Even as I sat there waiting for these strange hands to touch me, I knew. I knew I was cheating. I knew what I was doing. This was no accident. It is not as if this clande was any better, cleaner, smelled nicer, or even that those hands were any softer. In fact, if we are just to speak the truth, those hands were so rough, they made sandpaper feel like a minion’s bum. I do not know why men cheat. Surely I cannot speak for an entire species. But I think I know why I cheated. I cheated because I wanted to be touched by different hands. I cheated because I do not belong to anybody other than myself. Monogamy has never been a viable lifestyle choice anyway.

So as I sat in this other barber’s chair, wrapped in what is supposed to be a high school student’s bedsheet, I watched this guy and wondered how he prays. Does he also ask the old man above to bless the work of his hands? If so, then he needs to pray harder. He looked at my head through the mirror, admiring his masterpiece (which to me was a master piece of shit) and saw that it was good.

“Si hiyo iko sawa?” He was not really asking me if I was satisfied with his service, he was seeking validation. He wanted me to nod and say “iko sawa brathe” yet he had sliced my skin while trimming and dispassionately slathered overdiluted methylated spirit which still managed to send my poor scalp to hell.

I guess this is what every man who cheats says after cheating, but I should not have cheated on my barber. I know the minute he sees me next time, he will know that I have been touched by another. They always do. Somehow. But he will not say anything, because after all, we are in an open relationship. He touches other heads every day. So it is only fair that I am allowed to be touched touched by others.

The main reason I cheated this time was because I needed a haircut and I needed it urgently. Yet my regular barber, without breaking a custom, closes his shop immediately the clock strikes 6pm. It was 8.30pm.

I needed a haircut was because I am flying down to the coast this weekend for ten days.

I do not know if you guys caught that.

Let’s try it again.

I, Magunga George Williams Oduor, last born son to Mother Karua, of Rabar market in Alego Komenya, Siaya County, will be travelling to the Coast VIA A PLANE! Mayie Nyakwar Tila! Jothurwa be uwinja adier? Adhi idho ndege ya jowa. Adhi piyo e yamo.

It’s going to be the first time I enter an airport as a traveler. Like, I am going to have a plane ticket with my name on it and everything. Yaani, I will be telling time in 24-hour format, speaking in strange tongues like, “My expected time of arrival is 1830hrs, East African Time.”

So you understand why I needed to look smart for my first flight. I’d even explained this to the barber beforehand; I told him that it was very important he shaves me EXACTLY the way Drake looks in photo number 27 hanged on the wall. He’d said “sawa daddy.” He’d lied.

Anyway, that is now a non-issue.

Safaricom said they would put me on a plane. I did not ask them to say those words. They just did. And now that those words are out there in the universe, now that they spilled from Safaricom’s lips, into my ears and into my head, there is no taking them back. I can feel them in my cerebral cavity. I can feel them lounging under a gazebo, getting a tan from the sunny warmth of my excitement over the fact that I am FINALLY going to board a plane.

I am one of those people you do not just make promises to fwaaaaah. You do not give me your word just like that because I will claim it like a debt. Like it is my birthright.

You know what? It has been too long a time coming. Right now I do not care which airline they put me on. It could even be Mbukinya Airlines. It doesn’t matter. I would not give a flying mermaid. I just want to experience the unbridled thrill of being in the air, piercing the clouds with a sexy hostess asking me whether I would like beer or whiskey, hovering over the land, looking down from 30,000 feet and being amazed at the spectacle of how tiny people look from my point of view. I imagine that it is only when you are that high that you finally appreciate how small human beings and these beastly sky scrapers really are in the grand scheme of things.

A heavenly view. A view from God’s seat.

I have done a few google searches about flying for the first time. I am told ati sijui people who fly for the first time need to carry a small bag with them for puking. Apparently first time fliers like me cannot handle the altitude. Psssh. Nonsense. It is not as if it is the first time I will be high. Hell, that is where we spent many a broke Friday evening while in campus.

By the way, it is not like Safaricom is taking me abroad. I am just going to Mombasa here.

Let me tell you this story from the beginning for your benefit.

