Sunday, 15 May 2011


Bring on the trumpets, release the birds, unleash the painted elephants, bring forth the one thousand dancing girls for we have moved virtual spaces. And by we I mean I. I've stabbed blogspot in the back and defected to wordpress. I've been told wordpress is a much better platform for serious writers. And I'm trying to be a serious writer. So, viola. However, I'm not really enjoying wordpress that much. You know, having a scarily simplistic mind and all. So I may just move back. That's if blogspot will have me back. These kind of relationships are tricky.

Anyway, for now I'm at this address -

Do visit and let me know if you prefer that to this. Thanks.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Blood and bullets. Bread and butter.

It’s sad to think that we live in a world where there are men whose only problem is dealing with a morning erection and a bladder full of fermenting piss and women whose only problem is the cold throne of a morning toilet seat.

On Sunday night we had an attempted break in at my house. At 1am, I hear scrambling on the roof of the house and, with an old Maasai knife in hand, I cautiously explored a little bit. The sounds wouldn’t stop like they usually do when there are rats running around in the ceiling and the thuds were pretty heavy. So I straight away called my neighbour to check out the house from the vantage point of his second floor bedroom which overlooks our roof. Ten minutes later I get a call back saying that he couldn’t see anyone on the roof but not to go outside because another neighbour had seen two people at the gate and he said they were fooling around with the lock and trying to get in.

It’s about then that my Maasai knife starts to look pretty obsolete in my hand. I mean, it’s not like I’m a ninja. Neither can I dodge bullets Matrix-style if the situation came to shots being fired. And despite popular belief, I’m not actually capable of bouncing bullets off my chest. I know, I’m sorry to break your preconceptions of my immortality and ruin the image of my perfection in your minds. The best I could probably do is run away wailing and screaming and find a nice, sturdy table to hide under. Forever. Anyway, the point is, if they had guns then God and the Devil would probably be fiercely arguing right about now on who gets to keep my soul and torture it for all eternity. Because I’m popular like that.

So my friend calls the cops and he’s pretty influential with the cops who foot patrol our area which means they were surprisingly quick in their arrival. Quick is a relative term. The African “quick” means “painfully, snail-fully, anger inducingly slow” anywhere else in the world. Upon their arrival, they assume control of the situation. Not that there was a situation to control anymore seeing as the thieves had run away by now, probably because they sensed the latent superhuman in me slowly surfacing. And when I say assume control, I mean that they say “let’s sit in the car and patrol the area”. So we did. They came without a car, inevitably, so we took my neighbours car around the area. It’s about 3am now and every time the cops see some people walking on the street they say it’s the thieves. Which is ridiculous. Anyway, we didn’t find anyone so we went back home to sleep the sleep of the uneasy. Every sound after that was accentuated by paranoia.

I started thinking about things after that. I was angry. My mind was boiling with brain bubbles of red rage telling me how dare these thieves try break into our house? Who do they think they are to walk in here and try taking the things that don’t belong to them and put our lives in danger? Then as the rage cooled and whats-as-close-to-my-level-headedness prevailed, I started seeing things in a different light. Perhaps these thugs were left with no choice in life but to rob people to put food on the table for their hungry kids. Maybe they once used to be honest, hardworking and honourable men who were put in the worst of situations. Maybe their world was torn apart in 2008. Maybe they’d lost everything. Maybe they’d tried to find employment but were thwarted at every effort because of their ethnicity, political alliances, lack of education or other factors such as these. Maybe they’d run small businesses which were targeted by corrupt government officials for bribes. Maybe they’d had enough of always being the victim. You must realize, I don’t condone their actions but what would you do if you had starving kids at home and had tried every honest way to feed them?

The state of things in this country is something we must look at under the magnifying glass of liberalism. A layer of understanding must be added to our minds so that we can filter the things we see and experience through it otherwise we become this writhing bacterial infection of callous humanity that spreads hate and intolerance.

The state of things in this country, as I’ve said before, all break down to how ineffectively it’s being led. We have politicians who are in the lucrative business of making thieves of us all. We rob each other to pay the government the bribes, high taxes and all the other excess that comes with living in Kenya. If our very leaders are thieves then that philosophy is definitely going to soak into the people they lead. And if our leaders will not help the people that need help in favour of stuffing their pockets then what hope do we have?

African governments deal their people blood and bullets instead of bread and butter. It remains that politics is the scar on the beautiful face of Africa.

