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Why you can’t Google Lamu, and Inspiring stories of Young Models #CaptureKenya


“You cannot Google Lamu,” that’s what a National Museum’s official told me on our last morning on Lamu Island; “You have to experience it.” Succint, nein? I had drifted away from the wolfpack to sample the town’s historical sites, the museum, the fort, and a bit of Old Town. I have written several pieces on Lamu in my short career as a pen for hire, but nothing prepared me for this experience. 700 years of continuous settlement and Lamu is still amazing! 

Lamu is a history buff’s wet dream. Before the British made it an administrative center, it was a smaller island in terms of development compared to Pate. The fort now hosts the Museum’s offices, and years of restoration have taken away the authenticity you find in some of the Old Town’s streets. The narrow streets are actually alleys, one that brought eerie memories of the one the old man who conned me disappeared into.

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He probably didn’t make it to the end…

Lamu has always been a party because of its access to the deep waters, a calm sea, and a long shoreline. But its dependence on tourism makes its economy a bit redundant as almost everyone is a guide or operates a motorboat. Some of the buildings have been redone and the corals polished to a bright white. All of them, including those ones that are now relics, were once that bright white.

You probably need to arm yourself with enough mosquitos repellant because the insects are ruthless! Add to the fact that mosquitoes are attracted to people who eat bananas (or are they?) and you will see why I had all the buzzy ladies were all over me. Balling!

 Test Image by Migz...


Test Image by Migz…

Meet Sauda. She is a young girl with a huge smile and big dreams. She is a fantastic footballer, and we knew that the moment we met her on Day One in Lamu. We actually bumped into her and Chela had to chase her before she disappeared in Lamu’s maze of streets. The narrow streets are also short and unless you know where someone is going, it is easy to lose them. 

Sauda is a tomboy with high adrenaline. She hardly talks though, and it’s easier to just talk to her as she dribbles. When we met her, she was playing alone along the narrow streets, using them to maneuver impossible shots. If her big smile doesn’t get you, her skills with a ball will.

The test shots took about half an hour as we sort her male guardian, Fadhili, a burly guy with a conspicuous beard. He walked out of the door sans shirt, and Chela had some optical nutrition of moobs. Okay, we all looked. It was hard not to when he was just standing there with water dripping from his conspicuous beard.

Migz says he hasn’t had any model, ever, a good as Sauda. She is a natural with the ball and getting her to do crazy dribbles for repeat shots is as easy as just asking. She can do it, and she is confident about it. “Golden child! That girl’s future is so bright!” Migz says as we have breakfast. Yet the entire time we spent with her, in Day One and Day 3, I think we only got one word from her, her name. When we asked her where she lives she just pointed and we followed. Her final shot is a marvel!

Samir 2

The other child model we had in Lamu, Samir, is a one-and-a-half year old cheerful boy. His dad, his co-model for the shot, is in his late twenties. Samir’s speech is still mostly baby talk but his confidence will win you over….and then when his father places him on the donkey, he goes ‘VROOM! Vroom!’ That really caught my attention given that there are only five vehicles in Lamu. One is the DC’s Land Rover, the others are all tractors. Although the sound could be from a motorboat, I think he meant to imitate a car.

When we got to Watamu Beach, our first models were three-year old Lenkoin and his father, Johnson. They we taking beach walk while dressed in Maasai shukas. Where Samir can’t talk yet, Lenkoin is chatty. He is a polite boy who wants to be a driver like his dad, although Migz’s inspiration might have added a second potential career to that short list.

Migz made a young friend on Watamu Beach

Migz made a young friend on Watamu Beach

 Lenkoin can even spell his name; he thinks the ‘o’ is a zero though, and my efforts to correct that might have hit rock bottom. Touché. Touché.

…oh, and Johnson doesn’t know Lenkoin’s age off head, which is no surprise given our species-level inability to memorize such details. Its how he said it though (read with a Maasai accent) “Nani najua?”

 

 Owaahh, 2013

 

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Capture Kenya, Short Lists

 

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#CaptureKenya : 4 things I’ve learnt about Photography from Migz of Magiq Lens


#4 Redundancy is Good, Redundancy is Everything

Writer’s hate redundancy, and we actively edit our work to get rid of that scourge. But photographers love it! It gives them the chance to take as many shots as possible, and to be ready whenever a spontaneous moment presents itself.

Migz’s burden is a photographer’s backpack, complete with compartments for more batteries than he might need, numerous memory cards, the lights, flash units, lenses, and a host of other things.

These are just two of his four bags, hoader!

These are just two of his four bags, hoader!

Each shot submitted back to the client is just one in an average 20 taken for each scene, not counting the numerous test shots to balance lighting and the flash units.

#3 Good is never Good Enough, Know when to quit

A Perfect shot is never that, and one must learn when to quit. Searching for the perfect shot is a creative process much like writing, sometimes it just presents itself, sometimes you have to squeeze it out of its dungeon.

We spent 45 minutes on this scene but it didn't work. The poles in the foreground were too much and the activity wasn't...

We spent 45 minutes on this scene but it didn’t work. The poles in the foreground were too much and the activity wasn’t…

#2 Photography is Art, Photographers are Crazy too

I can't even caption this one.

I can’t even caption this one.

Amateur photographers like me with good cameras tend to blame our gadgets for our rare good shots. Professional photography though, is more dependent on the brain than on the camera. The brain is the most important equipment.

Migz’s Canon is a marvel, it has numerous options and facilities, and can be adjusted to walk on selfies of itself. Okay, not really. But you get the idea.

Staging a photograph is a work of pure art, a composing process of sorts. Your words are the models, and your camera the piano. If the keys are working then you don’t have to think about it. In fact, it shouldn’t matter. A good photographer will get good shots even with a shitty camera…

 #1 Photography is Sacrifice, and lots of water

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Have you ever seen a photograph so impossible that it had to be fake? One that makes you wonder where the photographer was positioned for the image to be so powerful?

