Author Archives: moderatekenyan

Music that moves you

When a retired high school head teacher stood on the stage in the middle of a performance by five time Grammy Award winner Victor Wooten and declared “I am the reason why this is happening” my curiosity was piqued.

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The retired head teacher was a high school teacher in Western Kenya in 1978 when an American showed up at the school and asked for a teaching job. The American had made a trip to Africa to find himself and the teacher helped get him a chance to teach Math and Physics.

After a stint teaching in rural Kenya, the American went back home to do his Masters and 40 years later is now the third president of the world famous Berklee College of Music.

Francis Lutomia was the teacher 40 years ago while Roger Brown was the American looking to find himself.

Four decades later this unlikely relationship has birthed an even more unlikely relationship between Kenya and the Berklee College of Music through Francis Lutomia’s son, Sam.

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According to Francis, Roger gave his son a job at Berklee and Sam in 2011 went on to found the Global Youth Groove (GYG) whose mission is to transform the lives of youth in Kenya through music primarily by a cultural exchange program involving Berklee students and alumni and Kenyans.

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For six years Global Youth Groove has been doing the exchange programs and after three years of planning Sam had finally managed to get the hugely in-demand Wooten and Berklee Bass Department chair, Steve Bailey to come to Kenya together with several of Berklee students and alumni.

At first glance, Wooten dressed in a bright African print shirt – that he was gifted by Kenyan jazz artiste Ricky of Ricky na Marafiki – and spotting dreadlocks covered by a black woolen cap can easily pass for a Jamaican roots reggae musician.

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That is until he strums his bass guitar and magic happens. His hand motion is at times fast, at times slow and at times barely noticeable but what is constant is the brilliance of a man at the peak of his skill.

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For 50 of his 52 years Wooten has been playing the bass guitar and seated at the front side row of the Michael Joseph Centre I was blown away by the melodies he coaxes out of his bass guitar. It was easy to see why Wooten who also teaches at Berklee has been named at number 10 in the Top 10 Bassists of All Time by the influential Rolling Stones magazine.

On his part, Bailey a blonde haired, wiry man who would not be out of place in a country music band run to the stage high fiving all the VIPs sat in the front row and cracked jokes with ease. He then went on to strum a six string guitar that is the hugest guitar I have ever seen.

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Bailey who is 57 started playing the guitar when he was 12 and the unwieldy instrument was like jelly in his hands.  Watching him manipulate it to produce delightful sound was like watching a painter produce a masterpiece from scratch.

Wooten and Bailey mastery on the guitars resulted in a sensory experience that was amazing. Imagine two guitars having different animated standpoints on a conversation that covered a variety of issues and you begin to picture the amazing chemistry.

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Backing up the two musical geniuses was Martin, a second year Berklee student on the drums who played with the confidence of a professional and the abandon of a teenager.

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The intimate invite-only evening of jazz was hosted under the auspices of the Safaricom Jazz Festival with several Berklee associated musicians taking to the stage.

A gentleman named Ricky who was dressed like a Southern pastor engaged the crowd in singing a catchy song which had an American south churchy-feel to it. “People make the world go round” was the audience refrain as Ricky crooned and Wooten, Bailey and Marten jammed.

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Then come Leonna dressed to kill and looking so young and sweet until she began singing and her sensationally beautiful voice made a lady sat near me shudder in bliss and almost get into a trance.

And finally from the Berklee crowd was Sky Bridge band with Japanese vocalist and composer Utako Toyama backed by two other ladies of colour. Their song ‘We declare peace’ was about global unity and they also got the audience quite engaged.

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Singled out for possible Sainthood by an enthralled Bailey was Elizabeth Njoroge, the brains and heart behind Ghetto Classics. The visiting Berklee musicians had visited Korogocho a day earlier and were wowed by the taking of classical and jazz music to the youth of a highly disadvantaged neighborhood.

Quest for sainthood aside, heartfelt pledges of support were made by Bailey on behalf of Berklee for the betterment of Ghetto Classics to which all the proceeds of the Safaricom Jazz Festival go to.

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A special mention goes to The Don Ouko, a brilliant Kenyan saxophonist who was backed by a vocalist, drummer and a guy on keys and who was the curtain-raiser to Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey and the other Berklee musicians.

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I was also quite wowed by Jacob Asiyo who was a guest at the concert and who totally delivered when he was ambushed with a request to play the keys for Wooten and Bailey.

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The Master of ceremony was the delightful Kavutha-Mwanzia Asiyo who incidentally is also an alumni of Berklee.

