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Thursday, April 18, 2013

my week in interactions


1.  I’m in a matatu and all I have is 120 shillings. I’m not sure what the fare is so when I’m asked to pay I hand over the 20 shillings and look away,
“gari ni 30” the car is 30
“oh.” So I give him the 100 shillings and he hands me back the 20. I sit back and enjoy the ride for a few minutes.
“umenipatia ngapi?” how much have you given me
“soo,”100.
“una hakika?” you are certain?
“ndio, nilikupatia mbao ukasema fare ni 30 nikakupatia soo ukarudisha hiyo mbao” yes, I gave you twenty you then said fare is 30 I then gave you 100 and you returned the first 20
“una hiyo mbao?” you have that 20?

I assume that what’s happening is that he needs the 20 in order to give me back change in an easier manner for us both and so I reach into my pocket and find nothing there. I reach into the other one and find nothing there. I do that half standing up thing people do when they are in matatus and their money is in the back pockets, I reach into it and find nothing there, I reach into the other one and find nothing there. I brush down my chest because I sometimes put money in my breast pocket and find nothing there not even a pocket.

It’s not a case of theft because I’m sitting next to people I know and in fact my phone is still there.

“siwezi ipata.” I can’t find it
“una hakika ulinipatia soo?” you’re certain you gave me 100
“eeehhh” this is say with a bemused smile.
“basi wapi hiyo mbao? Hauwezipatiwa pesa ukapoteza haraka hivyo, nisaidie hiyo mbao” then where is that 20?you can’t be given money and then you lose it quickly like that, help me with that 20
He goes on for a while and I realise I’m getting a lecture and this irks me.
“mi ndio nimepoteza pesa, usianze kunipatia lecture juu mi ni mcareless, already nafeel vibaya.” I am the one who’s lost money don’t start giving me a lecture because  I am careless. Already I feel bad about this.
“lakini, pia wewe unawezaje tupa pesa hivyo, kwani una shimo kwa mfuko.” But even you how can you throw away money like that, is it that you have a hole in your pocket?
I check my pockets again but now for a hole and I don’t find one.
“kama hauna pesa ungesema bado ningekubeba.” If you don’t have money you should have said i would still have carried you
“Si ati sina pesa ata we unajua nimekupatia pesa saa hii. ” it’s not that i don’t have money even you know i have given you money just now
“Usijali, labda utapata nyumbani, lakini ukifika uangalie, ukiwacha bibi akuvue trou atachukua na asubuhi utashindwa kwwani pesa yangu iliend wapi. ” don’t worry maybe you’ll find it at home, but when you reach, look. If you leave it to your wife to take off your trouser she’ll take the money and in the morning you’ll be asking yourself where your money went.
“Lakini saa zingine nawacha hapo ndio anitoe trou. ” but sometimes I do that just so she can strip me
“Ahhh… lakini wacha nikuambie ukitaka kuweka pesa na uko na bibi lazima ufikirie sana, usiku ataingia na aichukue, ukiamka utashindwa kwani jana kuliendaje, na ulitaka kuiweka kwa bank. Ni tu ukirudi nyumbani na upate nyama ndio utajua Ilichukuliwa. ” ahhhh…but then let me tell you if you want to put money away and you have a wife you must put a lot of thought to how you will do it at night she will enter and take it and never let you know and you’ll  be asking yourself what happened the previous day. it’s just when you get back home and find meat waiting for that you will figure out what happened,
“Ahhh. ”

By the time I leave the matatu we are old friends and I woke away feeling like that lost 20 bob was worth that conversation.

2.  There are  these two kids who over the weekend asked for money outside school. On Friday only one of them was there. He had one of those signing sheets that show how much money you have raised for a particular cause and he was giving everyone he could meet to sign it before he took their money. I asked him what he was raising money for and he said it was for orphans, being in a good mood and feeling rich I gave him a 50(on the list thing there were only 200s and 100s beside the names) and I told him not to put that down there but to take it and go enjoy himself.

On Saturday he’s there again. He approaches me and I remind him that we met yesterday. His friend comes around and his friend is selling groundnuts. He has put them into these cones and made a cover for the cone just like it’s the 90’s. I’m nostalgic and a little drunk and so I get one. I see one of my classmates and I get him one too. Somehow I begin to have a conversation with the first kid again and he tells me the real reason he’s collecting money is because he needs it to buy unga. I ask him how much he has and he says 40, I ask him how much he needs and he says 200. I’m touched (drunk is a much better word) and I give him a 20 to help along. Then I go to some of my classmates and try to sell them a shot of my alcohol for a coin so that I can give the child. They inform me in stark terms that I shouldn’t feel sorry for the kids, that they are out hustling and this is their business getting hearts to bleed and wallets to open, that in fact they should be in school and what’s happening is they asked someone to sign the class register the way we usually do and then went out to make money (despite the fact that it’s a Saturday and we’re only here for the sports day.)

