Sweating for Education

I have many achievements. Okay, that sounded vain and boastful. Let me start again: I have many achievements, but putting myself through college is one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was a journey fraught with so much sweat, tears and uncertainty; that at one point, I almost gave up.

 

I was brought up by a single mama, and my going to a good journalism school couldn’t fit with her small business of selling fish. I had passed my exams, but the JAB system decided that I should be a teacher of History and English. I didn’t want to be a teacher; I wanted to tell stories and make money from it. I wanted to be a journalist.

So, when I realized that the only way I could go to Journalism school was to take myself through it; I threw myself in. It was hard! I cannot count the number of times I slept without food. The first years were the most difficult – but a sponsor came in and paid through the remaining three years.

 

That is why I am always passionate about any effort to ensure students stay in college. I am where I am now because someone ‘stepped in’ and helped me. When we went to Daystar university, I wanted to chase a story on students like me. Those who have had someone ‘stepping in’ to make things easier and to acknowledge institutions that have come up with work study and scholarship programs to help the students.

 

 

 

I died at the Hospice

There has always been a big debate on whether journalists should get psychological help after they do a tough story; or if they should accept it as an occupational hazard and move on.

Honestly, I don’t know the answer.

One of the most traumatizing stories I ever covered was when we went to cover a story in a hospice – a place for the palliation of terminally ill or seriously sick patients symptoms.

We walked in a single file to fit the narrow corridors that led to the room where the patients were. There were women with cancer, men in their last stages of AIDS, children battling terminal diseases…

Pain.

Disease.

People struggling with their ailing bodies.

I was accompanied by more than 10 doctors and other health stakeholders.  The place had a pungent smell of disinfectant, the kind that we used to wash toilets in my high school.

There was a priest, dressed in a white rob standing next to an emaciated child who was being held by a woman to help him sit upright. The priest took some form of oil and made the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. The woman holding the child closed her eyes .
There were groans of pain, a baby’s cry of pain, a mother’s despair…

The whole world on someone’s shoulder…

Heavy crosses.

Humanity and their failing bodies.

 

MEMEME

One of the kids was squatting on the floor, vomiting. The doctor said it’s the side effects of chemotherapy. The impact of his body shaking from the nausea jerked him from the squatting position, and he fell onto his own vomit….

There was a bald woman -In her last stages of breast cancer…she was clutching her head yelling:
“My body feels painful”

Her teeth were clenched so tight, I could see small veins form on her forehead…

Oh, the waterfall on her fragile eyelashes.

“Mwangi…Mwangi…Mwangi….” She called out to no one in particular.

Her voice echoed over and over into the depth of my soul…

A nurse held her down and injected her with something.
She tried to fight, but the drug took effect immediately, and she was calm…a distant look on her face.

She stared blankly into space.

A patient groaned and turned.
A child tried crying… but the only sound that came was a weak cry that sounded more like a mournful howl.
I scribbled on my notebook.

I interviewed the head of Hospice and Palliative care in Kenya.

“You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die…”

That’s what they live by. That is their mantra…

The priest made a sign of the cross on the air…One of the patients had his hands on his chest…the only thing humanity can do when death stands close…to try and embrace the divine.

When the land beyond beckons close, the only thing humanity can do is to try and grasp all they can about God, because down here, they are no longer sure of their next breath…

There was a boy in his late teenage whose mother held so close being escorted to the bathroom. His whole body shook, he shivered – one painful step after the other. One failing foot after the other…I fixed my gaze on the floor, I couldn’t look. One of the doctors offered to help the woman, so the two of them held him…then he lifted both feet off the ground and swung like a baby. He just hang on their arms because he couldn’t move his next foot any more…pain was written all over his face.

I stopped writing… I was vacant of words. I was empty of the right descriptive words.
I LOST BITS OF MY RELIGION!

The pain… !

One of the patients was lying on his back, breathing so slowly, taking in painful air…his wife stood next to him, touching his arm, his eyes were closed delicately, as if in a prayer…
Not a groan. Not a sound.

I grabbed a painkiller from my handbag and threw it at the back of my throat, without water, to relieve the headache that was forming on the left side of my head. The smell of the disinfectant rose.
The woman with breast cancer was still seated on her bed, staring blankly into space by the time we were leaving… a part of me remained there.
Am scared to think about what happened to those patients.

