Otherness vs the African American

I believe that the Nation of Islam offered the most practical path towards true emancipation of black people in the USA, especially economically and socially. Unfortunately it did not spread, thanks to wanting leadership among other reasons.

True human emancipation consists in being in charge of the social, political and economic systems that affect a person’s and his/her community’s life. If a system has been designed for you, you might act and conduct business freely within the system but you are not in its control room. When the system gets tweaked, you must tweak yourself too. Those who tweak it don’t consult you.

This emancipation starts in the mind of an individual. After, the individual (community) does an analysis of the future and starts to design his/her methods of human development that takes his/her identity as a reference point. To have an idea is not the hardest part. To know how to follow through and implement it is crucial. It has to be cerebral, strategic, gradual, logical, rational and consistent. Like any other community before and after it, emancipation for the African American was going to be war against known forces of domination (the ruling white system) and the unknown forces (himself, the African American).

The quest for otherness by the African American has been central in his fight for emancipation. An otherness that, in the early days of the civil rights movement, was unofficially prescribed as being non-white in all that being non-white entailed. This especially among low income African American. However, the version of otherness that was provided was a distraction. Instead of encouraging the dominated to rebel by designing a parallel system that could serve them, it inspired them to reject what was there while not offering anything of value as an alternative.

That prescription was wrong in that the tools for emancipation, for example education were not essentially white. They were tools for basic human development. Those who seemingly tried too hard in school were seen as seeking to please the ‘white master.’ Those in formal employment in white dominated companies were perceived as sell outs. They had integrated themselves into a system that the rest were trying to emancipate themselves from. They reminded you of the house negro. Among black teenagers, being, looking like or dressing like the ‘baadest thug’ granted more legitimacy among their peers and was the authentic show of allegiance to the blackness and anti-whiteness. These were the field negros.

This alternative to whiteness ended up wrapping everything that black people did not have – education, money, offices – as whiteness. However, those are exactly the items that black people needed to develop their own systems, control them and then become truly emancipated. Whatever was presented as otherness did not serve the African American and ended up holding him in a paddock where he today remains the least educated, the most socially dysfunctional and the poorest. It will take years to fix that.

That otherness did not in any way free the African American. Instead it added to the weight of domination. I believe the single most powerful starting point towards true freedom of black people is education. If he/she is not fully educated first, he will remain socially, economically and politically dominated. Without an education the black community has not the tools to design its own systems in today’s global society. Emancipation is not a thought. It’s a war. War requires strategy. War takes time to win. The Nation of Islam had that when it started.

Camel Derby, Samburu.

I’ve always wanted to participate in the annual Camel race event that happens every August in Maralal town, Samburu country. It’s up north-west of Nairobi. About 350km away. I grew up 150km to this small and famous town. This will be the first time I see it, though.


It’s exciting planning a road trip, especially a camping one. I haven’t in a long time. Your list has food and tents and utensils and matchboxes and such. You draw the list then keep adding stuff to it and then a day to go get them. It’s fun.

It looked like a solo thing until a friend jumped in, which is great. Having someone talk over the music for 6 hours, half of it across uninhabited bush land, is good if you think of it. It’s different and not monotonous even if they or you sleep.

Going to new places with cultures apart from yours is welcome for any traveler. Maralal is not a popular tour destination. Info gathering is a maze. You find a camp site online and call. They closed 2 years ago. You dial a number and a doctor answers. He links you up with a county official who knows a manager and the manager has a camp site. You reserve and wait to see it.

I have always traveled like that; without much worry on what is where in the destination. Things always fall into place and you soon find out that surprise and anxiety make trips memorable. And you fluidly meet and interact with people. That is what we wait to see come last weekend of this month.


Escarpment to Longonot

I had not been to Mt Longonot for perhaps 5 years, until last Saturday. A longing to be outside in this cold rainy times. The road down to Maai Mahiu is becoming a favorite. It’s a scenic outlook. Way below when it’s not cloudy, with Mt Longonot, the flat lands and the road to Narok visible as you go round the corners, on your brakes between long distance rigs. I’ve always wanted to have a CB radio and talk to the truck drivers, hear snippets of their journeys and make strange friends.

You’ll find several guys roasting maize in pits dug inside the escarpment walls or in sheds on the sloping side of the road. Road people are building barriers for obvious reasons. We stop for roasted maize; two unevenly roasted but sweet combs. I stop for roasted maize anywhere. I wolf it and my friend thinks it’s because I missed food the night before. No, that’s how I do maize. A vertical hold, then gnaw and create a double empty row. Turn it around, then rapidly collapse a row after another into your mouth. You can do a lot of roasted maize that way.

The road after Maai Mahiu to Naivasha is even, well maintained and pretty flat. At 50km/h, you easily go past the fourth gear into overdrive and let it cruise. Windows up, one foot one hand in action, relax for the stereo. We talk now. We talk a bit on family, work and much of the rest is just mundane stuff.

At the KWS gate at 10am, the parking space is nearly full. People hike early on Saturdays. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s refreshing. We pay and start. After the Buffalo point, KWS did concrete stairs on a steep section that was getting fast eroded. Excellent job. We are at the rim in 55 minutes. 3.2 km.