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At the end of the two-hour jam session all the artistes who had graced the stage through the night went back on stage to jam in a lovely improvisation.

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Quite a lovely evening spent with music that moved me.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

PS: Images via @SafaricomLtd, Google.


Lessons from the Kenya versus Germany Test Match

The Germany national fifteens rugby team won the Test match against Kenya Simbas 29-30 with the last play of the game. A superbly taken drop kick ended coach Jeroome Paarwaters’ long-running winning streak at the RFUEA grounds.

The Road to Japan Rugby World 2019 started with a stumble but that may be a good thing if questions are asked and answers got.

There were a huge number of senior players dropped by the technical bench before the start of the season. The bench stated that they were not up to scratch while word went round that they had being pushed aside for being too vocal about player welfare. What is the truth? Can a middle ground be found?

Of what value was the ten day tour of South Africa? Can a team really get good value from just a ten day trip? There are also reports that a trip to New Zealand is in the pipeline. The ‘bench-marking’ tours are great on paper but their actually tangible benefit on game day is the question. Also, should they be so close to game day such that jet-lag seems to be an issue.

The list of sponsors for the Test Series was quite impressive and every five minutes the announcer earned his pay with a mention of the long list of sponsors: Sportpesa, Tatu City, Safaricom, Tusker, Dasani, etc. The coffers are presumably quite full and it follows that within reason anything the Kenya fifteens team and the technical bench need should be availed. Is that the case? Why then are the fifteens players not on contract like their seven’s counterparts?

Kenya missed out on qualification to the 2015 rugby world cup by just one match. This time round does Kenya Rugby Union have a coherent concrete plan to see Kenya bag the ticket to Japan 2019? For starters a decision has to be made on whether to continue with the players who have worked hard to lift Kenya up in the rankings or to retire them and try qualifying with young blood.

If KRU does have a plan then it is holding it quite close to its chest. However, if I can hazard a guess, it is probably business as usual and hoping for the best. That will certainly not do.

KRU is not the only one that has to step up if Kenya is to play in Japan.

The Simbas had beaten Spain and Portugal with ease in Test matches last year and the Germans who were two slots below in the world rugby rankings were expected to be easy prey.

However, from the onset The Germans seemed to be on the ascendancy with compact defensive play, brilliant forward work at scrum, mauls and line-outs as well as explosive bursts of speed when they spotted a gap. They certainly were the better team overall throughout the match and were good value for the win.

For Kenya, the forwards looked quite sluggish and they totally outplayed and this denied Kenya a platform to build on. As for the backs they were sucked into the contact play and Kenya seemingly lacks a play-maker to switch up the game or to split a defense. It felt over and over like the same play. Either try smash through the middle and when that was stopped by the resolute Germans taking it all the way wide to Jacob Ojee or to Darwin Mukidza to run on the line. It worked twice but it certainly is not enough as the one point loss showed.

The bad news is that the Kenya Simbas are seemingly not yet world cup material. The good news is with the bubble burst so early in the season Kenya can now work at being ready to try qualify for the rugby world cup. A silver lining to the 29-30 loss witnessed by one of the largest crowds RFUEA grounds has hosted.

“Rugby is Ngong Road and Ngong road is rugby” tweeted an avid football fan who had heeded the cry to be part of the Kenya Simba’s pride at RFUEA. Heck, even Jack Oguda, the C.E.O and Frank Okoth, the C.O.O of KPL were in the V.I.P area enjoying the rugby and marveling at the huge fan attendance which Kenyan football can only dream of. Respect to whoever was in charge of the marketing effort, job very well

That Ngong Road is the spiritual home of rugby in Kenya is now beyond doubt and that Kenyans are hungry for a sporting spectacle on a Saturday afternoon is not in question.

However, as has been stated on numerous occasions, the RFUEA grounds need a total makeover.

There needs to be seating stands all round the stadium for the fans as watching rugby while standing is not kosher. Public washrooms need to be build or hired as the ones at the Quins club house are not enough. The changing rooms available may just about pass muster for Eric Shirley games but definitely not for Kenya Cup much less international matches.

Security felt quite blaze and reckon it has to done in a better way given the current realities. Parking was a nightmare and a solution to that has to be thought of and while at it a way not to clog up Ngong Road. The queue to purchase tickets was pretty long and perhaps ticket sales should be moved online and also outsourced. An aside; it was cute seeing Homeboyz RFC players man the ticket booth but it showed a lack of professionalism.

Rugby is as much about the game as the party. Quins was overwhelmed as a party destination as early as 6pm with someone tweeting at 10pm that it was “a mess”. Clearly, therein is an opportunity for event organizers.

