“I once had to sell my friend’s best shirt to get money to buy food after starving for two days.” He recalls.
He’s a techsavvy, Swahili guru, has worked for Nation Media, JustBet, VOA, and currently one of KTN’s finest news reporters. Due to his techsavvyness and keen interest in technology, Willy Lusige prepares Teknohama – a segment on KTN that highlights latest technological innovations by Kenyans.
But before then, he’s been a shamba boy, messenger, teacher, bodaboda rider, he’s been a DJ, and also tried it in music (if it went well in music we’d be having two Willy’s in the gospel industry – Poze and Lusige. And given the Kenyan music industry nature, maybe Lusige would have metamorphosised into Lusii hence a stage name Willy Lusii. So when your high school siblings are on a midterm break, you’d see them turn on the radio and holla a KISS FM presenter and say, please play for me Sikireti by Willy. Then the presenter would ask, which Willy? “Of course Willy Poze” your sibling would respond. And you’d come down, sigh, and say to yourself, wah! I almost thought Willy Lusii has started singing crap, ah! kumbe it’s Poze!
So Lusige, before we even inch any deeper into this conversation, how did you reach the point of selling your friend’s shirt, like where were you living then?
The friend had hosted me in his single room at Tel-Aviv, Embakasi. (Tel-Aviv is a small area between Pipeline and Fedha Estate, a few meters from the famous demolished Taj Mall) So this happened during one of the long holidays when I was living at his place and working on a kibarua (manual job) along Mombasa Road.
Where was he for the two days you went without meals? Or your agreement was that he hosts you but you cater for your own meals?
No. He was my high school friend from back in the village. I couldn’t go back home during long holidays because my family was living in abject poverty. The situation home was so bad. So instead, I decided to juggle between kibaruas in Nairobi. I didn’t have a place to live. So this jamaa hosted me but didn’t have much too cause he was jamaa wa kibarua too – laying his hands on anything that gave way from constructing houses, building roads, carrying people’s luggage… just anything. So I joined him in his Tel-Aviv single room where we’d survive on the little we got. But due to the nature of our jobs, payment was when the employer decides to. We hardly had money for food, we just survived on tea. And because we used to walk from Embakasi all the way to Mombasa Road and back for manual jobs, I became very weak. I felt like I was becoming sick. After two days of starving, to save the situation, the only thing that could generate money for a basic meal was selling my friend’s few shirts.
I took 2 of his best shirts and set out asking for buyers. From Tel-Aviv, I hawked the shirts all the way to Donhom where I finally got a willing customer.
If you’ve been to Donhom then you know the baze where Kaos (Kambas) sell old tyres. Yeah, there. That’s where Lusige found a customer that would save him from starving for yet another day. “Mmoja wao akanunua moja, so with the little cash I went back home and bought a meal,” he narrates.
How much did you sell it?
I think he gave me 50bob. He recalls.
That was tough man! I’m just imagining, what was the feeling when you finally got hold of the fifty shillings? Like, did your response to him indicate that your life depended on that 50 bob?
“He was wale watu walikuwa na shop za kucharge car batteries hapo Donhom,” he laughs. I was so happy, opposite the road kuna jamaa alikuwa anauza mahindi. I got myself a piece then walked back to Tel-Aviv, Embakasi.
So ukabuy chapo mandondo ama? Ama mlikuwa na stove? I chyme in. I’ve asked a guy here how he’d use the fifty bob, “Aii! After 48 hours of starving! Usicheze na life! Na-order tu sahani zangu tatu za ugali-matumbo. Nakula hadi natoa shati alafu namuwekea hiyo 50 kwa meza. Akisema haitoshi si naezamwoshea vyombo? Aiii!” Me I’d order six chapos and mandondo and clear all that right there by the way. Don’t joke.
Anyway, so besides the piece of maize, Willy Lusige bought githeri pale Tel-Aviv and spared the rest of the money for the coming days. This was 2013 and I guess by then, githeri worth 15bob was more than enough for two people. Assuming that he’d also bought mahindi ya 5bob (2013), that means he still had 30 bob. Moving on.
So your guy didn’t zusha when you sold his shirt, his best shirt? Did he even notice?
I also thought he’d not take it lightly, but you know what? When he came back in the evening pia hakuwa na kitu. And you know when you’ve toiled the whole day and returned home empty handed and on an empty stomach and surprisingly find a plate of githeri sitting on the table, nothing else matters at that moment. Nothing else crosses your mind. You descend on it like a lion does a gazelle. So I even deserved an Oscars (ok, I’ve added that). Seeing the githeri cheered him up.
I’ve stayed a day without food, it wasn’t easy. How does one feel going without food for two consecutive days?
You don’t get sleep, it’s a feeling that no human should go through.
Did any of your friends know you had gone two days without food or was it a “mwanaume ni kujikaza situation?”
I had tried all means possible. I’d requested small loans from my friends, no one was willing and our boss had said we wait for 2 weeks to get payment. What do you do there?
Tough man! Guys, I throw the question to you, what do you do there?
But baadaye I got a messenger job and life got better. At least we’d now afford basic needs.
So is selling your friend’s shirt to afford a meal the lowest moment in your life?
No. I still feel that the lowest moment in my life are the 2 times I was unfriendly sent away from Nation Center when I went to seek for a reporter’s job. That really killed my spirit.
Enhe, how did that happen? Tell me more. I intercept.
Ok, the first time I walked to Nation Media Group looking for a reporter’s job in 2015, the receptionist called security officers on me. After a month I went back and this time round, police officers threw me out with my CV. I went back the third time and they decided to take my CV. Only to be called back six months later for an internship.
When he was called for the internship, Lusige was earning 20Gs as a board teacher in a school in Murang’a, if he accepted the internship he’d be paid 7K per month. Compare these two bowls placed before you, in the first bowl you love what you practise but didn’t entirely study it in campus and has a 20 thousand Bob income, the second bowl carries what you spent four years in campus studying and promises a 7 thousand bob income. Would you accept the new offer? Come on, talk to me now, would you? So do you think he accepted the offer? Hahaha, of course he did.
After 2 weeks of internship my boss liked my work and I began reporting. 2 months into the internship, I began my technology segment which was sponsored by companies so I just got a job immediately after internship.
He-he, Praise God?
After going through such a life, asked about his general view of life:
I can say life is like going to war, each day comes loaded with an unknown enemy, you have to be ready to fight different wars. I’ve also learnt that life is all about being patient, dreaming big and waiting on God’s timing.