We take a left turn round the rim, to approach the peak from that side. It’s better than from the right if you want to go there. The right side means a very steep climb in loose sand. Treacherous. We do more than half the rim with our t-shirts off. The breeze is perfect and we sweat gracefully. We’ll meet other hikers who came early and took the right way round the rim. I don’t know why many do this.

7.1km round the rim in 2.5 hours and we go down in 45 minutes. 13.4km in total. 100 kes for a shower at the bottom and you can find nyama choma too. There are about 3 shops as well. We’ll shower at home plus my friend has a severe headache so we hit the road again. Definitely a hike to repeat.

Driving South in a Stock Vehicle

I’ve of late entertained the idea of a drive across southern Africa in a stock car. That means a vehicle without any modification. Your everyday thing. I’m sold. In the last few weeks I’ve therefore spent time on You Tube learning from others who’ve taken long road trips; what to prepare, know, look out for and such. It gets even more exciting as you watch and realize how doable it is.

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You don’t need a 4×4. Some Kenyans did this in 2010 in a Subaru Forester. Others have as well. It’s about 5700 km from Nairobi to Capetown by road. 6 days or so should see you there. Given 3 weeks, this can be done, to and fro. I also found an app that helps calculate your fuel consumption, quite accurately. Add that to your estimates for food and accommodation needs, documentation including visas, vehicle checks and you have a budget. Find a partner or a couple of them. Set the time. Do it.

The road all the way down is tarmacked. If you don’t detour much to national parks, 12000km wouldn’t ask for new tyres, assuming they’re pretty new. You can carry spares of course. Service your car like you would normally. What I’m trying to say is; this is not a trip that requires corporate sponsorship. All you need it time, a vehicle, partners and a heart for adventure.

In my plans for a long time, is a backpacking trip to Cape Town from Nairobi, by public buses. I’ve even blogged about it. This I will still do, before driving down. The experiences must definitely be wildly different. It’s more exciting though being overland with your own vehicle. Choices; you stop and move when, where and as you wish. You’ve more responsibilities and with good company, there is fun to it.

Andrew documents his expeditions on You Tube. He is the kind you can learn from. He makes it simple. Nothing fancy. You don’t need millions to make such trips if you love being on the road for adventure. That’s his message here.

Before the ultimate Nairobi – Capetown trip, I’ve also been looking at Nairobi – Addis Ababa road. It’s tarmacked all through its 1573 km length. A friend and I have been working on a Nairobi – Marsabit trip, on the new road that everyone who has its photos, is crazy about. We extended it to Moyale which is only 246 km from Marsabit. Why not up to Addis then and tick off an expedition to the North from our list? I’ll blog about this, later.

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A 9.2 rating has The Shawshank Redemption (1994) on top of greatest movies list as per critics’ views. These are gumshoe kind of critics. You can’t dismiss them. I don’t question this ranking. If you’ve watched it, you know the dialogue is divine, the humour whole and the lessons lasting.

There are movies that I have classified as reference material. Besides re watching them frequently, once in a while I will play specific scenes for a mental or a hearty high. We talking this one of course, plus Pineapple Express, Angela’s Ashes, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (Jack Nicholson is cerebral in this), Scent of a Woman, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, Taxi Driver, The Godfather 1 & 2, My Cousin Vinny and others.

The best thing they did to The Shawshank Redemption is to have Red narrate it. He unfolds it for you. He serves it from the first scoop all the way through. We get in it from his subjective mind and that makes his experiences and that of his colourful crew humanly closer. Heywood is my man. He is brilliantly clueless. Watch him in the field pick a rock as the crew collects some for Andy’s carvings, only that it’s petrified horse dook and he is a joke. Then watch him in the library calling it “The Count of Monte Crisco” and Floyd can’t have it.

Heywood: The Count of Monte Crisco…
Floyd: That’s “Cristo” you dumb sh*t.
Heywood: …by Alexandree Dumb-ass. Dumb-ass.
Andy Dufresne: Dumb-ass? “Dumas”. You know what it’s about? You’ll like it, it’s about a prison break.
Red: We oughta file that under “Educational” too, oughten we?

What I have been thinking about is Red’s explanation of “institutionalized” after old man Brooks holds a knife to Heywood’s neck upon learning he is being let out of the slammer after 50 years. Brooks goes psycho in the face of freedom. That doesn’t make sense.

Red: These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.

It is an existentialist problem. If freedom is the human capacity to act as one prefers, without restraint or coercion, then nobody is, since even that which we willingly do is particularly reward oriented. You may have freedom of will but lack freedom of action or freedom of action but you lack freedom of will.

When Red is released after 40 years in there, he keeps asking the store manager for permission to go pee. That’s institutionalized. It’s some kind of conditioned prison. That happens everywhere apparently. Our social relationships, jobs, friends, businesses, favorite foods, joints are all institutions. You only know they are when you try leaving them. They have such a hard-boiled hold on you and that scares me a bit but every time. Not being free. I wonder what freedom is. Can one really be free? Is it an attitude?

Red: [narrating] We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation…

Reader’s Digest. A Collector’s Choice.


Like many, I loved Reader’s Digest. The love has continued, even after the magazine went out of print. Until then I had not found a magazine so consistent, balanced, family-oriented, uncontrollably humorous, witty, thrilling, all round, little and ever green. I think this is what happened. You thought you could write and found their offices. You walked in. They gave you a pen and paper. Write us something. We’ll be in the other room. Bring it over. If you hear us laughing, you’re hired.

