“My dear, when did you come from sakwa to Nairobi?”, Aljis asked.
I sat quiet, trying to understand the question.
“When I completed high school, graduating to college,” I said.
“That was when you were, what, 18 or19?
“There about,” I muttered back: “19, I guess”, as I tried to calculate the years in my head.
We kept silent for a while; her driving and me, left alone with my thoughts.
We had just spent a lovely night out of town; With a friend of ours, Amina and Ajils son, Omar.
To get away from the busy Nairobi, the four of us traveled through some of the most exquisite places on this land.
Eating, playing games, chit chatting and just taking it easy.
So Omar, wanted to play one of these fancy games that I have never seen.
I never engage, as I have always been cautious about playing these modern games. You see, my parents never bought us toys, or games when I was little. Once when I saw their pay slips from back in the days, I could not help wonder how they made ends meet.
All the same we never lacked fun games, playing hide and seek, kandolo(baba na mama), banta……
So this weekend away, Omar, Ajils son wanted to play all kinds of new games. I was shy at first, I did not want to embarrass myself, I had no idea what to do, how to play the games.
After he explained the rules, it was pretty much easy, fun and we had such a lovely time bonding with the eight-year-old. I got the grips of the game pretty fast. I let go of my fears and felt like a child again. I asked all kinds of questions: curious, eager, just being!
A great time, I had resolved to have.
You see, I don’t know if this is the situation that brought about the question “When did you come from sakwa to Nairobi?”.
I do not know.
Or when during lunch, I had asked, “What is that green thing?”, and I was told, “Pickles.”
You see, I know pickles, I love them, and I have eaten them several times as I devour the taste. But for one moment there, the name could not register my mind.
Maybe these are the incidences that brought this question along. I do not know, and I did not and have not bothered to ask.
However, there are moments that this question bothers me, and I try to push myself to ask Aljis, what she meant, arguing with myself that it is better asked rather than trying to figure it out.
During these moments that I mull over the question, I am reminded of how I have ignored my villageness.
I feel that I have assumed and pretended that I am a city girl for too long.
That I try to fit in, into a society that is full of pretense and lack the vibrancy life!!.
A society that we are constantly left to pegging tags on each other, due to our constant flaws and greatness.
I have ignored my village side and it is an offense to forget your roots, the humble yet such rich beginnings. Maybe, all along I have given this impression of someone else?
I tend to think that maybe, this is the reason why the question-“When did you come from sakwa to Nairobi?”- bothers me.
I have assumed and pretended that I am a city girl for too long; used to the hustle and bustle that makes the everyday life in a city, the ease of playing with words in my mouth like I was born speaking foreign languages, the sway of my hips, with high heeled shoes that adds an additional inch to my height, looking like the diplomat in the making. And as I twirl around the streets, in my brand new pajero, expensive sunglasses, coated nails, sharp; I surmise the princess that has been bathed in gold all her life and not the one that has gone through the scruples of life.
In my highhandedness, I assume the world that does not reflect me. And therefore, this is a place, that I feel I do not belong.
I have so forgotten how I grew up. I have forgotten most of my past, most of my childhood.
All I remember is living in this dirty, crowded compound, with about 6 families, what we call plots here, so I mask the memory.
Anyway, we moved to a different estate, much better than the last, but not so different, sharing a compound with two other families. Here I had the joy of my childhood and is what I remember most, climbing trees, kati, bladda, and all kinds of games with other kids my age, but nothing as conventional like what kids have today. We have moved since to our own compound, our own home.
Being with Aljis and her friends, reminds me of the friends I had when I was young.
Friends from well off families and those from my class.
I remember how I envied the big, clean houses, smelling so fresh.
I loved their gardens.
And surprisingly for me at the time, the houses that did not have plastic cups.
I remember, for meetings, we would bring our own plastic cups from our houses- we were the generation that would collect money and buy whatever nice things we wanted, or go for tours, camping. Something similar to the merry-go-round. I liked being in these places with its expansive lawns and dreamt of one day!
On the other side, I disliked the stiffness of these houses, and the people. These places made me become a person I did not like. I felt stupid, dirty like I did not belong. Yet I did belong.
But the discomfort that I would be discovered made me go out of my way to try and impress. Often, I failed miserably and instead felt like that fool that I was trying so hard not to be.
I still have this feeling all the time, especially when I meet the people like the rich in my backyard. I feel the same littleness whenever I am among these people I perceive are above me. Why I delegated them that space I struggle much to understand.
I guess that is why somehow the question:”When did you come from sakwa to Nairobi?”, bothers me.
I do not blame my parents one single bit. I believe that they gave me the best education and life, in their best of knowledge.
My father has gone through the struggles of life, and he emerged the victor. His father the sole breadwinner of the family died when he was very young, leaving the job to my grandmother who had no job, other than the farm to till and sell whatever she could get at harvest time.
He was educated partially by relatives, and through this relatives, had the hardest part of his growing up. Being treated like an animal most of the time and eventually did not complete his education as no one wanted to pay for his school fees.
I think if he had, he would be a different man today; he has a genius brain. That said the man is now doing his PHD.
I salute him and my mother, for how they have supported and worked it out together.
For this, I make my resolve not to let, “When did you come from sakwa to Nairobi?”, bother me anymore.
Today I look back, and I think that I would have chosen a different path. That instead of carrying the world on my shoulders all the time, I should have read more, I should have worked harder, I should have been adventurous, and lived life through the childhood that I had.
Regardless, through the other path I chose, I have learned a lot, achieved a lot, both in spiritual growth and career. I have gone 360 degrees to discovering my path. And everyday I learn.
So I choose not dwell on the question, and instead, focus on that, that I want.
That, I choose to keep the villager in me, lest I forget my humble yet priceless beginnings.
To take back life to when I was a child, inhibited by nothing, held hostage only by imagination. I choose to take back what I lost and start over again with the wealth that I carry on my back aiding me forward.
To the “villager” in me, may I never forget where I came from, because from there, the crafting of a different story begins, one that has all the scars, stars, shine of growth, adorned beautifully over my chi.
I feel that I have assumed and pretended that I am a city girl for too long, and yet with both; the village and the city in me, I am indeed the bearer of a dynamic strength and wealth of experience in life.