Books, Dreams and Teachers.

My name is Akinyi am a banker with the biggest bank in Kenya by asset and branch network. Growing up I didn’t even know what banks were and the only time I heard about accounts was during our Business Education class.I guess I just told you my age as well with that info . I’ll have you know that the first time I held a cheque was when I was joining the University.

Before we talk matters higher learning I want to tell you about how we grew back then. In that time life was pretty simple, boys could dream of becoming anything they wanted but girls had their options narrowed down, you either became a secretary, a nurse, a tailor or a teacher. It was however hoped that you’ll marry into a good family with a husband to cater for all your needs. Career ambitions were therefore not of concern to the parents nor a question in a girl’s mind.

I have always loved to read, not the intellectual kind of reading, reading storybooks and novels. It didn’t matter whether it was just my sister’s English textbook or a borrowed storybook from a classmate, all that I cared about is I had something to read. And it is here I developed an inkling of what it was for a girl or a woman to have a job, even though it meant changing my mind with every book. At some point I really wanted to be an air hostess, what with all the travelling and sight seeing associated with it. But alas, I would change my mind. In my upper primary and early years in high school I thought I could become a sleuth like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, catching the bad guys. But this too didn’t last that long. 

By the time I was in form three I had narrowed down my ambition to either being a lawyer or a psychiatrist. The former was because I thought I could help argue out cases of the innocent who suffered for lack of representation and knowledge of the law. I also thought psychiatry was pretty cool, getting to know people’s thoughts and using hypnosis intrigued me. 

Several things would discourage me in my ambitious career goals. The first one was my teacher who told me that it was bad enough that I was bright, learning law would keep boys away from me and end up alone, how disturbing. Apparently men don’t like intelligent women who can challenge them, or so it was at the time. The other factor was my role model. Damaris had been the best pupil in my primary school and had gone through the same high school I was in. In my opinion Damaris was most intelligent and worked hard to keep her grades high.What did Damaris after high school? She joined the local polytechnic to pursue pharmacy. It was a big deal because we all know pharmacy isn’t for the faint hearted, but this to me meant that the best I could do is work hard as Damaris to join the polytechnic. Sigh. When sciences are not your strongholds you know things are thick, especially since they are the obvious combination. My other problem was finances, I kept asking myself who was going to cater for the college fees if at all my parents could not afford my high school fees.

In our fourth year our headmistress, now a Doctor having pursued higher learning, called some of the students into her office. You can not begin to imagine the kind of scary thoughts that were going through my mind. She was not the kind to ask you about the weather or upcoming music festival, which we were good in. No, it was always serious business.

So she went round everyone asking what marks you got to be admitted to her high school and what were you hoping to achieve in the national exams. My goal according to her was nonsensical and she challenged us to higher grades saying she had very high expectations of us. She believed we had it in us to break the school performance record. She organized for mentoring talks for us, from other teachers and mentors in other fields. She told us not to think of our unpaid fees, but focus on getting the prize because we might be lucky to get  scholarships or sponsorship if we got admission to the university. Those of us who could not afford the application fees for the university but were deemed potential material had the fee paid for by the school.

The following year when the results came out I was among the best students in the region with my name in the newspaper. I was in awe, I couldn’t believe I was a step closer to achieving my career ambitions. It was the last minute challenge that did it.

Last year I inherited responsibility of a young man named Amin who was a student in one of the national secondary schools. Amin is a bright student but from a needy background and this is why the bank had offered him and many others across the nation scholarships. For the last one year he had posting dismal performances and it was heartbreaking for me. Knowing that his whole family was looking up to him to move them to the next level I took up the challenge of mentoring him. I remember telling Amin that this was the final lap of a Marathon and he had to finish strong like our marathoners. We strategised on amalgamating his strengths while building on his opportunities in areas he could easily improve on.

To cut the long story short, Amin came to the branch to announce a strong Matiang’i B+, this was great news considering how poorly schools had performed. A Matiang’i C+  is no mean feat good people and all this done through determination and keeping your eyes on the goal.

Who do they say I am?

The other day I went to  condole with my friend who had lost her brother, may his soul find eternal peace . Now as funerals go  you are bound to meet people you know but have not seen in years. So this lady walks in and people greet her, when she turns I recognise her and I greet her as well. Then I jokingly ask her why she’s dragging herself like an old woman

“Do you know her?” A man asks. I actually found this guy here and I had noticed how he and his friends had already done a double take of me. 

