Dear reader today it gives me great pleasure to present a conversation with Alex, The blogger of Kai ni kii fame. This special interview was recorded live using the wonders of modern science. So without further ado, to The conversation.
Alex, hi there!
You run a very popular site on the Kenyan blog scene Kai ni Kii.
Umm, popular is not the word I’d use...
Well it is certainly very well received in many quarters.
I’ll take your word for it, Woolie.
I wonder…is it nerve racking putting up posts every week?
Nerve racking? Not exactly, the weekly schedule is self imposed.
But where do you find new material for a fresh post every Monday?
Life. There’s always something going on, something worth talking about, or laughing about, or crying over…I can always count on someone somewhere doing something foolish. Hahahahaha…
Very interesting. But why every week? Where do you find the time?
The weekly thing is more about me needing to talk, I have many things to say. Most not useful.
I’d like to discover what it feels like, then to have this popular blog that needs feeding, just like a pet.
It’s an odd thing, Woolie. On the one hand I love that there are a few people willing to read me each week. On the other hand sometimes it feels like I’m a slave to the blog.
Wow…tell me more.
More is always wanted, expected. And buggers don’t take nonsense my friend…
They are accustomed to certain standards aren’t they?
What standards? Hahahaha…
You have set a high bar in terms of work productivity and content.
You’re kind to say that, Woolie.
So…a quick question about the person…Alex. What is your writing background? Did you like writing much as a kid? Or perhaps you read widely?
I have no writing background to speak of, Woolie. As a kid, I was a drawer and a reader. Reading is my thing, as you have no doubt guessed by now.
I don’t know if I read widely though, some days I feel shy when I see other people’s libraries.
And were you one of those conscientious kids who kept proper diaries?
God no! Hahahaha! I tried to journal in high school, failed miserably. I’d do it maybe once every three or four months, and even then, only to whine about a boy I liked…
So your foray into public writing is a fairly recent development?
What made you decide to blog?
Frustration, curiosity, silence. I was lonely, needed to talk, needed to work stuff out. I needed conversation, then I began blogging and realised that was not the way to get it. Hahahaha…
Going by what we were saying earlier about work rates – you do have a lot to say.
I’ve just realised I lied about the writing. I had a journal on my laptop for about 5 years, up until I began blogging. That one was a bald faced lie, apologies.
And this journal, what is the general content?
Everything and anything under the sun, kind of like the blog, actually. Relationships, or lack thereof, work, family, even siasa, whatever was on my mind.
Like a prelude to the start of your blog.
I guess so.
You say you have been doing it for a fair while now, does it get easier? Better? Do you think that your writing has changed over the years?
20 questions, Woolie? Easier? Yes, I don’t struggle as much as I did when I started. I used to write posts for days, I worried about the grammar, what impression I was giving, who I might offend… Then I realised almost no one was reading so… Hahahaha. As for better, that one’s a bit harder to gauge. I like the earlier posts I did, when I was all alone in my house, but then I like what I’m doing now, they’re more relaxed. I guess that answers the last question, no?
Your archive is certainly an Aladdin’s cave of many wonderful stories, Alex. Why don’t you go back to that style?
I don’t think I can, Woolie. At the beginning it was more introspective, looking inward. These days I talk about us, not just me. I still have days when I do me, but they’re few and far between, thankfully.
Looking at your stories they range from politics to relationships and stuff in between – what do you like writing about best?
The stuff in between. Hahahaha!
Thank you, sir.
Can I ask about the blog – why Kai ni Kii?
Why the name?
I needed something catchy. Hahahaha… I like to rant Woolie, a lot. ‘Kai ni kii?’ is a pet phrase, a polite way of asking what the f… is wrong with you now? I learnt it from my mother. If I had to do it again, I’d call it ‘haiya!’
Nice. Your political leanings now. How would you describe yourself?
A friend called me an anarchist the other day. Another called me flexible. Hahahahaha. I have a dislike for authority, which would make me a bit of a left wing radical. Problem is, I’m a bit conservative in some of my views, which then puts me right of centre. I guess I’m a left leaning, right thinking centrist.
Perhaps it is not you, but the times that are a changing. One can no longer simply put themselves in right or left camp.
Left and right have proven to be hoaxes I suspect.
Just another tag?
Exactly. I am nothing if not contrary, Woolie.
I just need to press you on an issue regarding our own domestic politics.
Is there any politician living or dead in Kenya who you admire?
Oh my, I must think on that one…
I can come back to it later…
No, no… Wangari Maathai is an obvious choice, she was a politician, but not a politician. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
It most certainly does – in office but not of office.
