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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Carry it Out, Come What May

Getting the title for this piece proved a hard nut to chew… until I read a certain book that inspired me to settle on the above. But before I settled on it, I had thought of: …Making Decisions in Life. This sounded nice but it lacked the punch, or sensationalizing spirit, that I was looking for. It also sounded like it had been picked from those How To Internet sites.

I was then involved in a long thought process which yielded so many other possible titles that I wouldn’t want to list down in this space.

Then came the bolt from the blue, which I bolted for…It Was on a Saturday! Eureka! And for all the time I sat down to seduce words to marry sentences which mated into paragraphs while I constantly aborted the unnecessary errors, this title wowed me.

Then something changed.

I woke up at 6am to prepare for my 8am class on Saturday. I arrived in time – the way I always do – and everything was going on fine. After all it is still May. The lecturer came in, introduced herself, making us comfortable in front of her and I believe vice versa, taught us with such exuberance and everything was going on fine.

Then she turned tables.

Now it was our turn to be known. I had expected this, but earlier in the lesson. Anyway, being the voice of authority and going by the reasoning that it was only fair she knew the kind of dumb or whiz kid heads she was dealing with, the first student on the far left corner obliged. And so did the whole class.

The introduction was quite interesting with everyone saying much but not all. Of my pick was this gentleman who said he is not perfect but so near to it that it makes him get worried. Then came my turn, apparently the last one though I was occupying my most favourite front  position.

I followed the standing up status quo said my name, a few other things and intentionally mentioned that I like sitting infront and being infront as a result, to the chagrin of a student I can’t quite remember her face.

Then I made probably the blunder of my May. Said I’m also a blogger before sitting down. Oh, and there she was. The lecturer. “What do you blog about,” she asked letting out a suggestive smile. I again stood up saying, “a variety of issues, societal, personal and others,” which is true. My blog stands out from the rest because it’s not personal. It can highlight the plight of a husband who gets thorough beatings from the wife everyday just as much as it can highlight when I have had to skip a luncheon in preference to a cup of strong tea with roasted maize.

“What’s the name of your blog,” inquired the lecturer. “Thesteifmastertake,” I voiced back as she handled a blue marker which I used to write the URL on the neatly rubbed white board. Before I made the three steps back to my seat, a smile tried to force its way into my face as I saw fellow students scribe down the new link in their lives. However, I managed to suppress it.

Back to my seat, my brain ran straight to Google Analytics, the free service offered by Google that generates statistics about visitors to a website. I could see the number of visitors, new ones, scaling up like stock market figures in the Nairobi Stock Exchange. I nodded in approval.

Then the smile, the Google statistics and the little pride that was gathering within disappeared. Panic set in and I felt like the world of blogging was cupping on me. And for a moment, I started cursing myself. Did I have to mention that I have a blog? Was that entirely necessary? What does it mean when I have to tell the world that read my blog about my experiences in class? Will it mean less blogs in a month now that I will be censuring what I write for fear that the administration might read something that rubs them on the wrong side? What about the students? What if I had something to write about student behaviour in my university and why they should consider throwing stones at the administration or motorists when they feel wronged?

These thoughts swam in my head one after another for one minute, and I was back with the lecturer when she started again. The spirit of May then took care of everything, meaning all went well after that.

When the class dispersed, I could only imagine how many of those who were going to the cyber there and then will log in and read a certain blog that should have preceded this one but for unavoidable circumstances. As I walked down the spiral stairs from eighth floor, a dogmatic kind of sentence flickered my head.

It is from the book; Shall We Tell The President?, by Jeffrey Archer. When Special Agent Mark Andrews, FBI, finds himself tucked in between risking losing his job by contacting the Director of the FBI without passing through his senior (who has died in a well-executed accident) and remaining silence over a cold-blooded homicide, he settles on the option of losing his job. The Author says, “he had to make up his mind what to do, and then to carry it out, come what may.”

So Mr Andrews picked the receiver and dialed the Director’s residence, because he had to do it come what may.

And this tiger-jaw situation is what gripped me as well. Should I post the blog or not? What response will I get? Was I making this too much a do about nothing?

I decided to make up my mind and post the blog, come what may.

And that's thestiefmastertake!!

...Then A Ghost Appeared in Class

If you have read my article below, you must have realized that I recently enrolled for further education in of the local universities. It’s long been coming and I can’t find the best words to describe how proud the pride part of me is feeling. But it’s my hope that the huge investments I’m going to put into this imperative hurdle in life will be worth it in two-and-a-half years.

The first week was quite chaotic with all the registration procedures. I have had to review the units am taking for more than three occasions and am even thinking of doing it once more.

The first lesson was okay, learning a unit called Christian Worldview (apparently inside a Church). The lecturer started as if he was administering Bible doses to a congregation but he soon discovered his teaching vocals. He has a comic side and believes sex is good but only when one qualifies for it, through marriage of course. A Zambian by nationality and having taught in Hawaii, USA and even South Africa, this globetrotting theologian appears to be an interesting character. I’ll make no conclusions yet. But to be his favourite student, I must start a Bible-reading marathon so as we can be at par when he starts quoting some verses in the Bible or giving lectures in thy thou thee worketh kind of language.

So I don’t have much to write about the first week besides also pointing out to the detail that I had little pride to carry home. First because of finally stepping foot in a university class – though they are not any different from the high school ones save for a sense of maturity, and second, some little pride like getting an account on how one of my lecturer’s first days at the University of Nairobi were like in our first meeting.

Enough said of the first week.