How I discovered Reader’s Digest I can’t remember, but I was in primary school. It was too expensive to get a new one every month, but one didn’t have to. A ten year old Reader’s Digest is as fresh as any just out of print. It doesn’t matter whether you had read it. Newspaper vendors sold old copies and they moved. My friend’s father had a subscription. Whenever I went there on Sunday afternoons, that’s what I looked forward to carrying back home. It’s something I couldn’t put down.

The magazine and its sections. The story of the story is what they called Book Choice. It’d be on the cover page and in the features. I’d read this one last because it was the longest and often, the most spell binding. To today, I remember the story titled “Judy The War Dog.” It’s the story of a pointer who became a Japanese PoW in WWII, how she saved British PoWs and her amazing survival story. Judy died on 17 February 1950 and is buried in Nachingwea, Tanzania. The internet describes her thus;

Judy (1936 – 17 February 1950) was a ship’s dog on board HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper stationed on the Yangtze before and during World War II. She proved able to hear incoming aircraft, providing the crew with an early warning.

Then there was It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power where you guessed the meaning of words and checked your score at the back of the page. Life’s Like That had pieces of awkward but funny life moments. Like you trying to buy a small electric indoor fountain and asking the shop assistant about the possibilities of electrocution. Well, she replies. No one’s ever brought one back! There was All in a Day’s Work too. It was about those What moments at work; “I had to tell one of our patrons that she owed the library over $15 in fines. Among the late books was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beating Debt.”

There was my favorite – Laughter, the Best Medicine. I’d always go to this page first; “Why are coins made out of metal? Because change is hard. What do you use to fix a broken tomato? Tomato paste. Whoever wrote this one should really catch up.”

It’s from Reader’s Digest that I read the story of Denzel Washington. How his mother had a hair dressing shop and one day as she worked on a client, the latter hysterically asked for a piece of paper. Denzel was in the shop a that time. The client wrote that he, Denzel, was going to be great. Undoubtedly, he today is. A favorite actor. After that, I’d fantasize the same happening to me. I actually just found a copy of RD with his story. Another story.

Reader’s Digest has a big impact on my English language learning, especially written. I learned suspense, new words, story plots and wrote better compositions in school. Above all I was guaranteed of entertainment and information whenever a copy came by, new and crisp or old and tattered. Like some people collect limited edition watches, vintage cars or stamps, I’ve started collecting old copies of this magazine. They’d be of great use to future generations, undoubtedly.

Here is Judy’s story: Judy The War Dog

Nairobi to Capetown. Backpacking!


Our backpacking trip to Capetown has been in the fridge for so long; 5 years! My friend and I have in the past few months nailing down the dates to finally hit the road. Last year we had set it all for early March to arrive in time for a festival in Capetown. Work could however not give. September it now is.

For a 3 week journey, the schedule is tight and exciting; at least a day in every country except Zambia to allow enough time for Victoria falls tour and a bungee jump. It means we’ll have to take night buses where possible, resting and walking the different cities by day. I’m a little apprehensive of the little time to rest, but it’s all flexible and open to adjustments on the fly. While it’s difficult to find reliable bus schedules online, blogs by backpackers have really been helpful in figuring out what to expect with timings and fares.

There are plenty of small hotels close to the bus stations, but we can only hope for the minimum comfort. I have taken long distance buses in Zambia and Tanzania and they are comfortable enough. Since we are not out for a luxury trip, that should be welcome. In Lilongwe a friend will host us for a night; a great opening to once again enjoy home-like comfort.

Fortunately we do not require a Visa for all the countries we will pass through, except South Africa, which makes arrangements way easier. Initially we planned to hit Swaziland and Mozambique after Capetown but both are off schedule for now. It would take more than a month to do a round trip by road, a month that we sadly don’t have. Mozambique is a backpackers’ heaven in terms of its history, long coastline and vast remote interior.

Besides the bungee jump, I look forward to seeing how Namibia is like. From Livingstone in Zambia, the trip takes you to Sesheke, a border town with Botswana and Nambia. You then have the expansive Kalahari desert to cross headed for Windhoek. The desert and Windhoek are places I very much want to discover. From there to Gaborone, we hope to visit the famous Okavango delta. Great places to see!

Backpacking gives you a chance to break from the usual and lose yourself for some time with only the basics. There is the invaluable chance to meet new people, try new foods, see new places and have great stories to tell your children by the traditional fire. 🙂 It’s an experience full of the unexpected which makes it memorable and very very exciting.

Photo courtesy of: galleryhip.com

Arranged Marriages Do Work

Years ago, I worked with three gentlemen from India. Two of them were my colleagues in the same department, while the third was a point of contact on the client’s side. Our job, a sales job, was not easy. The most essential part, the one that always preceded, was laying a foundation of ease with the clients. We had to gradually build a relationship of friendship, followed by another gradual sale of our products and finally, if all went well, a deal would be won. And so we all had to get along especially off work where all ice could be broken; hiking, climbing mountains and parties. Thanks to sharing the same frustrations when a deal looked lost, we became friends. And so we talked a lot. Besides work, dating was a top topic. It was only natural for single men and it offered a chance for much needed taunts.

