This Man Charlie…Exited Stage Right!

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When on a road trip, you look for certain landmarks that tell you where you are. You might also look for the same in order to get back on track. Charlie was a landmark and more recently a GPS for me and I am sure to many other people. Lately, if you visited Kisumu, you needed to stop at “Your Choice”. For me it was not just to get a drink and jollificate and a walk down memory lane with Charlie and his buddies, but more to check the old landmark out and see that I was still on track and my friend Charlie and his friends there provided for that excellently. Charlie had established a landmark out of himself that captured his character and personality of warmth, friendship, kindness, empathy, love of the good in life and people, satisfaction and comfort. Charlie and his place served all those in equal measure to all who stopped by to visit.

First time I walked into his place in Kisumu was 2010, it had been a while since we had last met in Nairobi at the theater. There he was. seated on a lounge armchair at the entrance to his joint, dressed in this big mumu shirt and sandals on his feet, surrounded by a posse of very interesting fellas enjoying their sun-downer and banter galore on every topic under the sun. Wenge BCBG was booming from the speakers and it brought back memories of our Alabama at Kenyatta Market! I found my North and felt at home instantly.

Charlie let out a whoop when he saw me from a distance and he got up to meet me and I prepped myself for what was a crushing bear hug. Needless to say there was a lull in activity and everybody paused to check out who this was that merited that kind of welcome. Hehehe! He brought me back to the gang and they all rose to shake hands as I was introduced. Some instantly remembered me from our college days. Needless to say, we had a most exhilarating time and in the course of the evening I was inducted as a fellow into the “Institute of Chartered Drinkers” by one hilarious fellow!

I first met Charlie in Mombasa at the Little Theater Club and our friendship was instant. We did so much stuff together including being members of the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral choir led by the super soprano Rosebud Mubiru. Others from LTC and also in the choir were Esther Kassimu (RIP), Catherine Ngaracu and Judy Kudwoli nee Akech. I know!…Surprise yeah! Yes Charlie was a church goer and was there religiously seated in the church choir pew along with the other basses ready for the service to begin. Many times after church we congregated at his house in Buxton for that famous oven broiled mbuzi (goat meat) and warus (potatoes) and of course the “baridi”!

Charlie’s wedding to Maria, and at which I was a bridesmaid, was held at the Catholic cathedral…a testament to Charlie’s versatility in his matters of faith and God. His wife was Catholic and Charlie consented to a wedding at the Catholic church and not his regular Protestant one. The reception was naturally held at the LTC where moja baridi and stories and taunting of Salim the waiter would go on until the wee hours. This is also where we also meet the other side of Charlie. The artist, the organizer and producer / director.

Charlie’s magnetic personality drew people to him like water is to parched earth. He liked to share anything interesting he found with those around him. He paradoxically had a shy personality and sometimes seemed not to be aware of the effect he had on people. So one day when I visited him at his house, he asked me to listen to the album Ipi Tombi and then he mumbled something about a stage play based on the same as he lit that inevitable mozo. I was blown out of my listening reverie and said to him…”That is huuuuge!”….He gave me this poker look face which meant he was serious and so I just asked him where and when he wanted to start. Then the big smile and he says…”You would know! You’re the actor! You would have to produce / direct because I couldn’t do it on my own!”

I got my first ever chance to produce and direct for LTC. And assisted by other LTC mavericks like Patrick Obath, Wangoi Kanyonyo, Jean Koch, Tom Muchura…and a tremendous cast we pulled off one of the best ever African theater musical performance to ever be seen on the LTC stage and possibly Kenya! It was great and suddenly Charlie was the go-to guy if you wanted to stage an African script here. The jinx on African theater was broken! He had opened the floodgates and shown the possibilities and soon more African plays tumbled onto the stage.

Charlie was like comfort food. He and that jolly rotund belly of his which he comported so well unlike other big belly people I have seen, and which he joked about incessantly, made you feel at home and like you were in the company of jolly Santa. He was light of foot despite his burly self and emanated tons of energy when he set out to do something. Every time was like Christmas with Charlie. He was hurly burly and had a joke for every situation. His laughter was liquid sunshine and it melted ones heart.

I talked to sis Eddy and hubby Olu and Charlie’s sister Grace this morning during which time they broke the news to me and we exchanged condolences. I said to Eddy…”You know…Glad we got our chance for one more time with Charlie in December last year!” Eddy said “Yeah! We sure did!”

And so this man Charlie performed his last and exited stage right. Charlie-Boy is gone but memories of him are powerful…The music he loved, the friends he made, the gardening he did in his backyard, the many fish tanks he built, the cooking and sharing, the hand in business and entertainment, the jokes, the laughter. This man Charlie has taken his road trip…but the landmarks of himself and the good friend he was to so many of us, will remain…Forever chiseled in the landscape of our memories.

So long buddy. So long Charlie.

©njeriOsaak is a trained Journalist, Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

South Bend Indiana Has Lesson For All Immigrants

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The recent South Bend, Indiana tragedy in which a Kenyan dad offed his daughter and then was taken out by cops is sad. I am however amazed at the way people at home ooh and aaah at this story as if it were the biggest news to come out of here. The program “Snapped” should start airing in Kenya so that Kenyans get an idea of why a story like that is not earthshaking in America. I even like that some are weighing in on who is to blame after reading a newspaper account. Others are worse…their CSI begins and ends with FB and twitter.

Truth be told, this is a pedestrian affair and is only made sadder by the fact that they are both so far away from home and also on account of the young life that was caught and taken  in the crossfire. Reading the local Kenyan papers, I am appalled at how people are calling the mother of this child names and then generalizing it to all Kenyan women in the US saying that all of them eventually leave their husbands because of the power of the dollar. Well you could have fooled me because I thought it was the dollar that drew both of them to the US in the first place. Their probas seem to have coalesced around money but ask any marriage counselor or pastor and they will confirm that money is always at the root of failed marriages. Everything else…cheating, diminished love etc. is a symptom!

I sympathize with the parents of the man and in their grief and mourning they are looking to understand what happened. They have suggested that there was a sociological family trigger, other than the police trigger that killed the man. And from their interview with the media it is obvious they think that their son would never do what he did, stab his daughter to death, and if indeed he did then his girlfriend and mother to their granddaughter had an ominous hand in it. They are in denial and she offers the obvious scapegoat. People need to lash out when something like this happens and so that does not come as a surprise. The mother is very angry and spends time on end gazing at the fresh mound of the grave in disbelief. They now want serikali,  throuh the office of  H.E Amb. Amina Mohammed Foreign Affairs, to intervene and ask American police why they did not just arrest him and deport him, in the words of the mother.

South Bend is a small town in the American Mid-West with a population of about 100,000 and an unemployment rate of 11.4%. It can be classified as small-time America located in the rust and Bible-Belt America. Settling here as an immigrant makes you stick out like a sore thumb and job opportunities are far and in between…and especially if you arrive with just your high school diploma or even a first degree from Africa. The jobs that will be open to you will be menial. Discrimination will be high on the bill and therefore the more reason for you to learn how to settle in and play by the rules. The other option is get a job and go to school in order to get an even better job. It does not come as a surprise that the couple went for months without a job. Now that is a myth that needs to be put to rest: Jobs in America are not hanging like ripe berries on trees for the picking!

Small time America cops do their job thoroughly and you cannot bring your home tabias there and expect to get away with it. The rules are clear. You are not allowed to drink excessively and then beat up on your wife, kids or husband. Violence is violence and the domestic type is the most despicable. Harm a child and you will go to jail…or die trying! There is no justifiable vehicular homicide and especially if the alcohol-meter says you had no business sitting behind a wheel. You break the law and take someones life, you are considered a threat to the community and they will take you out if you do not surrender. Obeisance is paramount here and and there is no defense in “I did not know”. These guys will call you “sir”…very respectful, as they cuff you and haul your butt down to the “cop-shop”! The take down is brutal but very civil unless you begin to plead your case in which case they will only listen to you once you have been processed at the station.

