passengers loudly complained, even offering to open the door themselves, but were told, in a very stern German accent, to Warten! because, you guessed it, they are not door opening specialists. The taciturn specialist finally arrived and amid searing glares, set us free. Out on the tarmac, we were greeted by a wintry December morning, a harbinger of the rest of our short time in Frankfurt; and began the ordeal of navigating Frankfurt Airport, which I hope to never visit again. Up until that moment, Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport was my least favorite. But now? It’s hard to choose between CDG and Frankfurt. It like choosing between a root canal or a boil on your bottom.

Two shuttles, a boarding pass scan and 30 minutes of waiting later, we were back right next to the plane we had landed in. I mean, they could just have had someone scan our boarding passes as we disembarked from plane 1, but where would the fun have been then? They did not even ask to see any evisa documentation ahead of our Nairobi flight. The inefficiency of the whole process firmly convinced me that the makers of the German cars that are so well renowned must not come from Frankfurt. 

I should mention that, from start to finish, our flight was about 20 hours, so it would come as no surprise to learn that we were beyond exhausted when we landed in Nairobi, and as we dragged ourselves through immigration, we encountered a new obstacle. Apparently around the time the Kenyan government moved to ecitizen, they also updated their passports to a light blue East African version. How did I know this? Well, I was one of only two Kenyans carrying a dark blue passport. Also, one row over, the other holder of a dark blue passport was having his head chewed out over the fact that he was “years and years late to updating his passport”. This turn of events did not bode well for me, and I approached the immigration desk with trepidation. Imagine the irony of being denied entry into the country of my birth. I suddenly had some empathy for Miguna Miguna. But, the immigration gods were smiling down on me. The immigration officer firmly explained that he was granting me entry at his discretion, and I needed to apply for the new passport, and since I was entering the country with  my legacy passport, I would have to go to Nyayo house to get my foreign passport endorsed to indicate that I am indeed a Kenyan citizen, otherwise, I would have difficulty exiting the country. My shoulders sagged with relief.

But the universe said, “NyarAlego, don’t relax yet, there’s more.”. When we went to collect our luggage, we found out that the Damen und Herren of Frankfurt airport had not loaded it, which is to say, we had no luggage. And that included my checked carry-on bag. That’s right, my only change of clothing was freezing somewhere in Frankfurt. We headed to the lost luggage counter  where the sole attendant, upon seeing the number of claimants and mentally calculating the amount of paperwork involved, sauntered off without a word. Fifteen minutes later, his replacement nonchalantly sat down, and proceeded to request information from each passenger at a pace that would put a sloth to shame. While waiting our turn, a man in a long brown kanzu and matching skullcap decided that his time was more important than ours and cut the line, heading straight to the counter. Having stood there for close to an hour at that point, we were having none of it and told him to wait his turn. So he did what any self respecting jerk would do, and said, “ok, so I will just stand next to the line.” When he got to the counter and presented his information, the slothly (yes I made that word up) attendant pointed to another line, this one long and weaving, and told him his flight’s missing luggage report desk would be over there. The schadenfreude I felt in that moment was overflowing. And so he swept away in his kanzu, karma leading the way.

Three hours later, our turn came, we filed a report, and were finally free to head out of the airport, which was lightning fast because, you guessed it, we had no luggage!

The next week went by in a blur of borrowed clothes, several visits to Nyayo house to get my foreign passport endorsed, a visit to NairobiNationalPark, which is right next to the Capital City, sheldrickwildlifetrust (cute baby elephants), giraffecentre (where there is a warning to watch out for a head-butting girraffe) and finally a visit to frankincensespa which was AMAZING and the hot stone massage undid all the tension and drama we had endured so far. I went with my niece and my sister from another mister and we had a lot of catching up to do but we might not be allowed back due to the amount of talking and giggling that went on during our spa session. Our luggage was finally delivered 5 days after we arrived. In those five days, I felt like I was in a long-distance relationship with the airline based on how long and often we spoke at all hours, seeing as they were in new York and I was in Nairobi. They promised us a refund that is yet to appear in our bank account.

If you’ve never flown to Kisumu at dusk, please add that to your bucket list. The orange glow of the sunset, the view of the hills as you approach Nam Lolwe, whose waters shimmer like millions of diamonds bathed in the orange glow as the sun finally sinks into the horizon is breathtaking. 

Once we were in our dala all the cousins formed a troupe and ran up and down the house, venturing outside to chase the chickens, turkey and guinea fowl, bathtime and bedtimes be damned. Gallons of ice cream and soda were scarfed down, because apparently at Dani’s, anything goes. Vegetables? What vegetables? That’s grown up food. 

