Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Buses, Busia and The Border

In Happenings, Perspective on July 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm

So far, so great in Kampala. I love it here. It’s green like The Hulk and what Al Gore wants the world to look like. Weather’s great too. People are great too.

The trip was equally as ‘enlightening’ I took the night bus with fellow screenwriter and Maisha Finalist Bernadette Otieno for company. We took an Akamba bus to Kampala, and left on Friday at 7 PM. Bus wasn’t that full, which was weird. I soon found out that it would get weirder, people started getting off the bus as soon as Uthiru sides. What I haven’t mentioned is the mad rush I had to make for the bus. I left South B at 6 PM to hopefully get to Lagos Road by 7 PM. During rush-hour. On a Friday. On a rainy evening. *What was I thinking?* Well, God made a way, and I made it on time.

So how it works is that the Akamba bus to Kampala acts as a bus for all the other stops on your way to Kampala. So we also had passengers from Nakuru, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia. We were going to use Busia as our point-of-entry into Kampala. I had nothing to worry about, never been to Western Province in general, so was looking forward to the ride. I also tried to keep people updated via tweets and status updates. Funny thing I noted, though. At 2 A.M in Kisumu, everyone on board looked like a washed up extra on Lost or Pirates of The Carribean…All they needed to say was “Where’s Lock?” or go “Aarrgh, Matey!” It was too funny, obviously I might have been saying this because I was nowhere near a mirror, but that was besides the point.

I slept a good part of the way, something I’m thankful for. But our stops in Nakuru were cool. I’m not a fan of diuretics when travelling, but seems everyone else was – with people having coffees, teas, cokes etc. It was an interesting ride though. Was nice to stand in places I’d never stood before, didn’t eat anything at the stops, though, heard too many stories of  ‘that guy’ and trust me, I don’t (and neither do you) want to be ‘that guy.’ You know how the stories are “ Hey, did you hear about that guy who ate… at the bus stop at… it totally left him… and his road trip ended up being… all because he…” Feel free to fill in the gaps. And I had my chances, dozens of guys shouting “Njugu! Njugu! Njugu! Njugu Karanga! Njugu Chemsha! Njugu Patisha!” (Njugu are groundnuts or as you might call them – peanuts) and plenty other foods you might want to taste on an ordinary day. But this was no ordinary night, so no chances. Stomach trouble on a 12 hour bus ride wasn’t what I signed up for.

The border is probably the most hilarious bit of the story. So the bus stops. It’s 4 AM and we have no idea where we are. We hear a loud voice shout from outside “Passports! Everybody with their passports!” So I had mine safely zipped up in my jacket. Heard plenty of stories from friends who’ve travelled to dozens of countries, the general rule of thumb is that you don’t let go of your passport. Ever. Especially in African countries. At the border. You didn’t just travel all the way to the border, just to get your passport stolen. Nope. Don’t think so.

The Busia Border Post - Yellow Jackets and All

The Busia Border Post - Yellow Jackets and All

I get off the bus, groggy like everyone else and coming to with my new surrounding. The guy in front of me is quickly ushered away by a guy chanting ‘Passport, Boss. Passport.’ He gives the stranger his passport and is led to what could only be the Immigration office around the corner. His accomplice had been eyeing me and the second before my big toe had touched the ground off the bus, he was hounding me. He seemed pretty legit (for 4 A.M – he had a blazer on…), though I only stared at him for half a second before he got my hand and began to tug for my passport as we walked toward the Immigration area. I gave my passport to him, but followed him awkwardly close as he zipped off, quick to put a brother in a choke hold if he tried anything…Politely, though (You know me). He led me to a window with some light and in lightening speed, began to fill out a yellow sheet of paper – my immigration papers. I was surprised, to say the least. “Occupation – he asked me.” I was still in a daze to his ‘hustle.’ It was 4 in the morning and he was as perky, chirpy and zingy as a …tangy pickled pepper served right after some orange juice. In my half-asleep-yet-awake-enough-to-put-a-brother-in-a-choke-hold-if-he-tried-me kinda daze, I muttered Journalist as my foggy memory thought what I was doing at the Busia border (I was going for a Screenwriters Workshop – My mind got as far as Writers Wor…*end of transmission* hence ending up on Writer, Writing, Journalism…Journalist!

