I was admiring myself in the mirror the other day and discovered that my glorious forehead now has a new feature. On top of being pretty, shiny, and pretty shiny it now has a dimple. Yes, fam! I now have a really cute dimple on the left side of my forehead. It is cuter than a button guys!! Talk about aging like fine wine hohoho! Heiraz wameze wembe!!
In fact, I strongly believe that the men who will be chosen to get my dowry will use this fact in their negotiations. “Msichana wetu nasoma! Yeye iko naandika blog yake very nice! And imagine! Pia Agnes Nyarkinda ako na forehead maber maduong ambacho isitose pia niko na dimple! Ever seen such rare beauty? Donge mano jaber yawa? Hahaha! Mano Jaber! Nyarkinda tibim? Tibim!” My loud and grandiose uncles will say after adjusting their expensive imported outfits.
Anyway, after making this discovery, I can’t deny the joy. I am still basking in the glory of my new facial feature. Having such rare beauty is not easy. My enemies are now after me bana! Despite the heiraz, I am feeling myself. Drinking fine wine as I celebrate.
Due to this I am afraid that today, I can’t bring myself to write on the blog. But worry not my beloved as today we also have a guest. Makofi tafadhali! Today’s guest is a neighbour and despite working in the same building, we rarely get to meet. Being a jack of many trades, this writer also is a brilliant editor and can braid your hair well well oh! The reason why I have decided to grow my hair. Will you braid my hair dear? Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the one and only! Paula!!! Norah!!!!! Buo buo buo buo!! Pepepemmmmm!! Check out her travails of visiting Kirinyaga town for work.
There was a time in Kenya when tribal jokes were a key reference point for comedians. They would parade all the tribal stereotypes and we would laugh our lungs out. The jokes were truly hilarious, and no one really took offense because, at the end of the day, no one was safe. Today we would laugh at how Luhyas can eat. Tomorrow at how Kalenjins can run even from their problems. The next day how Maasais jump to conclusions. Then Luos living beyond their means with all the pride in the world, the stinginess and love of money of the Kikuyus… And we laughed and moved on. However tribal jokes are now, a murky subject in the comedy arena; with those still using it being termed tribal and of no creative born.
But allow me, if you may, to tap a little into that tribal stereotype just for a moment, yeah?
I am a Luo, with the character traits of a Kikuyu when it comes to money.
I love money.
Knowing that I have money or that there is money on the way makes me so happy. I love working to get that money. I also love the good things that come with having money. But still would still prefer to spend less, just so I know that the money is still going to be there tomorrow.
I also love traveling and experiencing new things. Sleeping in new places, meeting new people, and embracing new cultures. I love it all. And my job allows me that a privilege. I have been to 37 counties in the country, and my goal is to visit all of them.
In these travels, as I said, I get to sleep in new places. Usually, there is no prior booking. We do the groundwork and get a good hotel once we get to the destination. One that is not expensive – because money is very very important – and one that is decent – because we people from the lake love good things. Sometimes these two traits of mine clash, other times, they work perfectly well. Sometimes one side has to compromise for the other. For instance, when it comes to food, I refuse to eat some of the delicacies from the mountain. I am not saying this in a dismissive kind of way, but acquiring the taste for a hint of food in your soup is a test in itself. I have failed that test and I am content with the results.
Now, I am about to get my actual point, and actual story and I want to say I am sorry in advance because I for sure will not take back my words.
Who bewitched the people of Kirinyaga county?
No, really, who bewitched those guys? Because the number of bars and other drinking establishments available in Sagana town are truly wanting. I could throw a stone and it would bounce off three drinking joints before landing on a bar somewhere. No lies.
What’s worse is, that the locals have invested so much in the drinking joints that no other business seems to thrive. Telling the difference between a regular shop and a Wines & Spirits needs a certain level of expertise because truly, there is no visible difference. Every building you see in that town is either a drinking joint, a bar, or just on the verge of becoming one of those. Being a visitor in Sagana and looking for a hotel in the area is a nightmare. I have been to some of the most remote places in this country and had no problem getting a place to sleep. Sagana though?… Eish!
I visited Sagana for a work event and decided to look for a place to sleep. Everyone we asked told us to just search within the town. “Hamuezi kosa” they said, as long as we don’t cross the railway line. My colleague and I drove to town and decided to do a manual search. As we were driving to where we assumed was the CBD of the town, we saw a hotel signboard and went to look at it.
The hotel – in as much as the owner denied it – was originally an apartment building. The man had built some very nice one-bedrooms that would cost quite the arm if they were in Nairobi. Clearly, that business venture failed. The failure could have been because he hadn’t included space for the major local business while planning – you know, alcohol. There was an after-thought makeshift bar and nyamachoma joint on one corner of the compound. I’m assuming that it was added when the apartments became hotels, but what do I know? It was a nice place anyway, and we didn’t mind it, but it had a slightly above our budget rate.
My colleague is proper Kikuyu. And I am Kikuyu-in-character when it comes to money. We left that place and decided to check elsewhere. We continued into the town to check that side. At a certain junction, we asked the boda boda guys if there were any good hotels in the town. They mentioned the hotel that we had just left so we asked if there was anywhere else. They directed us to the town and told us to look out for Chakaka – but still ensure we don’t cross the railway line.
The vehicle we were using is the kind that can make a KES 100 item be sold at KES 500, so when we got close enough, we decided to park it and proceed on foot. At this point, I will mention that my colleague is male, slightly older. So two young people looking for a room together at night is… well I don’t need to tell you that. But you can imagine what people think.
You know what? Let me tell you what people think. We were in Isiolo town a while back (before Sagana) and needed a place to sleep. Most of the hotels there are owned by the Somali Muslims. They kind of have their way of doing things. Two young people, clearly unmarried looking for a hotel room together at night is something that is very much unwelcomed. In this case though, as is in most of the others, it was a clear case of judging a book by its cover because obviously, we weren’t going to share a room.
I’m going to need you to picture this with me. Try. You walk into a building. It has a very slim space, barely enough for one person to squeeze through, as an excuse for a corridor. On the far end, is a cage looking room. There is a man seated inside that cage – a cage so small you wonder how anybody can fit in. The man is as Somali-looking as they can get. The air around you starts to feel like it’s straining to get to your lungs. You can feel the air is very thick and polluted with all scents humanly made, and by that, I mean biologically and experimentally.
Fresh air becomes a myth. ‘How do these people live and breathe here?’ You wonder. They however seem very okay. The guard who ushered you into the dingy place is not wearing a mask, and neither is the receptionist despite the fact that the country is at the peak of the second… or is it third wave of Covid-19. In fact, you look like the alien with the virus. There are stairs above the cage – again just like the corridor, very slim. You can hear a TV, or is that a radio, in the background closely followed by the voices of people arguing? Or just talking over each other.
The place doesn’t look like shit. No no! Take that back, it actually looks like shit, smells like shit, and even worse, smells like the smell of its shittiness is being masked by a cocktail of perfumes and air freshener scents in the air. The place is not for you, but you still want to be polite.
As I was. Which is why I still asked for rooms despite knowing deep in my core that not even the love for money could make me sleep there. The guard had already told us that the hotel had plenty of rooms, and we proceeded to ask for the rooms. Me doing the talking.
‘Tunatafuta rooms. Mko nazo?’
The receptionist raises his hand to signal ‘two’ and I assumed he meant two rooms, so I said yes.
Wait? I thought they had plenty rooms.
‘Tumeambiwa mko na rooms mingi?’
I turn to the guard and ask him what was going on because he had told us there were rooms there. Plenty! He then starts laughing and tells us the man thinks we want one room for the two of us.
We quickly shake our heads. I now understand him and tell him, ‘No. We want different rooms. We have other colleagues who are also going to join us. So tunatafuta rooms nne’
He looked at us doubtfully, then proceeded to open his tiny cage and let us in.