Its all about dirt and getting wet, and flying, and doing whatever it takes to face your fears. When Migz is in his element, he focuses on his camera and the ‘music.’ He loses himself sometimes, completely, and will venture to stomach high waters to get that perfect shot. There was a hilarious moment when he fell into the water while getting off the sailing boat.

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Do not be afraid to get your balls wet.

 

Owaahh©, 2013.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

#CaptureKenya: The Water Bottle


There is something about living in Nairobi that often makes us forget the concepts of family and sharing on which this country’s real roots are founded. The surprising thing is that nearer to the sea, to the cities and towns that have survived capitalism and our five-decade freefall (sometimes tempered with a few glows), one’s faith in Kenya’s ability to be a family is restored. Not even by the open sea or the constant greetings and social warmth, but by this reused 3-litre bottle…

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We sat outside a small hotel while waiting for a potential model to report to his place of work. The hotel is on the main street, known officially as Harambee Avenue, overlooking the sea and the jetties. While the rest of #TeamMigz went down the sea barrier to get spontaneous shots, I lagged behind to watch the bags-it reminds me of my first school trip in high school. It was a drama trip, and I was so excited, only to be designated the unofficial security person for the costumes and bags when everyone else was out chasing the sister school. This was different though. We had woken up at 4.30 to get some sunrise shots; the sun rises so early in Lamu, almost as if it is eager to go somewhere. A five-minute video of the horizon would look like a time-lapse video of the orange ball just hurtling its way up the sky.

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Its only 5.45 am in the morning….

Anyway, on the table where we had established base, I spotted the reused empty bottle. They were empty when I got there, and probably shouldn’t have attracted my attention. Then I noticed that every few minutes, a passerby stops, checks the bottle, finds it empty, and moves onwards. It turns out that this is the culture in Lamu; almost everyone with a table on the main street places a bottle of water and a plastic cup for any thirst passerby. No cost, no formalities, just a courtesy for everyone by everyone.

Lamu's famous Old Town's streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I'ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner...

Lamu’s famous Old Town’s streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I’ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner…

It is not much, and they probably don’t have to, but they still do. Such random acts of kindness, especially where they fulfill someone else’s banal needs at no cost to themselves, are probably the most salient thing missing from our everyday transactions. I pondered over how Nairobi would be such a culture shock for anyone who has been a Lamu resident his entire life since there is no free drinking water, and if there were, no one would drink it.

Lamu is a one big warm family.  In our three days here, we have made impromptu decisions severally, at times leaving the first person who approached us with a deal for his friend with either a better one or a better boat. No one ever gets angry; it’s almost suspicious how easily they take it. It’s as if capitalism reached the island in such a mild form that its murderous tentacles are missing from the real natives of Lamu.

Blessed with a calm shoreline and direct access to the high seas, Lamu’s main street is the Central Business District (CBD) with several banks, airline offices, government offices, the donkey sanctuary, numerous shops and hotels, and always teeming with groups of idling men. The men are not really idling, however, as this is the widest street in Lamu and most frequented by tourists. The speedboats tied to the jetties are owned or run by these men here, and once in a while, you will pass a group of men singing together or playing a board game.

Lamu's main street. Its a seafront affair...

Lamu’s main street. Its a seafront affair…

The bank aisles are almost empty, and the teller will happily chat with you about why you are in Lamu while she processes your money. No one is in a hurry, except our de facto tour guide and casting director, Cisqo (he is a slave driver this one, sharp and on his bare feet all the time).

I spotted a poster offering a 30*40 plot of land for KES 200, 000, in case your quest to enter the land bubble brings you here. But come only if you promise to visit or live only if you promise to place a bottle of water outside your door. 

Owaahh©, 2013. 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Adventures, Kenya, Random Musings

 

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7 Things that Strike You about Lamu on Day One ( #CaptureKenya )


Lamu Tamu. This whole week, I will be shadowing Migz as he takes photos for Safaricom’s 2014 calendar challenge. Safaricom always finds a way to shine in its branding and for next year’s calendar; five of the best photographers in the country are tasked with capturing Kenyans in their day-to-day hustle.

Migz of MagiqLens KE has Lamu/Malindi/Watamu, Mutua Matheka has Central Province, Allan Gachigi has Kisumu and the rest of Nyanza, Tom Otieno has Nairobi Region, and Isabel Gathoni has Rift Valley. Each has a producer and a blogger embedded to document the process and the magic. So, @CrazyNairobian, @KevdaNative, @Raidarmax, @Mwirigi, and I will live, breathe and exist #CaptureKenya this entire week from different parts of the country.

#7 Lamu is an Island accessible only by sea

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If you know anything about Lamu, then of course you know this. But this means Lamu Airport is not in Lamu, but on the neighboring island called Manda. It is from the jetty that you get a boat across the channel to Lamu Tamu!

This was Migz’s look when he discovered that the landing he thought was Lamu/Manda was actually the Malindi stopover.

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Then the turbulence in Manda just knocked him straight out.

 

When we landed from the twerking plane.

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The producer, Chela, has hydrophobia. So between Nairobi and Lamu, both Chela and Migz had to ‘face their fears.’

#6 Lamu people are so friendly

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@Kevdanative pointed it out when we met in the check out cafeteria at JKIA. Still, nothing really prepares you for the kind of hospitality and friendliness you get from people who live in and around Lamu.

Even a brief conversation about the project has to start with more than just the casual ‘hey.’ You have to start a conversation with a potential model with a brief conversation, and smile, always smile.