On Monday I see the kid again just after I bought a mango outside the school gate. He approaches me with his list of donors, stops and walks away with a rueful smile. I call him over and offer him a piece of the mango(the vendor peels them and cuts them into these tiny edible pieces and packs them in a small paper bag.) he reaches in and takes a piece and asks if his friend can also have one. He calls him over and he comes still selling his groundnuts. He reaches in and takes the biggest piece there is and walks away before I have a chance to smile at his balls.

3. I was having a beer with some of my high school friends the other day. A big, bunch of atheists. (Sample conversational throwaway "our pope richard dawkins says we should be more militant" another sample, "this guy needs to be put down he thinks he's Jesus Christ" "Jesus was put down too") Soon the conversation turned to griping about Christians and how hypocritical they all are, how they condemn everyone to hell and how the things they do are some of the worst sins of exploitation there are. One of them mentions this house girl who makes 5,000 shillings a month and promptly gives it to Margaret Wanjiru. This leaves her with 2,500 shillings a month to run her life with. A life that includes children and fees and clothes and emergencies. This money is given to a woman who will use it to buy gold, jewellery, big cars and fund political campaigns and maybe use some of it to help those less fortunate but this last one is the only one we are making an assumption about. The thing is though sometimes atheists are as guilty of being judgemental as Christians are. A Christian will say all atheists will go to hell but according to his religion that’s a valid view point. An atheist(not every, just some) will meet many, many such Christians in his lifetime and say that all Christians are judgemental hypocrites this statement though is contrary to the atheist’s way of viewing the world which demands rigorous scientific testing before claiming a hypothesis to be true. As he hasn’t met all or even most Christians this statement is patently false.

My friend did make the point though that religion has been used as a vast propaganda machine. He talked about how Ruto thanked God for a successful campaign and used all the Christian sentiments of how he couldn’t have done it alone and all they achieved was thanks to the almighty.

“Now how easy is for him to say to a believer, you know that IDP problem ?God will take care of it, you’ve been dirt poor all your life? God will take care of it. And just like that you remove all responsibility from the hands of humans and their leaders. If it doesn’t work out immediately...God works in mysterious ways, the time is not yet here.”

There are a lot of valid reasons for religion. The hope it give to people and sense of peace that they have but it is undeniably also a vast tool of propaganda.

This conversation reminded me of a conversation I had earlier in the year with a friend from school. It was just after elections and he was explaining to me the way amani (peace) had been used as propaganda.
“You know the biggest propaganda machine this election has been this idea of amani, let’s love each other. It’s been used to shut up people all over. No one can really say what they want to because they will be told they are against peace. Raila wants to petition the results he will be told now why, just accept what happened, don’t you want peace in our country, isn’t our peace more important than your win.
I didn’t really agree with him, not completely. Peace is a good thing therefore  it can’t be used for propaganda, asking for peace can’t be a bad thing. The Oxford Dictionary defines propaganda as information usually of a biased and misleading nature used to promote a particular political point of view. Usually does not mean always and the point of view we were being asked to believe was that there shouldn’t have been any question as to the election validity.

5.  I got on a mat a day after chilling with the atheists and turning my mind to propaganda. The conductor had a gravelly voice, the kind that’s made of  rough stone that seems to keep falling off if you rub it really hard. It’s soothing at first but after a while it gets grating. He gave everyone the following good advice just before we came to a turn in the road.

“fungeni dirisha hapa kuna vijana wenye hawapendi kumwaga jasho ndio wapate unga.”
Close your windows there are some youth here who don’t like to pour sweat so they can buy food.

Earlier he was overloading and asking everyone to sit 4 to 4.

“si wote ni wakenya msijali…si wote ni wakenya…ni mzuri tukipendana hivyo tu, songa kidogo ti… si ni watu wa amani”
We are all Kenyans don’t worry…we are all Kenyans….its good if we love each other like this, just like that, move over a little…. We are people of peace
He said this every time he sent someone else to join us in the back.

Propaganda?