A Small Price to Pay

Have you ever been embarrassed because of your parents? This can come in many forms. It may be as simple as them having a conversation about you with your friends, or perhaps their accent is different from what your peers are used to hearing. Children often are easily embarrassed by the silliest things about their parents.

I (Christy) have been embarrassed on various occasions, but when I heard my mom was getting braces, I just about lost it. To me, that was the end of my already-nonexistent social life. I was so self-absorbed that all I could think about was how much her getting braces was going to affect me. There was no stopping it; she was going to get them “so that [she could] align [her] lower teeth which moved with age. At the moment, hearing that answer would not have changed my perspective; it is only now that I realized how important the braces really were for her sense of self-esteem and health. As I grew up and became more mature, I came to understand that getting embarrassed over petty things is not as significant as it initially seems.

My dad got braces not long after my mom removed hers, only a few months ago. Surprisingly, I did not react negatively this time. His reason for getting them was similar to my mom’s. Now I can fully appreciate the reasons both my parents had for getting braces in their fifties. They were not intentionally trying to embarrass me; in fact, they were not doing anything that should even considered embarrassing.

However, braces are not the only embarrassing thing that parents can do to “humiliate” a child – sometimes there are many moments with them that become nightmares. Here’s an instance from my (Bill’s) life. It was during Young Musician, a musical competition, while I was walking up the stage. Every step was a struggle; my legs were weak and fingers were shaking.  To make matters worse, my mom called out my nickname that I had intentionally chosen not to reveal. Surprised and embarrassed, I tripped – but this was not the end of the embarrassment I was to suffer. The performance had ended, people applauded and just when I was about to walk down, my worst nightmare came to pass. My mom wanted to take a picture of me. Many children might share this experience, when a parent thinks that the whole world revolves around their child, and that everything can wait when a parent is taking a picture. I was already half way down the stairs when I had to walk back to the piano and pose “doing the peace sign”. At that moment I froze, but to my surprise, my dad walked up the stage, stood next to the piano with me and took the picture. Great. Just great. 

As children, we sincerely believe that parents find satisfaction in causing embarrassment to us, but when we look back at the funny moments that cause us so much “pain”, we realize that they only want what is best for us and do not deliberately want to embarrass us most of the time. Of course, we also need to try to understand these people called Parents – they love us (and, of course, for that we are very grateful). Maybe being embarrassed from time to time is a small price to pay for being loved. 



Catcalling: Two Sides to the Story?

In my previous article “Compliment or Catcall”, I addressed the issues of catcalling, why it is done, why it shouldn’t happen, and its effects on women. Which made me wonder-what happens when the roles are reversed and women are catcalling men?

Do men like the attention and respond positively to it, or do they feel objectified and uncomfortable like many women do?

Earlier this year, a shopping mall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, reported 16 cases of sexual harassment of men by women, prompting outrage in the conservative kingdom. Men were followed around the mall and catcalled in a growing trend that is challenging gender roles in the Middle Eastern kingdom. Many said the women should be punished severely, to ensure that this kind of behaviour doesn’t happen again. According to one male shopper, “Women harass men verbally for emotional enticement, especially if the man is handsome.” This issue was unexpected. However, the amount of sexual harassment of women and girls still vastly overshadows the limited harassment of men, and we don’t see that being brought to light every time it happens.

Malaika Norman, a high school student from Nairobi has an opinion on this issue. She brings up an interesting idea about where this double-standard might stem from: “Some men are hypocritical in the way they do things. The same men that you will find catcalling women are the same men that if you ask ‘What if someone did this to your mother, sister, etc?’, they will be against it, as they see clearly it is disrespectful and that a woman is not to be objectified. Yet they are the same people who still do it. Does it start from the way boys are raised? And how does that play into their actions now? Shouldn’t boys [and girls] be taught to be respectful and understanding human beings in general? As the one time a woman stands up for the disrespect that men of this class dish out, we are rude, bossy, crazy feminists.”

