At the beginning of this month, a friend sent me a hilarious message that got me doubled up in laughter. I laughed so much, my sides ached afterwards. I was probably so amused because I could relate to it 100 per cent. This is what it said:
How eating habits change:
December: Eat chicken
Early January - Eat chicken products (Eggs)
Mid-January: Eat like chicken (maize, etc)
January, or Njaanuary to be precise, must be the most difficult and frustrating month for most Kenyans because, let’s face it, we spend all our money in December. Not that we intend to, mind you. If you are like me, you promise yourself — hand on heart, a sincere look on your face — that you will not overspend during the Christmas holiday. You even draw up a budget, withdraw the little money you intend to spend, and resolutely push your ATM card to the bottom of your untidy drawer, to be retrieved in January.
Of course this is always an exercise in futility once the Christmas mood kicks in. This is when most retailers offer “discounts”, I put the word in quotes because I doubt they really give you any discount.
You pass by Bata on your way home and this glittery red cardboard blinks at you, declaring a 40 per cent discount on an attractive pair of shoes. You tell yourself that the shoe will come handy in January, so why not buy now especially since they’re offering a “discount”?
And then you go to the supermarket to buy a loaf of bread, but you tell yourself it is long since the children had sausage and, being the festive season, why not? As you pick up a packet of sausages, you throw in the bacon too, which is four times more expensive than the sausages – your argument is, “kwani watakua wakiona hizi vitu kwa TV tu?” (Why should they just see bacon on TV?)
While at it, why not buy that five-in-one packet of assorted biscuits too? If anything, there is a small complimentary packet of biscuits attached to it … that holiday will be a long one, and friends or relatives might drop by, so you decide to buy juice too. What about some decorations to go with the festive mood?
By the end of that shopping trip, whose intention was to only buy a loaf of bread costing 52 bob, you end up spending Sh5,000, which you could have used to buy your school-going child shoes and books in January.
But this is peanuts compared to how much you will end up spending on Christmas Day and on December 31 (for the walevis) or on January 1 (for those who had no one to babysit their children on the 31st).
I suspect that there are people who left their ATM cards at home on Christmas Day, with good intentions, of course, but still ended up going way above the sober budget they had written. Nowadays, thanks to technology (or darn technology), you can withdraw money from your bank account into your M-Pesa account, and voila! just like that, your good intentions go down the drain.
Back to that hilarious message. As it is, I can tell you for a fact that this year, I have not had chicken yet, but I refuse to speculate why this is the case. I have a feeling though that I am not alone. This week, the company Sacco offered to lend us a percentage of our dividends, normally paid out some time in March — at an interest of 10 per cent, mind you. I intend to kaa ngumu and ride off the month with what I have, but I am certain there are many who have taken up this offer.
If your spouse has been losing temper more often for the last two weeks or so, don’t be alarmed, it is just the January blues, which will start fading away some time in February, depending on when they get paid.
This is also the time when we remember all those that owe us money — of course, none picks your calls, simply because they are riding the same wave of brokenness. We urgently need a formula, or better still, a magic potion to help us overcome this recurring January curse.
I come from Kijabe and studied at Kijabe Boys High School. I used to bath at 3am before going for my preps and breakfast afterwards. I am in my umpteenth year taking sugarless tea. You can try it. It’s most enjoyable though my mum tried and failed miserably. My dad inspired me to take ndubia.
I refer to your piece in last week’s Lifestyle. Your story has provided a very valuable service at this particular time of the school calendar. A young lady who is preparing to go to Form One should take solace from your story if she is not selected to join her dream national school, which would have provided hot showers (and sausages and bacon for breakfast perhaps?).
She, and her parents, should be able to say- “Look, Carol Njunge went to a school with some missing window panes, and she had cold showers, but look who and where she is and how influential she is in society”.
I quit taking “sugared” tea in 1992 to protest obscenely high and punitive prices. To add pilipili to an open wound, one had to (at least in Kangemi where I was staying) buy a pack of red label Ketepa tea leaves and a loaf of bread for every kilo of sugar. And so, 24 years later and counting, I don’t miss the stuff.
Your article on fearing cold water and sugarless tea resonated with me. Hilarious piece. The only time I touch cold water is when I travel to the coast.
Very interesting that I also spent four years at Kijabe (high, not boys) and have very fond memories of walking to and from misheni. We had enough water those days though.