Childhood Imaginations

One of my craziest childhood imagination is to do with the cartography of maps specifically the one of Africa. Maybe thats the reason why I became a surveyor.

Different colours are usually used on maps to represent themes under consideration. In this case the themes were countries in the African continent. On this particular map, colour green had been used for Kenya, Maroon for Uganda, yellow for Somalia etc.

In my Civic education I had been taught that the green colour on our flag represented our vegetation and land, white stood for peace, red the blood shed to gain independence and black was for the colour of our skin. So I believed that green vegetation is only in Kenya.

In my grandmothers banana farm, there were many types of bananas but the one that caught my attention was the one that was maroon in colour. Thats the ugandan banana, I was told.

My little head tried to connect the relation between the colours on the map, my civic education and the maroon coloured bananas in my grandmas plantation.

Wow…flying over Africa, one does behold a beautiful continent full of colours, I thought. I wished for the day I would fly over.(My wish hasn’t come true yet). 

My imagination was that each country had a different type of vegetation colour: green for Kenya, maroon for Uganda and yellow for Somalia considering most part are arid land. When I looked at the map in the Atlas with each country represented by a different colour, I imagined thats what I would see when in space as I gaze down upon the earth.

Crazy….? right….I was ten years old.

I know thats not the case. So as a surveyor I ensure that I portray information on a map in a way as not to be misinterpreted.

I try as much as I can not to confuse one little girl somewhere.

Nanyuki 

Nanyuki is about 220kms from Nairobi and boarders Mt Kenya to the South-East. Its a beautiful town especially in the morning when the rising sun rays scape the mountain top and shine down upon the town. The evenings are beautiful more so this time of the year when its less cloudy and the mountain outline to the apex can be seen clearly.

I had always assumed that the town is hot and dry, but shock was on me the first time I visited. Its really chilly in the mornings and evenings, due to the cold winds that descent the mountain. So if you plan on visiting ensure you carry some warm clothing.

Its mostly a plain land so one can see a long distance away as far as their vision can allow. Except to the East where the mountain blocks your view. For many this is a town full of ranches and the British settlers. Thats equally true, even locals own big chunks of land and coexist peacefully with wild animals. 

Nanyuki is home to some of the most exotic and expensive hotels in Kenya. One such is Fairmont Hotel where the presidential suite costs 1000USD per night. Thats the point I stop dreaming. Still one can enjoy numerous camping sites and hiking escapades.

I did notice the vehicles too, mostly they are land cruises, Nissan patrols and land rovers. That prepares one for bumpy rides since most roads are all weather roads. One major feature is the British Army barracks and the Kenya Air force base. So army tracks and uniformed men and women are a common site.

Every town has a story of its own and Nanyuki is no exception. The railway line from Nairobi terminates here. That was not the original plan. They say that the engineer who was the custodian of the designs was dating a Samburu lady. They had a big fight and so the lady took the designs which were on paper, this was in the early 1900s and used them to make a fire. That was the end of the project. ….

This town is at the end of the rail. Mwisho wa reli. Beyond it, theres little civilization. So if you wanna follow the tarmar or rail road to the end, this is the direction to take.

The Laikipia killing

The media has gone wild with the current news of the killing of a British ranch owner in Laikipia. Blames run wild on who or what led to the killing. Some say its political, while others believe its due to scacity of resources made worse by the drought thats currently affecting most parts of the country. Still some blame the culture of cattle rustling and the general laxity on the part of the government to provide security.

So we know the problem or problems. What are the mitigation factors that can be employed in order to root out the problem right from its source. 

Maybe we should look at the problems one by one and how they have been delt with before in other places.I am not an expert but will give by opinion from my point of view.

Culturally this pastrolist communities believe that wealth is in livestock, the more you have the more respect you earn and if you do not have alot, then go get some from your neighbour, I mean steal. Another problem is that one cannot get a wife without livestock and the practise for some is part of the Initiation program to manhood.

I once met a youngman from one of these communities who now works as a Dj in a club in Nairobi. He says after circumsion the graduants must carry out a successful cattle raid to complete their initiation.He carried out this with his agemates, they succeeded in getting about 3 thousand cattle, but lost some of his friends during the raid.

He could not live that life anymore, so when he saw a truck full of cattle he got in within the cattle and took the rigourous journey to Nairobi never to practise that cultural activity again. This shows that there are some within the community who would like to get out of that lifestyle. 

Lets consider the Maasai, its common knowledge that Nairobi was their battle ground with the Kikuyus. The battles were mainly due to the need for territory expansion and cattle rusttling. They do not practise that any more. Why? 

They learnt other economical activities that raise wealth and respect other than lifestock. And other assets can be used as dowry.Can the same be done to the nothern communities. Can the government come up with various economic activities that the people can angage in. Why not implement the numerous proposed Irrigation schemes that I personally have been involved in their designs. This design reports for the past five years lie in the offices of National Irrigation Board and Ministry of Agriculture collecting dust on the shelves.