The second week saw things change a lot. Am now a little settled, have tried (successfully) to answer some questions, asked some, felt lost in the first lesson of Christian Worldview unit (till I picked a bone with my Pastor on Sunday), have seen a few interesting characters, overheard some chitchat, gotten well with the administration and having the plan to sit and remain infront of everybody even academically.

The class is an eclectic blend of all and sundry. Most of us are the enthusiastic young blood, we have a two in one, a few married men and the female counterparts, and of course the back-benching and infront-sitting ones like me. We even have a communicator who wont differentiate stambede and stampede.

I have loved all the units this far. But for the sake of this article, I would say my favourite lessons have come from these two lady lecturers incharge of Audience Analysis and Dynamics of Culture and of course the gentleman teaching Christian Worldview.

But it was during the Audience Analysis class that I first felt I was in a university. I simply had the best lesson under the tutelage of the soft speaking ma’am who I can only refer to as RN. She’s so much in grasp with her unit and has this way of knowing what one means that she can paraphrase a partially sense-making sentence into a point worth writing as an answer in examinations.

I hardly struggled to get what she meant and was feeling like we were revising until some woman laughed.

Gay Satan! I almost cursed.

Whatever the lecturer must have said, all I had was this rapturous, ghostly muhahahahahaha laugh that made my heart skip a bit. Darkness had already started setting in and my instincts ran wild.

And for that flash of time, under that flash of uniquely eerie, scary and sweet Jesus! rumble, I lost my concentration as my eyes darted the walls of the room to find who this ghost was, or, in the least, which human was the proud owner of this unique, potentially award-wining laughter. When I found a sight, I nodded that she could own this spooky growl. An intimidating, big (not fat) body from the nose right down the throat to the soles of the feet.

Then I gained back my concentration. But as we headed towards the end of this sweet lesson, thoughts on how my nerves would react if I found her in darkness and did or said something funny dangled my head.

Then, coincidentally, it happened. I had remained behind to take some pictures. When my back was turned against the door, someone came from behind and called me. I almost jumped to the ceiling when I turned and found it was the ghostly-laughing character.

My heart raced like that of the thief who stole from me two weeks ago. Then, she started smiling, and my brain started making up the roar factor, my hair raised, adrenaline ran high and my heart tried to extract all the prayers it could find within the not so Biblical brain.

Whether my prayers got answered or I lived true to the promise of not doing or saying anything that might tickle a big laugh, I saw the smile gradually dissipate as she made a request that I pass to her a certain bag under the table.

I fittingly obliged, neither saying nor acting funnily, lest she laugh in the only way she has always known to, but which could have sent me flying over and above the 8th floor without having taken any red bull to lend me wings...

And that’s thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Doom Days - Is it Your Turn to Hide Under the Bed?

To many, odd numbers are always synonymous with odd things; doom, deaths, emotional breakdowns when grownups cry for being misled by Mr and Mrs Cupid, failures and... end of thinking capacity right here.

I have read of people who wouldn’t get out of their houses on an odd number day of a month or year, for example on any Friday 13th, lest they be stricken by thunderstorm even in the hottest and sunniest days of the year. I also read that some of the skyscrapers in this world have no 13th floor! Architectures who design these landmark buildings and the engineers who oversee the construction would rather name the 13th floor 14a or something that is not 13.

And how about the numbers 666? And Black Sundays?

Before I point to anyone in particular, I would like to reserve special mention to my elder sister. I recently stumbled on her diary. As I perused through the tiny handwriting, nothing caught my eye more than a capital lettered writing evidently screaming; I HATE JULY.

Curious as one should be and given that July is nearing, I asked, Why. A torrent of why’s soon bombarded me from left, right and center. “It was in a July that I broke up with my stupid husband. It was in a July that my sister died (may she rest in perfect peace), it was on a July that I lost my job, it was in a July that I gave birth to…”

“Hang in there,” I interjected putting weight to her latter statement. “Are you tryna tell me that giving birth to my lovely niece was a bad thing?” She let out a flirtatious smile first, perhaps satisfied with my sincere recognition that my niece, who happens to be her daughter, is lovely. Men keep off.

Nevertheless, she was quick to refute my hurriedly conjured up conclusion, saying that having the child is the best thing that ever happened to her, but the events that transpired prior to the birth, and especially in July hurts her to the bone.

Seeing emotions running deep in her to the extent that veins were protruding her forehead, I decided to bury the topic into oblivion, lest her July come early and compel her to chase me out in the cold in the middle of the night. I couldn’t have blamed her.

So in recognizing this possibility, I instead involved her in a conversation on how wonderful her fingers of ingredients have always proved to be on top of fire as I drowned her R&B (rice and beans) cuisine into my commander-in-chief of good food. The stomach.

So to my sister, it’s July -  a month that I only curse the cold weather and no more. To some, it’s in a March, May, November or an 11th, 13th, 17th 23rd or even 31st that they become weary of doom.

May be you must be wondering whether May – and particularly this one – has been my doom month.

On the contrary. It has been so good and faithful to me as Christians would say.

Though I don’t remember how my ‘Mays’ had been in years that preceded, the last three Mays have provided me with memories of delight that wont fade away anytime soon and will paint a lovely shadow on every step that I make. They will define my future till that Man who lives in hiding somewhere but knows the needs of man decides that I have sinned and misused His resources enough hence I should join Him and perhaps see how he keeps on supplying the world of men with absolutely delicioso Chiquitas who despite being different in physique, complexion and tone, they still make a man’s world turn around spontaneously. And am being sincere.

Just to mention but a few, it was in May 2008 that I got the opportunity to join the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation on a 3-month internship programme that actually lasted for 8 months. Reason for this being that the free but effective and efficient services I was offering were really making a difference at the station hence no one was in a rush to let me go. Within these eight months, I managed to meet, network and rub shoulders with top businessmen; both the avaricious and philanthropic, politicians, who were mostly egotistical, sports personalities, who at times felt like they were breathing an air of distinction, and people who are making tangible differences in this society.

