Trade-ins for a lifestyle

Let me first tell you a story before I get into today’s story.

Before I joined campus in 2004 (do you hear that Real G?), I worked for a year with a private architect’s firm off Lenana Road. One of those old neighbourhood blocks converted into a commercial pocket. It was an intimate office of five: two managing partners, one permanent architect chick, and one architect major from the public universities who interned with us every three, four months. Our quantity surveyor sat in one of the rooms upstairs. Our engineers four doors down, the last house in the block.

Private architect’s firm sounds fancy, eh? Please. I was a messenger. Doubled up as a receptionist. Sometimes the tea girl. Later, as an accountant and intern. But mostly, as a messenger. I told my pals I was an Office Administrator. Whatever the hell that meant.

When I wasn’t delivering cheques and buying Telkom calling cards, I was taking phone messages. I was settling our power bill in Electricity House. I was buying Kiswahili Bibles from Kijabe Street. I was queuing outside KRA filing tax returns that I had prepared myself (imagine that, an untrained form four leaver balancing books and completing input/output tax for a private architect’s firm. Who’s fooling who?) I was learning archiCAD and artlantis; the apps they used for their work.
But mostly, I was out there underneath the sun. Brown envelopes and dusty shoes were my thing. I had a fake leather jacket I had to stop wearing because it stuck to my sweaty back when I was out running these office errands.

We had a cleaning lady from Kibera who came in thrice a week. In her mind’s eyes, we were peers. Before everyone else reported for work, we gossiped in the kitchen over a morning cup of tea. Our ‘peership’ was forged when we were called in as extras for that local production Project Daddy. Remember it, it starred Nini Wacera? Yeah. It was being shot in the bungalow right next to our office block. We appeared as the crowd in a restaurant scene toward the end of the movie.

My salary, sorry minimum wage, was paid out of petty cash. But that didn’t matter. When you are 19, straight out of high school and you make your own money to buy yourself Levis and lip gloss and Smirnoff Ice without alerting your folks for pocket money, you imagine you are doing better than your pals who are taking IAT classes and sitting CPA exams.

My private architect’s firm was run by two partners. College chums who shared the lusty dream of seeing Kigali’s virgin skyline dominated by buildings their youthful brilliance had designed. I admired their ambition with a quiet fond.

I gave the partners both pet names. Because I’m the kind of girl who expresses her fond so, through pet names.

One partner was Venus. I called him Venus because whenever he walked past, the scent from his Venus hair oil would suffocate you in its wake.
Venus rode his motorbike to work on Friday’s, and over the weekends. I thought he was mighty cool because, on some Saturdays, his biker club would meet at the parking space outside Sippers bar in Hurlingham then take a road trip out of town. Sons of Anarchy style.

The other partner was Bean Head. His head was shaped like a bean seed and he liked to eat beans for lunch. Sometimes the cotyledons got stuck in between his teeth. And because, I don’t know, because he’s the kind of guy who does such things, he’d fold a piece of paper and dislodge the little bastards using the pointed edge of the paper.

Last October, I caught his name in a story in the back page of the Daily Nation – he’s now a hotshot in some construction parastatal. When he’s not tweeting in his free time, he’s appearing on Caroline Mutoko’s morning talk show or Instagramming pictures he’s taken with Uhuru. That bean head, my God.

I learnt plenty from Bean Head in that year. I learnt that toothpicks are far more important than we give them credit for. I learnt that you are what you eat.
I learnt that you need a partner in life. Like what he had in Venus, with Venus – Bean Head travelled to Kigali and sourced for tenders from its French-speaking government. The Kiswahili Bibles I bought were bait for his tenders, a stamp for his thoughtfulness and savoir faire. A slice of our culture. He presented them as gifts to his Kigali clients. Who can say no to a man wielding a Bible? Who can say no to God?
Venus was up to his eyeballs in our little office putting together the building plans for these tenders. They conquered the city of Kigali, Bean Head and Venus did, when the ambition of youth and the thirst for domination ran steely in their veins.

I learnt – and this is the most important – that ambition asks for sacrifice. Bean Head had long traded his architectural skill to sharpen his businessman’s shrewd. He sacrificed his book knowledge to be street smart. Bean Head signed the cheques and sniffed around the industry for proposals and tenders. He sent the emails, he made the calls. I never saw him open archiCAD or put together a decent plan for a building. The closest he came to building plans was enveloping blueprints for dispatch after I had collected them from the print room.

Bean Head had traded-in his architect’s degree for a lifestyle.


When Binyavanga Wainana, writer and founding editor of Kwani, came out of the closet late last month, three things readily came to mind.

First, that he has ruined kitengee jackets for everybody. With the snap of a finger, just like that, he has created a false association to a fabric that has hang of the backs of urbane Nairobi since more than half a decade ago. Bang. No warning. No sign. Are you even allowed to do that, to ruin things for everybody so? Doesn’t fashion have a code, some sort of manual to protect the interest of an industry’s innocent fabrics; fabrics that fall victim to an individual’s unrelated circumstance? Doesn’t it have a handbook? Hell, what does Nancie Mwai’s Fashion Notebook have to say about this?

Second, I was defeated. I sighed. I sat back in my seat. I rested my hands at the back of my head. I exhaled.  You realize what this means, yes? It means that I have to comb through his memoir yet again. I have to look for the cracks in-between his sentences and paragraphs for when he might have let us in on his closet secret but we were too blown away, too blinded by the mastery of his prose and his short sentences that we failed to catch the hint.

Say, before he moved to South Africa for his undergrad, he was in a bar with a pal. Was he actually on a date? Was this a hook up from his house-help Wambui? He hang with some loose chaps while in SA and never got to finish his degree: was he looking for love then? Was Cape Town and New York his search for identity beyond being a writer? Maybe.
The girl back in Nakuru, it explains why he wasn’t interested in her nipples pushed against her thinly-cottoned tee. He was more interested in this new ‘language’ she spoke. A language he had never heard before called sheng. Jeez.
His closet secret answered plenty. It answered all the questions I left unanswered when I reviewed his memoir. Now, it makes sense why it had the sexual appeal of a high school set book.

Third – and this is the most important – I felt bad for Binyanvanga. Not because of all the vitriol he sparked on social media. Please. The world doesn’t matter. I felt bad for Binyavanga because he has made a sacrifice. Binyavanga is no longer a writer, or an artist. He’s that guy. That gay guy. That gay public figure from Kwani. He is, as the Economist put it, one gay man [who] fights back against discrimination.

And as I read and reread his coming-out essay – the lost chapter of his memoir. Anything with the word ‘lost’ in its title is such a class act, aye?: the lost chapter, the lost tapes, the lost ark, the lost feminine, the Lost Boys – I realized that this was his last performance. His last public act. This was his swan song.

Binyavanga will never write again.

But that’s only half the tragedy.

The greater tragedy is that Binyavanga has traded-in his pen for a lifestyle.

Eight simple rules
Gentlemen of the Round Table

Comments (14)

  1. Savvy Kenya (@savvykenya)

    Why do you say he will never write again? Or do you mean readers will never see beyond the gay man when reading anything he will write? He’s only 43.. he could write for another 40 years, who knows? So I don’t agree with you that he has traded his pen for a lifestyle.

    And I can’t believe you’ve been in a movie!! I am now looking for extra roles.

    • fra

      Hehee. Being an extra, or being in a movie, isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.
      Let me know when you find some though.

  2. Torrie K.

    Always a fan of your work dear friend!! This piece is riddled with just the humor I needed to get through this boring afternoon.

  3. The Real G

    Did you say 2004? Waah! You are aged (compared to me hehehehe).
    Now to the blog post. You write beautifully in your short sexy sentences. An inspiration to rookies like myself. I greatly enjoyed this piece, especially the way you ended it- stellar. That is why I have submitted your blog for BEST NEW BLOG in BAKE AWARDS 2014.
    As for the man Binyavanga and his broken closet, I think, contrary to your opinion, he might surprise us with a book- a masterpiece that might earn him an Orange Prize. .

  4. Chess

    Awesome piece. I like the way you subtly put your point across. And agree with your take on Binya’s coming out to a great extent.

  5. Carol Munywoki

    Great piece, I’ve always loved the way you fix it the right amount of humour and still manage to convey your message!

  6. John Muchabi

    great piece! where are the like buttons?

  7. dskuwe

    it is funny how people always judge based on the most prominent part of ones character at a particular point in time. I totally agree, he has traded-in his pen for a lifestyle. However I think people will soon get over it. The talent he possess will soon over-shadow peoples sentiments about his sexual orientation.

    History is littered with generous examples. Elton John, George Michael, Gianni Versace…

  8. Mwende

    Fra…that bean head story has totally tickled me. Great piece as usual. I’m not sure if that’s the greater tragedy….It must be difficult living a life of half truths, regardless of the society you live in.

  9. CottCom

    3a.m….I somehow, accidentally, unintentionally landed on this blog. I left at 7.30a.m….absolutely sleep-deprived but so…..satisfied! So glad I found a blog whose URL I wanted to cram (there arent many). I said “Haleluyha!” And since you ruined my sleeping schedule….I woke up at 1pm. You will pay! ;) ;)

    • fra

      Thank you CottCom. For coming by here. For the read. And for the kind words. It is a good thing to hear.
      Stay a while longer.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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