The final exams were over and nobody was staying behind. I found it so incredible how some people were in such a hurry to leave Parkie after four years, without even batting an eyelid. No lips bit. No looking back to check whether the memories they created also looked back to get one last glance. No sniffles. Nothing. Yaani, the second they were done with exams, they were done with Parkie. I wasn’t. In the end, I found myself thinking too much about the beginning.
Where it all started on the 12th of October, 2010.
I dragged a brown suitcase over a pavement in Parklands. Gloria – my then girlfriend – trotting high on heels next to me, going into the most prestigious law school in Kenya…raring to go and be the next Danny Crane. That evening, Gloria sat next to me on a bus ferrying us to Kabete Campus where all law students were accommodated, and while on the ride, this wide chested burly dude with waaay too much hair turned around and started talking to my girl. Of course I was disgusted by the nerve he had to just turn around and make conversation with my lady, without so much as a recognition of my presence. This dude was James Mbugua – a former Nyeri High rugby player. And because Yahweh is a God that likes playing too much, he made sure Gloria and I never made it past First Year…and who became my best comrade? Yep. The munene from Nyeri High.
[Well, Gloria may have left because I was an asshole but the Bible tells us that it is better to cast all our doubts unto the Lord, and really, the circumstances of our breakup are not even the point here, so please focus.]
James is the guy I started writing for. I would skip classes in the afternoon, go to the computer lab and spend my daylight writing something – a stupid poem, a story, anything – and then print it out. When we got to Kabete, dude would come collect his due. Those stories were usually two pages long. Then he began sharing the stories with the boys behind my back. Mostly Maitha and Jeff. So that increased my audience to three. Then one day Maitha opened a website sometime in 2011, which he called a blog. There, he would ramble mostly about the nonexistence of God and cynicism with romance – it was a rather angry thing to read. Even the Book of Revelations had more sunflowers. It was because of Maitha that I started blogging. But because I wanted to be different from him, I refused to use WordPress. It seemed to me like a commoners’ fad. I went with the now defunct My Opera platform under the name The Real G Inc. (Do not ask me to explain where the name came from)
Blogging was a bit weird. At first, I knew I had my audience of three who would come look for daily dosages of entertainment. Then the audience grew to my classmates. Then to my year mates. Then to the entire campus. I think it also helped that I literally changed the homepage of every browser in every computer in the campus’ computer room to be my website. Boy, was I hungry for attention in campus. And I got it, all right.
Long holidays came and just like the overzealous students we were, James and I went searching for internships in huge law firms. Coulson Harney, Paul Mungla, Walker Kontos, Otiende Amolo, whatever. Then when that did not work out, we tried Amnesty International and some other NGOs. Nothing. Bruh bruh bruh hawakutaka kusikia.
Halafu James got lucky and got a gig with a lecturer in my campus. I went back to Kisumu for a bit and that is when someone sent me a link to bikozulu and from that moment henceforth, everything changed. I read that blog in one night, all the way to the beginning. It was still called High School back then, with a photo of Mutua Matheka’s sunrise silhouettes shot as the cover image.
I did not read anything else other than Biko. For the longest time. I read Biko everywhere and wrote. The result? I sounded like him. And when people said I wrote like him, at first I took it as a compliment. But then later on, the more people said it, the more I began hating it. I wanted to sound like myself. Taking up a voice is easy. Dropping it is where the going gets rough.
By the end of second year, I was running a campus rag and contributing to Crazy Monday under Ted Malanda. By third year, I was only attending those classes that lecturers cared enough to check lists. Otherwise, I was either shooting pool, dealing with student leader duties, or banging away at a story. And for you to live a life like this in campus, there is no way in which you cannot get attached. It is like having too many one night stands with the same chick and lying to yourselves that there are no strings. Even when my class was on long holiday, I stayed in Parkie. I fucking fell in love with that campus. It literally breathed life into my writing. People get surprised when I say that I went to law school and then quit to become a writer and blogger. What they do not understand is that I am not even sure I would have had any interest in writing without the influences of law school. I left that campus with more than just a degree – and to me, that is the least important thing that I left Parkie with.
On the night before my exit from campus – in May 2014 – I was to attend the BAKE Awards for the first time and as a nominee. If there was ever something that I knew for sure I was going to win, it was that award. I was up against Wendy Wahito – a Food Vlogger – amongst other people I do not quite remember. But I was so sure I was going to defeat her yaani, because I had galvanised the entire machinery of UoN Parklands Campus to beat that kura. In hindsight, I was too eager to win this award so that I could take it to Mother Karua and explain to her that my decision to quite lawyering for blogging made sense. That I had a future in it. Damn. Wendy wiped the Intercontinental Hotel floor with my ass…sending all my plans to shit.
I remember wishing for bad things to happen to her for kicking my butt like that. (I am a sore loser, sorry Wendy). Lakini not terrible things like death or ill health. No. Just little bad things. Like may she burn her chapos on the next food vlog. Or get caught in the rain in the middle of tao. Or may she always stand up from her computer with earphones still plugged in her ears. Or may she, when visiting someone, take a shit that refuses to flush and then stay stranded over there in embarrassment. You see? Bad things.
Ego broken, chest burning like a petrol station explosion, I retreated back to campus with nothing in my hands to show for all that work. And the worst part about that night, was that on top of losing out on my first ever BAKE Award nomination, I had to vacate the campus for good the following day by 4pm. My Parkie bana. The thought of leaving it hurt like a mother. That is why I called my taxi guy at 3.40pm.
And you know the funniest part about this? I lost every other blogging contest since (save for the Samsung Challenge), then lost my two jobs, and then got into a nasty fight with Mother Karua about my horrible career choices, then had to leave home because it became unbearable, and then even after managing to attain a Second Class Honours Upper Division, my own mother did not turn up for my graduation. Fuck, that was a hard time. I did not speak to her for half a year. Many times, I wanted to call her and apologize (for I do not know what) but then this pride and hard head is from her side of the family. Somehow, I survived this mound of shit.
Two weeks ago, I got an email inviting me to the BAKE Awards Ceremony, 2017. After losing three years in a row, surely, what was the point? I did not RSVP. Partly because I was tired of embarrassment and partly because I had another literary event I was organizing on the same evening and I did not know when it would end.
Well, it ended early enough and I told Jaber,“Fuck it, let’s go. If you are game for one last head swell, so am I.” This blog was nominated for two categories. Best Creative Writing Blog and Kenyan Blog of the Year. All I have ever wanted was the first one. The second one, not really. It had always been a reserve for bigwigs. No way I was getting that.
We lost the first category. To Mark Maish.
I wanted to leave right after. Felt like I was hoping so much for something that was not even meant for me. Kimbelembele tu. The thing is this. Throughout the history of BAKE Awards, people who have won Kenyan Blog of the Year were nominated in other categories which they won as well. Niaje.com (2013), Bikozulu (2014), Sylvia Njoki (2015), Bikozulu (2016).
See? I had already lost my Creative Writing category. In the same list for KBOY was Kaluhi’s Kitchen, which had won in her Best Food Blog category. So naturally, she was the one KBOY was meant for. Right? I mean winning KBOY when you have lost in your individual category is like saying your are popular enough to be president, but not the MCA of your county.
It just doesn’t figure. Ama namna gani?
So when the MC stood behind the mic to announce the winner of the Kenyan Blog of The Year, I lowered my head to hide in shame. I should not have come is what I kept saying to myself over and over again. I could smell the stench of trepidation coming from Jaber next to me, and cursed myself for making her go through this.
Then someone mentioned my name. And the whole damn room erupted into cheers. Whistles tearing into the air. I lifted my head and everyone was on their feet, screaming as if I had singlehandedly won the UEFA Champions League. Mwarv, Wandia Njoya, Chris Lyimo, Aisha, Stephen Ouma, Muthuri, Jaber and Mabiria. Those were the people around me. Yelling like it was 1st June 1963. Kwanza Stephen Ouma was chanting “Jowi! Jowi! Jowi!” as if this was a tero buru ceremony- he took this win a bit too personally.
Winning took me by surprise, but what I could never have foreseen, even with the gift of prophecy, was the amount of ululations that this blog received.
I made it to the front. I gave a semblance of a speech, I think.
First thing I did after the razzmatazz, was to call Mother Karua. I knew she would not give a flying fuck about a blogging award. Advocate of the Year, perhaps, would make her care. Not this blogging nonsense that is not even a real job.
“George, what’s happening?” is how she answered her phone as if there is something wrong with her last born child calling her.
“I am at an event.”
“It is probably nothing. I just wanted to tell you that I have won something.”
She probably thought it was the SportPesa jackpot.
“Blogger of the Year.”
She went silent. If I was to get any positive reaction, the most I was hoping for was a dry well done. You know, just to be polite. Instead, her voice lit up and said, “Itimo maber wuod nyako. Ajoji dibo. I am proud of you. Why didn’t you call me to dance and sing for you?”
Fuck. The plate of food on my hands almost fell. I retreated away from the crowd, near the toilets and leaned against the wall, hung up, and cried.
A chick exitiing the loo saw me and I looked away immediately. She was my cue to gather myself. You’re a man. You are a true son of William Oduor Okango. Show some spine omera! Then I went back to the crowd.
I am writing this very early Monday morning. I just realized that my left eye cannot see. When I open both eyes, I see just fine. With the right one closed, it is like someone smudged the mirrors of my eyes with Vaseline. Even if I bring a book right under my nose, I cannot read it with my right eye closed. All I see is a thick cloud. This thing has me shook. I spent the whole of yesterday afternoon fretting over the idea of going blind. Didn’t even Google it because I am rattled about what may be on the other side of the search engine. It could be nothing, but it could also be anything.
I really hope I am not losing my vision.
But if I am, God forbid, I will forever be grateful that I lived to see with my two naked eyes, the day when you people thought this blog was something worth something. Something as humbling and honourable as Kenyan Blog of the Year.
Aduoko ni ero kamano uru duto.