It was during the internship programme that I believe my current boss got the one time ‘chance’ to meet me. He took my contacts which he duly utilized in January last year, another odd month.

All these, thanks to May; an odd month that someone somewhere loves to hate. To add spices to my already plush Mays, it was last year in May that I negotiated a new salary perk that saw me add a marginal increase to obviously, in my eyes perhaps, still paltry monthly collection - shh... read slowly, my boss might  hear.

But May 2010 leaps above all. Though the month started on a very sour, tough and dull note especially with the struggles at work, things began to fall in place in the first Friday of the month.   

You must have read my blog on the unrivaled lulu of the Masai Mara some scrolls down. This is where it all started. An all-expenses paid weekend expedition to one of the most talked about, written about and visited wildlife reserves in the planet is worth writing a thousand words for. If you want to feel the experience even without being there, I advise you get on with the reading here

Then came the chance to secure my future. I have also blogged about this and you can get to know how I effectively achieved this right here

Am also a proud owner of a voters card, which again, I secured in May. You probably have also heard many people talk about The Long Road to a New Constitution. The road here has been used arbitrarily to symbolize the tedious odyssey this country's old folks have taken in the quest to get a new constitution, dating back to  the struggle for multipartism in the days of yore. However, getting my voters card applied this road term quite literally. Whatever I had been doing that meant I had to run for 6km to secure my electronic voters card on the last day and at the eleventh hour is still a mystery to me. But I have it anyway, though a certain colleague, whom I don't believe, says it's fake because the profile picture has people in the background and the face is masked by some ineligible writing.

But come the 4th of August, I’ll be participating in the national referendum and my vote will kick some Christian or political ass. Or will it? I have never voted before but victory is guaranteed to whoever gets my vote come d-day. And I can cockily say, that’s not a hoax. You want to know where my vote will be? Without fear of contradiction, or the Kalonzo-ic Yes No Yes No Yes Yes theory, I’ll not vote No for Yes or Yes for No but will vote Yes for Yes.

Chapter closed. So no matter what my Pastor Odulele or Bishop Endurance Ojokolo says, no matter how many errors ghost their way into the proposed constitution, no matter what the Placenta Party of Kenya political outfit think is nebula supanova, and no matter how many judgements are made by a reform-starving judicial system, my vote is already cast. And I go by the belief that sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes, we just need to get some of these things that waste 1440 minutes of our days out of the way.

Back to my May and then of course came the school. Inarguably my greatest achievement yet. Although the graduation is still some years ahead, I have always wanted to wear those brainy academic attires; ones that even Mama Sarah Obama aka Dr Sarah, US President’s octogenarian grandmother has adorned, albeit without having to peruse through even a single-paged book. Get more on this here

Talk of brains not encountering brains.

Through the help of God, I have given myself the opportunity that I never had before and which will propel me to wear those cream of the crop academic regalia in a few years time when I’ll be graduating with a First Class Degree in the course that am taking (though achieving this means I have to do a unit like introduction to computers!!)

Nevertheless, I’ll do all that I can. So help me God. There's one more success I would have liked to single out before I scribe down the last paragraph. But let me not consider it that much of a success because 'it's a work in progress' as one of my lecturers would say about our dynamising academic timetable.

But it's not like it has all been sparkle and contentedness, rainbows and butterflies without the gloom and doom and flies in the eye. It only that the latter has been few and far between. Besides losing my business card holder to a savvy kleptomaniac who I can recognize even in obscurity, my May can be mentioned in the same breath as success.

But not everyone can say the same of this month. Its odd-numbered nature has pushed some people on the dark side of life. And rightly so. If everyday were party-days for everyone, we would only have bartenders and brewers and drinkers and wrecked homes and divorces cases, side-road urinators, broken noses, Arthur Guinnuess's but no Warren Buffets or Donald Trumps.  Who would love such life? Straightedges like some of us would be ostracized and excommunicated from this church because they have refused to take the holy alco-mmunion.

I know this article must have aroused a discussion within your brain whether you normally have a doomsday. Whether you find answers or not, just pray that the day never gets closer. And if it does, if you don't close your eyes for the entire period or hide under your bed - if you have one -  read the article before this one. You MIGHT just find some solutions.

I'll miss you May. XOXO!

And that’s thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Five-Star Football Event in a Five Star Hotel

With Just over 10 days to the World Cup, the African Continent has been gripped with the football fever and every quarter is looking to cash in on the historic spectacle.
Businesses ranging from airlines, transport companies and even hotels have taken initiatives to set the mood with others coming up with innovative ideas to woo customers during the upcoming football season.

Over the weekend, Nairobi’s Intercontinental Hotel launched its football season with a high-lumen projector for their big screen aimed at providing real entertainment for the Hotel’s visitors with love for football. The screen which was launched by South African Ambassador to Kenya; Tony Msimanga was first unveiled during the UEFA Champions League finals between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, a match that was played at the famous Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid Spain. The event was graced by various key personalities including Zain Kenya’s boss Rene Meza, Mathare United FC chairman Bob Munro; Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya S. O Omene, thesteifmastertake blogger, Me, and other dignitaries.

The match, which was decided by a perfect brace from Argentinian World Cup-bound striker, Diego Milito, was particularly a big show in Kenya because 23-year old MacDonald Mariga, a Kenyan, plays in the Jose Mourinho-led Italian giant that has carried the season with splendid performances after becoming the first Italian team to win the Italian treble. Inter had earlier won the Serie A title,  and the Italian Cup before lifting the coveted Champions league title infront of a capacity crowd at Real Madrid's 80, 354 all-seated homeground.