To the thieves out there, yes you tried to rob me and we’ll clash, probably violently, if you try again. You tried to rob me but I understand why. And I’m working for you. I’m trying to change shit for you. I know that doesn’t help you in your current predicament but what else can I say but that I’m trying.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Maxi-Dash 2011: Caught between a rock and a steering wheel

The hills in nature are pretty perfect aren’t they? I mean they’re perfect for both sexes as well. Cosmic gender equality and all that. Think about it. Men like curves and contours. Women like big phallic looking bulges. And some men like big phallic looking bulges while some women like curves and contours. So it works out either way. Now, let’s break it down further. Climbers, they’re the thorny adventurers who want to get their sweaty palms all over these curvy contours and phallic bulges of earth. Passionately grunting, twisting and thrusting against walls, you could even go as far as to say they live to mount these passive structures.

Anyway, enough with the pseudo sexual imagery and analogies.

It was 7pm on Friday evening and I’d just finished football training when I get a tweet saying “How would you like to witness and write about the only climbing competition of its kind in the world?”

Booyaa! Natural excitement and adrenaline is sometimes better than stunning yourself with an electrical charge for kicks. Sometimes. It's all relative to the voltage.

“Can you be ready by 8pm?”

An hour later, we’re in a 4x4, packed with climbing gear, a few bits of food and a few nerve-soothing beers chilling in the cooler, cutting through a strangely, starless night into the veiny backroads of The Great Rift Valley towards the industrious little town of Naivasha.

Ladies and gentlemen, the name of the game is the Maxi-Dash. Here’s the simplified version of how you play. Open number of teams in competition. Two members per team. Five crags in the surrounding area of Nairobi: N’deiya, Hell’s Gate National Park, Frog, Lukenya and Embaribal. Each crag has allocated routes that you have to climb, dust yourself down then drive as fast as legally imposed speed limits allow, to the next site which could be more than a hundred kilometres away. Each climb is awarded a predetermined number of points. Goal of the game? Climb as many routes as you can physically climb within the twelve and a half hour time limit with the intention of beating the rest of the teams.

Chalky fingers, strained. Tired muscles, tensed. Stinging sweat, dripping. Breath, heavy. Mind, as alert as it’ll ever be. It takes a strong body to endure the physical strain and climb multiple rock faces in the space of twelve hours. It takes an even stronger mindset to dull out the pain and maintain focus. Considering that the winners usually win nothing but bragging rights for a year, it’s all done out of passion and pride which shows you that even in this day and age, not everything is about monetary gain. These are individuals who place themselves in intense situations and put pressure on themselves to succeed and I’d think that that philosophy trickles into their day to day lives as well. The duality of their lives as businessmen and women by weekdays and climbers and adventurers by weekends seamlessly merges into one when they’re on the rock negotiating their way up or down with carefully calculated precision.

The team I tagged along with, Nikunj and Ekya, are both experienced climbers. Calm and collected individuals who never let the frustration of the climb get to them. They’ve been in the scene for a long time and know their way around the country and the crags. However, this time they hadn’t trained at all and the self imposed set limit of one drink turned into a couple more the night before the climbing day as interesting conversation unfurled about their experiences and expectations of the event and their philosophies on life. There was much wisdom in their words, not so much in our actions as we sat up late into the night. So after just two and a half hours, we all woke up groggy from the hazy fog of warm sleep and made our way to Hell’s Gate. Lungs filled with morning air, bottles filled with cold water, they begun their climbs at Fischer’s Tower scaling it thrice and making it look easy. I watched. And learned. And captured the souls of the moments with a camera. That would become the order of the day; they’d climb, we’d drive to the next place and I’d take pictures trying to document this fascinating journey. By the end of the day, we’d traversed across sundried and rain-speckled, rough and smooth terrain encountering dying trucks on the escarpment, small thorn fences made by the Maasai, avoiding strict old Maasai elders, lazy cows sitting in the middle of rough roads and witnessing spectacular panoramas. We’d travelled all the way from Hell’s Gate in Naivasha to Frog at the cliffs in the shadow of the Ngong hills to the sleeping stone-beast of Lukenya.

The day ended as they came down from their last climb in the relative darkness of the evening, exhausted from the day’s excursions but buzzing with the anticipation of possible victory and the thrill of having competed. A celebratory beer was drank under the stars as the Lukenya cliffside became all the more ominous silhouetted against the light pollution of a far away Nairobi. From our vantage point, the traffic on Mombasa road sounded like the rapturous applause of a large unseen crowd.

The team, fuelled only by water, chocolates, bananas and crisps the whole day, impressively completed a total of thirteen climbs but unfortunately came in second place. The following is how the points table lined up in the end:

Tobin’s team – 295 points
Nikunj’s team – 290 points
Geraldine’s team – 275 points
Spencer’s team – 200 points

The Maxi-Dash is the only event of its kind in the world and is organized by the Mountain Club of Kenya. For more information do visit their website at and while you’re at it clicking links, click on this one too:

A lot of people don’t know about the existence of the Mountain Club which is a shame. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone on a number of trips with the people I met through this organization. We’re lucky to live in a country with vast mountain ranges, rapid rivers, lush green forests, lakes that make you thirsty just by looking at them, hike and bike trails and flora and fauna fit for a paradise.

The Mountain Club of Kenya is the vehicle to experience this beautiful country through. Don’t miss out on the ride. Because nature is the best teacher, she’ll teach you things you’ll never learn until you get down and dirty. And we all know the wisdom of older women. There I go with the pseudo sexual remarks again.

I’ll leave now.

Click here for pictures of the Maxi-Dash.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Pavement Psychopath

Greetings Tovarishch,

I am Borris. I am residing inside Shamit’s mind. There are a lot of peoples here and I need to get out sometimes. So here I am. I write.

Comrade Shamit has come back to his homeland of Kenya. This not goot for me. I have very little patience and getting angry all the time. I give you example. Ve vere in town other day and ve valk on the sidevalk and I realize people move very slow. People moving so slow I vant to kick them in their buttocks to get out of my vay. In Soviet Russia, ve vud beat people vith bat until they learn their lesson and valk qvickly.

Oh, shut up Boris, you big brute. It’s me again. Sham, the dominant personality in my head. Most of the time. Apologies, they get out every now and then, the voices in my head. The Russian is annoying but he does have a point doesn’t he? So let’s see, now that he’s made me aware of it, I’m sure I can write something about it.

There are many, many things that irritate me. Many things. I could make a list as long as my arm, leg and other parts of my anatomy about these things. But I won't. One of the main ones is people walking slowly or people walking into me which both happen on a daily basis unless I’m in the hills somewhere. Nairobi city centre, it seems, is a town full of lonely people who want some sort of physical intimacy even if it’s as brief as a male virgins first time. It’s so strange the way bodies are rubbed, who knows whether innocently or not, on each other. Especially in matatus. I wonder, is it the lack of physical human contact that urges people to go out to complete strangers and rub their asses across one’s shoulders? I mean, I’d never rub my ass on someone’s shoulder. Because, you know, I’m polite and all.

Its funny then isn’t it? How Kenyans are about speed on the roads but very slow on the sidewalks.

Another amazing thing is how Kenyan pedestrians have eyes on the backs of their heads for a full circular range of visibility. This I can attest to for one reason that has happened to me a number of times. I’m walking along, trying to build momentum through the frictional fires of human bodies and inevitably I come to a close standstill behind a fat mama or two. I swerve to the right, and just like magic, they take two steps to the right. I drastically swerve to the left, and just like witchcraft, they take two steps to the left. Now, here I am, sweating from the excursion, seething with little fires of anger as the red mist descends. Here I am, interlocked in this furious dance for prime position on the pavement with two old, fat ladies who, on the surface, seem oblivious to my plight. But they know. I know they know. And I know that they know that I know they know. And that perverse pleasure of my pain makes them cackle like broomstick witches.

Another thing that really grinds my gears is how people in matatus wait until the last possible moment before they remove the money from their wallets, pockets or purses to pay the conductor with. Before I walk into a matatu, I always make sure I have the money in my hand. That way, I don’t have to go fishing for it in my pocket in a cramped ride. But here are these people. They enter the matatu, banging your head with a breast here or an ass cheek there. They sit down, get comfortable between people and then just wait. When the conductor finally asks them for their fare, they create irritating disruptions in seated order. Violent hands thrust into pockets and purses, blind fingers fishing for coin and paper. They lean onto me, sweat stinking of what has to be at least seven showerless days and breath smelling of the rotting carcases of animals that were made extinct in their mouths. All this would be avoided if only people had even the smallest bit of foresight and just prepared their fares a minute in advance.

