Last week I finally got the chance to visit the sitting room…you know the kind of places where only the potbellied, gray haired, musky individuals with really flashy cars like my dad and yours like to hang out chugging down bottles of tusker and nyama choma?
I’d only ever heard of these places through story telling sessions from my uncles, who for what it’s worth seemed to really enjoy their weekends out and that picked my curiosity. It was 5.45A.M – approximately 1 week since the call was made, I was sweaty, anxious, petrified and overall sleepy but this classic keywound alarm clock could be less bothered by my countertop emotions. After zero attempts to hitch the train to snoozeville, Mayonde and I finally made it to the shower and I can bet you your last coin that that was the beginning of a pretty interesting day!
Excited, I geared up for battle and began chanting positive, self-empowerment phrases through the traffic. Perhaps the misconceived notion that sending positive stimuli through my brain would calm the voices in my head; and maybe just maybe allow me to communicate decently with one of the head editors of Kenya’s leading newspaper. My first mission of the day was trying to locate Sagret Hotel. A daunting challenge seeing as even the bipolar GPS app on my phone couldn’t find its coordinates. Luckily technology is any girl’s best friend, one ring through to uncle Tom and in no time I was standing at the parking lot at Sagret Hotel channeling two really strong emotions as I intensely scanned the environment; one – confusion. The place looked nothing ‘meeting appropriate’ compared to the primary joints with suspended ceilings and engraved lighting fixtures I’d been used to and the other anxiety – I mean who wouldn’t be?
I was welcomed by a heavy trail of rich, flavorful gray smoke that quickly captured my attention as I drifted my eyes to the ‘choma pit’ where succulent pieces of meat lay lifeless, slightly charred as the fat sizzled with enough precision to have even my stomach rumbling. The place, a decent display of mid-century architecture, covered in ‘mabati’ roofing and wooden interiors wasn’t filled to capacity, on each table was at least 4 to 7 bottles of Tusker and highly expectant savages ready to pounce on their orders which from what I observed seemed to be efficiently delivered. I was quickly informed that wouldn’t be the case in the next half hour as multiple people streamed in to catch the much anticipated Leicester City Vs Arsenal match.
After a quick coaching session with Mama Murie – a journalist and writer who was there as my backbone; as to what to say and just how to say it, I switched to my alter ego and braved my other self for the moment of truth. Watching him walk towards us sent slight shivers down my spine and not because of what you think – there was some sort of supernatural wind that crossed my path in an effort to highly dramatize the moment. I guess it worked.
Brief introductions painted with mechanical smiles and a couple of awkward glances led up to the question I dread the most ‘Who is Mumbi and why did you start writing?’ which somehow took me by surprise. I was Kihumba Mumbi – the blogger, recently completed my university education and the ultimate lover of life. All my friends knew me as so…now here I was being asked to defend why I wrote. I sat back, indignant for a minute before I remembered I was in the presence of one of the most esteemed editors of our time.
See there’s something incredibly powerful about feigned confidence that gets you through life – a skill I seem to have mastered before men and not machines (cameras to be specific). The next phase of this meeting was the ultimate test. Sitting there anxiously watching him gloss through my articles word by word through his gigantic rimmed spectacles had my stomach churning. Page after another and a distinct nod highlighted the next couple of minutes and how my heart paced. Trying to denote some type of emotion from his facial expressions was almost like searching for Kim Kardashian’s diamond earring at the surface of the ocean so I resolved to munching down our order of ‘mgongo’ which Waweru skillfully chopped as he struggled to denote the dynamics on our table. I guess it’s not every day they get to see a twenty something chilling with the folks. And after what seemed like forever, he finally looked up at me, smiled and said, “There’s a lot of potential here”. My heart sunk. I’ve never in my entire 21 years on earth felt more validated than in that moment! However the universe had some sort of twisted plan on how I’d celebrate the next couple of minutes as all I could do was smile and nod awkwardly as my tongue went to war with the chunk of meat stuck between my braces 😀 😀 couldn’t get better than this.
When time came to leave, I looked around and took it all in. I had not only landed an incredible opportunity but left with a new fragrance – rich oak. Step aside Marc Jacobs, this one turned more heads than Daisy!
Pictures by Josie Wambui.