It’s 6.23am on a public holiday. I am riding on the back of a nduthi, cruising up Haile Selassie Avenue. There’s a blue-green backpack on my back, the hood of my jacket is riding really low on my face. I am feeling the most gangsta I’ve ever felt. My earphones are plugged in, the bass is on max and S.O is crooning in my ears, calling me peng ting, asking what’s my name.
Perhaps it’s the high that comes with getting just three hours of sleep, maybe it’s the adrenaline that came with watching David Hunter on the #MotownInNairobi stage the previous night, but the morning of Mashujaa day finds me excited. Perhaps even elated. I am heading to an Instameet. No one is calling it an Instameet though but because I have never been to one before, I am.
Maina, the nduthi guy says something, we’re at community branching off, I don’t hear him and soon he gets the point. So he doesn’t say more. Upperhill doesn’t have gates but it might as well have them. The air shifts. It’s not grand, but it’s clean, very clean or at least it feels that way and the new skies make it look like a new city of its own making. I am dreaming of a piece of writing when I notice Maina has missed our turn. We take a U turn, right there, the cops are asleep. And he drops me outside Crowne Plaza. He doesn’t have change; he asks if he can Mpesa later. It’s just 300 bob, it can be life, but it’s not death. I adjust my hood.
I made it to the Sunrise Hangout, but it looks like the sun is missing its own party.
Up a winding staircase, a corner, a lift, a hallway, another lift, a flight of stairs and I am finally at the rooftop. I have gotten lost twice, but what matters is that I am here and I am nervous so I am clutching onto my water bottle like plastic saves lives.
It doesn’t escape me how new this territory is. It doesn’t escape me that the one person I’m sure I know at this thing, is the host so they’ll be too busy to fuss over my awkwardness. But I am here so I might as well stay. I smile, the big one that says ‘You’ve got this.’
I’ve got this.
I say hi to a stranger, then another stranger… I lose count of strangers then I spy Dennis and I move over. I adjust my inner bully, I’ve really got this. But Lord, don’t these people love sleep? There’s so many of them!
In a pile of 30, maybe 50 (I am terrible with approximations) I only know and know of 5 people, maybe 8. I’ve definitely only shot with say three of them. These are so many numbers, but point is I feel swallowed up. I’m not dressed for a shoot. I mean, sure, my eyebrows are filled in but I came to see, more than anything else, I came to see.
Then, I pose. Brian Gathu, who somehow never likes any photo of me he takes (okay, there has been one) breaks me in. I am smiling. I’m tilting my chin with so much defiance, if the sun saw me it would stop playing games and shine on us. We’re chasing symmetry when I bump onto Sombo. Technically, I intrude into his point of view, he’s photographing someone else. Sometime between Gathu and another photographer, Sombo takes these glorious photos (the ones on the blog today) and someone passes by,
I am cackling.
My eyes are shut; my cheeks are shaking and my ribs hurt.
There is a girl. Her name is Jeru. I bumped into her a few weeks back, when I was shooting these and she’s totally killing it at the rooftop. She’s got this funky crop top with billowy sleeves. When she raises her arms in the wind, the fabric calls to us. This Sunrise Hangout at Crowne Plaza is a ball and she is the belle.
I am yet to see a crop top I don’t like, so I drift to her. Watch her for a bit. Play music on my phone for a bit.
The awkwardness is setting in again. I should leave. Instead I shoot this beautiful slow mo with Mutua Matheka. I am in awe of his genius, so it only makes sense that I leave while I am still leading.
Crowne closes her doors on me. It’s a few minutes past nine and I am dreaming of sleep. I receive an MPesa text from Maina.
See you soon,
Love & Potatoes,