Exactly. Martha Karua I admire, even though I haven’t always agreed with her politics, she has a spine, unlike those other buggers. I have a soft spot for a couple of dodgy fellas. Forgive me for what I’m about to say now…
I wonder what you’d think of the proposition that perhaps it will take a woman president to sort out our country?
I wish it were that easy. Hahahaha.
I interrupted. What were you going to say, why the forgiveness?
I was going to name a couple of suspect idiots: Raila and his pa, Matiba, Kibaki, Orengo, Shikuku…now he was a giant amongst midgets…Koigi, JM Kariuki and Tom Mboya… Our history is littered with men and women of note, great and flawed alike.
You are simply stating what the scriptures said all those years ago: a good man is never honoured in his own country.
I don’t know about never honoured, I like to think of it as the works of a good man are never seen till long after he’s gone.
Visionaries are ahead of their time. We can’t see what they’re doing until we catch up, long after.
Let us move on to more…ahem…day to day matters.
You have a smart section of your blog that you refer to as a part of a city sanitation system. Why?
Hahahahahaha… I knew this was coming. My lovely sewer…
I think that’s the name.
It came from a line, “Get your mind out of the gutter.” Gutter led to drainage led to sewer, the reservoir of filth. But you’re asking why I brand it filth, no?
That is indeed the question.
It’s tongue in cheek. I know many consider talk of sex and such like unsuitable for a ‘proper lady’, but I like to get down and dirty in the muck.
Doesn’t branding it sewer re-enforce those prejudices?
Those who see the humour in the ‘filth’ tag laugh it off. Those who think it ‘filthy’ use sewer as a slur in reference to the blog…but they all read it, so what the hell? Hahahaha…
Hahahaha… Yaani never judge a book by it’s cover or it’s readers?
I could call it the place of sex and stuff, but frankly that’s not as catchy or fun. I like to think the sewer is fun, at least I try to keep it that way, and I try to refrain from really taking you buggers to the really filthy sections.
Why do you feel the need to differentiate it from the rest of the blog? Presumably your entire audience is over 18?
It’s simply about order, to my mind. When I was setting up the blog, I specifically set out to create the simplest page possible, minimal clicks to get to where you want to be. The categories are organisation; you want sex and stuff, go to the sewer, siasa in dunia, and so on. One thing though, the sewer tag allows me to let loose with the language…hahahahaha…always fun to do.
Your posts are backed up by an enormous amount of research. How long does it take to do an average Dunia post?
It depends, Dunia posts tend to be summaries of a longer story. Usually I’ve saved stuff over the course of a couple of weeks, so the post is all about putting it together. A couple of hours at most. But sometimes I have to read up, and that will take a day or two
Would you like to publish some of your material in book form?
Eh? Hahahaha. Publish? I dunno man… I’m not sure how well they’ll age, do they have longevity? Does someone reading two year old posts for the first time today still find resonance?
Quite right. It depends on the post.
Thing is, Woolie, I think the posts work because they’re part of a story, an ongoing story.
What music would you be listening to if you were not doing this chat?
Right now? Hmmm…Monday afternoon at my desk…probably something funky.
Oddly enough I’ve gone blank. Hahahahaha. Go figure.
It happens, Alex, never mind.
I was listening to radio earlier, have a song stuck in my head that I need to google, some reggae gospel tune from a few years back, Kenyan. It will bother me for days now… Hahahahaha… Found it! I had to google.
He’s not Kenyan, we just like to pretend he is. Hahahaha.
Sorry, where were we?
There is this rumour that you are pretty handy in the kitchen. Do you cook?
I do, I love to cook.
So what would you prepare for a light supper for 3 people, at short notice?
Why 3? Hahahaha. Why not four, or two? I digress, male or female?
Sorry – I meant 3 guests plus yourself.
So light supper for four…
Are these guests family, friends, acquaintances?
Let’s go with friends. Just give us a feel of what charm and warmth to expect if we were to be invited to an informal evening, at chez Alex.
Hahahaha. Well, for one, if they didn’t bring wine then there’s no meal being made…
I work on a barter system, food for drink. If I’m cooking for friends then it’s usually something quick, so that I don’t have to be in the kitchen too long and miss out on the conversation. Potatoes, mashed or fried, I am Kuyo after all. Whatever veggies are decaying in the fridge, usually string beans and carrots, and a slab of meat, lamb chops most likely, easy to cook.
Would you say that you like your meat – like a proper Kenyan?
