It could never be me.

That’s what we think when we hear about the coronavirus right? At least for some people.

It could simply be our hopeful thinking or maybe, just our naivety onto how the universe really works. Evil and tragic events seem so far stretched. Of course no one wants to contract a deadly virus, we simply think ‘those things don’t happen to people like me’ until they actually do.

We very well know that as a country, we are NOT prepared at all to deal with the coronavirus. As a coping mechanism, Kenyans, being helpless most times, do what they do best; get to social media and rant on twitter, complain about the government and make memes like we always do during all kind of tragedies.

I can’t speak for the government or the Kenyans. But I can speak for my people, ‘the anxious society of Kenya’ (don’t google it, it doesn’t exactly exist). So, since the start of the virus, my mother has woken me up severally in my sleep, as early as 4 a.m. in the morning so that I can listen to an audio, a video or a WhatsApp message about the Corona virus. A few times, the messages had claims that the virus was already in our country but the patients are being treated discreetly (This was before the first case was reported). Struggling to keep my eyes open enough to read the blurry messages, my mother says with a finality, ‘Cancel all your meetings. All the events you were to go to. You can’t risk it.’ 

‘Ma…’ I start to object but she immediately interrupts me with how much we are underestimating this virus and how we think ‘it can never be us’. Her tone is really high for morning. You can hear the panic in her voice; alarming, and the utmost frustration in her voice because we still want to go to work despite the ‘danger’. I try to calm her down, recommending her to take a break from Whatsapp because it is, very evidently, hyping up her anxiety.

I am familiar with anxiety because I am my mother’s daughter. But whereas I am 98% anxiety, hers is double that. While I advise her on how to filter the information she receives on the virus, I am texting my friends who are travelling or about to travel, asking again and again if they think it is safe enough to travel at this time, whether they are taking the necessary precautions and if they said their prayers for protection.

Someone out there is walking to their airplane seat, while a panic attack surfaces because now, ‘I am not only scared of a turbulence, I am scared of breathing.’ Another is contemplating on how to humbly reject the hand shake from that very important client who has just flown in from Finland because, ‘Oh my God, do I even know in which continent Finland is? How can I be sure this handshake is indeed safe? Is this million dollar deal worth the handshake?’ Another is at the airport to pick their relative coming in from Middle East and the thought is, ‘Would they be offended if I refused to hug them?’ 

It is a crazy time to be alive let alone be moving around. 2020 came in with a huge wave, full of tragedies.

Image result for 2020, world war 3 threats, kobe died, Australian bushfire, earthquake, coronavirus-meme

Well, it’s just March and we all want to know; who pissed off 2020 like this?!!

I mean, even pilgrimage to Makkah by Muslims has been paused for now. That is something that will definitely go down in the books of history because throughout my entire short life I never heard of Makkah rejecting pilgrims apart from the times the place was too crowded to accommodate everyone. As it is, masajids are being closed temporarily and Jum3ah prayers are cancelled. Makkah prayers are being led with very few ma’mumas. The thought that Ramadhan might arrive on us while still handling the virus is so heartbreaking 🙁 Imagine a Ramadhan with no taraweh or tahajjud prayers. Imagine having no spiritual gatherings and iftaar for the entire month!! Everything seems to be at a standstill. Olympics might be cancelled!! Several other sporting events have already been cancelled or postponed. The global economy is being greatly affected. Traveling is now an extreme sport, yet the very low ticket prices seem to be so tempting. The best yet riskiest time to travel, aye? Some people are actually doing it! Others are rejoicing in their PJ’s as they work from home while students enjoy having classes being cancelled for about an entire month!

Nonetheless, as every day passes, we realize how real this pandemic is.

Yet, have you ever thought of how much rougher it is for the Asians right now, ALL OVER THE WORLD? They not only have to deal with the virus but also with the stigma and racism due to the origin of the virus. The dilemma is; how do we protect ourselves without seeming racist? Where do we draw the line between seeking protection and being out-rightly racist?! (Something to ponder on)

When the year began and everyone was frantic about it, one of my lecturers studying in China sent us a video to assure us that she was safe and far from the affected areas and that the main limitation was having to stay indoors and everything being done online at the moment. This could be very well a horror movie, only it is real life. Pretty much like ‘The Bird Box’ only this time, the mask is on our noses/mouths instead of eyes.  ‘If you touch it, you die.’

While the whole world is panic buying masks, toilet papers and sanitizers, we too as Kenyans have joined the bandwagon. But other than that, we are investing our time into our greatest talent; making memes!! Here are some memes sourced from:

Image may contain: one or more people, possible text that says 'Corona virus: s:*gets into Kenya.* Locusts: @fantacymemes Look at me. I'm in Charge here.'
Image result for kenyan memes on world bank and corona
Image result for italy: lockdown, kenya: don't panic, wash your hands

Best of all, is this video clip of the shortest horror movie! (Not made in Kenya)

The other day I was in a public vehicle and had a scratch in my throat. I had the urge to cough but I could visualize how heads would turn towards me if I did. And the horror that would strike them after that. To cut the long story, I did not cough. And now with us Kenyans, we don’t even know how we will survive. In some areas there is lack of water, the matatus are usually filled to the brim, many Kenyans live in slums or very close neighbourhoods. We can’t afford to work from home because majority of Kenyans are casual labourers and need to go to their work places. We have so many people who are vulnerable and at high risk of contracting the virus if it keeps spreading.

I imagine all the people living in the affected areas, having to live with only what they have. I imagine those in quarantine. Those who are separated from their loved ones during this phase; maybe forever. The people working in transport industries, airports, the bus/air crew, the really crowded areas like immigration offices. The people working in markets or using public transport or dealing with many people every day and most importantly, our doctors. In short, everyone. It could be us.

We pray that this tragedy ends soon and that we stay protected because for us Kenyans really, it is only God who can help us.

Parting Note: Pray. Pray for the whole world. That this epidemic ends soonest. That 2020 becomes a better year for all of us. Show love to all the doctors, nurses and medics working so hard to contain this virus and who continue to work everyday despite being at higher risk; pray for them too! Wash your hands. Protect yourselves. Don’t panic-buy; think of others. Watch the news from reliable sources. Don’t believe everything you hear until you confirm. Don’t forward messages until you confirm. Don’t be part of the panic perpetrators. Don’t be racist. Reach out to ensure your loved ones are safe. Be grateful for being alive. Avoid crowded areas, don’t be a hero. Stay safe people!

P.N 2: Duas for you because I honestly care:


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This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 5/3/2020

With Muslims, everything works in a very organized, systematic way. There is a manual for everything; how to do it, when to do it, where to do it. Very detailed and straight forward. Now the struggle comes when you are out and about and applying your way of life sometimes seems like an impossible task.

There are common struggles every Muslim explorer (even just hanging out in your own locality) will relate to, whether they are from across the globe from us or just your next door neighbour. Here are a few:

  • The empty-bottle carriers: One of the biggest struggles Muslims face while traveling, is having to walk around with an empty bottle because there is no water in the toilets. Thus, one of the essentials during packing is that empty bottle that you’ll use to fill in water at the toilet sinks, sometimes back and forth, to use for clean-up after the call of nature. It is quite amusing though. Don’t these hotels (and sometimes airports) know that Muslims are quite a majority as well? How then have they never thought of making it a better experience for Muslims?

Side note: Empty bottles because airports don’t allow passengers to have full water bottles. Otherwise, we travel with our small filled up bottles quite often.