 

 

#5 The Chief is a cool guy

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The chief is this chatty, sharp guy with an awesome name (Fankupi). I think it’s spelt with the ‘I’ but the name mantel on his desk spells it Fankupy. By the time we do the short courtesy call at the hotel next door where we found him and the short walk to his office to sign the visitor’s book, we know so much about Lamu that it now feels like home.

Did I mention that he is a gadget head? He has a smartphone whose brand I couldn’t quite capture, but it looks like a HTC or Huawei; but that tablet on his desk was surely an iPad. I think I glanced at him using WhatsApp on his phone. Lamu has 3G by the way.

The most eye-catching thing in his office was this dhow pen though. It looks uncomfortable to write but he signs his official documents with it.

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We all thought it was for aesthetics but he told us it’s because he lost so many pens to visitors with itchy fingers that he sought a pen that was too conspicuous to steal.

#5 How to handle female models

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Because Lamu is a Muslim town, one cannot simply walk up to women and take random shots even of spontaneous moments. Other than the basics of etiquette that are emphasized here, it is important to handle female models with greater sensitivity than the male ones. In most cases, she must get first approval from her husband or father.

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But the men will readily offer you their wives as models or henna artists. This random guide we got, Cisqo, made sure his wife was nearby when we landed on the jetty from our evening boat ride to chase the sunset. Then we met a guy called Cisqo who seems to be the general factotum…and the guy can make a hard sell. She wanted to do Chela’s henna tattoos but she ended up signing up as a model. So it goes.

#4 Donkeys, Donkeys, Donkeys

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Lamu’s narrow streets make it impossible to use vehicular transport here. Our logistics guy, Wachira, pointed out that there are probably five cars here-then one passed on the street at that moment. Which means we had seen 20% of all the vehicular traffic on this gorgeous island?

Donkeys here are used to transport pretty much anything. Donkey taxis, donkey carts, donkey everything.

I climbed on one when Migz and the rest of the team weren’t looking. The donkeys are mostly slender and the only saddle is a thin bag. I got off almost as soon as he galloped a bit and my pelvis started to crack. To think these guys are at it all day?

 

#3 History, Heritage

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As one of the oldest surviving settlements in Kenya, Lamu is a history buff’s dream heaven! I have written so many stories of this place without ever being here. Every guide seems suspiciously conversant with the town’s heritage, and most get the facts right. The younger guys are hazier on the facts, quick to quote dates, but older guys like Chief Fankupy do it so easily and have so much to offer.

Lamu fort, Lamu square, the canons, the Old Town, the Present Town, Shela…you are spoilt for choice here. You are also spoilt for choice on guides. The younger ones are faster and more proactive, and will readily offer you deals before you even stop to talk to them.

 

#1 The Afternoon Siesta

This is an evening shot though...

This is an evening shot though…

Nothing had prepared us for how important the afternoon siesta is to the people of Lamu. Almost every first contact we made; our guide Pascal, the chief Fankupy and a random boat guy, pointed it out. The people of Lamu take their afternoon siesta very very seriously.

Migz can’t get many shots done in those few hours between 12.00 noon and 3.00 because the town slows down to a near standstill. People only wake up for those 4.00 pm prayers.

 

Safaricom is using the #CaptureKenya challenge for the 2014 calendar. Join the different teams in their quests for the perfect shots on Twitter using the hashtag #CaptureKenya.

 OwaahhÔ

 

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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7 Ballsiest Hoaxes Ever Pulled by Kenyans


 I’ve only been conned once. By an old man. An old senile man. Not 60s old, older, that guy was really really old. By the time I realized I was the sucker in the transaction, he was probably on his deathbed, dying of natural causes. I was KES 2500 poorer, carrying a shredded ego and for some odd reason, finding it funny and embarrassing at the same time. Although the relic didn’t get a lot of money, the pang of my gullibility lasted for months, probably longer than him.

But when that old man was younger (or still old, but not as old), Kenyans fell for many hoaxes. To their defense, it was the Age BG-Before Google. Still, even in the Google Age, we are still made of suckers and gullibility. Suspect Everyone.

This is a sequel to this previous list.

#7 The Facebook Phishing/MPESA hoax

One of the most ingenious hoaxes/financial cons in recent years, this one takes the cake for how fool proof it can be if you are not skeptical.
It works rather simply; a Facebook friend starts a random conversation, he or she then asks you to send money to someone for them-always KES 5, 000, repayable the next day as KES 8, 000/7, 000-because they are in a fix. The appeal for first, friendship, and second, greed, is the very ingenuity of this hoax. You have friends and you are greedy because you are a human being like the rest of us. 

MPESA

The phishing component is often the first phase. You receive a random link to vote for someone or something of the sought that takes you to a dummy Facebook page where you need to enter your email address and password again to access. A day or so later, you can’t access your profile, and suddenly your Facebook friends are calling you asking you whether your friend got the money. You try to change your password, but nein! The fraudsters add an extra password recovery email address to your profile and it’s a game of cat-and-mouse between the two of you, battling for control.

The name of the MPESA is always something common, like Tracy Kamau, Stacy Kamau, Janet Kamau. You will never get your money back.

#6 The Medical Adverts

There was always a sense in the Kenyan ‘spirit’ of Harambee that skirted the thin line between altruism and survivor guilt. Pure concern for others, it would emerge in later years when the ‘spirit’ was banned, is easy to exploit especially in a country used to throwing money at problems. Every disaster or accident is immediately followed by a call to fundraise, and no questions are ever asked about why the system doesn’t work. News reports on almost anything sad, even the death of a cat (hasn’t happened yet but who knows) are followed by  a Pay Bill number for the sad reader to restore some hope to humanity (or its endless greed).

 The medical adverts con is easy, and the epitome happened only two months ago. Two men walked into local dailies and paid for a medical appeal advertisement for a Master Cavlin Wanzila.

It later turned out that Wanzila is not really Wanzila, but Laren Galloway. Galloway has creepy but intriguing blue eyes, most likely caused by a genetic disorder called Waardenburg Syndrome.