Another Kenyan international star Denis Oliech of France’s AJ Auxerre, who I got to meet and share a picture with (see left) also watched the game at Hotel Intercontinental Nairobi. The Auxerre frontman was upbeat that the World Cup would be historical moment for the continent but regretted the underperformance of African teams in international soccer.

Oliech said: “it’s unfortunate that Kenya is not taking part in this world cup yet this is a powerful moment in the history of this continent. African players need to up their game and seize opportunities that will keep coming up.”

The intercontinental Hotel is one of the early birds in terms of joining the bandwagon for the football fever and is looking to offer specialized packages for its visitors during the season. Already, pubs and other entertainment joints have purchased big screens, projectors and LCD screens in readiness for the world cup as transport companies finalize plans to travel down south for the games. 
In Video

All the Material are (copyright property) by ©Stephen Ayoo
And that's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hindu's Celebrate Hare Krishna in Nairobi

I'm not going to make this a long feature article or anything.  Just some facts, pictures and a link to my you tube account where you will get to see my video side of life.

But first of all, I have to say how frustrated I am after looking for information on Google for some celebration that was marked by Hindu faithful on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, but to no avail. Unless my eyes played a lying game on me, I think I saw a handful of journalists, with still and video equipment do what they only know how to do best; taking pictures and video footage. But may be the discriminatory rules of the newsroom meant that their coverage were trashed in the infamous trash can after this potentially headlining story failed to pass the test of  discriminating editors who think they have hands-on knowledge of what the viewers want to see. 

So in the spirit of helping you not getting frustrated as I am, I decided to write something about the celebration, which, from the information I gathered from the loud chants, it must have been a Hare Krishna moment. 

So you might just be the first person to read about it. And where else to find it but thesteifmastertake!! Enough on the bragging. Now let me tell you how I earned that bragging right.

It was on the weekend of Saturday May 22nd. I had just let my desires get over me by buying this Sony point and shoot camera that I needed but did not want to buy at such a high amount (figures concealed on request).

Nevertheless, taking the risk of needing to save enormously my next income to the extent that I might get starved, I decided to invest in the equipment. 

And it didn't take too long before it was put to test.

As I sauntered my way toward a Maasai market located near Nairobi Law Courts to check and perhaps buy some necklaces, bracelets and other uniquely African accessories the market boasts of, I bumped into this huge crowd of beautiful Hindu women, children and of course their owners, the men, the latter to my disappointment.

But since it wasn't supposed to be about me on this day but about what the most expensive asset I have could do, I decide not to gape at the long hairs and enviable bodies and perfect heights of these Gujarati singles, but to take some pictures and video.

Not unless am wrong, these horde of men, women and children were marking the birth of Lord Krishna (I stand to be corrected). Krishna is a deity worshiped across many traditions of Hinduism and is perceived differently within different traditions of Hinduism. 

The faithful traversed the length of Nairobi streets. From where I met them, we walked for the next two hours as they pulled the deity and sung their hearts out to please 'him'. I decided to follow them and, keeping my word that this wont be long though it ought to be, these are some of the pictures that I and my new quite expensive mate captured:


And That's thesteifmastertake!!

©Stephen Ayoo

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bamburi Rugby Super Series Comes of Age

Started in 2003 as a competition meant to seek for raw talent, groom the future of rugby players and make Kenya a respectable figure in 15 player version of rugby, the Bamburi Super Series is now an East African Rugby Union premier competition that draws the interest of 8 teams from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The tournament was originally sponsored by Unga Limited on its inception before UAP Insurance took over the sponsorship reigns a year later in 2004. In 2005, Bamburi Cement Limited took over and has been sponsoring the tournament since. 

The competition initially involved 5 Kenyan teams. However, the 2008 competition marked a turning point witnessing the inclusion of two Ugandan and one Tanzania team into the competition. In total, there are eight franchises; Lions, Rhinos, Sharks, Cheetahs and Buffaloes from Kenya, Rwenzori and Victoria from Uganda and Twigas from Tanzania. Before this year’s competition, the Rhinos had won the competition 3 times in 2003, 2007 and 2009, the Cheetahs twice in 2004 and 2006 while the Lions won it once in 2008. 

The elite 15-aside competition has earned reputation for its athletic, fast and strong players. In this year’s competition (2010), two teams from Kenya locked horns as the SDV Transami Cheetahs squared off with defending champions and three-time winners, UAP Rhinos. The two dominant franchises earned the right to contest the finals after brushing aside their opponents with aplomb in wet and muddy conditions at the RFUEA grounds in Nairobi. Kenya’s SDV Transami Cheetahs thumped Kampala Coach Rhinos from Uganda 20-3, thanks to tries from fly half Nato Simiyu, back row Kevin Umbuge, and Kevin Gisore, and a successful conversion from scrum half Mike Mugo who also scored a penalty. 

In the second semi-final, defending champions UAP Rhinos had a hard fought 17-5 win over 2008 winners, Lions. And so, the participants for the finals were decided. The finals, played on Saturday May 22nd was highly billed to be a cracker of a match. And it never proved otherwise. The game started on a pedestrian and tentative note with both sides clearly testing their opponent’s waters. 

However, it didn’t take long for the defending champions, Rhinos to record points on the scoreboard, courtesy of a Peter Abuoga penalty after persistent pressure forced Cheetahs into an infringement. 3-0 to the Rhinos. When the Cheetahs finally began to assert their authority, pinning their opponents mostly on their own half, the Rhinos were also forced into making errors and the Cheetahs would be awarded three penalties all of which they squandered. The Rhinos then got rewarded for their offensive prowess, winning another penalty which Abuoga flew high and between the posts to give the defending champions a 6-0 lead heading to half time. 