Strange but true.

So in (I kid you not) in less than a minute, he pointed me to where I was to stand, and had a good laugh at my passport picture (No, you don’t want to know why.) I stood in line, gave my passport, got a stamp on it and received a blue paper in return. He quickly got my attention and drew me back to where we filled the original one. I stood again in awe as he asked me how long I would be in Kampala, I said 24 days, he put down a month. I was a bit awestruck. He quickly looked at me and with a cheesy salesman smile and beamed “In case of emergency.” I chuckled anxiously. He then smiled and said “ I’m sure you’ve got something for me. You know, for the trouble…” I chuckled again and went back to queue with the same bunch of people. I was confused though. Everyone still had the yellow form and I had a blue one now – all filled out too. I began to circle around the lines of people like a lightening struck moth – looking for a light. This guy, (gosh, I don’t even know his name, we never even got that far) saw me looking confused walking the people and called me. “Mark…Mark! Come here.” I approached. He pointed me to the other side of a gate i.e. The border to where I was supposed to go next. “I’ll take you,” he said. Like I had any other choice.

We approached a policeman who I showed the passport and blue form. He nodded, and sent me through the gate to the Uganda Immigration Office about 50 metres away. I walked with my good friend, thinking of the convenience he had saved me, and how I admired his hustle – for 4 in the morning, he made my day. I gave him something ‘for the trouble.’ He quickly told me he had to get back, he couldn’t get as far as where i was going. I knew he was going to get another ‘customer.’ I didn’t mind. He was good help.

I went on to queue at the Ugandan Immigration Office, a small office, akin to the Busia one. This time, I had company – from the other side of the border. They had yellow jackets – exactly like the City Council Officials in Nairobi – only the City Council officials have ‘Corruption is Evil – Parking Attendant’ on theirs. These fellows each had a wad of cash that if it was in it’s Kenyan equivalent, would have them far from the border at 4 AM but in some lavish hotel in Nairobi. Ugandan Shillings vis a vis Kenya Shillings retail at the ratio of 26:1. Still getting over that. I look at it like the math lesson I never asked for, paying back for any I missed 🙂 These were some dodgy fellows who I’m sure could pull a fast one on me, and from what I heard  now, they pull stuff that ought to be in The Real Hustle.

I forget to mention, as I took in all these sights, Bernadette was on the other side of the border with her blue form wondering where to go. She gave me a call, and I went over to get her. She wasn’t as fortunate with her Immigration Writer Companion or IWC (I just made that up…they need an official name though.). He was a rather dicey character, while he filled out her forms, he chased after a fellow IWC who had a debt of his.

Note to IWC’s: That’s not a good look with the customers, so take notes: Chasing after debtors is a no-no.

(Back to regular programming)

And after helping Bernadette out with the forms, he quickly named his price… 200 Shillings – $2.7 …needless to say, she had to cough it up. He wasn’t smiling. I paid my guy less than half that – which is still quite a bit, but I had some change so I didn’t mind.

Note to IWC’s: Always smile, you can do it, if you’re that perky at 4 A.M. You can do it.

We went on to have the bus searched by ‘Customs Officials’ and trust me – whatever high tech approach you might be thinking now, it was a guy with a flashlight who walked through the bus and combed through luggage. Simple, but effective.

It was an experience I just had to share; too funny and special to keep to myself. So now you have an idea of what to expect when you get to the border…at 4 A.M.

If you have any border stories, I’d love to hear them…

See No Evil, Taste No Evil, Shave No Evil

In Perspective, Real Talk on May 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Every week I head over to Mbugua’s for my ‘cut’ it’s one of the highlight’s of my week. I usually arrive anytime between 8 and 9 PM.  clip_image001

The fluorescent glow seeps through the chicken wire of Mbugua’s barbershop onto the South B’s macadam road. And like flies to a flame, there’s always activity in the busy nano strip-mall of shacks and hutches. As you already know, Mbugua has his place right next to Sam’s. I tried to be diplomatic, going to Sam’s every once in a while, especially when I saw that Mbugua’s place has one or two customers waiting. But great stories and a guaranteed laugh locked me down at the ‘Good Look Barbershop’ for life.

