Nillionaire

There was a time when dreams were hallucinations. Those days when you would wake up wondering if people with salaries used the same purses and wallets that you used, or if their purses were as big as back packs. You were a student surviving on lean budgets then. You questioned if they wore the same kind of linen as students, because you knew for a fact that the money was so much. So much that it could tear your cheap campus linen. There were days you would dream that your first salary would be used to travel the world, and the second one would buy you a car, then you would become a millionaire and billionaire shortly after…  Subsequently, you would buy a big piece of land in the prime South Coast, and another one in the leafy suburbs around the capital city. You would embark on the construction of the century. An  impossibly imperial castle or a chalet bungalow! On the beach piece of land, you would put up a private beach, a royal one. You imagined that the child of the child of Queen Elizabeth would propose to his girlfriend on this land. You would have this proposal scene well figured out in mind, and the royal architects that you would hire to design it would have to get the grand picture right. You cannot have room for disappointing a royal prince, helloo?  All the things money would buy you would be of the century because you used to think that the people of this century did not how to spend their salaries. Who works for a year without building a home? Or buying small toys like cars? Image result for millionaire dream

In your life as a hallucinator, you did not have much respect for people who defiantly refused to upgrade their lifestyles despite being fatly salaried. You often caught yourself wondering what their problem was, and if it was clinically treatable. You sometimes asked silently if they had some forces that stole their money, if their bank accounts had some holes which leaked their money out. Was it possible that they made an agreement at birth that they would pay for all the air they breathed between the second they were born and the second they got their jobs? Must be billions of billions by now!. Or maybe they were repaying ancestral loans for their clans.  As a dreamer, you blacklisted one friend because they confided to you that they had taken leave on the last week of the month because they could not afford fare. Keeping such a friend would mean that you were exposing yourself to the risk of becoming a nillionare. You were born with the blood of a millionare, and as such, you needed people of similar blood and same dose of halucinations around you.

The good Lord was faithful. He granted you that job. In a multinational…in a globally recognized company ! It was a mega shift, from managing pocket change, to managing a salary. A salary that was so much that it had to be confined in the walls of a  24hour secured bank. Imagine that!!!   It was a massive shift! You were becoming a tax payer, you were now eligible to advise the ministry of finance. After all, you had a Finance/ Accounting background, and your taxes would be a material part of the national budget…Back to the jumbo shift.  You were about to become a rent payer or a home owner, an electricity bill payer, a water bill payer, a designer wear buyer, a car owner, and a business class traveller around the world. The paradigm shift was a few days away. As you sat in the job orientation, you deaf listened through the financial management session. You knew what you were waiting for, the etiquette session. This session would tell you how to carry yourself around, as the young millionaire you were just about to become. Gusto and drumrolls! And those people truly knew how to massage your delicate ego and rejuvenate your dreams.  Ray mentioned the kind of suits that the society expected people of your calibre to wear, the kind of shoes and jewerly, the hairdo and the kind of people who were allowed to shampoo your delicate business head… He talked about the kind of perfumes young people of your stature were allowed to use- eau de perfume, not anything less. Eau de toilette for who?? You kept nodding heavily and smiling villagely as you took notes in the global notebook. On that bright day,you forced yourself to sleep in traffic: because that session had touched you somewhere where only a dream could take you back.

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NOW. No car, no house, no land. Not much has changed. You have defiantly refused to upgrade, just like those people you thought needed clinical attention!

There comes a point when a person starts blaming their brains for having the ability to conceive such deceptive dreams. For faithfully making them believe that such a life is of this world, and attainable through months of work. That it is even attainable by a person purely depending on a single salary and no side hustle.

