The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Finding Your Own Tribe

Finding your own tribe

Finding a Tribe Through Shared Values

During a wonderful conversation with my taxi driver recently, we talked business and discussed the tariff rivalry between Uber and that of Safaricom’s new Little Cab taxi service.

I was really concerned about the climate of his business but he confidently reassured me, “Don’t worry, it’s business as usual for me.” “Uber and Little Cab customers are actually not my customers,” he added.

He explained that his customers are people who’ve known him over the years and now trust him. Also, that it’s ok if Uber & Little cab users don’t opt for his services, he’s got his own pack hooked onto the value of friendship, loyalty and trust.

Now I know why I’ve been his customer for all these years despite Uber & Little Cab cheap tariffs.

I’ve been investing in a relationship, not money.

Truly, a great business lesson from my dear taxi driver, Victor (aka Baba Daniel).

#BeInspired

Where is Boni?

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Boni* is a street boy whom I met a year ago.
I enjoyed a chat with him as we walked towards a nearby grocery market to buy some bananas for him and friends.
I remember him sharing that despite being a street boy, he will, “Never give up!”
The boys used to stay and nap under some trees along Ngong Road. The trees were their homes.
After an early meeting today at iHub Nairobi, I walked past the same trees that are now chopped, burnt to ashes, abandoned.
No longer tall and green.
No longer a home.
“Where is Boni?” I thought.
But the lonely air responded with heartbreaking silence.

Mambo Maasai Mara!

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I’ve always dreamed of the Maasai Mara. Experiencing the large expanse of natures glory and a beautiful culture that has made a mark even on the international scene.

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Pssst! Let me tell you a secret. My dream wedding proposal (before this post) had always been on a hot air balloon, during a sunrise over the glorious Mara. My future husband will now have to work with another creative plan which brings the drama which I love.

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So what led me to the Mara? Well, I travelled with my colleagues at the Amani Institute for a Design Thinking course. It was fun and I totally loved the fact that I got to experience camping for the very first time.

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If you’ve never done camping at the Mara, I highly recommend starting with the Oldarpoi Mara Camp. It’s an intimate eco-camp that economically empowers the local community and offers a rich cultural immersion into the Maasai community. We got to enjoy a beautiful musical performance by a local blacksmith who makes spears using inherited tools that are more than 100 years. Also, we got to ejnoy traditional dances by Maasai warriors.

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To be honest, I did enjoy my time at the Mara though I could not forget the choking sensation I got on my way to the Mara. I had seen a sea of plastic (PVC) paper bags on both sides of the road, stuck on shrubs and trees. Some were sweeping across the widespread land like tumbleweed. This was the only thing that I didn’t enjoy, particularly the pollution around shops.

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However, I was happy to know that there’s a new NGO in the area that’s working with the community to deal with waste management. They actually gather community members once a month to collect waste and dispose it correctly. I saw the impact within communities and it was a breath of fresh air.

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As we took a walk to meet community members, we met this old man who was tending to his goats and sheep. Ole Mutet is his name and we were informed that he educated his son using cows and now his boy has graduated from the University of Oregon in the US. He blessed us with a traditional Maasai story and it was awesome!

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We met groups of ladies selling traditional Maasai jewelry and the temptation was on the high. One in particular offered me a discount on a beaded bangle if I took a photo of her. It was a great ideal and so here she is!

Tip: Wearing a Maasai shuka (the material/blanket I am wearing in the photo above) is a sign of respect so grab one when headed for the Mara and wear it when interacting with community members.

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For four days, I got to enjoy this peaceful aboard away from the busy city. It was awesome and I plan to do ballooning at the Mara soon. At least for now I’ll soak in how amazing it was to wake up, eat, rest, dance and discover the Maasai Mara through this camping experience.

Enjoy the rest of the pics from my trip!

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Have you been to the Maasai Mara? I would love to know about your experience. If not, boy does a great adventure await you.

Kakamega Forest Community shares how to Fight Poaching in Kenya

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I always loved travelling to the village in Kakamega during school holidays when I was young. Of course, my family did not enjoy the luxury of spending vacation time in the best beach to bush holiday destinations or flying abroad. But I sure learned the value of visiting my family back in the village. From my community members, I learned about environmental stewardship long before I interacted with the term during an environmental class at the university.

Salome was my late grandfather's prayer tree and one of the trees in the beautiful Kakamega Forest

Salome was my late grandfather’s prayer tree and one of the trees in the beautiful Kakamega Forest

My late grandfather whom I loved to call “Kuka” spent majority of his youthful years in an army camp in Uganda during the World War. He had seen the face of war and I believe that it seemed like heaven when he retired to the tranquil Kakamega forest. Every Sunday morning before going for church service, Kuka requested that parents release their children for nature walks. I made sure that I walked close to him so that I could filter wisdom from his old and husky voice as he told stories and riddles about the forest. One in particular stays fresh in my mind about the forest baboons. Kuka said that if you pick a stone and try to hit a baboon, you start a war against yourself. He said that in his many years of interacting with the baboons, he has never witnessed a baboon fail to catch a stone. Kuka said, “The baboon will always catch the stone and hit you with it for a baboon never misses his target!” Looking back, I now realise that Kuka had been teaching us about environmental responsibility.