Because this story isn’t about Isiolo, let me just say, if you imagined the reception as I wanted you to, then know the rooms were ten times worse. And no, we did not sleep there. We found a better hotel.
Back to Sagana, we found the place called ‘CHAKAKA’ and decided to have a look.
Like Isiolo, the reception wasn’t anything to write home about. The guard happened to also be the receptionist. He told us about the rooms, and we said we would see them.
Chakaka was a lodging. I probably should have started there. The ground floor had only one tiny room that served as the reception and a quick stop shop for condoms – and I mean only condoms. The other rooms on the ground floor were closed but they seemed like rental shops. The first floor was a club. The rooms were on the second and third floors. I must mention this, because it just feels important, Chakaka had one of the most confusing staircases in the universe. When we got to the first floor, we were taken through the bar, then we took a turn past some rooms, then another turn and got to the stairs leading to the second floor. From the second floor to the third floor, we did another zig-zagging. Now I am very good with directions and even I felt that was a tad bit much.
The rooms in Chakaka were horrible. The best they had was a tiny room barely fitting a bed. It had its own bathroom. I would say ensuite but that would be defaming that word. The bed looked like it had last been made when Moi was still in power. The sheets had clearly seen better days. There was a bar of soap and – I kid you not – a portion of toilet paper on the bed. The kind of toilet paper you would be given in public toilets for Kshs 10. There was a towel that had been to hell and back. It was hanging by a thread. I mean this quite literally.
In the bathroom, was a bucket – just in case the flush didn’t work. There was also a strong pungent smell coming from the bathrooms. Not just in one room, but in most of the rooms we saw.
No! We were not spending there even if it was free. Hell no!.
We told the guy we would be back, but first, we needed to check around and consult our colleagues. There is no way we were going back. We followed him back down and out, that maze could only be solved by him. Then continued within the same street to look for another place.
The next place we saw – after passing three Wines & Spirits shops – was another dingy-looking lodging, whose entrance was a bar as well. We did not even bother to go in. We decided to ask the boda boda guys if they knew a place we could go. My colleague did the talking.
‘Boss tunatafuta kahoteli. Place mtu anaeza lala’
‘Na mmejaribu hapa ndani?’ – Clearly pointing at the place we had just dismissed on sight.
‘Hapana. Hatutaki place kama hapa.’
The man seemed to be in deep thought for a while, looked at the two of us, then asked, ‘Mnataka place penye mtalala tu… ama mnaangalia quality?’
‘Quality ni muhimu’
‘Hapo ni Chakaka. Iko huko juu’ – pointing in the direction we came from.
Hewooo! The best they had in that town was Chakaka?!
‘Hakuna ingine ata side ingine ya town?’
‘Hapa hautapata. Ukitaka quality poa huku ni hapo tu Chakaka. Zingine zote zinakaa hivi na sio place mzuri ata. Unajua huku…’ – and stopped mid-sentence.
‘Asante. Acha tuangalie iyo Chakaka’
We did not mention that we were from there already. My colleague then turned to me and said, ‘Mimi ni msapere kwa damu. Lakini ata ikue nini? Sieze lala izi hoteli’
I agreed with him, and we decided to go back to the initial one we had seen, the one slightly above our budget, and negotiate our way out. What was very evident to us at that point was that the clientele for Chakaka and the other establishments around was clearly not ‘corporate’ visitors – or any sober one at that. We may have a strong love for money, but there are moments of exemption.
But before we went back, remember how we had been told not to cross the railway line? We were told at least 5 times. Guess what? We crossed the railway line, and other than my colleague dropping his phone – from inside the car mark you – there was nothing interesting to even see beyond the railway line.
But the question still is, Kirinyaga people, who bewitched you?
Kirinyaga peeps, talk to us in the comment section below. Anyway famalam, Paula relaunched her blog. Read her amazing stories here. If you want to share your articles with me, reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a blessed week.
Na kwa mahater bado Beef-U ndio ngeliScar Mkadinali