Generation loopholes and red elephants

I was trying to play the cool aunt and…

Wait, the beginning. When I was little, I had lots of funky cousins around me. Ten years my senior, or thereabouts, all pretty and make-upped and omniscient. They knew everything. They had boys falling at their feet. They had funky clothes and gorgeous hair. And they were tight with my mum in a way I could never be.

I treasured their opinions, listened to their music, erranded to their boyfriends. I was crushed when one told me I couldn’t sing, though in all fairness, I can prove she wasn’t entiiiiiiirely right about that one. 😉 Apart from that incident, they were totally cool.

So when I found myself in a huge house with four teenage nieces, I tried to do the same. They’re all cute and frighteningly curvy. I don’t know if it’s GM foods or global warming, but I get very worried when my 10 to 13 year old nieces make men drool, and not the perverted kind either. Those children have more curves than me, and it bugs me when I see how guys look at them, coz I know something those guys don’t; I know that my nieces are still at the age where kissing is gross.

Anyway, I figured I’d score points for being the funky auntie with the jeans and the dreads and the pretty baby girl. But apparently, I am old. I have no idea what music they like. Half the songs they were gyrating too are filed in a MP3 folder as R for ridiculous.

I mean, they were doing routines to the Pussy Cat Dolls and Nicole Whatsername. Spice Girls I get, but PCD ?! Ati when I grow up. I have serious qualms about nubile beauties who say they want to grow up [si they’re like in their twenties already?] because they’ll have boobies.

I mean for one thing, they’re all C cups already, and for another, who calls them boobies? Really!! It’s worse than Gwen’s ‘if I was a rich girl’ when the woman has millions already !! At least Good Charlotte had the sense to counter ‘lifestyles’ once they made it – and with a great hit too!

Then some annoying song comes on, nauseating really. Chris Brown and some girl. I asked who the girl was, sounding all know-it-all. Never heard of her, even after they listed her hits. I think she sang some song called Energy. But at least I know Chris Brown, yes?

Then we got onto the subject of fly men [first, they don’t know what fly is beyond an annoying flying insect] and we could not agree. I mean those children have NO taste. Seriously!! They like the boy on John Tucker must die. I am disturbed by their obsession with that flick.

And don’t even get me started on Bratz and High School Musical. We did agree that Peter and Mohinder [Heroes] are hot, and started a spirited argument about that.

The argument kept me firmly in the cool until I mentioned Mohinder was a better bet coz Peter is the dark broody type who underneath their depth are just moody jerks. I added that that Milo Ventimiglia [Peter] was way cuter in Gilmore, but he was also younger and shorter, though he was equally broody.

They have no idea who [or what] Gilmore girls is!! But they do know that the Cheerleader was in some idiot movie called Get it on [or sth like that] another of their passions. It’s a cheerleader movie with Beyonce’s kid sis, no plot, and killer choreography, especially the crumping. I get marks for knowing what crumping is, yes? As long as I don’t say I learnt about it via Get it on.

I saw Pierce Brosnan flash across the screen and sighed at how hot he is. [hot being an acceptable word for them but one I winced at using] The nieces stared at me, horrified and speechless. They have no idea who he is, and could not see the temperature I was swooning over. **sigh**.

Then I got all giggly about A fish called Wanda [Jaime-lee in all her glory] and Robin Hood Men in Tights, explaining some of the gags, like the house moving scene and the chastity belt. Of course since they haven’t watched [or read] the original Robin Hood, they totally missed the canned laughter.

Then they started watching Never ending story, and when I explained that I’d watched it when I was a kid, and it was made in, what, 1984, they gasped collectively and asked “Auntie! You were born!!” You’d think I’d said 500 BC the way they reacted!!

And the scene in Space Balls [a brilliant Star Wars spoof] where they get their light sabers from rings they found in cereal boxes, and a dwarf Darth Vader tells Skywalker ‘I am…your uncles cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend’s neighbour’s ex-roomate.’ My rotflo was met with blank stares and suspicious looks at the juice I was drinking. I am so old.

Nelly is off for the weekend, so I don’t plan to cook if I can help it. I bought some eggs, some loaves, and lots of milk [for cereal. I live and breathe weetabix and rock music]. Then I went to the ATM and got a stash for emergencies, since Nelly won’t be back for days.

The problem is that the ATM only issued red elephants…that’s the picture on the 10,000 tsh note. A loaf costs 700, and there’s no shopkeeper, however Tanzanian he is, that would give you change for 700 from 10,000.

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Then princess decides to host her friends. I’m not a crowds person, so whenever she’s entertaining, I hide in the bedroom with headphones and a sheet – Dar is too warm for blankets.

I offered her friends some tea, but they refused to join the meal. But the second I hit my sheet, they started to nibble on the bread. I had no problem with that. Except these kids really like bread. At some point even princess got worried and came to report them to me.

Now let me explain something. I’m not very good at expressing myself in Swa. I can communicate, sure, I can read and write, I’ve even edited a text book in Swa which earned the author 19 million Tsh in royalties [that’s like a million Kenyan, or 20 thousand dollars.] I’m that good.

But speaking, that’s something else. I stutter, I dyslex [you know, like calling someone mvuvi –fisherman – instead of mvivu – lazy], and I miss all those subtle nuances of language.

In English, I can say ‘Please leave at your early convenience’ to my guests, and when it reaches 10 p.m., I can explain to the neighbours kids that their mothers must be worried, and that they should go home and come back tomorrow.

But in Swa, I say ‘Sasa ni usiku sana, imechelewa, nafikiri mama yako anakutafuta. Nawaomba mwende nyumabni, mtakuja kucheza kesho’. And then the poor babies think I don’t want them in my house and get so terrified that they avoid princess for days!

So when Princess reported the bread scenario, I told her to put the bread away. She then went and said ‘Mama yangu amesema msile’ and put the bread in the fridge. The children were clearly worried, so I asked her to let them have as much as they liked. I was sure they wouldn’t finish everything. Princess announces ‘Mama yangu amesema mkule mpaka mshibe’. Goodness!!

The week has been trying, since each time I casually enquire about someone, it’s taken as a summons. I see a wardrobe lying in the compound and ask whose it is. Next morning the landlord’s son shows up asking for me, and princess tells him I’m asleep, and gives him my phone number. Now first, I’m always asleep. I sleep for days at a time, I routinely wake up at 4 p.m. But telling my landlord’s son I can’t see him coz I’m asleep is…bad.

Second, she gave him the wrong phone number.

So I check on him, bounce, leave a message, he checks on me, bounces, leaves a message, and on and on and on. Eventually it turns out he wants to sell me the thing. All I did was ask why it was sitting there rain and shine for two weeks!

Now I have to politely say “I’m sorry, but that’s a bit beyond the reach of my pocket, so thanks, but no thanks” in Swa. I was aiming for ‘I can’t afford that’ and ended up with ‘Siwezi lipa hiyo’… It did not go down very well.

Then I casually ask if my landlord is home, coz I need to ask about some repairs. I’m told no. Then at 12 a.m when I am sitting in my skimpy pyjamas watching the Godfather, I hear a knock. It’s the landlord. At 12? He still looks unwell. We exchange greetings then stare blankly at each other until he grouchily says ‘You wanted me?’

Er…no…I just asked if you were home…hellooo!! Now I have to say that politely in swa, preferably without stuttering, and without thinking about my state of dress.

Five minutes later, princess declares she’s hungry, and of course I have no bread, and nothing but red elephants since I had scraped my last under-the-cushion coins to buy that last loaf. Sigh.

So I convinced princess that she was tired [which she was], cranky [totally], and not hungry at all, just very sleepy. She dozed off on the cushion before I could finish my pitch.

I just love being a mum!

Amusement and delayed reflexes

I have this strange condition that I like to call … oh, I shan’t name it. I’ll just say that my ossicles, like a few other body parts, are extremely unfit. I could take the easy way out and blame it on too much wax, but I’m obsessive compulsive about cotton buds [er…cue-tips?] and shiny glass surfaces, so that can’t be it.

My lazy ossicles make it quite hard for me to communicate. Coz I suck at small talk to begin with, and thanks to my spiral ear thingies, I never actually hear anything until three seconds after it’s said. So depending on who you are and what you mean to me, my conversations have ‘what?’ and ‘pardon?’ instead of full stops. It’s why I write so much.

