Today is not like those
Other bright winter days.
The sun is here,
the trees their nudist queer,
and green slumber grasses
quiver with the nutty squirrels.
Let’s take a walk,
Upside down.

Lately, some morning exchanges were like this…

T: [to me who’s lying down with the laptop on my belly and my head a bit tilted so I can see the monitor] Good morning, my love. Facebook yoga again?
Me: Yes, honey.

Or this…
T: Good morning. How’s everyone in Facebook this morning? Is everyone OK?
Me: Never been better, honey.

But today, while preparing our breakfast together..
T: You know what are you gonna do today?
Me: Gonna go to Kenilworth if it won’t rain. Or maybe not.
T: And what else?
Me: Attend the evening yoga class?
T: Very good, my love. Message me so I can pick you up from there.
Me:  Ah honey.

Cooked dinner the other day hopefully to break T’s winning streak on south asian soups! The subsequent food conversation (profuse use of terms of endearment edited) had a twist on happiness approach, which still keeps me thinking..

T: Hmm this is very good..Looks good, smells good. What do you call this again?

Me: Pad Thai. I hope you’ll like it. It’s a common street food in Bangkok..

T: Pathai?

Me: Nope, that would mean dead. We don’t eat the dead here, do we? It’s Pad Thai.

T: PaD Thai… I’m gonna finish all these. I’m happy with this dish..

Me: I hope it will help you gain more kilos, because ultimately, happiness lies on whether you have been nourished..

T: But I am already happy with just eating this.

Me: Well, happiness should be measured from the result..

T: I’m happy now.

Me: True, I can’t argue with how you feel, but..

T: I am happy.

Me: Fine.

T: I also agree on the nourishment.

Me: And the food we are able to get is just one factor to that.. So it’s huge happiness among other sources of happiness.

T: Exactly.. The almonds here go well with the whole stuff. Excellent.

Me: Right.

Love is no assignment for cowards. -Ovid

[from ecosalon]

Image

Yesterday I felt that my ode wouldn’t
get up off the ground.
It was time, it should
at least
show a green leaf.
I scratched the earth: “Get up,
sister ode”
– I said to her –
“I promised to produce you,
don’t be scared of me,
I’m not going to step on you,
ode with four leaves,
ode for four hands,
you’ll have tea with me.
Get up,
I will crown you among the odes,
we’ll go out to the seashore
on our bicycles.”
Nothing doing.

Then,
high up in the pines,
laziness
appeared naked,
she led me off dazzled
and sleepy,
she showed me on the sand
little broken pieces
of material from the ocean,
wood, seaweed, stones,
feathers of seabirds.
I looked for yellow agates
but didn’t find any.
The sea
filled all spaces,
crumbling towers,
invading
the coasts of my country,
pushing forward
successive catastrophes of foam.
Alone on the sand
a ray opened
a ring of fire.
I saw the silvered petrels
cruise and like black crosses
the cormorants
nailed to the rocks.
I set free
a bee writhing in a spiderweb,
I put a little stone
in my pocket,
it was smooth, very smooth
like bird’s breast,
meanwhile on the coast,
all afternoon,
sun and fog wrestled.
Sometimes
the fog was pregnant
with light
like a topaz
at other times a moist
ray of sun fell,
and yellow drops fell after it.

At night,
thinking about the duties of my
fugitive ode,
I took off my shoes
by the fire,
sand spilled from them
and right away I was falling
asleep.

-Pablo Neruda
(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Kenyan Pres. Kibaki listening to the national anthem during the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Ceremony last April2012

Today is World Population Day.

I wanna share some of Kenya’s gender and population development data that I have mined out from government reports lately.

For development workers like myself, knowing these should help in understanding and scrutinizing democratic accountabilities and priorities,   in creating  initiatives not just to secure aid money but to really work in strengthening rights awareness, and in learning from grass roots struggles and resilience – even if the donors and leaders don’t require these.  Without undermining human dynamism, I say this perspective is  different from being just some bleeding heart animated by a sense of charity, guilt and superiority, messianic complex and cultural condescension, or simply the need for personal upgrade.

Because at the end of the day, we should always ask ourselves what things have we  done to change the facts:

Kenya has around 41 million rapidly growing population. Around 70% of them live in the rural areas, almost half (or maybe more since the survey method tends to aggregate) are below the poverty line, and 2 of 3 farmers believe their land is not sufficient for their children to stay and live.

With fertility rate averaging 5 children per woman, 78 of 1000 infants die before they can even start to recognise themselves in the mirror. Birthing is not a disease but death of mothers remains stunning at 414 per 100,000 live births.  Unmet family planning need (i.e., when the married woman wants to space or limit her pregnancy but doesn’t have access to appropriate services) is declining but remains high, and when women get pregnant, fewer than one-half of the deliveries are attended by skilled service providers.  Further, facilities offering comprehensive emergency obstetric care are only estimated at 7% on the national average.

Women with higher education tend to have lesser children, but only 30% of university enrollees are women, though primary education participation rate is observed to be quite improving.  Let’s not forget though that even  education is not a guarantee against abuse. Almost half of women (47%) ages 15-49 have reportedly experienced spousal violence though we know that violence could start early in life.

Here, for example, female genital mutilation or FGM  is experienced by around 27% of girls and women.  Three  provinces register much higher FGM incidence rate than the national average, with the North Eastern province remaining unperturbed at almost 98%.  FGM of course could result to health complications even death (especially from severe type of FGM), early and forced marriages, low education, and HIV/AIDS. Among the youthful population that comprise 38% of the population, around 20% of them have had sexual activity even before age 15, and of the 15-24 age group, the women are 4 times more likely to get HIV/AIDS than men in the same age group.

The picture can go on..

Well, of course, in addressing these based on what we do and vice versa, we can only cover and focus on a few little things of the few little things and so on, but that should never make us lose sight of the bigger picture.  And until August this year, I will never get tired of showing to my colleagues how to flow from/go back to  the situation, progress, and gaps before even jumping into the frenzy of policy and community activities that they are so used to.

Basta may basagan po ng trip.  Trip ko eh..

The poem is a forgotten scribble from my work notepad.
I wrote it on my last birthday (a rather sad one)…

Here, Right Now

I remember that moment
Many months ago
I was leaning unto you
by the backwoods lake;
we were watching the fowls happily
seeking their dinner
through the frozen water.

Now, here, where I chose to set foot these days,

I crave to listen to the quiet
rhythms of your heart.
Not because I will be leaving this place,
this red fertile earth
beneath the familiar cacophonies
of living through
the legacies of deceits, denigrations,
silence.

No, there is happiness here:
you would feel it in those
birds fleeting through
the skylines of this place
once central to the
‘dark continent’ of the land
where the quiet lake is,
where you are.

If the cosmos cooperates –
maybe that’s all I need to know.

– 11 May 2012