  • A little yoga: It is time for prayers so you go take ablution. In your mind though, you know too, it’s time for a little yoga. There is no proper area to take ablution except the sink and thus when it is time to clean your feet, you have to raise them up into the sink to wash them. This is in between staring at the door hoping that no worker will walk in and see you in what seems to be quite an uncivilized manner, at the same time hoping you do not hurt your hip while your leg being that high up. The struggle is real.
  • Prayer room you ask? What’s that? : Ironically, even in Mombasa where we have majority Muslims, many hotels never think of providing this. Now Muslims mostly have to arrange their picnic times post prayers or in between prayer times because ‘we won’t get a private room or a clean place to pray.’ The only other options are: Either we go for the picnic and not pray the entire day or not go for the picnic altogether. Such a shame!
  • Sometimes you get the advantage of having booked your own room and can pray in it. But because you can only afford a cheap hotel, the only space you have to pray is on top of your bed. Yes. There is not even enough space to place your small prayer mat on the floor. So you climb on your bed and now start thinking of which is the ‘qiblah’ (the direction Muslims face during prayers). You have no internet bundles to check a compass so you run about the place asking for any Muslim who can show you the qiblah or ask anyone who knows where North is (because North is the direction we face). You remind yourself to download the ‘Muslim-Pro’ app during your next adventure. Or perhaps should we call them misadventures?

Side note: Muslim Pro is an app that alerts the Muslim on prayer time, shows them the qiblah amongst other things.

  • You crave meat. But can you afford to crave it? : You are at the restaurant. It’s a whole new environment for you. You don’t know the cultures of these people, so you ask, “Is this meat halaal?” The first waiter doesn’t know so they call another waiter. “Is this meat halaal?” You ask again, but no one seems to be sure. Or perhaps they don’t really understand what halaal is and why you want halaal meat so badly. After several attempts of trying to find out, you decide to order another meal altogether. So much for craving meat huh?!

Side note: Halaal means permissible according to Islamic law. Some meat is forbidden such as pork or birds of prey with claws. There is also laws on how the slaughtering should be done and what kind of animals to avoid entirely.

To be fair, we do have some locations that are religious-friendly and they try to make the experience as wholesome as possible. Meanwhile, we are enjoying our misadventures amidst our great explorations. When we finally get our perfect destinations, it’s over for you guys haha!

This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 9/1/2020

When you travel out of your country, for whatever reason, there will always be expectations imposed on you. Nothing will be said to you directly nor is there an old, smelly manuscript by the ancestors stating what is exactly expected of you. However, they still exist. And the moment you just step down from the airplane, your entire community awaits you.

1. Suddenly, you have become the elite of the community and being elite, comes with a price.

It doesn’t matter whether you went out of the country for studies or business or short holiday, especially when you currently live there, you are a different person of a different status now. And status comes with expectations; ‘when will you build your parents a kahouse at the farm at least they enjoy their old age?’ ‘Your uncle has been very ill. You should chip in in his medical bill.’ ‘Are you going to sponsor one of your siblings’ education now that you live in Australia?’

Now, no one really knows what you are doing there; the struggle, the high cost of living or even your earnings, but apparently, being out there somehow makes you wealthy. It could be so but perhaps not. Who cares to ask anyway?!

2. Your entire extended family and community that sometimes don’t even recognize you, expect gifts.

A few weeks or even months before your awaited arrival, the requests start coming in from your aunty who doesn’t really like you, your old friends you haven’t talked to in a year, your ex-neighbor who once did you a favor decades ago…you name it. Someone wants that designer perfume that isn’t available in Kenya, another wants a blow dryer they saw on TV, another wants a kasmall laptop tu. 

All this while, no one asks you whether you can afford it or not. Whether you have the ability to get the item or whether it will inconvenience you. Si uko ulaya? Haya! Deal with it!

3. Somehow, sometimes, a change of accent is considered betrayal of sorts.

‘So you went to live with the wazungus so now you know better eh? You can’t even speak like us anymore!’

Somehow, maintaining your accent equals to honouring your roots. So doing the opposite get people to gossip how your foreign accent is ‘pretential’ and ‘forced’ even though at their own seclusion, in front of their mirror, they try to imitate ‘your enhanced accent’ wishing they were you.

4. You MUST have adopted some of their mannerisms isn’t it?!

Queer questions will start streaming in, ‘I hear that there is an indigenous community there that eat crows, did you try it out too?’ ‘I heard that in their culture, they believe in unicorns, do you think they really exist?’ ‘There is a new Korean series, did you watch it while there?’

I mean, there MUST be something new you picked from them right?!

5. Come cook us a Turkish meal.

You’ve been in Turkey for how long again? 2 years?! You should prepare us a Turkish cuisine! I mean isn’t that the first thing after language that people learn in a new country?!

6. My friend, if your grandfather, your parent or any other individual was supporting you financially before, your travelling/living abroad cancels that automatically. You are now expected to act like a fully independent and a grown up finally! Your problems no longer exist and someone else definitely deserves the finances. I mean, who lives in Canada while being poor?! (even if you went to work there as a home care taker). You can never be broke. You can be broquè though; the elite, classic kind of lacking money. (It should be added on Modern dictionary!)

7. In fact, you are the loan guy now. You are the first person everyone thinks of when they are in trouble. The first person your reckless cousin calls when caught by the police for over-speeding. The first person to call when someone gets admitted to school. The first person invited to a baby shower or wedding. You are expected to act like a malfunctioning ATM machine.

The expectations come in different shapes and forms but the bottom line is this: for you to be respected, some of these expectations must be fulfilled. Once you gain the respect, no doubt, the entire community will be fond of you. Upon your arrival back home, you will be invited everywhere and be over-fed until you can barely walk on your two feet. You will be treated like a dignified individual even with people who never cared about you prior your ‘life-changing journey’. They will ask you for advice on the new business they want to start or anything else that you entirely have no idea about.

You will be forgiven for your otherwise unacceptable behavior. They will cut you some slack when you confront your elder with a rude tone, something that would otherwise have caused a hefty slap on your face. They will say things like, ‘He has been away for so long, the culture is different there’ and follow it with a moment of painful silence. Your younger cousins will call that privilege. The ones older than you will call it misuse of privilege.

When you are away, people will make video calls. The children will proudly tell their friends at school, ‘I have an aunty in London. Aha!’ That statement will be used as a means to gain friends, appear more likeable, bully other kids or threaten them. Family gatherings will be incomplete without you.

The chief of the mtaa will refer to you in the baraza meetings. Your mother will never refer to you by your name but instead say, ‘Si you know my eldest son? The one in Qatar, working as a manager?’ 

You are the pride of the community. Don’t let them down. Don’t forget your roots huh!


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This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 13/12/19

December is upon us and soon enough, Mombasa will be congested from droves of holidaymakers. It is no secret that we all love Mombasa, because hey! ‘Mombasa raha ama vipi?’ We definitely love our home and love being part of it; the entire thing, the good, the bad and the fun! Now here’s a few pointers for our esteemed guests when they come for holidays:

1. Mombasa is an island, and just like any island, we move in slow, calm waves. We are relaxed people; we know it, and we are totally okay with it. Our pace should not in any way make you think we are in any way lazy or too unbothered or have no worthy place to be at. We on the other hand are not fans of the chaos and wildness of the cities and if you noticed, we are doing very well as we are. No one would want to come to our home if it weren’t for this exact solace and calmness that you sometimes criticize.

2. We know that Mombasa is very hot and even hotter during December season. Please do not worry about our hijabs and buibuis. We have lived here our entire lives and this heat has become part of us, we are okay still wearing black under the scorching sun. You can term us ‘Warriors’ for that, we definitely are!