The second half started in rush with both teams looking for the cutting edge. However, it was the Rhinos who took yet another step towards becoming the first team to defend the title. A David Ambunya dash only ended after he scored the game’s first try. Peter Abuoga successfully converted to give the Rhinos a 13-0 lead. Abuoga then made his own try and after nineteen-year-old center David Ambunya recorded his second try, Abuoga made no mistake as he duly converted to give Rhinos a healthy 25-0 lead. 
The Cheetahs then pushed to get back into the game but only managed one try courtesy of Charles Kanyi. Former Kenya international Moses Kola missed the conversion and by the final whistle, it was the Rhinos who were celebrating and popping champagne having convincingly won the game 25-5. The result makes the Rhinos the first franchise in the tournament’s illustrious history to successfully defend the title. 

In the third place playoff, the Lions beat Uganda’s Kampala Coach Victoria 37-0 to ensure a 1,2,3 finish for Kenyan based teams. Abuoga claimed the top points scorers award with 37 points, while Rhinos player Sidney Ashioya was named man of the series.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Masai Mara - The Best There Is : The Best There Was : The Best There Ever Will Be

That the Masai Mara is one of the world’s most pristine, picturesque, amiable, vivacious, tranquil and all that is good game reserve is no longer something in doubt. So much has been written and read about it, so much has been heard and documented, while even much more remains to be discovered and seen.

Little wonder a plethora of grown-up men, their wives and children all the way from Europe, the Americas, Asia and even within Africa throng this place located in south-western Kenya every year to have their own experience of a lifetime. That is what I discovered.

Before the weekend of 7th-9th May, I fell in one of those categories of people who have only heard of the Masai Mara, scribed about it and even gone better by seeing it on the tube. Of course I have always envied those white guys traversing our land with our land cruisers, their heads hoisted up the ceiling of the vehicles as they take pictures of our scenic landscape made of trekking women, sweating men and struggling kids waving at them as if everything is normal in their lives.

I can always certainly imagine them eating our food prepared by our people, playing in our fields with their little ones, sleeping in our pompous beds in our country near our people whose backs are on the brink of breaking as a result of sleeping in punishment-like beddings. But that is the way life most of the times is.

And aren’t we grateful for the dollars they leave behind that support our at times fragile economies?

Away with the complexities of tourism and its benefits. I had a chance to be seen as one, driven like one and treated like one. And boy did I love it.

To start off our trip, we converged at the Sarova Panafric Hotel where we had the first feel of their unrivalled refreshing African hospitality and state of the art banqueting. I have been there many times for cocktails, luncheons and big breakfasts but none of those compared to this day.

After having a surfeit on the countless dishes and platters of food ranging from scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, chicken sausage, ham, corned beef hash, vegetable pizza, English muffins, bagles, cakes, more cakes, fresh fruit, and fruit juices available under the theme of our buffet breakfast, we set off for the 5-hour trip.

My dream safari trip has always been on a 4wd Safari landcruiser. After all, seeing the men and women from the west angle their heads out from the top as their eyes swivel up, down, left and right had convinced me that’s the ultimate safari experience.

You must have guessed right so far that I was among the passengers in the 9-seater landcruiser as its wheels waved goodbye to the serene Sarova Panafric environment made of engaging scent of bouillabaisse, at least until we came back two days later.

The drive out of Nairobi was humdrum if not routine. I had armed myself with this Idi Amin book that kept me company as everyone else in the landcruiser still not eager to break the silence kept themselves busy with reads from newspapers to story books, and in the case of the driver, the steering wheel.   

Fast forward 108km, three bottles of thirst-quenching non-alcoholic crisp novida (a local beverage) dispatched successfully and stored safely in the liquefied part of the belly, some potato crisp and nut-munching, a few glances here and there and we are in Narok town, about 108km from Nairobi where our driver stops to wait for the other two vans that carried the weight of rest of the “domestic tourists.” In safari driving, the car in front is always a landcruiser!!

We stay here for some twenty minutes and get the opportunity to freshen up, after which my crew decides they should charge and top up their system by - as they called it - buying some Kong’o (Luo for alcohol).

This idea comes in handy as it effectively means am the odds-on favourite to drown the soft drinks to their resting place. But then, this guy seated adjacent to me reveals that he’s also a teetotaler. “But the drinks should just be enough for both of us,” I conclude. And it proved to be a good conclusion.

Our ride to the Mara proves to be such an experience as we navigate from towns, to suburban to suburbs without any complaints, save only for some rough roads that mixes up the digestive system and prompts one of us to ask for akashort break to answer the call of the gallbladder.

However, this call of nature misbehaves as it becomes contagious and all of the men in the cruiser, save only for the driver, are forced to get rid of the excessive fluids. The only two ladies in the vehicle however hold still their urge, or, the more unlikely, don’t get caught with this mid-journey malfunction of the bladders.

Back in the vehicle and we throw a few stories on each other discussing topics ranging from gay and lesbian relationships to some male goats who the owner has deemed necessary to fix their goat-hoods with makeshift polythene condoms to how the centipede is such a dangerous myriapod unlike the millipede which is so cooperative that all married men wish their wives were of the class diplopoda. The gay-lesbian thing however arouses more discussion as everyone seems to be really interested in dressing down these unfortunate species who have peculiar feeling hormones in their system. I mean that.

