Archives for November 2015

A man broke my heart, I almost gave up on life… How I overcame it

Thank you all for the congratulatory messages that flooded my Facebook wall, Twitter and Instagram for my journalism award. It was presented to me by the president of Mauritius! Don’t be mean, dear reader. Raise your glass of wine, water, porridge or whatever and toast to me. You know the first day I walked into my first foster family, in 2006, I had just lost my parents two years before that, and my godmother told me “You are going to be so international you will be so surprised and that is what I tell God whenever I pray for you”. I looked at her and thought “Woman, you are insane. Here I am homeless and you are talking about international”. Nine years later, my godmother Mary Wainaina is still making her prophetic declarations, and she will make a point of reminding you when her prophecies come to pass no matter how little they are!

So in today’s post, let me stop being every title that I have acquired along the way—journalist, writer, tailor—and talk about the fact that I am a woman, a very sensitive one for that matter. Sometimes I hate the heart God gave me. It takes me forever to trust, but once you climb the million and one walls that I have around me, you have my undivided attention, and that is when a betrayal would disorient me.

I am a special woman, very difficult to love

I am an introvert—always masquerading as an extrovert— so the places where I would have opportunities to agree to have coffee with members of the opposite sex are almost nonexistent. I find so much joy creating something out of nothing, alone: am most expressive as musician; I unwind from sewing myself dresses and make sense of the world through reading and writing. These are gifts I perfected in a brief stint of spending my teenage years in a convent, but had learnt from a young age to use to stay sane in a very abusive childhood.

guitar lady
I find so much joy creating something out of nothing: am mot expressive as musician. This is me in 2014, Ageless Music owned by producer genius and musician Dominic Khaemba who was my lecturer and produced my first-and only-album PHOTO/SAM ABARA
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I find so much joy creating something out of nothing: I unwind from sewing myself dresses. Here is one of my own, although modelling is not my cup of tea PHOTO/MAKE UP SANDRA RUONG’O

As a music student in campus, I toured with the school band to perform at secular events singing Mbili A bel songs, but my brain usually got so stimulated by gatherings I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel and collapse on the chair. Then I became a worship leader Maseno University’s very vibrant Christian Union and my music was contained on that pulpit, and even my first album was launched there. So I turned 28 in August and I thought “F*** ! I have never even gone out, or agreed for a man to take me out on a date!” I was not thinking about it as a loss, but more like “what stories will I tell my kids about my dating life or what else do I know about life apart from the books and my work?”

Oh I just stumbled on this poster of my music launch in 2011
Oh I just stumbled on this poster of my music launch in 2011 PHOTO/From my archives

I did not see any need for having those dates anyway. I had met a man in 2008, in my first year in Campus. In the supermarket, I had run out of every cent after shopping for my little brother. It was the beginning of the semester, and I did not even have a shilling to take me back to school. There, in the mall, I sat down to cry. He came to me. Teary eyed, I told him “this is my list of shopping of what I need and I have not a cent”. He picked the trolley, bought everything and gave me the bag and my fare to school.

I never saw him for a year, I didn’t even know his name. In 2009 June, in that very mall, I was looking at radios and he comes to me and says “Here is my wife, I have been thinking about you for a whole year. My name is Eric, what is yours Mrs Eric?” Since then, he became my best friend, greatest supporter, the first man I had ever known that intimately and the only one. I was amazed at the lengths he would go, in small ways, to make me comfortable and assured me of my position in his life and the destiny I had ahead of me. He announced to everyone, his colleagues and friends even when the smallest story I wrote was published. When I had my first journalism award, he was happier than I was.

If you have lived my life , in this part of the world, you are accustomed to defending yourself. You learn to fight when you have to, to stop people from taking advantage of you.Around Eric, I think I was a kitten I dropped my claws. I only became confrontational when I felt he was being taken advantage of and as he did not have a violent bone in him, he would forgive too much. I even tattooed his the pet name I gave him (Bunny) on my arm, wrote songs that I have never recorded about him. He had a bakery and he gave it a pet name we shared. Behold! Someone who was not appalled that I am those old school girls who listen to Celine Dion over the weekends and find pleasure in sewing. He was never repulsed by my anger. I would be laughing at a joke, in Nairobi, and he would be in Kakamega and he would call to say “I was just thinking about that drunkard we saw in 2010” and I would tell him I was laughing about that same man now too. One day interviewed by a local radio about the tattoo, I told the presenter “I love my fiancée what can I say?”

The heartbreak

Then this year, a chain of events triggered by a little lie ended what had been the fan beneath my wings. Each of us was so hurt that for a month all we could text “what’s happening to us?” I have always been one that does not suffer much in people. When you walk out of my life , I forget you faster than I blink my eye because I channel all my energy in deleting you off my memory and as an introvert, I do not need to explain how in sync I am with my inner self enough to command it to forget people completely. But when Eric left, I was a zombie for two weeks, then I would cry all night, missing the silly conversations we would have that time. I would not meet my work deadlines and I told my boss “Sir, my heart has just been plucked out of my chest I cannot work”. I lost so much weight in three weeks I was shocked.

