Category Archives: Uncategorized

WILL THIS BE A PROBLEM: ANTHOLOGY 2 REVIEW

The Economy of Spoons and Other Short Stories

Lemmi say straight off the bat, this is not going to be a regular review. I will not analyze the stories in a formal way, I’m just gonna write about what I thought of the stories, what I liked about them and what if anything I felt should have been added. But mostly what they made me feel. Because I think it’s more important what a story makes you feel than how the sentences are arranged. Also, I’m gonna try to explain as much as possible without giving out spoilers.

I like short stories because when they’re well written they’re quite a treat. Also because I haven’t been able to write a novel yet, just short stories, so solidarity. But seriously, short stories fit in well with the stories we were told as kids. And I think being able to start and finish a story in just 3000 words, making it interesting and giving everything you’d expect to find in a novel takes real talent.

So, of course the first story you read in an anthology is the title story, right? Because by choosing that story as the title, they’ve made you curious. What’s the science of choosing a title story anyways? Why this story? Is it gonna set the tone of the whole anthology? Is there a secret message in it that will be unlocked in the other stories? Or was it just the first story submitted?

The Economy of Spoons is a story written by Kevin Rigathi. It is set in a high school, that place where all the important life battles are fought. After that we’re just dealing with the aftermath. Main character in this story is Sky, the kinda kid in high school that we all pretend we weren’t. In the periphery, barely standing out and majority of people will later ask “Who?” when asked if they remember us. I didn’t know what to expect with this story, so it was interesting to see where the author was taking us. The story started from the first sentence, building up to the end. The writing was light and fun throughout, sort of like running at a comfortable jog. And the twist at the end was very well done, not at all where I expected the story to go. Kevin is funny without taking himself too seriously, so it appears effortless. This was a fun read. Oh, also there’s an electronic toothbrush that’s used as a sex toy in the story. Yes. Someone needs to have words with Kevin.

With that story setting the tone, I was sufficiently intrigued about the rest of the anthology so I now started from the beginning and the next thing I knew I had read ¾ of the anthology in one sitting. It was so good. There is no specific theme to the stories, just a couple of good stories put together. I loved this, because the diversity of the writers made the anthology an interesting experience. One minute I was reading about the anguish of making bad choices in Jemmi by Judyannette Muchiri and the next I was reading a very intriguing afro-futuristic take on the old Pinocchio stoty, Pinocchia by Kena Muigai. This eclectic mix keeps the anthology fast paced without getting too much. It was soon obvious that I couldn’t know what to expect next.

I can’t say that there was any bad story in this collection, just some stories I liked more than others. What was exciting for me though, was discovering all these writers that I’d never heard of. Nadya Ngumi’s story A Fresh Start was interesting and different. Ms Takes by Nanania (please, someone tell me who this writer is because I must find her and read more of her stuff) had my mouth open because of how much it pushed the envelope. The Doctor’s Trick, collaboration between Kevin Rigathi and Sally Ireri had me in stitches; it is hilarious and bold and spunky.

Another thing that I really liked is how they punctuated the stories with poetry and abstract short proses. The break allows you to absorb the story you’ve just read before moving on to the next. Not that these poems and proses aren’t engrossing on their own. I’m still thinking about what Mbithe Mosa was saying in Limbic Resonance, still wondering if Sabrina Najib was talking about me or just colours in Orange Needs More Than Blue and I think Melchizedek Muya’s poem Rhyme and Reason at the end is the sweetest thing (insert heart emojis)

But one story that took me completely by surprise was I Shot The Cheating Bastard by Peter Nena. I was not ready. This story about heartbreak and pain punched me straight in my chest and I held my breath the whole time I was reading it. It’s the last story in the anthology and longer than the rest, but after reading it, you understand why they ended the anthology with this story. It sticks in your mind and lingers for a long time after, possibly while you are curled in a fetal position. It is a beautifully written story and the writer forces you to feel everything his main character is feeling while at the same time making a dark story humorous. I honestly don’t understand how Peter Nena had the audacity to unleash this on my unsuspecting heart. I need reparations or something.

A lot has been said about how Kenyan writing is not good enough and as much as I don’t want to take part of that, this anthology shows that people are just not reading Kenyan writers who are writing right now about the things that THEY want to write about. I had a conversation recently with a poet from the UK and they asked about what the writing space in Kenya was like. And I told them that we’re tired of being tied to our past and we’re now trying to build our own spaces and define Kenyan writing by what it means to US. This anthology is proof of that. Whether you think this matches up to your expectations of what you consider Kenyan writing or not, it’s really not it’s problem. It is here, and Kenyans have written it. It does not seek to be anything other than good writing and good stories. Take it, or leave it.

You can read and download the anthology here

Advertisements

How To Make a Feminist Chicken Biriani

I haven’t blogged on here for 3 years. It feels kinda weird but also nice. I’ve missed this.

Feminist Biriani 

So earlier this year, I had invited a couple of friends to my house for lunch and tweeted about making them biriani. Some random dude on Kenyan Twitter decided to use that to mock me and Feminists in general. And so the term #FeministBiriani was coined. The food and the day ended up being dope and the sad man yelled at his keyboard because his plot to ruin my day was defeated. I took some pictures that day cos I wanted to tweet the recipe but then got lazy and too full.

This week, someone asked for a pilau recipe and as I was sending to her and a few others I decided to finally put down the recipe for the #FeministBiriani. Hope y’all enjoy.

*Warning* Using this recipe might turn you into a Feminist. Tread carefully. 

Ok, so Biryani itself originated from South East Asia, although even Wiki doesn’t know from where specifically. I’m assuming the Swahili learned it from Indian traders who came to the Coast back when. I’ve noticed that there’s slight differences in how the we make it and how Kenyan Indians do it today.

images

Image from Google.com

Like with everything else, there’s a specific way that biryani is cooked that’s considered the authentic way. In the older days there was no gas cookers and pressure cookers or meat tenderizers and all that. I remember the biryani meat used to be marinated in yoghurt and raw pawpaw to soften it. This also works with kienyeji chicken since it’s tougher. Sometimes they used to marinate and then slow cook it the whole night. The deliciousness of this cannot be described. Oh Em Gee! But I haven’t seen this method used in ages, especially the raw pawpaws.

Image from Google.com

Image from Google.com

Biryani basically is a rice and sauce dish. The rice is cooked separately and the sauce separately. Some versions of it have the sauce and rice mixed during the last stage of cooking and then served as one dish and another, they’re served separately. The mixing version works best when cooking either in a jiko or using kuni and is mostly done for huge quantities during functions. If it’s done well, I like this version cos the rice absorbs the sauce and it’s quite delicious.

CBNEJubVAAEaaN1

The original Feminist Biriani

This recipe I’m gonna share is my mum’s version of chicken Biryani and it’s my favourite because it’s pretty easy to make but also delicious. The taste doesn’t stray from the original biryani taste.

Ok, let’s start.

Ingredients

Sauce- For 4-5 people

  • 1 Whole chicken
  • 5 large onions
  • 10 Tomatoes chopped into pieces
  • 6 large potatoes split into fours
  • 1 medium sized garlic head, peeled
  • 1 medium sized ginger root- peeled
  • 2 table spoons of tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of Dhania
  • 1 Capsicum- chopped
  • 4 large Carrots- chopped
  • Oil- Enough to fry the chicken, potatoes and onions.
  • Spices- Cinamon, cardamom, cumin, black pepper. Grind loosely so that it still has chunks sticking out.
  • Alternatively, bottled Pilau Masala
  • Optional- Spanish Paprika, parsley and rosemary.
  • Secret Feminism Potion

Rice

  • 2 Cups Rice
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • Food colour- yellow, orange or red (or all)

Method

Rice:

I prefer cooking the rice first since it’s faster. This is cooked the way you normally cook rice depending on how much rice you’re making. Boil water with salt, add rice, cook. Or in a rice cooker as I did mine

DSC_0272

One distinct feature of the biryani is the colourful rice. There’s really nothing much to this other than food colour. When the rice is almost dry, before you cover to leave it to dry completely, mix a little bit of food colour preferably yellow/orange or you can do both colours and maybe some red, the more colourful, the better with a little bit of water, (don’t make it to watery cos we don’t want to make the rice soggy)

DSC_0277

Dig shallow holes in the rice and pour bits of the colour, each colour on a separate hole. Cover the holes and your rice and let it cook completely.

DSC_0280

Before serving the rice, mix it so the coloured parts can spread.

DSC_0296

Ok, now for the chicken sauce

Cut your chicken into desired pieces. Set it aside to dry. When it’s dry, dust it with salt and black pepper.

DSC_0271

Heat some oil and fry the chicken lightly. About 2 mins each side. We just need it to cook a little at this stage. Set it aside.

DSC_0288

Next, fry the onions until they’re dark brown. Blend them with a little water into a paste. Alternatively if you can find bottled onion paste, you can use that.

DSC_0233

DSC_0237

DSC_0285

Next, put some yellow or orange food colour on the potatoes, toss to coat them evenly, then fry them until they’re completely cooked. Set them aside.

DSC_0236 DSC_0244

Next, put all the other ingredients including the Feminism Potion in a blender and blend them into a thick paste. The trick here is to use the tomatoes as a base so that you won’t need to add any water. This sauce is supposed to be very thick so use as little water as possible.

DSC_0239 DSC_0243 DSC_0247DSC_0248

Pour this mixture in your pan. Add the spices/pilau masala and tomato paste. I like adding spanish Paprika cos it adds a certain sweetness and some herbs, but this isn’t compulsory. Add salt to your taste.

DSC_0254DSC_0257

The essence of this dish, is to allow the ingredients to simmer rather than boil. At first, bring it to a boil for about a minute then reduce the heat and let it cook until it becomes a thick stew. It should almost dry, no visible water just oil.

DSC_0260DSC_0259

When the stew has reduced and is almost dry, put in the chicken, add the potatoes and pour in the onion paste Stir thoroughly so that the chicken and potatoes are well mixed with the sauce. Increase the heat and cover for about 2 mins

DSC_0289 DSC_0290DSC_0293

Meanwhile, reheat the oil you had used to fry the chicken and potatoes. When it’s completely hot, pour onto the sauce, all around the pot. Turn off the heat, put in the dhania and cover and let it sit until serving time.

DSC_0294DSC_0286

And the sauce is ready.

Serve with a kachumbari salad and pilipili.

DSC_0297 DSC_0298

DSC_0299

Extra: Pilipili

Pilipili

DSC_0287

Blend the following together. The quantities don’t really matter, depends on how much pilipili you want to make and how hot you want it to be. If you don’t want it too hot, reduce the number of chillies. You can make a lot of this and put it in a jar and store in the fridge to use for later.

  • Green chillies
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Put the mixture in a pan, add oil and salt, put in low heat and cover. Put some lemon juice or if you have tamarind paste, or vinegar. Allow to simmer until it becomes a thick paste with no water, only oil. Adjust salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.

DSC_0300

(NB: Pics aren’t of the best quality, poleni)

Love Actually

It is with horror that I find myself drawn to write a post on Valentine’s. About love. It’s especially curious because I’ve been trying to  complete my holiday posts and it’s been difficult finding the right words and everything I write doesn’t feel good enough to be posted.  And yet here I am with sentences rushing through my mind begging to be let out. So here goes. But be warned, this post is more rambling than anything specific so bear with me.

Never is an emotion revered, vilified, ignored, ranted at and blamed as love is during this time. The ones in love can’t gush enough about it. The heartbroken are asking why, the cynics are dressing it in sarcasm. Love is everywhere.

Most of us, especially girls, got our idea of romantic love from the Cinderella and Snow White books that we read at a very early age. We would suffer, then our prince would come rescue us, and then we’d live happily ever after. As teenagers this notion was reinforced by the Mills and Boon books we sneaked into our rooms, filling our young impressionable minds with fantasies of tall dark handsome men who will come sweep us off our feet. This mindset usually set us up for our first heartbreak. Of course nothing works out as the books had suggested. Some of us become quickly disillusioned while others continue to hold on to the idea that he was just the wrong one. The real prince will come. Years later, we get on with the business of living and the dreams we once held about happy ever after are forgotten.

