Category Archives: Identity

1 Week to 30: 9 Random Things About Me

1. I am shy: Kindly spare me the rolling eyes. Really I am. It was worse when I was younger. I couldn’t speak to people. Especially boys. Over the years I learned to overcome it, and cover it up by being loud. But it still happens when I’m caught off guard. A random compliment can throw me off completely and one of the downs of being light is that it is evident! But I recover quickly. So next time you say something to me and I seem a bit aloofish, just consider that maybe I’m tongue-tied 😀

2. I’ve never cooked ugali. I can feel your raised eyebrows and whistles of disbelief. See, the thing is at home, the staple food is rice. So that was the first thing we were taught to cook. But we do eat Ug, but since there was many of us, there was always someone else cooking it. And whenever I invite my friends over, they always ask me to do Swahili food. Enyewe to be honest, I have no idea how this happened. I love eating it, I’ve just never cooked it. So I ended being a girl who can cook biriani in half an hour but can’t do ugali. My girl tells me I should forget getting married to a Luhya man.  😦

3. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. I was fascinated by the night sky. I would take walks at night looking at stars and counting constellations for hours. I once read that there was a shower expected that night, so I set up a mattress in the backyard and watched the sky. And I got to see this huge comet, orange and it moved from one end of the sky to  the next. It was amazing. Then one day I discovered I was afraid of heights. Yeah, that was the end of that dream.

Check out these pics, I felt woozy just looking at them!

4. I have this thing about my toes. When people look at them, I get the urge to hide them. I don’t know why. I know they’re unusual looking (yes, unusual not weird!) so I’m self-conscious about them. Weird thing is even if I’m wearing closed shoes, and someone looks at them, they just curl. Very strange.

(These are weird toes!)

5. You know that thing they say about women being great at multi tasking? Well, it skipped me. I can’t multi task worth anything. When I concentrate on one thing, I close off everything else. I annoy the hell out of my pals. Like when we’re hanging out and there’s a show on and I won’t hear the convo cos I’m listening to the show. I suspect I might also have a nothing box in my brain like men.

6. I don’t embarrass easy. You know why? Because when I was around 12 the most embarrassing thing happened to me. I was at my grandma’s house with loads of my cousin. So I went to the loo. Now, the person who built that house had a weird sense of humour. First the loo was those ones you squat. Secondly, it was a bit raised. 3rd, the window was pretty low. So the first thing you did when you went to the loo was make sure the window is closed. I was too pressed. The next thing I hear is loud laughter. I look behind me and I see that I was mooning the whole group. Plus one of my cousin’s pal whom I had a huge crush on. FML. So every time an embarrassing situation comes up, I tell myself, you survived mooning your crush, it really can’t get worse than that.

7. I have weird memory patterns. Very bad short-term memory. There was this time I was talking to my friend on phone, and she asked me to do something for her. Immediately after her call someone else called me. When I was done with that call, I couldn’t remember what my friend had told me, I had to call her back and ask her. However, I have very good long-term memory. I remember things that happened 10 years ago. With clarity. I remember phone numbers of people who I was in high school with. Landline  phone numbers from the 90s. And I remember birth dates, but not always who they belong to. So I’d be like today’s someone’s birthday but I have no idea who. The question is, when do the short-term become the long-term? Someone help?

8. When I was like 10, I chased my cousin around the hood with a knife. I don’t remember exactly what he did, but I took a kitchen knife and ran after him screaming “Today I’ll kill you.” My cousin had to go hide behind his mother (wuss) So I stood there ranting like a mad person well kid and the whole hood came out to see. My mum whipped me proper for that. I honestly don’t know where it came from. I haven’t had any such moment since, but it’s comforting to know that I have it in me, you know, in case I get a role in a movie and I have to be the deranged killer 😀

9. I get easily affected by small things, but when a real crisis happens I’m calm enough to handle it. I think I’m just a contradiction. Sometimes, I get upset because I went to the supermarket and couldn’t find my favourite brand of yoghurt and I was really looking forward to having that yoghurt. It can ruin my whole afternoon. But I get into a mat and realize I left my wallet at home and face a mean looking makanga, and I calmly try to come up with an alternative. My pal is constantly telling me, stop sweating the small stuff. I’m still learning.

Signed

Aisha

1 Week to 30: This is how it all started

Greetings, dear readers,

So it’s almost my birthday, 1 week left and I’m going to share a few things about me. Why you ask? cos I can 😛

Seriously though, this is a milestone birthday for me and not just age wise, but mentally and emotionally. I don’t usually make a big deal out of it, but this year, as Churchill would say I celebrate me.  🙂

This is how it started.

The story is told, of a young woman, of 23, in her second year of marriage. Heavy with child, her labour of love. This woman, beautiful and proud, bore her load with her ancestors pride. One evening, the little one she had nurtured within was ready to see the world. I wonder what she thought at that time. Did she want to tell her child to stay in, to wait a little bit longer. Had she encountered the harshness of the world and she wanted to spare her. Or maybe the world had been kind to her so far. After all, she was practically newly wed and about to have her first child. And maybe she couldn’t wait to introduce her little one to the beauty of it.

So it was, she was basking in the glow of her wondrous journey. She was sitting in the back yard of the house set on a cliff, feeling the salty sea breeze cool her, when the first pain struck. But she, being new to this, ignored it. It was too faint. And she knew, her gift to this world would not come with such a timid call.  Several minutes later, there it was again. And this time she couldn’t ignore. She knew it was time.

Haha. Ok, maybe that’s not really how it happened.

From what I’ve been told, it was not an easy birth. I was born on Monday evening, after many hours of I’m sure , painful labour.  The first-born child of a young couple in their early 20s. My father worked in Nairobi at the time so he wasn’t there for my birth. Though I’ve been told of how  my dad was so happy when I was born he used to stare at me for hours –  true story-  until my great grandma complained. It is taboo in our culture to over compliment a new-born lest you give them the bad eye. I was born in Mombasa,  raised in Nairobi. What a clash of cultures.

They say my name Aisha was taken from my mum’s aunt but hers was the proper Swahili one Mwanaisha. I hear she was a good woman; pious, a good wife and mother. I hope I have carried her name well, and I too will be remembered kindly. My uncle, mum’s older brother remembers her the clearest. He calls me the original one. And he’s the only person I don’t correct. I prefer Aisha.

The life expectancy of a Kenyan woman is about 60, so it makes me wonder am I middle-aged already? That is a sombre thought. I’ve not even finished being young yet! But it sort of keeps stuff in perspective. When I think of how fast the first 30 years passed, it gives you an idea on just how life is short. How life is not to be wasted.

For the last couple of years I have been dreading each birthday, each addition of years. I wasn’t scared of growing older per se, it was more a matter of my age in line with my goals. I felt that I hadn’t been able to achieve what I felt I was supposed to, what I had wanted to when I was a kid. It’s in the last 2 years that I started to learn that I am exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly how it had been planned, doing exactly what I was supposed to.

So happy almost birthday to me.

Signed

Aisha

God Made Me A Woman: Part 3

“Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”
Khaled Hosseini ( A Thousand Splendid Suns)

Sometimes I feel like I’m the most unfortunate citizen of this world.

I am African. We who have been used and abused over the centuries, first by foreign powers who came and “discovered” us to our detriment and then by  our own leaders who believe our continent main use o help for increasing their wealth and big stomachs.

I am a Muslim. With Arabic ancestry. From the shores of Lamu where the first Arabs settled in Kenya. My Swahili dialect is filled with hot sands of the deserts of Arabia.  Also, right now, the world’s most wanted. In today’s world the word Islam most times connotes the image of a bomb strapped, beard faced fanatic. With madness in his eyes.

And then I am a woman. The default victim. Everyone’s scapegoat. An afterthought.

On any given day, I can find at least 2 articles in newspapers, on the internet or even  within conversations that make me feel attacked, belittled, oppressed.

A headline like “Woman sexually assaulted by Muslim barbarians” raises all sorts of emotions from me. This was from the Lara Logan sexual assault story.  My Muslim brothers attacked a fellow woman. Wooosah.

But from all these identities, I have found being a woman has been the hardest. Especially when it comes to personal goals . When you’re a kid you live in a world where you think every thing is possible. So you build your dreams with an innocence and naivety. When I was younger I wanted to be an actor. I did a bit of drama in school, but it was just for Prize Giving day occasions. I  imagined myself on stage the first Kenyan to win an Oscar. But that remained a vague dream. I’m a Swahili girl. I cannot be on stage. It’s just not done where I come from. Those who have, have had to endure a lot and fight hard for it. I commend them.

I have dreamed of many things. I have had to lay many of them to rest.  Stillborn pieces of what I could have been.

A lot has changed for women. Even for Muslim women. We are educated and we  are allowed to work. Note that I said allowed. It is never our choice. We are contributing members of our societies. But not too much, lest our voices become louder than our men. But we still have a long way to go. My friend recently quit her job because she was frustrated. She was qualified to be head of her department but they would not promote her because she was a woman. The cherry on top was when she had to train the person that they eventually hired. A previously dedicated employee became disillusioned.

When a woman does something wrong, the whole society feels like they’re entitled to correct her. She can be undressed in the streets for not dressing up to standards, she can be insulted in public. She is a woman, a community property; It’s their responsibility to keep her in the right path.

Women are still raped and abused. Simply because they’re there. Children are destroyed everyday. Simply because they’re female.

When a man does something wrong, it is his business. God will handle him.

I have been overwhelmed by the sentiment today. I am celebrated. The same mouth that called me a ho last night, is today calling me a queen. I wonder how that tastes.

I am not proud to be a woman. I had no choice in the matter. I just was. But I accept and I live up to it.

I am a woman; I carry with me the magnitude of the word. I celebrate myself.

Happy International Women’s Day. Beyond this day.

Heart’s Awakening

It’s amazing how much we take for granted. And how much we can go through life without even realizing it. Because we’ve always had something; family, friends, health, life, religion, we assume we have a right to it and hence treat it as we choose. Sometimes we barely notice that we have it. It’s relegated to the background of our lives.

It’s only when you are confronted by someone else, someone who discovered what you’ve always had and see it through their eyes that you realize just how lucky you have been. You see someone else hold what you always thought was rightfully yours, and you see them look at it with awe and wonder in their eyes. You see the gentleness in their hands as if they are holding the most fragile thing, and you think of how roughly you’ve mishandled it. You see the joy in their faces, for discovering this thing, for finally being able to have this thing and you think of the millions of times that you barely acknowledged it. You see how this person is willing to sacrifice so much to protect it, the struggle they go through every day to make sure they have it and your eyes are suddenly opened and you see the beauty of what you always had, in the hands of someone else. You see just how ungrateful you have been.

My heart is filled with shame. Shame and profound sadness for all the years I have wasted in my life pursuing fickle things, chasing after this world, when Allah blessed me, the day I was born a Muslim. I read a strangers words and saw myself through their eyes, saw the beauty of the gift that was bestowed upon me and I weep. I weep with shame and regret and with hope. Hope that all is not lost yet.  The journey of life is filled with discovery, making mistakes and missteps. The lucky ones are allowed to see the errors of their ways, and to correct them.

To the stranger whose words will always resonate in my heart, I thank you. May Allah open the gates of the highest place in Jannah for you.

May Allah forgive me my  past transgressions and lead the Ummah to the right path. Ameen

“Ya muqalibul quluub thabit qalbii ala diinik”