Under this heavy discussion, we reach our first surprise point. The Masai warriors, who most of us have seen jump and sing to tourists were now doing this routine gig to this new breed of domestic travellers made up of me… and others. Call me selfish like Atuech recently did but that is the way it was.

After nodding and feeling really special to be entertained by fellow Kenyans for no apparent reason, we are led to the luncheon table, in the bush! So far, I have loved what the Mara Sarova crew is doing for us.

But at this point, I begin falling in love with them as we unflappably glide our way toward a table d’hôte Carte du jour with an enviable range of a la carte options in a verdant savannah garden. To our left are the seats and faultlessly dressed tables, while three chefs wearing smiles of expertise in their faces are to our right making the final touches to ensure that I leave without any complaints.

If I start describing the menu, I might make you drool excessively and drop saliva in an open power cable leading up to your computer. Result? An electric-fried nose and a junk computer.

Let me just say everything was perfect. Especially that ginger chicken soup served in a calabash. And that roasted goat meat agglutinated with the spicy sauce. Oh, and that grilled (whatever that means) fish cooked to perfection? Did I mention that morsel of cake covered with chocolate juice? How about the scrambled beans that none of us needed to scramble for since they were in plenty?

Mentioning that the appetizer performed its task, the dessert never deserted its mandate, the drinks must have come from chosen and not picked fruits and that the main course welcomed us to the course of respectable life should summarize our vibrant and colourful entry to the Masai Mara.

After all was said and done as we treated our deserving stomachs to a lunch in the bush, we proceeded to the Mara Sarova Game Camp, a flawlessly located deluxe hotel with a subtle ambience, an ultra-fresh air, a true spirit of Kenyan wild and a globe-trotting cuisine.

“This is where am going to spend my weekend,” I whispered to myself proudly. We were then led to a foyer where we got instructions on what was expected of us. The revelation that we were going to sleep under a tent drew some discontenting reactions from the crew… until.

Until we got inside the tents. My word!

Large beds, loungers, wardrobes, safari chairs, coffee-making percolators, foam mattresses, cotton-soft pillows, chandelier lights, a relaxation deck outside, hot water bottle bed warmers, electric mosquito repellents, morning room service if you manage to wake up from the comfort, and more besides.

I have never taken a picture to show the status of my beddings but I did when I stepped foot on this most welcoming tent of maximum comfort and random faultlessness. In the days leading up to the trip, I had had some very weird dreams of boogeymen, running from mosquitoes, wearing headgears, assaulting speed bags, dying by detergents, smuggling turquoise cigars to Mexico and being in possession of snake and rat sculptures. But under the immense comfort of this tent, I could only dream of seventh heavens, royal confetti of victory, blue skies, orange suns, tree-lined streets, serene surroundings, driving Bosozoku convertibles, wearing disease proof vests, riding a golden miller horse and having everything treasured from amethyst rings to sapphire necklaces to golden eggs.

Does those words do justice to the tents? I doubt. There must be many more befitting words in the oxford lexicon or Churchillian oratory to describe the truckload of comfort the tents provided.

But before we got into this bed and dreaming business, we went for a game drive in the evening. From the look of deep contentment that everyone was wearing on their faces, one could easily conclude that everything was spectaculaire.

And spectacular it was.

How many people get to see, live, two lions and a lioness debone a buffalo with impunity, regardless of its age, sex, physical condition, and without caring of affirmative action? We were that up and close as the panthera leo got candid with a buffalo who our navigator told us was still a virgin.

After some click sounds of still cameras and a few meters drive from the lion scene and there was the African elephant towering and stumping its ludicrously big feet majestically on the vast grassland as if it’s the only specie destined for survival if global warming sinks the world.

My dream of seeing two of my best animals has come true at this point and on our way back to the Sarova Mara Game Camp, we are pummeled by many more sights and sounds of game from left, right and sometimes, centre. We get to see gazelles, antelopes, herds of buffalos, oxpeckers, guinea fowls, scavenger birds, zebras and many other wildlife that compete for dominance and complete the food chain in this zoologist’s paradise.

Back to the camp, we (if everyone did) freshen up and proceed to our humongous dining room for a dinner buffet. The carte du jour is, for the umpteenth time; rich. We all explore the flooding menu made of locally idealized and globally-inspired cuisines.

To round off our Friday evening, we are led to a room simply referred to as ‘House A’ – an A class for refreshments. It’s here that those who enthuse at being hyperactive for a moment look up to our hosts for that one tactical nugget that would make a difference between a day well spent and one fairly spent.

Not willing to disappoint, our hosts needed not to delve into Arthur Guinness’s brewery to get the clues. An endless rounds of all kinds of the bitter drink doeseth the trick as many of the domestic tourists enjoy themselves way into the wee hours of the night.

One must have excused my time unconsciousness for gulping liquor frenziedly. But since a me no drink, I don’t know what made me read that it was 11.30pm, while actually it was 9.30.

Nevertheless, I retired to bed - my mind-boggling bed in the tent extraordinaire.

The next day proved to be even more adventurous. A morning game drive proved truly and wonderfully in order. The highlight was the view of a lion and his wife – for this day – explore each other’s body. What most of us found strange was not the lack of fore-play for this but the frequency and lack of commitment in this sanctified act.

The two lovebirds got intimate only for some 20 seconds, or less, after which the male would lie down feeling powerless, while the lioness did some jogging to aid the process of shuffling up the new foreign materials in her body. She would then come back for 20 more seconds of fame, lie down to recuperate, or just take a small walk in the park before going back for more.

You can imagine how the many looking faces of humans considered such act of lovemaking squalid, sluggish and short of six pack inspiration.