But there’s something I’ve noticed about my age group as far as love, especially romantic love,  is concerned. We don’t like admitting it’s a big part of us. When in a relationship, we try hard not to appear too in love. When we break up, we pretend it didn’t matter. Tuck it in out of sight. No one likes to see love’s disappointments  . Better go get drunk. We seem to be a generation scared of our feelings. My apprehension at writing this post shows how much we avoid expressing or talking about love. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeves, it’s unseemly

What am I on about? I guess I’m just lamenting the loss of love. These days people love in bits, always with an exit plan. We’re disillusioned and cynical. And afraid. That’s why the men walking with flowers today are behaving like they’re committing a capital offense. Yet I know of someone who married her first love, years after they broke up and lost contact. 2 people in fact. Then there’s also the couple that dated for 10 yrs. There were so many obstacles in their way, it always looked like they will never end up together but finally got married. Stuff that romantic books are made of.

So maybe there’s still hope for us. Maybe love actually does exist.

The Traveller: Getting to Dubai

I’ve always wanted to travel. The idea of going to far-away places, meeting different kinds of people, experiencing different types of cultures has a certain appeal. I always say that if I got really rich, instead of acquiring material stuff like most people would do, the money for me would mean freedom to go anywhere I want to. Live a year in Brazil, 6 months in Nepal , 2 years in Egypt (may they get peace and stability soon). Different places, different people.

Last year I finally decided to actually do some traveling rather than just fantasize about it. Even if it’s on a low-budget. So in December when my friend told me we should visit our other who lives in Dubai it was the perfect opportunity. The three of us have been friends since we were like 10. The friend who lives in Dubai has been asking us to visit her for a while but it’s never come through. So it was pretty exciting for us to finally get a chance for the three to hang out. At first we weren’t sure we’d make it this time either, and we almost cancelled a couple of times, but luckily we managed to get our stuff together and set the date for end of January. Due to logistics we ended up traveling on different dates with me travelling a day earlier and my other friend travelling the next day.

My trip was uneventful, thank God. Since this was my very first time venturing beyond our East African borders I was a bit apprehensive and my mum gave me enough warnings of “”don’t help people with babies, they hide drugs in their diapers!’ My flight was for 1640 and I arrived at around 11.pm Dubai time. Dubai airport is pretty simple cos everything is clearly marked and I went through immigration ok, though the guys there were rather unfriendly. Guess they didn’t like working at that time of the night. But I was happy that I was out of the airport in a short time.

I managed to get a taxi and direct it to where I was staying. My first view of Dubai was at night and it was amazing. Lots of lit up sky scrapers decorated the skyline.

Dubai at Night. Sorry for the not so clear photo

The taxi managed to get me to my friend’s house with her giving directions. One thing I noticed is driving is complicated. If you miss a turning, you have to go quite a distance to get back on the right road. There’s no U-turning on random places and you can’t go up pavements. Someone said as much as fuel is cheap, they do a lot more driving for short distance.  Oh, also the driver stopped at a red light at an empty road until it turned green. I imagined what our Kenyan drivers would have done. lol.But the roads are amazing. Super highways and complicated networks. Hopefully this is what the Chinese have in mind for our roads.

I spent the first day doing some mild sight-seeing while waiting for my friend who was arriving at 2am. I feel asleep at around 9 and was woken up by her “We’re in Dubai” screams.  She had arrived safely.

Finally the 3 musketeers were reunited!

Next: The Traveller: Confessions of a Shopaholic  

The Last Blog Post of 2011

For some reason I had an urge to write a final blog post for the year 2011. Ironic because I wasn’t much of a blogger in 2011. As someone likes pointing out, the term underfeeder has described me perfectly this year.

As far as my writing is concerned the second part of 2011 was hard. I simply couldn’t write. Not just on the blog but anywhere else. There’s nothing in my drafts, my laptop or scribbled in notebooks.

But I don’t want to write about not being able to write today. I usually do my resolutions and recap of my year on my birthday, but 2011 was a year of lessons so I thought I’d share those here.