My point here is that while we all sympathize with the family, this is not an issue that is high on the SBPD’s to do list. It will be explained by the circumstances which in this case amount to the gentleman being considered rogue having had issues with the law known as priors. He is reported to have had a problem with alcohol, which most Kenyan men, and sometimes women too, do not seem to realize that they cannot continue to imbibe in the same copious amounts and attempt to drive, like they did at home. Hakuna “kitu kidogo”! It is sad that the other story coming out of Seattle involving the drowning of a young Kenyan boy is also being tagged to excessive alcohol in-take in the name of fun at the beach.

I was drawn to one comment in that standard where a Kenyan immigrant in the US (gentleman) said that when you arrive in peoples country as immigrants, it behooves you to learn the rules of the community in which you hope to settle. Life is hard and especially seeing that you do not have the regular support systems we have in our African communities, there is need for restraint and trying to make it work for the mutual benefit of the family. Life is already hard and there is no point in making it harder just because either party finds it difficult to acclimate and adapt.

When couples arrive here and I have seen it here, they are first lovey dovey and showing their best sides. Then they get jobs and now it becomes this is mine and that is yours. The law suggests that certain things should be done together if you want to avoid high costs…like filing your taxes and claiming your children . Equality becomes a reality and there is division of labor and no one is king of the hill in the house. Mutual respect must abide and the woman wearing pants as item of clothing should not be construed as usurping of powers conferred by the elders in gichagi! When this arrangement seems to not work then take the other route of seeing a counselor na ikizidi muone wakili wa talaka…Not to engage in mortal combat with kids as collateral damage!

This young family certainly did not have a chance. Some couples come here and they find their median very quickly and settle…not to say that they never have probas…but they know how to deal putting their mission at the core. Others fall apart very quickly. Like this family here. I hope the two families involved in this saga find peace and understanding that they will have purchased at a truly great cost…the tragic loss of a father and son, a daughter and grand daughter!

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Kenyans Doing Really Good In The Diaspora!

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A Kenyan media friend of mine Ann FB’ed that she had google-stumbled on  a Kenyan in The US that is doing very good in an industry that most find very difficult to penetrate…and especially if you are from the netherworld dubbed “Third”. She in fact said she thought he was an Italian…a Black Italian because they are there…but on reading on was pleasantly surprised to find that Edi Mue Gathegi…is a Kenyan. I will not go into how she thought he was Italian with a name like thaaat!

I myself live here and had never heard of him. And that, I discovered, is because I am not exactly a fan of TV series like House. I am impatient and cannot understand why I have to wait til next week to find out if the man died!  It took a prod from his aunt Rosemary Mulembo née Mue, an old good friend of mine and my sisters’ from Kenya National Theater Balcony halcyon days, to go watch a movie in which her nephew was “starring”. I was like “what?…Starring where?” I was even more stunned when she mentioned the title of the movie “X-Men: First Class”…and now I was convinced that we in the diaspora are sometimes crazy and like to tell stories!

I hauled myself off to Princess Theater and sighed as I settled into my seat to watch keenly in case I missed the flicker of a miro dude in a crowd scene who might resemble people from my motherland. I can live with that. And I had to tell Rosemary that I went because she would catch me later on FB (can you tell I live there?) and would ask if I had been. Lordy! Lordy! Somewhere and sometime into the movie a guy appears and Yes!…He’s cute and has the most adorable accent I ever heard…Nice! Needless to say the experience was riveting and I resisted the urge to turn around and tell the guys behind me that “Darwin is Kenyan…and I know his Aunty!”

I guess most people have missed out on who Edi is because he certainly did not grow up in theater in Kenya and is relatively unknown in Kenyan theater circles. He discovered himself and his acting inclination when he was already here in the US. Rosemary Mue sounded so proud, and as she should be, when telling me about her nephew. She startled me more when she told of how far he has come from his birthplace in Uhuru Estate to the dizzying heights of Bel Air Los Angeles and the US film industry in general. He has truly made it, one can say, judging by his resume of work and his most important roles as Laurent in the films Twilight, its sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Darwin in X-Men: First Class.