I died, a thousand little deaths in that hospice.

Between Two Friends

In the darkness of the night, blasts from the high powered guns tore through the silence. It was followed by a stampede, a low groan and sounds of soldiers stepping onto the foggy ground. There was something different about this night – the soldiers had left thinking that their enemies were far beyond…..only to be met by a series of gun shots.

They panicked as the barrage of bullets tore through six of their own; including their commander. They were facing death, and no matter how much they tried to hide and fire back; it was obvious that they were getting overwhelmed by each second.

Isaiah, who had worked in the army for 9 years, heard his best friend whisper his name. It wasn’t so much of a whisper, but a deep cry from within. He looked back, and saw him clutching on his stomach….with blood oozing from it.

“James, hang in there, I will get some help. Don’t move.” He whispered.

He was trying to hide the fear in his voice.

“Shoot me Isaiah….I know I won’t live. So end this pain…..don’t leave me here!” He struggled to say.

war

(Image courtesy: wikipics)

From a distance, he could hear his colleagues running and firing aimlessly in an effort to ward off their attackers and prevent their own impending death.

Isaiah held onto his rifle. The enemies were getting closer….and he had to think fast.

He looked at his best friend and saw desperation

Again…..in the darkness of the night, , blasts from the high powered guns tore through the silence.

Twaff! Twaff! Twaff!
Three bullets.

Then silence!

Scribes Left Me, and I cried!

My Tv production lecturer Mr. Mutua, who supervised my senior project in college used to tell me:
“Your fear of technology and doing hands- on work is what will be your downfall.”

I would laugh it off because somehow, in my career goals, I never imagined that at one point I will be needed to sit behind an editing machine and package my own story.

I am what you can describe as ‘Techno-phobe’

So you can imagine how scared I got when I realized that everyone was doing their own package. That is where drama started.

 

I edited, arranged everything into a sequence and saved in a flash drive. It didn’t work. The audio wasnt working. I re-did it. The video quality was compromised.

Over and over I went to the Imac. I got failure messages, ranging from sudden malfunctioning of the machines, to lack of  disc space among other issues that made me want to pull my hair.  The other ‘scribes’ had left and I was on my own.

Oh, the strain on my eyes. The time kept ticking, and by the time I left the editing computer, tears were flowing from my eyes uncontrollably. The strain had overwhelmed my eyesight. In the bus going home, the tears hadn’t stopped.

But after all the tears and clenched jaws, I managed to compile my bulletin. There is still room to grow, but this is where I started from.

 

Fatherhood. It is to BE!

Last Sunday was Father’s day. I woke up and my social media was awash with lovely messages about fatherhood. It was like a competition really, with everyone trying their best to show the virtual world that they had the best father. Later when I went to church, the preacher had packaged a beautiful message aimed at fathers.

I felt lonely – not because I don’t have a father or that I couldn’t write my father a beautiful message about fatherhood. I just didn’t feel like I should put a pretentious message about how ‘awesome’ my father was because I wanted to fit in. My father was never actively involved in our lives when we were growing up.

Somehow, his absence taught me how to define fatherhood.

Fatherhood is not making a woman pregnant and going to bring her back when she has delivered, NO. fatherhood is a higher calling. It being there in all the steps  involved.  It is holding the mother to be and assuring her that you will be there.  Fatherhood is about looking her in the eye when she is considering other options and telling her :” I will be there for you. We will do this together…” fatherhood is ASSURANCE.

dad

Fatherhood is about living to your word.  It’s  a union between you, the mother to be, and the unborn. It is a vow and  promise.  it is staying and making it happen. it is a COVENANT

Fatherhood is not about bringing home the bread. No. Fatherhood is to be there and watch how the bread that you brought home is being consumed. Fatherhood is about partaking every small meal, celebration and changes with your children. It’s to  there.

It is about giving that child comfort and making sure that they feel safe in your presence. It is to open up and bridge the generational gap. It is telling the kids stories about your past and merging them with the present. It is letting them know where you come from, and what you are all about. Fatherhood isn’t  going home and masking your face with the newspaper. Fatherhood is  being keen on your children and asking questions. It is  noticing that your child is walking with a limp or seeing the about noticing a scratch on their bodies and finding out what caused them.

father

Fatherhood is about building the right foundation.  It’s  leading them through the right path. But it’s not about caning them till they get scars. NO. Fatherhood is  leading by example. It is abandoning that brown bottle and going home early to bond with your family. It’s refusing the offer by your friends to party every weekend till dawn. It is about YOU and how you present yourself before your children. Fatherhood is DISCIPLINE.

fatherhood-2

Fatherhood is about treating the mother of your kids right. It is all about LOVE. it is making their mother so happy, such that their young minds embrace what love and respect is about so that they do not have to battle things beyond them trying to define love when they are grown.