Does this picture look familiar? You've been duped.

Does this picture look familiar? You’ve been duped.

Now you know that, but when the photo was published in local dailies in August, not many did and the hoax worked. With a small investment of about KES 50, 000 and remarkable ingenuity, our confidence team of two men and a woman just sat back and watched the monies roll in from gullible well-wishers who seriously wanted to help.

Ruth, the woman in the story, had received at least Shs. 1.7 million by the time the trio was made.

#5 Fred Achieng’, or was he?

By the time the British justice system sentenced this guy to four years imprisonment for fraud and theft, he had left a trail of bruised egos and bad debts. His greatest ruse was that he was the playboy son of Saudi arms dealer Adan Khashoggi, Mohammed Khashoggi.

He used his ‘father’s’ name to win over favors which mostly included free nights in presidential suites at five –star hotels, all over. His ruse even managed to make suckers out of successful businessmen like Allen Sheppard, the proprietor of the Grand Metropolitan Hotel Group in London.

He was a big spender and an astonishingly talented pianist. That latter attribute worked well for him, winning him many nights in five-star hotels. At some point, he was a cabaret artist in a prestigious hotel. At another, he was swindling everyone who had money at the coast. Using his best ruse and at other times claiming he was the son of a Permanent Secretary, Fred (or whatever his real name was) really had a blast in Nairobi, Mombasa and London. The lowly porter with a knack for the keyboard pushed it too far by targeting five-star hotels, but since there was no Google then, it took sometime before his huge bills got him made.

#4 The Miracle Babies

There has only been one true miracle baby and he was crucified on a cross. Or so the story goes. Unless you believe your pregnant daughter too when she swears she was fertilized by nature, and not by a young man you can blast with the shot gun you will buy for just that purpose. But Deya and his wife Eddah Odera had 12 of those, the miracle babies, not the shot guns, between 1999 and 2004.

The man with magic bullets.

The man with magic bullets.

At 56, Eddah was post-menopausal and her body should have shut down that business of churning out babies like a Coca Cola bottling factory sometime in the decade before. But she claimed it hadn’t. The entire system was simply machine-gunning out babies like it was being paid to do so. The Lord, through her husband and prophet, Gilbert Deya, had seen it fit to bring forth a new football team in five years (there are some teams in the EPL that can attest to this never working).

barnes and noble

The ministry’s advert openly solicits “God has blessed us with miracle babies that the world has never seen anything like before. Your donation is very useful to your miracle.”

It was total BS.  DNA tests showed no genetic link between the dozen children and their bewildered post-menopausal mother. No one seems to have thought of claiming that the foreign DNA was God’s. Wait, if we are theists, all DNA should be His, right? Logistics, logistics, you would think Nature or someone would make it easier. No one used the defense that maybe because a deity was simply making sperm out of thin air, maybe the DNA couldn’t match in the first place.

One of the women who was jailed with Deya’s wife, Rose Kiserem, later confessed to the whole thing being a ruse to hide a child-trafficking ring. It was a face-saving confession, and it only came after Deya refused to ‘apologize to her.’ Wait, shouldn’t he be apologizing to all those women who lost their kids?

#3 Kamlesh Pattni

Of course the Brother Paul had to be here. The story of Goldenberg is old, and tired, and Pattni is still rich, but it still needs to be told.

In the early 1990s, the not-so-bright Kenyan government sought to mitigate the economic crisis it had created the decade before by encouraging exports. Local businesses were given an incentive that  included a payback of every $20 for every $100 of products exported. Simple, yes, but there was no system of verifying volume, the entire process relied on the paper trail.

Pattni, young and ambitious, quickly opened a company and started exporting nonexistent gold to get the bonus. There was only one tiny gold mine in Kenya at the time, in Kakamega. The actual gold that was ever exported was first smuggled in Kenya from Congo and then forwarded to get the government bonus. He roped in the suckers and collaborators throughout the system; more later when he was almost caught and instead conviniently started his own bank, Exchange Bank Limited which made his system foolproof. Instead of the usual 20%, Pattni earned 35 percent for his gold and diamonds exports.

Never has this picture been more relevant. Source: LA Times...

Never has this picture been more relevant.
Source: LA Times…

By the end of the mess, Kenya’s public coffers were $600 million short, and through a commission of inquiry and some lethargic prosecutions, Goldenberg would become a tattered rag of a story, and Pattni would become Paul, Brother Paul. Rich and blessed by God, a greedy system, an obnoxious judiciary, and apathetic at-least-he-did-not-steal-from-my-house taxpayers.

#2 The Man who milked an Elephant

Unlike Brother Paul who seems to have emerged from his elephant-milking unscathed save for a bad reputation, Peter Baraza had the injuries but no milk. In a story headlined ‘Meet the man who milked an elephant that appeared in a local daily in 1998, the 21-year old Kenyan farmer claimed that he had milked an elephant as she grazed with her calf. The irate mother, after letting him milk her a bit, then turned on him and gave him a proper ass-whoopin’! But it didn’t smash him or cause very extensive injuries-he had a dislocated shoulder, ‘other internal injuries’ and the shock of surviving with such an awesome story.

Dramatization

Dramatization

So, why didn’t he, like Nyaumbe (the man who bit and beat a python) make it to Badass of the Week. Because it was a hoax. One that everyone, including papers such as LA Times, went ahead and re-published. That article raises a poignant question about the original report that appeared in the Daily Nation, why Baraza, other than the reason that he just felt like doing it, had tried to milk the elephant.

The story was also insensitive to the elephant- it implied that she had only knocked him out when she realized that he was milking her, which was like a minute later (like her boobs are that numb, but who knows).