I am going for Capture Kenya this year. Again. For those who do not know what that is, well, how can I tell you this without showing off? It is Safaricom’s annual project where they send photographers around the country to tell stories in pictures. Each photographer is tailed by a blogger to tell the same stories in words. Every year they theme this trip. Last year we were sent out to look for an Unexpected Kenya – basically showcase what makes Kenya unique. Something you would not expect to find in Kenya. I swear by whatever people swear by these days, that no artist has ever been given a more difficult task. Hercules moaned and moaned about being told to clean the Augean stables. What a pansy! He should have been given a camera and given the brief to shoot Unexpected Kenya.

This year they are sending out only three photographers, three bloggers and three producers. I am still with Osborne Macharia and Fortune. I can cheat on my barber, but not on my Capture Kenya team. The other photographers are Allan Gichigi (with blogger Owaahh) and Migwa Nthigah of Magiq Lens (with Ndinda Kioko).

When we met the chaps from SCANAD who put all this together, we were told that this time our task is to find beauty and wonder of Kenya wherever we are. It is about giving different perspectives with the view of changing them. You know the way people out there imagine that in Kenya, misery and death is a way of life? Well, that is simply not true. We want to tell a different story, because at the end of the day, we all live and die by the stories we tell. You can either see a locked door, or an unlocked potential depending in your point of view.

Do not get me wrong though.

We are not being sent out to look for these stories and tell them so that we prove anything to anyone. It is not about thumping our chests and pretending we do not have scars. It is not about raising our voices and banging the table. No. It is about strengthening our argument – that we have everything, and so much of it. It is primarily for us Kenyans, to remind ourselves (and everyone else) that we are much more beautiful that we are given credit for. It is also for us to blow our own trumpet, because no good ever came from a silent musical instrument. That is why the theme this year is This Is My Kenya.

If Don Draper (assuming you know him) never taught you anything, then let him at least let him teach you this one thing. That if you do not like what people are saying, then change the conversation.

Last year, Oz and I toured North Eastern, Central, Eastern and Nairobi. This year, we have been given the Coast. Our route is Mombasa-Kilifi-Watamu-Malindi-Tana River-Kwale-Shimba Hills-Voi-Tsavo-Taita Taveta-Chyulu-Amboseli.

So if you have any stories from there that you would like me to tell the rest of the world, point me towards its direction.

Going for Capture Kenya for the second time is like getting a second child. You think that after the first one, you know what you are doing. The truth is you do not. You know nothing, Jon Snow. Every trip is a new adventure. And quite frankly, if someone was to come to me next year and say “Aye G. I have been picked for Capture Kenya this year. What do I need to know? What do I need to do or carry?”

“Tissue paper. Tissue is important, especially if you are an apuodho going to Garissa or Amboseli or anywhere where people use those small taps to wash their asses after they poop,” is what I would tell him. “But most importantly, pack enough underwear. Ten. One for each day. Things often get sticky out there.”

Then I would tell him to go have a kick ass time. Just like I am going to today.

Today this is what I want to do. I want to show up at the airport, and for the first time use the Departures section. I want to ask Osborne to let me have the window seat. I want to take selfies and photos of the plane’s wing. I want to ask our trip producer to budget in a paper bag, just in case the rumors are true.

Today, I want to chase after the sun, to dominate the sky – albeit for forty five minutes only.

I want to sit in that iron bird and watch the birds in uniform strut up and down with those tall, glowing, Rudy Fransisco legs; the kind that when God created, He cussed for the first time. He turned to the angel next to him, gave him a high five and said “Goddamn I’m good!” I want to be mesmerized by those legs, to lick the champagne of a sexy hostess’ walk and get drunk in her footsteps. I want to wish the captain would let me travel with my window open just so that I could feel what air tastes like when you are 30,000 feet nearer to God.

Omera. Today I will fly.

So gather around this bonfire of my coastal exploits with Oz. Ignore the ominous shadows dancing on the walls. Wriggle your toes in the sand.

Listen close.

Let me tell you about My Kenya.

[Cover Photo: Kenyan sapeur from Kibera by Osborne Macharia]

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  1. Awwww the enthusiasm is infectious. It’s just the other day i was calling you Maguh or was it Maggie?? Try catch a catfish {wink} . Safe flight / trip.

  2. Omera yawah! Si you know how to brag! You deserve the bragging rights though. I know a gargantuan task lies ahead. Very few people appreciate how difficult it is to tell stories, especially about “Unexpected Kenya”…..hahaha but you make it look so easy. All the best in your trip, however, dare you not open the window at 30,000 ft because the gushing wind might just blow you off your chair. Oh!, and don’t forget your tissue. Very important.

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