Fatherhood is not raising your hands to hit your children at every opportunity. It’s not  leaving  teir bodies riddled with marks, so that anytime they touch their skins, they feel like it is a form of braille where they can read your failures as a dad.

Fatherhood is not hitting the mother of your kids, more so in the presence of your children. That is COWARDICE. Fatherhood is about knowing the role that you play in the life of your kids, in their upbringing, and embracing this role. Fatherhood is a DEEPER CALLING

father-be-there

Fatherhood is just a series of doing things. It is BEING. It is not waiting to be reminded about responsibilities that come with it, but etching them in every core of your being and ensuring that you do all that you can to make it happen.

So, I challenge you, you who is a father or claims to be. I challenge you to take the call that fatherhood is, take up your position and be a daddy. If you cant, shut up and don’t complain about how things aren’t right in the society.  It all begins from the family….Oy!  Fatherhood is a COMMAND.

All photos courtesy of Wikiphotos

ATTROVERSIAMO – Let’s have a crossover

Two years ago, I read the book Eat. Pray. Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I was swept by her wit and the small bits of wisdom that oozed from her words.  She seemed to be talking directly to me.

You see, in 2010 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was unexpected, shocking and confusing. The first question I asked was:
“How?”

The doctor explained to me that sometimes cells develop abnormally in the body, and some of them get cancerous. That was the only breakdown he could give at that time.

The battle towards recovery was the hardest.  I was young and broke, and I didn’t have insurance to cover for the expensive procedures that were to follow.

I lost so many things in the process of finding healing. I lost God, and struggled hard to find Him in the darkness that had engulfed me. I lost a part of me as I tried to take in everything that was happening in my life. It was a series of losses, and at one point, all I ever prayed for was strength to face every new day.

I wish I would have read Eat. Pray. Love earlier.  The inspiration in the book would have lifted me up on those days when I was sinking in the salt of my own tears.

Last week, I watched the movie and it is as powerful as the book. What caught my eye was when the lead character Liz is learning Italian and the man teaching her is telling her about ATTRAVERSIAMO.
attravers

 

Ha!
It means “Lets cross over” he tells her.

That word just jumps off the screen and hits my insides.

I paused, wrote it down and let it melt in my mind. Doesn’t it sound magical? Like a drop of warm honey upon the tongue. It means “Let’s have a transformation……let’s start again; let’s have a CROSSOVER.

ATTRAVERSIAMO -isn’t it a beautiful word?

Say it. Let the words slide upon your tongue. Say it loud. Whisper it. Think about it. So beautiful.

vy

I look back, and marvel at the crossovers I have done in my life. The pain, the confusion, the uncertainty that I once had to battle.

Now I am going through a crossover. I am picking myself from the ruins of disease.

I am doing ATTRAVERSIAMO…
You go through some situations like a life threatening diseases, a broken heart, a betrayal,  abuse of any form,  death of a loved one and it changes every fiber in you.

You have to decide to to the crossover –

When The Introvert and Extrovert Meet

I always tell people: “I am an introverted extrovert” Most of the times, they roll their eyes and laugh.

I know. It is an oxymoron. But the truth is; there is a huge part of me that wants to be out there and play. Then there is this other part that wants to run under my bed and hide from the whole world. Sometimes I want to shut out everything and sit in my own silence.

 

You can imagine the kind of battle that goes on in my mind when I am confronted with a situation where I have to step out and show my extroverted side.

 

My first Tv takes were difficult…to say the least. Sometimes the extroverted side would take over and I wouldn’t know how to tame it and sit still on set. There were times when the introverted side of me would rear its head and silence me such that words would freeze in my mind.

 

Ahh, the joys of taking my first stand up!

The introverted side of me, and the extroverted side met. At first I was all daring to go, but then there is this part of me that kept saying:
“I was not meant for this TV business. Still, I had to do it, and this is my first live reporting: