Innocence

I once slept in a cell. I was in my mid-twenties, and found myself in a filthy cell in Nairobi’s Shauri Moyo. A bucket of poop was at the door, inside the cell, where the crowded inmates relieved themselves in the open. A drunken fellow had wrapped himself around the bucket using it as a pillow as other inmates occasionally had him slightly raise his head so that they can urinate on it, tiny sludgy muddy droplets of the toxic concoction splashing on his face. He just continued wrapped himself on that bucket overnight sniffling from an obvious cold. This bucket should be labeled “highly infectious waste” like that red bucket at Nairobi women’s hospital laboratory section waiting room which patients occasionally use to vomit in.

I had come from the Kinyozi, at around nine at night, where the estate barber had given me a clean shave. It was a Friday night. I was heading home 200 meters away, 500 bob in the pocket to last me the next week, as I went ahead with my job search. I was already 3 months in rent arrears, but the landlord of the seven story contraption of hundreds of single roomed houses in Eastleigh was so busy putting up more contraptions on swamps to even notice I had not paid up. But occasionally, he would write SMS messages threatening to evict my sorry ass. As I took a bend where Mwarimo had his popular mutura joint, a troop of police officers, thugs really, landed on me with kicks and blows and ordered I sit in a dark corner. We were many that night that were rounded up in the popular slums msako that is meted on innocent youths. As I tried to ID myself, that I was a peace keeping, not just peace loving Kenyan, my lips were met by a mighty slap that combined the teeth and tongue together. I swallowed metal. Why does blood taste like metal? I knew better than to protest. It did not take long before the Mariamu came, and took us to the station. Some of the boys managed to get off before we got to the station by bribing the police. The minimum they accepted was 500 bob. No way was I going to part with my week’s lifeline.

We were about fifty inmates on a 25 meter squared room. There were children as young as ten years in the same cell. Their crime? Scaling the perimeter fence at Eastleigh military airbase. The room was hot, filthy, and smoke filled with a tiny ventilation starting and ending on the roof. A favorite port for mosquitos. In the overcrowded room, butts of cigarettes changed hands, where only a single puff was remaining, with many just smoking the spongy wet saliva filled filter. Prisoner traders were trading the puffs at 10 bob each, as they excitedly plunged themselves in the pockets of new arrivals to rob them of whatever valuables they had not left with the police safe keeper on the door where we left our belts, one shoe, money, and anything you wanted the thieves masquerading as police to keep in safe custody. That is where I registered by 500 bob, belt, and cellular phone. The safe custody was a huge wooden box where everything anybody had was mixed together. From cellphones, to wallets, to belts to … anything.

There were two bread slice thin mattresses which were used by the borders. The mattress, which had no covers had patches of dried poop. Dried manure actually spread in a way that it looked like Weetabix. Dried curated poop that looked harmless. The boarding prisoners stayed in the cell for months without ever being prosecuted. One had been inside for a month. He claimed his employer had thrown him in for refusing to remit money he got on a return trip ferrying cargo in a lorry to which he was the driver. “The main trip belongs to my employer, the return trip belongs to me, otherwise I could just have returned with no cargo. I looked for that job”. He argued.

When the heavily armed AK47 cladding policeman came to refill the cell with more thugs, I begged to stand on the corridors for a minute to escape the hot smokey cell. He threatened to throw me on the next cell that had lunatics screaming all night long. That made me see our hotel room as paradise. I chose paradise.

We slept standing. We slept sitting. And most importantly we slept wide awake. There was no room to sleep sleeping.

We slept standing. We slept sitting. And most importantly we slept wide awake. There was no room to sleep sleeping. Families trooped in the police station all night long securing the release of their loved ones. The desperate paid as much as 10,000. Those who were good at bargaining paid 5,000. Those who were patient paid 2,000. The poor poor stayed in the cells. We did not attempt to bargain. As jobless as I was, I was still the breadwinner in my family. The only person I could call to save myself was myself. And my week’s keep 500 bob. There was no way I was letting that 500 bob depart me. That was my week’s savior, despite not being united with it since it was under the safe custody. I had let my equally hopeless and jobless roommate, Gyvon know I was incarcerated.

In the morning, after the roll call, cloudy warm tea was served with bread. We lunged into it with dirty hands with no care in the world that we had congress with the prison bucket. That is what hunger does to you.

By morning, my will was weakened, resolve broken. That is what incarsaration does to someone. Beat them. Break them. Then steal from them. Fleece them. These poor slum dwellers have nowhere to hide. The every reliable Gyvon was there. And Catherine representing my mum. Waiting in queue to hear my crimes, and the next cause of action.

These atrocities still happen today in slums in the name of msako. Say no to msako which imprisons young men in their own localities.


I pursuit of CC & CL in the TM series. CC3: How to own a house in Nairobi

Specific purpose: after the speech, you will be able to compare ways to own a house in Nairobi.
Test Audience: to see if the purpose of has been achieved. Using this steps, is owning a house in Nairobi
within your reach?

I came to Nairobi in January 2006, approximately 11 years ago, armed with a small shoulder bag with 2 shirts, 2 trousers, a diploma, and nowhere to sleep. I had 5000 shillings pocket money. From my research through daily nation classifieds, there were some hostels in Ngara where you could be accommodated at 3000 shillings per month. I called my friend Njoroge to take me to Ngara and help me identify the hostels. Njoroge, being a FRIEND could not allow me live in a hostel, and he hosted me in their home until I was able to settle. The Njoroge’s were lucky because they lived in their house bought many decades ago by their father. This got me thinking on also owning my own house.

Owning your own house is one of the most fulfilling things in life. It gives one the peace of mind.
In George Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon, The fifth cure for a lean purse states :

Thus come many blessings to the man who owns a house. And greatly will it reduce his cost of living, making available more of his earnings for pleasures and the gratification of his desires. This, then, is the fifth cure for a lean purse: own your own home.

I will therefore try to demonstrate three ways to own a house in Nairobi, which are
1. Buy a ready-made house.
2. Buy an off plan house through a cooperative.
3. Buy a plot and build your ideal house.

1. Buy a ready-made house
This may be the easiest route to home ownership if you have deep pockets, or you have access to a mortgage plan. A two bedroom ready-made house within Nairobi would range from 6m to 30m depending on the location; while a 3 bedroom would range from 8m to 50m. The price alone would make this option
prohibitive to most Nairobi residents. Depending on the type of house, a bungalow or mansion with its own compound would be most expensive compared to a housing unit in an apartment flat. The advantage of buying a readymade house is you will not go through the hustles of constructing a house. The disadvantage is the cost may be prohibitive to many. If you us a mortgage, the price of any unit you chose would double over the payment period.

2. Buy an off plan house through a cooperative.
In this model, you pool resources together, through a form of cooperative. An off-plan house is which you purchase while it is still on paper. You may only know the location where the house would be build. Your contribution will form the initial capital that will go into building the house. One should be careful to ensure they chose a reputable and honest off-plan providers least the provider escapes with all your funds. THE FOURTH CURE for a lean purse according to the richest man in Babylon is:

“Guard thy treasures from loss”.

The advantage of pooled resources enable you to own a house in a good location. Buying your own land in say Runda or Kilimani may be out of reach, but if you pull resources together, you will be able to afford. The advantage of an off-plan arrangement is it is cheaper than buying an already made house. This is especially so if you are buying a housing unit in an apartment. Another advantage is you do not have to deal with the hustles of following up with masons and handy men. The cost of an off plan unit would range from 4m to 10m for a 2 bedroom house and 6m to 15 for a 3 bedroom house depending on the location. The disadvantage of this is you may get crooks who run away with you home savings.

3. Buy a plot and build your own house
finally, you may opt to buy land and build your ideal house. With this option, you have full flexibility, and you are the master of your own fate. You can buy a plot and pay for it within a certain period. Then you can start building the house immediately you have gathered enough resources. The advantage is after you have built the initial structure, the four walls and a roof, you can move in and continue with the finishing while inside. Another advantage is you move at your own pace, and there is no pressure from financiers unlike taking a mortgage. The disadvantage of this is the cost of a plot within Nairobi would be prohibitive since you are not getting economies of scale provided by the cooperative model.

In conclusion, the option you choose to own a house will depend on your own circumstances. You can choose to buy a ready-made house, purchase an off-plan through a cooperative, or buy land and build.
I chose the second option some three years ago, purchased an offplan house, and now I live in my own
house.

With these three methods of owning a house within Nairobi, is owning a house within your reach?
Great, then start today in your journey into home ownership.


One wise person said, “The Man Who Does Not Read good books Has No Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read.” This applies to women as well by the way. Three years ago today, I decided I wanted to be a more prolific reader.

I identified the Kindle as the device that would enable me accomplish the goal. Instead of carrying a boxload of books, I would just pack then in one small portable device, and read a dozen books a month. After all, kindle versions are usually cheaper than paperback books.

So I sought to buy an e-reader, and the kindle paper white was the obvious leader. (show picture of kindle paperwhite) It is slim and very portable, can accommodate hundreds of books, and it does not develop dog ears.

So I went shopping on the Amazon website for that perfect paper white kindle. Amazon had like 10 versions of kindles. I was a bit confused. Why give a man a choice while you can have only one perfect product and save him the paradox of choice? They had the paperback version alright, but they came in different dimensions and capacity. 5″, 8″, 1GB, 2GB. And they had the Kindle HD that had Android operating system and could do a lot more. This also came in 8″ and 11″. Then they had the Kindle HDX ultimate, which came in 32 and 64, and 128GB, and 8″, and 11.5″. The HDX was dazzling, crystal clear images, great front and back camera, HD movie support, Internet browser, wifi, Bluetooth, and all bells and whistles that come with modern tablets. I fell in love. You see what Amazon did, they oversold a product to me.

This is a Kindle (show the big kindle). I know, It’s big, right? So I ended up buying the Kindle HDX, at a price I would not disclose to my mother, because that was the same cost of a 40*80 plot in our neighborhood. The plots where when you step out of the house, you are on the streets. Never mind.

Now I have this sparkling new Kindle HDX, that could do more than just read books. I could tweet great paragraphs, or Facebook them. Of course if I switched to Twitter, I had to check who had followed or un-followed me, scroll through the timeline, and lazy around retweeting and replying to fans, before switching to Facebook where I would spend another hour in vanity. Then to compensate for the lost time, I would open Temple Run the game and run, and run through the jungle, and slide through cool looking streams collecting golden coins and treasure. By the time I realise what I’m doing, 3 hours have gone by, and my reading time is over.

This pattern went on for a while, until I vowed to arrest it. I bought some physical paperback books which I can read with minimum interruption, with the phones and tablets stored far away. (show the books).

The paradox is, the paper white Kindle could solve all that. Friends, don’t fall for the paradox of choice. When you have rationally made a decision to pursue a path, let distractions not derail you. Pursue it with singular vision, and that way, you shall achieve your goals.

 

You see now, I still need to buy a Kindle, the paperwhite.

Speech delivered at Sema Toastmasters on 22nd November 2017, in the Humorous speech contest, meeting 215 at United Kenya Club, Nairobi, Kenya