Tag Archives: january

njaanworry

 

The New Year found me in Kampala. As happens almost everywhere we hadn’t left the house yet. I’m not even sure everyone had showered. We had drinks in our cups, the smokers had cigarettes in their hands and we all carried joy in our hearts. The countdown happened and suddenly it was 2016.

I remember looking out into this darkened street and seeing this old lady burst out in screams and shouts so happy the year had passed. All of a sudden more noise crashed against us. Everyone was shouting, everyone was screaming and everyone was wishing everyone a happy new year. New Years Eve at midnight is the only time you feel entirely comfortable screaming and shouting. It is the only time you can walk around and feel everyone is your friend. It brings humanity together for a brief moment. There was then a huge fireworks show immediately afterwards Lauren Groff wrote that doomed people celebrate peace with sky bombs… no matter doom is beautiful, those rockets going boom and flowering in the sky, showering stars, powering imagination.

 
A new year is after all a granting of our most sacred wish, an answer to our most fervent and deeply held prayer that we should see another year. This is in fact the only New Year’s resolution that counts. Last year I was asked what I wanted and I said it was to see another year. People looked away and harrumphed. They didn’t think this was a good enough thing to want out of the year. Granted it was at an office meeting where professional growth, academic achievement and financial goals were all being spouted. It must have sounded juvenile or just the opposite perhaps I had bared too much of myself for that setting.

Anyway after New Year ’s Day comes Njaanworry. I don’t know if they always had this word but it’s perfect. In a nutshell it describes the economic situation: dire, it identifies the people suffering; Kenyans, it informs of how long this will last; a month.

 

nj 1

Is there anything like Njaaworry? When we laugh at our foolish spending habits for making us so poor. Where we cry because for what fucking reason does this month have five weekends? What bombo pussy r’asscloth motherfucking dripping cunt bitch*kind of calendar provides this month so many days for (not) spending money on alcohols and meats?

*apologies to anyone who would be offended by such a beautifully strung together sentence of swear words. Also if you want to read more by the person who first wrote that sentence pick up a book called a Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Truth though njaanworry, like end-month is an alien concept while you are a student. I remember with fondness my weekly allowance. My safety net that meant I stumbled into the house every Saturday night with nothing but coins in my pocket from the 1st to the 30th, from January to December. 2014 introduced me to the concept of end month. 2015 should have introduced me to Njaanuary but I was doing my pupillage back then and I really wasn’t being paid that much (which I promise will make sense). Plus they paid so close to the new year that I didn’t spend that much especially as I was in Nairobi. Then some money came in the first week of Njaanuary for an article I wrote (this was definitely not a lot either but the fact that I was being paid so little meant it made up for my December excesses. ) last year no Njaanuary for me. This year I moved a house full of things to Meru, I paid deposit and a month’s rent and the other place haven’t paid me back my deposit so I really am feeling Njaanuary.

 

nj 3

What I am about to say next I would never have written if I couldn’t assuredly establish my Njaanuary bona-fides: not everyone is broke this month. Some people are just fine. They are as level as they have been all through the year. They have just as much to spend in this month as they did in December November (nobody’s entertainment allowance is as strong in Jan as it is in Dec, that would just be ridiculous this month dry of holidays and company where would you spend it all?)

 

These people exist. They fall into three distinct camps with a little overlap between them. There are the financial advice people who genuinely want to help you with your poor budgeting skills, they inform you that there are ways of avoiding this. You can almost see them talking to you, frown lines all bunched up, a worried, somewhat angry look on their faces because you disappoint them. They really want to help and they don’t understand why you can’t be more like them.

(you know you do want to be like them)

There are the January babies. The ubiquity of these babies points towards some very naughty Easters for parents all over the world. The world doesn’t care that they celebrated December, it’s still their birthday and they must turn up. Drink, eat, gift (they have to gift themselves unfortunately) and they learn that in order to celebrate they have to have a little something. That little something is not so much as the previous group.

Then there are the people like I was last year. It just skates over you somehow. And if you are in this group you can’t admit it. You have to complain along with everyone else. Nobody likes a spoilsport and aren’t these Njaanuary memes funny?