Once, I attempted to rid my mind of cultural influences and came to the conclusion that arranged marriages can work. I realized the best way for a young man and woman to grow into matrimony is the communal way. How communal? That leaving the job of finding you a spouse to people who know you better is just as good as finding that spouse yourself. In fact, given several factors, the former exceeds the latter in its effectiveness and ease. First, from an economic point of view, you would save more time if your folks called you one Wednesday after work and said; Surprise! Guess what champ, we have somebody. Think about it. I will come to the dating part – the coffee, the heart throbs, the lunches – later. Perhaps that is what you think those in arranged marriages miss. You can’t be more wrong!

How would an arranged marriage become? It’s is no different from ordering pizza and having it delivered at your doorstep! Recently I did that. I went online and found Naked Pizza chaps. I selected the pizza I wanted and placed a call. The lady said it would take 35 minutes. All the way from Westlands, but true, I had it in 35 minutes. That is how an arranged marriage would work. Was it possible for me to go to Westlands and get that pizza? Of course. However my end was the food. I was not careless of the means to the food – it had to be convenient and trustworthy – but the end was the food, just as I ordered it. I was happy and satisfied. Why wouldn’t the way to marriage work in a similar manner? I like you can now see that dating before marriage is simply a way of ordering events. It’s not the only way of doing things.

If you sat your people down and told them what you want in a spouse, they should be able to find you that person if they loved you. You only have to be clear about everything you want in a person, including height, colour of gums, nail texture and all. To moderate mistakes, you better be exhaustive. You can even go statistical and give them margins of error for some qualities. When both the search team and you as the commissioner are on absolutely the same page, work can start. Here is the rewarding part I have come to strongly believe, evidence or lack of it: you can never not find that person, as long as your likes and dislikes are reasonably human.

Your disturbing question may be whether love can flower with a person you have not known before. The thinking is that you need to find out, beforehand, whether you can get along, after which if the coast is clear, marriage can happen. That is sober thinking, but it’s also cultural. Are great marriages built on love? Yes they are. I however think love is both of the mind and of the heart. I have put this to test and found it to be so. While you may feel attracted to a person, the decision to date and marry them is just that; a decision. It is a work of the mind. It is logical. I have heard it said that the heart-throbbing goes away a few years into marriage and that it’s friendship which takes over and sustains. That this friendship has to be made before marriage so that even after the pimple-popping love goes, the friendship keeps together. It’s a very strong justification for the DIY subscribers.

Of my former colleagues from Indian, they reinforced this favorable observation I had of arranged marriages as we went along. What happened is that they would take leave, go back to India and come back married. I truly admired that. At one time we are in the basement of our office and we’re all single. Then suddenly we are not all single. They tell me their folks back home are already searching. That they have found some would-bes and are considering who is best suited. It was not a see, like, come event. A number of compatibility checks had to be done, including religious, astrological, familial, caste and all. The man and woman had to accept each other as well. As we made presentations to clients and as we hiked, their spouses were being lined up back home. It’s like your party being arranged in your absence and you only need to make a grand entrance. They only had to go back, finish their part of the ritual, and come back to work after a month, with their wives.

This is something that wise business people do daily; let other smarter people work for you. They will never disappoint if you trust a good team. Instead of you going for coffee dates to known each other well, how about your folks going for those dates with your potential spouse? Do you see how cool that is? Your auntie is having a date on your behalf as you apply for a visa to go to Nigeria for the Bi-annual ICT conference. She and others then gather, do the analysis and present you with the best of them all. It’s like having a second you. Unbelievable! Even more unbelievable is when this person meets you eventually and you fall in love. Not a second of both of your time spent in endless dates but here you are, good for each other, ready to get married tonight, all thanks to others who checked all boxes as you signed deals with clients. Incredibly special!

You may find it surprising that they live as happily as others who personally searched, found and married. In fact one of the couples I know better, seems to be falling in love more as days go by. There are structures that help hold them together because they both subscribe to and accept them; social, religious and such. While our cultures are different, we should appreciate that such arrangements are not in any way out of place. In fact I advocate for them because I suspect the dating games are putting a lot of our young men and women through struggles and worries that their parents, uncles and aunties should be handling and easily so. Most of them know what is good for you and are thorough, if you tried them. But you won’t.

You can love each other after marriage, although a particular cultural foundation is required. The biggest advantage, when it works, it the time saved. Perhaps even the heartache is less.

Climbing Mt Meru, Tanzania

Mt Meru October 2014 598     Mt Meru October 2014 1503


Mt Meru October 2014 1863

Mt Meru October 2014 1549

Mt Meru October 2014 1493   Mt Meru October 2014 390

Mt Meru October 2014 470Mt Meru October 2014 622









Anyone can climb a mountain. Well, not quite anyone but that may probably be correct for hills. Two things will happen when you climb a mountain successfully. I mean anything above 4000m. The rest are anthills. You’ll do it again or you never will. Those who climb again are of a certain type. They are loners; introverts with a disposition to enjoy silence or they are extroverts looking for the next great story to tell; hunters of attention. However I find the loonies are common. People who talk solo meditation, moon watching and night gazing.