We watched about six episodes of this interesting but not wild wildlife pornography before we drove off, encountering the skyscrapers of the game in the name of giraffes, the modeling ostriches, the overeating buffaloes and the amalgam of speed but shy cheetah who, to the disappointment of many, refused to come out of its hiding place in a thick grassland.

Vroom… and back to Sarova, we tear our breakfast into pieces before everyone else is unleashed for some relaxing moment. I went for archery, where I performed fairly, played the swing-a-stick-and-hit-a-ball-to-a-hole game where I performed regrettably poor (explanation being golf is a lazy game while am always tenacious) and played badminton where, together with a white lady, we emerged the best in a double team.

The next activity in line was a tree planting exercise at a Sekenani Primary school, which was built by the Sarova Mara as part of its corporate social responsibility programme for the locals. Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson is one of the high profile figures who have left an indelible mark in the school, having funded the building of dormitories to ease congestion in the school’s beds.

This exercise turns out to be my best moment around and about this place when each and everyone of us is presented with seedlings and a stone bearing one’s epigraph. A big smile erects on my face from the time I receive mine to the time we get back to Sarova for our lunch.

More playing time then follows before we are taken around for a nature trail. Next, is the now routine evening game drive, which I skip to play badminton. We are then driven to a  perfectly-set cocktail in the bush where we get to see the famous African sun set on the far west as we drown drinks after another in yet another surprise from our wonderful hosts.

Back at the camp, we are led to another distinctively African set dinner in a semi-bush sort of dining hall. The pure beauty and the astonishing theme of this leaves me look around more than eat. Simply put; what a perfect way to have your last dinner at the Sarova Mara before you plan to come back!

One more visit to House A and we all retreat to that bed as the thoughts of next day’s long trip back to our rags, roasted maize, polluted air, honking Matatu’s and their hawking conductors that makes up Nairobi starts dawning on us.

Waking up from my sleep, the first vision that flashes through my mind is my bed. I frown. The second is the game drive. I smile. The third is the final encounter with the breakfast buffet. I dash for it.

A few hours later, we set off for our journey back to Nairobi. The thought of abandoning that life we took pleasure in makes everyone, except me I guess, look weary. Except me because I knew I was only living this tourist’s life for a petite time.

Not much to write about our journey back except that we stopped at a nyama choma (roasted meat) joint to replenish our energies.

The Masai Mara is a treasure house of wildlife. Its attractions have been described by countless authors in countless words, and captured by unwavering lenses, in stills and video equipment that have evolved for years. The Sarova Mara is a treasure house for accommodation. Although my first exploits in the Mara will remain firmly etched in my mind, the ultimate experience provided by the Sarova immediately became immortalized in one or so of my 14 billion brain cells.

I have had my word on the Masai Mara. With the future as volatile as nature itself, so much more will be written, said and heard about the wild and wonderful Mara. And for the days I lived in the midst of Africa’s indisputable splendour and under the sort of accommodation reserved for kings and queens, I can only be greatful to God and thank him for the opportunity, but ask for even more of these.

Just a little more.

And that’s thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Future Secured?

It measures 1 inch in thickness, 9.2 and 5.9 centimeters in breadth and length respectively, is the second card that has my central-bank-like signature (but do I say) and my unique left thumbprint, bears a biro-pen corrected typo on my last name and was issued at a certain 28 storied building located 1°17'24"S   36°48'44"E of Nairobi. This building stands 337 feet above the ground making it Kenya’s third and Africa’s 80th tallest building.
It is the NSSF building. And of the card?

In the US and the United Kingdom they call the aforementioned card the Social Security Card, while in Kenya, we call it NSSF (National Social Security Fund) card, a document that the law requires employed citizens to have, failure to which can lead to one being apprehended.

And with this card, the public relations department at this government-driven office deemed fit to say “We Secure Your Future”.

Since my statements were included my company’s record books about a year ago, I have been paying my taxes, something I feel proud of as much as it means some money has to be deducted from my meager - read meaty if you know my boss - salary.

Having an NSSF number (mine has three odd numbers, three nines and three even numbers) means that every close of month when one gets rewarded for some sweat poured in the line of duty, you contribute Sh. 200 ($3) and the employer contributes the same amount on your behalf. The latter contribution is, as my boss would say; spot on, but the former… yawn!

This amount, as I have been made to fathom forms part of one’s contribution to the national grid, and the total amount accrued is given back to the contributor after retirement as old-age benefits.

The thought of getting old and having to make tedious odyssey to the NSSF building in the future makes me get worried. I would want to reap the benefits of my hard work for the nation in the future, but not as an antique for NSSF and the then civil servants. Besides, I have seen so many men and women wearing sagging muscles in their faces lodge complaints after complaints that the old-age monies they had accrued during the them years are not being processed fast enough to enable them buy soap to wash their worn muscles.

This delaying aspect to pay back the amount nagged my mind as I made the trip, torn in thoughts of just letting the old-age benefits be, and getting the number that would prevent the authorities from coming to arrest me for not making a contribution that will only help me and not the most subsequent of their kins!

The officer manning the gate directed me to NSSF’s Block C where the other officer manning it showed me a room where the card was being processed. As usual, I took my seat next to this lady (it happens more often than not that the specie in front is always a she) with my eyes doing the usual curious rounds in the vast office for reasons that I wont make you understand in this space.

Two minutes inside the vast office and I get my services from this lady who does the typo on my card but fixes it at my asking. She then apparently directs me to a Mr. HB, one of the civil servants responsible for taking the fingerprints. This time round, the specie in front is a man, who from the whining and groaning of HB, I can notice that he’s giving him some hard time. However, HB manages to hold himself together and once he finishes with the guy who looks like a walking rainbow with his brown shoes, yellow top, dark trouser and red cap.