Some of the individuals would love to engage in other activities like farming and they have shown their interest clearly by the support they provide when we visit in order to carry out surveys.By engaging in other activities they stop being on the bull’s-eye of their neighbouring communities.

As a child I read stories of how the Pokots raided Luhyas. It does not happen anymore. And this is because Luhyas concentrate on crop farming and other activities. Problem solved.

Still on the Maasai, how did they stop the culture of killing lions and other wild animals to mark their entry into adulthood. What did the government, NGOs and other community based organizations do to help stop that practise. Can the same be done in Nothern Kenya. My guess would be education. What’s yours.

But what if heinous business people hide behind cattle rustling as a cultural activity when its actually done to boost the banditry economy. I mean what if its done by an organized crime syndicate that provides ammunition and send young men to steal cattle for their slaughter houses. Or encourage the practise by providing a ready market and protection from persecution.

In this case its the government mandate to investigate and ensure that this criminal activity is stopped completely.  

As we raid Laikipia and arrest all that we think were involved in the killing, lets look at the root problem and address it from their. It will do us no good if we cut a few branches that will be replaced by others in no time.  

Greatest  Fear

What is your greatest fear?

While in my final year of college, I remember some of the answers my classmates gave to this question asked in a questioneer by  a friend of mine from the department of social studies for her final year project. Some were simple like not getting a good job or love.

Serah’s greatest fear was having her skeletons unveiled from the closets. Now engaged to be married after graduation into a wealthy and staunch christian family her future looked blissful. We were jealous of her to be truth full. She had found her mister right. And right he was, in all aspects. Well educated and well mannered, wealthy, tall, dark and handsome. She had been all smiles for the past many weeks after her engagement.  But only she knew what lay behind that pretty dimpled smile. 

A great fear that her secret past would come out and become public knowledge. Like the college going lady who had spent her evening with the late honourable John Juma on his last night. For just that twinkle of an eye that the cctv camera caught her face in the same vehicle with JJ. That moment that she’ll live to curse and hate.

How her face had been plastered all over the media for weeks, she was the topic of discussion in all gatherings. I doubt she even had the courage to attend classes with everyone whispering, ” She’s the girl on TV”. And imagine the agony her family and friends were going through, must have been even harder on them. True to the saying, when a madman walks naked, its his kinsmen who feel the shame. 
If only the universe had whispered in her (Serah) ears that her future would be a dream come true. Then she would have lived the past and present with dignity and walked into the future with splendor. Memories are a beautiful land to wonder in, if you do not have to deal with the past. 

Imagine her trying to teach her post-teenage children right and wrong, knowing very well that for her she chose to do the wrong. What if the ghost haunting her all this time comes out then, before her children’s eyes! What a miserable way to live.

If only she had considered the long term consequences of her actions.

If only! If only!

My greatest is dying of HIV/AIDS related complications. That was Mulinge’s greatest fear. Considering his lifestyle for the five years he had spent in college, he had all the reasons to be fearful of that eventuality. Imagine one handsome tall big bodied, athletic Mulinge, in a hospital bed. Frail and thin to the bone, those huge beautiful eyes gorging out of the sockets. And no hope. 

As he looks back at his life, he remembers those moments that were then his pride and joy. The fooling around and having it all.The fun. Maybe the one moment, that one tiny speck of time in the universe that if it was skipped then all this would not even be a fear, but vocabulary not to be mentioned in his life.  

If only at that particular moment he had reconsidered his decision, and turned the other way, all would be well.  Like a movie, if only he had flushed forward and seen what his actions would lead to.

If only! If only!

Then why do we put ourselves in situations and lead our lives  in a way that when we are alone we quietly pray that our fears may not come to be. I mean we’ve  been told time and again that we reap what we sow. Then why do we act then live our lives dreading what will come out of our actions.

Why do we put ourselves in situations that cause us unnecessary anxiety and even lead to disaster?

Why ? Why?

How to get monkeys off your farm.

It was an equally big gathering for such a small village, the team of expertise from Nairobi was having a meeting with the locals to brainstorm on solutions to farming challenges faced in their locality.
The venue was under a huge natural umbrella, I mean a huge acacia tree. I was feeling sleepy maybe due to the favourable conditions-the really cool shed and the lullaby sung by the birds playing on the branches.

This village is called Bur Abor, in Mandera County, the resindents and in extension the clan do not practise FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). Farrah, one of my collegues leans toward me and says, “Most somalis prefer marrying from this community because of that.” 

I had to ask if hes gonna have his girls go through FGM when he himself prefers the opposite. ….he just smiled and looked way.

One farmer stood up, her complain, the monkeys from the neighbouring country Ethiopia that destroy their crops. Neither does fencing or erecting scare-crows help.

There were many suggestions given, but the one worth sharing was ‘mock the monkeys.’