Born March 10, 1979 in Eastlands, Nairobi, Kenya, Gathegi grew up in Albany, California. As an undeclared undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was more interested in playing basketball and was good at it, until he injured his knee; this plunged him into a depression so he took up an acting class as an “easy course”. That is where he discovered his love for acting. Afterwards, he studied at New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 2005. Gathegi’s career began in theater,and his stage credits include Two Trains Running at the Old Globe Theater, As You Like ItTwelfth NightOthelloA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Cyrano de Bergerac, among others.

Gathegi’s first professional role was the Haitian Cabbie in the 2006 film Crank. Though he had originally auditioned for the role of Kaylo, the producers gave the role to Efren Ramirez and instead offered Gathegi an appearance as the Haitian Cabbie. He was dubious at first about performing a Haitian accent, but was coached by a Haitian friend. In 2007, after guest-starring on Lincoln Heights and Veronica Mars, Gathegi went on to star as Bodie in Death Sentence, Darudi in The Fifth Patient and Cheese in Gone Baby Gone. He later had a recurring role as Mormon intern Dr. Jeffrey Cole on the television medical drama House, his character was often mocked for his religious beliefs by Dr. House, who himself is an Atheist.

He also guest-starred on CSI: MiamiCSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Life on Mars in 2008 before being cast as Laurent in Twilight. When Gathegi first auditioned for the 2008 film, adapted from the same-titled first book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, he had not heard of the series and was not aware that his character was a vampire. He now has read the whole series and calls himself a hardcore fan. He also played A-Guy in Son of Magnet and he portrayed Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged (2011), based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name.

That is some really good resume that I dug up on him after watching a few of his movies. And he truly is a gifted actor taking his roles seriously and making a recognizable effort to portray his different characters accurately. He never looks the same in the different roles and that is the mark of a seasoned and marinated actor. Edi has great comportment and carries his interviews on his roles and career exceptionally well. He def has to do a good job seeing he has had to act with and against some of the big Hollywood names like Kristen Stewart (she is the poster child of the Twilight movie), Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Hugh Laurie (Dr House), Omar Epps, David Caruso (CSI: Miami)and Morgan Freeman (Gone Baby Gone). He is certainly for me an actor who is also in the league of other African greats like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba.

He currently features on The CW’s Beauty & The Beast as Kyle, ABC’s Family Tools as Darren Poynton and ABC’s The Red Widow as Leon. In 2011 he was nominated for Featured Actor in a Play for the role of Franco Wicks in the Geffen Playhouse production of “Superior Donuts.

Edi is young and certainly has a long way to go in his chosen industry. I am amazed at how he has curved a niche for himself and grown his art and standing in this industry quietly without the attendant maua or kelele that some of us make when we get a walk on role or appear in the local daily caught in a crowd scene. He has humility and those who have met him speak of how he is so easy to get along with and talk to.

He is certainly a guy to watch out for and a sign to other upcoming actors that it can be done if taken seriously. He also signals that one needs to take their craft seriously enough to also get some book knowledge behind it. He epitomizes Kenyans doing really  good in the Diaspora.

©NjeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Why POTUS Will Come To Kenya.

Obama is not coming to Kenya and Kenyans are sulking. How? How can he not know that we should be top of the list…and that that should not have even been a subject of debate seeing that we are his relatives…brothers, sisters and cousins…albeit sometimes twice…thrice removed. But we are “blood” and after all…si nyumbani ni nyumbani! He can’t even listen to the tug of his shosho’s  umbilical calling?

So the discussion at the State department, as they met to plan the trip, should really have focused on whether he should also go to TZ and SA and all those other countries that naturally fall in behind Kenya…All things nice, about us considered.

My modest research tells me that the United States and Kenya have enjoyed cordial relations since Kenya’s independence. Relations became even closer after Kenya’s democratic transition of 2002 and subsequent improvements in human rights.

After Kenya’s independence on 12 December 1963, the United States immediately recognized the new nation and moved to establish diplomatic relations. The embassy in Nairobi was established 12 December 1963—Kenya’s Independence Day…Right on the same day. They celebrated our birthday with that! Very profound I must say!

Then again, more than 9,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as residents of Kenya. In 2006 a record 86,528 Americans visited Kenya, up 17.6% from 2005. U.S. business investment is estimated to be more than $285 million, primarily in commerce, light manufacturing, and the tourism industry.

So really…How can Obama skip over us like that? We are also blood yawa! And I keep on coming back there because that is how it feels if your rela arrives in your part of the world to visit and then heads back out without visiting you…not even a phone call. Worse still…the rela visits a neighbor who you have never really had much in common with and that you don’t like very much…and then sends a message ati you pokea ,salaams from them akiwa safarini kuelekea!

It doesn’t matter that they have been MPesaing you with aid here and there. This rela, and especially if they came visiting from majuu, should know that you needed to spend some much previously touted floss time with them. So now, what will you tell the neighbors and others? Anything you say to them can and will be construed to be sour grapes!

And Kenyans did offer a lot of sour grapes on Facebook and twitter…Ati even its better that Obama is not coming because of the traffic jam that would have caused them to be late for work. Now I know a lot of who Kenyans do not have a strong work ethic and being late has never really been a bone of contention…more a good and plausible excuse!

Some were more realistic and closer to the truth when they talked about the gas / petrol lost while idling in the jam waiting for the plane to land, traditional welcome and signing of visitors book and then the msafara into city center of the guest and entourage. Others just shrugged it off in resignation and capitulation with a “si akae basi!…Na ata asikuje akimaliza kukuwa prezzo!

The Telegraph, in an update on the planing of the trip, carried a piece recently on how Barack and Michelle Obama have reportedly scrapped a safari during their trip to Africa, and while in TZ specifically, because of the costs of snipers needed “to neutralize cheetahs, lions and other animals if they became a threat..”! I shared that on FB and I got an earful in response from my friends! Some said it was just as well they will not visit Kenya because now the disappointment would have extended to our lions and cheetahs. Then we would be left to deal with them to calm them down.

Another said that that is just an excuse because the safari would have been during the day when the lions and cheetahs are already well fed (poor zebra and gazelles and gnus!) and are usually taking a lazy nap. The Chinese Premier paid a visit recently and he did a safari and he was okay…and he did check out the wildlife scene!

A more serious reaction involved someone suggesting that the lions and cheetahs are a metaphor for a wild and hard to understand or control local ‘tribes-people” and the snipers would be stretched to pinpoint where in the woody jungle they could be hiding and pounce from! Then there is the misplaced notion that animals just roam wild in Africa and intermittently show up in the city…Now I know why we have Zebra crossings!

What ever the reason for Obama circumventing us, we must move on because no amount of venting, short of picketing and bringing  Shosho or Dani from Kogelo to the picket line, will change that program. The Telegraph in the same story says that including this coming trip, “Mr Obama has spent less than 24 hours in sub-Saharan Africa during his time as president, when he visited Ghana in 2009…”

Kenya has never had a visit by a sitting US President and so maybe there is a good reason…and a pattern. Americans say “if it aint broke…Don’t fix it!” It aint broke with Kenya and so nothin’ needs fixin’ I guess. My sour grapes is that Obama and entourage have on their agenda to visit where it needs fixin’. We’re blood and he will come…In good time because like that song says…“Nyumbani ni nyumbani”!…Home is home!

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

African Meets Squirrels In America!

200px-Sciurus_niger_(on_fence) Squirrels…They’re bunny-cute!…But it doesn’t mean I have to live with them!

So I had this family of squirrels (real ones!) who moved in with us…into our yard and finally made the other move into our attic for the winter! You know!…They wake up so early and generally cause such a racket up there…playing catch-me-if-you-can and cracking their nuts (real nuts please!) and then you cannot sleep in because they wake up so early to begin their day…even on a weekend! Now if they would just consult with the landlord and agree on sleeping …waking up and play time, maybe things would have been different. But Noooo! They just do what they want…and they don’t even pay rent!

I checked out the yellow pages and called an animal catcher…They who deal with pests like that…squirrels, snakes, raccoon, birds, bats, rodents…! I get a guy who came highly recommended to me by the animal catcher dept of the local municipal council. This fella arrives in a pimped up jeep, accompanied by his pretty, blond galffie and he himself dressed in shorts and bulging out of a Tee…He generally reeks ex-marine yadda yadda and after we get talking…yes! He IS ex-marine! And now I am thinking we are in business because he served in places with tougher animals and things…so whats squirrels! Rightie? Wrongie!