It’s funny because Sam’s is actually a better looking barbershop. It has a better sound system, Mbugua didn’t have one for a while, and the collage of 2 inch-thick boards that separate them don’t do much as soundproofing, so if at Mbugua’s you have the pleasure of sharing Sam’s sound. That’s changed recently, with Mbugua getting his own sounds, but his dreams are still a while away. It’s always interesting trying to have a conversation in between two wanna-be sound systems. As if matatus weren’t bad enough. It makes either for an amusing conversation, or a frustating shouting match.

clip_image002So each week I step into his cozy, yet awkwardly leaning barber chair I ready myself to hear what a week he’s had, and what the latest is. This particular time, I found Mbugua at the video library next door to the butchery playing ‘poker’ with a couple guys. (In Kenya people know ‘Crazy Eights’ as ‘Poker’) I take one look at him and thought ‘Wow, things must be going well for him, he’s put on some weight, his face and his cheeks are looking a whole lot rounder’. I watched the game as he ‘ate’ their proceeds. I went ahead of him to wait for him at his place as he wrapped up the game. I hear an outcry that Mbugua has to come back because this guy has no money left. Mbugua had pocketed a cool Ksh. 800 ($10).

Mbugua arrives with an awkward smirk on his face. I took a closer look at his face, and saw some disparity. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something looked off. I asked Mbugua how he’d been, and staring at his face through the mirror in front of me I realised one side of his face was swollen. He still had this smile on his face, so I didn’t ask, but it was hard not to stare. There was no visible bruising, so I became curious to what might have caused it.

" Mzeiah huskii meno yangu ilikuwa imenisumbua.

(Man, you wouldn’t believe how my tooth was killing me)" He said. "

Sikuwa nikikula, natafuna na side moja.

( I was barely eating; chewing with only one side of my mouth)"

I proceeded to laugh, he says things in such a farcical way I couldn’t help it. It didn’t take long for me to realise this was a bit of a serious moment, but he’s never to be taken too seriously, so I laughed again.

I told him I thought he was doing well for himself, putting on weight. He chuckled. Mbugua said he’d not been able to sleep for nights and had trouble eating, as his face got swollen, and the pain got worse. He found himself in a quandary between removing the tooth ‘kienyeji’, which amounted to removing it himself, or going to a dentist. I kept bursting into laughter as he continued to narrate his experience to me.

" Nilishindwa kulala. Siwezi lalia uso side hii

(I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t lie down on the swollen side of my face)" He said.

He had to lie on one side of his face at night, he said. And his mouth became so hot, he had a big jug of water next to where he lay on the floor, waking up every 10 minutes to take another mouthful to cool him. My laughter at this point almost cost me another haircut, he almost made a ‘mistake’ so I decided to hold it in as he continued the story.

"Eh, sikuwa veri. Asubuhi  Asubuhi nikachukua ma-painkillers na bado. Naskia tu kichwa ni ka inalia ‘pu-pu-pu’"

(Man, I wasn’t in great shape. In the morning I took some painkillers and I still wasn’t good. I felt like my head would throb ‘pu-pu-pu’."

He later realised that he had to go to the dentist and proceeded to book an appointment with one. I asked him what kind of dentist this was, he didn’t say much. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t some loony with a couple syringes and some of those ‘toothbrush branches.’ You know, some kook with some mwarubaine for anaesthesia and other ‘herbs’ with a ratchet/secateurs for ‘tools’…Scary.

So he got the tooth removed, and Mbugua was quick to tell me I hadn’t seen anything yet. Things had looked far worse the day before. I quipped asking if his head felt heavier on one side. He gestured that his clippers could make a couple mistakes on my head to make it ‘heavier on one side.’ I went silent. For that moment.

He said it was better now; he had become a bit more used to the meds. But for his unlucky clients the day before, he was feeling much drowsier from the first doses of the medicine. It also didn’t help that he didn’t have a mirror up. ( So the clients had no idea what he was doing)

"Kwanza huskii niliget customer mwingine hapo mpya! Hajainyolewa na mimi. Nikamskiza mastory, nikamweka kut poa.Karibu nimguze maskio. Si ningeitana. Hao wengine hata walisema hawajali, wataniamini tu."

(Can you believe I got a new client? (with no mirror) He’d never been shaven by me. I talked some stories with him and gave him a good cut. But I almost sliced his ear, aww man, I would’ve had it then. For the other (customers) they said they didn’t care. They would trust me."

