I have a confession. I did not want to hang out with my cousins last Christmas. They live in the city, but choose the Christmas week to throng the village. It then becomes party after party up to the New Year. I was not enthusiastic about partying this time. .
Christmas is time for expensive liquor bottles that have gathered a year's worth of dust in our local den. Each time, they come significantly better off than the previous visit.
I tagged along, but not for alcohol. I wanted ideas to make their kind of money. I had lots of questions, no holding back.
First night out, 23rd December. Me, and three cousins. They are easy to spot with their trendy gadgets and designer clothing. Around midnight, squinting in the half-lights over a table laden with Ksh2,500 whiskey bottles, I ask:
"Kwani pesa mnatoa wapi Nairobi? Nichanueni kaka..."
"Ni God Maze..." In unison.
I'm perplexed. I have been in the company of successful people, beyond my family circle. Most successful people are more than happy to talk about it, and some cannot seem to shut up if they notice interest.
My cousins, though, not so much.
I'm aware that to be successful in the city revolves around sheer hard work, cunning, business logic and a bit of good luck. By luck, means being able to take advantage of an opportunity if and when it happens.
After all, Louis Pasteur wrote: "Fortune favours the prepared".
Are you reluctant to share your stories because we may seem to be in competition as a family?
Let's take a look at the gang.
Take Gabu, for instance - a complete enigma. He was a classmate, an average-grade student - but, with the reputation of 'a kid with a grown up' brain. After high school, he had broken his father's heart when he refused to join university on a parallel degree
Instead, he had asked for a few years "tuone vile maisha inataka" - and took up a sales job at a car dealership in the city, owned by a neighbour in the village.
It was a simple arrangement: Sell a car, get a commission. That was five years ago.
Gabu had dived into social media, created a page and started marketing. Blessed with a sharp mind, he had quickly learned the market. He had steadily built a brand, selling cars by the dozen.
A year down, Gabu had rolled into the village in a sparkling SUV owned by the boss.
He had been enthusiastic about "owning my car by next year, niache omba omba..." Unluckily, we had ruined the SUV in a little crash. They had fallen out with the boss, our neighbor.
But, true to his dreams, Gabu had risen from the ashes to do well enough to import a brand new Toyota Mark X - majestic in gleaming black. He was so proud that he spent nights in the car!
As we polished the rims, I asked the secret.
"Ni God maze... Si rahisi...."
He had brought along an expensive cache of Scotch whiskey, and bales of cloth for his mother's tailoring business.
Maish is the family's entrepreneur. The self-proclaimed Chief Hustler. He does not skip two sentences before he reminds us that "My JKUAT actuarial science degree is still marinating in my wardrobe". He means to say that 6 years later, he's still unemployed.
After college,he had immediately bought a trolley - started selling Smokie and Mayai Pasua on a street corner in Utawala. Somehow, dude manages to pull off boss money moves.
This year, immediately he got home - Maish approached his father. He needed to know if anyone around our local market centre would be willing to sell off a plot. In his words: Kuna tupesa nimepata niweke hapo kabla tuzikunywe na jeshi....
He had bought a 50×100 plot, quite prime - for a whopping Ksh650,000.
Now, that's his excuse every time someone asks him to throw a round.
"Si unajua pesa yangu imeenda kwa hio plot na sinaga job? Ni God maze...."
My cousin Brayo had a reputation since his school days as "neat, well-kept and loves clothes". After school he had followed his passion, despite scoring straight A's. He had rebelled against the "my son will be a doctor" proclamation his father made to everyone who cared to listen - and joined a beauty college in the city.
His father had treated that as a sort of betrayal - and cut him off.
With his mother's support he had finished a 3-year course and opened a beauty salon in the city. From social media pages, I knew Brayo had built a portfolio around fashion, beauty and celebrity make-up. In the last two years, Brayo had started upgrading his parent's timber house into a brick-walled bungalow. It was about halfway done.
Oh, his tense relationship with his father had mellowed out into an easy friendship.
Further, Brayo has settled down with his fiancee - now planning an April Ruracio in Kisumu. She was a beautiful, homely girl from the lakeside. And, hey - Ruracios in Kisumu do not come cheap!
As the groom, Brayo had already paid Ksh500,000 to the treasurer of the Ruracio WhatsApp Group whose target was Ksh3M.
Yes, Ni God maze....
We missed the fourth musketeer, our cousin Kim. He had been pledging attendance - up until we saw him floricking shirtless on a beach. The white sands of Diani blasting off his black skin that got him the nickname "Blackie" as a student.
The nickname had followed him into his teaching profession. Blackie, the Science and Mathematics guru in city schools.
A cursory examination of a teacher's income did not make sense with Blackie's lifestyle. At every school break, Blackie would be travelling. The unapologetic wanderlust. Besides, Blackie had managed to set up a slew of Airbnb's across the city.
Last Christmas, Blackie had single-handedly handled expenses at the family's get-together on Boxing Day. I wish he had come...as a teacher, perhaps he would be more inclined to share the details of his financial journey.
I hope it will be something other than "Ni God maze..."
That's how puzzling it is, when it comes to discussing finances with my cousins. As a family, I'd expect us to empower, advise and uplift each other. It does not happen.
There seems to be an underlying vibe of competition. Who is doing better than the other? Who drives a bigger car? Who has the most expensive phone?
I'll keep off for now.
When they arrived in the village, every cousin was, like: Na unapenda sana kukaa home wewe, kwani huezi kuja tukae Nairobi?
I'd smile, take the hug and a bit of designer perfume.
As they left for Nairobi last week, guess their parting remarks?
Uki come Nairobi, we nitafute tuone vile tutachora deals hapa na pale.
I joked of my last visit to Nairobi, when I had called one after the other. Everyone was either working, travelling or 'at a bad place with business'.
I'm so sick of that bluff.