September 2009. I was nearly done with my course work. Three units and two internships to go before I was conferred with the power to read and do all that appertained to my degree. Two internships because I was taking two different arts programs, but that’s a story for another day. I was determined to land an internship without daddy’s connections. Not that it was a terrible thing to be helped by him in this way. I probably needed this help but was holding on to a somewhat misguided sense of independence.
My search took me to the Standard Group. They had recently moved to this swanky new address on Mombasa Road. One of my lecturers had connected me to a former student of his who worked there as a sub-editor. I remember waiting for nearly an hour at the lobby, dressed in one of the very few official outfits I owned at the time, to meet the features editor after meeting the sub.
When he showed up, he perused my papers, commented about how organized I was (I had newspaper cuttings of my writing in this A4-sized book with clear paper pockets. I realize how dated that sounds now. Where did the time go?), and also made a dig at the fact that I was from a Christian university after asking whether I could write for the Pulse pull out. I really didn’t want this but I tried to look enthusiastic about it. Long story short, he took my CV and said they would call me when they were hiring interns in October. They never did.
My search continued, a rather unfruitful one, I might add. We were well into the semester and I still hadn’t found an internship. Time was not smiling at me. Daddy came to the rescue. He knew someone at The People Daily newspaper who knew someone at the Nation newspaper where I would have liked to end up. Writing for the Nation really was the dream for me then.
Off I went with my little book of newspaper cuttings to their offices which at that time were on Union Towers (the building on Moi Avenue that houses Creamy Inn, Pizza Inn et cetera. Also used to be a very popular meeting place when it was Nandos. Wait, did this change at some point?). The People Daily occupied a number of floors in this building.
As I headed to the newsroom, it did not occur to me that I had not confirmed who exactly I was supposed to see and what office they occupied. I went in, asked to see the editor and was pointed to a little office at the corner of the newsroom occupied by a man that fits the description of the clichéd newspaper editors in movies and TV series; tough-talking, no nonsense, hard news kind of man.
I told him that I had been asked to see him about an internship and handed him my prized book of newspaper cuttings. I also wanted to add that I had been sent to him so that he could connect me to someone at the Nation. I didn’t. He looked through my book and asked what I was interested in writing about. Reviews, I said. Book reviews. They already had someone doing that. What else could I write? Movie reviews. He seemed interested in this. I was excited at the prospect of watching movies for my job. He put a damper in my excitement however when he said that they had to be Kenyan movies. I was a little crushed being the Hollywood junkie that I was then and knowing very little about the Kenyan film industry.
He continued, “We do not have a space for you to work here. Do you have a computer at home? Can you work from home?” Of course I did not mind at all! Reviewing movies AND working from home! This was a fairly sweet deal. So I was taken on right there and then as an intern, all prospects about writing for the Nation shelved. Difficult as it was to access good Kenyan films, I did enjoy reviewing, learning about what to look out for in a film, and interacting with different industry players in the Kenyan film scene; the likes of Alex Konstantaras (of Jitu Films, the ones behind that film banned by KFCB), Cajetan Boy, and Wanuri Kahiu, among others .
I don’t regret going for this internship. Not too long after I started working there, I found out that the person I was meant to see about being connected to the Nation was an accountant at the newspaper. Maybe I did get my wish after all, not to have used daddy’s connections, though not in the way I had anticipated.
P.S. I don’t actually refer to my father as daddy. I’m just using it here for dramatic effect. And also to sound a little posh. I hope I succeeded on both accounts.