I could imagine going, getting a shave, and trusting him without ever seeing the finished product. I’d trust him. I wouldn’t think twice about it. Don’t know how the new guys felt about it that day.

This is probably the edited version of his travels, but it was such a hilarious story I was compelled to share. I continue to witness to Mbugua one step at a time. He’s a bit of a showoff and doesn’t hesitate to tell me that he has a sugar-mummy or his total disinterest in marriage. So it’s all baby steps. Baby steps.

See no Evil. Taste no Evil. Shave no Evil

Penguins by estherdh

 

Photos by Oaxania, Lotor-Matic and Esterdh

Thank You

In History's Future, Perspective, Real Talk on March 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I’m broken, weakened, distraught, irritable at times and fickle emotionally from time to time. I’m human. I’ve cried, I’ve sneezed, I’ve blown my nose, I’ve laughed, I burped while laughing which made me laugh even more and I have smiled. From the passing on of my later father, Major (Retired) George Murakaru Kaigwa, it hasn’t been easy. But it has certainly been manageable, thanks in whole to God himself, and in great part to the amazing and inspiring people he’s so warmly surrounded my family with.

People I never knew cared, people who I thought cared, People I never knew cried, people I never knew, cried. I am humbled beyond measure, because to declare ‘I’ am strong is to err. ‘I’ am only because ‘He’ was before me. By He, I mean the great God I serve, whom is within me, but also the realest example of another human being, otherwise known as my father, he put before me.

It’s funny how God can prepare you for something. And we all know that death, is tough.I have experienced the death of 4 friends over the past 2 years (all under 22years of age, the youngest being 19), I have had the chance to see and experience, in part, the grieving process. To understand that denial and anger can come before acceptance. It was this whole time that my walk with Christ took more lefts, rights, ups and downs than a Nissan on a Moi-era tarmac road. But He knew this would come, and it was all prepared for.

But I’m more because of the ‘we’ around me. You, your words, your prayers, your encouragement, your thoughts and your presence. It’s a whole lot easier for me to stand and say I’m strong, because I have strong people all around me holding me up.

All I can say to you is

Thank You.

You pray for me, I am privileged, but I am more honored to also pray for you and encourage you. For you to see this amazing strength in me is not only a testament to who Jesus has been to and through me, but it is also a result of your very prayers. Bless you.

 

P.S. I couldn’t believe the amazing response from the Tweetmosphere. They really came through with messages, condolences and encouragement. I don’t know most of them personally but PinkM, Intelligensia, Ngeny, EdObie, Miano, Knocternal, SoleAddict1, Kaboro, 69MB, DKomo, SwMaina and others. Thank you all from me.

This Mother Tree – A Poem for ‘Maitu’

In Poetree, Real Talk on January 23, 2009 at 6:36 am

This is an original poem I composed and performed at my Great Grandmother’s funeral service.

———-This Mother Tree———

God made a seed.

He said to himself

This… will be a great seed.

God planted the seed.

This Mother Seed, He said, will truly be a Great Seed.

He planted it on the most fertile ground.

Small in size, the seed was.

God said

This Mother Seed, will be of great stature of heart.

God watered the seed.

With love.

He fed the seed with faith at His feet.

And God was happy

As This Mother Seed flowered and grew

Fruitful.

This seed grew to be a tree

This mother tree, God Said, will be a great tree

A grand tree for all to see

This mother Tree bore fruit for all to see

They bathed in God’s warm light

And the shade of This Mother Tree.

Giving shade to new seedlings

Nuances of light

Enough to grow strong

Standing tall, This Mother Tree

Taught how to thrive and be strong.

Bringing life to all.

Yes

This Mother Tree bore fruit.

Fruits of laughter.

Fruits of joy

Fruits of Girls and Boys

Fruits of Gifts from Above

Fruits of Bundles of Love.

Seasons came and seasons past.

This mother’s influence and love has last.

This mother Tree

Swaying

Peacefully in the wind.

In us is a seed.

And This Mother Tree remains

Eternally

In You.

In Me.

Thank God for His little seed.

Love you Maitú Bella.

© 2008-2009 Mark Wambugu Kaigwa. All Rights Reserved. And all wrongs reversed 🙂