Mountains are their home; there in the farmland and forests, in the heather and moorland, in the highland desert and summit zone, in the middle fog, cold winds and erratic climate. They walk for 6 or 7 hours a day and keep walking, headed for the base camp. The base camp is often 2 nights away. When you think the camp is near, the guide says stop; this is lunch point. It’s only halfway. 15 minutes. You take photos under two baobab trees that converged 7m from the ground to form a massive gate in the middle of the forest. Or in the caves that climbers, porters, guides and rangers shelter into when it rains.

Base camp will always be cold. If the sky is clear, you may see the summit. You’ll be up at 1am to start the ascent. It’s unbelievable sometimes when you see what awaits you. And so you eat and sleep early. I first climbed a mountain in August 2009 and knew I had just started. That was Mt. Kenya (4,985m), second highest in Africa. Unfortunately, our guide was a joke who reached the summit in moccasins, jeans and a pair of socks as gloves. He also lost his wallet as he slid on the way down and that meant he also lost food money or so he said. One girl has breathing problems and we can’t leave her behind. She’s doing 5 steps and finding a rock to sit on. By then, we are all peeing very yellow stuff due to dehydration. No water. Mountain sickness has also set upon us and there are frequent quarrels over small stuff. Another dude has a severe headache but claims handstands can cure a headache. He’s busy looking for the best spot to perform two. We came in sober, we’ll go home nuts. With no food, we had to borrow from strangers in the next camp. We set up our tents outside, slither into sleeping bags and I thought our guide was going to freeze in the 0 degrees camp. I give him a coat and a pair of gloves. At night a friend claims it’s too cold and he wants to get into my sleeping bag. I refuse. Friends who pee in bed always want to sleep near you. Even those that do it in bags.

Next was Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,895m) with excellent organisation but the same crew. Tough but incredible satisfaction of reaching Uhuru peak, the highest point in Africa. On that morning of January 29 2010, it was the birthday of one of us. It probably will be his best and highest birthday ever. As with summits, it’s very very cold and we only stay long enough for photos. Traffic is high at any day in Kilimanjaro and climbers jostle for a photo moment posing with the Uhuru Peak plaque. Great feeling of accomplishment. You watch the beauty of the sun rise and can only be sorry for the climbers that got sick and had to retreat to the base camp, or those that just couldn’t make it this far. With oxygen being in shorter supply as you climb, breathing with labour and with the cold that pierces your boots and ravages your toes, you respect their decision.

I returned to Mt. Kenya 2 years later in the month of November. It rained all the way, day and night. We went for the summit under the falling snow, tracing the guide’s bootprints with our headlamps. At 7am we got to point Lenana. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. The whole of the mountain was white, covered in knee-deep soft snow. For the strong winds, we only held long enough for the photos and started the steep scary descent. The park has put a strong cable from the Lenana point way down to a safe point. Climbers have to tightly hold onto the cable as they descend or else they tumble into the valley below on either side. Climbers have died this way and dragged others with them.

A few weeks ago, it was the turn of Mt. Meru in Tanzania (4,566m); the 5th highest in Africa. I had always wanted to conquer it. Steep all the way up, thick forests, 2 major peaks and 11 minor peaks, spectacular views of Kilimanjaro under a clear sky and a chance to see game. With 3 others that I met for the first time, we had enough stories to keep us sane for 3 nights and 4 days. All of us had done Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro before so you couldn’t scare anyone. Just stories. When you climb together, you bond strongly even after the trip. I found the ascent to the summit the most tricky. With 11 peaks, you always appear to be getting there and these series of mini not-yets, isn’t what your mind wants. Mountains are more about the mind than the body. If your mind goes on a lock down, your body will.

We reached the top at 7:15am. It was too foggy to see far but not as cold. We had enough time to take photos and to sign a visitors’ book at the peak. What a great idea by Arusha National Park! I like descending fast to get down and rest. In 3 hours we were back at the base camp for breakfast, a short rest and to start another 3 hour walk to the camp where we were to spend the night.

Another great climb, made even better by a cool team, caring porters, the cook, Boni, the guides, our friendly ranger, Frederick, plus excellent arrangements and facilities by the park. I’m not sure which other I will climb next. Mt. Kenya is in the plans but from a different and most scenic route this time; the Chogoria route. Maybe Mt. Elgon (4,321m) will come first.

Thomson Falls, Nyahururu.

Let me tell you about Thomson Falls in a brief way. I will start with a tragedy. Many years ago, I was calming on the grass outside the Thomson Falls Lodge. It’s a big one, inexpensive and they describe it as a place of solitude, freedom and space in a wild landscape. Built in 1930s high up on the west side of the valley that hosts Ewaso Narok river, 2,377m asl, that description is apt. I know because I have been to this place countless times.

As I sat there one Sunday afternoon, I could see the top of the waterfall just as it rowdily cascaded 81m below. I then saw a man up there. He run to the edge and made as if to sit on the water. The water easily carried him, his red jacket marking his figure out well enough to be seen by anyone on the lodge’s lawn as he plunged. His jump and his descent were quick. After a while, his body hit the pool below with an explosion of sound. There is a wooden rail along the drop of the valley on the lodge’s side. I went there and his body then floated. Naked. His jacket apart. Water must be very aggressive to undress a man that speedily. Many die there that way, every year. 

One of the joys of the lodge is going down to the base of the waterfall. You follow well laid stone stairs half the way down. You then hold on to jutting root butts, rocks and logs for the rest of the way till you get to the river. In dry season you can hop on the dry rocks in the middle of the river and approach the base. Or else take a slippery path by the edge. The vapour is dense and you get wet fast. Few walk to the base though. It’s scary, but just a little scary.

My father tells me the stairs were built in the 1950s; mainly for access to a small hydroelectric generation station at the base of the waterfall that fed power to the settlers dairy factory that later became the once mighty KCC Nyahururu milk factory. Sure enough you can still spot the cables and up the river the water holding concrete walls and huge pipes are still intact.

Thomson Falls is still a memorable place to visit. You never get enough of walking down that valley to meet the raucous waters, save for the fatigue of making your way up. But the view from the bottom of the valley or from the shade on the lodge’s green lawns is outstanding, for a camera too.



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Nairobi to Dar es Salaam by Bus.


In January of this year (the year of our Lord 2013 – sounds too English) I left my job. I resigned and left the building. Doesn’t that read ninja from every end? Maybe. For two years prior, I had thought, imagined and finally decided it was worth it. Mine was a cool job if that means working from the deep end, freedom, a love affair with the industry and flying around. Leaving was an epiphany, reinforced by many things. One of them was the need to go where I wanted when I wanted; freedom. And so on the Monday that followed the last Friday at work, I was on a bus for 13 hour, 920km long road trip from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The bus is named Sai Baba and I caught it from River Road, 0530hrs Monday morning, with a backpack, rubber shoes, and a pair of shorts. It felt so light in mind and body. There was not a return by date, there was neither going to be a work phone call nor a report to submit after this and I was not travelling to see a client. I could just alight in Arusha, Moshi or anywhere and sleep there. I could even get into any Tanzanian village, make a home and live happily ever after. Do you get what I mean? I was my own man in the truest form you can imagine. Answerable to no man; indescribably liberating.

The Sai Baba guys were decent enough to call me around 4:45am, but I was awake. With so many missed trips from travellers, they knew it; sleep doesn’t wake people up. I followed my receipt to a seat near the window, pulled the curtain and perched my backpack. Fellow long distance travellers joined, escorted by families or alone; bye bye wishes, it was good to see you handshakes, safe journey hugs. Nairobi wakes up really early. Everybody leaving from Nairobi was in, save for one lady. She will come by the second bus. The empty seats will be filled at the border into Tanzania. That next to me was one of them and my bag became such a packed arm rest. I kicked off my shoes, pulled Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography and we left the city, right on time.

We will pass by my former workplace. I will look out and being a Monday, realize that’s where I would have spent the day. At such a time, you ask yourself; what have you done? This is a Monday and you’re in shorts, away to Tanzania on a bus, instead of dressing up for work. Really?

Cruising on the newly done Namanga road is such a pressure. Kenya and its many newly done roads. Very smooth. The music in the bus was Zillizopendwa or Golden East African oldies. We heard, not listened to, these songs a lot on Saturdays as momma washed our school uniforms outside the house. It was not allowed in our house to listen to irreligious songs. Then, Kenya had one major radio station; the state broadcaster. I knew the words but not the meaning of most of them. The last time I was on this road was 2010. We were going to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro. 9 friends. We did it save for one. I liked it that I was unaccompanied anyway because I wanted to soak in, shed off the working skin and just be away like a tramp.

My wish at the boarder was that the bag seat would not be taken, so as to read Sidney Poitier comfortably. After Kenyan border control, I paid a fine of about 4 usd to Tanzania border control for not having my Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. I bought apple juice and korosho for good gnawing along the way. None of the new passengers took the backpack seat. It was going to be another 3 hours of fine riding. Sai Baba pulled up its anchors and left.

The road from the Kenya/Tanzania border town of Namanga to Arusha, one of the main Tanzanian towns, is very well done with clear markings, road signs and deep drainage troughs. It also has little traffic; any cruiser’s dream. On both sides are large expanses of idle land with shrubs and red soil. You will see the Maasai, their livestock, their manyattas and a few small shopping centers. The air smells fresh and when the clouds are clear, the caps Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru will show themselves. It is beautiful; the textbook road to ride in a convertible.

We got to Arusha. Arusha is quite eventful and almost all shops have a glass door. A hanging board or some thingamabob that lights up will either say closed or open. In Nairobi shops are normally wide open, even for jewelry. Sai Baba was in a rush. We dropped some and picked others. I gave up my seat to a well-built light lady, dressed in a leso with black and yellow flowers. We only spoke a little. I asked her the names of a few shopping centres as we left Arusha for Moshi. I continued with Sidney Poitier with the passengers’ noise and a Lingala song called Kasongo forming the background music. Kasongo Mobali na Ngai. Once again, I knew the words but not the meaning.

Sai Baba was fast, which made it hard to take good shots of Mt Kilimanjaro, whose ice caps were now clear. Soon we’ll be in Moshi town to drop and pick. We left again for the most beautiful Tanzania country side. This is the Usambara mountains on the left as you head east. The road is nearly straight and once again, with little traffic. Road construction was going on and for a good part it was a dusty ride. I put Sidney Poitier down to love the view. There are few shops along the road at Himo, Segera, Chalinze and Mlandizi areas as well as travellers’s restaurants at Mombo and Korogwe areas. Where you find them, traders leave luscious fruits by the roadside and get busy with other duties. Only when you stop do they come to sell. Most of the houses are done of red bricks and you can spot kilns all along the way. Sai Baba crew passed over drinks.

It was a long ride and Sai Baba was really fast now. It felt great. I had always wanted to do this. Stop working and take time out. It felt like a coup d’état. I had taken the jump, done the unusual and there was no going back now. What I can tell you is that I felt free, sane and very light in the head. I was ready to go and go, wipe off that sweat and feel better. There was a heartbeat too. What a young eagle feels once released by its mother to spread it wings. No safety net.

We soon got to Korogwe which was the journey’s halfway point. The lunch, water, pee and poop point. The centre is built specially for bus stop overs. The loos are chic and restaurants have great selection of samosas, sausages, vegetables, burgers, meat and blaring music too. I got a chicken burger, fruits and sat down on the footsteps leading to the restaurant. From here I could see the country well, munch and drink. No one knows you here. You’re alone in a nonchalant breeze, shoeless, having chicken in a foreign Kiswahili speaking land. Isn’t that a certain something?

We had 30 minutes and Sai Baba roared again. In 2 hours palm trees started appearing. We were now headed to the shores of the Indian Ocean before turning right for to descend upon Dar es Salaam. I packed Sidney Poitier and took a nap. I woke up to an argument between the driver and the police. He was driving fast but loudly insisted he wasn’t. He shouted at the police. I found that brave. In Kenya, traffic police rule. If they say you’re wrong, you don’t dispute because indeed you are. This is the second time he was in a row with cops.

Night was now approaching. More palm trees appeared, traffic increased and Dar kept coming closer. I saw the road to the historical town of Bagamoyo and recognized it. I had toured Bagamoyo 4 years ago. Shortly after, at 2030hrs, Sai Baba safely brought us. Long distance bus trips are big business in Tanzania because it is a vast country. There is a major and exclusive bus station called Ubung’o that handles more traffic than any in Nairobi. They can’t allow you in or out without a ticket. Well organized.

Before alighting, I was already examining the buildings for a place to lodge. Once out, I knew better than to look a stranger. In shorts and just a backpack, I was everything Dar. I took a road in search of any signs of a guest house. After a few meters, street lights kept getting scarcer and the road seemed to lead to residential areas, so I turned. I went back to the bus station and took a road that I thought lead to the city centre. Traffic and street lights will tell you. I knew a popular entertainment area called Sinza and it wasn’t far from there. I asked a cab guy if I was on the right path and he said yes. Go down, turn right at that lighted junction over there. That’s the road to Sinza. I just walked.

I turned right. With several shops and clubs, it was going to be easy to find a guest house. Dar unlike Nairobi is pretty safe and sleeping joints abound. I was not worried at all but getting to 2100hr, you can never be sure and tired I was too. There was a flashy glass door with lights around and the guard said it was a hotel. The reception told me I could get a single room at 20usd. Man, wasn’t I glad. I hadn’t walked around much and this was a proper cheap hotel. I paid, went upstairs to the room.

The bed was well spread in white sheets. The window was wall to wall with white curtains. I pulled them and watched the outside. What a pleasure! The small TV was however not working. Tanzania had just started digital migration in the capital city and my hotel was slow to buy the set top boxes. I was going to miss the purely Kiswahili TV stations which I relished whenever I had visited Dar before.

Soon I will be fast asleep, with my back pack empty and stuff strewn all over. I first went out and bought roasted bananas, fish and soda which I took away to eat in the room. I slept and heavily so. So much that I didn’t notice someone getting into my room and pulling out my 3000ksh (35usd) which was on the table. I hadn’t locked the door properly. Well, every other memorable trip gets a stamp of unfortunate events and that was mine.

In the morning I would have tea, oranges, eggs and bacon at the hotel’s downstairs restaurant and set out to see more of Dar. Daladala is the name of the public transport buses for city service. Really old mini buses filled and filled from bus stop to bus stop. Commuters are always getting in and it seems, none getting out. There was always a lady offering to hold my backpack while I held on to the roof rail. I found that very polite. I rode on, enjoying the street Kiswahili, Bongo style. The heat in the coastal city was abnormal. You sweat even where you normally wouldn’t, but for the few days I spent in Dar, it was a pleasure. I would stay late into the night in an open air restaurant outside the hotel, eat, make friends and watch football.

 On the day I took the bus again for the journey back to Nairobi, I had finished Sidney Poitier and bought SAS, a book on Australian Special Forces, to read on the trip back. There hadn’t been work calls and I was not on any assignment. I was just a man in khaki shorts, grateful and living the freedom in Dar es Salaam.

 I boarded Sai Baba again at 0530hrs but not before asking how much the fare is from Dar to Lusaka, Zambia. A longer road trip to Cape Town, long overdue, is next on the cards, God willing.

The existence of God by faith.

I have had great and ever growing interest for arguments as to the existence of God and evidence thereof. It has then followed that, based on faith and personal experience, I believe that God exists, supremely and actively so in our lives and in the universe. Within the various schools of argument for God’s existence, I lean more towards the faith school which bases its argument on senses and thoughts or faith and reason. Today I therefore would like to express my stand of faith as I understand it. However, this is very much on the surface and not a replacement of detailed exposition.   