” Yes. I know Vera. We schooled together.” I tell him.

He’s now smiling disbelief over his face. I ask Vera to confirm what am saying and she goes ahead and clarifies that I was a year ahead. The guy moves closer so he can ascertain that am really as old as Vera and if it’s true I grew in Mombasa. In her defense Vera did state she’s expectant hence the dragging while for myself I blame the skinny bitch syndrome (SBS). SBS has it’s advantages good people because this guy has now gained mileage and every man coming in has to shout his name to acknowledge his new acquitance.
This reminds me of a young girl I met as I started my journey into banking. As was the norm new staff were introduced by the Manager Operations in a morning brief. She was dressed in an exquisite skirt suit and with an attitude to boot. She spoke well and exuded lots of confidence, but alas she had the SBS and thus was marked. My friend Jazz and I presumed her to be from some posh family and definitely a city girl(Nairobian). Until she approached us for some business idea and we ended up being housies for two years. In the two years I realised that we had so much in common and that she had grown in Mombasa like myself.

Am in the office and a colleague calls me to salimia bibi. Bibi is a Swahili word that may also be used to refer to grandmother.  Apparently Nyanya Elina had a stroke, I don’t know this info didn’t get to me, and has been using clutches to walk. She’s so happy to see me and  goes into the full swing African style greetings. 

“Umpendaye hajambo?” She asks about my person. And I tell her he’s fine to end that line of conversation.

“Ni wa wapi?” She continues to my disappointment. I tell her that my person is from my tribe, and now her curiosity has been piqued. She wants to know my tribe and is surprised to learn am a luo. All these years that I have been serving her it’s been her belief that am of coastal descent.

As I reflect on all this I realise it’s all about attitude and presentation. You make a conscious or subconscious decision on how you want people to perceive you. In marketing it’s called placement and branding. What place are you occupying in people’s mind? What do they think of you? Have you taken deliberate measures to enforce those thoughts. Am in constant pursuit of redefining my brand and matching it to my audience. In presenting myself as a outsider in certain circumstances am able to learn people and their expectations. At the same time I know how to adjust to gain trust from customers like Nyanya Elina. It’s said that a person will have created a perception of you in the first seven seconds when they meet you and t What do they say about you?

Tips on Bank Accounts

Saving account, current acaccount transactional account, bundled account, privilege account. All these words being thrown at you at the bank when all you want is to open an account can be to say the least daunting unless of course you are a banker or have studied business related courses. 

Basically all these accounts can be divided into, savings and current accounts. Both types of accounts may serve the same purpose with the only difference being that one, the current account, will usually have a cheque book. Another distinction is in the way the accounts are run, for a savings account any payments to a third party will be done through the owner of the account by either going to the bank or accessing alternative channels at his cost. On the other hand a current account holder will issue a cheque book to a supplier, creditor or vendor and the payment will be done at no cost when the cheque clears.

So let’s talk savings accounts first. Saving accounts may be clustered into two major categories, transactional and bundled. Transactional accounts include salary accounts, children accounts, student accounts, group accounts etc. Why are they called transactional? The account holder is at liberty to withdraw and make deposits as many times as he wishes. In fact the bank will ensure they issue you with a debit card and also register you for mobile banking. The billing on transactional accounts are based on transactions, the more you transact the more the charges. Bundled saving accounts on the hand have limitations on the number of withdrawals you can make in a year and at the same will deny you operating tools. This account in most banks, if not all, attracts no ledger fees and no withdrawal charges. Most banks peg the withdrawals at once per quarter while about two or three allow for semi annual withdrawals. Just to get a glimpse of what am talking about I’ll give examples,Haba na Haba- Co-operative Bank, Simba-KCB Bank and Akiba-National Bank. There is of course a new tackle that has been used by one major bank to lock the account for one’s period of choice to reach a certain target then unlock. Bundled saving accounts have an advantage of earning an interest, based on monthly balances and compounded, and the interest credited or paid into the account at the end of the calendar year. At the moment, as a result of the interest capping  act upon the amendment of The Banking Act in 2016, banks peg the interest on the CBK rate and it currently stands at 7%(as at 24th July 2017). The bundled saving accounts are tagged to attract serious savers who can self instill the discipline of not withdrawing cash every now and again. If you flout this limitation then two things are bound to happen, you forfeit the interest for that period and or may have your account converted to a transactional account automatically.

