A Year On

I have friends who have just completed school who keep on asking, “Huku nje kuko aje?” They are concerned if there are enough jobs out here. There aren’t. I don’t tell them this because I know, like everyone else, they have these relatives who tell you to send them your CV from the first semester of your final year, and like the Manchester United squad, their promises are only good on paper. They want to know how life is taking me out here, a year on after graduation. Not being one to disappoint those who think that my generous forehead acreage and the lines of wrinkles adorning it are a sign of wisdom, I oblige. Here’s how life’s been, a year on, in the form of an epistle.

Life’s fine. It can get much better but I can’t complain. Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I have a job. No, not this one where I pen third-rate articles on the internet. Like a ‘real’ one that most potential in-laws would find acceptable. Out here, parents don’t want their daughters bringing in an ogandawallah for introductions. They want son-in-laws with respectable careers. I muse if there are unrespectable professions. Potential just doesn’t cut it out here. People only ask about what you can offer. If you aren’t a profit- making machine then step aside. Only your worth matters.

The job pays the rent and bills, and buys food. It also affords me some top of the shelf poisons. At least on the days when the month is still kind. On the days when the month treats me like a scorned woman, I work long hours. I think my boss should conduct impromptu performance reviews during these days we call midmonth. But if my throat demands to be irrigated during these hostile periods, I restrict myself to the confines of my house and relapse to those cheap poisons that I have uncountably swore to never touch again after every headache in the morning. It’s all about appearances, this life. Even waiters treat you according to the price of your drink.

Frankly, this isn’t the job I wanted. Hell, I didn’t even know a job like this existed. But I’m loving it. When I finished campus, I didn’t even know what kind of job I wanted. I only knew what amount of salary was acceptable. “Siwezi kubali anything below 60k,” I told myself. What with motivational speakers and prosperity gospel pastors telling us to know our worth. Spoiler: most employers don’t pay fresh graduates much. They say you are a cost burden because you have to be trained. Those days you spent frying your brain with handouts and boiling your liver in distillates count for nought. Take away taxes, HELB repayment, NSSF and whole load of other items they’ve never told you the government deducts and you’re only left with disappointment in your pay slip. That is if you are lucky to get a job.

Most of people have had to make do with internships. Again, if you are lucky you’ll get paid. Often, all you get is tea, snacks and a ride in the staff bus. I know of a friend who switched internships because the second place had a generous lunch offer. Don’t fret, even James Mworia started out as an intern and now he’s the Centum CEO. As you’ll learn, everyone has their own path.

Sorry about the unsolicited advice. As we were, vile maisha inanipeleka hapa nje

Along the way, I have met a legion of people. People who will promise you jobs and never pick your calls thereafter. Security guards who will never let you in to drop that speculative application. From customers who offer their daughter’s for marriage to those who will always want to see the boss. In their minds, I’m too small a fish to handle their concerns. I have met people who mean well and who support and mentor me, and I have also encountered those whose currency is envy and slander. I am learning that people skills are as important as technical skills, perhaps even more important. There are times you’ll smile when you’d rather frown. Break bread with people who want you to starve. In this life, you do what needs to be done.

Speaking of meeting new people…Oh what would my life be without my neighbours? I know most of them by first name. I know that’s not good enough for ardent Nyumba Kumi subscribers, but at least we call one another “jirani” with those we haven’t had proper introductions. I live in a 2 storey flat. My floor has six houses. There are the four college girls house pooling in door 3; you’ll hear them making out in the corridors because one of them has exiled the rest. They are so loud that I sometimes wonder if their boyfriends’ are sucking out their internal organs. Their next door neighbour thinks he has such a good taste in music which the whole floor should share in. His collection of Lingala music is dope though. On occasion, he watches Jicho Pevu or Churchill Show reruns at times the puritans may describe as ungodly, with the volume high.

The women of the two unnumbered houses are hanging line cartels. They own the cords and when my laundry day clashes with theirs, they push my clothes to the end of the line. With them, I employ conflict avoidance skills, namely silence and sulking. Then there’s my next door neighbour who hangs her bras directly in front of my door The C cups hit my forehead every time I get out of the door without remembering to duck. These things will give me a concussion one day. I am still looking for ways to take up the issue with her. I want to be able to leave my house without being hit on the forehead by wet underwear. Mashujaa Day celebrates people who stood up against oppression. Dedan Kimathi gave his life for such freedom- the freedom to leave your house without fear of head trauma from a wet bar.

I have since started this blog. It keeps me from waking the missus at 3 in the morning to talk. She doesn’t like being woken up to talk about the kind of stuff I write about. No one does. I first started out with sticky notes, but they kept falling off the wall so I went for note books. My house doesn’t have a soft board to pin the notes on, and the boss thought the notebooks were for the instructions he was giving me. When the first two got filled with work assignments and client contacts, I talked to Melvin to set this platform up. (Melvin knows his way around the internet, and you can find him here). I intended to write just for myself. Like a journal. Or a diary where one express their trivialities. Or their love for tea.

But then my I started doing these pieces for my friends as tributes and public display of appreciation because allowing them to (tactically) budge in when my girlfriend was preparing supper was no longer feasible. To cut a short story even shorter, some opined that I should put my work ‘out there’. Problem with that is that it not only puts my work out there, but myself too. (I like the term ‘work’, makes me feel like some talented artist, or someone doing something noteworthy).

What if someone calls my mum to tell her I write about silly things on the internet, majority of which have direct or indirect reference to vodka? What if my grammar doesn’t impress these grammar bots trolling the internet? You have to be worried about grammar if you spent half a decade pursuing a course that puts zero emphasis on language. As long as you communicate, we were told. I have since adopted a wait and see approach to those questions. That you are reading this is proof that I have drawn inspiration from the man who personifies the word ‘fragile ego’ and put myself up for criticism and mockery by internet people. (That man is Donald Trump, just in case you haven’t been following the U.S Election).

I haven’t figured out life yet. I don’t think life can be figured out. I live. I didn’t see myself living here or doing what I do a year ago. Or even having a blog. But I like it. And sometimes, I forget to turn off my taps when there’s a water outage and my house floods. It has happened thrice in four months. Also, I talk when I should be silent and say ‘wrong’ things most times. Being an adult is knowing how to act in public.

There are things I thought I’d accomplish within the first year of graduation like take my mum for a holiday in Zanzibar, lease a farm and get a head start on my peers on having a progeny. I have done none. Now all I want is to attend a Bikozulu writing master class so I can learn how to do better intros and not conclude my articles like I passed out. I have learnt the virtue of patience and the importance of living life. As Seneca writes in his Letters of A Stoic, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live,” I keep living. The holiday in Zanzibar remains on the list. And before you meninists get your knickers in a twist, my old man doesn’t fancy long travels, water transport and hot coastal weather. He says water is for hygiene, drinking and brewing beer. For him, a bottle of wine will suffice.


Elder Sospeter

PS: The writer’s actual name is not Sospeter. Sospeter is a name you would find in a church committee. Someone whose parent’s thought to prefix ‘sos’ to their name has to be wise. It connotes wisdom. And we like wisdom.

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