Why did He Kick the Cat?

About 8 or 9 years ago, I was in a conversation that resulted in my being ridiculed for the strong feelings I had towards the care and protection of all #animals but more importantly for #domesticated pets. I have a special place in my heart for dogs and cats.

No, I am not a vegetarian / vegan but I believe that even animals kept for food should be treated with such care as to not put them through torture and unnecessary pain. I think beasts of burden should be fed well, provided proper care for any injuries suffered and NEVER caused pain or harm to make them work harder or faster. I believe that if a person cannot afford to feed or care for a domestic animal then they should not have the ownership of a domestic animal. I think that if anyone causes harm or deliberately injures a domesticated animal, theirs or belonging to someone else, they should face some consequences.

But beyond basic care and protection, my pets are loved. I make sure they are well fed and warm, I try to keep them safe, I have worked out arrangements where they get medical care and immunisations. Because of my current unemployed status, I have made sure that no matter what they will be fed and provided medical care, and this by regularly volunteering my professional skills to a veterinary care and animal rescue organisation.

I have created friendships and connections such that if I’m unable to take care of my pets, feed them, walk Guillermo etc then one of my (their) friends would avail themselves to do so. But if I couldn’t provide such care, it would be better to give them up to someone who would love and care for them.

I feel that the topics surrounding animal care and pets in Africa are almost political. During that conversation 8 or 9 years ago, I tried to broach the subject that perhaps how we feel about animals is tied to historical wounds we don’t even know we have. Derision drips behind common sayings like kuosha mbwa ya mzungu. But the feeling behind it is the hurt from #colonial masters treating their pets better than they treated their native servants.

The lady who helps clean my house feels that I am wasting money when I feed my pets. #Poverty and #inequity are other obvious issues related to pet care. While I don’t feed my dog with choice beef cuts, his meals still cost something, which Mama J compares to what she needs to buy a meal for her kids. A previous cleaning lady was so upset about my affection for Guillermo that she collected all his toys and redistributed them to her children. She never came back to work after that.

I’ve been accused of having too much time on my hands, been pointed in the direction of ‘you should give birth to a child instead of wasting time with cats and dogs’. I almost froth at the mouth trying to explain how different and NOT INTERCHANGEABLE the two experiences are, raising a human child, and raising a pet.

While most will be dismissive about my love and concern for animals and pets, I WILL JUDGE people based on their love for or lack for concern of animals and pets. Many will point out at this time that the world’s cruelest villains had pets. Its true. But once I am done assessing intelligence, love for books, honesty, empathy and a sense of justice, I’ll also check whether you might be prone to kick animals.

I have had neighbours attempt to kill my pets. Three of my beautiful babies have been stolen. My puppy Esperanza was fed a substance that made her so ill I had to euthanize her. My girl cat Samantha had her back broken and died in my arms. Guillermo was once shot by an arrow while he was inside our compound. I have since made it my business to keep my pets safe. But it truly bothers me that my neighbours are so capable of causing pain and killing animals that have not caused them harm. Is it just part of our violent nature?

I am reminded of the debatable phenomena often used to point at psychopaths – lighting fires, killing animals, bed wetting. Are you people breeding serial murderers?

As a person living with chronic illness, pets – my dog Guillermo, Cat Fluffy and a fluctuating number of temporary foster animals – form part of care and therapy. My pets have kept me company during the long hours I have to be home alone, made me move even when I would have preferred to curl up and die from chronic pain, helped me make unexpected connections, opened up my eyes to situations that would otherwise have passed me by and kept me warm on tough July days when Nairobi winter and #Lupus have joined forces to crush my bones.

I’ve been trying to write an article about pets and how much they can help people living with chronic illness. I had to run into the issues above first, so I’d love to hear what you think. Please tell me about your relationship with animals.


Twilight Zone

Hidden behind the beautiful jade green is a town full of shocking mystery… The Twilight Zone.

This jade green has a spell…

So we already said this before: Man! This town is crazy! I honestly don’t remember it being this upside down. But then there’s the outside looking in factor, I guess. Just so you know, once you cross the Mtwapa/Shimo la Tewa bridge in serious trouble. That’s not a typo. This ish is so serious we have no time for the ‘you are’ before the ‘in serious trouble’.

You can see the wicked mist, right?

1. Life begins at 8pm. Day time is sluggish. I get it, it’s way too hot and humid around here. But seriously, it took a while before we figured out that waking up at 5am and sleeping at 10pm was shutting out a whole lot of stuff.

First of all, the sun wakes up here like it is on an overdose of caffeine, speed and E. 5.30 am rise and shine! Now let’s get out and do stuff! OMG Imma toast you black, peaches! !!! By 8am it feels like 1pm Nairobi. Goes downhill after that.

This is 6am. Too. Hot. Tired. Back. To. Bed.

Now we wake up at 5am, write till 2pm and sleep till 8pm, then we are up and about till 2am. Seriously, after 7pm is when we go shopping (the supermarket and Mpesa are open 24 hours, the vendors bring out their wares at 6pm, only the banks haven’t figured out they could do the 24 hour thing too), to the salon – 24 hour salons (really good mani-pedis and massage if you can handle it), for a walk down to the market or village to buy viazi karanga and mahamri, watch people while sipping at sodas at Mumtazz (no one to watch during the day)… we even did a midnight walk just to see how dead we could get.

Circa 2.30am

2. 90% of the men have dreadlocks. Also they are hot, from the neck down. We’ve been going to this gym, so we know these people put in a lot of effort into their workout. A whole lot of them are also manual workers, so this incredible physical fitness might be from that. But you can actually count the number of men who are out of shape and unfit. My girls have seen quite a bit of eye candy (Ok, so have I), but that is all ruined when the man opens his mouth and out comes the worst kind of lewd and crude.

[No pictures of 90% hot men]

3. Girls walk around naked. With the heat, people naturally have an aversion to clothing. I’ve had issues. But that is no reason for me to go into the centre of town in broad freaking daylight wearing nothing but umm for lack of a better description, half a shirt and teeny weeny boxer shorts that slide into certain cracks and make it look like a bad loo day. I have no idea who on viagra gets horny looking at that.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. Mtwapa is built on the sex trade. So if you meet a person of the female gender who isn’t someone’s respectable wife, sister or daughter, they are probably hustling girls. Nothing wrong with a honest day’s work. But I just cannot get this town’s obsession with having sex with really old white people for money.

[No photos of really old white people. Or hot naked girls. There’s an app for that]

So we met a new friend, geek boy from Germany. Going by the rules of the town, he absolutely could not believe we were good little girls from Nairobi come down to write and not get into trouble. Well, we didn’t believe it either. But Michael thought we were twilight girls either being kept at the apartments by an invisible rich mzungu or somehow staying there in hopes of finding hot, rich men from Germany (read not hot, likely wizened, old-enough-to-be-my-dad-or-granddad, and maybe not so rich, likely serial killer or mafia underdog on the run).

It could be this dude.

Anyway, when Geek-Boy finally believed we were mummy’s girls, he came around and started telling us hilarious stories about the relationships between the twilight girls and their mzungus.

Turns out, when fresh girls show up, ie us, the mzungus look at each other and ask:

“Do you know her? Have you had her? Is she one of them?”

Good Lord, I need time to get over this town!

4. Total strangers hit on you. It does not matter what you look like, big, small, old enough or not, as long as it is obvious you are an out-of-towner everyone including the matatu tout will stop doing their work to cross the road and tell you how they have just seen you, fallen in incredible starbursting love and want to marry you or have sex with you whichever comes first.

[No pictures of starbusting sex in public. There’s a site for that]

There’s more, I promise, some of them have just shocked the S out of my Z I’m gonna need time to write them out properly.

Tap -Tap


The steady tap-tap of a leaking faucet intruded into her thoughts every other minute. It felt like it was forever, but she forced herself to think and realised that if they had grabbed her shortly after she left work, it would have been just a few minutes to midnight. The drive had taken a while, and they had stopped several times. She couldn’t really see where, they had bound and gagged her, then thrown her into the back of the Landrover, banging her ribs against what she deducted was a spare tire. Each time they stopped, there were low pitched conversations before the rover started again.

Eventually they had gotten here. She had no idea where ‘here’ was. They had pulled her out of the car, one of the men yanking at her arm brutally. Another pair of hands had taken hold of her, his voice harsh and brutal to his companion, his hands gentle and warm against her upper arm.

“Ken hedra. Yeqwem medreb aqetlek ada kent ayeda’eh.” She didn’t know much Arabic, but she had learnt enough in school to make out what had been said.

The boss. By the time she was pushed into the humid dark room, she knew enough to make out who it was that had sent for her. He had to be quite pissed off if he would send his goons out to abduct her.

The man who pushed, no, ushered her into her jail cell, quickly slashed at the bindings that held her hands behind her torso. It happened so fast, she almost didn’t realise it had happened. By the time she did, the door was closing. She laughed softly, before the door closed her in. And she knew that minute pause between her defiant laugh and that final sound of the closing door meant that whoever had guided her to this room, telling her in clear Swahili ‘to be good so she would not get hurt’, well, he knew that she knew.

It was an old house. She had no idea which one, for the boss was known to have several old homes dating from the colonial times. The long drive had not yielded much in the way of clues, but she knew that her location was a bit deeper into the country than the main town of Mtwapa. Only problem was, the boss, well he had homes as far up the coast as Malindi, and as far inland as Mazeras. Her olfactory senses were muddled up by lying close to the dusty floor of the rover, so by the time she was ushered into the room, she still hadn’t been able to figure out if the location was close to the ocean. She was beginning to think not. If she could hear the tap tap of the faucet, surely she could hear the roar of the ocean if it was close enough.

The silence fought with the tap tap not too long, she knew it was not too long, even thought it felt like a long time. But the muezzin confirmed it for her. She huddled up against a wall, and listened as the sound of men’s footsteps woke up the world before it had even napped.

She wondered if the boss would join his men for the fajr prayer at the mosque, or whether he would pray in his inner prayer room like he usually did when it was not the holy month of ramadhan.

He obviously did not think having his men grab her right out of the street a crime, or he would not have dared violate ramadhan. He was a good man, not pious, but faithful to his worship.

And she loved him almost as much as she resented him.

Next Episode



Enter for a chance to win one out of five $10,000 reporting grants!
Project: Report 2010 kicked off today, a partnership between YouTube and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, made possible by Sony and Intel. The contest invites non-professional, aspiring reporters to share their stories with the world.
With two rounds over three months, short documentary assignments will be judged on the quality of the stories reported and the production value of the videos. Ten finalists will be chosen from the first round to receive technology prizes from Sony and Intel, and will compete to receive one of five $10,000 grants to work with the Pulitzer Center on an under-reported international story. Winners will be featured on the YouTube homepage.

“Project: Report is a unique opportunity for aspiring reporters to share stories they feel the world needs to know about, and to gain the skills and knowledge they need to become first-rate journalists,” said Jon Sawyer, the Pulitzer Center’s executive director. “The energy, excitement and great reporting that came out of last year’s contest is a testament to the power of this kind of initiative,” Sawyer said. “Project: Report is a terrific pairing of YouTube’s global reach and popularity with one of our core missions: to spark global conversations around critical issues. We’re eager to hear—and learn—from these aspiring journalists.”

Round 1 launches today.

The assignment: Document a single day in the life of a compelling person the world should meet and showcase how that person is making a positive impact in his or her community. All videos must be three minutes or less. Submissions will be open through February 28.
An expert panel led by the Pulitzer Center will choose the top 10 entrants. Visit the Pulitzer Center to find out what we’re looking for in your videos.

Each of the 10 finalists will receive a Sony VAIO notebook with the new 2010 Intel Core i7 processor and a SONY HD video camera. The second round of the program will call on the finalists to create a video of four minutes or less to tell a local story with global impact that is under-reported by the national media.

The top five videos will be chosen through public voting by the YouTube community and judging by the Pulitzer Center. The five winners will each receive a $10,000 travel fellowship with the Pulitzer Center and also invitations to Washington, DC, for a public screening of their work and to participate in a workshop with the Pulitzer Center’s international journalists.

The contest channel page features links to model videos – click on the Pulitzer Center tab.

The first Project: Report launched in September 2008 with individuals competing for technology prizes and the opportunity to work with the Pulitzer Center on an international reporting project. Arturo Perez Jr. won the competition and traveled to Jerusalem, producing a story on dialogue between Palestinians & Israelis. He called it a “life-changing” opportunity.


Journalists take note!

Brown International Writers’ Fellowship

Brown International Writers Project (Apply Here)

The Brown International Writers Project is currently seeking nominations and applications for its one-year fellowship with residency. The Fellowship, supported by a grant from the William H. Donner Foundation, is designed to provide sanctuary and support for established creative writers – fiction writers, playwrights, and poets – who are persecuted in their home countries or are actively prevented from pursuing free expression in their literary art. The Fellow will be a member of a supportive community that includes faculty members and graduate students in Brown’s Program in Literary Arts and the Watson Institute for International Studies, co-sponsors of the Project.

The fellowship will be accompanied by a series of lectures, readings and other events that highlight the national artistic and political culture of the writer and address the global issues of human rights and free expression. It will include a stipend, relocation funds, and health benefits. Brown will aid the writer in the visa and relocation process and provide administrative support, office space on the Brown campus in Providence, Rhode Island, and equipment.

To apply, send a letter, providing publishing history and explaining need, together with a resume, to Literary Arts, Box 1923, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, or by email to iwp@brown.edu

Supporting letters from others would be helpful. The  application/nomination deadline  for the next Fellowship is February 15, 2010.

Gold Digger

Gold Digger

Well, now that I am registered officially,

into the ranks of those who search and dig,

for gold, and paper that’s done and serialized,

or plastic that buys the pleasures on high,

I might as well sit down and think hard,

about all that I will buy with gold and paper,

serialized and plastic that shines.

First a bouquet for mama to say ‘thank you’.

and wish her sunshine and rainbows too,

and not sun to scorch her chocolate skin,

but rainbows to herald goodwill and peace.

Then I might try to buy a voice, as loud as,

can be to join all the others that sound,

and call for what a child needs to grow and sing,

the time to play, learn and be loved, more time.

Most of all, I’ll ask not to buy this one, it is priceless,

true friends to love now, forever and always, eternally

not perfect because I am far from the best,

but whose love, like mine, does not need justification.

So you see, what I want needs just a penny to buy,

and what I need wants no money to purchase,

so why the hassle to wear a veil and deceit,

to go down the vents, with spade and pans.

And now I will pay the price it will take

to be unregistered officially from the ranks,

of those who dig and search, for gold and paper,

maybe plastic that shines and buys,

and if you want and care, here I offer,

my friendship with no charge, no price tag.

© Juliet Maruru 2009 www.jmaruru.wordpress.com

Writing Someday -The Novel

Someday is the title of my very first novel. I wrote it during the NaNoWriMo of 2004. I had always wanted to write a novel. Actually, I had written a few of them in my teens which I promptly destroyed when I read them after they were done. This is the very first novel that I allowed anyone else to look at.

I was in a frenzy. Some nights I wrote right through till morning. Labours of Love. 

It started out as a very sane, realistic novel, then I got carried away into the land of fantasy. There are places where I have completely ignored the readers need to suspend disbelief. But in the end, the novel represents something that mattered a lot to me. 

It was inspired by something that happened to my great-aunt. She was one woman I loved and admired deeply. Losing her land led her into a road of pain until she eventually died. When I was writing this story, she was still alive. I even talked to her about my story once. She liked the slant of the story I wrote but it was obvious that the topic was too painful for her to talk much about. She specifically asked me to consider the HIV/AIDS orphans of this world, and I tried to.

My story ended up being a bit of a fairy tale at the end. It had ventured into the land of strong women who survive tragedy, and the strong men who would stand by their side through it all. 

My story has never been accepted by a publishing house. Every House where it was submitted had its own reasons for not considering it a viable piece of art. They probably were right. 

Someday, will always be the very first novel in my writing Career. Before I can put it away, I have decided to give my friends, new and old, chance to read it, and if they chose to, critique it. Who knows with your help, I might even rewrite it? If not, then I’ll have given it a decent send off.

I will be posting a Chapter a day on my weblog, SHE BLOSSOMS

To view the book chapters, go www.jmaruru.wordpress.com. On the right hand column see my Pages, and there you will find Someday- A novel written by Juliet Maruru, the prologue followed below by the chapters in separate pages.

At the very least, you might be able to enjoy the story. I hope.


© Juliet Maruru 2009 www.jmaruru.wordpress.com