I applied for my new light blue passport in Kisumu, a seamless process. I am happy to report that Kenyan Government services have come a very long way, and that I am now in fact a huge fan of ecitizen and whatever other “e’s” the Government of Kenya decides to throw our way.

While one of my brothers, my husband and I were enjoying delicious kuon gi rech at Da Vundubar in Kisumu, back home, another one of my brothers decided that it was time to show the kids how the goat lands on our plate, so he gathered all the cousins and gave them a front row seat to, to quote my child, a “goat being sacrificed”. To this day, months later, he will not eat goat meat, because “I keep remembering that goat that was murdered in Kenya.”

On our final evening in Kenya, we drove past NairobiNationalPark en route to the airport where once again we saw giraffes, antelope and zebras roaming free, a fitting goodbye.

Dolce Far Niente

Italians. They brought us Picasso. And Michelangelo. And Galileo. And Gucci. And Prada and its baby Miu Miu. And Ferrari and Lamborghini. And Italian leather. But I consider Italy’s greatest export to be the phrase ‘Dolce Far Niente’. A.K.A the sweetness of doing nothing. And it is this Dolce Far Niente spirit that we are fully embracing this Holiday Season. My to-do list has one item. 

  1. Do Nothing.

That’s it. Happy Holidays. Happy Kwanzaa. Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad. Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Festivus-A Festivus for the rest of us.

Be safe! 

Loose Stitches

Dear Fundis, why are you like this? Why do you take our dreams and visions and send them crashing into a heap of bitter disappointment, poor stitching and empty wallets? When did you become the dons of Character Development University?

Why do you take our clothing measurements, without writing them down, knowing full well that you don’t have the time, energy, ability or inclination to make outfits that fit us, or that bear even a passing resemblance to what we ordered? Sometimes, ours are the very first pair of trousers you are making, why do you let us find out when we collect a pair of pants which look like they quarreled and one leg decided to puff its chest out, kama dume, causing the other leg to sulk and ghost the dume leg? And when we are shocked, why do you tell us our left leg must have gotten bigger? How, unless we have been hopping atop the Bunyore hills on one leg, is that possible?

Why, even when we have important occasions to attend, do you suddenly start working on our clothes when we show up to pick them up? And why is some fabric always missing? Do you not care that this ridiculousness will be immortalized in our friend’s wedding photos? That, years later, when the happy couple has children, the children will ruefully shake their heads, looking at the photos and ask, “Mom, why are your bridesmaids dressed like this? Was this a thing back then?” and her blood will boil all over again when she remembers the poor stitching that forced her maid of honor to tie a leso over her dress when it ripped the minute she wore it simply because she dared to walk in her dress.

Why does the stitching on the clothes look like something that was done using a blunt wooden splinter, while you were running away from Kanjo? And why does the skirt, which was supposed to be a mermaid skirt, look like a deflated balloon? Why does his shirt hang high above his belly? Has inflation gotten so bad that we can no longer cover our bellies?

And you, fundi wa mjengo, who promised me that you have constructed and painted many houses before, complete with photos. I now realize you cobbled these pictures together by going around construction sites and taking photos, like a mjengo slay queen.  Why can’t my window close properly? And why is my friend’s bathroom floor slanting away from the drain hole instead of towards it? Are you a jajuok, greater than those of my neck of the woods, Alego, or their equally formidable comrades in Kitui, who can cause the water to defy gravity and drain towards higher ground?

And you, fundi who constructed my friend’s sky high bathroom sink, are you related to the one who constructed a sky high bathtub in my mother’s house? Are you secretly trying to turn all of us into high vault jumpers?

And then there are you who save your character development for our beds, the place we lay our heads to rest after surviving another day in these mean streets. You who assured us that making a bed was a simple affair. After all, how hard can it be to cut wood and make it stand on a wooden box, or on four legs? Sounds simple enough, no? Well, tell me why this bed has one leg that doesn’t touch the ground? As if it has too much pedho to touch the floor? And why do you claim it is because my floor is uneven, and not because you made one leg shorter?

I won’t even get into the horrors of paying an arm, a leg, and a piece of liver for curtains, only for the fabric to disappear, or of bakers who deliver the cake very late, and to show it’s solidarity with your own disappointment, the cake literally collapses into itself, like a sinkhole. 

I will not because this daughter of Alego cannot even.


I stared at it in disbelief. I looked at my husband, who stared back at me, and in unison and dumbfounded silence, we stared at it. It sat there, unabashedly mocking us, daring us to send it back, to denigrate its proportions. To tell it that it was not enough, that even though we had let it into our home, we would send it back into that cold, scary world. 

