Monday, 16 September 2013

More of my experiences away from home

Finally my arrival was marked by rain, a pattern that would follow the rest of the year which would either be wet and/or rainy and in better days windy. At the airport to meet me were a lovely lady and a fellow Kenyan all whom I had never met before, apart from few correspondences. We exchanged greetings and headed to where it was to become home for me.

It was at the beginning of autumn when a substance called chlorophyll that makes leaves green start to fade away which marks the third season of the calendar year in the northern hemisphere. It is indeed a beautiful season when the green colour of summer gives way to the yellow, red and eventually brown.  Seated at the back of the car my tiredness coupled with apprehension of what was to come made me pay no much attention to the conversations that were going round in the car. I just sat down, closed my hands and enjoyed the view outside as I got chauffeured home!

I vividly remember my first night. We sat down round a table for a meal. Across the table sat an American who shot questions to me one after another. “So, Gerald  do you like potatoes?” he asked. I don't know what to say to an American who seems to be my age and trying to grow a moustache with sad ginger hair. I want to be bold like an American and tell him that potatoes are not my liking but I can’t. Around the table are many locals and I had already gathered that answering no would not only offend them but many more within a radius of 100miles.  Choosing my words carefully I told him that where I come from we don’t have a lot of potatoes.

Later that night the whole community met round a fire to get to know each other and more so pray that the Lord of mercy would lead us through. My skin was feeling dry and full of goose bumps as the cold started to hit hard. Wrapped in my red Maasai shuka  I joined the fire camp too. I could tell from the looks of my new found friends that they were sympathising with me because winter was not in yet.

October sun would then offer light and warmth that made me feel good as I walked in a nearby park. It is the kind of season when wind blowing and rustling leaves causes a relaxing sound. This lovely sound effect is further enhanced by the sound of leaves crunching under one’s feet. The gentle breeze made the weather seem perfect and refreshing as i soaked in nature’s abundance.  It offered a serene environment to silently reflect on God’s faithfulness and majesty. 

The season I was told would only last for few weeks and there would be no more leaves anywhere. Back in Gaturi where I grew up I only knew about two season- rainy and sunny seasons. What a shock!

Kenyans have many fine attributes to recommend them for. Their hospitality is charming, their sense of humour is keen and their history is virtually unprecedented depending on who you talk to anyway. But punctuality is not a cultural virtue.  Our priority is one of context over process which makes it difficult for people to abruptly end conversations in mid-stream when the clock strikes the hour.

Take for example what might seem like a quick easy task to do- buying a bus ticket to Mombasa  on Kirinyaga road in Nairobi. After standing on the queue for what seems like eternity, you finally reach the partly glass partly mesh wire window and observe the guy manning the counter get up and walk away to return with a cup of sweet tea and a mahamri . It is pretty obvious that they have no scruples about chewing and slurping while serving the customer. In any case how is that going to affect selling tickets!

Local shops offer almost a similar sort of experience. You are at home and you start experiencing signs of malaria to which you decide to walk to the nearest chemist cum grocery to buy some medicine. On arrival you are met by a guy idling about waiting for someone to sell his assorted merchandise to. 

On enquiring he tells you that the shopkeeper is out to get some food but will be back soon. An hour later he comes back with a plate of chapatti and beans. As if that was not enough, he tells you that he has no medicine because the delivery guy has not turned up for the last couple of days and it is not known when that will happen. 

As one not used to monochronic time, it was frustrating, but it does not take long to slip into gentle flow.  However I still do miss the reality that time is a gift to be relished. It might not move quickly but it’s fast enough. If something doesn’t get done, there will always a tomorrow or another day. And even if that doesn’t happen well and good and who knows-may be it was never meant to be…..

Sunday, 1 September 2013

My memoirs continued

You have many big dreams but I want you to know that the world will not present them to you on a silver plate. 

That is what my hard working mother would say back in Gaturi, Murang’a whenever I voiced out what I want to be when I grow up. In spite of her having very little formal education and the fact that she had not travelled far away from home since birth, she somehow understood intricacies of the world systems.

On my first day to a boarding school after registration, she looked straight into my eyes and said words I will never forget. I have helped you nurture some of your dreams by offering you what I could but from now on, you are on your own.  At the school gate as she wished me well, waved bye and disappeared into the horizon, tears started running down my cheeks because I knew I was no home-bird any longer.

My four years in secondary school were to be a turnaround. It caused a paradigm shift of how I viewed things. I learnt how to live with people who were different from me either by the way they talked, ate, lived or reasoned. I was to learn how to love and care for people who blatantly did things just to annoy you-oh yes hell-bent to make your life hard. 

When I entered British Airways flight 0064 headed to Heathrow from Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta in the night of September, 26th 2010 I knew I was opening a new chapter of my life.  

 As I sat down and fastened my safety belt and placed my table tray in the upright position as required the Captain made an announcement.

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to British airways flight 0064 from Nairobi to London Heathrow Airport. Our aircraft is the Boeing 777 and our flying time is about 8.5 hours. The cabin crew will be coming around shortly after take off to offer you a meal and beverage, and the in-flight movie will begin shortly after that. I'll talk to you again before we reach our destination. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
Seated next to me was a young lady who could not calmly handle take off and landing without covering her ears and eyes with everything and anything available. Yes that was my first encounter with someone who suffers from aerophobia.  Coincidentally, on the row in front of me was an old friend who was headed to America.  With an empty seat next to her I joined her for the rest of the flight. She wore an American accent and seemed a little disconnected with Kenyan life. I hope she will not hate me after reading my book when I finally publish it!

I was a bit apprehensive because I did not know what awaited me on the other end of the earth.
 What happened after my late arrival at Heathrow was to mark the pace in which my life was to flow the rest of my stay here. Having lost several minutes due to delay on terminal 5 meant I had to literally run towards terminal 1 in order to catch the next flight for my final destination.  We hurriedly wished each other and left. 

 As I frantically ran towards my plane, I heard my name called for one last time through the airport sound system.  I had to up my gear to beat the grace period. 

That is how I was welcomed to this land! My mum wise words came alive yet again that it was not going to be easy but I have to always keep seeing the bright side of things.

Follow me in the next release to know what happened to a rural Kenyan boy after being thrown to the deep end. The boy who always liked ‘well cooked’ vegetables and now having to feed on green and raw salads (yes my mum cooked everything), one who was used to very hot meals to an environment where most foods would be different and cold.  Will he survive? Find out soon!