Here’s what happens. I usually talk in half-sentences, when I talk at all. So says my brother – my other brother, the one who sometimes has trouble understanding us. But my first brother, the one who sometimes knows what I’m saying, well, a typical conversation between us goes:

“Have you seen it? The shoe?”

“Near the door. For the kitchen.”

“Cool. And the ninii?”

“Nani kept it there near the ninii.”



At this point, my [slightly more] normal brother sighs dramatically and asks for a translation, and we wonder why. How I love my brothers. Christmas makes people think about family, and for the first time in many Christmases, I fully appreciate mine. Thanks guys, I love you. **hugs** I shall be working through Christmas, so I won’t see anyone who doesn’t reside on my office walls, but I’m with you in spirit.

Ahem , ahem, end of mushy moment. Moving along. Back to my condition. I think there’s some kind of delay between my ears and my brain. Someone will tell me something, and I’ll ask then to repeat it. Then before they can, the signal will reach the brain and I’ll respond.


Ranter : CB, where’s the cake?

CB : Huh?

Ranter : I said where’s the-

CB : Fridge, in the red dish.

Ranter : If you heard me, why did you make me repeat myself?

CB : Ati?

Ranter : If you heard me the fir-

CB : Oh, I didn’t.

Ranter : Are you making fun of me?

CB : Pardon?

Ranter : Just that you seem to be enjo-

CB : No, why would you think that?

Needless to say, I’ve spoiled a lot of dates that way. I usually hide my…problem…by saying yes and nodding a lot during conversations. I find most words can be correctly replied with ‘of course, that’s nice’. But I have found myself in messes where the Ranter was left in shock while I nodded and smiled at…inappropriate moments.

Like today when the boss asked me if I’d eaten, and I nodded and smiled, then as he was walking to the food area, the delayed message was delivered and I had to yell after him that the food hadn’t arrived yet. Ouch.

Or when I asked my landlord why he hadn’t fixed the suspended wiring, and he said he was sorry, and I nodded and smiled, and wondered why he was daggerizing me – then I heard the rest of his statement – he’s been bedridden with malaria for a week ! Oops!

So now my formula is the smile, without the nod and the affirmative. That comes in handy with nosy questions too. I find that when people are prying, they will answer their own questions if you smile quietly for long enough. It saves the effort of fibbing. The only thing harder than small talk is false small talk.

So that’s how I ended up with a date. Or at least I think it’s a date. I’m fairly sure that I got asked out today. I think.

He’s cute, warm, super flirty, fairly muslim and very married. We talk small sometimes, and I’m fairly fond of him. [Not that one *M*, this is a different one.] He asked for my number – well actually, he said in the corridor, in front of about 5 other people, that he’d like my number so he can pick me up and take me out for fish tomorrow.

Well, it was more like yelling, coz I was like 3 feet away, and he had just considered [out loud] getting my number from the receptionist before he asked me for it. Then he told me to make sure I kept my phone on this weekend. Not quite how I pictured my first un-perso-stigated date request.

What I’m wondering is, if a guy asks you out by yelling randomly in a crowded corridor, does he actually mean it, or is he just showing his boys that he knows where you live?

Mad mother on the loose

I just chewed off some boy’s head for messing with my kid.

Never mind that he was just a kid himself, and that he would probably have got his own head chewed off if he hadn’t done what he did. All I knew was that he messed with my kid, and nobody messes with my kid.

Here’s what happened. Princess gets a weekly allowance. It’s just enough for an ice cream, or half a choc bar. My way of teaching her about the value of money. I’m not sure if it’s working or not, but at least she saves up sometimes – before she buys a bigger choc bar.

So today Princess felt bright and went to the shop to buy some candy. For some strange reason, she bought some dairyfresh instead, and came home without her change.

When she got home, she changed her mind, or realized they owed her money, or just accessed her extra X chromosome, nobody really knows. But the bottom line is she didn’t want the milk anymore. So she went back to the shop and gave them back their milk. But guess what. The idiot wouldn’t give back her money!!