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During church service, I had expected the typical shouting during praise and worship and pastors enjoying celebrity life like in Nairobi. I was wrong!

Interestingly, church services in the village took-on a different format. Selected elders of the village would speak openly about some of their concerns about the village. The pastor would sit and listen to their wisdom. Some congregants would share their testimonies and thanksgiving. It seemed like it was one big family meeting where the forest somehow brought people together and closer to God. It was evident just how much the people loved the forest and even looked into the Bible for ways to be responsible about God’s creation.

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I remember the last church service I attended with Kuka, he was the guest speaker. He spoke about supporting women who often fetched firewood from the forest. They were often attacked by baboons and they too harmed the trees. Kuka requested that the church members get together and take supportive action in finding sustainable solutions. And they did, soon after the service under the leadership of their pastors. Teams were formed, tasks were assigned and action was taken throughout the week. Nobody just talked about ideas. These were often backed by conversations that sought solutions which led to a sense of ownership of the forest; our forest.

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It soon became clear to me that the forest was part of us and so we needed to protect it. This is why most of the community members assertively sought jobs from KWS as forest guards. They knew just how important it was to preserve the community’s philosophy alive when it comes to protecting the forest. Also, the community worked with legislators to ensure that industrialists don’t take advantage of areas near the forest. There are no big hotels near the forest to avoid exploitation and disturbing the peace in the forest. It only takes a mighty long drive to the Kakamega forest to realise just how real this is. In the long run, the forest remains a peaceful aboard for beautiful wild animals, trees that are over 500-years-old and a community with generations of wisdom on forest conservation.

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So why isn’t the same happening in Kenyan national parks where poaching has been gaining momentum?

I think it all goes back to understanding the role of environmental stewardship. Why? This is because it would take three environmental stewards working together to promote responsible use and protection of the natural environment. They are: (1) Doers (2) Donors and (3) Practitioners.

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Photo: MLD Family fund

 

Doers are the people who volunteer to support the cause by taking action. For example, doers in the Kenyan context would be citizens like myself who visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphan’s Project area to get informed and also adopt elephants. Through this project, doers get to support rescue and rehabilitation efforts for orphaned elephants and rhinos.

My friend Maureen touching an elephant for the very first time at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage in Nairobi

My friend Maureen touching an elephant for the very first time at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage in Nairobi

Donors are the financial backbone for various causes. Their approaches could be donating money and even holding fundraisers to create awareness and gather financial support for a cause. For example, the First Lady of Kenya on behalf of the government was the fundraising force behind an anti-poaching campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants” to support conservationists and protect elephants in Kenyan National parks.

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Practitioners are those who work on a day-to-day basis to gather support from scientists, governmental agencies, stakeholder groups and other groups to promote environmental stewardship outcome. For example, Dr. Paula Kahumbu and her team at WildlifeDirect who initiated the “Hands off our Elephants” campaign. They are a group of practitioners who tirelessly blow the trumpet about elephant poaching in Kenya and gather support from citizens, the government and other agencies for sustainable solutions to fighting poaching in Kenya.

Dr. Paula Kahumbu (left) who is WildlifeDirect's CEO and myself during the 2013 StoryMoja Hay Festival where she promoted the "Hands Off Our Elephants" campaign

Dr. Paula Kahumbu (left) who is WildlifeDirect’s CEO and myself during the 2013 StoryMoja Hay Festival where she promoted the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign

Together, these three groups of warriors form environmental stewards. The best thing is that anybody, even you, can become an environmental steward just by getting informed, being conversant about the environmental situation around you and carrying-on with a personal effort to reduce the likelihood of negatively impacting the environment.

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So what works at the Kakamega forest? Well, the three groups which make up a fierce environmental stewards team actively work together for the good of the community and the forest.
If the communities that live around the national parks are supported and educated about their role to protect wildlife and why they need to care about protecting them, then they would begin to take ownership of the wildlife. Too many of them live in poverty and feel abandoned in the process. This is why I believe they keep quiet when the poachers infest their land for a hunting spree. Some have also been facing human-wildlife conflict in their communities but with little or no effective support on how to combat the situation.

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What if the donors supported the communities with financial aid? What if the practitioners supported the communities with educational initiatives about environmental stewardship? What if one day the communities became doers and started community initiatives to defend their wildlife?

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This could be a reality if Kenyan people began to embrace a culture of environmental stewardship by sharing wisdom, staying informed and actively participating in environmental conservation initiatives.

