They start so innocently and with no insidious intention.
Knatte: “Did you turn off the lights?”
Fnatte: “Yes, except the hall light because you were still up.”
Knatte: “Don’t use me as an excuse. You forgot the light on, again…!”
Fnatte: “Why don’t you just turn it off? Its on your way to the bathroom…!”
Knatte: “Because you have to learn to turn off the lights.”
Fnatte: “Can’t you just turn the light off without making the biggest fuss about it?”
Knatte: “Noooo, because then you will never learn!”
Fnatte: “But…it is not such a big dea…”
Knatte: “Of course it is! Imagine if you forgot a candle! One day, you will kill us in our slee…”
Rude interrupt back.
Fnatte: “In these xx years, I have never forgotten a candle on. Why would I forget it now?”
Knatte: “hehehe, I love you, but anything could happen with you! It’s as though you have dementia or something. Remember when….”
Fnatte: “Please don’t drag the past into this!”
Knatte: “But it is relevant! Last year, after the new year party, you forgot the kitchen ligh…”
Even more rudely interrupted.
Fnatte: “We had been drinking! You forgot it too!”
Knatte: “Oh, so now you are turning it round on me? Typical!”
Fnatte: “Please shut up and let me sleep!”
Silence. For like 3½ minutes while Knatte brushes the teeth.
Knatte: “I can’t imagine how it will be like when you get dementia or Alzheimers”
Fnatte: “Oh, not to worry darling. That will be fun! Whatever I have, you will catch it too! We will just walk around turning the lights on and off and then arguing about it!”
Knatte: “Oh, so you will get old with me, then?”
Fnatte sighs heavily.
Fnatte: “Come to sleep! Did you turn the lights out?”
Knatte: “Please don’t start that again! I am very tired…”
Fnatte: “I did not start anything…”
Happy new Year! May the Light be with You!
I am a paradox of needs. When I celebrate Christmas in Kenya, I miss the quiet Swedish Christmas. When in Sweden, I miss the crowded, noisy Christmas in Kenya.
Kenyan Christmases are a noisy feast, due to the mere fact that everybody available is invited. Most adults will bring their favorite music with them and dancing will start before food is served. Children are let loose in the country side to play, sing, hide and seek. Adults catching up loudly while music plays in the background. It is not necessarily Christmas carols. People will dance, talk, laugh and eat all at once.
In Sweden, a melancholic people to start with, noise is frowned at. The voices need to be low. Music is low-key and definitely more Christmassy than anything else. It is cold outside so children and adults are cooped up indoors, itching to get out and breath. Or, watching the lined up Christmas shows on TV, starting with Donald Duck 15:00 pm. Yes, it is a Swedish Christmas tradition to watch Donald Duck at Christmas.
Whereas the Kenyan Christmas guest list is unplanned or loosely planned, and the Kenyan Christmas dinner is never served. Swedish Christmas dinner is served promptly at 18:30 on the 24th, December. The table is set for a pre-planned number of people for a pre-set length of time. An eyebrow or two will be raised if any uninvited person shows up for Christmas.
Although I have never seen anything get slaughtered for Swedish Christmas dinner, in both Kenya and Sweden, the food and alcohol plans cannot be faulted. Everything is bought from the grocery store. Not even a butcher’s store! Swedish Christmas delicacies are almost the same as midsummer delicacies, only fatter and warmer. Alcohol-wise, the Swedish Christmas plans, are similar to Kenya’s, meticulous.
Basically, Christmas and baby Jesus are not welcome into a Kenyan Christmas until:
- Since something has to be slaughtered for a Kenyan Christmas, the goat, sheep, or cow is tied outside grandmother’s house in Nyeri or Meru.
- Sometimes, it is just a measly bird (hen or cockerel), but still! As long as something dies for Christmas!
- The grill for nyama choma – roasted/grilled meat – is in its place with a sack of coal beside it.
- The sacks of rice and sugar, the gallon of oil, the bucket of cooking fat, the bales of wheat and maize floor and the vegetables have been acquired.
- Alcohol has taken its respected Place:
- A couple of Tusker crates – the number one selling beer in Kenya – are purchased.
- The whisky bottles are delivered from the cities or
- The Muratina and chang’aa is brewed by one of the older relatives in the countryside. Finally, sleeping arrangements are made.
- Extra mattresses and blankets are acquired and extra space is borrowed from willing friends and neighbours.
On the 24th, at the same time the Swedes are preparing for Christmas dinner, in Kenya, someone is being assigned the chicken-catcher role. To make things fun, the bird earmarked for Christmas dinner is let out to graze with the rest of the birds. On the 25th, as the Swedes wake up to leftovers and hangovers, the hen or cockerel is running the catcher in circles around the village trying to avoid being caught. Uninvited villagers and guests can easily get caught up in the chicken-catching drama. The bird will be caught, eventually.
As a child, I was the best bird-catcher according to dad, outrunning a hen in ten minutes. As an adult, I cannot run to save my life.
In Kenya, the cooking, grilling and drinking starts on the 24th and continues to the 26th. No table is really set, and everyone present is busy preparing and serving something to eat or drink. By 15th December, the relatives with wives and children start to arrive wherever the party is at. There is no knowing how many people will show up for Christmas, so you buy enough provisions for double the number of people you think may show up.
And voila! Jesus is welcome!
How was Christmas like where you are? And what’s the plan for New Year?
This Christmas, I celebrate that my Afro has turned four years old. A milestone. I have managed to walk by relaxers without succumbing to the promise of “straight easy to handle hair” for 48 months, 208 weeks, 1, 456 days.
After these years, kitchen ingredients are no longer just cooking ingredients, they are hair and skin products. Who knew?
I moved to Sweden in the summer of 2006 and my hair survived that winter solely due to all the treatments it had received in Nairobi. In the beginning of 2007, I started shopping around for an Afro salon. Between 2007-2010, there were two recommended Afro salons near where I lived with one recommendation each and I couldn’t recommend any of them, both being expensive nonchalant and tardy. There was a different hair dresser every time I came to the salon and I had to start over every time. Explaining my needs, my likes and dislikes, my sensitive scalp, my fragile hair. I had to find and try other salons.
Once, in desperation, I went to a Brazilian hair dresser at the recommendation of a new found Brazilian friend. They didn’t believe I had sensitive skin and scalp so the woman who treated my hair used the same products as she used for everyone else. After the salon visit, I came home and washed my hair again. With conditioner for sensitive skin.
I am neurotic and nutty that way.
The last hairdresser I visited in Stockholm had to close down a perfectly good salon in the end of 2015. She was caught cheating on the taxes and received a tax bill with all the tax arrears that had to be paid in the coming years. That would ruin any good business.
In Sweden, I have had to answer the question: “Is that your hair?” in all the gracious ways I can master. And then some.
No, it is not my hair, it is a weave. My hair is braided under there.
“Why can’t you just have your hair?”
Good question! I would counter, is that the natural color of your hair?
“Did you know that in India, Indians girls are scalped for free and the hair sold to weave wearers?”
No. I didn’t. . .
WTF is wrong with folks?! I have to read about that. How and where is hair dye made? Anyone know?
When Sebastian and I met the first month at the university and became quick friends, I was a bony bald thing. I had just gone through chemo, lost patches of hair and shaved the rest at Jill’s salon, around the corner from my first apartment in Stockholm. Jill’s was owned by a nice Ghanaian couple. Soon after, they had to leave for England. Sweden didn’t work out for them, they almost lost their children to welfare.
Sebastian and I started dating about a year later and for some reason, he liked me and my short-haired head. By the time we had been dating for a little over three years, he had seen me bald, short haired, permed, weaved, braided and other nameless Afro styles that reveal themselves in the morning. In my childhood, my grandmother used to call these miscellaneous styles porcupine style. Hair with a will of its own.
In Kenya, and later in England, I was at the salon every week, spending any penny I could spare on my hair. Arriving to Sweden, a good weaving could cost up to 2,000sek ($230) and this is after paying a similar amount for good enough human hair. Simple medium braids cost as much. In Kenya and England, I chose salons through personal recommendation. I was sure of the quality of work. Knowing no Africans, or blacks in Sweden in the first years, I could only find recommendations on the internet.
Have you ever had a weave sewed in so tight you removed it in the night? I did that in my second year in Stockholm. Sebastian sat by and massaged my scalp after the fact. Braids too tight, braids too big and/or braids too short. I never used to remove my own braids, I went to the salon to get them removed so my hair could get deep conditioned and washed right after. In Stockholm, I started first, to remove my own braids and weaves and then after a couple of disappointing years, I started to braid my own hair.
I had never worn a wig before I moved to Sweden, but three years in and I had ordered a Brazilian on Amazon and requested an Indian from my cousin in France. Things were looking up! Instant hair.
“Is that your hair?”
No. . . . I couldn’t do it any more.
In the end of August 2013, I graduated, got a job and I threw both my wigs away. I ordered 5 packets of Expressions from eBay UK, just to be on the safe side. I raided Taj Mahal, the Kenyan owned shop on Queens Street Stockholm, and bought ORS shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, the works! I already had coconut oil, Aloe Vera, olive oil and almond oil at home and felt quite confident that it would do.
I was in for the greatest transformations of my life. I was not beautiful at all, my grandmother had lied to me in all kindness, God bless her soul. I was an ordinary woman, confident and loved.
But this hair of mine, it is truly beautiful!
Yesterday and today, I am home sick. Coughing my eyes out, blowing my tonsils out through the nose and damaging my vocal cords with all the throat clearing and swallowing of the phlegm. My singing career is shelved. Half of Stockholm is home sick with some virus or other. Bacteria maybe?
I am no good at being sick. Today, the 2nd day of my illness, I went to the doctor. Google. Fortunately, it is not throat or chest cancer as I feared. Or any other mortal malady for that matter.
I chose the most lenient of diagnoses: A regular cold with an itchy throat.
- runny or stuffy nose
- sinus pressure
- itchy eyes and skin
- swollen, red, or watery eyes
I am not a beauty to reckon with, but this brings another level of un-beautiful to my days. Runny & stuffy nose looks disgusting in the morning, whitish or yellowish/greenish googoo dried up. Sinus Pressure means I can’t breath when I wake up, so I open my mouth like a fish and make sounds that could send any love away. Even this great love. It’s that sound from behind the nose. Ghighighighiiighi. Please add the mucousy/liquid sound to this and spit. As soon as I make that sound, I throw up. The mucus I swallowed through the night, the phlegm stored behind the eyes and the lemon & ginger water with honey that I have been gurgling down as home remedy.
Itchy eyes and skin means itchy scalp, eyes, face, underarm, dry itchy nose, back pain from lying down too long in the sofa. Sneezing can end any which way, missiles unintentionally flying from the throat to the window where the bird shit from the summer is stuck from the outside. I haven’t got to cleaning yet. Or it can end with me exhausted, in utter tiredness in the sofa with my hurting back, un-showered itchy bits, Afro in all directions, eyes running with tears of self pity, red with lack of sleep due to the coughing and swollen from the scratching.
It is hell.
What do I do to fix things?
I fix the kitchen. The corner cupboard arrived on Saturday, empty. Who spends their days devising ways to drive me nuts? I can fill it up with crap, but maybe I need to buy the crap? I walked out the door without showering, took a hat to my head, thank heavens for winter! I went shopping to ease my pain and catch some sunshine. Its a farce!
Winter is Back.
The sun sets at 16:45 & the darkness begins at 16:50. The sun rises (It is there somewhere behind the darkness I suppose) at 8:45 & the rain never stops. The night is at Minus-degrees Celsius.
So I bought a Phillips Light therapy apparatus.
This is not a commercial. I am not paid to sell anything. Well, except I pay myself handsomely to sell myself. I am good at data handling. I am good at communication. I am a kick-ass team lead. I suck at the painstaking crap/empty-talk so I need to learn that. I am worse than doctors when I am sick. I impulse buy crap to comfort myself. I keep the receipts so I can return the crap when I am better. Shopkeepers that know me, hate me. Thank God for online markets, they don’t know me. Or do they?
This light was an impulse buy. It will make me better. Heal my eyes and my aching back. Make my nose clean in the mornings and handle my flying phlegm after a sneeze. It will stand in our corner cupboard in the kitchen.
I will let you know how that pans out.
While at it, I also bought a computer bag, a nice one because the old one I have isn’t nice – daaaa – designed for a Mac 13. It will fit for my Dell 13. I bought a 12 packet of AA batteries, on sale because a thief had stolen 3 batteries from the packet. That thief wasn’t me. So I bought 9 AA batteries. I don’t know what I need them for. But don’t doubt it, I need them.