 

139561934314.jpgYou sit in traffic, in a matatu- as a nillionare. You moved out recently, after very many months of working. If your folks had not looked at you badly, if they had not insisted that you needed to take responsibility of your life, if they had not quarrelled you for getting home at 3 in the morning and accused you of treating their home as a bed and breakfast thingy, if you had not realized that were not saving despite staying at home…you would never have moved out. You did not move to a leafy suburb, ( Did you even think you would afford it?!). You moved to a neighbourhood just good enough to accommodate a starter who knows how to operate a budget. A starter who knows the complex math of fixed costs and can clearly differentiate between a luxury and necessity. One who knows how to classify a TV and a home theatre  as a luxury. Those ones will be bought later. Besides, you have a functional phone with earphones to keep you updated on what is happening around the world; and you have a laptop to keep you watching the latest movies released everywhere in the world;  Nollywood and Hollywood alike.  A starter, who now calls themselves a ‘self starter’ …( ‘I started from the bottom kind of vybe) . Needless to say, you do not have a car, at least not yet.

You look through the window, through the rain.Those dreams start haunting you. Your life is not where you used to see it. You feel like you are behind schedule. You have not afforded any holiday so far, and no matter how hard you close your eyes, you cannot see yourself affording one anytime soon. It is the last week of the month. You hate this week.  It is the week of revising your borrowing skills and taking honey to sweeten your voice lest someone decides to pay you for massaging their ears with your sweet voice. This week finds you so broke that  you could almost call your ex demanding for payment for all your time that they wasted.  It is the week where you spend a considerable amount of time refreshing your contacts and breaking the silence with long lost potential financiers. You invest time dropping a few texts here and there to cushion the reception of the borrowing text. You write down and rehearse ways of asking for money  without making your financier think that you are THAT broke. Mostly, you find yourself picking all manner of excuses/ small lies. Sometimes, ati you lost your ATM card, others you lie that you lend a huge amount to a friend and they have not paid you back, or all these other lies you people borrow money with, sometimes you want capital to grab some business opportunity. Any wise person will read through the lies and show some empathy. But you have to butter the right side of the bread so well that you cannot be denied that loan.

 

Capture.PNGIronically, this is the same week your next of kin will call you with all their financial needs. They ask for small money like 15k and over. Did the definition of small money change by the way?! How is 15k small money to a starter who knows mathematics? You cannot disappoint them anyway, you would rather take a loan…you know you are their child, they educated you and you are undeniably doing very well financially. They expect you to have a quarry of money. In fact, your parents believe that you, yes you penniless one, can open a bank for the entire village to provide financial aid to those people who cannot manage their finances at a small interest- if you wanted to. You cannot admit your financial strain lest they suffer a cardiac arrest. Understandably, you are mostly in a bad mood before you are paid, especially when you see your kin calling-calling you. And you cannot even tell them what a luxury is when they ask for money to buy handbags or shoes. Before end month, why oh why?! You are tempted to call that friend you blacklisted in your life as a hallucinator, you want to find out if they finally got their finances right and stopped booking leave strategically.

 

The sun is starting to rise. As you alight the matatu, you start having a constructive monologue, far from halucinations.From today henceforth, you will redeem yourself from this shackle of pay cheque slavery. “Get thee behind me satan” will be your favourite verse in the bible. You will use it when your hands feel like they should pick designer things which are meant for people who throw notes of small value in dustbins. You will use it when these friends who help you celebrate that salary which is as tiny as the small finger of a newborn child call you. You will confidently ask them if they will foot their bill, and meet you halfway in meeting yours. You will also adjust your tongue to appreciate low budget foods, until such a time when you will not know the difference between the salary sunup and salary sundown (Read as payday and end month before payday). You will be comfortable saying that you are comfortable eating life in a small spoon. You will stop living to the societal expectation and create your own bar, based on your financial height. Holidays will be enjoyed during the company holidays so that you can savour every moment. Scarcity creates value, so the fewer, the more valuable! You will create a mental switch. You will switch your mind off when people ask you foolish questions. Like “Kwani where do you take your money?”/ “Did you get a paycut?/ “Why don’t you have a car yet?”Then you will start humming the ‘started from the bottom’ anthem.