Moving on swiftly to the big leagues, current accounts. These too are categorized into transactional and bundled current accounts. Like the transactional saving account, the transactional current accounts attracts a ledger fee and billing per single transaction. Current accounts are run using a cheque book, which the banks will charge you for. There is a punitive charge for not using your cheque leaf to transact, counter cheque charges. The cheque book allows you to avoid unnecessary withdrawal charges by issuing cheques to your creditors. In fact you can even issue a post dated cheque for payments to be made in the future. Bundled current accounts have a fixed bundle charge with different offers depending on your need.  You may get free withdrawals over the counter, free ATM withdrawals, all at a fee or even express services. For an account that is busy, bundled current accounts are ideal so as not to attract cash handling fees and to cut on the transactional costs. While current accounts are ideal for companies they can also be used by individuals. Not all current accounts may allow for access to debit cards and digital banking depending on the signing mandate of the account.

 It is paramount that you ask for these details so as to make comparisons to make a favorable choice.  Let’s meets on the next post as we simplify banking. 

Akinyi, the Banker.

Challenges of rural schooling 

Whether a house will weather the test of time and tides depends solely on the foundation on which it is built and the materials used.  If built on sinking sand then surely the house is bound to be swept away by strong winds and storms.  On the other hand the one built on solid rock shall stand firm. 

This is the same for education, we must get it right from the onset. The Swahili have a saying, “Mkunje samaki angali mbichi” which loosely translates to bend the fish whiles it’s raw or fresh. Once the fish has been dried or cooked, bending it will result to the fish splitting. It’s paramount therefore that we provide the right tools for children at the primary level and more so the lower primary level. 

Doctors will tell you that they can not treat a patient without a diagnosis we therefore need to interrogate why education in rural Kenya is still not at par with the standards in urban areas. The issue is important because an estimated 70% of the Kenyan population is said to be found in rural Kenya. If the national exam results are anything to go by, then the dismal performance attained by the rural schools in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations shows there is a discrepancy that needs attention. The following are areas of concern that if looked into may turn around the performance in rural Kenya:

  1. Lack of teachers:- In comparison to schools in town rural seem to have less teachers in terms of student to teacher ratio. It is unfortunate that most teachers turn down appointments to go work in rural schools and instead want to stay in the urban area. It is even more disappointing that even those that have grown in these very areas deem their homes as primitive and would rather work elsewhere.
  2. Shortage of books:- Schools in the rural area have inadequate supply of books and as such end up sharing a book amongst up to 5 pupils if they are lucky. The teachers here depend solely on the books provided by the school and similarly the pupils as well. There are no libraries whatsoever for these pupils to borrow reading books from leaving them at the mercy of the few copies at their disposal in school to show. On the other hand pupils in towns are spoilt for choice with at least three text books per subject to refer to.
  3. Scarcity of schools:- In comparison to towns and urban areas schools upcountry or rural areas are far apart and children have to trek long distances in search of education. This may prove discouraging to the pupils.
  4. Literacy levels:-  Most of the adult population here are either illiterate or semi-literate and are not in a position to coach or aid their children with their school work. Since the children do not have text books they have to wait for the next day so their teachers can help them with the difficult homework.
  5. Environment:-  The few schools available sometimes do not provide a conducive learning environment. It is not uncommon to find children learning under a tree even in this year and age, or in a poorly thatched classroom. Where the classes have shades children end up sitting on a dusty ground and strain to fit in the over populated class. Their counterparts enjoy learning in well ventilated classes with the convenience of a desk and a chair.
  6. Age:-  Children upcountry start going to school at a later age than those in town do. While a city child may be exposed to learning even as early as the the age of three, in a rural setting a child may start schooling at the age of seven years making it difficult to teach him.
  7. Culture:- Early marriages is a way of life  to many in the rural areas. This discourages concentration in education.