3. Please understand that Kiswahili, is a very beautiful language and has its deep history originating not just from Mombasa but other parts of the Eastern Coast and even beyond. The Swahili accents differ from place to place and tribe to tribe. Ours is as sweet as our souls and we are proud of our mother tongue. Now, do not in any way think that Kiswahili speakers are in any way less educated, civilized or modern. You’d be surprised how many scholars, educators, established business people we have, who take pride in talking in Kiswahili rather than any other seemingly ‘advanced language’.

4. We are kind people. We value brotherhood and we are always ready to assist anyone. Please note however, that when we decide to show you directions or assist you with water or literally take you on a tour, that that is not a cue for wanting small talk or giving out our phone numbers or wanting any kind of intimacy (unless otherwise clearly stated). We are simply kind people. Please get used to it.

5. Walk anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE in Mombasa and I can promise you that you’ll find someone doing business there, or marketing or just hustling in whichever way they can. We do have idlers and drug addicts and other vices, just like ANY other town. So please, when you get back home, remember to take the report back home that we are not lazy people as many perceive. Talk of the women you saw very early before dawn, selling those delicious Swahili food. Talk of the many seminars that you saw youth attending. Talk of the protests being done continuously to fight for our rights. Talk of the men going to ‘mjengo’ every morning and returning late at night. Talk of how hard working we really are and be part of breaking the available stereotypes.

6. As Swahili people, we really value our culture and principles. We behave in certain ways, dress in certain ways, talk in certain ways…Of course we can’t hold our visitors as prisoners to our values but please, could you try to at least respect our culture? Could you try to be more sensitive to what you say to the locals, or how you dress when amidst the locals or how you behave when invited in someone’s home? We do understand that people come from very diverse cultures and backgrounds and we function in different ways. But as the common saying goes, ‘When you go to Rome, you do as Romans do.’ This is not a rule but more of a humane expectation. If the Coastal women, for example, refuse to shake hands with the male or drink alcohol or party till late night or anything else we’re not comfortable with, remember to not be prejudicial.  Respect the culture instead.

December is a paradoxical time for the Coastals. We are not huge fans of all the over-crowded beaches and extremely busy roads and places, yet we are happy to receive people and shower them with our warmth and kindness. Not to mention the business opportunities huh! To end this I say, ‘Karibuni sana Mombasa.’

Happy holidays!

To read part 1, click the following link:

Our view is still the same restaurant we had been at from the previous night 3 a.m.
It is now past 3 p.m. and you could vividly see all our energy had been sucked out of us.

“You know, at some point, during this journey, I thought of Nabii Yunus and the boat he was on,” I say loudly.
“Why,” my sister asks.
“Perhaps there is someone weighing us down and jinxing this entire trip. Who should we be kicking out of the car?”
They all burst out laughing.
“Saeed, I didn’t see you at the masjid for I’sha. Did you really pray?” Farouq jokes.
“I was late for masjid but I actually did pray.”
“Ehh, maanake this is not normal,” I say.
“So we write down our names in small pieces of paper too and choose randomly who is to be kicked out,” someone says. And we laugh again.

Asr prayer soon arrives. We went for prayers then went to eat at another restaurant across the road. Chips soaked in oil nonetheless. We eat reluctantly as we entertain ourselves with nothing and everything. We then see a matatu drive into the previous restaurant we were at. Our help had finally arrived. Finally, we thought.

My brother in law Ali had come with two other men, a driver and a conductor for extra help. We take the car to the mechanic and fix a towing bar ( a metal bar on the back of a vehicle that is used for towing a vehicle) between the two cars and off we set.

My sister and I sat comfortably at the car seat, set our chairs back and closed our eyes. We were barely three minutes away from the mechanic, the towing bar falls off from our car and screeches loudly. We both open our eyes,
“Oh what now?” I say with a sigh.
The mechanic rushes to us and checks our car.
“Reverse the car. We have to fix this again,” he says.

So we reverse back and it takes another moment to fix the towing bar. We set off again and as we cross the road towards Mombasa, guess what? It falls off again. All the men come out of the car and somehow fix it. We set off AGAIN. At this point I am so convinced that this entire trip is jinxed.

For a while we drive at a good speed with no complications. In fact, at some point, Farouq who was now the one driving the matatu, was over taking other cars.
“We are now over-confident huh?” I said to my brother who was in the car with us.
He laughs while I went back to sleep.

Close to dusk, I woke up and started taking videos of the forest and images of the sunset. I even got to see a deer and a giraffe huh! Silver lining 😀 At this point, we believe that we are fine and we will totally make it home with no further complications.

In between my short naps and taking videos, another loud screech woke us up. All men hopped out of the two vehicles, fixed it again and embarked on our journey. It was already dark now and just a few vehicles on the road with us.

As if testing our patience, the towing bar now kept falling off almost after every 10-20 minutes. Whenever this would happen,I would imagine the car losing entire control and perhaps roll off to our devastating end. Despite this happening too many times already, I would still wake up with a hand on my chest, screaming ‘bismillah’ like this might just be it. The last trip of our lives. Mind you, this trip happened just a few days before eidul adh-ha. I never thought we would live to see it.

Past midnight, we stopped at a petrol station with a cool, posh, cute restaurant beside it.
“Is she asleep?” my brother asks about our sister.
“Yeah,” I say as I gaze at her. She’s been asleep for a while now. And I kept wondering how she wasn’t hearing all that commotion in the dead night with no one but us on the road.

I wake her up to ask whether she needed to use the washroom.
“You’ve slept quite a while. Weren’t you hearing the constant commotions?” I ask her.
“I took my pills remember? They make me drowsy and sleepy.”
“Makes sense.”

We walk to the restaurant. The setting was beautiful and the toilets were CLEAN and neat. Do you know how important that is when you have a break down in the wilderness?!!!
“I wish our car had broken down here,” my sister says. Yeah, same sis. Same. We laugh.
We come back from the washroom and find all the men standing between the two vehicles. Two of them were hitting the bumper of our car with a huge rock.

“What’s happening?” we ask as we wear our jackets. It is pretty cold now.
“The bumper is becoming loose. It can no longer handle the pull of the towing bar. We have to remove it entirely and connect the towing bar directly to the metals of the car below the bonnet,” my brother explains.

“Do you know how suspicious we look right now?” I say. Five men and two women, in the middle of the night, damaging what seems like a perfect car. The sound of the rock echoes in the very silent petrol station. No one from there asks anything though. The bumper is finally removed and kept inside the matatu. They attach a rope and the metal bar between the matatu and our bumper-less car and each one of us takes our places in the respective vehicles. We take off.

“We are lucky we took this trip at night you know. If it were during the day it would be way more difficult with other cars on the road and traffic police,” my brother says. Lucky indeed 😀

You’d expect with the bumper being out our trip wouldn’t have any other issue right? You couldn’t be more wrong. The car still kept on freeing itself. And as fast and efficient as possible, the guys would hop out, fix it and we’d move on. They were becoming too good at the job, with no complaints even 😀

At this point it was like we were at a state of delirium. Whenever we’d close our eyes and open them again, we’d see someone else driving our car. The guys were taking turns in driving the two vehicles. My brother Saeed and brother in law Ali are now at the car with us.

“I am sleepy,” Ali says as he drives.
To make our trip more interesting, Saeed starts telling us of another road trip with a friend who left him driving the entire night while he slept.
“The silence just makes it worse. I was literally fighting with the sleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes fully open,” he says as we listen.