But of course, si you know? Hahahaha. I like to believe God put animals on this earth that we may enjoy them.
That sounds about right. I have to ask about the age range of your readers now.
Have you some idea of the ages people who you are talking to /with?
I have no idea, to be honest. I assume most are around my age, but people my age are not known for their fondness for blogs, that I can tell. And most of the other people I see running about on other blogs are younglings. Some of my audience, like you, are older than me. It’s a mixed bag, I guess.
Hahahaha. Now I guess you read many blogs. What makes a good blog, in your opinion?
Ah Woolie… This will get me into trouble man. Hahahaha. A good blog, for me, and I have to stress that this is solely my opinion, is one that first and foremost speaks to me. Not at me, to me.
Explain the talk to me bit, please.
I think it’s a style preference, but I like conversation type bloggers, people who write with an audience in mind, cognisant of the audience, looking to engage, as you would if talking face to face with someone. You wouldn’t talk to someone with your face averted would you? Ignoring their responses, reactions, input?
No…I see what you mean.
I like to think that blogging is a conversation, back and forth.
You are known to feel strongly about conversations.
In as much as we sit alone and put our thoughts down, in theory we’re speaking to an audience. We’re orators in a sense. Good orators know to draw their audiences in, connect somehow, make them feel like they’re talking to them specifically, and not to an amorphous crowd.
Hahahahaha… Go Alex.
Hahahahaha… I feel strongly about this, yes, too strongly, perhaps.
Now for all this talk of conversation – surely the only way your audience can connect is through comments?
Now you’re really going to get me in trouble. Hahahaha…
Why is the issue of comments such a hot potato? Hahahahaha…
Woolie, half my audience, perhaps more, are bloggers themselves…
Oh, as many as that?
…with different styles. Even as I try to comment on blogging, and comments, I have to recognise that I may be biting the proverbial hand that feeds me. I quite literally feed off other bloggers, to criticize them may be a little hypocritical. Then again, I’m a reader first, no?
Ok, let us just say, in general, what is your own view about comments?
I think comments are brilliant. I love the interaction that goes on, it’s like the after party. Hahahahaha! It’s one thing to read what one person thinks, it’s another to read 20 people responding to one person, and each other.
I understand. I cannot let your reference to the after party slide…
A young Kenyan actress has wowed the world and is being feted by the good and the great in showbiz even as we speak. How is Lupita Nyongo’s success being taken back there at home?
With a lot of pride, and some regrettable envy.
Surely we should draw inspiration from her achievements?
We should, but some seem to think her achievements are a product of her background, a background ‘denied’ to most Kenyans. Denied is their word, not mine. Hahahaha…
There will always be mourners at weddings I guess. Sticking to the movie theme, what other film did you watch recently that shook your bones?
I haven’t watched 12 years by the way, I just like to look at Lupita’s pretty dresses at the awards shows.
You sound like you appreciate good fashion.
I’m a complete fashion junkie, despite appearances. Hahahaha. I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was in high school, got talked out of it.
But you still have an eye for the way good clothes can be worn?
I like to think so…
So, Alex just a little more about fashion and specifically women’s fashion – what did you think of Lupita’s style?
I love it. I love the colour. Oddly enough I don’t like her in black, and I love me some black…
Ok, and if we were allowed to look into Alex’s wardrobe today, what should we find for evening wear?
Eh? Evening wear? Hahahahaha…
How do you like to go out for the evening?
I’m not much of a clothes horse, Woolie, despite my love of fashion. Jeans and a half decent top is my standard ensemble. Day and night. Hahahaha… Sorry, I’m laughing because I don’t often go to places that require me to dress up. This will have all the ladies putting their hands up in horror. I like a nice pair of shoes, does that help? Woi…
That may help a little. I gather your fashion is about you and how you feel.
It is about me, but also eccentric.
How about the male of the species? Is Nairobi man dressing well these days?
The Nairobi man…
Now this will really get me into trouble given my own stated lack of flair. Hahahaha…
The men look good, Monday to Friday, sharp suits, sometimes sharp shoes, unfortunately. Then, come the weekend things go steadily downhill. Hahahahaha…
Oh dear…pray tell.
Some men seem to struggle with casual, probably because of how we were raised, worshipping mzungu ties and Sunday best, the t-shirt and jeans look slipped through the fashion cracks, I’m afraid. Hahahaha… That said, they are getting better at it, and the younglings are quite easy on the eye.
So Nairobi man can’t or won’t dress down gracefully?
Pretty as they are, they struggle. It’s often too casual, dodgy tshirt and old jeans, or not casual enough, buttoned up polo shirts.
I cringe every time I see a buttoned up polo shirt, my friend, cringe. Hahahahaha…
What is your feeling about white socks?
Nooooooooooo…. Why man, why? Hahahaha… With sneakers perhaps, or with white trousers, or, God forbid, white shoes.
Do you have a view on hair, male grooming?
Your pet topic, Woolie. Hahahaha…
It’s about Alex…
I don’t think too much about hair, as long as it doesn’t smell I’m easy. It’s too individual a thing, no?
I guess it is.
I do have a weakness for facial hair though…
Oh, that is surprising.
I go weak in the knees for a good beard, and stubble, but no moustaches, those alone are a bit creepy. Goatees are the shit…can I say shit?
It is your show, Alex. I was hoping to ask next what qualities you look for in a man?
Oh dear… Can I refer you to the blog? I guess not. Hahahaha… Points for trying, I hope. That’s a hard question to answer, Woolie.
Just draw us a picture.
Do I give the PC answer, with the fluffy lines we love to hear, or do I tell you the truth?
You have given us the physical characteristics…
Have I? When?
Well dressed and properly groomed.
No no… Well, yes, but well dressed and groomed makes him sound pretty.
I’ll be straight with you, the physical no longer holds the same appeal as it did a decade ago. Grooming tells me something about the man, his attention to detail and stuff, but the clothes, not so much.
It is interesting how roles seem to change – not long ago, women demanded that a man must be a good provider, and good with his hands, practical like. How much do you think this has changed?
I don’t think it’s changed at all. Maybe the good with hands bit is less literal,
but it still applies.
But there are many situations where the woman is the principal provider now, true?
Definitely, but that doesn’t mean the man wasn’t expected to be the provider, usually it ends up that way through circumstance.
How do you feel about gender equality in general. Are we “getting there”?
We are not equal, we will never be equal, best we can hope for is mutual respect. I think this equality thing is a bit of a ruse to be honest.
Perhaps you’d care to elaborate kidogo, surely we expect to be allowed to do the same professions and be paid the same irrespective of gender.
Women want to be treated as equals; initially it was about the right to work, vote, go to school, get better healthcare, basically not be treated like a man’s child, or property. Excellent in theory, execution proved a bit more difficult. They got to work in factories and offices, but at lower wages. Got to vote, for men. Education, healthcare, all of it, for the most part run by men.
Do you think then that we are making any progress?
We are. The feminism we’re seeing these days in the ‘fourth wave’, allegedly, it’s about getting women into positions of influence, decision makers, so to speak. It’s one thing to be in the system, it’s another thing to run it. That’s where we’re headed, and that’s why there’s so much friction.
Some interesting observations.
You haven’t heard the half of it. Hahahaha…
Tell me Alex, what would you say is your greatest achievement to date?
I have never been slapped in the face. Hahahahaha…
Another great answer. I think, perhaps, you are the modest type.
Not really, I haven’t done half of what I set out to do, so there’s no point doing a greatest hits album…yet.
One day I shall answer that question, but not this day.
Your one liners could get you a very nice dinner every night of the week. I’ll book you in for another interview.
Where? Tell me, Woolie, and I shall relocate post haste.
Do you have a possession that you would care to call most treasured? If so, what is it?
That one’s easy, my CD player. It’s on its last legs, but still I cling to it.
Treasure your sense of humour too, it is quite rare. Finally, you are marooned on a desert island…
Please name 3 books you would not be able to survive without.
Woi… Only 3?
Do I get internet? Hahahaha…
Oh, and the name of one bloke.
3 books and a man? Sounds like a bad movie, a horror. 3 books…
Lord of the Rings [J.R.R. Tolkein]. A Short History of Nearly Everything [Bill Bryson]. And the last one…The River Between [Ngugi wa Thiong’o], it reminds me of shags…hahahaha…
Well, we have the books…
The man… Can I get a fourth book instead? Or an iPad?
We will try and get you some sort of solar powered installation then.
Excellent! Then I can watch ‘Days of Our Lives’. Hahahaha! Who needs a man when you have a soap? Wait, wrong soap. Hahahahaha… I meant ‘The Young and the Restless’. ‘Days’ is horrible...
We have come to the end of our conversation, Alex, and I should like to thank you very much for being such a sport.
Woolie, as much as I enjoyed this, next time could we have some snacks, maybe a drink or two, preferably not water? Thanks for having me, sir.