One of the monkeys is to be captured, then dressed as a human in colourful shirt and a pair of shorts. Then released back to go rejoin its pack.

What would be the pack’s reaction, on seeing the dressed up monkey, they’d think its a human chasing after them, and thats when the crazy run would beggin.

The dressed-up monkey would be running back to its family, while the family would be running away from a human. Believe me, until the clothes get worn out or somehow gets off the monkey, the running would continue.

The end result, they would run back into the forest, far away from human settlement, it would take months for them to try coming back. Problem solved.

The Kenya Wildlife Service does not advocate for this method though its them who came up with it in the first place. Reason being that the monkeys migrate to Ethiopia and they loose on their wildlife. Maybe it can be used in extreme cases where the monkey menace cannot be managed otherwise.

Funny as it may be to picture a dressed-up monkey chasing after its family, some may feel its torture. What do you think? Consider the hardworking farmers too. Would you employ this method…? 

Scorpion bite

My date with a scorpion, ,,,,,happenned in Bura, Tana River county.

I was working and staying in Hola, but decided to visit a friend in Bura, a town 50kms away. She was not home when i arrived so I had to wait at the verandah in darkness considering electricity had not been connected in the whole of Bura.

5mins later she arrived. “We have to use the backdoor because the front one is jammed.”She said to me. I carefully walked behind her along the wall. Though she illuminated the path with her touch, i did not bother looking down because i new the path.

In a split second i felt a sharp pain in my toe between the first and second node. ” I have been bitten by something.” I screamed. Francine frantically looked around because her first guess was that it was a snake and if it were knowing what kind, was very important. All we could see were pieces of broken glass, we dismissed it to be a cut. But on close examination of the toe, we did not see any cut or blood.

I panicked, for I had  been told  stories of people who died from snake bites and those who survived had their limps amputated. The pain increased and I could feel a “lump”of pain move from the toe towards the ankle, then toward the knee. It was on my left leg.

Ohh my this must be a snake bite, I became histerical. She inspected my toe and looked at me relaxed. “Its not a snake bite, I cant see the fangs, or the bite marks.” She had seen a snake bite before when it happened to her brother.She was not worried, even a bit, i felt like she was being insensitive.

The pain had moved from the knee making its way up my thighs. Ohh my, when it gets to my heart am gonna surely die. 💀

She called my colleague Sam who came immediately and rushed me to Bura Health Center. No doctors, no nurses, just the night watchman. Numbed by the pain, i didnt notice the kids on the verandah who actually diagonized and treated me later on.

We rushed from one closed small private medical center to the other. Then found ourselves back at the government health center. By that time, the pain had reached up my thigh at the point where it meets the pelvic bone. Had actually openned myself up to check if there was a swelling, because it sure felt like there was. 

We got the doctors numbers from the watchman, one was out of reach the other did not pick the call. Thats all he has.

‘Am gonna die today’ thats all i could think. The kids who were using the security lights (from a generator) to do their homework, came close to see what was happening. 

“Where are you feeling the pain” the talkative one among them asked.

” Around my toe, along a vessel through my leg and thigh, upto the groin area.” I replied. “Does it feel swollen at the groin area?” He asked. “Yes.” I replied.

“Aah, thats a scorpion bite.” They said almost in unison. They were around six of them between 7-12 years of age.

“Will I die.” I asked. “No, but the pain will last till morning.”  One of them  said.

Huuuuu, what a relief, my biggest fear was death, but that was settled. I can deal with the pain, even if its gonna stay for days.

Half a glass of whisky before bed took care of it, and another half at midnight when  I was woken up by the pain. The pain stopped completely the next morning at around 8am had been bitten at around 8pm. 

That was my date with a scorpion that I actually never saw. I have never seen a live one.

I hope it enjoyed the taste of me.

The Poor Millionaires

 

Am sitting by the River Turkwel, Turkana county as i wait for my colleagues to complete the survey of the river. I marvel at the herds men leading their livestock across the river in search of pasture on the other side.

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Their way of clothing catches my attention. A long worn out shirt stretching down to their thighs for some there’s nothing beneath, while others have shukas tied around their waist or shoulders.

Am not talking about the many who have  embraced civilization and thus dress as civilized men and women ,, no. am talking about the ones who’ve decided that the old ways are the best ways and continue in it like mzungu never landed on our continent. The locals call them Raia.

As they pass along carrying their G3 rifles one comes toward me and shamelessly asks me to give him 100 shillings. “Okay lad, I’ll give if you give me one goat kid in return” I tell him. He walks away quietly, annoyed  wondering just how selfish i am.140

I am a generous person, but how can i give my money to a millionaire. Look at the huge number of livestock  that he has. I mean one camel goes for  at least 70 thousand shillings and he has like 100 of them, don’t even count the cattle, goats and sheep. I wish he new just how rich he is.

My poor millionaires.