“Now it’s my turn to secure my future,” I murmur to myself as the rainbow guy navigates his way to a closet to get rid of the excessive black marks in his hand.

But Mr. HB is not ready to serve me yet as he calls upon the lady who came after me, hence, by the laws of queuing, should be served after me. I do nothing more than groan and resign to the tyrannical “ladies first” dogma. After all, my life dictates that a sweet one should always be in front. Two minutes after giving a better service to the lady than he did for the guy who can confuse a chameleon and HB (Hinger Brinter?) takes the pleasure of being in charge of my thumbs at least till the process is done.

Did I mention that am one of the most cooperative guys around this part of the world? At least I didn’t have to mention it to HB going by the look of satisfaction he was wearing on his aging face.

Cue in some rounds of stamping my finger on some papers, taking some routine glances around the room, being told where to place my signature and eureka! I have the card that has my future insured, secured and safe, of course provided that the servants entering the contribution records do not cause a mysterious inferno that ends up gutting down everything from computer chips to its memories and the hard copies that I so proudly filled.

And from that moment on, I can say with a swollen sense of pride that the NSSF is indebted to me. If I stay in employment till retirement, I would have accrued nearly $2500 in savings. Now with this amount, I would travel to Masai Mara Game Reserve and start spending it as I think what actually to do with it.

Making my way back to the office where the boss needed me for the usual reprimands, I saw this medium heighted crisp looking lady bouncing unperturbedly with these high-heeled shoes and who goes down on my record as one with the biggest, but disturbingly nicest, uhm … ninis … boobs (reads books if you know my pastor) I have ever discerned in the highly explorable streets of Nairobi.

And at this point is where viewer discretion is advised for those who don’t have their future secured.

Secure your future. It comes with gratification, privilege, sense of responsibility, and more so, benefits for those who grow old.

And that’s thesteifmastertake!! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Obama’s Granny Graduates with an Honorary Degree

For many Kenyans yearning for the all-important higher education that quite usually defines their future, they always have to work their butts off, quite literally. And with an education system that is bleeding profusely and on its last legs, hence needing maximum reforms – just like many other sectors in the East Africa’s biggest economy – enrolling for further studies and continuing with the brain-expanding activity always proves to be a punishing ordeal and a Herculean task for many who don’t have the financial muscle marveled at by politicians and fraudulent businessmen.

It thus came as a big and unpleasant surprise for many educationally-hustling Kenyans who saw Mama Sarah Obama, Obama’s grandmother being conferred with a honorary Doctorate of Letters from a university in Kisumu (the main economic nerve city where K’ogelo is located), apparently for engaging in charitable activities like feeding the less fortunate.

Whether she needed this accolade is a question that can only be addressed by Prof Dan Kaseje, the acting chancellor of The Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK), the institution which awarded the ever-smiling 87-year-old octogenarian with the honours.

And as the University chancellor pronounced, “and by my authority and that of the entire university, I give you the power to read and do all that appertain to this degree,” the newly crowned queen of higher education sat comfortably donning her new academic regalia for the elite (lest she commit a fashion faux pas) as she perceptibly enjoyed the everyone’s attention, albeit wondering what the chancellor was busy saying in a language that she knows only her grandson could speak. She however dared not to ask for a translation. Never mind she has never sat inside a classroom, a lecture hall notwithstanding.

However, this “gesture” extended to the GLUK alumnus, by the GLUK senate did not go down well with some Kenyans who felt like the degrees were being dished out to undeserving individuals just because they have tribal and or political connections with powerful individuals. Some said it was such an insult to Kenya’s education system, others opined that it was an ill-timed, ill-conceived and ill-executed April fools day prank, others felt it was waste to even think of considering her for the award, while some even went to the extent of claiming they should also “get paid” with a honorary degree for helping children who pee on themselves in nursery schools.

Others saluted Dr Sarah Obama and felt she deserved the honour which now means she can be among the cream of the crop of Kenyans allowed to visit Dubai (the UAE introduced new regulations requiring entrants from Kenya to have university degrees.)

Dr Sarah’s grandson, Barack is yet to submit his comment. But one thing that is for sure, he must be winking somewhere or nodding at her grandma’s pedestal achievement.

And just a day after acquiring an honorary doctorate, Sarah in her recently acquired self-styled  sufficiently philanthropic modus operandi threw a party at her home in K'ogelo Siaya to celebrate this fete.

Two healthy bulls, four yummy goats and three fatty sheep were crushed, gnawed and gnashed by the unforgiving munching machines of visitors who went to congratulate the Doctor on her new achievement. After deboning these unlucky animals and sending them to the god of animal souls, the bones were thrown to the scavenging dogs who effectively finished the equation in the way they know best.

The last time such a hierarchy of responsibility and activity of feasts graced the home of the 88-year-old was when her grandson earned the right to step foot and hang his tuxedo jacket in the Oval Office.

Whether Dr Mama Sarah Obama will use her newly-earned status to enroll for active education, rely on academic elitism (hardly possible at her age) and do all that appertains to being awarded such an honour is a question for another day.

And just running through my usual reading on the Internet, I stumbled across these words said by Dr. Sarah Obama’s grandson Barack “I probably wont read Sarah Palin’s Book.” Reasons are only too clear.

So what if Sarah Palin’s book was to be given to Dr Sarah? What would she say? “I just cant read a word in this book!!”

Or can she?

Another Award 

And just to follow up on Mama Sarah Obama's story, she has now received another award from Moi University, arguably Kenya's 3rd most prestigious higher education institution. The Doctor received a special shield of recognition for her efforts in assisting needy children and widows.

Next University please...

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!