We speak 4.5 languages between us, but those languages, having assessed the situation, to borrow a Primary school favorite phrase, took off as fast as their thin legs could carry them. We were on our own. Even I was lost for words, and if you know me, you know that is nearly impossible. Yet, here I was, shaking my head in disbelief. It was what we call a mako dhoga situation. It had literally gripped my mouth in a vice of silence.

I am part Luhya. You know what that means. For the uninitiated, my Luhya handiz and hankoz (aunties and uncles) are known for their close affiliation with all things food. To be Luhya is to love to eat. Facts. Ask any Kenyan. They will confirm these facts.

And while this child of the Abandu definitely inherited that gastronome gene, albeit a slightly modified one, interested only in food that falls in the delicious and moderately sized category, nothing prepared me for the sight before me.

You see, a good friend presented me with a gift card to a fancy restaurant in town, and so, after perusing their online menu filled with exotic descriptions like Gruyere and Emmenthaler, we ordered what appeared to be a delicious array of food.

Mungu halali. The first sign should have been that the restaurant’s online menu did not contain photos of their food. Online reviews yielded fuzzy photos, which really should have been the second and final warning. But did we listen? No. Why? Because, free food from a fancy restaurant, also, when else will I get my smoked gouda via gift card?

I waited patiently while my husband went to collect the food, and since it had been a few hours and a workout since my last proper meal, my hungry brain conjured images of a chef in starched whites, hat delicately balanced atop her head, delicately preparing our feast, barking at the sous chef to make sure the ravioli was al dente and the pollo’s internal temperature was at a perfect 165F.  And then the maître di sala, who insisted that everyone refer to him as “Signor Francisco Jacobo-Giovanni”, dressed in funereal head-to-toe black, embracing a post COVID world and pivoting to ensure the food was perfectly packed for delivery, wishing us,’Buon Appetito’ in an nasal accent vague enough to sound Italian to the untrained ear, but equally baffling to those familiar with that country.

My dreams appeared to materialize when my husband walked in carrying the feast, the aroma of the garlic braised chicken and ravioli filling the kitchen, propelling me towards the source.

Mapipi na Mapwana, ladies and gentlemen, that is when the Luhya in me, let’s call her Nakhumicha, stopped in her tracks, and my dreams died before my eyes.

“Vane!” she exclaimed, before all language deserted her.

There, before me, were three tiny boxes of chicken. T-I-N-Y. This food had cost almost $50. $50! Fine, it wasn’t $50 of our money, but still. It was an atrocity.  It was literally the size of two handfuls of a class three child. And not one who will grow up to become a Kenyan policeman with hands the size of an industrial fan. No, these portions were equivalent to a tiny pair of eight year old handfuls. 

Some may say, “Awino yawa, you didn’t even pay for the food, what is?” please read that in a Luo accent.

It was the injustice of it all. Who, in their right mind, does this? And to Nakhumicha of all people? Serves a tiny handful of chicken, without rice, pasta or any other food that would “hold the stomach”? I was hungry. I had been saving my appetite, pardon me, appetito,  for this feast. I mean, I wasn’t hoping for ukari, I didn’t expect mrenda to accompany this atrocity. Nakhumicha, was outraged. Outraged enough to write this article, but not enough to forgo the handful of chicken. To add insult to injury, it was some of the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten. All three bites of it. Pinyni tek.


“But why does he have to call it The Gonorrhea?”

I was roaming the aisles of my local supermarket, grocery shopping, when I happened to overhear this obnoxiously loud and TMIous conversation that was unraveling over speaker phone.

You have to understand, this is a normal supermarket. The kind that sells things like milk, bread, fruit, kombucha and kids clothes. More specifically, I was in the hair products aisle, because, team natural.

When I walked in that afternoon, I thought the most exciting thing that would happen was that I would find my favorite products on sale. I was bummed that I had forgotten my earpods at home, and would have to shop to the generic music the store played, which is definitely not Afrobeats.  Little did I know that the universe saw my frowny face and decided to turn that frown upside down, courtesy of she who shall not be named. Scratch that, she who I named The Voice.

As I was holding two competing deep conditioner brands in hand, contemplating the virtues of Jojoba and vanilla, The Voice returned.

“I mean, why not call it Gonorrhea like a normal person?”

Eyebrows raised, I turned my head, scanning the area around me, eager to locate the source of this voice that roamed free, unencumbered by the societal straitjackets of propriety and inside voices. The deep conditioners, which until that moment had commanded my undivided attention, were urgently returned to their shelves, moisturized hair falling far below this new development on the totem pole. You see, when you live in a suburb as quiet as the one I live in, where the most exciting thing that happens is NIMBY protests, this conversation was the UFO of occurrences.

At this point, The Voice had moved closer to my aisle, I imagine, at the urging of the universe.

“Go there,” The Universe whispered

“Where?” The Voice bellowed

“Closer to the hair products aisle, your roots could use a touch-up or two.”