  1. Friendship is a two way street. You give some you get some
  2.  You can’t be there for everyone.
  3.  Not everyone will understand No. 2
  4. And people won’t be there for you sometimes. Don’t judge them too harshly
  5.  Dreams require work to be actualized. Hard work.
  6.  There is no end to growing up. Just when you think you’re finally there, you find that you still have more to go
  7.  There is no end to making mistakes. And doing things you thought you’d never do.
  8.  Relationships take work. And patience. And pride swallowing. And ego-beating.
  9. You can make good friendships from the internet. But I already knew this from the last batch of friends I made back in 2004.
  10.  If you don’t take your talent and your work seriously, then don’t expect others to.
  11. Opportunities rarely come back a second time. Grab them the first time
  12. Manchester United can make me cry. I don’t know what that makes me
  13.  Love can eff you up. It will also jack your thug and you’ll start awwwing at cute kittens. SMH
  14. You can’t tell your boss what you think of them and expect no repercussions. No matter how right you are
  15. I am still stunted by my fears
  16. Everything has a lesson in it. Be open minded enough to learn
  17. I really don’t know anything about this life
  18. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better. Strive to be that to others too
  19. God knows best. All the time.

Ok. That’s all for now. I’ll do a proper post in April Inshallah.

Be true to yourselves. Stay blessed.

Love Aisha 

Untitled

like the breath that’s trapped beneath your tongue

the breath that spoke my name

scented with memories of our tomorrow

memories I try to capture between our entwined fingers;

i should have seen it in the way your hands claimed mine

that first time we touched

an extension of mine, trembling.

 

your smile pierces through my chest

stops to marvel at how well your rib holds my heart

dissolves into the butterflies in my stomach

and melts into the liquid holding my weak knees

i try to stand upright.

stubborn in my quest to remain unmoved, unaffected

a quest I lost when my heart answered your call

 

you came to me on a sunny day

took me by surprise

i was looking for you in the shadows

whispers against the dark clouds

steady, your light was shining

showing me the way,

leading me

guiding me to you

 

i trace the lines of your lips

as if they hold a secret

i memorize their shape

when you say my name

i commit them to my eyelids

because when it finally rains

i’ll harvest my tears in their grooves

The Face in the Mirror

I look at the face in the mirror.
A face I’ve seen a million times
I look at this strange face
I feel like there should be some change on it,
Some sort of mark that will signify my life.
But this calm face stares back, emotionless
Unapologetic
This face that hides the scars
A face I’ve seen a million times…

I don’t know how long I stood like this.
Don’t really remember…
It feels like a lifetime ago; it should be a lifetime,
I’m struggling hard to remember that girl that I was yesterday
Who was I? And who am I now?
I stare hard at the mirror,
Hoping the girl on the other side would answer
The one who has my face, challenging…
How can that person represent me now…
How can I feel so different, so detached to that face?
This stranger  I’ve seen a million times?

I don’t understand lonely

i don’t understand the emptiness in the pit of my stomach,

this constant humming

when the laughter feels like it’s coming from the sea

the bottomless sea of loneliness

i don’t understand when nothing made his home in me

he held my hand and forged my fingerprints in his

pain of my pain,

i don’t understand how the light in my eyes

was replaced by shadows

shadows the shape of my desires

I don’t understand this taste in my tongue

The tangy taste of loss

I wonder when the pot that held my waters

became a hollow cave now brimming with wanting

Lessons from the Last Decade

This post was supposed to be part of my birthday posts, but I somehow forgot about it. But I think it’s still relevant. Enjoy. 🙂

1. Of Dreams and Holding On

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. In high school my pal and I had this book and we filled it with our teenage ramblings and poetry. I still find notebooks at home filled with my writing. I always knew I was going to be a writer. So I always wonder, how did I not start writing seriously until 2 years ago? I guess at some point, I stopped believing that I was any good at it. I lost my dream. So when it came to going to college I picked a safe option, which would get me a safe job. Instead of learning my craft.

I don’t know when it happened, when I took my dreams and shoved them into a box at the dark corners of my mind. Part of it was fear I guess. Fear of rejection. Writing for me is extremely personal, it’s a part of who I am. So I felt that if I shared that with people and they didn’t like it,  then it would be like they had rejected me.

But the good thing with dreams, is no matter how much you ignore them, they never let you have peace until you acknowledge them. And so after years I finally accepted that I love writing, and I can’t NOT write. There was no way I would know if I was any good at it if I don’t take the risk and let it out to people.