This is an aside, but does anyone know whether elephants have nipples? If they do, they must be big. Baraza-crushing big. They are probably the ones that knocked him out. What search terms do I even enter into Google for this without looking like am researching for a fete of wildlife intercourse, pun intended?

I am not very sure what is happening here.

I am not very sure what is happening here.

But there was a major problem. The real Peter Baraza from Nyahururu had no injuries and had made no such claim. He, like the rest of us mere mortals, feared elephants for their sheer size and their ability to make a smudge out of our entire lives. Someone had made up the story, and when Baraza was done with Nation Media Group in a defamation case, he was KES 2 million richer. This time, he had milked an elephant for real, just not in the forest.

#1 Eric Awori

This is one of the least known, yet the ballsiest hoax ever pulled off by a Kenyan on Kenyans. Yes, it beats Brother Paul’s daylight robbery. Even Deya’s how-about-we-sign-up-a-whole-team-from-this-uterus ruse.

 In the pre-automatic cars age, and when cars were still the reserve of the government and her owners, Awori decided to play what would turn out to be the most embarrassing con someone, make that entire newsrooms and thus, millions of readers, would ever fall for. Forget the old senile man who made a sucker out of me, forget him and his shaking hands and dying wishes, Awori made a fool out of an entire nation.

Step 1: Sourced from www.blog.espow.com

Step 1:
Sourced from http://www.blog.espow.com

Awori’s con was simple. Sometime n 1985, he made the ballsy claim that he had driven a car in reverse from Mombasa, through Nairobi, to Rongai (the Nakuru one, it’s further than the landlocked country past Lang’ata. You need a Christopher Columbus for this one) and then back to the capital city. Simple, right? Until you re-read the first sentence in this paragraph and notice the words ‘in reverse’!

Parallel parking an automatic car is hard enough as it is (someone said it would can be used to sort out who to sacrifice to the zombies first, I think that can work) but we have a guy here who swore by the gods of Motor oil that he had put his manual shift in reverse and driven about 650km (on bad roads, by the way) without his head getting permanently sore from looking at his driver’s mirror and without a single accident.

There was no mention of a navigator, although that would have been confusing. It’s like when you are trying to direct your wife out the parking lot, and you tell her to turn the wheels to her left, and then she asks whether it is your left or hers, and then you sit and cry? Or one of those times when you have to do the writing motion to remind yourself which one is your right upper limb?

Awori claimed the world record was then held by Gerald Hoagland, and in the celebrity shenanigans that followed the king of reverse in Kenya, he even got a new Toyota Corolla from Westlands Motors. True, a Gerald Hoagland had driven 102 km in reverse “Fortunately for Hoagland and motorists in general, the event took place on a special track.” Because driving in reverse is disorienting and bound to get messy. The girls might cheer you on and cream their pants for you, until you drive right into the bevy of cheerleaders. Men will put pinups of your car’s booty on their walls, and worship you. Awori knew that, he banked on it. 

But he wasn’t done. He announced he was going from the city to Mombasa driving a 7-tonne lorry. In reverse! Clearly, all these reversing was growing the ballsiness of our antagonist here. The even crazier part? Car companies fell for it! The very people who sold such machines fell smack into the con! DT Dobie (you would think, you would think.) donated fuel, and a Mercedes-Benz lorry for Awori to guide with his back-of the head eyes all the way to the Kenyan coast. Car companies, mainstream newspapers (I see you, Daily Nation), and just about everyone else.

They say you should never marry someone until you've watched them drive in reverse. Image from www.getahead.rediff.com

They say you should never marry someone until you’ve watched them drive in reverse.
Image from http://www.getahead.rediff.com

They say you shouldn’t marry someone until you’ve watched them drive in reverse.

Of course he won! …and a ‘John Miller’, a supposed Guinness Book of World Records adjudicator, sent a telegram confirming that Awori had smashed a record. In reverse. He was putting Kenya on the reverse map and local dailies were buying the story like sponges.

Once you win over everyone at home, the next step is New Zealand, right? Awori new that, and according to his telexes, that was his next step, Auckland, for the “620-km Kiwi Auto Reverse Rally. ”He took the hoax too far by ‘winning’ that world championship too far, and before long, his Kenyan assembled bubble burst. When the cops caught up with him after the New Zealand High Commission called BS on the win, all the reversing that Awori had been doing was his swivel chair in an office in Mama Ngina Street as he shuttled between the telex machine and the coffee pot, periodically breaking into maniacal laughs while patting himself on the back. 

People are still setting records for reverse driving, but Awori is not among them

People are still setting records for reverse driving, but Awori is not among them

 No mention on whether he was jailed but if he was, you can be sure someone in prison made him drive. In Reverse. If you catch my drift…

Owaahh©, 2013

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Badassery, Crime, Lists, Pages from the Past, Weird

 

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Quit, You’ll Never Catch the Phantom Pooper or see Cats Shag


Nobody I know has ever seen cats fuck. Once, as a child, I thought I saw our pet cat at it with a stray but it ‘all happened so fast’ I am unsure whether it wasn’t a product of my at times hyperactive imagination. It seems a phenomenon only known to nature and the participating felines. 

You will hear them moan at night though. They congregate outside your window in the deep of the night. And they moan. So loud sometimes that you think it’s a band of crying infants. But you almost never ever see them do it. By the time the flashlight beam hits their romp, probably a groupie, the female is nowhere to be seen. The male glares at you, embarrassed. Planning your death. You cockblocker! For half a minute you two stare each other down until he decides you are not worth it and runs off to restart the courtship you just ruined.
If indeed my informal analysis result that no one has ever seen cats at it is credible, is there something we don’t know?
They come together to come. You feed them yes, but you are not invited. not to this party anyway. Walk away and pretend you didn’t just see the snail trails being left on your couch. Just turn and go. You are not invited to these orgies, all you are expected to be is silent and permissive. Ask no questions, make no testimonies, and all 
shall be well with your soul. Life, I mean.
But at the back of mind you know what’s going on, the noises are graphic, as is the evidence of claws where erotic scratches were made yesternight. You know it, your neighbor who gave you the kitten knows it. The dog knows it too, and he is traumatized. All of you are witnesses to a horrendous crime of nature and victims of not-so-subtle threats by a guy with whiskers.