Inevitably and as we initially chat to get introduced, he latches onto my accent despite me making all the right noises of “How is y’all doin?…It’s kinda hat (hot!) taday!”…and he asks whether I “is from Jamaica”. I say “Naah!…I is fram Af’ica!”, I insist bado with akso and tweng to boot!…Then he dropped the bomb on me (More an IED since we are talking on the curb outside our house!)…”So how come…How you be scared of squirrels if you’se all from Af’ica???…They’s got all them big snakes over dere…and lions and things…?” I am wide-eyed now and think…”What the yonks!…This guy thinks I sleep with lions…after watching the movie “Sleeping With The Lions” I guess!

I breathe in and out…in and out…and ask him whether he thinks the snakes and lions and dem other animals is related to me and ask him whether he wants the job or not! He says he wants the job and that he specializes in snakes ‘specially…real big ones too!” and how he has been bitten so many times…”. I tell him snakes is for later and could he check it out and tell me what he’s gonna do! “Uh-Huh…well checkin it out is gonna cost you like $70 and then I’ma come back with traps and things”. I ask him how he didn’t bring the tools of his trade and things since I was clear on the problem I have and he chimes in about how the car he came in was not his work car and that he will come in the truck with the stuff after we settle the little matter of the “jus’ checkin it out” fee!

Long story short I told him that I needed to consult with my African hubby who has the check book authority. I told him in Africa hubbys are king of the hill and they must say yes…basically like in Lion King…I said! His lady was like “Wooow!…How cool! And y’all women in Africa don’t mind?”. I said we are happy about that and told her that he also bought me the brightly colored mumu I was wearing and that was billowing in the breeze on this rather warm spring day! I said to them I would call and so he gives me his cell number again and tells me I should call because they’s no telling how big the squirrels could grow up there then…who knows?..A collapsing ceiling owing to fat squirrels and …Yeah! We don’t want that happening do we now!

I watched them jump into their jeep and take off thinking…”Be gone before I set my lions that I keep in the bedroom upstairs and the gnu grazing in my backyard to kick your a… on ya!” I never called. But then I got this other excellent team of guys from Animal Removals LLC who came and were excited too to hear that we are from Africa. They did a great job and they were nice, skinny and lanky kids, dressed in green Tees that said “Animal Remover” across the chest…And who “squirreled” up the ladder, set the traps and soon the unwanted guests, lured by the mystery “goodies” they put in the traps, were history. And they sealed our roof too if just to let any other would be unwelcome tenants know that this house is closed for business!

But these guys were also cheerful and hilarious and the most they wanted to know is how to say “Hello”  in Swahili. So I said to them Hello in Swahili is….But that’s another story…

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Eric’s Madaraka Day Today!

Happy Madaraka Day Eric!…It is Eric’s Madaraka day. He has been conferred the power to exit the stage of life. He is graduating to the hereafter, where silence and peace reigns. Where there is no more sadness, no more tears, no more heartache’s, no more fears. In the twinkling of an eye he is airborne and it’s a flight with no stopovers, connections nor layovers…because all that, he did here on earth.

The flight path is set and the flying time counted in numbers of infinity. His flight was called early, before his bags were packed…He was not ready to go. But like every one of us, he was already at the airport. We all are perpetually at the airport…or in a jam hurrying to get there. And once we are there, we are waiting in line for the flight to be called.

Code Blue!…Eric’s flight was called and he rose to join the queue, the exit papers in hand, his luggage in his heart and whose weight began to dissipate with the stamp of the exit visa. His step became lighter and slow motion as he faced the tunnel. He turned to wave a big Colgate smile on his face…never mouthing a goodbye…he turned again and resolutely walked…and walked…swallowed by the tunnel.

He will exit at 200…400 thousand feet…soaring like a bird and colliding with the clouds and atmosphere and temperature and climate. Steady…steady…air pockets notwithstanding…Higher and higher, euphoric and weightless. Eric’s Madaraka day…He’s got the Power…and he made it rain!

 

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

My Brother Eric Returns To the Shadows.

