The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Posts tagged ‘Storytelling’

WHY I WEPT ON MY 2015 BIRTHDAY

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Courage is an Attitude

I had just come from Nairobi Garage where I had hosted an early-morning speed networking event for young Nairobi entrepreneurs. It was the very last event. I could not afford to produce another one. So I had a little cupcake and coffee party to thank my guests, and to encourage them to keep on with their good work. I went home.
 
With my handbag still on my shoulder, I sat on the couch, silent.
With a box of stationery still on my lap, I stared at the feedback forms inside.
Warm tears slowly slithered down my cheeks into the box.
Suddenly, a loud cry burst out of my mouth and echoed into the box.
 
I felt like such a big failure!
A failure to my company. A failure to myself. A failure to my parents who’d invested in my business. A failure to my supporters. A failure to my country.
 
After weeping, I sat on the couch for a while, trying to figure out my next steps. Normally, I would write an evaluation of the event and plan for the next one. Then send a message of thanks to guests, along with a networking tip.
 
But this time round, I had no idea what would be my next step.
I could not afford to pay back the loans from my parents because the banks I had visited didn’t offer loans to young unmarried ladies with small enterprises. I got to understand why there are so many microfinance banks for women in Kenya. Despite modernisation, most banks still see women as high-risk customers.
 
I could not reach out to my mentor because our relationship had been tarnished by his sexual advances. He had been in the process of supporting my application for a grant at an embassy, the accounting firm already set to receive the funds. But when he realised that I stand firm on my principles, he blocked the process and sent me this message: “I can’t be a mentor to a person like you. The people I mentor understand how we work. No wonder your startup is not working!”
 
So I put down the box of stationery, slipped off the couch onto the floor and removed my shoes.
I prayed. I wept. I prayed some more.
 
Exposed and vulnerable is what I felt as a human being. But I did not care at that point. If I were to be broken and all vulnerable, I would rather be so before my God who is also my friend. I asked Jesus to show me that all my effort had not been in vain. I asked for His guidance.
 
A wave of calmness came over me and I found the strength to smile. Suddenly, I noticed the chocolate cupcake that had remained from the party I had with my guests. I grabbed it, took a bite, and told myself: “Happy Birthday Michelle! All will be well.”
 
One birthday later, I am so grateful to have my prayers answered.
My parents chose to look over the loans I owed them, and invested in furthering my education in Social Innovation Management at the Amani Institute. So happy that I’ll be graduating this month. Yay!
 
I found the courage to take a few steps back on the idea I had had to focus on the core, which is positive conversations that inspire positive change. Now, I serve change leaders as a coach through a project that celebrates storytelling for leadership.
 
Despite not having surplus funds at the moment, I have never lacked. Opportunities are showing up along my journey. Not to mention the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from.
 
I’ve got a strong roof over my head, food to put on my table and clothes to keep me warm. Every day, I wake up to new opportunities to serve people by doing what I love.
 
The greatest lesson I have learnt is that…
Failure is a great teacher with an ugly face.
It takes courage to look past the ugly face and see a resource to learn from.
 
Courage is a key word this new year of my life.
 
My hope is that this little story of mine encourages you never to give up on you. And remember…
 
Courage, Prayer & Chocolate cake!
 
Happy Birthday to me

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.

Turkey Funeral by @ayumyum

Turkey Funeral

Turkey Funeral

COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO! The farm’s cockerel stirred up life in the farm. Mama walked into my room and found me staring at the ceiling. The carroty rays of the morning sun had pierced through the old curtains creating lovely patterns of light. One pattern looked like a peacock’s tail. Mama thought so too when I pointed it out on my bedroom wall. She then told me to go take the warm bath she had prepared for me and later on head to the hut where Nyanya, my grandmother, was. I sprung out of my mattress and left my little sister Dory* tucked into her bedspread. Mama didn’t bother waking her up. The poor girl was exhausted! She had spent her entire afternoon running around the farm on the previous day when we had arrived at our rural home.

My older cousins had already started doing their chores in preparation for the great family feast in the evening. The boys helped my uncles to choose the best cow for the banquet. The girls accompanied my aunts to the market to buy kitchen supplies and grind sun-dried maize at the millers.

Papa was a busy man. His quick and long strides told it all. He walked from one side of the farm to the other making sure that everything was in order. The cattle had been released. The cows had been milked. The poultry in the farm had been freed from their pens. The guard dogs had been fed. Money had been given to purchase supplies for the feast. A true Kenyan man he was, attested by his special request for a generous order for beer – Tusker to be specific! I never understood why Papa and my uncles liked the soda they called Tusker. I had tasted it once from Papa’s glass but it did not taste nice. It gave people a funny smell in the mouth!

Omwitsukhulu (grandchild) let’s go!” Nyanya called out to me. It was time for our walk. She liked morning walks in the forest. It was the only time she got to take-in fresh whiffs from the Kakamega forest, before the farm filled with activity. I liked accompanying Nyanya. She was the tallest old woman I knew. No one really knew how old she was apart from Kuka, my grandfather.  Whenever she sang, I hummed silently to her tune as we picked fresh wild mushrooms amid the jamboree of trees. She sang in a language that mother had been trying to teach me. Her voice blended well with the choirs of forest birds and the chattering of monkeys. At times I just stopped and stared at her as she slowly knelt to pick mushrooms. The gingery sunrise waves settled on her so gracefully, covering her with a golden coat of light. I followed her closely behind as I picked the mushrooms she uprooted and stored them in a small sisal basket. From a distance, a group of women gathered firewood for their households. They all waved at Nyanya who was quite popular with women from the local church. Every harvest season she gathered women from the fellowship to harvest crop at our farm and go home with a sack full of produce as a token of appreciation.

As soon as we arrived back at the farm, it’s as if we had returned during resurgence.  There was clamour from every corner. People hurried from one point to another. The look on some animals confirmed that I was not the only one in shock. And so I let go of Nyanya’s hand and run towards Dory who was playing with some ducks. Kuka sat nearby on an old tree stump to ensure that Dory finished her breakfast which he held in his hands. The two were inseparable – wherever Kuka was, Dory was just a stone’s throw away. Nyanya said hello to her old love then headed for the kitchen where my aunts and mother were.

As Dory and I played with the birds, groups of men started approaching my grandfather for greetings. It was tradition to do so as a sign of respect. Whenever Kuka wasn’t around, Papa took his place as the eldest son to receive guests at the compound. I couldn’t help but feel so proud of Kuka. He was a short old man but very active in the community’s welfare. After Dory finished her breakfast, he stood up to put the bowl on the stump. Kuka grabbed his brown walking stick and went for a walk near a stream that flowed near his old hut. He did this whenever he wanted to pray. Perhaps he wanted to pray for a good feast and that Nyanya grants his request to make his favourite stew. Or perhaps he wanted to pray that Nyanya doesn’t cook his favourite rooster, she never liked his rooster. “It makes too much noise,” she used to say. Kuka always claimed that the rooster always woke him up in good time. Nyanya often disagreed and took the credit saying that she’s the one who woke it up before other farm animals. I loved how my grandparents got lost in their arguments and then laughed it off in the end.

Dory noticed that Kuka’s turkeys had fed well and gathered under Nyanya’s avocado tree to laze around for a while. The birds were so huge that I thought they would burst if pricked by a sharp object. There was a funny noise they made which I confused for one of Dory’s loud farts. For some reason, she quickly picked up a stone and threw it towards the group of turkeys. The impact it had was unexpected. Suddenly we were scampering from an angry mob of turkeys. The giant ones scared me the most. I thought that I was going to die if even one caught my toe.  “Would it swallow me whole?” But I feared most for Dory and wasn’t sure if a bird had grabbed her already. I cried out loud wondering what I would say if Kuka asked me about Dory. How could I tell him that one of his turkeys had swallowed his best friend?

Luckily, I spotted a clear path that led to the main kitchen at the farm. I could see Mama cleaning some utensils. I thought she was my best chance to prick the turkeys that were chasing me. I hid behind her and watched her scare away the fat birds like a superhero. I clung onto Mama’s colourful khanga tied round her waist and started crying. When she told me to calm down, I let out the secret. “I’m so sorry Mama! Dory threw a stone and the turkeys ate her,” I confessed. “What do you mean?” Mama asked. “Mama, what will I tell Kuka? His turkeys ate Dory!” What I expected to be a loud cry came out as a loud laugh by Mama. I was confused by her reaction then she reassured me that turkeys don’t eat children. I dried off tears from my eyes and jelly from my nose with the hem of Mama’s khanga.

The relief was short-lived as I heard the sound of Dory wailing nearby. Mama and I quickly ran towards the loud cry hoping that she’s alright. I had prepared to see the worst – Dory screaming from the inside of a giant turkey. My heart pounded hard in fright only to find Dory curled up at the foot of the avocado tree. She was crying as she held something in her hands. When she saw us, she uncovered her little hands to show us a young turkey struggling for breath. She asked Mama to rescue it since she was a nurse. Before Mama gave her an unfortunate response, the little bird stopped breathing. I knelt down next to Dory and cried with her. We had never seen anything literally die before our eyes. Mama told us to calm down but Dory shouted, “I killed him mum! I chased his family then his father stepped on him.” We broke into loud cries leading to quizzical reactions from relatives within the compound. To avoid attracting attention, Mama told us to stand up and give turkey to one of the farmers who stood nearby. She said that he would know what to do with turkey. She did not like that Dory held onto a dead bird in her hands. The look on the farmer’s face was so scary that it made Dory immediately surrender turkey to him.

Mama told us to cheer up and go to Kuka’s house to keep him company. She rushed back to the kitchen. Luckily, as soon as our mother disappeared into the kitchen Kuka found us with the farmer. He had heard Dory’s cry which made him worry.

With Kuka by our side, we requested the farmer to let us bury turkey. Kuka told him to let us do what we had asked. He put the bird in an empty packet of wheat flour that had been swept by the wind from the kitchen bin. Kuka walked into his hut and warned us not to get into trouble especially with Nyanya. I think he feared her tempers more than a lion’s roar. The farmer said that we could throw it into the farthest latrine in the farm. Silently, we walked to the latrine as we stared at the packet. The latrine greeted us with a slightly pungent breeze. Luckily, lots of hot ash had been poured into it to mask the full force of a reeking latrine.

A toilet fly kept us company as it buzzed inside the latrine which was made of stone. Dory said that we should pray first before burying turkey, “God please forgive me for throwing a stone at turkey’s family.” I nodded in agreement. “Dear God, please forgive turkey’s father who stepped on him,” she pleaded as she cried. I held her shoulder and helped her complete the prayer by asking God to save some food in heaven for turkey since he would miss food from the feast. “Amen,” we ended the prayer. Dory let go of the packet which landed inside the latrine with a punching plop.

We walked out of the latrine feeling sad that we had lost turkey. But then again we were so glad that he would be in heaven with God who loves turkeys.

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

The Storymoja Hay Festival is on September 19 – 22, 2013. Mark the Date. You will definitely leave the festival thinking in a whole new way! Imagine the World
Follow Storymoja Hay Festival on Facebook and on @SMHayFest on Twitter for updates on tickets, travel & accomodation, guest authors, pre-fest events and event programming. see also our official website.

Silly is Legal – A Happy Dance by Ayuma Michelle

I believe in the beauty of simplicity, the colour of life, the romance that comes with every breath of fresh air. There is beauty! So much beauty around us, just waiting to explode into our sight, in our minds and in our lives. And what better means to paint this beauty than with words?

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Recently I wondered how ignorant I had been to the serenade of life’s silent simplicities around me. I had long forgotten the things that used to make me laugh out loud silly like a child to a point of tummy ache.
But is this what we ultimately call being grown-up? Hushing the child in us and handing over the baton to the seriousness of life? Tucking away the colours and adorning ourselves with the neutrals of grey? Literally setting aside only two or perhaps three days of the week to focus on “fun” instead of naturally letting fun run throughout our days? Well, despite the modern complexities we often find ourselves tangled into; let us forget not the simple things, just an inch away, to make you smile.

Here’s an interesting trip I recently took to my kitchen for breakfast. I captured some of the silly monologues I often host in my mind where imagination is the rule of the game. I hope you manage to steal a chuckle or two from this piece:

Breakfast Call

A beautiful song calls me from sleep at first light,
A chill oozes though my grumpy bedroom wall to pinch my cheek,
Into my bed, I slothfully sink like a strawberry into a pool of honey… Just for a few sweet seconds,
Then I hear it again!
The clash of crystal-like elements, breaking and crashing into beautiful symphony,
The chorale of bubble pops, jelly plops, juicy splash, crispy crackles,
All leading me into a sailing fling like a weightless feather.
Step by step,
I tip and toe,
To clink and the clank,
Of the chant.
And there they are… All lined up to serve me with their deliciousness.
“Pick me! Choose me!”
Charming me with their hotchpotch of tangs,
My knees grow weak, slowly giving-in to crippling cavity.
To my rescue, beckons Monsieur de l’eau, “C’est moi Cherie! C’est moi!”
And so I reach out first for his crystal arm and entertain Champagne’s sober cousin.
Suddenly, all in the land of Jikoni exclaim, “Relief! She is well fed.”
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Did You Know?
The Storymoja Hay Festival is at bay and I for one look forward to joining various discussions to help me grow as a writer and a creative being. Workshops for writers, talks on writing, focus on identity, the environment and culture, all under this year’s theme “Imagine the World” [Waza Dunia]. Be sure to diarise 19th – 22nd September 2013 and be there with me. For now, please join the ongoing discussions on Facebook and Twitter!

Yours Truly,
Ayuma.

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