    These are some and not all of the major challenges that education faces in rural Kenya. To improve the education level the community may consider working closely with the government, non governmental organizations and the schools themselves to boost education levels. How then can we mitigate the above mentioned challenge? Well wallowing in thought and self pity will not take us anywhere. We must take deliberate steps to:

    • Come up with a  community Library. This can be achieved by reaching out to well wishers who could be friends, colleagues or corporates to donate both new and used books to be used by the children at a central location. I am glad Rose of Ihopee.org is already doing it by sourcing for book donations from the diaspora.
    • With the devolved government it is paramount that we demand our leaders lead by action rather than by giving hand outs during the campaign season. Let them be on the forefront to legislate laws that will favor schools in rural areas like ensuring textbooks are availed to public schools.
    • Early Childhood Development Education should be made free and mandatory to encourage learning at an early age. The government should consider subsidising and employing pre primary teachers.
    • Teachers posted in hardship areas should receive incentives like hardship allowance to encourage the uptake of these posts.
    • Free meals programme is another source of motivation for both parents and children to attend school. Keeping in mind how far off the schools are from homes it may be difficult for children to go for lunch and be back for afternoon classes. At the same time if the children come from poor backgrounds this could be the only meal they have for the day.
    • Mentorship refers to alumnis going to holding hands of students of their former schools to academic excellence. In Kwale county KWEA does mentoring for secondary schools.

    In every way and every day I try to make the world a better place. In case you need to donate or reach out to either of the above contacts email me at andiegos12@gmail.com. You can also check out https://www.facebook.com/donate/10213496786717994/ to make a donation.

    Where to stay in Mombasa. 

    Have you recently relocated to Mombasa?  Visiting , transferred on business or employment? Relocating to any town is always challenging and overwhelming especially if you have no friends nor  referral to your new destination. Having to learn new cultures and pick up new norms. If there’s one thing I have  never enjoyed is house hunting, worse still doing it in a town I know nothing about. This is why I thought I should help you around Mombasa, my county,  my town.

     The first and most important issue  for you will be to find accommodation. If you are lucky your employer will have made arrangements for you otherwise you have work to do.  Assuming you don’t have a friend in Mombasa,  you might consider checking out short term accommodations like apartments or villas. For apartments you have a wide choice of furnished,  semi-furnished or unfurnished. This gives you flexibility as you decide on whether to transport your furnishings to the new home or buy new ones. At the same time if you are not fully decided on whether to take up the transfer the apartment idea is ideal. 

    Now let’s get down to the business of getting us acquainted to your new town that you will soon be calling home. You need to decide what you are looking for in terms of location, budget and size.  Location is a wide parameter that covers proximity to your workplace, social amenities, neighborhood environment and of course security. You need to think on how much you are willing to spend on your rent even before you start checking out houses so as to narrow down on the search. Are you looking for a bed sitter,  servant’s quarters,  a one bedroom, bungalow or mansion?  Once you know whether you are looking at staying in a flat, estate or not then now we can start looking. Last but most important is the security of the area you want to move in.  You need to find out whether you will be able to stay out late or operate indoors. 

    So Mombasa is predominantly divided into, what, actually there’s no clear dermacations so am going to try and figure it out along the way. The indigenous and original housing in this town are the Swahili houses,  which are basically just single rooms with the tenants sharing amenities like a common kitchen,  toilet, bathroom and clothesline. These will be the cheapest of houses around, some have both electricity and water while some will lack either.  These houses are found across the town, from the Island, Mainland, Bamburi and all the way across the ferry. While they were the majority in Majengo area in the 70s and 80s this has changed drastically with the advent of Somalis buy outs and developing apartments all over this area.  

    If you are from Nairobi then it’s going to be a bit difficult finding a good choice for you.  Unlike where you are coming from we don’t have organised estates or flats for you to chose from. If you are not on a budget and looking for a great place to stay then you need to consider Tudor,  Kizingo or Nyali areas.  Tudor and Kizingo are in the island which means accessibility and convenience are guaranteed. While Kizingo is purely upmarket, Tudor is a mix of everything. So whether you are a wannabe or are with it you can fit in.  The great thing about Tudor is that transport is available round the clock and the matatus ply both Docks and Ferry. Security in Tudor is really one of the best. Kizingo’s appeal lies in it’s serenity, it’s within town yet very quiet. You can walk to work if you are based in the CBD. If you intend to stay out late then taxis and tuktuks are at your disposal. 

    If you are on a limited budget like most of us you might want to consider the other parts of this beautiful county. Mainland area has great housing and it’s only about 10 minutes from town and has a lot of people who’ve relocated from other towns.  The flip side of staying on on this end is the makupa causeway and in particular Kibarani area which experiences major traffic jams which leads to the journey to or from town taking upto more than an hour. Well hopefully all this will be a thing of the past with the newly launched SGR (still waiting to experience this new baby). 

    If you are looking to move into a house on an affordable budget but with great finishing then Mombasa/Malindi road is your route.  You can chose to stay in Nyali West(also known as Mshomoroni), Leisure, Bamburi Mtambo or Kisauni. If you fancy night life,  security and convenience I would advise you stay in Leisure or VOK area since in terms of transport you’ll be spoilt for choice. The population here is highly cosmopolitan, transport available throughout, housing has great finishing and still affordable, you can enjoy night life by either going to town or heading to other joints that are less than ten minutes away. 

    Bamburi Mtambo has a few semi organised estates like Vescon I&II, Baraka, Lakeview and others. Night life is happening at this place like it does in Nairobi so you might like the place. Population is still cosmopolitan and bodabodas available at night as well. Transport during peak hours on this route is terrible because most matatus chose not to go to town to avoid traffic. You might therefore have to spend more in the morning in terms of money and time on connectivity. 

    I once stayed in Bamburi,  a place called Mlaleo, less than five minutes from Nyali bridge. The security then was whack to say the least. I remember when I moved in to the neighborhood, being a social media addict I’d always have my phone on my hand. And at all times I would get warnings to keep my phone safe otherwise it would be snatched.  There are a lot of junkies around here who are jobless therefore keeping tabs at careless passerbys to steal from. In fact some even trespass like another one who tried to steal my neighbors carpet from the lines.  I stayed there because the rent was affordable for a three bedroom, water and electricity supply were consistent.  The other reason I stayed was convenience. I had two options when commuting,  to either ply Bamburi route or use the Mombasa/Malindi road which has Mtwapa, Bombolulu and Mtambo matatus. At the same time it was a walking distance to the market, and if push came to shove it’s a place I could walk myself to town from.

    Am currently staying in a place we foresee to be a future slum. At least that’s how my silly neighbors and I see it, though there are people who are going to be offended by this sentiment. It’s in Kiembeni, has a fancy name,  Swaminarayan  Estate, but for convenience Mombasa style it’s called Blue Estate since the roofing of the estate is all blue.  This is one of the fewest well organised estates in Mombasa with the original plan being that of a gated community. It consists of two-bedrooms and  three-bedrooms bungalows that are occupied by the owners or tenants. We are talking about hundreds of houses that are similar in size and color.  Why am I staying here you wonder? Location. The place is quiet in a good way.  It’s far away from the bustle and hustle of the city,  it’s secure with a police post just a few minutes away and the compound is ideal for raising children. Rent here is equally affordable, water and electricity supply is assured.  Transport is not a problem since we have a lot of buses plying this route with the only challenge being traffic and heavy rains that renders some parts impassable. If you stay out late or work night shift then this may pose a challenge as there are no matatus at night. You’ll need reputable taxi services or use bodabodas as some taxi do not encountering the local police. 

    I hope to hear from you in terms of where you stay and your recommendations. I also hope that you find this useful in your decision making.

    World environment day: Connecting People to Nature

    Every year,  the world sets aside 5th June as a day to celebrate the environment.  This year, the celebrations are set to take place in Canada under the flagship of the UN which is the organization that first came up with the concern in 1974 to create awareness for the environment we live in.  The theme for 2017 is what I have titled my post, “Connecting People to Nature. “

    In the more than five years that I have been employed by the bank, we have been planting trees in every county or more seeing as we have almost 200 branches in Kenya. This was until 2015 when the bank changed it’s strategy and now sponsors trees in one of the major forests in Kenya.  This means that joy riders like me need to now find my own initiative of taking care of the environment probably at my own cost and time. 

    A simple question begs, what do you do for the environment? Is there something you can do as an individual. Coveted and award winning environmentalist, the late Wangari Mathaai, through the hummingbird tale emphasises that you should do what you can in your own way to save the environment. We should not wait for NGOs,  CBOs, UNEP or our employers to do something for the environment. 

    As a country and a county we have been feeling the impact of climate change. The last three years have seen unprecedented heavy rains,  heat wave and drought. Every now and again we hear the terms El Nino and Lanina being used by meteorologists forecasting weather patterns. These natural phenomenons are heavily impacted by our day to day actions. 

    Let’s first take a moment to applaud the government of Kenya for gazetting the ban of polythene bags through the Cabinet Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. What this in essence means is that you and I will have to find alternative environment friendly ways to carry our groceries. This may include and not limited to traditional bags like the ciondo(kiondo from the akamba), adita(from the Luos) ,kikapu(from the Swahili) or modern paper bags or fabric bags.  Already bigwig supermarket chains like Nakumatt have adopted the ban even though theirs is a story for another day. 

