From Russia, with Vodka (and chapos)


The house smells like chapos. It’s 40 minutes past 6p.m on a Thursday, and I can’t wait to get my hands on two of those chapos. The sun is setting behind the fence, coloring the sky a fiery mix of purple and red.

But the chapos in our digs come with a hard middle. You can’t fold them. You can’t roll them. If you roll them they break. Our chapos are a bunch of stiffs. They can’t even make a rolex.

Meanwhile though, on TV, World Cup 2018 is underway. Russia is playing Saudi Arabia. And just now a Russian named Cheryshev has fired the ball into the net, making the score line a crisp two nil. I bet Putin is going to reward the players with lots of vodka after the final whistle.

I missed the opening ceremony, which was a bummer because I really wanted to see some skimpy-dressed gymnasts throwing their legs in the air. I was still in traffic, on my way home from school. This is one World Cup I’m excited about. It promises a fabulous cocktail of cheers, jeers, tears, fouls, and lots of painted faces.

And as the first match goes into half time, I can already feel the tingle in my toes. Not only because of the thought of vodka, of course, but also because, for the first time since 2002, I’ll get to watch the final with some semblance of peace.

I’m rooting for Spain. I’ve always been for Spain. I used to support Brazil but it fizzled out once Ronaldinho stopped playing. And for the life of me I can’t remember a more exciting final than 2002, when Brazil beat Germany two nil.

In the line-up there were players like Rivaldo and Ronaldo and Cafu and Roberto Carlos, and the way they danced with the ball looked like magic to me. In some ways I’ll never forget that final.

I was seven years old, and we had just moved to a new digs. There was a girl next door. I was head over heels for her, but I didn’t think about her even once during that final.

I remember how the open window breathed slices of light into the room. There was a 1L bottle of Coke on the table, because what’s a World Cup final without Coke?

I was wearing a yellow Brazil jersey. You could turn the jersey inside out and convert it to blue. Brazil flourished. We were all infected with Samba fever. Even Mom, who couldn’t care less about sports, was present.

Every goal we celebrated with a jump and shout. The neighbours must have thought we were a bunch of lunatics. And we were even louder at the final whistle. I still remember Cafu’s beautiful smile as he lifted the cup.

I can’t say the same about all the other finals. In ’98 I was too young to know what was going on. I only vaguely remember the song “Ole, ole, ole”.

In 2010 I was a KCPE candidate. I was blacked out on the couch by half time, exhausted, buried in a heap of homework. I missed Iniesta’s lone-goal that won it for Spain. I wasn’t a Spaniard that night. And I’m terribly ashamed.

Italy won in 2006. And it was interesting to see Gattuso slipping out of his shorts to run around in his underwear.

In 2014, I watched the final from the entertainment hall, KCSE candidate, rooting for Messi’s Argentina. But then we lost to Germany, and I had to endure, for the rest of the night, my classmates shouting in my ear, “Messi si kitu.” It got on my bloody nerves.

Thankfully, none of those Messi-hating bastards will be around this year. This time there’ll be no worries about a fate-deciding primary school certificate. There’ll be no Math homework to tire me out.

Now I get to put my feet up, with a mug of coffee, and socks on my feet. This time, hopefully, Spain will make it past the group stage, and go on to reclaim its lost glory. Or maybe Messi will reduce the Germans to tears, as he rains goals down on them for being silly in 2014.

Maybe Brazil’s new crop of players will pull a rabbit from their hats. Maybe Putin has arranged for Russia to win. Or maybe France has something up its sleeve. You just never know with the French.

Let’s wait and see.

On TV right now, Russia has just won their first game, by five goals to nil. Putin looks smug as hell in the VIP box. He’ll probably be reaching for his phone, dialing the vodka dealer, “Oi, Boris, a bottle of vodka for everyone on the team. And two for Mr. Cheryshev, kapish?”

But to tell you the truth all my knowledge about Russia goes as far as ‘The Russia House’, by John Le Carre.

It’s a spy story. And a love story. And a sacrifice story. It’s about the power balance between the Soviet Union and the West. It’s about chess, too. Russian intelligence is put against America’s military might, and in the tangles of it all is Barley Scott Blair –London publisher, jazz lover, and a pawn for the spymasters.

I loved Barley on a cellular level. He’s tall. Bespectacled. Disheveled. Runs his mouth when drunk. But he’s kindest heart you’ve ever seen. I often see myself in him, or maybe I just want to be him. Plus he always carries a bottle of scotch. What’s not to like?

I’m reading the book for the fourth time. I obsess over Barley’s dialogue. I like the way his mind wanders out of the room, and his underlying recklessness, and his supposed don’t-give-a-damn.

It all starts when the British Intelligence intercepts a smuggled document from Moscow. The document is addressed to Mr. Barley Blair, but the spies can’t locate him. They discover Barley hasn’t been going to work. His housekeeper hasn’t heard from him. Barley Blair has gone missing. They find his car illegally parked on the street, with a bottle of scotch and a sheaf of love letters.

Soon, though, they find him. Then they send him to Russia, covert, to find out what the document is all about. Barley is to make contact with the original courier of the document –Katya Orlova, mother of twins, beautiful, thoughtful, and equally skeptical of state ideology.

“Whether clothed or naked she could make no gesture that did not have its grace.”

There’s an old saying among the spies: Spying is waiting.

And the way the story ends is this: Barley has fallen off the radar once again. He’s facing the windows with a drink in his hand. He looks trimmer, with jeans and an old cricket shirt. His old demons have left him. He’s at peace.

He’s thinking there’s a lot to get ready. Carpets. Curtains. Bookshelves. He’s getting the house ready for Katya and the twins. He hopes to see her again, so they can pick up where they left off in Moscow. He’s waiting. Katya has turned him into the eternal spy.

I finished the book two days after Catholic Girl kicked me to the curb, when she said, “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

It was the last time I ever saw her.  We were standing under an orange-glowing lamppost.  I was drunk out of my ass, mumbling something about how I wasn’t meant to love her. Her bag was hung loosely on her shoulder. Her face was running out of patience and her head was tilted to the side. The curtains were closing on us, and I was in denial. She was my Katya.

Later that night I decided to wait for her. She’d eventually come around, I thought, but only if I got my ducks in line. I had to stop drinking vodka as if it was bloody Russia. I wanted to show her I wasn’t a complete lost cause.

I’m still waiting.
Mike blogs at www.mikemuthaka.com

The Weedy Meadows
Exams in progress

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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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