My Miniblog- In the life of a writer, sometimes lots of things happen all at once, and sometimes, nothing happens at all. Here is my mini blog: Everything I can write when I have a chance
Chilling at the park today, watching Chinese students playing volleyball, kind of interesting. For example, the young beautiful girl sitting on the side reading a book with two boys next to her. She occasionally looks up and smiles at them and they smile back stupidly thinking that they have a chance. They don’t because the real boyfriend is the one playing volleyball. Then there’s the fat girl sitting alone on the grass, enjoying her solitude: the young lad without a shirt, showing off his well chiseled body and relishing at the girls’ giggles; the geek wearing glasses trying to play volleyball but missing every ball; the youth leader nicely dressed who initially didn’t have any intentions of playing but had somehow been lured by the others; the Tom boy girl who is pretending to learn how to play from one of the boys but actually she is better than the boy.
It’s a beautiful day in Denver and the sun has not disappointed a majority. The Chinese students stick together like glue and move about in groups. Together they form their own world in a strange land; together they draw strength from each other’s company and push down on the nostalgia that threatens to break them in the middle of the night.
I look at up and admire them. They don’t know it yet but some of them will never return to China. Some will marry in America and become Chinese Americans; some of them will become the next Bill Gates. A small decision to come to America made with the zeal of a teenager that changes the whole direction of life. A decision made for the lust of adventure that will change the course of one’s life and one’s children’s lives forever. It a whole new world across the atlantic ocean....
So I went to church on saturday afternoon to pick up my friend's 9 year old daughter from step dance practice. I waited outside for 15 minutes and when she didn't show up I went inside the church looking for her. The first thing I saw was a cop and it suddenly hit me how so many folks out there are trying to harm kids. I found her sitting with the teachers patiently waiting for me. The teachers wouldn't let her go until they saw the parent. She smiled when she saw me. The smile caught me unawares and I felt something stir inside me. Her smile reminded me of everything thats beautiful in this world ... the innocence of a child... pure bliss. It was then that I remembered Whitney Houston and what she had been trying to say.
In a small town in Mexico, there lived a young girl by the name of Maria. Maria’s town was rife with poverty and shanty houses defined class and status. Food and water were luxuries and the stench of raw waste clang to the air as a reminder of how real and fatal things were; twenty houses shared one toilet; disease was rampage.
Every full moon at midnight, Maria would sit by the window and look up. In the distance, she would imagine a city bright with lights, skyscrapers and fancy cars where his older brother now lived – America. Maria’s brother had left five years ago with a promise to come back to Mexico and liberate his family from the slums; to offer Maria a better chance at life; a shot at the American dream.
Maria sighed. At the age of fourteen, she was smart enough to know that something had gone wrong. She hadn’t heard from her brother in five years. Five years? The Mexican newspaper said that approximately 300 people died every year trying to cross into America. Maria prayed that his brother was safe.
Gun shots in the night. Maria turned her head to look. The drug dealers were at it again. The slums were the best places for them to run their deals away from the probing eyes of the police and also act as a base to smuggle drugs into America. Maria sighed again. Somewhere out there underneath the pale moonlight was his brother and she had to go find him. She reached out under her bed and pulled out the map. The route from Mexico to Texas: through jungles, desert snakes and crocodile infested rivers. Not to forget that she was a girl at the risk of rape and kidnap.
Many nights Maria had looked at the map and gone back to bed. But tonight wasn’t so. She grabbed the old duffel bag full of water and canned food, and swung it over her shoulder then jumped out through the window. A time for talk was over. “Am coming to find you brother,” she whispered.
Two days later, she met with the cayote who was to smuggle her into America. He was a strong young lad who had come highly recommended. Hiring strangers was a fatal mistake because they would betray you and take your money. And if you died in the desert, they would leave you there and nobody would ever know what happened to you. Maria paid the smuggler in advance with the hope of not being double crossed and they set out for the land of George Washington.
Travelling was done at night only. They bribed the Mexican border patrol and drove at night through the desert. The number was five in total. Two cayotes and three Mexicans in the car trunk. The car didn’t have an air conditioner and breathing in the trunk was tough. Maria coughed as doubt flashed through her mind. Cuddled as a fetus in the trunk, she wondered whether she had made the right decision, whether she was going to make it alive. The car bounced in the sand and mounds and the passengers were thrown up and down. And then suddenly, they all heard the noise. The distant buzz of a chopper. The car stopped and the trunk popped open.
“Run!” the cayote yelled.
Folks jumped out of the trunk and ran in all direction. At one point the chopper lights were on Maria and the next, she was alone in the dark desert. She shuddered with fear. What to do? Where to go? She quickly applied tobacco to her legs to repel the snakes and then with hope fading, started walking. Hopefully she was headed in the right direction.
Notes: Dying to cross into America. Thousands of unidentified bodies have been found to date, of illegal immigrants trying to cross into America. Some are shot by border patrols, violence from vigilantes or thieves. Others are killed in accidents: stumbling in rugged terrain, falling over the wall, or struck by vehicles. Many others perish of dehydration and exposure. It’s inhuman for the rest of the world to watch and do nothing.
Life is a journey to discover who we are. It's what we subconciously do every day. We read books, we go to church, we talk to people... we try to make sense of this madness called life. Who are we and where did we come from? Where are we going? It's hard to know where you are going if you don't know where you come from.
So we won our soccer game and it felt really great. I looked into the faces of my teammates and saw pure bliss... a glow... a feeling of accomplishment. We had come a long way to get to this point. We were now standing on ground zero.
Tried to go jogging but it was really hot outside. I have to find another time. Not too early in the morning and not too late in the evening. And definitely not inside a gym. I need to feel the wind on my face, listen to the sound of my heart beating, feet pounding on the ground... the power sip through my whole body. Running makes me happy.
We awaken to our own perfection through our desire to see perfection in other people. Marianne Williamson. Once you realize that other people are not perfect and that you are prejudicing them and using your past bad experiences to judge them, then you take a good look at your self and then you start treating other people around you better by giving them the benefit of doubt... your girlfirend or boyfriend, husband or wife.
I had a farm in Africa. Karen Blixen. Out of Africa. It's an odd feeling, farewell. There is such envy in it. Men go off to be tested, for courage. And if we're tested at all, it's for patience, for doing without, for how well we can endure loneliness.
Tell me that story again, the little girl said. Okay, I replied.
I was 14 years old sitting on a white sandy beach in Mombasa with my friends. We had just got done swimming and were hiding from the hot sun, the rocks on our backs. I looked into the far ocean and asked my friends what the green line was. They told me that it was a river cutting underneath the blue waters. I was curious. I told them that I was going to swim and find out the truth. They dismissed me and that was enough a dare to drive me into the water. I swam gently, turned and waved at them, to make sure that they were watching. They waved back and I swam farther into the ocean. The waves got bigger and as each wave loomed over me, I dived underneath it. Strong currents hit my face... salt and debris bruised me but I swam on and came up for air. Another huge wave headed straight for me and again I dove underneath it feeling the debris again on my face. I gasped for air when I came up, I was tired and my eyes hurt from the sea salt. Something was wrong I thought. The waves were changing direction, heading towards the deep Indian Ocean. I panicked. I turned around but I couldnt see the beach anymore. What direction was the beach? Another wave came and I went under. When I came up, my lungs hurt and a new sense of fear gnawed at me. I realized how foolish I had been trying to impress my friends. Was this the way I was supposed to die? I looked up suddenly - too late. The monstrous wave hit me like a leaf and tossed me in the air. It was hopeless. There was no point in diving under again. I waited for the next wave and this time, I threw myself infront of it. It picked me up like a feather and tossed me in the the air. When the moment passed, I looked up and saw a lifeguard boat headed straight for me at full speed.
The little girl looked at me in shock. You could have been washed to sea Robert, she said with the innocence of a kid.
My first book is being released today and all I can think about is how the whole world is about to see how dumb I am.
A new dawn has arisen. My words are gone. With the click of a button, they now belong to the whole world. A part of me feels empty and yet the bigger part is glad and hopefully that somebody out there will make sense of the madness which I have been writing about.
May 30, 2012 Washington, DC “We ask all the passengers to deplane immediately due to mechanical problems detected.” The pilot’s voice.
After September 11 bombing of the twin towers, Americans have learned to respond to these kind of messages with the precision of a boot camp platoon. By the time I got off my seat, a dozen folks had already exited the plane. I smiled at how scared they looked. I felt cool.
When I got to the terminal I was directed to a queue of over two hundred people waiting to get rebooked into new flights and two hours later still standing in line, I didn’t feel so cool.
“Where are you going?” the ticketing lady asked me with a serious tired face.
“Am going to Denver, and am hungry,” I said.
Her mouth cracked into a smile and then she burst out laughing. She laughed hard and looked at the screen again.
“Mr. Robert,” she said. “Nobody has ever told me that here. You just gonna come up and tell me that you are hungry? Just like that?”
I laughed with her and said. “Are you gonna give me a food voucher?”
“You know what Robert? I think I will.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed as I punched the air.
The name of the airport was Reagan. I took a taxi from Reagan to Dulles airport, Washington DC to connect with my new flight. The driver was from Ethiopia and Mengustas was his name. We talked about Africa and life in America. He told me that he had been in America for 31 years, his last visit to Africa in 1992. I was shocked. He told me his two boys, born in America were scared to go to Africa because of all the things they showed on CNN.
Since the airport was paying for the cab, we drove by the White house, the Jefferson monument and Arlington memorial. I tried to picture Obama strolling down the streets or cruising with his many limousines and the image stirred emotions inside me. Here I was, an African, standing in the most powerful country in the whole world. It felt surreal.
I sighed in the cab and the driver asked me what I was thinking about. “Am remembering obama’s words when he won the elections,” I said.
The driver waited and listened keenly as I recited the words.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
I strolled into the Dulles Washington airport and looked at the people around me. Men and women in suits, briefcases and cell phones flying in their hands; men and women in summer gear, cell phones and children in their hands. Give me a car any day, I thought. Life in the air was definitely not for me.
There was a curse in my village and the people were dying. I needed to go to the city and find out what was happening. The answer was in the city.
With my grandmother’s blessings, I ran across the prairie and into the jungle. At the age of fourteen, I feared nothing, was scared of nobody. The world was mine to conquer. A giraffe trotted out of my way and an Ostrich flapped its wings and hissed at me. The mountains stood tall and majestic in the distance and I knew that the answer to my questions lay beyond those hills. What was this curse that had killed my parents and the people from my village? What was this thing that the village witchdoctors couldn’t cure? Were my ancestors angry at us? At the world?
Johannesburg was a blur of cars and people when I arrived. I slept in the street corners and cleaned car windows for a living. Sometimes drivers paid me, sometimes they didn’t. Life in the city was tough but while the other kids stole, I somehow through a miracle managed to make an honest living.
There were so many prostitutes on the streets and working men pleasured themselves before returning home to their wives. What’s killing the people? I asked. “Shhshhh…” they said and walked away. Nobody wanted to talk about it. It was as though talking about evil would bring evil to oneself. It was a curse and causes of death were falsified on the death certificates.
“How do we beat this curse?” My new found friend asked me. He was 45 years old and I was fourteen. I looked him in the eye and before I said it, knew that he wouldn’t wonna hear what I had to say. He would pretend to listen and that would be the end. I coughed nervously and then said, “We have to talk about it. We have to tell the people and make them talk about it.”
He quickly jumped up and shook his head vehemently. “No.. no… we can’t!”
“Yes we can,” I said. “You can do it but the first thing we have to do is stop denying it.”
He sat down hard and put his head in his hands.
I walked up to him and said. “Say it Sir, you can say it!”
And then he said it for the first time. “AIDS.” It was a whisper.
“Say it again sir!”
“AIDS!” he repeated. “It’s not a curse. It’s a disease that’s killing our people and we have to fight it by talking about it and not through denial.”
I looked up and saw the heavens open up. Sunlight blitzed through the dark clouds and life flowed back on earth. The storm was over. It was time to take Africa back!
So yesterday my American friend called me Hakeem. For those who remember, Hakeem was Eddie Murphy's name in the Coming to America movie. I narrowed my eyes at her then said in a calm voice, "Call me Hakeem one more time."
She fell silent and lowered her eyes to the ground. The air between us was sucked and for a moment none said a word. Then slowly she raised her chin and looked at me from the corner of her eyes. And then she whispered.... "Hakeem."
We both burst out laughing.
So I went to church today and as usual church makes me feel great. The pastor told us to open our Bibles and read from Luke chapter 5; 28. Everybody around me grabbed a Bible but I didnt. I looked at the Bible apprehensively, afraid to touch it. The woman on my right flipped onto Lukes page with the precision of a surgeon and I was impressed. Still, I didnt touch the Bible.
Finally the pastor looked up and said, The Book of Luke is found on page 1022.
I reached out and grabbed my Bible.
So a year ago I went to Barnes and Noble, one of the biggest bookstores in America to look for a novel. They told me I had to wait 6 months before this particular novel, which had just been released, to arrive in their store. I gave them 9 months then went back. The customer service lady checked her screen and with a smile told me that they had the book. I became excited. She punched a few more keys and I watched as her face fell. She told me that the book was not in stock.
I stared at her with a puzzled expression and asked her to explain. I told her that some poor Author somewhere was celebrating because his or her book had finally hit the shelves of one of the biggest bookstores in the whole world and yet they didnt have it on the shelf?
The lady smiled like a profession and explained to me that that was what happened when an Author used a small publisher.
True or false?
A Kenyan in America brought home a goat and tied it in his backyard. The neighbors, a white couple came over and said how cute the goat was. "Are you gonna keep her," they asked as they tickled the animal.
The Kenyan looked at them with amusement then non chalantly said, "No. We gonna salughter her for christmas."
The following day, there was a knock on his door. The animal rights folks had arrived.
So the difference between being a boy scout in Africa and America is that an African boy scout gets to go into the jungle.
I was 16 years old when my friend asked me if I wanted to shake the president's hand. I said yes. "what do I have to do? " I asked.
He tried to look unconcerned. "All you have to do is climb Ngong hills, Kijabe and Mt. Kenya, and then you get to meet the president."
I looked at him as he tried to avoid eye contact. We both knew what he wasn't saying. These mountains were jungles inhibited with all kinds of predators.
As a boy, I couldn't let him see that I was afraid, so I said. "am in."
We packed our gear and headed to the Kijabe with a group of other scouts. We were split into groups of 10 and a compass was provided for each group. A bearing was given and once acquired on compass, each group took a minute to study the land marks in the far distance in case of compass malfunction. We were ready.
Noon came and with it the African heat. We constantly sipped on our water bottles and dived low to avoid the scratches from the thorn trees. At one point, we met a herd of buffalos and slowly made our way around. Towards evening, we met two girraffes, the tallest creatures on earth. One Girraffe swung its head to look at us and it looked like a crane coming to strike us. We took off running and it was a while before we regrouped. Girraffes can kill a lion with one kick.
At dusk we arrived at our first camp, deep in the kijabe jungle. It was defined by red volcanic earth and old worn out Maasai huts. The maasai tribe had been driven away by the government to protect the wild and the people from each other. The jungle now belonged to the animals. We collected firewood and lit a huge bon fire and at night took turns to watch over the fire. My watch was at 2am when I was awaken. We didn't have a tent but everybody had a sleeping bag and i noticed how everybody tucked their heads inside the sleeping bags. Snakes, I thought as I looked around apprehensively.
The wind howled like a ghost and the trees creaked in its wake. I heard hyenas laughing and quickly threw some more wood into the fire. I looked at my sleeping friends and then into the African darkness. I couldn't see a thing. I shivered, and not from the cold.
In the morning we got our new bearing and it was easier this time because we could see the Kijabe peak from where we stood. We took off with renewed energy. The second day was harder as our muscles ached and the ground was steeper. Late in the afternoon, we were almost near the top when I looked down and saw a cat print. My heart almost missed a beat and we all surrounded the print.
"It's a lioness paw," my friend said. Everybody believed him and I could see it in their eyes... hidden fear... forced bravado... concealed panic. We resumed our final trek with quick steps and constantly looked over our shoulders for any signs of a lion. I could hear my own heart beating as thoughts of being attacked crossed my mind. I clenched my fist subconciosly.
We saw the camp in the distance but darkness was quickly gaining on us. If we didn't make it to camp by darkness then we would be in real trouble.
"Hurry up!" my friend yelled and we picked up our pace. The jungle noises began to awaken and we jumped and tripped over each other. "Composure!" the lead scout yelled. We were beyond that. It was time to make a ran for the camp. All or nothing.
Then I heard something that made my heart freeze, the snapping of a twig. Adrenaline rushed through my blood and I knew that it was only a matter of time. I took a risk and glanced over my shoulder and that's when I saw it and my heart suddenly calmed down.
A game ranger with a rifle, hidden in the bushes!
First step is to stop saying that you will one day write a book and just start writing. Second step is to make a declaration which is kind of like committing oneself to the process. Its means assigning a writing schedule for oneself. Whatever works best for you. When do you have time to write? Is it when you wake up or before you go to bed? Is it at home or in the library? And here is the thing - don't force yourself to write. It has to pour from your heart - so if there is no passion for the subject, don't bother. Allow me to explain. If you sit in front of a computer or paper and pen and all that you can write is one sentense, so be it. Let it be one sentense. At times you will write a word, a paragragh or a chapter. Don't ever force it. In a year, you may have a book. You are to do only that which is deeply emotional and psychologically imperative. Do it because you enjoy it.... not for the money. To be continued...
About to skip town for a few days. Feel bad for my soccer team because first I will miss playing and second, am already interwoven into the fibre that makes the team. The defination of a team is a group of people linked in a common purpose. When one person misses, then a crack emerges and the strength of the team is put to test.
Soccer is like good therapy. For 90 minutes of the game, you forget about life and all its madness. For ninety minutes, you are transformed into another being, a powerful being full of purpose. You look around you and your teammates nod at you; a nod that carries a lot of words. You nod back, and then together, you strive to attain an objective. Together, you feel like nothing in the whole world can stand against you. Together...
Dreams from my father by Barrack Obama… in my own words….
I arrived in Kenya to the smell of burning wood and rain in the air. We drove to Nairobi where I met a lot of relatives whose names some I can remember and some I can’t. “Welcome home Barrack,” they kept saying and not once did I feel awkward in their presence. They chatted like I was one of them. They took me to the safari where I enjoyed the wildlife in their natural habitat and then we drove to Alego, Kisumu my father’s place of origin. Here in Alego I met more relatives and the beauty of the countryside was breath taking. The houses were made of mud and the villagers didn’t have much in terms of wealth. But they had one thing that was dying in the modern world – community. I belonged to the community and everybody offered to babysit me even though I was a grown man. They said it was wrong for one to be by himself and I realized that Africa was rich in human warmth: the embrace of a relative; the smile of a neighbor borrowing sugar; the laughter of a half-naked child as he runs around; love. I wished so badly I could speak their language; my language, the Luo language and I ached a lot that I couldn’t have a quiet conversation with my grandmother without the presence of a translator. My presence in Africa was to find out about where I came from, an identity. To reach out to my father and my family, for it’s very hard to see where you are going to if you don’t know where you came from.
I knelt by my father’s grave and wept at the missed opportunities. At a man I barely knew. Deep inside I knew that I would be back, if only to learn more about my people, if only to learn more about myself. (Barrack Obama before he became a Senator)
Flying is a love and hate affair for me. Love the atmosphere, hate when the pilot tells us that we are experiencing minor turbulence. At 35000 feet in the air, I open my dictionary and look up the word turbulence. It means… a polite word for we are about to crush. A flight attendant offers me some cookies and a soda. I lean sideways and look into the first class compartment and see flight attendants rushing back and forth at the service of the rich: a 3 course meal, towels on the laps, red wine and a few hours later, ‘would you like some coffee sir?’
I look around me and Americans smile at me. The young ones smile and look away, the not so young hold my gaze and make me look away. Old folks have seen it all. They have been to the circus and played with the puppets. Whatever look you put on your face, they can melt it with a smile or one word. With age comes wisdom, a deeper sense of understanding about the meaning of life.
Anyway, what was I saying? Yes- the old folks, like the ones seated next to me. They kept looking at me and I waited and counted down the clock. The question was due any moment now. 6, 5, 4… I knew what they would ask before they asked. 3, 2, 1… and action.
“Are you from Africa?”
The husband was 72 years old and the wife 69, a hottie back in the days with a beautiful smile. They asked me where I was from and I told them about Kenya and the beautiful people: the culture and the wild animals. They were intrigued, if not hypnotized by my narration. They told me about America and the culture: the ideals that drive Americans to work hard everyday to achieve the American Dream. The plane purred like a cat and turbulence was dismal. At the age of 72, the old man told me, what matters in life is not money, wealth or fame. Just love and the question of whether we loved enough during our lifetime. At 35, 000 feet in the air, we talked and bridged the gap between our two worlds. I sighed back into my seat and smiled at them. They had been married for 51 years, they told me. And the spark of love still blazed in their eyes. Is it still a beautiful world? I thought to myself. And all I had to do was look beside me, and there was my answer.
We hold these truths...
It’s raining hard in New Haven. You can’t hear anything but when you look outside the window, you see the raindrops as they hit the pools of water on the street. Under a dark night the sight is kind of relaxing. The kind of weather that makes you wonna cuddle up in bed with a good book. The time on the DVD player reads 2 am in the morning and my mind is far away across the Atlantic Ocean, thinking about Africa, about home… mild nostalgia.
My American friends like to make fun of me. They say, “Hey, Robert. We know why you came to America.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because you got tired of running away from the lions.” They burst out laughing and we goof around for a while.
“You wonna hear something interesting?” I ask them.
“How do you know that you are in Africa?” I ask them. They give me blank stares and shrug. I continue. “You know that you are in Africa when the radio goes like ‘Attention everybody. A lion has been spotted on the streets. Please stay indoors for your own safety.”
They burst out laughing. “You crazy Robert. That’s funny as hell.”
I laugh with them and pretend that it’s a joke. I was ten years old when it happened.
I walk away from the window and calmly place my laptop on my thighs. Something is bothering me and I know it. I have to type it down because if I don’t then I will wake up in the middle of the night wondering what in the world is the problem?
The time is 2.30 am and I begin to type.
His name was Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge, from Kenya who holds a Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school. He enrolled in the first grade on January 12th 2004, aged 84. As a former Mau Mau freedom fighter against the Colonial British, Kimani had been captured and endured tortures beyond human imagination, his wife and daughter killed.
I pause and push the laptop aside. So why bother to go back to school when your life is almost over. Is it a way of trying to send a message? Is it a way, and to use Obama’s words, a way of trying to be bigger than oneself? I’m really confused here. I grab my laptop again.
According to Kimani, education is the only way forward. The only way to build our country and build on that which Kimani and the Mau Mau had died for.
What makes America strong is not the power of its military but rather the availability of opportunities for each and every citizen to get a shot at life regardless of race, color and status in life. This is what free education in Kenya is doing for us, for our children. Giving them a chance and aping the words of Thomas Jefferson
We hold these truths, that all men are created equal and they are endowed by the creator with inalienable rights amongst which include life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
I close my laptop. The words are now out of my head. I can go to bed.
Its 3 am. Just like Kimani Ng'ang'a we can create a world of our own.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...