    Look for instance at our county. For close to four years there were continuous road closures,  diversions and constructions to improve the roads and drainage. In 2016 the national government even budgeted for El Nino that was expected to cause major havoc to areas that were prone to this phenomenon, Mombasa was among them. Drainage were built but because there was no El Nino the improvements were not done. Now about the drainage, has it done us any good?  Better still have we benefitted from an  improved drainage system on our roads? 

    So there’s a memo from my team leader that we should dress in green in support of going green. (sort of literally huh). Not to disrespect this idea but I find myself thinking is this what world environment day means to me?  Just dressing in green? So if I dress in green year in year out am I saving the environment in anyway? 

    While I was still working on that I look out of the matatu window. What I see spurs me to action,  to write this post. If I can influence at least one person to change their behavior for the environment I will have done my good deed for mother earth and my great grandchildren. We in this beautiful coastal town of Mombasa have a habit dumping litter everywhere without much thought. The littering doesn’t spare our newly acquired drainage system. Residents effortless use the paths as bins without a care in the world.  It is said that at the rate at which we are polluting the ocean we might not have any fish by the year 2050.

    So we need to stop throwing those water bottles and polythene bags everywhere. In fact somebody tell Governor Joho to legislate punitive action on public littering. Instead of dressing in green, corporates should instead donate public bins to the counties to cut down on dumping.
    I have planted my tree, am carrying my litter home or until I can see a bin. Today I chose to help change someone’s perspective, to educate one person get rid of his ignorance. 
    If we do take care  of our environment it will take care of us. It is true that whatever you throw to the universe it throws back at you. Garbage in garbage out. Change starts with me.

     #GoGreen #Iamwithnature

    Cheers to Getting Married!!!

    Marriage. A beginning that starts with the end. Especially in fairy tales where the story always ends when the charming prince marries the enchanting beautiful princess. In real life, a couple receives a marriage certificate for a life they know nothing of nor have experience in.  They are therefore receiving a certificate into a new life, graduating from the old,  and into a fresh start. Tying the knot, means cutting off some singly habits and dropping old friends. 

    This year seems to be a blessed year that has seen and is still seeing several people in my phone book start a new life.  First it was my school mate,  my boss in my crazy world, we call her CEO Nusrat, at FMI(Fulrat Mental Institute)  at a non existent organization of course. After a long wait,  the good Lord did shine His eyes upon her,  and the time was right,  she tied the knot to Mr. Lathief (not his real name). I haven’t met him but going but what he’s been able to achieve so far I like him already. This is exactly what marriage is supposed to do to a person, at least in my world. Mrs. Lathief has taken  a long overdue sabbatical from social media where she would usually bombard us with 100 plus status updates and if you ignored her you would just be tagged randomly on a post. 

    I remember telling her sometimes back that this would surely come to pass.  What I liked about it is her maturity at handling her marriage, she has managed to keep things under wraps.  Keeping all of us in the dark, not knowing where they have gone for their honeymoon and all.  I sure do pray that Allah does bless her marriage and as she observes her first Ramadhan fast in marriage may  it bring nothing but joy. 

    Then they pulled the rug under my feet, and the skies darkened, a show of an imminent storm. Today I learnt that a dear friend got married, the other day,  not in secret but silently. I was taken aback, but quickly took stock of reality.  How many times have I wanted to somebody something and didn’t tell them until it was all over on social media? A wedding isn’t just anything, it takes your whole being to organize and arrange. At the same time your life doesn’t stop as you organise for it,  you still have to go to work, pay your bills etc.  So I guess it might skip your mind to share this important information with friends. 

    Today I am sad and happy at the same time. Like I said marriage is a beginning with an end.  SandDaddy is married, like in a proper wedding and all and I just got to learn about it. It is a sad day for me because I have lost a friend, a confidant and my coparent to Sandbaby.  He’s not Sandbaby’s real father and we have never dated but he’s been there for me from the time my daughter was born.  There’s no milestone he hasn’t been aware of,  no complications he didn’t get consulted on,  my 911 at all times. I have lost him because I can’t monopolise him anymore, he belongs to his wife and I should respect that as a friend.  I would expect that from him as well whether in marriage or just a serious relationship. It’s important to give each other space for the new relationship to thrive. I sort of understand now why Grace Msalame,  yes the media personality, let her daughters be flower girls in her ex boyfriend’s wedding.  It is unfortunate that SandDaddy did not think to at least inform a single soul at FMI denying us a chance to spoil him. We would have bullied the CEO to waylay one of the ships from Mexico to deliver maize for your wedding or better still I would have made sure she pays for your honeymoon at a place of your choice, by overdosing you on weed. At least I have put a smile on your face 😉 Losing a friend to marriage is totally worth it and acceptable. 