Bird-of-Paradise-Flower“Oh death…Where is thy sting…?”…It stings a lot…and it hurts til you are one big lump of pain! I am almost numb everywhere, after receiving the news of the passing of my hero, friend, mentor and brother. Eric Luseno…or Ilichi as he was fondly called by villagers for whom the Norse name was a tongue twister…was a lantern…A bright lamp whose presence and company made an event, even just a casual encounter, a not to be missed one. He was the kind of guy that walked into a room and a big aura of “look who’s here!” descended into the room.

The hallmark of his persona was kindness and compassion. He was a born diplomat. He listened well and when he got the chance to speak, he chose his spoken word ever so carefully. Those who think Barack Obama has too many “er’s” and “um’s” in his speeches…then you never heard Eric speak. When that happened you knew good advice was about to be dispensed! You could hear him think, before the words were uttered. He always deployed tact and it always came through not dripping spin and sneak but more with sagacity and great intellect!

Eric “opened” the swing doors to college education for our section of the Luseno clan. When he left to go to college, we were so happy and yet felt desolate because the guy who would speak up (gently) to mum and dad when your butt was on the line…was gone!  When he came home to visit…dressed like a college dude in Che Guevara-like / Black Panther polo necks, bell-bottoms, wide at the point where the trouser met the shoe (platforms thank you very much!) and just amply huggy at the waist…and his Brylcream-glistening Afro patted down to just the right level…we were mouth agape. This was transformation! Education was truly the key to all round awesomeness!

He would usually come accompanied by one or two close college buddies like Jared “Obengele” Ogutu, who later became the best-man at his wedding to our sister-in-law, the lovely Maria…or Barry Osome (one of the grooms-men and who looked like Richard Roundtree as far as we were concerned)…Or Oyando (who when they arrived at our house always promptly asked for my “Beryl The Peril” annuals / comic books in which he immersed himself and occasionally let out loud guffaws of laughter).

Then after a sumptuous special lunch prepared by my mum for the “Plato” of the family and his friends, they would sit outside on the back veranda and hold these high falutin’ discourses from which we heard snatches of words like “Australopithecus…Zinjanthropus…Kenyapithecus-Africanus…” Good Lord!…I at that point knew I had to go to college by hook or by crook…More hook really! People say that you can be judged by the company you keep. Eric had good friends.

Eric was such a devoted son, brother, father, uncle and friend. He respected loyalty and returned the same whenever an opportunity presented itself. He was patient and sometimes you wished that he would get angry and tell the person bugging him to beat it! I remember a time when, in our halcyon childhood days of growing up, a musu from a gated community, the Sister and Doctors Mess / housing for the spillover from colonial, stiff upper lipped staff, who worked at the Kenyatta National Hospital…formerly King George Hospital, across from where we lived in Kenyatta Estate, came to our house..Flat 4 Door A1, with his dog on a leash in tow, to complain that our kid bro, Boyi was among the cruel little estate brats that had beat his dog.

Toby, the dog, had broken leash and when master wasn’t looking had crossed boundaries into hostile territory, where the brats had on spotting him, pelted him with stones and then ran for dear life when the dog turned on them! Fortunately for Boyi but unfortunate for the complainant, both our harsh parents, Dad, who we had nicnamed “Blackbelt” and mum (she of the cheek and thigh pinching discipline and also known as “Mazenga“), were away from home and Eric was the one in charge. Double unfortunate for the guy again because Eric had just come home from the local pub with his buddies, slightly tipsy and so the stage was set for a local “courtroom drama”!

Eric was the judge and his pose of two equally “Tusker-happy” buddies were the biased, non-speaking jury…who only nodded and “ahemmed” in chorus in agreement with whatever Eric said. A ragtag of Boyi’s bash street kids looking friends stood on one side, ourselves included and together we made up the crowd in the courtroom. After the poor and haplessly overwhelmed dog owner had finished his opening statement, Eric cross-examined him and then launched into an anthropological elocution to him, of the African and his paradoxical affinity to animals…and especially of the variety that are not expected to end up on our plate as dinner…like the dog!

He juxtaposed that with the wazungu ‘s love for dogs and cats which in African homesteads had very specific duties as guards (usually barking only!) and rodent / pest catchers of the mice variety. In the process he explained how we just beat cows and goats and dogs with really no remorse because that is all the animals know!

Cut a long story short, Eric and his buddies were soon engrossed in a most interesting discussion (in good English of the university variety) with the good medical doctor and by the time he left, he was cool! He shook hands with Eric and his friends and he “praised” them as brilliant boys who in his estimation “will do very well in life!”…And with a nasal “jolly good!” said only in the way a Brit would, he was on his way home with Toby in tow again! Hilarious and brilliant…the way Eric diffussed that situation! And just one of the many instances of hilarity Eric gave us and I could quote many more as I am sure each of everybody else who met him could do too!

I can’t resist quoting our cousin Beeson (aka Bee) Avugwi who we related to more as a first bro than a cousin, and who I have always felt has the same kind, friendly and also listeningest disposition as Eric had. He said…

“Eric brought so many gifts to my life from the time we were kids to his days in Kangaru, UoN, Mombasa and finally and perhaps more importantly when we worked together at the Posta Training School in Mbagathi. Virtually every Friday evening, Eric and I would be found at the College pub just sharing. A very soft spoken man who had the response of a sage to every situation. It was while I was sitting with him and his uncle Ndungu (Freddie) at Kenyatta Market that he introduced me to Jane Avugwi”.

Jane is bee’s wife and our childhood friend (The Wandakas), growing up! That sort of thing was typical of Eric…Bringing people together! He brought us together and it is small wonder that he did just that, to the Elijah Kilaya branch of the Luseno clan just before his passing.

He, Maria and the boys…Alec, Nash and Mash, hosted us at his splendid new home in Ongata Rongai where we ate a lot of mbuzi, danced to lunje music which we sang, led by the family music maestro of “malago” fame, our sis / aunt Hellen Mudagale Luseno-Majani. The tribe came in from everywhere..States-side, on one end, to Manama Bahrain…and Mombasa and Kampala and everywhere. It was a jolly good show of jollification I tell you!

Eric and Mary put that party together and for some…it was the last time they would see Eric in person again. My hubby, Olu, is full of remorse at not having been able to have met him in person, during our last sojourn to the old country, last year (2012) over Christmas. He had to leave before me as duty and job called.

I and a few others like sis aunt Eddy, Kasmall, Flossie & Dennis Kashero and a gaggle of nieces and nephews and cousins were lucky and had the opportunity to meet with him and other relas at our Cucu Muthoni’s house, also in Rongai, where she had hosted a Sunday after church lunch so that I can get to meet those other of my relas, that I was going to miss seeing during my seemingly short 7 week visit to code 254. I was set to leave back to States-side, in less than a weeks time. Again it was a great kikao where we did a down memory lane story time, punctuated with anecdotes and the words rolling off our tongues easy, helped by the malt and that Grousy bird!

This started off as a homily to Eric but what he would really deserve is an epic ode. The stories are legion and being the kind of guy he was, a story about him always ends up digressing into other winding paths because he was all about people. He would have made a lousy politician though…He was too kind! But he made a great teacher, leader and administrator as he epitomized, in the course of his professional career.

We are all joined together in mourning this gentle, always calm and full of humor man. His laughter was infectious and his affinity for a good joke was what made him such terrific company.  We miss him already til it hurts. We will funika Maria and the boys and hold them up like the omundu strong we are!…They are ours and though Eric is gone, they will know that he is just a breath and a gust of wind away in us who he mentored and taught to value family as not just being important but the only important thing! But his pain is now gone and only a gentle peace in repose remains. I choose to remember him in happiness, rather than in the sting and sadness, of the shroud of death. The good memories of yesterday will ameliorate the pain and sorrow of today and tomorrow.

969147_10151617554984707_1546695095_n (2) My epitaph to Eric:…

“However long the night…the dawn will break”…And we will find you in the fresh dew on the grass, in streams and rivulets, in the music of rustling leaves, the oboe of the wind…in the quiet still of the dusky twilight and the stillness of a placid lake…

So long Eric…

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher, currently based in the United States.