My Mama Mboga and I

Writing is not easy.

You have to be creative and funny and coherent and weird and unique, all at the same time. There is a whole unwritten list of things to do and have and be before you even sit behind a computer to write. Then you have to think of where to begin the story from. Starting a story from its conception to its termination is also not allowed. I mean, you can do it…but people get tired of reading the same goddamn thing all the time. You also get tired of always starting from when someone was born and ending at their death bed. It gets boring. You cannot use the same style of writing for every story you tell. People won’t click on your link if you do. They’ll see you send them anything and think, “Basic story from a basic blog”. I don’t want that. Nobody wants that.

Sometimes I tell myself that I write for you. For people who wake up Thursday mornings expecting a link in their email or WhatsApp or wherever you come here from in this crazy world. I tell myself, in those little pep talks before I start keying down a story that has been playing at my brain for hours, sometimes even days, that I do it for you. But a girl lies.

Mostly, it is for me. It is for the times I have a meltdown and can only get healing by scrolling down this place. For the moments I have stare down melees with the titles, reminiscing of the processes that led me to such a heading and not having the stomach to read the post. I can never read these things once I post them. Too much anxiety. It’s like submitting an exam then looking over the teacher’s shoulder while he marks. Seeing every wrong answer marked wrong and every joke making you laugh. Noticing the mistakes that I let pass and switching this word for that because it seemed correct at the time but now… it might not work as well as the first time. Its torture.

Most times, I think I have writer’s block. I think this all the time. I never give myself a break. I start getting anxious immediately a new week starts. I go to school on Monday and rack my brain for a Thursday deluxe to put together. I sit before my laptop on Tuesday and just stare, willing for anything to cross my mind. Anything! By Wednesday, I think of writing a Tom and Jerry episode. Oh, did I mention I have an amazing pair of Harry Potter socks? This is not relevant information or anything… but I feel like this post is not as relevant to anything at this point so… what the heck right? I do have them. They are like the puppy I never had.

I haven’t really had stories to tell you guys the last two weeks, but I promised myself consistency, so as I listen to greatest hits of Abba, I write. I apologize if you do not know what Abba is. You must be one of these 90’s kids who listen to rainbow headed musicians and mumbling that one can’t really make out. Me? I listen to music. Words sang to a tune that comes from the heart, or just about another person who was sitting with a pen in the back of a pickup truck in the 80’s with nothing better to do.

I am in campus; you must know this by know of course. The first thing someone asks you when you tell them you are in campus is whether or not you live in the school hostels or in the nearest town. I saw a meme that told people to say where they actually come from and to stop rounding it off to the nearest town. Damn! Isn’t this post a mess? I’m getting to the point. I promise.
Okay, so, the first thing you are asked… or not, since they have to ask about the course you do and what year you are in first… so maybe the fourth thing, yeah? School. Course. Year. Where you sleep. Yeah, got it. The fourth thing is usually the hostels.

“Unalala ndani ama nje?” (please read this without the subtext… I beg of you) Translation: /Do you sleep in or outside school?/

“Nje” /Outside/

Depending on who it is, they will either do the nitakuja supper thing or be smart enough to simply ask where and leave the mystery as is.

Side note: Boys, have some self-respect and stop asking to come eat at our places. We hate it. We will willingly invite you when you have slayed 7 lions, ridden 2 dragons and crossed the sea of fire. Not before. Otherwise, eat at your hostel rooms please.

Abba’s Super Trooper just started.

Now, I left the hostels in my second year of university, and since I tasted freedom I cannot imagine myself ever going back. I am from a family of very few people. The ones we were taught are known as nuclear families. I only see the extended part during Christmas holidays when we have nyama choma grilled outside under this tree with yellow flowers that always fall on the meat.


I’m not used to sharing space with four different personalities at once. I tried and failed. Please don’t think I am a snob. I’m really nice but don’t think I’m just banging an empty drum here. You should hold a conversation with me and find out yourself. Bring food.

My only issue with living outside school is you have to deal with these mama mbogas who are too good for us campus students. I don’t know about how they treat other mamas out there, but I have only had discussions about mama mbogas with my total of 2 friends, which gives me the right to generalize. Westlands people, my apologies. Mama mboga is a lady with a wooden kibanda (well-aerated shop) selling veggies and tomatoes and pilipili and avocados on occasion –groceries shop of the hood.
On the ka-njia to get to my place are two notorious mama mbogas. I don’t know if it is for the fact that my skin is not as dark as my Luo relations but this one mama talks to her mama mboga friend about me when I go to get veggies from her. I stopped immediately, even told her I didn’t want her sukuma-wiki anymore. God knows how that week went. This other one waits till you give her your money and serves her friends who come after you, while you put La Casa on pause and Professor had just arrived with the detective at the mansion they trained at. What makes matters a little fascinating is that this Luo mama mboga has her stand extend from The Shop in the neighborhood. You know that shop that has Jik and gum and kiwi and a needle and thread? The Shop that satisfies all your household needs and if what you seek is not available, there is always an alternative. That’s the shop that the Luo mama mboga extends her kiosk from. I marvel at the strength of The Shop every day I pass by it, even as it supports her and her humongous sense of self. Kenyans would say that it is indeed a shop and a half.

And you know a girl has to go to The Shop, because there are things that you can’t walk the 5 minutes to a Supermarket for, especially at night, being someone with fear of the dark among many.

I do go to The Shop, weekly, like mass. Sometimes I pass other shops who try to emulate the sparkle of The Shop, not because they have sub-standard goods, but because I love seeing her give me a look she gives me when I pass her with my Sukuma-wiki that I got from another mama mboga and buy Ting Ting at The Shop. We have this special thing we do, my Luo mama mboga and me. She glowers and I smirk. At first, I never noticed the frown she ruins her face further with until one time when I passed her with a friend and the friend asked if I had given the woman an undeserved kiss.

Then I started noticing how she would be all happy and smiling with someone at her stall until I pass by her from school or to my sweet friendly mama mboga. I saw how she would cringe when she noticed me crack a joke with the person behind The Shop’s counter. Counter people at The Shop change shifts. Do you know how successful aa shop needs to be to have keepers who change shifts? Neither do I, but I will ask one day. I assume it is very successful. I need that kind of success in my chaotic life. As soon as I noticed her displeasure, I began the walk past her extension of a kibanda with this grin that lights my soul on fire.

A few months ago, she went out of stock, or had mismanaged her funds or something happened. Look, all I know is she did not open for a few weeks. I would say I was happy about it, but no. I can’t lie to you. I missed the lines across her forehead and her pursed lips. But most of all, I missed those eyes. Eyes that would follow me from my favorite mama mboga’s till I went past the corner. Sometimes, I hope she cranes her neck to look at my back after I go past the corner. We have these special moments with her, me and my Luo mama mboga. She and I.

(PS. You have a story that you think I can spruce up and tell here, please find me. I’m getting desperate here.)

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Maurice Ouma Odhiambo
Maurice Ouma Odhiambo
09/11/2018 6:34 am

“family of very few people” Indeed. I have never red such a reminding read for a very long time. Go. Go Go Mom Go.

Owen Charles
Owen Charles
11/11/2018 3:03 pm

Haha! She will always have a special place in her heart for you too

11/11/2018 6:16 pm

Thanks for the humor, I needed it.

11/11/2018 3:53 pm
Reply to  urbanescoop

Alw glad to help

Robert Nyagah
Robert Nyagah
30/01/2019 11:38 am

Your ascension to the peak of your writing powers is unstoppable. More style and assertiveness even in the uncanny humuor you so abundantly possess

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