At this time, almost all our phones were off. Had we died, it would have taken a while for our families to be contacted. Okay, not the time for bad thoughts.

Saeed starts eating the mabuyu that we had at the beginning our trip. My sister is back to sleep.
“Are these mabuyu nice ama ni njaa niko nayo?” (or am I just hungry)
“You are hungry,” Ali and I laugh.

I close my eyes again for another moment before we had the loudest screech yet. Both my sister and I woke at the sight of our car moving to the extreme left down a slope, the matatu moved towards the right while the towing bar screeched loudly. I screamed something, my sister’s eyes were popping. We all held our breath, our mouths agape, horror written all over our faces as the car moved fast towards the edge of the road. We could now see the ocean below us; imagining us plummeting and dropping like feathers to the ocean below. The car then came to a slow stop. We were at ‘Dongokundu highway’. The streets totally empty and the ocean almost daring us. There was a moment of deep silence as the men alighted once again. If there was any moment we felt terror to the extent of finding it tangible, this was it. Imagine waking up to find yourself almost falling off a highway into the ocean? I don’t think words can ever precisely describe the horror we experienced at this point. Maybe we should turn this into a movie so you can vividly experience the terror alongside the characters. From this point, no one dared to go back to sleep. Even my sister with her sleep-inducing pills. We had lost all the appetite for it.

‘What if our car fell off into the deadly waters?!’ I kept thinking to myself.

We were right at the road when a trailer drove past us at a super high speed, startling the guys away to the side. It was a close brush!

“Why do you keep being scared whenever the bar falls off?” my brother asks me after they were back in the car.
“I keep imagining the car losing control and driving us to our demise.”
“That can’t happen. Despite the engine being dead, we are still controlling the car…unless God wills of course.”
“Oh…” I say with relief. How comforting to know 😀

We finally drive past Changamwe into Mombasa. Wow, that came with an excitement of its own, ‘we are close enough to home!! Alhamdulilah’ Only that home is in Mtwapa and we’d need another hour or so to get there with this constantly falling metal bar.

As we drive past Bamburi cement, we stop again. The men hop out as usual. But this time, we have an audience. The bodaboda guys start speculating us closely. One of them is seemingly drunk and starts threatening the men to report them.
I’m at the back of the car and I don’t get it.’Report us for what?’
The bodaboda guy then signals to his fellow to note down our plate numbers and I think to call the police or something like that.
He is shouting loudly at the guys, throwing insults at a time.
“What is wrong with this guy urgh!’ I say.
“And why are you agitated?” my sister asks.
“Because these guys have been driving the entire night, and he is pushing their buttons. People are exhausted! We don’t need any more problems bana!”
As I had guessed, Ali and Farouq starts answering him back. Not on full blown angry mode but you can see they are REALLY trying to ignore him.

Suddenly we see a police car drive by. We all freeze for a second. But the police just slow down a bit to peep what we were and they went on with their way.

The guys come back to the car. Farouq comes back and joins us as Ali takes up driving the matatu.
“What was the bodaboda guy threatening about?” I ask.
“He was assuming we had caused an accident thus the missing bumper,” Farouq replies.

Saeed drives the car past Borabora and we are thrilled.
“Getting home soon in shaa Allah,” Saeed says.
“Hehe not yet. We are yet to be stopped by the police,” Farouq laughs.
“Don’t jinx it,” we urge him.

We drop the matatu driver and conductor at some point around Shanzu.

We get to Mtwapa bridge and just as we cross, guess what? The police stop us.
Ali explains it to them that before coming with the Matatu to pick us from Mtito, he had talked to their head about it and had approved.
The police became agitated.

“Are you teaching us our job?” They were around four or five of them.
“No but why do you want to hold us back while we got the approval from your boss,” Ali is officially pissed.
“Kuna leo na kesho,”one of the policeman says.

And we all know what that means in Kenya. You could find yourself in a very muddy situation you were never really in.

Saeed and Farouq take Ali aside then talked to the policemen, trying to calm them down. They apologize on his behalf. They say it has been a long journey and bargain with them. They fold a note into one of the hands and finally let us go.

Broken system. How sad.

“That was close,” one of us says.
“Si mimi nlisema,” Farouq laughs. (Didn’t I say we’d be stopped by the police?)
“You’re the one who’s been jinxing us Farouq,” we all say as we laugh at him.
“I am not going to be excited anymore till we are finally INSIDE our home,” I say as we get closer and closer.

“You’ve had a lifetime adventure you will never forget,” Farouq says, “Mwanzo, have you guys ever been on such an adventure?”

“Of course not 😀 We can rejoice about the adventure AFTER it is over,” I say.

We can now see our home at the vicinity and I still say, “I am NOT going to be happy till I am inside. No less. No more.” This is the kind of trip you think, ‘Oh I am finally home. Nothing bad can happen now. I am safe.’ Only for robbers to appear in front of you with pangas. Okay maybe that is too movie-ish but can you blame me at this point for thinking of the worst?

I see my dad waiting for us at the door. I quickly alight and head towards the door. Guess what happened?!

Nothing. Relax. 😀 I just hugged him. Never felt happier to be home. Alhamdulilah.

I rush into my room and my younger sister is startled from her sleep.
“Oh you’re back?!”

“I am baaackkk!! Alhamdulilah!! You won’t believe what happened oh my God. Very long story. Will tell you tomorrow in shaa Allah.”

It is past 3 a.m., closer to 4 a.m. I rush to the washroom, clean up and repay my missed prayers. I am thrilled to be home. So excited. All the while during that terrible journey yet thrilling adventure, I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘Wait till this over! I can’t wait to write about it!’ To date, I believe I was meant to experience that adventure because I love adventures despite them wrecking my nervous system 😀 At least I can boast that I survived the thrill without having a mental breakdown 😀

Next morning everyone at home is asking for details of the trip. What exactly happened.

“Just wait till I write about it!!”

They’ve been waiting for too long! 😀

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Submission for the creative writing contest

Having anxiety and being adventurous at the same time, is an extreme sport. It is like your DNA is on a constant battle on which personality should possess over your body. A forever tag of war. But whenever things go unexpectedly, anxiety ALWAYS wins.

So here we are, at 2 a.m. at the middle of nowhere, bushes everywhere and smoke emerging from our car. There is a deep moment of silence.

‘Hapa ni kubaya,’ (this is a bad area) Farouq says, holding the door handle hesitantly.

‘Ehh lazma tukae chonjo,’ Mullah says, looking at the other two men at the front seats; my brother Saeed and his friend Farouq. Seconds tick away as the men still contemplate what step to take.

‘What is happening?’ I ask from the back seat.

It is obvious. The car has broken down. Heavy smoke is still rising from the front bonnet of the car. My mind is already imagining a group of shaggy looking men with blood-shot eyes emerging from the bushes with pangas and rungus. ‘Ni kubaya’ keeps ringing in my head. Is this how we die? Be attacked by some idle, ruthless, heartless humanbeings and be slashed to be unrecognizable pieces of meat?

‘I can check the smoke while the two of you look out for the animals,’ Farouq says.

‘We have a panga here,’ my brother Saeed says.

‘Wait, what animals?’ I ask.

‘We have lions here…and all types of wild animals roaming around the forest,’ Mullah says.

Wait what?! So now we won’t be victims of a ruthless, idol gang but of wild animals who would carry our helpless bodies to the bushes for a feast.

My elder sister is calmly seated next to me, focused on what the men are discussing.

‘This panga is small,’ Mullah says, ‘and rusted.’

‘Why do you drive around with a panga under your seat anyway?’ I ask my brother.

‘For emergencies. Like these.’

Seems wild. I wouldn’t be able to carry a panga with me around without thinking that it is exactly what will be used to slash my head when I run into bad people. You can’t blame me for thinking like that anyway. Have you watched the news lately?

‘We need water,’ someone says. We pass the only gallon of water left with us.

The three men step out of the car. Mullah is hanging on the doorway with his phone torch looking towards the forest. All doors have been left open, you know, in case an animal emerges out of nowhere and they have to jump back in. But what if the animals decide they are the ones to jump in huh?!

Farouq is pouring the water into the car while dubbing it with a piece of cloth. My brother Saeed is in between watching the other side of the forest and helping Farouq. All the water is eventually used up. They all rush back into the car, close the door, shut the windows and put off all the lights.

‘We just have to wait for the car to relax,’ Farouq says, as we all burst out laughing. ‘It is true. We just have to give it time to relax then we will be good to go.’

‘By the way do you know that a lion won’t attack you if you don’t provoke it?’

‘Who said?’ Someone asks.

‘I know so. Hyenas are the worst. And I hear they are common here.’

‘This is a bad area to stop,’ Farouq repeats.

I am surprised how everyone is staying calm. We are about 10-15 kilometres away from Mtito Andei. All cars passing by are moving at a super speed. The engine won’t start. The smoke in our car won’t stop. My sister is chatting away something while laughing. My mind is distracted. I can point out a hundred things that can go wrong right now.

‘Lubnah,’ my brother calls out my name, ‘you wanted a road trip huh? Here it is. The real road trip,’ he says while laughing.

I laugh nervously. I had just completed my final semester exams the evening before and upon reaching home, my brother suggested I accompany them for their road trip to Nairobi. What better way to treat yourself after a hard paper?! I had been too excited; rushed through the entire packing process because I could not risk being told last minute that they changed their mind or there is no longer space for me. I didn’t want to waste a minute in the house anymore. Road trip huh?!

It is almost half an hour later and there doesn’t seem to be any progress. The men step out once again and this time, Farouq tries to stop the lorries with his flashlight. One lorry seems about to stop but decides it is not wise to stop by a forest at past 2 a.m. Another lorry stops but the driver doesn’t have a rope to pull us to Mtito. Mullah is holding a panga like he is ready for a fist fight with anything coming his way. He is skinny and kinda short. Would he really manage? I admire his confidence though. If he dies, at least he dies a hero.

The three men rush back into the car. A moment of silence. My sister and I are saying all sorts of prayers now from a book we had with us. But my mind is too distracted I tell my sister I will recite whatever I know off head. You should know, anxious people have some six common ways to deal (more like reacting) with situations, ‘panic, cry uncontrollably, over-eat, not eat entirely, over-sleep or have insomnia.’ I can’t panic. I see it in movies all the time. Anxious people tend to make a situation worse 100% by panicking. I can’t panic. I shouldn’t panic. Because now we are stuck just beside a forest with wild animals roaming freely, waiting for free meat. I can’t be the free meat that calls for the animals’ attention. I try to breathe in deeply. And next, I decide to stress-eat the mabuyu we had carried.

People are telling dark jokes now. Coping mechanism I believe. When there is nothing to do, you can try to make it funny. At least if we are dying, we die laughing right? My sister and brother tease my quite silent and tense self. They know what is going on in my head.

It is already 3 a.m. Mullah decides to light a fire just beside the road to scare away the animals and hopefully, make some driver stop and help us. Farouq goes back to waving his flashlight towards the passing cars.

‘This fire is risky. There is so much wind and this is a big forest. It could start a huge fire that we can’t control,’ my brother Saeed says.

‘No it will be fine. This is what will keep the animals away. They can’t come near the fire,’ Said says.

We stay like that for a while and the fire seems to get bigger. My brother decides to push the car behind because it is a petrol car and we don’t really need another tragedy right now.

The fire is making me nervous. What if it decides to spread its wings and conquer the land of the wild? Mullah is guarding it closely but I can’t help but imagine it really spreading, our car catching fire and exploding, turning each one of us into fresh kebabs for breakfast for the animals. The imagination is vivid. I can imagine the headlines in the morning, ‘A huge fire burnt down a big part of the forest and has killed five people beyond recognition.’

I shake my head in an attempt to throw out the thoughts. I can’t tell them to anyone else because anxious people tend to make situations worse remember? Everyone else is trying to stay calm and still making dry, dark jokes. I should adjust like everyone else.

‘Tell him to put it off,’ I suggest. Saeed had already suggested that previously but Mullah was insistent on keeping it burning.

A lorry finally stops several steps ahead of us. All three men rush to it. And finally, they come with a rope. Our hope has now been reignited. Mullah puts out the fire with his feet. Don’t ask me how. He just did it.

We watch keenly as we start being pulled towards Mtito. We say our grace to God. (The driver later tells us that he saw a rhino nearby when he was pulling over to help us. He almost didn’t stop. True Story)

We get to Mtito minutes to 5 a.m. We have our very early breakfast, perform our prayers and get back to our packed car and sleep. Short, restless naps. We can hear people moving in and out of the restaurant. We had two options; either leave one of us with the car while the rest take up another car/bus to Nairobi or wait for another car from Mombasa to take us back home. We weigh our options. We have to go back home.

Saeed and Farouq escort Mullah to the roadside and get him a ride to Nairobi. The four of us are now left. When you have several free hours at hand, is when you take notice of every minute passing by. We chit-chat a bit, eat, eat more, sleep again, laugh at whatsapp videos and memes, eat again. I am busy eating half the time. The overwhelm has to be taken care of somehow. So food it is. I pretend to be a youtuber for a minute and take images of the very aesthetic blue and grey clouds. I am searching for the silver lining I say.

It is only 4 p.m. when help finally arrives from Mombasa. We are extremely tired, sweaty, smelly and sleepy. We get a mechanic nearby who fixes a metal between the two cars so we are pulled back home. You think that is the end of the journey? You are mistaken. The journey has just begun…

To read part 2 click on the following link:

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This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 1/8/2019

There is this Albanian proverb that says, ‘Every guest hates the others, and the host hates them all.’ As arguable as this can be, we can all agree that there are certain kinds of guests we detest to the core. However, there are those we long to meet again.

During the last edition, we looked at different kinds of hosts, and now we get to have a look at the opposite side. What kind of visitor are you or what kind have you received?

1. The Entertainer

They come with all the merry the house needs. They will tell endless stories, crack jokes, play with the kids…the house couldn’t be livelier. Once the visitor leaves, you can feel their absence due to their charm and happy spirit. You can’t wait to host them again.

“If it were not for guests all houses would be graves.” -Kahlil Gibran

2. The Worrier

They are constantly worried about all their moves. ‘Is it okay to use their toothpaste or should I have bought my own?’ ‘Am I too loud on the phone?’ ‘Is it appropriate to go to sleep before they do?’ ‘They are whispering…Are they talking about me?!’ The visitor is walking on eggshells and can’t do a single thing in the house without over-thinking the consequences of their actions.

3. The Over-stayer

Prince Philip once said, “ The art of being a good guest is to know when to leave.”
Dude doesn’t know the meaning of ‘time-to-go’. They initially came for a three day visit and ended up staying for three months and counting. They are unapologetic about their over-stay and act totally unbothered whether the host is happy about it or not.

“The first day a guest, the second day a guest, the third day a calamity.” –Indian proverb

4. Lazy-bone

However long their stay is, they still act as a visitor. They wake up very late, leave their plate on the table, never offer help not even a fake, pretentious one. They don’t help AT ALL. You could be drowning with chores and errands to do but they’d still go about with their own business; unbothered. You are alone mate.

5. The Foodie

They eat anything they come across in the house so long as it is edible. You dared leave your pizza in the fridge overnight? It became their midnight snack. You bought biscuits for your children? They needed something to munch. You set aside some ugali for your brother? Your visitor wasn’t satisfied with the initial lunch you offered. The moment you see them, you just put away all the food you have, including the sweet your kid is eating.

“A daily guest is a great thief in the kitchen.” -Dutch Proverbs

6. The messy one

They expect you as the host to do all the cleaning. That includes making their bed after they wake up, clearing their messy room, washing their dirty clothes that they intentionally left mixed up with yours. In short, you are there literally at their service.

7. The nosy gossip

They have a keen eye to details. They know which part of the house needs some cleaning, how your child is a total failure at school and when last your husband came home. You won’t even know how much they know until after their departure and your other gossiping aunty at the village, miles away, will inform you of what they heard. Funny enough, despite all they’ll say about you, they won’t be ashamed to come over at your place again. They act totally innocent and oblivious of their actions and even bring you some other gossip when they come around.

“A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year.” -Polish Proverbs

8. The Chef

They love cooking and are too good at it. They always offer to make themselves helpful at the kitchen and everyone can’t wait to eat their meals. They will prepare full course meals from starters to dessert and you couldn’t be a happier host. In fact, you want to suggest they move in with you. These are the kind of blessings you need to keep, aye?!

9. The over-compensator

They feel highly indebted for all the host is doing for them so they try all they can to ‘return the favour’. They will wash the dishes, pick your child from school, and buy gifts for your family every time they leave the house. They will do chores even when it is uncalled for. This is their way to say thank you only it is more of THANK YOU in bold, capital letters, underlined being screamed at the top of their voices.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘The ornaments of a house are the friends who frequent it.’

10. Non-commenters

As a host, you could go out of the way to please them and make their stay as comfortable as possible, but your honourable guest will always be expressionless about everything. They leave you guessing all the time because you never know when they like something or not, what they prefer and what not. They don’t give comments, suggestions or criticisms even when you ask them. It may be hard to make them happy because you don’t really know how to…

11. The Demanding one

They don’t really care how your ‘pocket situation’ is or whether it is beyond your means, but they’d always make demands. They’d ask for special meals, special tours or even want some of the objects/materials in the house for themselves. They will, without shame, ask for these favours and sometimes make the host feel guilty for not meeting their needs, or rather, their high demands.

“The guest who seeks special attention muddies the host’s tea.” –Japanese proverb

Truly, guests make our home more beautiful, livelier and lovelier. We just have to ensure to know our boundaries and be more sensitive when staying at other people’s homes.

“The house that receives no guests, never receives angels.” -Turkish Proverb

This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 5/7/2019

Do you remember that one family that you stayed with and you decided to never ever stay at someone’s home again? Or perhaps that one warm family that treated you too well this one time you visited, you now have a permanent suitcase at their home ‘in case’ you need a bed for the night. I bet we all have memories of the places we’ve been to and the different kinds of hosts we’ve met. Some are pretty lovely, some are weird, disgusting, and entertaining…the list is endless. Here are a few examples of the kind of hosts you’re most likely to meet:


From the moment you make that phone call on your visit, they become on a panic mode. An emergency general clean-up of the house will be done even when the house was already clean enough. They will over-stock the fridge with all kind of groceries because ‘how will I know what they love?’ They will stress over the ‘master piece’ drawings on the walls done by the children. They will worry about the seemingly old bed sheets. They will overcook for your entire stay. Ask you a hundred times in the least if ‘you need anything’. They will be on their feet as early as 4 a.m. in the morning to ensure breakfast is ready by the time you’re up. It doesn’t matter if you’re a very close family member, a friend or even a colleague, they’ll still overstretch themselves to ensure you have a comfortable stay.


They are the literal example of ‘mgeni aje, mwenyeji apone’ because now that we have visitors, we have the perfect reason to over-spend and over-eat. They will break their piggy banks, pull out the hidden money under the mattress, and withdraw all their savings from the bank just to make the best out of the situation. They will put a pause to their diet and FEAST on all that they couldn’t eat in the past year because now ‘I can’t leave the visitor eat different food. It doesn’t seem good.’ They will go for fancy shopping sprees, spoil the visitor thoroughly while spoiling themselves too. ‘You Only Live Once’ becomes their new daily mantra till the stay is over and they’re left with an empty pocket, debts and some extra kilos of body fat. ‘Welcome back to reality pal!’


It doesn’t matter what your relationship is with the host or how long you plan to stay but you must play a role in the house chores. They will ensure you help around whether it is by washing the dishes after meals or even picking their child from the day-care in the evening. So long as you eat and sleep in this house, you won’t be favoured in any way. Keep working!


Don’t leave your phone for a second and they’re already deep in the photo gallery, or even worse, replying your messages. They will randomly open your suitcase to peep at your clothes, or use your laptop without your permission. They have no idea whatsoever on how to give one their personal space.


They will make you feel very welcome and ensure that you have the best time at their home. They will entertain you and feed you well. They will sacrifice their time and energy to give you company whenever they can. They ensure you’re comfortable enough to feel free and do as you please in their house.


It is like you’re in a hotel but only difference is you have some ‘company’. They’re present but it’s like you’re non-existent to them. Everyone in the house is busy doing something of their own and the only time anyone talks to you is to call you for a painfully silent meal. Pretty much like those boring hostel roommates at college. You can’t expect anything more from them apart from food and roof. But at least you have that, can you complain really?!


These people will not pretend to be jolly when they’re not. They won’t wear plastered smiles to please you. As long as you’re in the house, you’re in it. You will hear them shouting to each other, throwing abusive words, as you stand by your room door with your mouth agape. You will hear something heavy fall. Someone screaming. Perhaps a chair or the small wooden stool has been thrown. Becomes even worse when it is not just a couple but a family and now everyone is throwing words at everyone and you have absolutely no idea what to do. Should you stay in your room and pretend you see nothing, you hear nothing? Or should you walk out and try calming them down? What do you do at the dinner table when it is all tense and extremely quiet? You have an entire two weeks to figure that out. All the best with your stay though!


‘So when are you planning to go to the City?’
‘When did you say your friend will be picking you up?’
‘My sister has been waiting for me so we travel to Dubai together. I am just here because of you. Ni sawa lakini.’
Your hosts will not fail to drop you hints that it is high time you leave because well, isn’t it high time? They say ‘akufukuzaye hakuambii toka’. So please get the hints and find another place to crash in.

Reflecting back, what kind of host are you? Have you ever thought whether your visitors would ever want to stay with you again or are you the nightmare that made someone’s child despise visiting any home entirely?!

Journeys are all fun and thrill until its past five hours on the road and you start realizing all the things you’d rather not. Like the baby who’s been crying sharply. You’ve been actively ignoring it but you no longer can. Or the lady in front of you who eats by the hour. She makes a point that you all know that she is eating, by the sound of the paper bags. Then there’s the man behind you whose legs are too long and keep bumping on your seat. A well-dressed, masculine man by your side is talking baby language and you wonder for a moment if he is someone’s boss. You can bet that they probably have never seen this soft side of their otherwise tough-looking boss. Stereotypes, I know! By this time you have done everything you can possibly do; eat, sleep, watch YouTube videos, chat, daydream, make a business plan, read a book, have a monologue, praise the Lord and eat. Did I mention eat?

There are usually two kinds of travellers in any kind of journey; those who mind their own business and those who don’t. Your current seat-mate is the former.

They would sit gracefully and put their earphones on. They would turn to the side and lay back on the seat. Neither would they say hi nor would they look to your side. You are invisible. Non-existent. They would avoid eye contact for whatever hours you are on the vehicle and play dead. They won’t ask your name or where you are headed to. They are the best kind of travellers in most cases. Well that is until you reach Mtito and you ask them to hold onto your paper bag while you go to the washroom. Then they give you that look of ‘Are you seriously about to leave your very aromatic chicken nuggets with a total stranger?’ There follows an awkward moment of silence; you standing there foolishly with your hand stretched out. Then you give them that look of ‘well you have a point’ and slowly drop your hand in disappointment. Before you leave, they stretch out theirs with no expression on their face. Your only other option is to carry your chicken nuggets to the washroom with you so you decide your cold seatmate is all you got.

The second kind is the super energetic one. The chatterboxes who seem to have been put on a mission to interrogate your entire life. They are all bright and sunlight even when your trip is during the dead night. They will have all sorts of conversations with you; the ‘cliché’ kind of ‘Don’t you feel too hot in that buibui?’ the small talk kind, ‘I am going for a business trip with this huge firm’, the ‘let-me-excavate-your-entire-history’ kind, ‘did your great grandfather migrate to Mombasa by ship during the 19th Century?’ You are too tired to even open your mouth. You try to be pleasant by giving very short answers with an enigmatic smile hoping they get the hint. But do they ever? On a brighter note, at least you know you can leave your chicken nuggets with them and they’d be happy to do it. Plus, it is not like you have anything better to do. If there is anytime boredom could catastrophically kill a human being, it would be now. So you just stare outside, the nursery rhyme ‘are we there yet’ playing in your head.

There is a terrible traffic jam ahead. A lot of dust particles. The driver is recklessly overtaking other reckless drivers. Sweat. Smelly garbage by the road. Exhausted faces. But as they say, life is as you make out of it. Because outside your window, there are zebras and giraffes walking gracefully, the people walking in the vast fields and you wonder where they are headed to, beautiful green lands during the day. There’s a mother playing with her baby’s fingers as she laughs cutely. The couple eating from the same plate. Beautiful conversations with strangers. The break of dawn just as you approach Nairobi. The lights everywhere. The sunrise. A magnificent sight! Huh! Life is not so bad anyway.


P.S Watch out for this space, in shaa Allah I will be posting all details & FAQ’s of my new book here. Stay tuned!

“It is on people for the sake of Allah to perform Hajj of his house, anyone who is able to undertake the journey to him.” (Qur’an: 2:196)

Join Al Muzney group for this important spiritual trip at reasonable prices and great package offers. For more details, check out the poster below.

*This was in the traffic jam 😀 *

Sunday, 4th November

I thought I was calm and composed about this trip. I wasn’t telling the world about it nor was I counting down the hours to the minute I board the plane. However, yesterday night I woke up thrice, went and put on the lights then went back to sleep. Woke up again and went back and put off the lights. The third time I put on the lights again. It was a very restless night. I woke hours later checked my phone, it read 5:33 a.m. I hurried to wake my dad’s room and informed him he is late for the morning prayer. My mother asks, “How comes we are not hearing the prayer going on in the mosque?”

“Perhaps they are done.”

My father wakes up and checks his phone.

“It is 3:33 a.m. not 5:33”

“Really?! But I HEARD the prayer going on in the mosque! And my phone confirmed that!”

“It is 5:33. Go back to sleep.”

I go back to my room and check the phone. It is truly 3 a.m. I sigh.

Anxiety Mahn 😀 I should have known that staying calm for me is impossible. But would you blame me really?

This was my first time being invited for an international writing workshop. A publishing fellowship by African Writers Trust (AWT).

First time meeting writers from different parts of Africa.

First time going to Uganda.

First time meeting the writing/publishing gurus.

First time boarding the plane.

Keep calm? Not a word in my dictionary.

The flight was amazing apart from the dizziness whenever the plane bumped a bit. My mother said I’ll be fine during my second flight. I wasn’t. During both the flights I was still holding onto the chair, thinking of all the things that could go wrong yet still, I loved it. I realized how underrated the clouds are because I couldn’t stop wondering how nice it would be to touch them and feel them.

We arrive at Country Lake Resort Garuga in Entebbe around lunch hour. I quickly go to my room to drop off my things. The room is big. The bed is bigger; I could have five mini-mes sleeping on the same bed. It has a small, lovely balcony that faces some tall trees and smaller plants. Perfect place for a cup of coffee. Only that I don’t drink coffee and I am scared of being alone in this room and in this balcony precisely. The silence is deafening and the trees seem to be whispering. I don’t know to whom precisely but they are definitely creepy.

I take a walk around the big resort and it is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. This place is the definition of art and nature. Definitely the best place to bring writers to, and family, and your friends and everyone else. Everyone should see this place. It faces the majestic and grand lake Victoria and words can’t explain how breath-taking it is. Someone should sponsor me a ‘vacation’ to write a book over here. The air just clears your head and that obviously makes it the best place to think, contemplate and come up with the best ideas. I salute the one who chose this location for this workshop. And the owner is definitely a genius!

I go back into my room as soon as the sun set.

Now here’s the thing, I come from a big family so there was never a time I was ever alone by myself. Almost never. At first I was excited about experiencing this but dark has set in and sleep doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon despite my exhaustion. My heart keeps racing and I am a nervous wreckage right now like a character in a thrilling story. So much suspense with no climax. So I’m just here staring around in all corners, saying lots of duas and breathing deeply while under my blanket. Qur’an is playing from my laptop at the background. The lights are on. I want to sleep now.

Monday, 5th November

Last night I dreamt of some people breaking into my room. My big, lovely, beautiful room. The room that should see no harm yet people still found a way to break into my room out of the many rooms in this big resort. Only it was a dream; a long one nonetheless. I curse anxiety. Wouldn’t let me enjoy the serenity even.

I leave the room around 6:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise. A divine scene. Stunning. Spectacular. *Inserts all the synonyms of breath-taking* It is so beautiful I want to cry. I want to cry because I haven’t felt this kind of warmth in a very long time. Just chirping of the birds, the calm sea, the silence, the peace. And no people!! Oh the peace! I couldn’t get enough of it. But today was the day. The D-day. The start of the workshop and I had to fully prepare for it.

It is not every day you meet legends especially all in one place. Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, founding publisher of Indigo Press from the UK, Demere Kitunga, a publisher, mentor and translator from Tanzania and Catherine Mark, a writer and a poet from the UK as well. Mama Goretti who is the founder of AWT. All these fellows from Africa. All with very valuable experience and knowledge and mistakes to learn from.

We had 18 fellows from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania. I was among the 3 Kenyans selected and the youngest, or at least among the youngest. This calls for a celebration.

Everyone introduces themselves and what brought them to the workshop. We have publishers in the room, editors, writers, poets and trainers. I am overwhelmed with all the stories from everyone. No one’s had it easy. No one just woke up and had an empire ready. It is really REALLY inspiring and definitely makes me more hopeful for the future and the future of my group in Mombasa ‘Creative Writers League’.

The Magnificent Ellah Wakatama starts off on the editors role and the different kinds of editors in the publishing world. I am amazed. So many things I had NO idea of. For example, I never knew there were so many different editors each with their own specific role. Or that even in poetry, there’s a specific way of arranging the poems such that they be in sync with each other and flow perfectly. The group works are mind-blowing and eye-opening. We go on with the life cycle of the book and many other interesting issues about bringing a book to life. The food is tasty. The interactions are hilarious and lovely!

I am exhausted but what I’ve learnt in this single day is more than I ever taught myself in all these years as a writer.

Tuesday, 6th November

It rained heavily last night and there was thunder too. I was scared of course. Is that even a question?! When one of our sweet facilitators mentioned how she hid under the bed and was praying desperately when she heard the thunder because they don’t have thunder where she lives, I was relieved 😀 I am not the only scared freak.

Today we critically analyzed some short stories and it was so remarkable how you notice a lot more things when you read a story out loud and break it down into chunks and pieces. Even more interesting is how each one of us view the same things in very different ways and how one’s favourite story turns out to be the least liked for someone else.

We learn a lot more on roles, structuring, responsibilities, planning and several other important aspects of editing.

Wednesday, 7th November

I am a regular morning walker now, plus I got a partner to watch the sunrise with. It was the only thing I kept asking everyone about. Have you seen the sunrise?! Oh you don’t know what you’re missing out on! So Rachel, the program organizer joined me. Then she joined me for the evening walks. And all the time walks. It wasn’t just about the walks though. It was more about the deep talks we’d have any time we were together. Rachel and I connected immediately and I really appreciated it because I rarely have such profound bonds with people.

The learning is going on. A lot of questions, discussions and comments. Every creative needs such a space honestly. This is like meeting your long lost family because you automatically belong. You find your people and you understand one another. How beautiful is that?!

Thursday, 8th November

Mama sent me an email via my sister because she was worried, she couldn’t find me on phone the whole day. This is despite me informing her upfront that the wifi is poor and I have little access to the internet. But I get it. I am highly likely going to do the same to my children. I am my mother’s daughter and anxiety runs in the family 😀 But I am also daddy’s girl because he is very patient and understanding. I mean, when I woke him up at 3 a.m. he wasn’t angry despite him loving his sleep a lot. He said ‘You were anxious’ when I wanted to apologize the next morning. I think I’m the perfect combination of my parents. An anxious wreck with a lot of understanding. The most patient, impatient person on earth. 😀 I am a living paradox.

Today, I come to the realization that we, as creatives, have the same similar struggles despite living in different countries and having different backgrounds. One of the fellows mentioned he would charge 1 $ for a full-day training yet only five people came. And I was like, ‘Same here bro. Same here.’ Another lady also mentioned on the same struggle of acquiring trainees for writing. It is such a shame that we have so much talent within us yet still choose to sit on it because the training ‘is expensive.’ It is mostly a matter of priority and we choose to keep our talents out of the priority lists entirely. How sad.

In the afternoon we meet another creatives’ group sponsored by British council at a different resort. It was nice since they had visual artists and graphic designers that we didn’t have in our group. A great network opportunity for everyone. Lots of laughter, pictures and sharing of contacts.

Friday, 9th November

Adrenaline. There’s something about adrenaline that I love. The thrill of it. The shouting-on-a-roller-coaster feeling. The sky-diving feeling. That makes me an adrenaline junkie I guess. But I’m also a stress junkie so you see the irony there 😀 More of a dilemma on what really makes me who I am.

Two of our fellows are ahead of us, Hiwot from Ethipia and Lucky Grace from Rwanda. Its their first time on the bodaboda and you can see it on their faces the tension. I laugh. I laugh because I have been on the bodaboda before, several times and i’m still scared; of it. But I’m seated with Fatma from Sudan who has also never boarded one. I feel like the hero in this case. Behind us is Rachel and Abu Amirah who are used to bodabodas but then they shouldn’t ruin my feeling of being the hero here. So I tap the bodaboda guy and ask him to go past our fellows ahead of us. I keep nagging him to go faster. Fatma laughs, “Do you want to kill us?!” just as we go past them and I am shouting to them ‘Byeeee.’

“This is the moment you shout ‘wohoooo'”

She just laughs. We are in the interior side of Entebbe with so many trees around us and barely anyone passing by.

“Seriously…” I tell her.

“You start,” she says.

I have never been an influence in my life. At least not on the silly stuff. I just do it myself.

“I do it then you do it,” I tell her and she nods.

So I scream ‘Wohoooo’ as my sound disappears into the bushes, air kissing our faces. She just laughs.

I am disappointed. “You are supposed to be my partner in crime.”

“Okay let’s do it again. On the count of three. I…2…3…wohooooo”

We both shout but I can only hear her voice under her breath. I am probably the bad influence here because Fatma is extremely quiet and introverted like Hiwot. They both smile so sweetly, very lovely souls and it is very evident with how they carry out themselves.

I always thought I was an introvert until I met them. The other night we sat by the sunset deck watching the stars and I was talking a lot until I realized how quiet the two of them were. Each was just staring into the horizon, each in their own world. I was the noise maker and I’ve never really been a noise maker with anyone except people i’m really comfortable with. Man, I need a different identity. I am not introvert.

Anyway so Fatma asks me we do the titanic pose as the bodaboda speeds on and we stretch our arms open. She is learning 😀

We are heading to Kampala and the journey is so long. Rachel, who is Ugandan, volunteered to be our tour guide and took us for shopping. Kampala pretty much looks like Nairobi. From the crowds to the chaos to the jam. The JAM! Took us two hours to get back to Entebbe. The Jam was so bad the driver would frequently put off the engine as we wait.

This was our last day of the training. The week went so fast or maybe it was just too wonderful it should have lasted a month?! It was sad parting ways with fierce individuals, lovely souls and very hardworking people. The Ugandans checked out the same day, leaving the international visitors who are to check out the next day.

Saturday, 10th November

We (the Kenyans) are leaving this morning together with the Tanzanians. Hiwot, Rachel and Lucky Grace came to say goodbye and Fatma was overtaken by her sleep so we didn’t get to say our farewell.

I wish I could stay at this place longer. The solace you feel here is tremendous. Psychiatrists and psychologists should prescribe a visit to this place as part of the therapy sessions. Like ‘Mandatory vacation at the Country Lake resort Garuga-Uganda. Failure to do so may lead to increment of number of days at the resort.’ Plus it will be lovely if they sponsor the vacations. Can we get an ‘ameen?’ 😀

I have learnt a lot from our great facilitators and honestly from all the fellows. I was quite moved by everyone’s passion to make a difference and especially for the facilitators who come from far just to give back to the society. Mama Goretti and her AWT team did everything so perfectly, no one could complain. I mean, this is the most organized and timely event/workshop I’ve ever attended, special thanks to Rachel for ensuring the anxious me has nothing to worry about 😀

Our trip to the airport is rather quiet. I remember when we were first coming to Entebbe and the three of us (Kenyans) had EVERYTHING to talk about. We were so excited and thrilled, we talked the whole way. KK (Kingwa) comments on how silent we are in contrast with how we came. We all laugh. We are already feeling nostalgic of the place and all the people we met. Most importantly, there’s a lot of restructuring, planning and changes to be made in our writing careers. A lot to think about.

This will be quite a tiring journey since we have to stop by Nairobi first before going to Mombasa but I can’t wait to be home. I missed my nephews A LOT and everyone else of course. Plus my mum is waiting for all the details of the entire trip. She loves details. I love details. Did I say I am my mother’s daughter?