With Safari Sevens scheduled to return to RFUEA grounds in November, KRU have a time-bound deadline to beat to fix all these glaring inadequacies at RFUEA.

Lastly, congratulations to KCB who beat Kabras Sugar to lift the Enterprise Cup for a third consecutive season. The final was played at 12pm. It was supposedly the curtain raiser for the Test Match that kicked off at 4pm. Why should a Cup final curtain raise a test match? Felt that this was unfair for the players, the fans and the neutrals. A better scheduling of games should be considered by the Union.

With local fifteens rugby season done and dusted it is now time for speed and thrills in the 6-leg national sevens rugby series. Series kicks off with Mombasa’s Driftwood Sevens on July 22 followed by Nairobi’s Kabereri Sevens on July 29 before taking a break in August for the General Election and resuming in September.

For Kenya Simbas next up is Elgon Cup first leg away to Uganda on June 10 with the return leg signalling the start of the 2017 Africa Cup that has been expanded to six teams: Senegal and Tunisia added to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya.


Films from the heart

I am more of a books than film, movies or series kinda person. However, every year for well over a decade now I attend the European Film Festival (EFF) at the Alliance Française every May.

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This year was the 26th edition of the EFF and for that I say Merci beaucoup to the French Cultural Centre in Kenya.

My plan was to watch seven films and to attend a musical performance on the week between 16th May and 20th May.

Juggling work and life managed to watch 5 films and half-attend the musical gig which I reckon is a pretty good return.

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The first movie I watched was the Tiger Theory by Czech film-maker Radek Bajgar. It was a totally awesome watch that hilariously dealt with serious life issues. Premise is a man who gets himself admitted into a mental hospital to achieve freedom.

The musical performance was spoken word artist Checkmate Mido who’s gig I have never attended. It was set up at the cafe at Alliance and 10 minutes in, I had to leave as the acoustics did not quite sound right. Hope I get to watch a Mido performance soon.

The second film I watched was Notes on Blindness a British documentary based on the life of John Hull. It was an intimate and touching insight into blindness. I wear spectacles and so the documenatry touched quite close home. What if? Then what? There is a lot we take for granted as sighted folk. Quite thought provoking.

As a prelude to the screening the country director for the British Council in Kenya did the introduction with lovely British wit and humour. Joked about UK being United Kisumu while noting that perhaps that was not the best idea with Kenyan elections upcoming. Then talked of Brexit and stated that Britain has left EU but it has not left Europe.

The country director while showing off his Kiswahili fluency also hyped up the East Africa Arts program.

Under this program and in partnership with Judy Kibinge’s Docubox two Kenyan films have been made and whose trailers were shown:

The Letter – by Chris and Maia von Lekow which is about killing of ‘witches’ at the coast which is essentially about disposing old folk of their land.

Thank you for the rain – which tackles climate change from farmer’s eyes.

Looking forward to seeing their premiers.

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On Saturday I indulged in an afternoon of film watching three films at a go.

Labyrinthus – when gaming and real life overlap, Diamantes Negros – football & human trafficking and These Daughters of Mine – family ties, how they are fragile and how easily they are stretched due to ill-health or death.

What strikes me every year is how European film makers have mastered the art of telling stories that are raw and real.

Methinks Kenyan film makers and content creators can learn a lot from EFF.

When you watch a Nigerian film or listen to Tanzanian music there is no doubt as to where the content is from, but when you watch Kenyan film or listen to  there is nothing that stands out as Kenyan.

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Kenyan film makers and content creators need to figure out what is Kenyan content. Do you know what that is? Me neither.

So maybe that is why we start…

GOD BLESS KENYA!


The Wanjiku Phenomenon

The Member of County Assembly (MCA) post has attracted a huge amount of aspirants and it is proving to be the most fatal of seats one can go for in the 2017 General Election.

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This is surprising given that according to the Kenyan constitution the MCA seat is practically that of a diligent public-spirited person in a ward who basically acts as a linkage between the public and county government.

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However the perks which include a salary in the neighborhood of half a million shilling, a potential to hold a governor at ransom and the possibility of running the unconstitutional ward development fund has brought out the savage and greed in Kenyans.

An MCA ticket is seemingly a chance to get a lot of money for doing basically nothing.

This captures the essence of a Kenyan’s quest for public office.

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This post is inspired by a conversation between radio presenters Nderitu Waihura and Professor Ngugi wa Njoroge on their show Gukera on Inooro FM on the night of May 22 2017.