Now this is cash she had saved up for two weeks and restrained herself from using, so she was clearly upset. So my baby comes to me crying and explains what happened. And I get mad.


Well, for one thing, she’s not allowed to go outside the compound, which clearly, she did. Second, the shop she went to is right next to some local jobless corner – the last place I want her to be, especially after recent events. Three, those same recent events have made me drum it into her head a thousand times [okay, maybe 4 times] not to go outside alone.

So after giving her a finger-tap and quite a scolding for disobeying, and getting irritated that I had to put on some clothes [Sunday is my stay-in-pjs-skip-shower-and laze-around-in-bed day], I threw on a couple of khangas and headed to the shop.

Now mind you a khanga is fairly tight around the ankles when you wear it like I do, so I was looking all Mama Africa and walking all can’t-spread-my-feet-more-than-three-inches.

So anyway, I got to the shop, and after banging several times to get their attention [they were hiding inside the house, the little chickens!] I asked what was going on, and some kid [okay, he’s closer to 18, and kinda chubby, and once really annoyed me coz I wanted a CD burned and he had no idea what I meant but pretended to, and once tried to play all smooth and charming when he was probably high on stale milk] …the kid tells me they don’t accept goods once they are sold.

I calmly asked if she had opened the milk, and they said no, but they don’t accept goods because [at which point he thought it would be a good idea to impress me with his grasp of English. Errrngh WRONG!!] it’s drinkable, and they don’t accept goods once sold. This is the neighbourhood kiosk by the way, not Nakumatt or anything like that.

[And I’m fairly sure he didn’t actually say drinkable, but that’s what he meant]

I then, calmly still, explained that she hadn’t opened it, and she’s just a child, and she made a mistake, and surely they should give her money back. The guy sighed dramatically and was about to give my money back when the other idiot arrived. Much younger this one, with sass. Maybe 12. I call it pre-teen guts.

Anyway, the second idiot explains to me that my Princess is actually owed 100 in change. And that he was the one who had refused to give her money back, coz it’s policy.

I asked, less calm now, why my baby was crying when they actually owed her money, and that surely they can understand that she’s just six years old and she made a mistake, and I fibbed a little that I was the one who had sent her. The idiot child asked me exactly what I had sent her for, since clearly, it wasn’t milk.

By now all pretense of calm was gone, and if there hadn’t been a wrought iron between us I’d have grabbed the punk by his scrawny neck and shook him into next year ! Anyway, he still insisted that he would not give the money back.

I completely snapped. How I wanted to yank him through those bars and sit on him!! Instead I asked if they had no humanity [though I couldn’t think of the word at the time, and I might have said peace instead…]. I mean my six year old was crying so much I thought some kid had beaten her up, just because this angstious idiot wouldn’t give back 700 shillings! [that’s like 30 bob Kenyan by the way, less than a buck]

The idiot child was having none of it, so I asked him to give back my change and stormed off. It was pointed out that I should at least carry the milk, but I snapped that princess didn’t want it, and stormed off with my tiny khanga-restricted steps.

I was totally fuming at the child’s obstinance, and mad that I couldn’t fix my baby’s problem, and trying to milk it [oops, didn’t see that [pu]one!] by reminding her that this is why I want her inside and safe, because the world is full of mean idiots out to steal her money! I reminded her that now she had no milk and no money, when all she’d wanted was a bar of Alpella.

I felt I should let her feel the pinch and let her stay without the money, but I couldn’t resist her poor baby face. And the whole hood had witnessed my scene and were consoling the poor child [mine that is. I care less about the other one’s consolation]. Needless to say, they now know the strange wordless Kenyan has a vicious temper to boot.

I ended up refunding her money, and making her promise not to go to that particular shop again, or to go outside at all. Clearly, it didn’t work, coz she just came to ask me if she can go out. Sigh. Well, at least she asked.

Moral of the day : don’t mess with a mummy. We’re worse than the proverbial scorned female.

I wonder how I’m going to face those two idiot children in the street from now on. I know I won’t go to their shop again, but I can’t just sneer at them forever. I’ll get wrinkles. I might box their ears though. Or sit on them.

And I wonder if I should go back and get that milk. After all, she did pay for it.

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