Saturday I spent a whole day in Funyula, Western Kenya. World Diabetes Day. Long story. In the evening, I linked up with my cousin Farouk. Remember him, the ex-convict? He got a gig in Bunjumbura where nobody knows he spent a few years in jail. He was in shags for the weekend, to see his father, so we agreed we would meet in Kisumu and catch up. Haven’t seen the bugger in a while.
He suggested Signature club. It’s the hottest club in Kisumu now. It’s downtown, on the 4ft floor of some building. I rode the lift with some actor from Mother-in-Law. That gentleman who plays the son to the Mother-in-law. The dark one who never smiles. You should have seen him, behaving like monarchy. His highness, hotshot actor. Celebrity extraordinaire. Two-time Oscar Award nominee. Give way, ye peasants.
The elevator opened to three dark bulky chaps: boat-builders by day, bouncers by night. Palms the size of frying pan. And their necks, my God, their necks! Cinderblocks! The held off a chap who had this small paper bag and asked him to surrender it at the main desk. The guy moaned that it was only groundnuts (I’m not making this up, I swear) and that he wouldn’t eat it in the club. A small argument was underway as I made my way to the cashier. Entrance is Ksh 250. And Kisumu folk, unlike you, whiny Nairobians aren’t averse to forking out Ksh 250 entrance. What is money?
Signature was packed! And hot. And stuffy. And loud. The waitresses wore mismatched uniforms and they didn’t smile.
Farouk is seated near some window, sharing a table with some chap in a pink-ish polo shirt. He introduces him but the music is too loud for me to catch his name. But it starts with a P. This gentleman, I was to learn later, works for Center for Disease Control in Kisumu. He is one of those who are transferred to a small town and still haven’t learnt to adjust. You know he hasn’t adjusted because he still talks about Nairobi like old men talk about their youth; with nostalgia, some bitterness. He burns money flying back to Nairobi twice a month because he’s afraid he will “lose touch.”
It’s from this guy I learn about the Tusker Malt Lager 100 Club. He is the kind of guy who will tell you about such things. This is more like a community of Tusker Malt Consumers who also happen to love African Music, and interact with each other via some site called www.TML100.com. He later asked me if I had heard of Zonke. In order not to sound very ignorant, I said yeah, he sounded familiar. “It’s a she,” he laughed, like I was an imbecile. I was.
He said he would be in town on Wednesday for the Zonke concert in Arboretum. “Like a picnic, kind of thing?” I joked. He said it would be at night, mature crowd, great music. “I like it because of all those chicks who love that soulful beat, that acid jazz kind of thing. For a guy who is still searching like me, this is a great place to mix pleasure with pleasure.” Hmm.
“I can hook you up with tickos.” I said OK.
Later, I YouTubed Zonke. Mellow. Neo-afro. Plus, there is a picture of her sporting a short hair-do like the one Toni did at some point in her career. I wonder what her star sign is, Zonke.
Away from Zonke. Meet Collins Mwai, my guest writer for today. Collins is my guest writer today because he is persistent. Always sent me his pieces for critique. Even when some went unanswered he kept on.
I pulled this piece from one of his many. It’s about Nanyuki. I like Nanyuki; it’s the only town with numerous imagery opportunities. Turns out Collins likes it too.
But Collins doesn’t want you to go to Nanyuki, we wants to know what you think of his writing. He wants to know if he should stick in his oars, or he should stick to Social work and Project Management. Remember, it’s never what you say, but how you say it.
Over to you, Gang.
It doesn’t matter if you arrived by air, road or a rusty train, when its time to leave Nanyuki, your eyes will fixed to the rear view mirror, lumps of emotion stuck in your throat.
You can never leave Nanyuki without looking back. It’s not because of the hookers with British and American accents. It’s not because of the Indian businessmen who can speak better Kikuyu than the locals. It’s not because of the British men and women in uniform who will forever be grateful to Nanyuki for its patience with them.
You can never leave Nanyuki without looking back because of the snowing mountain in view, the snowing mountain with flowing streams that Nanyuki drinks from. You look back to see the same view that God enjoys and concludes that despite all of man’s destruction and degradation of the Earth, there is still some beauty left for him to gaze at on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You look back because of the masses of the prettiest girls you have ever seen –products of a blend of two races (whites and Africans). Their colored faces, their flowing hair, their curves, their manners and carefree attitudes.
Masses of different races, cultures, backgrounds, tastes, dreams and ambitions move to Nanyuki. They move there in search of work and money, they move there ii pursuit of fun and adventure, they move there to get a life and spice in it. Some stay, others leave but none forgets of the moments and experiences. Their lives and lifestyles introduce and re-define the town. Its no-longer a quiet town that the Equator cuts across. Nanyuki is alive and on the map because of those who breathe life into it; some who reside in the town and others half way across the world but are part of its structure. Nanyuki is alive because of the left-handed sculptor who can carve and mould anything he imagines. Nanyuki is kicking because of the British soldier in Afghanistan who spent six months in Nanyuki and dreams of returning once he leaves the Arab desert.
Nanyuki is because the Indian businessman who moved to Kenya in 1987 with his entire inheritance to open a bookshop that generation have read from. Nanyuki is Nanyuki because of the chain-smoking white childless widow who runs a ranch left to her by her late husband who was related to the royal family. Nanyuki is alive because of the hooker who speaks in a flawless British accent and can quickly change to Kikuyu and kikamba. Nanyuki is the souls at the feet of the leeward side of Mt Kenya and what they built, brought down and rebuilt.
It’s exotic. You can see and feel the exoticness in tiny coffee houses where everyone looks like a writer, poet or artist. You can feel the exoticness in smoky bars where most men appear to be travelers following their destinies however unreal they seem. The exoticness is in the sweaty horse riding cowboys with hunting knives holstered and giggling girls in tow; looks like a cast and scene of a Texas movie. Nanyuki’s exoticness is in hotels and lodges built not from architects designs but from creativity and imagination of ordinary men. Ordinary men who wanted life at their own pace, lane and design.
Nanyuki is less of trends and fashion and more of comfort. You can see it in the Maasai man who despite of his Cambridge degree and slight British accent, sits wrapped in a red ‘shuka’ sipping beer. Choice for comfort and lack of concern for trends is evident in the young men who for ages have worn khaki cargo pants and leather sandals or army boots and do not feel inferior or ancient among skinny jeans wearing ‘visitors’.
Many find themselves, their souls, purposes and destinies in the town along the equator. An equal number loose themselves and their futures there too. But whatever anyone finds in Nanyuki seems embraceable.
Rain pours, the sun shines, the wind purrs and the moon comes and goes with the seasons live every where else but Nanyuki’s feels different. You can call it whatever you like; ‘Little England’, ‘end of the rail’, it will always amaze you if not surprise you by a somewhat reckless confidence and admirable ignorance of the world outside it.
It may have a few littered streets, a few dark thug prone alleys or one or two poverty stricken slums but what work of art doesn’t have a tiny flaw?