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Nderitu began the show by alluding to a conversation that had taken place earlier on Inooro TV’s show Kimuri which he co-hosts with Michael Njenga. The show had included former and aspiring MPs among them Lewis Nguyai, a former MP for Kikuyu. The show had focused on the life of an MP in relation to a Kenyan voter.

Nguyai had stated that given his Kikuyu constituency was near, when he was an MP he would be in his constituency office 4 times a week and every time he would be there he would be forced to give voters forty thousand which would translate to one hundred and sixty thousand a week and then to six hundred and forty thousand a month. At times this would see him take home only twenty thousand a month from his salary.

Another former MP Jeremaih Kioni stated that he often adviced young people getting into politics and intent on staying on the straight and narrow that they surely had found a sure route to poverty.

Based on these politicians’ comments, the two hosts began dissecting the Kenyan voter: ‘Wanjiku’.

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It appears that Wanjiku does not care about a leader who provides an oversight role on the government, does not care about a leader who passes good laws or a leader who is honest and stays on the straight and narrow.

Wanjiku’s view on leadership is money. Following towards her. Why does Wanjiku presume that a leader is an ATM bank? Why does Wanjiku presume that a leader gets into leadership for their own enrichment and thus they should milk the leader dry before voting for them? How is it that a leader is expected to pay maternity fees, funeral costs, school fees, etc? Who even knows why exactly does Wanjiku vote? Who benefits from Wanjiku’s uninformed voting?

We are currently on the eleventh parliament and from the first parliament voters have been conditioned or have conditioned themselves that a leader is as good as the money they give and imagine the damage done over the years.

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Professor Njoroge then gave a story of a donkey. The donkey was tethered and well-fed and a lion was salivating at the donkey. The lion then sent a hare to tell the donkey how much he loved her and wanted to be with her. The donkey despite knowing the perils of a lion agreed to be wooed. Once the donkey was in the lion’s den the lion went for the donkey’s neck but somehow the donkey managed to run away. So the lion once again sent the hare to tell the donkey that the lion was not seeking to bite the neck but rather it wanted to hug the donkey due to love. The donkey bought the story and returned to the lion’s den and shortly thereafter the lion tore it apart. The hare which was present then ate the heart and the liver which are soft and sweet. Once the lion had struggled with the tough donkey’s meat it sought to eat the soft heart and liver but found they were missing. Upon asking the hare, the hare said that the donkey had not had a heart or a brain because if it did there was no way it would have accepted to go back to the lion’s den.

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The two contended that Wanjiku like the donkey was quite stupid and every five years accepted the lies on offer from both sides of the political divide and every five years was lied to without fail but still went back for the lies.

A case in point is the maize story. The opposition had made it a campaign tool not because they cared for Wanjiku but because it would help them push their vehicle to Statehouse.  As for the government their solution to the maize puzzle was not to ensure that Wanjiku had affordable food and to ensure that it would not happen again but rather to mint money and to deflate the opposition’s momentum.

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Currently there was no 90 bob maize available on the shelf but that was not what Wanjiku cared for. Wanjiku was more interested in if their MCA, MP, Govenor, Presidential candidate had submitted their papers to the IEBC, whether or not independent candidates were good or bad and other political issues of the day. For both Jubilee and NASA Wanjiku’s their hunger can be seemingly be postponed until after elections.

Clearly Wanjiku is deserving of a PhD thesis as a phenomena.

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The two also spoke of how right now ‘everyone’ knows that for you to get public office all you need is money, it does not matter where you got the money from. Once you have acquired money from legal or illegal means then no one can touch you, you can hire lawyers to frustrate the legal system and Wanjiku will cheer you and brand you a hero or heroine for being the ‘true Kenyan’ who is a hustler.

Then Nderitu, sought to look at Wanjiku away from the political prism: Wanjiku in a matatu.

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When Wanjiku is in a matatu in the morning or in the evening they are a cheering squad to a bad matatu driver. They are very happy when the matatu driver breaks all laws and gets them from point A to B in shortest time possible. However, if Wanjiku is driving then they are very much against matatus and they see how reckless and law-breaking matatus are.

From the perspective of Wanjiku in a matatu and away from matatu clearly Wanjiku is her leaders and her leaders are Wanjiku.  Everyone is seeking for their chance to eat and they only complain about eating when they are not doing the eating.

Little wonder President Uhuru Kenyatta famously once asked…”sasa mnataka ni fanye nini jameni?”

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At the end of the conversation the agreement was that the value system in Kenya is broken but no one has any idea how to fix it.

Therefore we shall keep performing democracy every five years but never addressing our root problem.

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Food for thought…

GOD BLESS KENYA.