Being the tantrums-thrower, I stopped calling him names after a month after which I told Eric “You have hurt me, badly and you do not deserve a pinch of clemency from me but I will love you enough to take us through this if you came back here where I am, because where I am is where your home is”. I reminded him of what we has overcome, what we had seen each other through. We both came from very humble backgrounds and had worked so hard. I stood there, and I watched the man I had loved for six years, the first man whose house I had ever even visited, whose embrace I felt so secure in cry. Amidst sobs, he said “I am sorry, baby, I love you”, over and over again for like half an hour. I told him “It’s okay, and you had my forgiveness even before you asked for it”. I asked him what he wanted and he said a hug. I rose from the chair and hugged him, and he held on longer, tighter, sobbing and I did not know what to say to make him calm down.Let us just say I tried everything in my power to get my baby back and then I realised that there are seasons people have in our lives and when that time comes, there is nothing you can do to stop the change of events.

The heartbreak made me realise that I am strong, much more than I thought. I understand that you cannot talk about love, until you have loved someone so deeply and they would not give that love back or do not deserve it. You cannot talk about love until you have forgiven the impossible, the most repulsive sins committed against you. But you know man kneels down every day to ask for mercy from God- or whatever supernatural being that you know exists up there- and am certain it is granted.So when you have the chance to practice that patience on a fellow human being, you realise just how small you are standing beside the ocean or underneath the sky.

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Cold? No, journalism and the newsroom makes you too sensitive

I am here. Again. On a new blog.  Is this the third time I am founding a new blog this year? Yes it is. To tame this blogosphere promiscuity, I bought the domain verahokeyo.com. Next time I am tempted to move, I will cry for my Ksh 1,900(or  18USD).

It is Friday. Kenyans and their overly social tendencies are going out to clubs to “get down”  and drink. I, with a near nonexistent social life, am seated at my desk at work trying to write a feature about pope Francis’ visit to Kenya.

I am going through the events of the day. I am disappointed at myself because I have travelled more than I have worked these last two months. My boss, a very considerate and fair man, does not like that. So I have, in my diary, set deadlines to get back to his good books.

As I go through my notes, I remember this couple, poor but loving folks, terrified that they may not be able to raise Sh5 million (about 48,000USD) for their baby’s liver transplant on time. I do not know why the voice of the father is still hanging on my memory…this cloying scent of desperation in his voice laced with hope. I run my hands through my dreadlocks. I need to write this story to inform—like raise awareness on the medical condition the baby has— rather than ask the public to give money to save the baby.I want this story to have a good ending, unlike one that my colleague Eunice wrote where the patient ended up dying  .Then suddenly, I realise that this is not the first tragic story that I will come across in this career.

When I began my job in 2013, I stood beside a thug whose chest had been sprayed with bullets and on his hands was a phone ringing. “Lovely wife” was calling the deceased. When the bodies of the more than 100 students who were shot in Garissa were ferried to Nairobi, I stood there watching mothers and fathers weep for their babies and even from a distance—physical and familial— I could feel their pain. As they talked to us, each of them had such personal statements like “I never got to say goodbye”, “I have lost my only child and best friend”, “We had quarreled and I never got to tell them I loved them”. The bodies of those kids lying on the cold slab in the morgue erected a picture of my little brother Mike on my mind. Mike is an annoying brat that I love with every fibre of my being and would give my life for any time. At that moment, I took my glasses to hide my tears as I picked my phone to tell Mike it was okay for him to go to that hideous party I had forbidden him from attending. For me, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask display of reactions to what I see.

For me, as may journalist, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask the display of reactions to what we see PHOTO/BILLY MUTAI
For me, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask the display of reactions to what I see PHOTO/BILLY MUTAI

I thought I would steel my nerves as days go by. While I have learnt to cope with the pain that I see in the line of duty, my awareness and the desire to have some sort of power of alleviating people’s pain has heightened.

It is a roller coaster. The next day you would sit at a press conference watch a government official tell such blatant lies and give excuses for their failure at their work, mistakes that may have cost people their lives and you would give up on humanity. The following day I would go to Kenyatta National Hospital and that hope would be restored. I would sit there at the casualty department and watch nurses and doctors working under such pressure for such long hours. It would understandable for them to be irritable and become rude but you would see them giving their all to save a life with every emergency that comes.

Journalism reminds you, on a daily basis, the fragility of life and the need to cherish every moment you have. We cover war and never get to raise guns at anyone, you learn to be compassionate because we have the “luxury” to see the ones affected most by the war apart from the combatants: the children, women, broken families and lives lost.

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