How can you bare to be the only person who doesn’t relate. Even if you are fine you need to pretend to be in on the joke so that you can laugh just as heartily. Afterwards go to the bar or for a good meal or go do whatever else it is people do with their money. Its fine you will find people there. There are always people still enjoying but if you want to get the maximum out of your January you need to suffer along with everyone else. It’s a bonding experience. Even if you loved waking up at 5 in the morning while in boarding school you didn’t admit it. You should do the same here. Everyone should, it’s as nationally unifying as unbwogable once was, Kenyans suffer January-it’s what we do. It makes us one.

nj 4

This bonding experience is important as are all suffering bonding experiences. In 2014 I did my pupillage. It’s one of the worst times in a young lawyer’s life. I had just gotten out of 5 years of studying law, done one of the most difficult exams I had ever had to do and then found a job. Except it wasn’t paying much. Except the work sucked. Except the hours were not commensurate. In fact I remember reading an article about the mafia that compared that organisation to a law firm: the new members in both organisations get stuck doing the menial repetitive work that their bosses could not be bothered with, for the smallest slices of the pie, with the understanding that if they did the work now they would make money later. (The latter part is probably not true for the mafia either- pyramids don’t widen their tips after all.)

Even if a person enjoyed their pupillage there is no way in the world they would admit they did. I was talking to this lady lawyer about her’s. She did it in a firm that had offices both in Nairobi and Mombasa with 5 other pupils. Two of their pupillage months they were sent to work from Mombasa. The firm rented them a digs (a pretty crappy one true), the house was on the south coast (this meant they had to cross the ferry every day to the office), and a lot of other things that to me sounded like paradise.

A house in the south coast of Mombasa with your friends. Ferry rides every morning, ferry fish every evening. Wow! She hated it. Made it sound like she had suffered. During my pupillage I wrote letters, and letters, and letters because I was working on this housing project- sale of apartments. 47 houses so the same 47 letters save change of name and apartment number. I did what amounted to data entry for a chunk of it. For a larger chunk I was sent to huduma centre and the companies registry to get things stamped. To return with receipts to pick those things up. Work that taught me nothing about how to be a lawyer and in addition was nothing more than lining up with bundles and bundles of documents in my hands. It felt like torture.

I hated my pupillage. However this lady lawyer who was rented for a digs in the south coast of Mombasa for two months of exposure to law practice there hated hers too. We all hated our pupillage it was necessary for bonding. So what I’m saying is even if Njaanuary is not real for you, hate it. Hate it with all your heart. Lack of finances isn’t the only thing that makes us hunger! And hey, an election is coming up so shut up about your financial acumen and do your bit for national unity by sharing another Njaanuary meme.

And hey, it all ends.

 

nj end

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

njaanuary

The things i hate about January.

Well it comes after December and that in itself is enough. In my heart I am a child of December. Its lover, its true friend, its boy to the end. It’s the best time of my life consistently and I hate when it ends but it does and right around the corner is

 

1. Njaanuary. (For any non-swahili speakers Njaa means hunger)

Remember Drinksember just a few short weeks ago? Well welcome to the opposite. That padding of fat that you strived and struggled to put on will get slowly eaten away as your diet changes drastically. Meat isn’t as plentiful and it’s never roasted and never, ever free. You cannot eat so much that it’s possible to drink all night. You can’t afford to drink all night either. Being a beer drinker is great because with beer it’s possible to continue having it all year long but the quantities reduce. Shit you still love as fuck that first sip. It’s still the thing you want to hear poems written about, the lure of true love, the promise that maybe at the bottom of this bottle you will find the answer. But you can’t go on as recklessly as you would earlier. You have much fewer chances to realise that the answer is never there and everyone wants to go home anyway. If you drink Jameson for the bitter taste and the great advertising you are going to drink less, you’ll remember the 750 ml, you’ll remember the famous grouse, you’ll remember that there are other whiskeys that Rihanna doesn’t sing about but still make you feel like it’s a weekend. Bills came calling. That Kenyan tradition that means you get two salaries in December also means you get none in January. The economy slows down and then

 

2. There’s something in the air.

January and its newness is a season of promises. We may pretend about how artificial this passage of time is but that does not matter, it’s ingrained. It’s a part of us. For years we went to a different class every January. New clothes, new teacher, new books. For years we were conditioned to believe that the New Yearbrought with it a relentless march of progress. We were better this year, older, wiser. Kenya. Kenya and East Africa. Kenya and the Rest of Africa. Kenya and the World. When this is how schoolbooks progress every year you cannot help but feel more worldly. Just from the topics it is clear that you are a better person than you were the year before.