 

Somewhere between the financial plan, friends happen, and unplanned-for events and other small emergencies. You resolve month after month to have your finances in check, unsuccessfully.:-( Sometimes, the pressure to catch up with peers mounts and you end up spending unnecessarily, trying too hard to measure up to the profile that the society has set for you. As time goes by, end month draws further and further. Reason? You pay off debts and settle bills as soon as that salary kicks in. By the end of the first week, you are broke. Like properly broke/broke!! Loans shift from soft loans to long-term ones. Eventually, you realize that you are tangled up in loans and lifestyles beyond your reach.  But you have an image to protect, you have a way you want people to view you. Because of this want, you end up broke while trying to look rich.  Problem with our generation is that we want instant success… we want to live large without a back up plan. We want to enjoy our youth to the fullest and get the finest of experiences now’now. I stand to be corrected, but the way to wealth is simple. Spend less than you earn, and invest the difference wisely. In the grand scheme of life, we will all get there. Of course, with the right financial decisions  now. So SAVE and INVEST! The golden rule is that you spend what remains after you have saved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the love of bao

“Be there by 6.00am and dress the part. They might overcharge you if you are dressed stunningly… Remember to exercise patience too, ukitafuta haraka hautapata. A hurried eye cannot find anything appealing! Just shop nice and slow…She said. Nice and slow got me thinking.

I am going through a mental checklist of what Shie said I needed in order to get something nice out of a flea market. The first and ‘last’ time I was there, I promised my feet that they would step there ever again. It was one early rainy morning. I had worn sandals as usual. I waded with my open feet in mud, slid and almost fell on several occasions! At some point my sandal got stuck in mud, and in attempt to pull it out, it tore. But it was not the frustration of the walk that made me swear never to set my foot there again, it was the way I had to keep turning the heap of clothes up and down to reach the ones at the bottom with the hope of getting lucky. A Louis Vuitton, Fendi or Gucci wear maybe shipped to the country after being worn once by those men and women who throw cash and notes of low value to dustbins.

indexbThose sellers must know the frustration of finding a diamond among a thousand stones: and so they sing to the buyers soothingly. “Ni ya bao, ni ya bao!…mari yote? Bao! Pepram? Bao! Gogo wazi? Bao! Harita? (Halter), Bao!..Shifon? Bao! Spaghetti nayo? Bao! Madressi camera? Bao! …Beba na? Bao tuuu… The rhythm of the melody is so saccharine that it gives you the energy to overturn those heaps. You sweat everywhere, even the earlobes. All for the love of bao.

“Why do you stress yourself like so?” I asked her after getting myself some few pieces.

Do we have a choice? Student budgets don’t always allow you to walk to shopping malls and boutiques to buy clothes. And these clothes are even better than those others, very unique and durable… Ubaya wa zile za supermarket ni ati ziko na kila mtu… She went on and on but I wasn’t listening. No amount of talk would convince me that I needed to go through all the morning hustle to get something decent to wear. After all, those Gikomba women who come at night can always drop by our rooms with a well chosen collection. Paying extra was just okay if that is what they went through all the time. That was then!

Tables are turned now, paying the extra is not okay anymore. (Just for today.) I am trending on acute budget constraints after blowing my rainy day fund over the festive season. January has never been this tough since I knew money. There is a holiday ahead I cannot miss. The cool kids crew will be having week’s holiday at the beach, and hell, I cannot miss it! That ‘something’ called positive peer pressure looks like this. I read that in your twenties, travel should be part of your budget. That we should invest in experiences and memories.

I woke up in the morning glowing with euphoria after a dream that I was Sasha, or was it Malia? Then I saw my sticky notes with a bold title: Beach budget. It reminded me that the Sasha/Malia thing was a DREAM, the Obama’s do not know that budgets like this are a reality. The amount available for expenditure did not fit to appear on the same page with the word beach… Calling home for more money was not an option.. I’m I the only one who freaks out when about to ask for more money? The type who will call determined to say they have no money and even adopt a very timid almost inaudible voice. But after hearing the tone on the other side of the phone telling them to speak up, the adrenaline rush makes them start asking awkward questions like: “Has it rained? Mmm, and how are the crops doing? Chicken? Cows? ‘Owkaaay’… And you are all okay? …oh nice. Salamu tu! End of conversation.