“You’re right! Thank you Universe!”

And so, I heard The Voice drawing closer.

“I mean,” I noticed she said ‘I mean’ a lot.

“I mean, remember when he had Syphilis? Which he also insisted on calling The Syphilis??? As if he had the grand finale of the disease? Like dude, how many lives do you have?”

At this point, I also wondered how many lives Dude had, and how many more he had left in the bag. It sounded like having discovered that no one leaves this world alive, he was living his best life in these streets, painting each corner every color known and unknown to womankind, and would take zero regrets to his grave. Diseases, many, but regrets? Zilch.

Since The Voice was practically on the next aisle, I could hear her companion’s voice over speaker phone, saying something about amends.

“He is making amends? So now we all have to hear about all the diseases he has? Do you know how many countries he has been to? Is he gonna make amends around the world???” The Voice asked incredulously, releasing the long-suffering sigh of one who has seen and heard it all.

At this point, I was dying of curiosity, I wanted to see this woman who felt the need to have such a deeply private conversation in such a public space, and sure enough, the universe delivered. She rounded the corner, talking about how Dude got so many women because he also spoke French and Spanish. A real man of the world, this Dude. She popped up on my aisle, where I was rooted to the spot, having been so engrossed in eavesdropping that I did not even bother to conceal my nosiness. Now, standing face to face with her, I immediately switched back to apparent shopping mode, staring at the array of conditioners and masks, wondering how anyone was supposed to choose any one of them when they all promised luscious, bouncy hair. I maintained this pose, the labels before me a blur, as The Voice moved closer to me, examining the array of products, and finding the selection of over 200 options wanting.

“Why don’t they carry black hair dye, I’m blonde but blondes like to dye their hair other colors too!” she exclaimed, looking at me for commiseration, in a ‘ do you feel my pain’ vibe, even though I am neither blonde, nor do I dye my hair. I nodded noncommittally, gave her the standard 1 second American smile, and continued to appear to examine the products ahead of me, afraid that if I responded, I would be voluntold into being an active participant of the Dude Commission of Inquiry. Disappointed by my lack of empathy, she moved on to the next aisle, telling the person she was speaking to that she would have to call them back, and went in search of an acceptable hair dye, or perhaps someone who was a bit more simpatico.

At this point, a victim of analysis paralysis courtesy of the rows and rows of choices before me, and having experienced quite the exciting shopping trip, I gave up on selecting a deep conditioner, loaded up on my probiotic drink, and headed home, where there was peace, quiet and no Voices.

Dusty Menus

I grew up eating food. I see your skeptical eyebrow raised, smirk on your face saying, no kidding, Einstein. What do you think the rest of us ate? Do you think our fathers brought home mirages? Do you think our mothers cooked those mirages and fed us vapors and promises? A precursor to NFT bread? Awino, usitupime akili, pris (say pris is a centrooo accent)

Your judgmental stance is warranted if, like me, you grew up in a place where everything that landed on your plate could be directly traced to a plant or animal that lived on God’s green earth. But, stay with me, come srowry, take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, or whisky, have a seat; you are not the one I speak of. Let me tell you of the suffering of some of our American and other brethren from developed countries and cities over the last few decades, maybe even centuries.

I am no fan of cheese. I don’t get its appeal. It tastes ok. It makes Pizza palatable. Beyond that, cheese is wasted on me. A quick search of the world’s top 10 most expensive cheeses yields names like: Lord of the Hundreds- not to be confused with Lord of the Rings, Rogue River Blue- even though no thievery was involved in the making of that cheese. My absolute favorite on that list is also the creme de la creme, Pule cheese. From a donkey. Yes, you read that right. People are out here forking out $600/pound to eat cheese made from a punda. A punda! My fellow Kenyans, we are literally burdening our fundas with hulking loads, when they could be making us loaded. Has any Kenyan, in the history of Kenyaning, ever thought to milk a donkey? Let alone make cheese from said milk? I will graciously receive royalties from whoever implements my idea.

You know who didn’t make the list though? Parmesan cheese. You know you have hit rock bottom when you are not deemed worthy to appear on the same list as the by-product of a donkey’s milk.

Why, you ask, with such a fine name, didn’t Parmesan make the list? Did it not wear the right bow tie and top hat to number 5-Old Ford’s father’s funeral? Did it, by chance, loudly yell that the obituary was incomplete, seeing as it didn’t mention the old goat’s second wife and six love children? Is Parmesan that guy who shows up to a wedding dressed in jean shorts and a t-shirt so shrunk and faded, whose original color is only decipherable after visiting a jajuok from Alego and offering a sacrifice of a white chicken? 

Did it have one too many drinks, snatch the microphone from the MC, stand on the table and start rattling off the names of all the bride’s and groom’s exes, some in attendance? Or did it, in a bid to gain some clout, run off with cheese number 10, Lord of The Hundreds’ wife, usurping him to become the new Lord? Or, maybe it loudly chewed with its mouth open and farted at the dinner table, scandalizing Mrs donkey-milk Pule, who being one who only farted rose scented perfume, was so scandalized she keeled over, prompting her loving husband to immediately strike Parmesan’s name off The List?

Unfortunately, the real reason is far more grating. You see, in the USA, there are three classifications of cheese. Bear with this brief dissertation as your body digests the Parmesan you ate ten years ago. 

Pasteurized process cheese = 100% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese food = at least 51% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese product = less than 51% Cheese

What is in the missing percentages? Usitake kujua.

This whole conversation started when my husband and I were discussing the recent discovery that a leading sandwich shop sells “food” consisting of, and this is true: ‘bread’ made of materials found in yoga mat foam, leading me to wonder if that explains my increased flexibility, since I partook of their cheap sandwiches quite frequently in my grad school days, being on a tight budget and all. The pièce de résistance on their menu however, was ‘tuna’ that turned out to be unusually fishy, and not of the pescaterian variety, but of the ‘this tuna has been all over these streets’ variety.  To use a word my fellow Kenyans are deeply fond of, this tuna had been gallivanting everywhere. The intrepid tuna looked around the ocean, sighed and decided it was so over the deep blue sea, packed its fins and found its way to Old McDonald’s farm, where it proceeded to slay with chicken, cows and even pigs. A.k.a the United Nations of sandwich meat. 

My husband then asked if I had ever heard of cheese food, a term I had never heard before. 

“Isn’t all cheese food? “I asked, baffled, at which point he looked at me as one does someone who has led a very sheltered life, and whose bubble is about to receive a tornado of grim reality. It sounded to me like saying, rice food. Well, what else would rice be?

He went on to explain, in great detail, and to my horror, that it was something that can be spread on sandwiches from a tube. A tube? Like toothpaste? I asked, another culture-shock moment loading, long after I thought I was done with culture-shock. Apparently, some Parmesan and the rest of the ‘cheese food’ family contain everything from sawdust to other ‘coagulants’. Basically, Parmesan is the sausage of the cheese family. You really do not want to know what’s in it. Eat it if you must, I know I have, and maybe, and that’s a big maybe, by the time your newborn infant is joining high school, your body will be done digesting it, if your metabolism is a furnace.

And apparently it doesn’t end there. Everything from tomato sauce to your veggie burger probably contain sawdust too (silver lining, at least sawdust is vegan). Even the tongue-twisting Worcestershire sauce contains it. Why the British chose not to spell it like it is pronounced, ‘Woostashar’, or even name it after India, the country that brought us its flavor, is beyond me. 

I will chew on my sawdust while I digest that, if we are what we eat, then we are all sawdust.


“Bro!” Nadab called.

“Dude, what?” an irritated Amasa responded.

“Come check this guy out, I heard he has like, 5000 followers, and he just showed up!”

“Bro, 5000 followers? Really? I’ve been hustling for years and I have like 200! Plus, I have the most followers in this town, so, nice try ha ha ha”

“Ok, get this, this guy is morbid. I mean mooorbiiid.” Nadab whispered dramatically, drawing out the word morbid for so long, Amasa wondered if he would pass out for lack of air.

Amasa sighed, shaking his head, and continued to vigorously brush his ass. The kind that has four legs and brays. Get your mind out of the gutter.

You see, Nadab was the king of drama. He could make the simple act of drinking water sound like a near death choking experience. Nadab was so dramatic, even his own mother did not believe him anymore, and you know mothers and their sons. It is harder for a mother to disbelieve her son than it is for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. But Nadab’s mom had heard such tall tales, she no longer had it in her to absorb any more. 

“Dude! This guy is basically putting up an ad for cannibals!” Nadab exclaimed.

That got Amasa’s attention. You see, there were rumors of cannibalistic tribes many many seas away, but how far away does a cannibal have to be for one to comfortably sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be nibbled on while they sleep?

“Cannibals?” Amasa repeated.

“Dude!” that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! This dude is inviting cannibals to town!”

“Ok…” Amasa replied slowly, not wanting to attract attention in case said cannibals were in town. They were rumored to have exceptional smelling abilities, fear being their preferred scent.

“What exactly did he say? Direct quote please Nadab, this is not the time to insert one of your ‘scintillating’ details”

Nadab responded dramatically, “He said, and I quote, ‘My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.’”

Amasa dropped the brush, startling his ass, which made a very loud noise. Not a fart, people, a braying noise. 

“What? He said what???” A stunned Amasa asked. Even his ass gave Nadab the side-eye.

“Bro, I’m telling you, there was pandemonium. People ran away, some started screaming, others looked around to see who the cannibals among us were. I definitely caught Absalom, the butcher, looking at this guy a little more closely than I was comfortable with, dude, I’m never buying meat from Absalom. Who knows what he’s been feeding us.”

“Nadab! Focus!” Amasa shouted, a cold sweat trickling down his back. He was a rather large man, and by his estimation, if there were cannibals in town, and it very much sounded like there might be, then he would be next, after this 5000 follower guy was eaten.

“Who is this guy? And I need you to answer this very carefully. When did you last see him alive?”

But Nadab seemed transfixed to the spot, staring at something just behind Amasa. Slowly, dreading what he would find behind him, Amasa turned to see The Man. He had brown skin, rather tall, with long hair parted in the middle. He looked familiar, but in that moment, all Amasa could hear was Nadab’s eerie whisper.

“That’s him, thaaa thaaaa that’s the ggggguy…” Nadab never stammered. He was terrified. The trickle that traveled down his leg onto his dusty sandals pretty much guaranteed no cannibal would want to eat him, leaving Amasa and The Man on the menu.

The Man approached the two men and the donkey. One of them, who seemed to have a liquid of unknown origin trickling down his leg, keeled over, out cold. The other one, with dexterity belying his rotund frame, jumped on the donkey and took off at a speed that would put Lewis Hamilton to shame.

Meanwhile, Jesus, who was just chilling in Capernaum, shooting the breeze with his followers, figured he’d get to the runaway guy eventually.

Torta Torture

I sit here, as I have all these years, so far away from home, patiently waiting to receive the multitudes of visitors who visit me every year. I look on with what I have heard described as a mysterious smile, the subject of much speculation. Scholars and novices alike claim to understand me, what I’m thinking, the secret behind my smile. They come in groups, tall ones, short ones, chubby cheeked ones and sharp cheeked ones, some elegantly dressed, perhaps Italian, and those in baggy sweatpants and fanny packs, definitely American. The room is a cacophony of languages and accents, twangs, drawls, ethnic clothes and elaborate bead-work the likes of which can only originate from Africa.

Some of them are security, I can tell, in plainclothes, attempting to mingle with the crowd. They fool the crowds, but they can never fool me, for their gazes continuously sweep the room, zoning in on anyone who stares at me a little too long, inappropriately, anyone who appears to have gears turning in their head, spinning elaborate wheels to ferry me to a different place, including back to my native Italy.

I can tell a lot by their gazes. The awestruck looks on the faces of those who have finally, finally after years and years of dreaming, begging, borrowing and maybe even stealing, arrived before me. I am right in front of them, their hearts beat faster, as they reverently gaze upon my subtle smile, absorbing every detail, so they can describe this moment in vivid detail to their children, grandchildren, neighbors, fishmongers, Taxi driver, really, anyone they come into contact with for the rest of their lives. I have been known to be so moving as to bring a tear to an African man, Englishman or German’s eye, surprising some of them as they thought their tear ducts were long obsolete. Some will even use their visit as a pickup line, fancying themselves extremely cultured, seeing as they will now have genuine bragging rights, having walked the hallowed ground that is my abode.

And then there are the disappointed lot, muttering, “Oh, this is it?” As if I am not good enough for them. As if their journey to see me was a complete waste of their time. Their crestfallen faces leave no doubt in my mind that, in their estimation, watching paint dry would have been a better use of their precious time. They had built up this image of me in their minds, an impossibly surreal image no one could ever match, certainly not me, I’m but a woman. 

Occasionally a VERY very important person will have the whole place shut down so they can have a private tour. There are those true lovers of art who want an undisturbed moment with me, and then there are the obnoxious ones who “don’t do crowds”, because heaven forbid they breathe the same air as the hoi polloi.

No visitor, no matter how important, can escape the watchful eye of my security detail. I never have an unguarded moment. Well, not since my compatriot decided to “free” me all those years ago. You see, he decided that I needed to return to Italy, where I would wake up to the sounds of “ciao bella”, and the aroma of home-made pasta. Enough was enough, he decided. My prolonged stay here bothered him to no end, and so he bided his time, waiting for the opportune moment, even getting a job as a security guard in my home, and then one day, he snatched me, spiriting me to my native land, to the consternation of multitudes of security organizations and self proclaimed aficionados.

Sheathed in musty boxes, he plunged me into the underground, a world of shadowy figures, bats of the human race, who only showed their sinister faces at night, unsavory brokers who peeked at me, discussing my worth, their deep pocketed greedy masters tugging at invisible strings, determined to pawn me off to the highest bidder.

My hijacker’s quest was cut short when the long arm of the law caught up with him, and I was returned to my home, looking forward to some peace and quiet. A lady can only deal with so much excitement after all. 

Alas, peace and quiet would prove elusive. Years later, a man would claim to be madly in love with me, and in a deranged display of devotion, cut me with a razor, and an equally bizarre subsequent fanatic threw a stone at me, hitting my elbow in the process, and so security was stepped up to RED, meaning, fart near me and you will be welcomed into the tender, loving care of the Gendarmerie posthaste. I’ve seen things kids, I’ve seen things. I mean, 2020, amiright?

I had some more peace and quiet, until today,that is. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love cake as much as the next person, but today’s incident literally took the cake. You see, I was minding my own business, mysterious smile in place, watching the crowd of visitors, when a very old woman, bent over with the ravages of time, was wheeled in to see me, probably as a dying wish. My heart melted, touched by the kindness of her chaperone, because such kindness is so rare in this world. I watched as the woman gazed upon me, and with a speed that belied her old age, stood up, revealing a whole cake, momentarily exciting me, thinking that someone had finally decided to very belatedly celebrate my birthday! This hopeful moment was short-lived when uncharacteristically manly hands lobbed the cake, unsliced, straight at me, whacking me smack in the face! Mio Dio! The savagery!

Luckily for the cake lobber, the Kenyan police were not in the building, and so he was spared that indelible slap that can only be meted by the lead-palmed hand of a Kenyan policeman.

The saddest part? I didn’t get a slice of that cake, it looked quite delicious.

5 Seconds

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a day full of meetings and low on time to eat a proper meal. So, having been heads down working non-stop, I didn’t notice it was almost lunchtime until nature’s alarm clock, also known as my rumbling stomach, reminded me of this fact in its typical rambunctious fashion. 

Suddenly, I had an epiphany. A fried chicken burger would be nice, I thought. My famished brain added fuel to this thought by conjuring the tastiest, crispiest, juiciest burger that ever burgered.  This burger was going to have the works. Crispy brioche bread, juicy yet crunchy fried chicken, freshly sliced onions, wisps of jalapeno pepper, freshly made honey mustard sauce dripping over the chicken, lettuce so crisp I could practically feel the crunch as I bit into it. I mean, this burger was going to be the epitome of burger perfection, a hall of famer.

Naturally, the next step was to order this magical burger from my favorite burger restaurant, followed by obsessively tracking the delivery status on my app. Exactly 15 minutes later, my doorbell rang, informing me that the moment I had been eagerly anticipating was finally here. I grabbed the package, and channeling my inner Shelly-Ann Fraser, I sprinted to the kitchen for the grand unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony.

I unwrapped the package and the delicious aroma of the burger and fries wafted towards my hungry face, and in a delayed flash of genius, I decided to re-crisp the burger so it would be just so. Peak level of crispiness must be achieved after all. 

It was when I was retrieving my now crisped-to-perfection burger that the devil struck. Yes, I will blame this one on Saitan

You see, I was distracted by a text message while reaching for the food, and suddenly, as if in slow motion, I watched my beloved crispy juicy burger tumble to the floor, slowly deconstructing itself midair, landing in a mess of splattered honey mustard, lettuce, onions, brioche and finally and to my great dismay, crispy fried chicken.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I yelled, horrified, realizing that in these days of COVID, the 5 second rule does not apply. And it does not apply because COVID probably latched onto my burger mid-air, sinking its tentacles in it before the lowly germs of the floor ever got a chance to bite into it. And so, in a funereal sequence, I gathered the possibly COVID infested remains of my beloved burger, and committed them to the compost bin. The text message that started all this? It was a spam text, Saitan asindwe!

Fare thee well my beloved burger, rest with the ants who I am sure had the feast to end all feasts.

Flighty Fingers

Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame. This sliver of wisdom, dispensed by one of those Swahili sages of old as his agemates huddled in a circle, kanzus firmly in place, deeply-veined shaky hands tenuously grasping small cups of kahawa tungu. Their milky eyes held far-away looks as they fondly remembered their glory days, sweet-talking lasses with ample curves,  as their now wizened faces with dune-like wrinkles slowly nodded in agreement, even though their bodies were decades past their bending days. I imagine his name was Mzee Abdalah. And hours later, when Mzee Abdalah was finally done speaking, because a good methali must first marinate, besides, what else is there to do in that sweltering heat but talk? His compeers simply said, “Doh!Umenena kama wazee elfu!”

This saying recently came to mind when I encountered, shall we say, an interesting character. You see, even though I am a daughter of Nam Lolwe, the benevolent Swahili gods occasionally take pity on me, bringing to mind a methali that perfectly captures my current situation; which is quite generous, considering my people have allegedly so bastardized that language that in its final throes it simply gave up the ghost, surrendering to its new name, Oswahili.

Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us would gleefully jump at the chance to grab the mvunguni goodies if we could bypass the kuinama part. And it was under such circumstances that I encountered this man, let’s call him Mteche. You see, I had recently booked a flight with Kenya Airways, but because life whips you with a nyaunyo harder in these times of COVID, I had to cancel the flight. In the process of trying to get a hold of KQ on Twirra, this enterprising fellow saw a loophole and decided to exploit it. 

YouTube is laden with a cornucopia of videos on various flavors of scams, ranging from vintage 90s barrister-with-a-windfall left by a recently deceased relative you’ve never heard of, to the slightly more savvy 2010s call centers targeting senior and not-so-senior citizens, all the way up to the truly scary COVID era ones, those you never hear from, shadowy figures who thrive on identity theft, dissipating after the deed is done, leaving not even a wisp of their existence, save for a gaping hole where your bank account once struggled to find footing. 

And so when I encountered my very own scammer, my newly minted virtual diploma from YouTube scam-buster academy in hand, I decided to have some fun with it. Because in these days of COVID, we must spark our joy where it finds us, donge?

This enterprising fellow, Mteche, must have scoured the internet, seeking the best scam artistry education no money could buy. I imagine in a previous life, the barrister scam may have worked with modest success, earning him enough to buy a mandazi or two, and tea without milk. Seeing as he wanted some milk in his tea, he decided to enroll in slightly more advanced level II courses, which led him to  create a Twirra Account and handle mimicking the KQ logo and handle , complete with a business account on Whatsapp. His M.O was quite simple really. Search Twirra for a disgruntled customer, preferably one inquiring about their refund, promptly inbox said person, obtain their phone number, and that is where the fun and games began.

I imagine his heart was beating excitedly, the hunter in him sensing gullible prey ahead. But this daughter of Alego was also equally excited, ready to put her YouTube Scam-Buster Academy skills to use. As our venerable tutors on YouTube told us, the first step is always to get the victim to save the scammer’s number on their phone, and then direct the victim to a money transfer service. 

Mteche tried, several times, to get me to send him money through MPESA, Western Union,World Remit, a homing pigeon, a donkey, anything, to no avail. At some point, he got so frustrated and asked me if I could name relatives whose numbers could be used instead. I explained, in my most doleful voice, that I was born alone in this world, like a penguin hatched from an abandoned egg in the frigid gusts of Antarctica. He had no sympathy for this penguin, he had a job to do. So he tried something else, and this is where my YouTube Academy education came in handy. 

You see, the latest scam is to direct the victim to a money sending service and then coerce them to enter the scammer’s name as the recipient, and then, in the amount section, to enter what appear to be random numbers like 0008875, but in reality, those zeros don’t count. Once you select continue, you have just sent them 8,875 of whatever currency you typically transact in. I wrote all this information on a piece of paper, because YouTube Scam- Buster Academy graduates no fools.

Mteche: Have you entered the name and that number?

Me: Yes

Mteche: What does it say

Me: It says this is fraud

Long, awkward pause, followed by another pause

Me: Are you there?

Mteche: garbling noise

Me: You know, this scam where you ask people to enter a phone number in their phone book and then to enter many zeros followed by a number is a well known scam

Mteche: I’m not a scammer

Me: Why isn’t your account verified, if you are with KQ? Where is your little tick?

Mteche: They forgot

Me: Who are they?

Mteche: Twirra

Me: Ok, no problem, what’s your manager’s name (checks LinkedIn, no such names exist)

Mteche: Have you entered the number in your phone?

Me: Of course

Mteche, impatiently: I don’t see any money, can you check?

Me, rather dramatically, in the fashion of my people’s professional mourners: Mayo! You tricked me! My money! it’s gone!

Mteche, excitedly checking his phone: there’s no money here! Are you sure you entered the instructions in your phone?

Me: chortling

Mteche: Why are you laughing!

At this point, I was roaring with laughter, what people like to caption as “I’m dead” while still being very much alive.

The line went dead, I’m not sure why. 

I did of course send him a message to wish him a great day, I am after all, a lady, but I am also a lady from Alego, and we know our rights, so I let him know that I would be forwarding his numbers to various authorities(in his desperation to get me to send him money, he kept providing alternative phone numbers because he thought that the actual problem was one of his lines and not the fact that he was up against a YouTube Scam-Buster Academy graduate)

I don’t know if anything will come of my reports to Twirra, the real Kenya Airways  and the authorities, but in the meantime, should you encounter Mteche and his scam-mates, feel free to quote Mzee Abdalah.