Many social experiments have been performed in order to uncover what men think and feel about catcalling. In videos titled “Sons React to Their Moms Getting Catcalled”, “Dads React to Their Daughters Getting Catcalled” and “Men React to Their Girlfriends Getting Catcalled,” we see that the issue can hit close to home, and that most males did not like it when those close to them were victims of this disrespect. However, catcalling shouldn’t only become disturbing when it happens to someone’s mother, daughter, sister or girlfriend. Shining a light on the commonness of street harassment women experience on a daily basis (often when a male friend or loved one isn’t around) can have a powerful impact.

In other social experiments, such as “The Shame Game”, we see that flipping round catcalling doesn’t quite work in the same way. The reactions that the women conducting the experiment get ranged from confused to amused, and – unfortunately – the men seemed to like it.

So, women are in a conundrum; it is hard to explain the combination of shame and being “creeped out” that comes with frequent objectification, especially when you are trying to explain the experience to the opposite sex, and if most people of the opposite sex (i.e. men) seem to like it.

Ivan Coyote, a transgender activist, has a message for men who don’t understand that a woman’s existence in public is not an invitation for male attention. “Just leave her alone,” Coyote wrote in a status on Facebook. “She is wearing her headphones AND reading her book at the bus stop. What part of that says ‘I want to talk to you?’ She’s not dressed up for you…She doesn’t want to smile. She knows she looks good.”

So when in doubt, people of public spaces, just follow Coyote’s advice: “Just leave her alone.” We need more people to spread the word and understand this simple message. You might like catcalling and being catcalled, but that doesn’t mean others feel the same way.


Game of Thrones: Why Watch?

April 24, 2016 marked an important day for millions of people around the world. After Jon Snow’s death, the anticipated Season 6 of Game of Thrones was on everyone’s mind. On the 24th of April, Episode 1 aired, and it did not disappoint. Meera Shah, having watched up to Episode 3 of the current season, said, “Season 6 of [GOT] is like going to an expensive restaurant without money and freaking out the whole time you are there, but when the bill comes, you find out someone else paid it for you. I don’t think I have ever felt these many emotions at one moment.” With people constantly being captured, tortured, and killed, many Game of Thrones fans would agree with Shah’s statement. The audience can try to guess what will happen next, but will ultimately fail to guess right.

Watching an episode per week doesn’t seem like much when it comes to Game of Thrones. The intensity of the show might give my stomach ulcers to last for the next few years. It always leaves me guessing and sitting at the edge of my seat, ready to throw my phone at any given moment. So far, having watched four episodes of Season 6, I can say that it is proving to be an intense season. Maybe this is because I have to get used to waiting a week for the next episode, but nonetheless it is intense. I deliberately left out any details concerning the 6th Season for those of you who are not caught up as of yet, but look out -all the other seasons are fair game for the blogging world.

Season 6 is finally at the point when the show has caught up with the books, and therefore people cannot make speculations. The audience is completely relying on the producers to continue making excellent television. Fortunately, George R.R. Martin is involved in the production of this series, meaning that his view is still being fulfilled. Many books that are made into TV shows and movies do not manage to maintain a great reputation. Often people say that the book is better than the movie or TV series, but in this case I think that the show is carrying its own weight. With an estimated amount of six million dollars going into each episode, HBO, the crew, directors and producers are putting in an incredible amount of time and money into the making of a fantastical show, episode by episode. With the help of George R.R. Martin, chances are good that the show will remain a success until the end.

If you do not watch GOT and are looking for a new show to get into, there is no better choice. You will be entranced by the medieval fantasy life that you have always wanted; granted, your entrails might end up tied in knots, but this is a small price to pay to witness this piece of entertainment history. 

A Time to Work, A Time to Rest

Stress is a way of life. As a high school student, whether you are taking an AP, higher level classes, “A” levels, or normal classes, you will be stressed. The World Health Organization suggests that we split up our day so that we have eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of play. However, for most high school students, this balanced schedule is impossible. We go to school for eight hours in a day, and work for about 7 of them because of lunch and breaks. That fits within a healthy day; but when we get home, we have hours of homework, and then we have to sacrifice both our sleep and leisure time. Homework is important, as it allows for extra practice and maximum understanding. However, sleep and leisure time are just as important. What to do?

Sleep is very important for a student’s education. Human beings need sleep in order to function well. By giving students hours of homework without a time set apart within the school day to finish a good amount of it, our education systems are making us vulnerable to the risks of sleep deprivation, which is detrimental to our education. The risks of sleep deprivation include symptoms such as decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and for students who drive, a higher risk of accidents.

Leisure time is also part of healthy living. It is often thought that leisure time is useless, and not beneficial; it can be viewed as a waste of time. However, our brains need to rest, and not just when sleeping. Leisure time is also important for developing social skills, gained when you go out with your friends. Leisure time also provides us with an opportunity to bond with our families. It allows time for stress relief and boredom relief, and gives a feeling of control of our lives. During free time, we can meet new people and broaden our perspectives; it gives us time for group activities which increase communication skills and self-esteem; it gives us time for exercise. Generally, time “off” is beneficial to our mental and physical health.

Study halls, a not-so-common opportunity in most high schools, can contribute to a healthier student life. Candice Etemesi, a busy high school student, referring to study halls says “most people use the time to do work because it is the only time where you can guarantee that people will be quiet. So it is easier to work. It also cancels the stress of having all-nighters or having to wake up early.” Mandatory study halls will not completely fix a student’s health and stress problems. However, by providing students with a time to either finish work, relax, or sleep within the school day would help to bring us a little closer to healthy lifestyle. A school in California recently included a mandatory study hall into their schedule, and as a result, there were 228 less failing grades reported than the year before when study halls where not mandatory. Mandatory study halls are not only beneficial to students overall health, but are also beneficial to their education and the schools themselves.

Is it time for students to demand a time to work, a time to study, and a time to rest? When will what is good for adults also be good for us?

Shaming Nature

This article is about period shaming, and why we shouldn’t be ashamed of something so natural. The irony is that while writing this article, I felt cautious and tentative, as if I shouldn’t be writing about this because the chances are high that someone (of the male persuasion) will read this. Menstruation is a natural and necessary biological function. It is not something we can change, and despite all the symptoms and physical discomfort, it is not something we would want to change. Menstruation is healthy; a woman’s cycle can indicate health problems such as hormone imbalance, bones thyroid and metabolic wellness, fertility, and emotional wellness. It is part of living a healthy natural life.

Despite the health benefits of menstruation and its necessary existence in order to cleanse our bodies of waste, girls are often taught to not talk about their periods. We are taught that it is something to hide, something shameful. We are taught to carry our tampons and pads in small bags so they will not be seen. We learn to never talk about something so natural with any man or boy. We learn to try our best to not let the symptoms show (like we can control the pain). And the worst thing we can possibly do is have that stain of blood on our clothes because we forgot, or the cycle is irregular. When we sit in class, and Aunty Flo comes for a surprise visit, we ask our male teacher if we can go to the bathroom; he says no. So, we have a choice: we can wait and stain our clothes and feel uncomfortable until class ends, or we can tell our male teacher what’s going on, and how we actually can’t wait. More often than not, we pick the first option, because it’s more embarrassing to tell the truth, and because it’s awkward to see that super uncomfortable look on his face. What’s wrong with this picture?

In some cultures, the women of the community are banished to a cowshed (or another animal dwelling) during their periods, simply because for three to five days they are considered impure, dirty, and unlucky. Why? Because they were born female, and consequently go through menstruation.

All of this shaming occurs because men are uncomfortable with menstruation. Somehow the world assumes that because men don’t have periods, it is unnecessary to educate them on how periods work, and why women have them. But men need to know because the world is not only made up of men. And we need men to understand periods so that we do not have to walk around on eggshells trying not to show, or talk about something so natural.

Women cannot prevent, or stop menstruation from happening – if it happens, it happens. And, it’s not going to stop happening until menopause. Children- both male and female – need to be taught about menstruation, because regardless of your sex, menstruation will affect either yourself, someone you care about, or someone you are around on a regular basis. Menstruation is a natural bodily function for women. Why are we shaming nature? 

Compliment or Catcall?

Catcalling is defined as a whistle, shout, or a sexual move/comment towards a person (especially a woman) walking by in public. This atrocious remark (or noise) is often structured in a way that makes it seem like a compliment. Well, at least this may seem to be the case to the one who isn’t receiving it. The comment generally says something about the woman’s physical appearance: “Nice legs!” or, “Hey, sexy!”,  objectifying women as walking sexual objects. What is the goal here? Why do men do it? Women’s bodies are not public property awaiting validation from men.

The idea that women should appreciate catcalling implies that it is done with respect. It indicates that when a guy sees a girl walking down the street and shouts something at her about her body, he’s doing so because he thinks it will make her day better. This theory is laughable! Guys catcall because they think it will somehow lead to them getting attention or having sex. This is disrespectful, and it continues even though many girls complain about it. If it were meant to respect women, then men would, naturally, also respect women’s views on this practice; it would stop.

I’m not saying that girls who enjoy getting catcalled are wrong or have low self-esteem. Some people are rightfully proud of their looks and enjoy the attention. Although, it is important that they shouldn’t trick themselves into thinking that the catcall means something that it doesn’t.

People, if you actually genuinely want to get the attention of a woman walking down the street, perhaps you could try this: catch up to her, and in a polite non-threatening or creepy way tell her, “I’m sorry to disturb you, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful you are and I’d love the opportunity to get to know you. Would you like to get a coffee with me someday?”

The hashtag #FirstTimeIWasCatcalled is proof that some experiences are universal. Alanna Vagianos, Women’s Editor for The Huffington Post, wrote about her first time being catcalled in this article when she was 16, and almost 10 years later, she still remembers that day, what she was wearing, and the shame she felt.

The stories shared by the women using this hashtag on Twitter, and the story of feminist actress Rowan Blanchard, show us that this distasteful experience is all too common for women. Emotional damage can be done at a young age; innocence can be lost.

Issues like catcalling, dress code and sexism are sometimes regarded as topics that are not the most important when compared to others. People who write about them are deemed to be overly sensitive, and that is frustrating. Why don’t people understand the importance of these topics? Maybe they don’t know about how girls have learned, by instinct or trial and error, how to minimize an uncomfortable situation.

We have all ignored or laughed off an offensive or inappropriate comment. Maybe people don’t know that we have had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts at a young age. Maybe they don’t know that we pretend not to notice. We suppress our anger and fear, as we would rather not deal with confrontation so often. We don’t talk about it everyday, or name it. We don’t even consider that other girls are doing the same thing – mastering the art of acquiescing.

Women can ignore catcalling and mostly don’t react, as that will only serve to satisfy the person calling for attention and just be a waste of time. But they still hear it. Catcalling is a demeaning manipulative act, as not only are women being objectified and stared at; but comments are being yelled at them about the way they look. Do people think this practice is really increasing women’s self-esteem?

Here’s an interesting video that debates this issue of Catcalling…

What do you think? Compliment or Catcall?

The African Dream:Tradition, Federation and Independence

Pan-Africanism is an ideology that encourages solidarity between African people. This mindset encourages the unification of all Africans – this is a very powerful idea. We, as African people, are called to stand together and build one another up for the mutual benefit of the entire continent.

Africa has been globally labelled as the world’s poorest continent; in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty.  Africa is also known to be the wealthiest continent, full of natural resources. This creates a paradox between extreme potential and extreme poverty. The continent also boasts the highest birthrate, and has the fastest growing economies and one of the best mobile phone markets in the world, second only to Asia.

Africa’s modern history has been defined by oppression from colonial powers that fragmented various communities and social groups. This caused incredibly weak infrastructures, resulting in an enormous dependence on foreign aid from the West, despite each country’s claim of independence. Why are the countries of Africa still in isolation and still reliant on the West after several decades of independence? According to Pan-African theory, it’s because we are trying to run on a non-African model. Under this model, each fragment of Africa is attempting to survive, while facing very high odds, alone. A Pan-African state would not only stand together politically, but share militaristic and economic goals. “If we were able to work together as a continent we wouldn’t have to rely on the West to help us process our resources”, Njeri Thuo – a high school student in Nairobi – stated when asked about the idea of Pan-Africanism.

With all things considered, a “United States of Africa” is an amazing idea that can only become a reality if we adopt a new model of state firmly rooted in African traditions and ways. Many Pan-Africans blame Western government transplanted to Africa as the root of some of the major problems on the continent. Mwayila Tshiyembe, a firm believer of inventing a multinational Africa, states that the failure of the post-colonial state reflects a questioning of the will to coexist, and a loss of purpose and direction. The nations (or ethnic groups) are in fundamental disagreement about the community’s basic values. How are we to define a free society, authority that is properly conferred and shared, and law that seems to come naturally? State and society seem to have been in conflict ever since Africa’s plurinational societies saw their own model destroyed to make way for an enforced Western caricature.”

If the various nations in Africa could see one another as comrades rather than competitors, and help each other destroy problems such as corruption, we could stomp out poverty and civil unrest. We shouldn’t look to the West to solve problems that are specific to us. We shouldn’t look to adopt forms of government from other civilizations, but rather create various forms of government that work for us – and perhaps only us. As different African countries, we shouldn’t accept the hiring of other nations to build our countries up to their standards. We should understand that we are different, and that because we are different, we need to do something different. 


Melting Pot or Not

Interracial marriages and multiracial families are something that are no longer considered rare or unheard of in many countries. They are becoming common in countries such as America, which prides its self on being a melting pot of many different cultures, races, and people. In other places, multiracial children are viewed as exotically beautiful, having picked up the best traits from each race. However when multiracial families or interracial marriages are displayed on advertisements, they are often met with a slew of racist and derogatory remarks, which are detrimental to the progress that advertisement companies are making concerning miscegenation.

On April 29, Old Navy, a well-known American clothing store, released an advertisement on social media which depicted a multiracial family. Almost immediately, the advertisement was met with racist social media comments such as “Absolutely disgusting. What’s next? Gender neutral bathrooms? Pedophilia acceptance propaganda?! Never shopping here again.” This was not the first time an advertisement depicting multiracial families has been attacked. Companies such as Cheerios have been attacked for daring to depict a multiracial family in their advertisements.

The problem is that America has long identified itself as a country of immigrants, a country of many cultures, a diverse melting pot. However, can a country be a melting pot if multiracial families are not accepted in marketing, and business? Many African Americans carry the traits and genes of more than one race; no one seems to have a problem with this as long as both parents are black. The problem seems to stem from having parents that are of different races – miscegenation. The verbally abusive anti-miscegenation attacks that some American marketing businesses are experiencing are yet another sign that the fight against racism is not over. What is worse is that America prides itself on being culturally diverse, and yet cannot except miscegenation. Carolina Johnson, a junior at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi said, “I think it’s pretty insane at this point in time, in 2016, that people make those kinds of comments. I think that they show a face of society that we really have to try to diminish. To look at a family that is based on love, and say very demeaning things about them, that’s insane.” America has come pretty far in the fight against racism, but there is still a long way to go.

People often think that because slavery no longer exists in the shameless form it used too, slavery is over; it is not. And because segregation laws no longer exist, people can conclude that racism is over; it is not. Things such as racism cannot be solved simply by changing laws. Racism is a system of thinking in which a particular race is placed at the top of the chain, and this system of thinking drastically affects reality. Anti-miscegenation is only one example of the many problems that racism still brings.

It is dangerous to place value and identity in the colour of skin. Our races are simply boxes that society tries to put us in. Race is not an identity. Character is.

Come Together

It’s that time of the year again, when millions of Europeans come together to celebrate music through the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s a competition filled with nationalism, political controversy, interesting fashion choices and of course, tons of heartfelt ballads and interesting euro-pop performances that probably would sound quite bizarre in a different setting. And there has certainly been a few outrageous numbers in the competition that would have you exclaim ‘Only in Eurovision’, including old Russian ladies singing “Party for Everybody” while baking bread as a part of the choreography, a Romanian countertenor in black diamond embellished clothing. Oh, and Ireland´s Singing Turkey back in 2008.

However, Eurovision does not only contain crazy outfits and catchy songs. Politics often make their way into the arena. In the last few years, loud boos have echoed against the walls after Russia’s performances due to the outrage over the anti-HBTQ politics of the country, as well as the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Interestingly, these negative noises have been censored in previous years, but Sweden – this year’s host country – has decided to not censor the show at all. Sergey Lazarev, this year’s Russian competitor, is one of the favorites and says that Eurovision wants to keep politics out of the show and should do just that by censoring the boos. He says that a prospering gay community does exist in Russia and that a Russian victory this year would support it further.

The motivation behind the start of this loved and cherished contest was to unite Cold War Europe. Today, the competition is a friendly one between countries that once were at bloody war with each other. Sometimes things can seem a bit too friendly, when countries put their highest vote on their neighboring country in order to improve the bonds between their respective countries. This leads many to question the fairness of the competition. And in last year’s dramatically close battle between Russia and Sweden for first place, politics might have played a large part. Even though Russia’s competitor expressed her open mind and support of human rights and love, she was faced with deep criticism because of the negative attitude against the country in which she was born. If Russia wins this year, will that victory come without controversy? Probably not.

The turbulence and conflicts that are realities in our world today conflict with other areas – like music – and it seems to be hard to look beyond politics when judging an artist in a competition like the Eurovision Song Contest. As a politically interested person, I know that it can be hard to ignore the political views that certain nation’s governments represent, even when it´s about music. But I think that we all have to remind ourselves that a person can represent only him or herself – not necessarily always a country as a whole. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to worry about whether our actions and words are in complete agreement with the policies of our own countries in every aspect of life. We are all from this same world.

The theme of this year’s Eurovision is “Come Together”, and so perhaps we should do just that; we should forget the conflicts for once, and unite with the help of music and creativity.

Uber in Nairobi: The Death of the Taxi?

Uber launched in Kenya in late January. Its efficiency and convenience has quickly made the Uber concept popular across the world. But, for Nairobi, is Uber truly better than getting a taxi?

Most people would argue that Uber, compared to regular taxi services, is safer and more secure to ride. According to Alude, an Uber driver, “If an Uber driver decides to do something bad to a client, he can easily be traced through the system, so if you complain they will go through the record and find out who picked the personage and catch him.” Therefore, with the existence of a system, personal safety is almost guaranteed. Taxi drivers, on the other hand, don’t have a system that monitors their actions. The only thing that control them is morality. This doesn’t imply that all taxi drivers will take advantage of these lax roles. but most people are afraid of uncertainty, especially since Africa is often seen by the outside world as “unsafe”.

Another argument that people propose in favour of Uber is that it is more affordable than taking a taxi. However, experiences may call this idea into question. If an individual lives in Kileleshwa, next to Valley-Arcade in Nairobi, it will cost about 1,250 Kenya Shilling, or $12.50 to travel to the Gigiri area. This is around 250 shilling (or $2.50) more expensive than travelling by taxi. Uber’s price is determined by distance, and therefore if an Uber car gets stuck in a traffic jam it cam become unprofitable for the driver; as a result, often the criver will opt to take the longer route. This will increase the cost to the rider. However, since the route is ultimately up to the driver, the price does fluctuate. Because Uber uses shilling per kilometer, it becomes hard for passengers to correctly analyze how much the ride should cost. Most passengers don’t have a clear idea how far away their destination is, or how long it will take.

Having this in mind, Taxi’s are a different story. Since Uber uses a phone app to decide the final price, it’s very hard for passenger to bargain over the cost. In the case of a taxi, everything is negotiable. When the passenger arrives at the destination he or she can usually negotiate the price of the ride. Thus the decision is in the hands of the passenger as well as the driver. It can result in a good bargain for the rider.

Convenience is another factor. Uber is very convenient within Nairobi, but it only operates in Nairobi proper. So if a passenger wants to travel to Naivasha (a city outside Nairobi city limits), it would be difficult with Uber. This said, a taxi driver can drive a passenger to areas outside Nairobi such as Naivasha and Kisumu without any issue.

In general, the decision that a client needs to make between Uber or traditional taxis depends on the situation. The two main factors to consider are distance and how familiar you are with Nairobi. If you just want to travel within Nairobi and you are not familiar with any taxi driver, Uber is safer. But if you have lived in Nairobi for some time and are acquainted with a few taxi drivers, then taxis are the better choice. And, if you want to travel outside Nairobi, taxi are the only viable option.

Is Nairobi ready for the Uber movement? Most definitely! But does it mark the end of the taxi business? In my opinion, absolutely not. What do you think Nairobians?