I engaged an invisible friend into a conversation about recently.

YOLO!

Unless you are a cat, of course.

Hehe, are you?

Maybe, Maybe not. The theory of parallel universes gives space for such a possibility as me having fur, whiskers, and a soft threatening purr.

Depends on where those whiskers are!

Why? Does that change my species or just what specific feline I am?

Makes you an interbreed.

Sounds like a bore, an interbreed. Have you ever seen cats fuck?

I have not, why?

Because, they are mammals. They must shag sometimes. But almost no one has ever seen it happen.

True, nobody knows.

I think cats kill off all the witnesses.

Or turn them into other cats?

Or clean out their memories.


The threats are delivered by those intriguing cat eyes. They scare the hell out of you and incase your light is ever faster than a female feline fleeing from a fuck feast, your fate is no longer yours. Those cats will most definitely murder you. Or wipe out your memory. Or eat your children. Or make you clean after the kittens that result after the romp. You are a slave. Your master is much smaller than you, much weaker than you, owns less than you do, has nothing on you except eight lives more. You are a pawn in the cat’s procreation activities and it owns you. As your master it makes you pay for everything, including the STIs it might contract during the mating seasons. Feed me, it meows. Feed me and don’t you forget who your pimp be! Also, I pooped earlier and threw up behind the couch, your favorite couch, would you be a darling as to clean those excreta up? No? How about if I promise to kill you, and the dog? Yes? Good boy, good. Meow.
You see things. You hear things. You elect things. You vomit things. You complain things. You Witness things. You should never talk about them, if history is any lead. 
Your cat is planning to kill you. That has never been in question.

cat-standing

Talking about things one does not see until the next morning, thieves broke into the supermarket on the ground floor of my apartment building the other day. Three thieves, scrawny young men, or at least as I imagine it.

Our robber antagonists were after the money of course, the millions stored in a safe within the premises. They chose Sunday, the day in the week when all the cash collected over the weekend is stored in the safe. So our thieves were sharp, and lucky. A thief thieves, right? But these guys were not done just yet…

After cleaning the safe, they went downstairs and raided the cake and pastries aisles. They ransacked all the food aisles, leaving behind a telling tale of a man in a nipple factory. They helped themselves to delicacies galore, carrying very little and eating most of it there and then. Of course they drank soda and juice, almost half a bottle of each. Only one soda was missing from the fridge. It seems that ice cold drinks are not a thief’s drink of choice.

I can see why. Imagine trying to combine a heightened adrenaline rush with the feeling of an ice cold drink. Brain Freeze! Unless of course they drank the cold sodas and then replaced them with the others on the aisles. So the supermarket would have enough cold stock in the morning. When gentlemen were thieves.

Anyway, they ate. Stole and ate. Pooped too.

There was a mound of shit in the office the next morning. Several hours old, already past rigor mortis. And stinking. Stinking as the distinctive smell of a well-preserved colon of pooh can be. It was right there in the open. Just one mound, apparently only one guy had the urge to take a dump in the middle of a heist.

I know it smelt because when I heard the story two days later and (still) went to shop there, I could still smell it. I think it was in my  head, but I smelt it all right.

I looked at the manager with a pitiful face. His, not mine. I wondered what he must have gone through the morning after. Even after you have wiped away the physical evidence, and sprayed several cans of air freshner (because it is a supermarket, I imagine you spare no expense), you still know that it was there. So, you have to work inside there long before your brain has enough distractions to forget that there was excreta atop your table or floor some hours prior. Yet you must, like a general who strolls into a war zone the day after the armistice. Or a president visiting ground zero. If they bomb the president’s house while he is away, he has to visit as soon as that shit is in control-pun wholly intended-to convince the populace that he is hurt but not conquered. That work must continue.

Well, there are objective thieves, and then others poop in your office. Poop as a weapon of psychological intimidation. Like when we replaced the loaves of bread in our school dining hall with poop. We, because when it came to paying for the damages caused during the strike, we all had to pay for it. Poopers and non-poopers. The distinction was never made. 

What damage can a comprehensive mound of excreta do to a stainless steel sufuria? Or rather, what damage that a good disinfect, a prayer, more disinfectant, and handing said sufuria to a neighbor, not do?

They never bought new sufurias. The phantom poopers were never caught. They left a ‘series of smelly situations’ and got away with it; we paid the price. 

Neither were our three thieves of whom only one felt the dire need to take a dump right there in the supermarket manager’s office. Imagine the giggle. How genius the idea instigator felt.

“Man, we should raise the stakes and poop somewhere in this supermarket.”

“(Giggling) IKR? Waaaah! We so should. Thief #3, do you feel like taking a dump?”

“Guys, how do I always end up being the kinetic energy for your insanities”

“Don’t be a party pooper #3, you lost at truth or dare last night, remember?

“Consider this a dare.”

“But what if I don’t feel like dumping right now?”

“Its okay, we can wait a few hours, eat a few more cakes, maybe make alien messages with the rice.”

“Until the urge comes of course, there’s tissue here too by the way”

“Please guys, let’s not poop in the supermarket, what if they do those CSI things and my pooping ass is hauled in jail where big burly guys with lice colonies make me a pipe shitter?”

“CSI shit don’t work in here. Plus we’ll pour salt on it to burn off your DNA…”

“Okay, just let me choose the spot, okay?”

There was the other time we filed to one of the bathrooms to study a mound that had been left on the edge of the toilet bowl. It wasn’t a normal mound.

Picture a log of wood. A very wide and large log, like one you would use for a support column. Placed from the edge of the toilet bowl towards the door, as I reconstructed the grime scene then. It doesn’t make sense for the log to be placed from the door towards the bowl, there is no logical explanation for that. For the former, however, Newton must’ve been on point! A propulsion! The very very very large and wide log being dumped propelled its owner in such a way that he took off like a witch on a broomstick. Or Quidditch players.

The mere circumference attracted an audience. It was a concerned audience; so much so that had the  logistics of forcibly helping the victim, we would have subjected each other to a stinky strip search. The phantom pooper who might have needed reconstructive surgery was never found.

 

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Disaster? Cue the Looting, This is Kenya


When I saw images of Abdul Hajj, I automatically knew he was not a Kenyan cop. There was something about him that told of affluence, a man who gyms in a proper facility and eats well. Later, I bounced on an image of the cop (the unlucky thief) currently being prosecuted for looting from the dead at Westgate. It is because we pay our police so badly, I thought to myself in a moment of temporary insanity. Then, when we all knew that KDF had almost exclusive access to the mall for days, stories of looting reappeared. This time, the possible looters were not poorly paid officers but elite forces that are among the best paid employees in the country. So I hang my head in shame and sighed. We are doomed.

It is not as much as what was stolen but by whom. The police, underpaid and neglected, have a ‘social license’ similar to that we give politicians who bribe us for our votes. We think it is an abhorrence, but we have learnt to live with it. If you commit a traffic offence, for example, and are arrested, anyone will tell you not to open your wallet in the arresting officer’s field of vision. One lady did exactly that and the officer snatched the bundle of brown notes, totaling 5,ooo bob, and let her free. And so it goes.

We have so institutionalized looting that we see nothing new about it. That’s why my sentiments on Westgate looting point towards the underlying and nagging idea that with exclusive access, the military officers might have hauled away luxury watches and other valuables. Our astute forces, well paid, and provided for as much as they would want, most of it untaxed and exclusive, might have conducted one of the most blatant thefts in the history of our society. It is too soon to claim the end of the AFCO tax breaks triggered the looting, so, why would those we pay well enough to do violence on our behalf steal from us like those from whom we expect similar services but pay poorly? Does it even have anything to do with the salary and allowances or is it deeper, engrained in our hastily clobbered national genotype?

In Its Our Turn to Eat, the case is made through the Anglo leasing story that being in a position of power in Kenya is chance to loot. If you don’t do it, someone else will, goes the story. We tend to associate politicians with five year mandates with this social license to raid public coffers and behave plainly like assholes in their interactions with us common folk. We allow that, because they are elected or nominated, and are thus in a God-given electorate-legitimized position to thief for themselves and their ilk. Maybe some crumbs will fall our way, we think.

It does little to our collective national psyche and legendary apathy, and will probably be forgotten in no time, but it raises questions of a deep moral angling. Is it that we have become so used to looting, whether as participants or victims, that we can only be shocked now if it is done by those we thought above such a trivial offence? Didn’t the crowd that had to be repulsed using teargas want to access the mall even before it was secured? They had an epiphany of what the disciplined forces, bar none, would do when left alone in a upper class mall where all hell had broken lose? It seems they did.

Almost all disasters are followed by looting of some degree, so much so that one academic called it the ‘cliché of disaster journalism.’ In most cases, it is simple citizens first looting for basic stuff such as food and water (before eventually hauling luxury items, going up the Maslow pyramid) but in Kenya, the protectors are quite adept at it. Instead of appearing as astute members of the disciplined forces, as perhaps we all think of military officers, policemen tend to appear as low socio-economic players.

It happened before at JKIA and has probably happened many times prior. It is just that now that we all have and want good stuff, we are talking about it. Living in a consumerist society, you want to know that at least your valuables will outlive you, and go into your estate should you die during a terrorist siege or a traffic accident. But that comfort, friend, is denied. We will loot. We will loot from you everything on your corpse before your soul reaches the roof. Hell, if you are not dead enough to let go of your iPhone, we will help you either journey yonder or wait like vultures, until your lungs heave that last one, and away we go with all your bling and cash. Maybe your family will get your wallet. Such is not assured.

What ails our national morality then? In the cliché mentioned prior, most cases tend to be instances of horrific disasters such as Hurricanes and earthquakes. There is a desperate need to get basic utilities and, for those whose inner animal has an automatic switch, acquire nice things. Yet there is hardly ever looting in Japan.

It became a phenomenon after the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear reactor aftermath. The Japanese do not loot, and if they do, not at the scale seen in other scenes globally, even in richer societies. In most discussions of this phenomenon, most contributors argue that the Japanese culture of shame, community, and respect, has something to do with it. The consumerist culture has not managed to kill of this national conscience, and the deep respect for one another stretches to a moment of desperation. Where other countries take years to recover from a disaster, Japan’s system is efficient because it is built on a system of restraint, if not trust.

One can imagine the temptation, the fact that you are standing in front of a shop with things you have only seen on displays. There is no one to catch you, or a bigger crime (than the one you are about to commit) is being committed. Who will worry about the dead man’s phone anyway? Or how much cash he had on his person when the hooded terrorist shot him point blank? The dead do not need the money, their dependents are probably rich enough to survive without it, you think. But you do. Who will ever catch you anyway? If the police do, you will only have to forfeit a portion of it and voila, the handcuffs of justice will magically disappear. Hell, you will even get an armed escort home that day. Such is. Such is.

Our culture of looting and plundering is not epitomized by Westgate but by our reaction to it. It is the deeper sense of apathy where we figure most of the shops were insured and thus, it does not matter that their valuables were lost in a crime scene. A crime scene with layer upon layer of cordons, and a retinue of our protectors. Our protectors got rich that day, maybe they will not be too hungry when they arrest us tomorrow.

But looting feeds avarice, another of our national treasures, which in turn breeds the kind of hunger that addicts of morphine get on subsequent doses. That is why majority of the onlookers at Kenyan crime scenes are there. It is not to ask after the dead and injured but to await the slightest opportunity to carry a trophy. Drive on any road and if you come upon an accident, study closely how first responders pocket valuables while pulling people from the wreckage. Such is.

There is an actual criteria for when looting is morally permissible. In such cases as where there is actual desperation. The argument there is that in an interdependent society such as ours, everybody plays a part, however minute, to the production in and progress of society. This position thus means that in case a fair exchange of goods is not possible because of the circumstances, such as breakdown of social order after a disaster, then one is in his human right to seek basic needs from those who have. It would be, another argues, selfish of us as human beings to judge those desperately seeking to survive. Our very existence as a species would be at risk.

But there was no breakdown of social order per se at Westgate or JKIA. There was perhaps, too much order. Normal ad hoc looters do not come carrying grenades and other explosives to open safes and access ATMs. Neither do they, at least the first wave, go after the cash registers and other movable currencies. Yet that is exactly what happened at Westgate, and before at JKIA (there were no explosives here though). Systematically, responders took time off their busy schedule of protecting us to help themselves to items on the aisles and the mannequins. The clinical organization meant that even shop owners who had luckily managed to lock up their shops still suffered the same fate as those who left them wide open.

Those looting were not poor and desperate, as we would be if, say, a Hurricane were to miraculously hit Nairobi. They were in no danger of imminent hunger if they did not wear the gold chains and watches from the shops. In fact, brave Kenyans filled their cars and set camp to feed responders. There was more food where that came from, that’s for sure. All, except maybe the community policing units, receive a constant monthly salary and allowances that was still assured when and if they survived their mission there. There was no social order to warrant breaking into ATMs, or even justify it. Yet the hapless gaffe-prone Interior Cabinet Secretary will proudly downplay the significance of the crime by saying only ‘two or three shops were looted.’

In this god forsaken land we were born in, numbers shock us but hardly ever enough to make an actual difference. 1, 100 people died during the 2007/8 massacres. 40 officers died in Baragoi. Over 100 civilians died in Tana River. Another 40 died in a single bus accident. More die each day. The death toll in the Northern Frontier is so high that it does not make headline news anymore. Wajir was bombed the day after Westgate was (sic!) retaken (and bombed, for some reason). Isn’t it ironical that we should derive a lesson as ‘the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic’ from a diabolical dictator who massacred his people with the gun and famine? Shouldn’t it embarrass our very core as an ‘inter-religious’ but constitutionally secular (ignore the allusions of faith) in the Preamble country?

A US official recently told Museveni that his military officers are ‘good soldiers but thieves.’ Then reports appeared pointing towards Kenya’s complicity in the charcoal trade in Kismayu, the very jewel we won from its murderous rulers just last year. Do you know what that would mean if it is true that our military has been facilitating illegal business in Somalia? That we actually funded the Westgate 5 (or 15 or 20, no one seems to know how many hostiles held us in panic for over 72 hours) and all that they did. We rubber-stamped our own death by spreading the tentacles of our selfish ambition to enrich ourselves at whatever cost. Sealed our fate so our wallets could be heavier. The children will never know their education was funded with blood money. The wives will never know the red on the flower petals is blood from victims of our greed. Even if they do, they will not care much. It was not anyone they knew, they will argue, and if we had not done it, the next person would have. So why not us? Also, we prayed for forgiveness and filled the offertory.

Some might argue that from a Hobbesian perspective, looting is a way through which those who-have-not seek to bridge the class gap with those who have-yachts. But the injured driver who loses his valuables to his helpers is a man hustling as any other. Start a fire in a slum and see whether the looting of other residents has anything to do with class warfare. It is pure human greed, nothing else.

The ethics of looting depend on the facts of the subject. After 9/11, for example, firemen took water from nearby stores to rinse their eyes. When a hungry man steals from a store, then there is a moral case to let that man eat; and to make sure that he has a living so he does not have to break social norms again. In the Argentina food riots of 1989, poor women walked into stores and stole food and other basic supplies. There were no cases of looting of non-essentials and the cash registers until later when other mobs followed. But Kenya’s two recent cases are interesting and disturbing.

The looters are not desperate hungry mobs, at least not in an ad hoc sense of the word. They are organized units with a clear mandate and training to handle emergencies. Their very job description is built on the fact that their role in society is sacred. The salaries are low, the hours depressing, the populace thankless (unless it is in one of those rare occasions of national reflection), and all but hope is lost. That is still no defense for such an abhorring crime as grave robbing.

So, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Since it is their work to do that to us, to hurl us in jail if we (are caught) loot, to protect us from external threats by doing violence on our behalf, who will do it to them? In the next disaster, as one surely will come, are we to helplessly stand by as our businesses are ransacked simply because these are ‘the untouchables.’ One of the victims succinctly saidThis is Kenya. Let’s just face it, what’s lost is lost.”

It is plunder, mate, and these are times of war and uncertainty. Accept and move on. In fact, grab something from that glass window or aisle and move on with it. 

Edit, 2nd October 2013 1710hrs

Prompted by panoramicdon’s comment below, I remembered that indeed the TJRC report is teeming with testimonies of looting by our ‘esteemed’ forces. A cursory reading of the relevant volumes points towards a tradition of looting as a military strategy, a strategy of yore, the medieval days of pirates and plunder. Even sadder, looting is connected to other crimes such as rape and murder. But no commissions, if any, have ever been formed to investigate the suffering the NEP and Mt. Elgon residents went through. We are an unequal society, dear reader, and you are not invited to the looting.

 

 

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