There is a perception that vernacular radio do more harm than good by just blowing the trumpet for the tribal lords but seemingly sometimes they also pause and smell the coffee.

A lovely touch was playing Eric Wainaina’s Nchi ya watu wadogo song as well as in the famous quotes segment playing a timely sound bite of Tanzania’s First President Julius Nyerere.

PS: All images courtesy of Google.

 


Fort Jesus by night

Centuries upon centuries. The Fort still has me in awe. It was delightful to see it at night.

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An art exhibition under the moonlight. Only in Mombasa.

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Looking across into the Indian Ocean. Now there are lights, imagine how it must have been when the Portuguese lived there centuries back.

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Kahawa tungu. Enjoyed as I watched an acting troupe rehearse at the courtyard of the Fort.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Hibiskus in Mtwapa

In my recent visit to Mombasa I opted to be based in Mtwapa.

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Last time I had been to Mtwapa it was an a day trip and Mtwapa had grown, complete with a new bigger Tuskys.

As usual when I land at a new place I walk around and mtwapa was no different as I went looking for ‘Jumba la Mtwana’ of which there was no coherent signage. I got lost and upon my return to Mtwapa proper got lost in a ‘ghetto’.

To get my bearing I took a boda boda to Moorings which did not tickle my fancy.

Checked out German Banhoff only to find it had been sold and was was now Bistro. 

My immediate need was a place to charge my phone and a place to shower after my night travel and over five kilometre walk about under the scorching sun.

In my quest to be tech-agile I downloaded Airnb but I was unable to navigate it. Going into google I checked out TripAdvisory and amidst the din I stumbled on a gem.

Hibiskus Lodge.

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Asked a boda boda guy and it was love at first sight.

The rooms which are big, spacious, airy range from 900 shillings to 1800 shillings and in most of them you can cook for yourself.

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It is a gated private villa with the owners living there so you are assured of quality.

There is a lovely sitting area where meals are served and it also serves as the common room with a TV as the rooms do not have TVs.

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Books and artwork dot the Lodge.

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The books are ALL in German.

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As is the menu.

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There is a swimming pool.

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The Lodge is located 15minutes walk from the Mtwapa Creek which has beautiful scenery.

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And for the famous sin city that is Mtwapa, the lodge is located 15 minutes walk from the centre of the nightlife action.

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Hibiskus Lodge is owned by Peter and Ingrid and I highly recommend it.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Sinking Jahazi

It is 1.21am on a Thursday night, you are at a gents at an uptown local and life is coming at you at a frightening speed.

1am

You have just barely managed to pay the bill and you have no extra money in your wallet.

You had previously okoa-d jahazi and not paid it back.

You have zero credit on your phone, zero on MPESA, and your bundles have run out.

So getting an uber never mind the mechanics of paying for it becomes a matter of rocket science.

This is when you stare at your phone and wonder who you can call to help.

As you realize that it is true a friend is someone who you can call at 1am and they pick up and help. And that despite the overflowing phone book you have very few friends.

Getting here may seem far-fetched and I can hear you wonder how a grown man can be so irresponsible.

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Let’s back track.

Man has not seen his friend who happens to be a woman for awhile. So man asks woman friend for a meet and chat. Woman is hanging out with her friend who is a mutual acquaintance and she asks if she can come with the acquaintance and man innocently says yes.

Drinks are enjoyed. Meat is ordered.

Then the acquaintance invites over a cousin who partakes of his drink and the meat and leaves.

Then the acquaintance has a phone chat with her best friend who happens to be in the vicinity and she comes over and also enjoys her drinks.

Shortly, the best friend of the acquaintance calls over her boyfriend who orders for drinks.

Then the woman friend, remember her, leaves.

All this time, the bills were piling up and the man is left with a hefty bar bill that no-one  is interested in paying.

Fast-forward.

Man who has just about paid the bill asks one of the wait staff to sambaza credit and man is able to hail an uber which gets him to an ATM thus enabling him to pay for ride home.

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Questions:

How often are men in such situations and they are left crying in the toilet?

Do women have a responsibility to also pick their share of the bill in joint company?

In polite company, should all those who have partaken of drinks and meal on a table share the bill?

If invited to a meet-up, as a lady, is it really polite to tag along your entire crew?

Learnings:

To get loaned credit – Okoa Jahazi – *131#

To get loaned bundles – Okoa Bundles – *544#

It is important to have emergency money in M-Shwari for a rainy day.

Consolation:

Man-up. You are not alone. A huge number of men have found themselves in a similar situation. Chalk it up as a scar of war. Pick the lesson and be cleverer next time.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


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