    I wish you nothing but the best in your new life and may your marriage be a blessing to you and your family. It is said that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and may it be so for you. 

    I know there are several weddings coming up,  even in my absence know that I wish you the best always. And always acknowledge God and seek Him and all shall be well. 

    Cheers to weddings and a good life!! 

    Maids! What you learn when you don’t have one. 

    So sometime last year in a moment of cocktails thoughts or emotions,  when you are feeling all caring,  sympathetic and responsible, my big mouth offered to pay fees for one of my siblings. I told my mum that I was willing to take her back to college so she could at least have a proper paper for her tarmacking pursuits. I really don’t know what had come into me. All I know is that I believe in an education it doesn’t matter the level or in what but there’s something you learn in college that empowers you.  This is exactly why I sent one of my former househelps/maid for computer classes even though she dropped out in class eight. 

    So back to my miss for the year 2016. So I bring in little sister, get a college, a great college at that. Then after paying all the fees for her,  my daughter and my other sibling it hit me I can not afford to keep a house help.  So for the first time since Sandbaby came into my life I embark on a life without a house help.  So just so you get why this is a big deal, let me break down the situation. Am a working mother and my daughter was in kindergarten 3. Fortunately, Sandbaby stays in school the whole day and is dropped home at 4.30pm. Anyhow the following is what I have learnt this far: 

    1. House chores are doable. My one reason for always employing a helper is house chores.  Doing dishes,  laundry , mopping and dusting of the house,  and cooking. I’d wake up at about 5.00am so I can avoid Sandbaby, who will still wake up a few minutes later,  make breakfast and warm water for her bath. As she takes her breakfast I bathe,  we dress up and we leave for the day.  In the evening, I hurried  home to make supper, set it up for Sandbaby then head to the bathroom to do my laundry. Laundry is done twice in the week since I don’t like doing bulk laundry. For the meals, I’d  prepare most of our meals on Saturdays, that’s boil the pulses,  make the stews and the vegetables and freeze them making my evenings easy.
    2.  Shopping lasts longer. This I must say is the biggest lesson of them all.  This year I got lured into getting a househelp again, yes the devil is a liar like that.  Things I couldn’t understand is for a kg of detergent that we use for two weeks, my house help uses in four days,  half a litre of oil doesn’t last a week. And many other things like dish washing liquid, corn flour, Jik,  scouring powder, rice and everything else. The most tragic of them is gas,  I don’t know what they do with it or how they use it but they sure know how to have it run out faster. 
    3.  My food tastes perfect.  I know this sounds vain but it’s the truth. The girls that I have previously employed will always put too much salt or oil in the stews. No more what tactic you use they’ll always find a way of sneaking in beef cubes,  curry powder or the wrong herb into food. I like my food simple, no complications. I like to savor the taste and flavor of what am eating.  Spices should enhance the taste of food not disguise it just like makeup should enhance your  features.  Less is more isn’t a niche my people unless you are making pilau.  Overcooked vegetables seem to be a favorite for these girls. Once in a while you get a girl that actually listens to your instructions and food comes out just as you had envisioned. P. S  I prefer to make mince meat and chapatis myself, I don’t need disappointments on these two. 
    4. It’s economical. Not having a maid means you are saving what you would otherwise be paying the help.  Plus considering how thrifty they are with everything in the house when you can clearly stretch the usage,  you really are saving some coins, or thousands if you want to be particular about it.  
    5. Maids and siblings don’t mix. Yes, this is a no-no affair, liking mixing water and oil.  There is this friend of mine who’s expecting and in readiness for the baby she’s decided to get a maid.  So far in less than six months and no baby yet,  she’s had two maids. She was complaining about her siblings, brother and sisters, coming to her place and disrespecting the help and also just disorganising things. I don’t know why this problem always crops up,  either it’s a show of power or fear of losing attention.
    6.  You can’t live without a maid.  I know after all the fabulous points I have given above you’d think I am supermom as my friends call me.  But nay,  I love having a maid for the simple reason that I don’t like house chores that I have to do.  I want to make the choice to do them when I want.  I need to know that there’s somebody accountable for the house duties, and my home can remain my place of rest. Having a house help allows you to have a social life after work,  because otherwise you need to be on the run to prepare dinner or do laundry and take care of the little child.  