And then school ends and there is nothing like this anymore. There is no automatic promotion just because you lived through another year. Nothing changes not even you. So there you sit and try. Do you ever notice how, the older you get resolutions stop being positives. Now everyone wants to stop drinking and stop smoking and stop eating so unhealthily and stop being engaged in such toxic unhealthy relationships. Fuck that I want to start swimming and that’s it. Nevertheless there are people all over not just broke but denying themselves the things that made them happy in an attempt to be better. An attempt that they are so scared of failing at that most of them do. The fear, the denial, the attempts at discipline seep out of everybody’s pores and infects the air. You can try your best to be happy but nobody can be happy by themselves. While in university I hated going to study in the library because I could feel the tension in the air in January you can feel that people are repressed and also

 
3. We went back to work.

How long has it been since you worked? I mean really worked and not just waited for closing time while doing the bare minimum necessary to keep things moving. When did you last show initiative? When did you not have the excuse that there was no point of working because no one else was and you can’t carry the world by yourself.?Remember the December go-slow? Of course you do. How many people took massive December leaves and left you in the office and still you couldn’t feel the pressure? Imagine if they did that now. I’m trying to remind myself how to work and it’s an uphill struggle. A go-slow for the better part of a month and then a holiday so short I had no time to rest is not the best preparation for January . It was over before I could blink.it was over before I could think. I was unable to sleep and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Holidays are work from family to friends to plans to plots to drinks to dreams to travels and travails. But its good work and now you are back at work. Hitting the clock even though you feel so broke you wonder why you bother and let’s not forget that you aren’t the only one back at work so

 

4. Traffic is as long as you wish everyone thought your dick was.

Really look at it. Look out the window the next time you are stuck in it. Pull the window down and admire it. It starts almost as soon as you join a road and it snakes along, forget the shape look at its turgidity. Even when it moves its compact. Come to a junction and be shocked by the number of people who have cars in this country. Who somehow can afford to drive their cars around because maybe just maybe you are the only one experiencing this njaa from behind the conductor. And then there are the special junctions, the places you come to and everything stops. No cars are moving and everyone is in a hurry, they look irritated, they want to hoot, they want to fly. It feels like a long-held beer-piss something you can only remember in memory and when it starts moving you remember the relief with which you let everything go.

I don’t understand this traffic that does not move, I can’t remember if it was this bad last year, can you? Aren’t you leaving the house the same time as you used to. So how come you’re running into the traffic that smacks people who wake up late. Where are all the clear roads of December when cars ran in freedom and you felt like you were getting somewhere now you sit in this pipe. Feeding this huge petrol penis with penny after pretty penny that you feel rolling away from you. Traffic is only good for one thing and that’s getting late for work which happens a lot in January. As soon as you leave the house you feel as if you’re already late, not just the traffic but also

 

5. That fucking sun- who told you we miss you?

I quickly have a problem with the sun. Always. I want it to rain and it never does in January. I broke my glasses in December and Njaanuary means that they are not being replaced anytime soon. The sun’s rays begin to burn me as soon as I step out of the house. I can feel my eyes getting red, they’re sore and I try my best to shield myself from this sun. And with the sun comes heat. Heat can be great. You can wear shorts and linen trousers, you can go around in sandals and caps, you can rock t-shirts and show off your chest in polos. You can negotiate the heat by wearing less or dressing better for it. Do you know what most people wear in January?

Suits.

Heavy fucking suits. Suits so heavy I make an immediate beeline for the water. Suits so hot I take off that coat as soon as I enter the office and don’t put it on until I leave again, suits so hot I practically throw it on the floor when I get home. They trap heat these things. You become an oven and then they also want you to wear a tie. I hate ties. It’s strangely symbolic that there are jobs that actually insist on you wearing something that strangles you as you put in that work.

Here’s the thing though January can be beautiful. Beautiful like a statue. Beautiful like winter. Beautiful like the sun. it can move you to raptures if you look at it from far away. One day in January there I was 1. broke as fuck 2. surrounded by other people’s resolve 3. back at work 4. after battling through porn-star length traffic 5. in hot, hot weather under a heavy suit and tie when I looked out the window and the sun had just decided to set it off. I was inspired and I dashed off this little poem:

Oh January, dress yourself up in golden sun all day long
Oh January, allow the evenings to stretch till 7 before shadows get long
Oh January ,be more beautiful and distracting than all that come after
Promise us beauty and walks and leisure.
The lady doth protest too much though
Give me a frigid, rainy December any day of the week!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized