My greatest hope is that you had a fabulous Easter holiday. I did. I travelled to my rural home. As I said before, there is something I love so much about Taita, the people, its scenery, the atmosphere, the fresh air outside the hustle and bustle of the city.
My apologies, for not posting the second part of the Taita Story last Friday. One, I brought with me a modem, unfortunately it couldn’t work in Taita. Secondly, I thought I needed to do more research as far as this story is concerned, so I decided to engage the Taitas themselves, from different parts just to find out, what are their thoughts on this drinking habit. Therefore, I have had to restructure my story altogether. Here are my findings, some of the reasons as to why Kenyan people drink as they do.
Escape from Realities of Life
I am informed that many people just like in many parts of the world, one major reason for excessive drinking, is to escape from the realities of life. Life can be full of stress, frustrations and therefore, the only way to get out of such, many imagine will be through alcohol. “Come and spend some more time in Taita Patience, don’t just come visiting, you will understand what kind of suffering we go through. It is not easy. We have land, but nothing grows here, there are no rains, and the family expects food at the end of the day, it can be very frustrating. So a drink a day, keeps the frustrations away,” Remarked Mwakio, a Taita man from Wundanyi.
Too much time to Waste
“Life in our villages is not the same as life in Nairobi. This is a fact. After a long day at work, all I want to do is to go home and relax.” Said Mike, a Taita man living in Nairobi. He continues to tell me, that in Nairobi many people are working 2 to 3 jobs to make ends meet, meaning there is no time left to just sit down and even grab a drink. “But in Taita, there is nothing much to be done and you know many people find solace in this drink. If they were busy like we are, they will don’t be drinking at 7 in the morning.” Commented Mike.
If I was going to write this story on my own, you can be sure, I was never going to mention family influence as one of the reasons as to why some Taitas over drink. “This is a huge problem. Many people here are addicted to this not because they want to, but because it is a family problem. You will find very many educated youngsters’ staggering their way home with their brothers and even fathers, all coming from the same drinking den.” Said a Taita man from Choke.
Many of the people I talked to mentioned lack of employment as one key reasons that has continued to champion for drinking of the local brew. It is at this point I ask, why can’t people work even on volunteer basis? Take an example, many of us from my village, cannot drive to our homes, reason being, there are no roads, instead we have pathways. If we had people ready to work on volunteer, for the benefit of the whole village, then we wouldn’t be talking about lack of roads today. When we have sick people, funerals, and other emergencies, this is the only time people talk of how important it is for us to have roads in our villages. All the energetic people are in town, so we cannot make roads in our villages, and those that are at home are busy complaining of how life is frustrating and that there are no jobs. So, what do they do? Drinking alcohol becomes their only way out.
This was also one reason that I found very interesting. I was informed that with the women empowerment, many men now feel out-of-place in their own homes. Women are now involved in many women groups and therefore, make it easy for them to access money and hence, change of roles. Women are slowly by slowly, becoming the bread winners. Just like in towns, many women are now part of various merry go rounds, women chamas and sister-sisters. I am informed that many men have problems with women earning more than them, it makes them feel intimidated and that it robs them of their position as the head of the family. So drinking becomes the better option, it gives the men a ballooned ego to be able to maintain authority over their families. (Very shallow way of thinking, I am sorry to say).
Catch up with the rest of the world
I am challenged to go out and find out how many business ideas came into being. I am told many of these were done over a drink. “Patience, at the bars, at the drinking dens, many people are very adventurous and very creative. This is where people think, build castles and think outside the box.” So many men are out drinking, not just a reason to escape from realities, no, many want to know what is happening in the world around them, many want to feel like they belong somewhere. (This is the need to cater for the intimidation encountered at home, because the wife is slowly becoming the head). The political temperature in Kenya is fast rising, left, right, center, Kenyans are discussing politics, so many will be out drinking as a way to catch up with the latest politics and lobby for their favourite aspirants.
“Imagine for only Ksh. 50, you are able to get half a litter of M’bangara. Where can you get the same in Nairobi, you can’t. In Nairobi, that is not even enough for fare, from the house and back, so we can’t drink as they will do back at home.” Said Mike. Many of the people in Taita, just need Ksh. 50 to get a drink, and if you are loyal customer, you can get it at 30 shillings. “And there are many ways of getting such little money. Casual jobs, borrowing from friends and relatives, from people like us, who are now going home for Easter, there will be a lot of, “Abaaa nitesie na 50 bob nikwane na wambenyu”, remarked Samson*(Please assist me with 50 bob, so that I can get a chance to catch up with my people.) “Patience, what is 50 bob, you actually give this poor fellow 200 shillings, hoping that he will buy something for his family too, because he is your neighbor at home.
Then I ask a question, these are the people who complain that they have no money for their family/ house responsibilities, where does all this money come from on a daily basis?
“Patience, many women don’t believe this, but you can have zero shillings in your pockets and drink for a whole week. Just visit these dens, the level of brotherhood that exists there, its unbelievable. Men will always buy for each other, so if you don’t have money today, you can be assured that others will buy for you, of course with the expectation that when you have money, you will also buy for others, that’s just how we operate.” Said Mwachofi.
Now I know, at least I know the factors that make these Kenyan men drink as they do. This means I have to write another blog post on this topic, try to explore some of the effects when this drinking goes overboard. I will also try to highlight some of the channels we can use to restore our lost brothers. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
“You own yourself, so if you want to do something that destroys yourself, go ahead. Just don’t harm others when you do.” Jim Goebel