One more thing before my lunch break is over and I have to get back to writing dull forms. Again, in matatus. What the hell is the hurry? You’re sitting in the back seat, I’m in the middle seat and I try getting out and you rush past me like the devils on your tail. Are those three seconds really that important to you? You’re the same person who’s going to get out of the matatu so quickly just to get on the street and walk like a slumping, rohypnol swallowing sloth.

So I smile. Because the alternative would be murder. And murder is bad. Or so I’ve heard. And restrain is good.

Until the rubber band snaps.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Hills of Chyulu

You’d think climbing a hill is easy wouldn’t you. Well then try to climb a Chyulu hill or two, would you. You’d think climbing a hill is just putting one foot in front of the other. Right. Left. Right? Wrong!

At 7am on Easter Friday, I found myself going to Chyulu hills in a car with total strangers. At 6pm on Easter Monday, I was back home having had a trip that will add a lot of colourful fuel to the fires of good memory.

So, three Germans, a Japanese and three Kenyans walk into the hills. Here’s the summarized version of what followed. Young, volcanic hills were seen, beer was drank, a makeshift grill was made of wire and wood, meat was cooked, potatoes were roasted, large caverns of the great lava tubes were explored in the unique and distinct darkness of the underground, bats were seen, rocks were collected from the deep, a hill was climbed, clouds were breathed in, rain dropped, rainbows lazily arched across the plains, night fell with the temperature, the moon rose with the sounds of animals, shooting stars were fired in the range of the milky way, wood was burned, day broke, a hill was climbed to catch the golden sun-drops in the cups of our camera eyes, an army of red ants attacked our camp in our absence, Kilimanjaro was spotted through the clouds, a small forested area was explored, another hill was climbed hacking our way through shoulder length grass with pangas, snakes were seen slithering, a buffalo emerged from the base of the forest line snorting in anger and fear, down we went, more beer was drunk, cheese, eggs, potatoes and zucchinis were chopped, fried and eaten, stories were told, philosophy was discussed, life was shared in silent moments under the jestful, winking stars. Then, when all the headlamps were off and that beautiful night silence snuck into my ears, I stood by my tent and saw the orange vein of Mombasa road sliding its way through the black skin of the Kenyan night. Morning came again, we ate, packed, left. Then all too soon, just like a good movie, the trip was over and the buildings of Nairobi replaced the hills of Chyulu.

In the air of the tall, silent places of the world, you feel the secrets of timeless nature resonating slowly. If you listen closely, you can hear and feel the old stories through the ambient songs that nature plays with the instrument of the earth. The cackle of a dry branch, the romantic whispers of the morning winds, the colours of the burning sky at dawn and dusk, the moistness of the heavy clouds shepherded in by light winds, the dancing trees, the shimmering of the shy stars. Being out in nature, there’s times you see something so simply beautiful and become overwhelmed within that instant. It’s strangely reminiscent to that moment when you realize that you’re in love. The excess, hardened emotions rusted around your heart melt away and you drop the heavy weapons of satire, sarcasm and social etiquette and blend into the serenity of natural intention.

The light of wondrous quixoticism is ignited and in those brittle moments, for me, all that's missing is someone special to stare at the shadows with.

We know very little about the world we live in. A lot of people say that I’m selfish for wanting to explore all the time. However, there is a simple justification to my travels. Henry David Thoreau once said

“How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.”

As a little bit of a writer and a little bit of an adventurer, I cannot place enough emphasis on how much wisdom these simple words possess probably because I don’t possess the simple words through which to place emphasis with.

Life is for living and giving. But you cannot give wisdom you don’t have and you cannot teach what you have not learned. So I say get up out of your little bubbles of ego and comfort. You can always make that comfortable butt print on your favourite chair again. I say walk through the valleys of nature and swim through the old memories of the earth. Become the geomancer. The prison of the office will forever bind you by the leash of the tie only if you let it.

We all have our free will. Use yours to be free.

You can check out the pictures on my facebook page. If you want. No one's holding a gun to your head. Yet.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Biashara and the Beast

If you’re not rich and connected like a spider web, starting up a business in Kenya is like shooting someone in the face at close range with a high powered shotgun and then meticulously going looking for answers in the red and grey biology of their mushy minds with a pair of rusty, inept tweezers when just asking the right question would have sufficed.

It’s a lot of unnecessary work leading to very little progress.

One of the biggest problems we have is when an arrogant person is put in a position of even the smallest authority (which happens quite a lot) and they, undeniably, look to make life difficult for you. And even if you know that the questions they’re asking and the procedures they’re making you follow are as unnecessary as a goldfish bowl without a goldfish, you can’t really do anything about it because you need a signature or an approval or some mundane little task carried out. It’s that dependence that becomes the magnifying glass to your metaphorical ant and boy oh boy do they want to burn you alive. And if you show any attitude whatsoever, you know you’ve pretty much got as much chance of escaping as you would have if you were left naked in the seventh circle of hell with a horny devil eyeing you with the perverse intentions of an involuntarily celibate rabbit in heat.

Progressive business is mummified in the red tape of bureaucracy.

Then come those three words said with all the affection of a cat with a dysfunctional catheter shoved up its urethra. No, not "I love you" but that famous line uttered by the greedy goblins of business, “Toa kitu kidogo” The amount of chai you’re asked for, you’d be sure they think you own a large tea plantation somewhere. Which wouldn’t be too off. Considering they had a fifty fifty percent chance in thinking that you owned one. Which you probably don’t. So they are a hundred percent wrong in the fifty percent chance they took. So eventually you’ve got to give it to them for the math and for trying. And by it I mean the money.

Corruption is no light matter. Especially when you don’t have heavy pockets. A lot of people in businesses I’ve witnessed pay people off. Whether it’s to pay the cops to stop harassing your business and customers, whether it’s to get certain permits approved or whether it’s to bring shipments of goods into the country faster than they should be.

Corruption is the messy lubrication of modern day business.

The worst thing is in some cases it’s totally unavoidable. If a policeman comes to your workplace and asks for a bribe and you don’t pay him and he takes you to jail for some false accusation and you spend a week in court sorting things out, who is going to run the business that puts the food on your family’s table? What do you do in such a situation? Pay the bribe? Record the policeman's actions with a secret camera? Go to jail and form a syndicate of experienced law breakers and challenge the broken system?

The Beast luxuriously sits back in its lair and licks it's private parts with delight as we work our collective asses off. It knows the problem exists perhaps because it’s championed the motion of corruption in business. We have campaigns that say “Corruption is Evil” and such but it’s almost laughable when members that make up The Beast sit back and watch all this happen almost as if they’re getting some sadistic pleasure out of the suffering of individuals such as myself who are trying to start up small, creative businesses.

To all those entrepreneurs who have successfully started up their businesses and are doing well despite all the odds that are thrown at you in the amphitheatre of Kenyan Business, kudos. Inspiration lies in your perseverance.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Soft moments

In the swirl of thoughts such as these, she walked into his life. That first time he saw her, the seconds seemed elastic, thick and elastic, almost stretching out. Silence awoke in that extended moment bringing with it a clarity he had never felt before. The first thing he noticed about her was her smile, which was strange because he knew that men usually notice the woman’s body first. A cliché, but her smile filled him with warmth, seemingly evaporating every problem he had ever had, another cliché. Her smile was a set of perfect white teeth enveloped by the soft crescents of thick, kissable oyster pink lips slightly curving into the fleshy mounds of her round cheeks. That was all her smile was, teeth and lips and cheeks. And yet, such a captivating sight. Such was her aura, so elegant that in her presence he could not help but smile, paying her the perfect compliment of wanting to make himself better.

Her hair was still wet from the rain outside, the deep black strands of straightened hair matted to her face ending in playful little curls just below her petit shoulders. Her face, in the glistening frame of wet hair was a picture of perfection. Her eyes were hazel brown and spacey, smiling in an innocent wonder, lightly watching everything around her.

Wearing a small sky blue jacket with a sunflower yellow top poking out slightly from under it, she looked like a fresh sunrise landscape. A stark contrast to the world raging outside. Her denim jeans grabbed her thighs so tight they made every man in the place look at her twice, much to the disgust of the wives and girlfriends by their sides. Her belt with its large shiny buckle, just a showpiece, not earning its keep whatsoever.

Women like her, he thought, never paid any attention to men like him. He was a jagged rock to her carved diamond. He was a shadow in the night time. Then when she walked past, the elastic second snapped and everything went back to real time. The red tapestries lazily hung, the rain drops busily rolled, the wallpaper of bottles brightly gleamed, the stereo softly sung, the coffee machine pitifully squealed, the waitress falsely smiled.

And outside, the thunder clapped, applauding all of our glimmering insignificance.