Why, you may ask? Well, it’s a matter of conviction and also because I enjoy such orderly debates and the excitement that the exchanges produce.

First a little bit of definition and an equally little bit of history. The ontological argument was developed by a monk called Anslem of Canterbury in the 13th Century, which was an important age for Scholasticism which meant the kind of theology that was developed in schools and which took its own distinct methodology. Anslem’s argument is that;

‘When one thinks of God, one is thinking of “that which no greater can be thought.” Is it possible to think of “that which no greater can be thought” as not existing? Clearly not, for then an existing being would be greater than it. Therefore, by definition, the idea of “that which no greater can be thought” includes its existence.’

What I pull from Anslem is his method which applies reason to a truth known by faith in order to explain it better. This method was further expounded by the famous St. Thomas Aquinas, born in 1224 in the outskirts of Naples, in how he related faith and reason.

‘Some truths are within the reach of reason and others are beyond it. The existence of God is a revealed truth and therefore an article of faith. But this does not mean that is it is a truth beyond the reach of reason. In this case, reason can prove what faith accepts.’

Here therefore is my argument in two fold.

Firstly, the beginning of knowledge is senses. This is Aristotelian approach. We move from sense to knowledge which means all that is known has been sensed and all that is sensed is already known. Before we examine the idea of something, we have to sense it first. This being the case then, my belief that God exists stems from senses. I have sensed his being and so I believe he exists and so I know he exists. (You may argue that it is enough to examine an idea itself to know it, without sensing it first. That pure ideas are the beginning of knowledge. I will come to this later and briefly.)

Sense (from which faith grows) therefore being the starting point of knowledge, does it exclude reason? When I’m asked to explain my existence of God and I claim faith, am I running away from reason? No because cause is an important factor in any argument. Cause serves to explain the basis of a conviction. A belief in God’s existence or non-existence has to have a basis. My basis in this case is faith and I reason from a basis of faith. I do not need extraordinary proof from this extraordinary being for me to believe in him. No evidence is necessary as to give substance to my claims.

The early Christians were often viewed as the wretched people of the society because they could not fit their faith in the philosophies of the day. Their belief did not make methodological sense like Platonism or Aristotelian did. This was the case until the development of Christian scholars and Christian philosophy which held that faith was the starting point of their belief, just as senses and ideas were to Aristotelians and Platonists respectively. Therefore, and this I strongly believe, faith and faith alone, with absolute zero necessity for evidence, is enough to be a foundation of someone’s belief for the existence of God and to form a basis for his/her argument for the same.

Secondly, it is entirely impossible to deny that which you have already come to the knowledge of. Our minds are initially an empty slate where what is written becomes indelible. Once written forever present. What we then do is chose to like some of the knowledge we come across and dislike the rest. However we can never deny that we do not have knowledge of it. For example I know that there is an act called a human being killing another human being or murder. I hold that murder is morally wrong. I however cannot deny murder happens or that it exists just because I do not agree with it. I cannot deny its existence. However I am free to hold it as correct or wrong.

Equally for atheists perhaps it is completely impossible for them to claim that God does not exist since they already have heard of God. Their minds have already been ‘contaminated’ to use this word. The being of God was already indelibly written on their minds then moment they were introduced to that concept. They absolutely have no choice. There is no way out unless they return to their original empty slate status of mind which is impossible. It’s not in discretion of atheists to say that God does not exist since as Anslem says they have already thought of God as a thought or idea greater than any other, and whose existence they have set out to deny. How is that possible?  They have already been ‘poisoned’ and the antidote does not exist. They are however free not to like God just like I do not like murder though I know it happens.

What about a Muslim or a Hindu, who does not hold the thought of my kind of God as the greatest thought? Such a person definitely holds an idea of another being which he/she considers to be his/her ultimate. He/she does not necessarily deny God’s existence but rather, still acknowledges the existence of a greater being which he/she calls God. Therefore God’s existence, with God being a supreme being, is still not denied.

What of those who have never heard of God…does their not sensing him, at least by not hearing of him, negate his existence in their case? A denial would be impossible to them since to deny you need an object. In their case they do not have this object since they have not heard of it. Therefore they cannot deny its existence. Once they sense this supreme being (either by feeling or hearing of him or seeing, etc), they would be free to deny or affirm his existence. However, as per my second argument, the mere fact of sensing this greatest being locks you out of the choice to negate its existence. Having been introduced to God, and being told he is the greatest, they would also have crossed the line of no return and it is impossible for them to erase this knowledge and claim that God does not exist. They are however free to replace this knowledge with the knowledge of another greater being of their choice, if they can find. Even credible is to doubt and remain a skeptic than to claim to go beyond doubt.

Now to my own reconciliation of reason and faith in affirmation of God’s existence. Notice that Anslem starts not by examining the senses but by examining the thought. That God is “that which no greater can be thought.” Thomas on the other hand starts by examining the senses and moves on to knowledge. That what is sensed becomes known.

Personally, I have not thought of anything greater and so that which I have though as the greatest is what I known to be God – from thought to knowledge. I have also heard of God, and upon hearing I have believed in God and so I have known of God by faith – from sense to knowledge.