So after a thorough consultation with my heart, soul and mind, I concluded that the flea market was the only place that would understand and accommodate my badly dented pockets. I have a habit of wearing my best wear whenever broke to help me forget that I am, and I did just that. Rule number two broken. But I remembered to carry closed shoes. If I had gumboots, I would carry them; and cross my fingers that the law of encounter would not apply. It says that the probability of meeting someone you know or who knows you increases with the number of times you wish you will not meet them. It’s even higher when you are in dreadful places you expressly told them you did not even know how people reach there!

And here I am, in a matatu headed to this flea market, call it X…seated next to an old man who just won’t stop staring at my torso. It makes me want to slide forward and hide my boobs, almost the same way we used to just when we were getting into real teenage years. A girl with big titis at that age got a great deal of weird attention to an extent that she preferred being in buggy wear all the time…I was one of those. It is the deliberate rubbing his arm on my chest which drifts my attention. Old man, Old ratchet man!

“Hmpf! what the freaking hell is wrong with this idiot?”(Rolls eyes )….Aloud I sensitively ask: “Nikusaidiaje mkubwa?”

I’ll be very honest, I want to snarl at him blow his ears with a piece of my mind. My chest is mine! Mine and mine’s. What is happening to these old men, thinking that they can lay their hands on just anything that looks spongy. It’s okay to look, you can even use magnifying glasses if you so wish. But for heavens sake just DO NOT touch me. Too bad I cannot bring myself to disrespect he who has lived longer, lest he curses me.

“Funga dirisha” He tells me with a witchy smile … Seems I wasn’t even wrong after all, is it that hard to insert a polite word when making a request?

As we draw closer to this market, I am thinking about how many souls it has saved. The wanna-be(s) desperate to be in designer wear or designer wear look-alike at the cheapest option. The market gives them the illusion that they are there, already. It’s an accomplice in the ‘fake it until you make it’ anthem. The young entrepreneurs who will spend the so pronounced bao (twenty shillings only), and conveniently charge upto several thousands for the same: depending on the buyer at hand. After cleaning and ironing the wear, they are allowed to lie to you that it was shipped from their cousins in North Carolina. Thank me later for introducing to one of the theories in selling: The need satisfaction theory. In brief, this theory suggests mutual satisfaction to both a buyer and a seller. For the seller, it’s only obvious that they stand to gain financially in the sale. The buyer? Their needs should be met, but truth is, these needs are not inherently there. We create them, by actively probing what you think you lack, by appealing to the prospective buyers insecurities and spontaneously shifting your value proposition to hit right at the softest of their insecure spots. The features, advantages and benefits of the product suddenly appear like they were perfectlytailored for this potential buyer. A seller does not appeal to common sense, but to the prospects’ fears that they do not measure up, and that they are missing an important part by not having the product or service. And so these sellers smoothly manage to appeal to your need to have the experience of imported wear on the skin. People buy at that set price. (Hundred fold)…and out of that, a living is made. Bills are paid and meals put on the table. The market also builds talents too. I just caught myself thinking, what if one of those big shots who run big talent shows on music passed by there one day, and listened to the melodious voices of baobaoooo, and by chance the seller inserted that prolonged vocal where the voice sounds like you are crying but also singing. Like that infamous Taylor swift song, I knew you were trouble. Not the original version, the whatsapp video with a goat enhancement. And this talent hunter figured some bitonality in the seller’s tunes, and got utterly impressed and vwa! Picked him for the next big show. Just like that, life would forever change for this lucky seller. From baobao to the next big tune in the charts of fame!