I’m glad that I found my way back and it feels good to finally know exactly what I want to do. 10 years from now I see myself in some country with a beach and lots of rain, spending most of my day writing. Always writing.

2.  Women are a girls best friend. 

There are women who say that they can’t connect with other women. They just don’t get along. And they prefer male friends to women.  I get that, I really do. Men bring a different perspective in our lives. They have a way of seeing things that we don’t see, of  analyzing situations that makes it clear for us. And a man is the best person to talk to when you are feelingh low. It’s very interesting seeing yourself through a man’s eyes. Very flattering.

But I believe that if you don’t have a group of special women in your life, you are missing out on a lot. I have a circle of girls that I don’t know how I would have made it through the last couple of years without. Yes, it gets heated sometimes cos after all we are women, each of us a little sun expecting to always shine the brightest. But these women anchor me. Who else can get how a chocolate fudge cake is the cure of everything that ails a woman from PMS to heartbreak, to that b**ch colleague melodrama? Ladies tell me I’m not speaking the truth.

I know, it’s hard to get good friends whom you can trust, but when you do, it’s amazing. These women support me, criticize me, pray for me, teach me, guide me and I know they would be there for me no matter what.  These women help to keep grounded and balanced. It makes me all emotional writing this. I love you ladies. Y’all rock.

3. The past can never be erased, but it can be surpassed.

Like everyone else I have made my share of mistakes. Some because of being young and naive, some temporary stupidity, and some cos I just didn’t know better. And others pure arrogance, thinking that I know better than everyone who has done it before. For a long time, I carried my mistakes like a sign to my door. They were the first thing I wore in the morning and they lay next to me every night. I relived them so many times, they were what defined me. I was my mistakes and there was no room for anything else.

But at some point I just realized that I can’t keep blaming myself for things I can’t change and I was dragging myself down with all that baggage. So I went into a journey of slowly shedding it. Piece by piece I analyzed all the stuff that went down, forgave the ones I needed to, buried those that never need to be seen again and learned the lessons. Most importantly I finally forgave myself. There’s still some residue left, but it’s not significant. It’s no longer limiting me, holding me back.  Not saying that I might never make mistakes again, I’m human after all, but I now know what mistakes are unnecessary. And I can finally say I have laid my past to rest.

4. Losing and Finding My Religion

I’ve always believed in God and for this I am eternally grateful. I’ve never had a time when I doubted His existence. But in the last decade I have had many times I have questioned my purpose in this world and my obligations to Him. Especially so as a woman.

The last decade was spent in moments of self-doubt and internal struggle. I grew up in Nairobi, but was raised in a conservative culture. It was hard, finding the middle ground between these completely different environments. Finding the place where I can fit it, I can claim as my own. I have fallen and risen many times and still fallen again. It was hard to always accept that God was in charge. Not the other way round. I wanted to forge my way ahead, conquer my world and take full credit, I had fought the fight so the medals belonged to me. That was ego and to be able to submit fully to God, there is no place for ego. You are a servant, He is the master. I am still on this journey, learning more every day. Making mistakes and learning to correct them. But I constantly pray that He continues to guide me and lead me in His path.

5. You Can’t Die from Heartbreak

Just like my first kiss, I fell in love for the very first time much later than my peers. I was a late bloomer.

First love is interesting. Because you have nothing else to compare it with, the novelty of it is what makes it exciting. And the naive assumption that you will feel like that forever. He was beautiful in how he reached into my heart and spoke to me. For a shy person, to finally find someone who listens to your voice and yours only, is a  heady experience.

Inevitably, as is with anything that blazes, it eventually burns down. And my walk on air was finally over. I can never forget how that first heartbreak felt. It was like a physical pain and I felt as if my heart was truly broken and I was gonna die. I couldn’t possibly live through such pain. I actually lay down on my bed and waited for the pain to overcome me. And then I woke up the next morning and I thought “I survived it. I didn’t die.” As much as it still hurt for a while longer, it was a liberating feeling. Surviving that first heartbreak helped me in my future relationships. Now no  matter how bad the break up was I always tell myself. “You’ll wake up tomorrow morning”

 

Always,

Aisha