March 22, 2019
It had been a hot night in Kitengela, a town about one and a half hours away from the capital city, on a good day without traffic. Most days it took about two hours. My parents moved there about 9 years ago and I dreaded going because of the hot weather, but I moved with them. Because of the heat, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep and woke up late, groggy and irritable.
I left the house at half past eight and resigned myself to being late for work for the third time that week. On the bus ride to work, I took out my phone to listen to a Berkley music tribute to Beyoncé by a band called Nikkolective. I had listened to that specific ensemble so many times it was borderline obsessive. I always pictured myself as the lead singer hitting the high and low notes effortlessly as I performed for a small crowd on a karaoke night, complete with back-up singers and dancers. Which misses point of Karaoke, I know, but fantasies are fantasies.
The trip to work was fairly short, thanks to the sublime traffic on Mombasa road. I got to the city and took a number 2 matatu at Railways which dropped me on Ngong Road. I walked the short distance to work and checked in at 10:30 am, one and a half hours late. The walk to my desk felt like a walk of shame. I switched on my machine and wasted some good time online before I started on my first task of the day. I had been struggling with writing copy for a website. After two weeks of rethinking and overthinking all I had to show for it was a folder of multiple “final” word documents. I was determined to finish it that day. I managed to write the “About us” section before getting distracted by other brands’ work. I worked through lunch and took a break at 4pm which lasted till 5pm when it was time to leave.
I dreaded the long journey home, so I called my sister who works about 10 minutes from where I work. She didn’t answer on the first ring and I contemplated going home alone but the thought of it made me wait for her call back. She called back after a while and lady luck was on my side. Her boyfriend was headed in our direction and he had offered to drive us there; the only hitch was we had to meet him where he was.
I got a boda from one on the apps on my phone which dropped me at Yaya Centre, where my sister worked. We took a bus from the bus stop which would drop us at Ngara, where her boyfriend had parked the car. The bus ride took almost an hour because of the traffic between Kilimani and Riverside. We alighted at the Ngara bus stop, bought bananas and linked up with Sam, my sister’s boyfriend. He was also driving a compassionate worker and one of the young girls in her program back to the young girl’s home in Isinya.
My sister sat at the front seat while the three of us squeezed in the back. I observed the compassionate worker. I vaguely thought that she didn’t look the part, that she seemed too urban, with her maroon braids and red lipstick. The young girl sat at the far left. Immediately, she fell asleep on her lap. I sat next to the window on the right and put on some music as we drove away from Ngara and used the Southern By pass which would connect us to Mombasa Road. The trip back home felt oddly long. I watched a One Piece YouTube video about the 10 most powerful devil fruits in the anime. It got dark outside and the light on my screen strained my eyes. I had lost my glasses about a week ago. I put my phone away and observed my sister with her boyfriend. They kept exchanging glances as he drove on the busy highway. In that moment, I wondered what drew them to each other. He interrupted my thoughts and told the group about a hilarious experience where he had smoked up at night and ended up spring cleaning his house for hours then did his laundry until 5 am in the morning, when he fell asleep.
By then, we had gotten to Kitengela, I wanted to go home but the group convinced me to go with them to the young girl’s home. “It’s an impromptu road trip,” they said. “It’s about 45 minutes from here,” they added. I bowed to the pressure. We drove on for about an hour, to the semi-arid scenery of Isinya. After about an hour, we branched left from the Nairobi – Namanga highway to a rugged road. It was pretty dark by now, with only the headlights of our car acting as a source of light on that road. We drove for another 30 minutes. There was only a handful of homes in the area, with the distance between them growing the more we drove. The road was terribly bumpy and I started getting carsick. At that point, I was exhausted and regretted not going home when I had the chance.
After driving for about 30 minutes, we made a right turn and came face to face with a full moon. I gasped. The full moon basked between a streak of clouds in the horizon. It really was perfect. I tried to take a picture of it but I couldn’t capture it in the way that I wanted. The scene lifted my spirits for some reason and I began to pay close attention to where we were. We veered off the pathway and took a left turn which led us to the young girl’s homestead gate. It was an old picket fence made of wood with numerous spaces that didn’t do much for security. I assumed we had arrived but the young girl instructed Sam to keep driving. I was confused for a moment. It turned out that the gate we entered was the beginning point of their land. We drove for a good thirty minutes inside their land before arriving at the house fence, which was similar to the other one, only that this one had a ‘mabati’ gate. The family owned the acres of land we drove through, yet they lived in poverty without electricity or tap water. The compassionate worker explained that most of the families in that area owned acres of traditional land, which they refused to sell due to their beliefs..
When we arrived at the homestead, the young girl’s mother, grandmother and brother came to greet us. They gifted us with 2 litres of boiled milk each and we got out of the car to thank them. Their mud house was to the right beside the kitchen and another room which I assumed was where the man of the house slept. To the left was a huge pen for sheep and cows. They had quite an impressive number of livestock. After the pleasantries, we got back into the car and the grandmother said a prayer for us in Maasai. I didn’t understand a word she said but I was touched. We started our journey back home and with the overcast light of the moon shining through my window.