      So for me anytime I don’t have a help I am simply taking a break not quitting on them completely. If you are in a financial crunch it would be a good idea to take a break as well.  I wish we had babysitters in Kenya, then I would actually quit having house helps. Because for me my biggest challenge is someone to take care of Sandbaby after school and before I get home,  about a two hour time lapse. I hope one of the people reading will grab this business gap and start a baby sitting business. 

      Aside

      For you

      Every day I rise up,

      I fall,  dust myself and stand up,

      Every number that I call up,

      It’s for you.

      Many times I make mistakes,

      Most times I don’t bring steaks,

      But am placing my stakes,

      Just for you.

      Every penny I make,

      Every hustle I take,

      Every investment I take,

      Is for you.

      Every dream I have,

      Every memory I save,

      Every time I leave,

      Is for you.

      I keep thinking of how to make things work so that you can get the best out of life. Sure,  I have made my fair share of losses,  in trying out new ventures.  I won’t stop because I don’t like saying no to you, even though I may seem to have made a habit of it.   Just as I experiment with recipes to churn excellent meals for you I am going to try lots of ideas until I find what works for us.

      Just because I sometimes delay to come home and or get you what you want doesn’t mean I love you less,  it just means am working around a perfect plan.  Right now it doesn’t make sense and even if it does it still doesn’t change how you view things. I only have you to cater for, it’s my obligation,my responsibility, your right and my pleasure.  Fortunately, I am confident of your love for me and this is why I continue to strive for the  best for you always.

      Happy Mother’s Day!

      Dear Mama,  

          I really do hope this finds you well mother. I was going to assume this day away until you called me to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day!”. I should have known you wouldn’t forget to call your daughters on this day as you have always done since we grew into mothers ourselves.

      I cherish every moment you would write us letters as children. Way before there mobile phones. Your letters were always filled with love and encouragement. Asking us to take care of ourselves and our father,  work hard in school and also keep house. 

      I hope to be growing into someone like you with time. Caring more about others than you do  about yourself. Everytime I ask you how you are doing you say you are fine, even though your body is letting you down.  Your foot ache keeps recurring and you won’t mention anything about it unless I ask. Even then you’ll only downplay the pain you feel convincing me how it’s a small matter. You tell me you were sick after you get better.   It’s because I know you,  that’s why I know you are worried about how worried I will be if I know the truth. Unfortunately, I have inherited this motherly behavior, and always try not to worry you about me. 

      How do you manage all of us?Like do you love us the same? I have only one child, Sandbaby, and she overwhelms me like literally. Everytime I  think of spending a whole week off duty alone with her in the house I get a panic attack. This is why am surprised that you used to manage disciplining and keeping seven children in check. Of course the other two came at a time we were grown up and so we probably helped. I can’t remember you taking anyone’s side, it’s like you’ve always loved us the same. This makes me wonder if it is humanly possible, or you used to fight yourself not to have a favorite. 

      How are you? Like really really how are you?  After losing dad,  how do you manage living alone.  It worries me that you have to stay in that unfenced ‘boma'(homestead) all alone with no one to count on.  Whom do you share your low moments with, your fears,  your inner feelings, hopes,  disappointments?Who? Yet you still get to worry about other people’s state of mind and emotions.  Going to console widows,  orphans and mothers who’ve lost their children. 

      How can you be so forgiving of people? I can’t over the fact that you are so nice to your in-laws who were never there at all your moments of need.  No one was there when dad was sick and had to stay home for months.  Worse still none of them stood by you in his sickness during his final journey. Yet you worry that they’ll sleep hungry, their children lacking clothes. You still sacrifice the little you leave to buy medication for the sick. How big is your heart Mama?

      I really do miss your massages,  your cooking especially omena and that special porridge. Like right now in this rain I always feel like making porridge but knowing how it will turn out I put off the idea. 

      Happy Mother’s Day Mama because I wouldn’t ask for a better mum. 

      Your loving daughter, 

      Sandlady.