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I believe that it can become a reality but it begins with believing that we as a nation can get there if we work together to our best capacity. If it works in Kakamega forest, it can surely work in our national parks. After all, they are all part of the beautiful Kenyan carpet of nature!

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Check out my photo gallery about my first trip to the David Sheldrick Orphans Project area, please click here.

For more about the poaching situation in Kenya, join the conversations on Facebook and Twitter!

Also, check out the “Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign” and even more on www.wildlifedirect.org

Gagging Death with Second Chances

Amy was tired. She was tired of a marriage gone wrong. The pain crept through her nerves; from her curled toes to the hot coffee mug trapped between her hands. She sat in silence at the dinner table. The ticking clock on the wall echoed further into the living room. The fearful tapping of her finger onto the mug came to a stop when the minute hand hit midnight. She broke into tears which streamed down her face and into the mug.

Richard had for the third time slept out during their wedding anniversary. For the third time, Amy thought, her husband chose his mistress over her during their special day. He had tried to hide the affair for three years but she knew it from the first day he came home with a mask on his face. A mask of a man she knew not; a man who knew how to tell a lie straight to her face. And so she put her mug in the kitchen sink, turned off the lights and headed to bed.

Suddenly, she woke up to a struggle for breath as a masked man gagged her mouth as his partner tied up her arms and legs. The man placed a cloth over her nose and the next thing she felt was the cold burn of a metallic chair. Amy had been kidnapped. Blindfolded, she struggled to free her arms and legs but all her efforts were in vain. She panted and puffed some more until all she could do was cry.

Neither of the two men spoke to her. They just kept walking round the room which scared her even more. But as soon as they removed the muffle over her mouth she cried, “Please let me go! Please let me go!” All she heard in return was silence. The two men never said a thing. Hopelessness started sinking in as soon as it hit her that the only person who would notice that she was missing was her husband. The thought of Richard in the arms of his mistress at such a time made her feel even closer to death. She had been dying slowly for the last three years.

The day she wanted to tell Richard that she had cervical cancer was the day he came home with a mask on his face and a hint of cheap perfume on his shirt. She was dying alone for three years. She thought about the many times she had tried to get pregnant. How it pained her when her family members pressured her. How it made her feel less of a woman that she was not able to give Richard a child. Perhaps that is what made him start an affair, she thought. Slowly, her marriage had suffered another type of cancer that ate into their love.

Suddenly, Amy gave in to the worst; death. Her loud cried for freedom turned into death wishes. She knew not who the two men were, but she told them to get on with it and just kill her.

“I’ve got nothing else to lose so just kill me.”

“I have been dying from cancer for the last three years.”

“My husband has for the last three years spent our wedding anniversary in the arms of his mistress.”

“I am infertile and cannot do the one thing a woman is supposed to do.”

“Just kill me now and kill me quick.”

Suddenly, one man took off the blindfolds and freed her arms and legs. Kneeling right before her in a room full of friends and family members was Richard. His idea of a wedding anniversary surprise for Amy had taken a different turn. He was crying and the look on his face was that of a broken soul. One lady rushed across the room in tears and left the house. Everyone else had a mix of grief, anger, fear and shock painted over their faces.

“Please forgive me Amy… Please forgive me!” Richard wept in the silence that had filled the room. The look on Amy’s face was that of shock and frustration. She had emotionally and physically signed a death wish; she was ready to die. Looking at the room full of people made her feel as if she were looking at a certain chapter of her past that she had long forgotten. She zoned back in and Richard had stopped crying. He stood up, walked towards her and went on his knees before her. He held onto her hands and noticed how pale and skinny they had become. She was shaking as if she had seen a ghost. A ghost indeed! The mask on Richard’s face was gone and he looked at her with the innocence he had in his eyes the day he asked her to be his wife. He said:

“I broke my promise to love and protect you.”

“I broke my promise to be faithful to you.”

“I broke my promise to stand by you for better or for worse.”

“This is the worse and before you is a man full of broken promises.”

“I won’t stop you if you choose to leave me. But if there is some little hope in you that I can be a better man, I am begging you to give me a second chance.”

Amy pulled away her hands and cried. She was not sure about what was happening. She was not sure that she could trust again, not Richard. The other people in the room had already disappeared from their thoughts; the focus was only on the two.

“Just one more chance Amy… Just one more chance,” Richard pleaded. Then Amy wiped away her tears and held his hands. “I guess two years are enough for a second chance,” Amy said with a soft smile warming up her face. Richard rose from his knees in astonishment and kissed her as he did on their wedding day.

Suddenly, cheerfulness from family and friends coated and helped them sail away into a perfect second chance.

True love thrives in forgiveness and truth, enough to selflessly give way to second chances even with two more years left to live.

Yours truly,

Ayuma.

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